Genuine patriots often wonder why our rulers travel the world and encounter awesome civilization and order but fail abjectly to emulate the rudimentary thoughts and ideas that wrought such impressive human accomplishments, much less replicate them in tangible forms here at home. No one has as yet proffered a cogent explanation.
To wake up and breakfast in Enugu and proceed to lunch with the Alaafin of Oyo and round it off with an evening homage to the Etsu Nupe is a stunning privilege.
And to trek a marathon with the most common of the common people of the State of Osun, alongside their Governor and his deputy; to feel the physical temperature of the infirm and debilitated in world class hospitals in Ondo State as the Governor showcased his remarkable achievements; to share a prayer session with Onitsha market traders and thrill to the rhythm of Yoruba women as they celebrated love and joy at the ancient and modern Palace of the Soun of Ogbomosho is to bear witness, in a minute but profound way, to the very Nigerian nature that ought to inspire us to great deeds.
We have little need to seek reference to the glitzy sights and sounds of foreign cities.
As a fortunate member of a selfpropelled unity and peace mission led by former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu, the homage to the Ooni of Ife and the Alaafin of Oyo (this sequencing might spark a diplomatic incident!) quickly evolved into a classical education in the histories of great monarchies.
The very being and essence of the Yoruba originated from Ife and the kingdom, to this day, prides itself as “the spiritual source”.
The political supremacy is claimed by the Kingdom of Oyo – so went the oral rendition of the utterly rich and captivating history by Barrister Kolapo Alimi, the young and knowledgeable Commissioner for Local Government, Chieftaincy Affairs and Community Development in the State of Osun.
The being and essence in question go beyond expressions of physical manifestations of sentient beings or mere professions of faith. The depth of the transcendence of these elements of a people’s sense of their creation and spiritual destiny is beyond the constrictive narrative of a newspaper column. This new student of this great history will soon embark on his elaborate thesis.
But for present purposes, it is sufficient to simply telegraph the hope that burns eternal and rests on the solid shoulders of the survivors of the combat of warrior kings. History books are replete with the outstanding feats achieved by the kings of the various Yoruba kingdoms.
The light that glows from that proud history is today reportedly enshadowed in minor squabbles and contests for primacy.
Do not be deceived. This clash of egos is largely unremarkable and lacks the potency to benight histories that have endured for multiple millennia. But there is something of a teleological dynamic going on. One of the benefits of an expensive education at the London School of Economics and the Inns of Court School of Law is achieving expertise in the theory of autopoiesis.
The theory posits that intellectuality has advanced from postmodernism to a supremely refined condition of mind where we can grasp the notion that systems and disciplines function independently (operational closure) but still retain reflexive connections with other systems (structural coupling).
Whatever their monarchical bickering, the utility of independent operation is fully realised through the structures, histories, emotions, traditions and destinies that connect the Yoruba people.
The enduring strength of the race is secured in the longevity and durability of the institutions of the Obas. When they lock horns, it is to shed dead skin in order to engender renewal.
The supreme political authority, encompassing the social, economic and martial structures and dynamics of the Yoruba lie with the people.
The monarchs derive their lifeblood from the complex of respect, acquiescence, obedience, devotion, adulation and congenital institutional pride that pulse in the people’s souls.
As a snapshot, a spontaneous 20-minute drive from the Palace of the Alaafin to the Plaza de Haruna brought the citizens onto the streets and motorways, waving, bowing and prostrating, clasping hands and looking onto heaven in supplication to God for the welfare of the Alaafin. It was both moving and instructive.
The mundane politics of the permanency or rotationality of the chairmanship of the Council of Obas are, in the global context of history, mere details, reducible to a clash of personalities.
What the Obas represent, both to their subjects and to their majestic inheritances are continuity, a fierce sense of identity and the bulwark against decoupling the present from the past.
