Yoruba: The Illusion Of Unity

The Yoruba need an alchemist. Yes, a glabrous sage, in the mould of the revered Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who will invent a new cocktail of peace, stability, progress, renewal, energy, moral conviction and intellectual credibility on all the incendiary forces that daily combust the Family. I have watched and read the juvenile effusions, perceptive elucidations, careless rants and angry outbursts in their entire demonstrative disillusion, their arch postmodern irony and the unsettling quandary, configuring and darkening the illusion of unity among the Yorubas. The Yoruba race is in profound disarray throughout the world. Associated with that is the difficulty of unity among disparage, vociferous and independent-minded people. There is currently a distorting banal picture of saints and sinners who articulate their own vision and strive to realize it, but clear winners will be those who could discover their strongest sense of purpose in the unraveling impasse of the splintered groups.

Some dark conjurers say that Yoruba disunity is foreordained in the character of the average member of the race. Disunity may have understandable roots, like say, in our natural assertiveness, love of independence, hatred of groveling subservience, ambition but its consequences have been far-reaching in its conflictual predilections and infelicities. In taking account of the complex social and cultural changes occurring within the ranks of the Yoruba race, a younger vociferous arm of the race has broken free of their traditional submissive and or coercive anchorage to redefine new loyalty and sounder articulation of vibrant mix of new philosophy and ideas. There is currently palace disquiet against the fixity and failure of the older member of the Family to accommodate ambiguous and radical voices. All too readily stuffy conservatism, preservation of tradition and the limiting power of ageism are associated with the older generation stuck in the traditional ways. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, more than any other older generation of politicians, was pilloried and demonized for being too rigid, autocratic and a tribal siren.

These calibrated weaknesses of the old Yoruba sage are the present conduit of conflict between the radical voices of progressivism and its alternate, tradition-preserving conservatives. Unknown to the gladiators, the narrative recreation of the present maginalisation of the Yoruba race is further compounded by the ongoing internal conflict and misunderstanding.

What we are witnessing is an indicting rendering of the micro politics of the internal divisiveness of the Yorubas and the wider macro politics of abandonment of the race by the Nigerian nation. Confined to a prosaic explanation and by its sheer moral absoluteness, Afeniferere, Afeniferere Renewal Group, Egbe Omo Oduduwa, Yoruba Legacy Forum, Egbe Omo Olofin and Yoruba Elders Forum provide us with something extraordinarily solipsistic about the ideal of brotherly fraternity. Elder Chief Bisi Akande, who sounded like 18 years old in sagging trouser and Reebok trainers, reasserted the Westerly wind of mood change in favour of the Afeniferere of the youth. Come pain, honour, dishonour and horror, he harbours not the slightest frisson of trepidation or error of judgment, Akande bravely and stubbornly supports the emergence of Wale Oshun, Yinka Odumakin, Jimi Agbaje, Wale Adebamwi and Bisi Adegbuyi as leaders of Afeniferere with a kind of talismanic thrill.

To salvage his own pride, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, the old NADECO warhorse does not hide his fear of the ‘radical hotheads’ overrunning Afeniferere. He is embattled and disappointed that all rapprochement to Odumakin’s splintered Afeniferere Renewal Group for genuine cross-fertilisation of ideas is not taking place. Hence, the spaces between the progressives and the conservatives are narrowing. One common language to illuminate the complex new reality of Afeniferere Renewal Group is in Odumakin’s commitment to a fresh beginning and a profound quest to reinvent the destroyed legacies of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Awo’s fossilized legacies and core values, which are at the behest of merciless disintegration by old certainties, have to be reclaimed, rescued, remodeled, retooled and reloaded into the public space. In all, are we forever fated to remain disconnected? For years, the Yorubas have not prize open the discomforting dichotomies hobbling their destiny to work out how to avoid the collision of today. But if proven by history that dichotomies are usually false, then mama’s—-I mean, Chief Mrs HID Awolowo—–Yoruba Legacy Forum, has to provide a sustaining unity against further polarization.

The 93 years old grandma, Chief Mrs HID Awolowo, is still a political maverick and a sure totem of awe, adulation, wisdom, tradition and the old Yorubanised orthodoxy. Notwithstanding her advancing years, Chief HID Awolowo still feels decidedly queasy about the dramatic disarray, gratuitous attacks and the antagonizing temper of the Yoruba race. In order to reconnect the radical with the neoconservative elements of the Afeniferere family and force a cohesive fabric against the fading illusion of Yoruba unity, mama, believing in relative values, has floated the Yoruba Legacy Forum.
Leading lights behind this new hopeful ‘assault’ on Yoruba unity include Bishop Gbonigi, Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu, Bishop Mo Fape, Sen. Femi Okunrounmu, Sen. Tony Adefuye, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, Prince Segun Adesegun and Sen. Suleiman Salawu. Before its floatation, there have been fiery denunciations; ideological quarrels, shaming innuendoes and a grim suspicion that mama is delivering an expedient coup de grace on the original legacies of her husband. The injection of a new Christo-intellectual tradition grounded in a new radical vision of a practical reformist democratic platform of unity offers a challenge to the radicals in the trenches. This capacious sense of unity being led by mama is ordained to offer common bonds, new conversation and new language of possibility to accommodate all warring factions and create an enlarge circles of elevated understanding that may eventually create mutual solidarity and trust which had been grossly lacking among the tribe.

Solidarity, trust and unity are the retreating and elusive values that still provide constellation of wonder among the race. There is a befuddling ancient lie that Mr Bisi Adegbuyi of the Afeniferere Renewal Group is prepared to disprove. In his reasoned political universe, the glib dream of unity and solidarity of the race are twin mirage that Papa Awolowo was not able to tame. Again, are we then fated to remain disconnected as a family?

What befuddles and sustains this ancient lie lies in the name of Afeniferere which is a grand misnomer as an umbrella body for the race. Before its elevated renaissance into Yoruba racialised body, Afeniferere was, in earlier incarnation, a political organization in Yoruba land. Over the years, and because of its relative advantage as a freethinking political platform for mainly Yorubas, Afeniferere was forced to emigrate from its old turf of political organization into a racialised body for all Yorubas. Supporters were mainly members of Action Group, but beyond the fabled omnipotency of Awo’s political reach, were rebels like Adeniran Ogunsanya, TOS Benson and Richard Akinjide who inhabit outer political fringe.

For all its yawning defects, aberrations and solidarity problem, the mainstream Afeniferere remains an Awoist bastion with its own preserved mores, concept and beliefs. Also mainstream Afeniferere is aware of the collective passion of the rebels that are lobbing sorties on its diluted tenets of pure Awoism which is facing the challenges of new politics.

For instance, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, Alhaji Lateef Jakande and other important members of the clan are honeymooning in ‘other’ political parties, the so-called new politics, but yet, they are temperamentally Awoist to the core. One of the politi

cal catastrophes of forces of modernity and the old Awoists is the cannibalization of Alliance for Democracy. At inception, and beyond any disputatious polemics, it was a God-sent progressive platform with sound liberal ideology as its roots. Today, its ideological root has been betrayed by a grumbling bunch of contemporary rebellious politicians who are challenging the intellectual bankruptcy of the old order and their susceptibility to invoke ageism against younger radicals gunning for leadership position. Awo, the younger radicals argued, was a fresh faced, impressionistic young man when he led the Yorubas. Why then deny young Odumakins, Oshuns, Agbajes, Adebanwis and Adegbuyis the same privilege?

Outside the insularity and phobias of the enemies of Yoruba unity is a gaping feral culture that is relentlessly extending its grip on the social and democratic renewal of the Yoruba race. Bishop Bolanle Gbonigi’s verbal pummeling and his embrace of the Addisonian virtue of sense and plain speaking may offer rationality and rationalizing argument against Yoruba unity. “All these efforts at unity and reconciliation did not work because of selfishness, pride, arrogance and loving self more than the whole Yoruba; loving self even more than the country. A problem is the love of money and people looking for positions in order to have possession. People are even looking for position within Afeniferere to become a leader”. The burden of all Yoruba is in their complexity, arrogance and distrust of the members of the race.

Written by
Taju Tijani
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1 comment
  • Classical Taju Tijani. Good write-up providing serious food for thought issues.

    I dare say that Taju got it right. Yoruba disunity is a serious problem which may never be resolved.