All the occupants of the respective thrones are godly giants rendered human by their humility, fierce sense of history, dedication to their subjects, expansiveness of mind, generosity and broad appreciation of their place in the hierarchy of terrestrial lords.
It is submitted that the tension between the “source” and the “power” essentially arose from the bond in homogeneity of the people’s anthropology.
Otherwise, two distinct kingdoms with clearly delineated histories – histories separately distinguished by great independent accomplishments – might be expected to have pursued their separate destinies, each with a complement of its own political and spiritual authority and distinction.
But the inevitable disputation lies in the fact that these are the same people over whom preside a duality of imperial powers each with a claim to supremacy.
It has been a healthy competition, at least in the modern manifestation.
Two extraordinary characters, reminiscent of the classical world of majestic gods such as Poseidon and Zeus, the Alaafin of Oyo and the Ooni of Ife, are not just repositories of ancient hereditary royalty but custodians of stability, peace, harmony, wisdom and justice in volatile contemporary times.
The Oba of Ilesha insists with a resolute conviction that Ijesha language is the only tongue intelligible to God.
The Ewi of Ekiti laments that the monarchs are condemned by Nigerian political rulers to a wasteful cycle of 4-year vacations, only to be remembered and courted during seasons of political campaigning. It’s not just what they have to say but the magisterial authority of their declarations that are compelling.
Every single one of them is incredibly articulate, insightful, gifted with that certain depth of iterative knowledge which longevity on a particular duty post confers.
When it came to offering gifts, they did not present us with cultural souvenirs but with tomes of well written books essaying their biographies or histories from antiquity to this moment. How classy is that?
Dinner was refined, civilized, and intended to achieve a larger objective beyond culinary delectation.
The Soun of Ogbomosho and the Ooni of Ife have cultivated tastes in palatial entertainment. A couple of years ago, a Cameroonian, on a visit to Lagos, had this to say: “On the contrary, I found smartly dressed police officers with a sense of professionalism and politesse….
Leaving the Douala International Airport and landing, an hour or so after, at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos was, to say the least, an embarrassment to me.
There was such a big dichotomy between the two countries that I wondered why Cameroon is so left behind.
The difference was so clear about disorder and lack of vision on the one hand, and order and focus on the other.
Douala represents the former, while Lagos represents the latter…. Lagos, as I saw it, is a city of flyovers and banks, broad roads and big visions and men with dogged determination to make it big. In fact, it is a city that never sleeps.
This article does not try to suggest that I didn’t see the downside of a big city like Lagos.
However, I have chosen to focus on what Cameroon can learn from this former Nigerian capital and thus move a step forward from our current state of apparent stagnation, in spite of overwhelming potentials that can trigger wealth creation and wellbeing for the teeming masses of Cameroonians.”
[An excerpt from Ernest Sumelong, This is Lagos, Nigeria Village Square, October 5, 2012].
As an essayist and a discriminating metropolitan, I loved the masterful craft of his piece and began, for the first time in my life, to give due regard to Lagos – a city towards which I had an indifference verging on detestation.
When morons and addled minds embark on foolish campaigns of ethnocentrism, seeking to ridicule, besmirch and diminish the nature of the other in order to promote their own, their efforts are defeated by the better angels in men such as these eminent chiefs. We are all diminished and ridiculous in some ways. But in many more ways, we are absolute champions.
There is Little Nigeria, the fragile ceramic bowl offering primitive accommodation to small minded little Nigerians convulsing in pathetic prejudice, who have reduced this nation to a clinical case of tribal paranoia. And there is the Great Nigeria of promise and potential, given steely backbone by the warrior kings of Yorubaland.
They pre-existed Nigeria and will, if unavoidable, outlive Nigeria. I pray that they sink into the firmament of eternity along with Great Nigeria, for, a republic wrought with their moral fibre and courage shall endure forever.
That is the coming Great Nigeria of which I am already proud to call myself a patriot.
This, then, is looking backward in order to peer into the future.
•Onwe is Commissioner for Information, Ebonyi State