By Bolanle Bolawole
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The collective wisdom of the Yoruba race speaks to the fact that we should never speak tongue-in- cheek for the simple but unassailable fact that if we speak the harsh, bitter truth, we shall die; whether we are killed for speaking to truth or we die a natural death, we shall die. And if, for any reason or for fear of death we run from speaking the truth, we shall die all the same. Death is a necessary evil; a debt that each and everyone will pay, whether we like it or not.
So, the Yoruba say: Baa wi, a o ku; bi a ko si wi, a o ku bakan naa. In order words, ba wi, orun la n lo; bi a o si tun wi, orun kan na la n lo. If we speak, we die; if we refrain from speaking, we die all the same. Scripture says all souls shall die. Hence, the Yoruba say aw’aiye iku o si, meaning that there is no one who comes to this world who will not die. So, the mother who gives birth to his baby and names him/her Kamaku, Kokumo, Kumapayi, etc. only expresses her frustration with the repeated losses she had suffered in the hand of the “abiku” or “ogbanje” child.
Julius Caesar admonishes us to banish fear, especially the fear of death, from our consciousness “seeing that death is a necessary evil and it will come when it will”. Such fatalism may not sit pretty with everyone but the fact remains that fear, especially of death, has a debilitating effect that influences the action or inaction of people one way or another. The conquest of fear, therefore, is the beginning of liberty. Ask Fela Anikulapo-Kuti! Ask Gani Fawehinmi!
Death – or the fear of death – is not the only factor that makes people fear to speak the truth. For many, the fear of possible loss of privilege – position, wealth, influence – leads many to recoil from speaking the truth or to become, at best, economical with the truth. They dance around the subject but refrain – or are unable – to hit the nail right on the head. They become unable to call a spade a spade and begin to search for adjectives and oxymoron when they should have gone straight to the point. People are also scared stiff of speaking the truth or of speaking truth to power when they have skeletons in their cupboard – and this is usually the bane of our big men and women.
Again, the Yoruba say isale oro l’egbin, meaning that if you search the source or sources of wealth of many, you will find corruption as its very foundation. There are few leaders anywhere that can try what Samuel did with the children of Israel and not regret it – including even religious leaders. Said Samuel to the children of Israel: “Behold, here I am: witness against me before the Lord, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? Or whose ass have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed? Or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? And I will restore it you. And they said, Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken aught of any man’s hand. And he said unto them, The Lord is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that ye have not found aught in my hand. And they answered, He is witness” (1 Samuel 12:3–5).
How many church leaders today can do what Samuel did? How many of them can stand before their congregation, request an examination of their activities and conduct, and get a clean bill of health like Samuel did? How many of them can stand the auditor’s scrutiny? How many royal fathers are royal in truth and in deed? How many are the rightful occupants of the throne on which they perch? Who chose them – Ifa or godfather? How many of them are the true custodians of their people’s customs and traditions? How many profane the very history and heritage they are expected to protect, defend, advance, and preserve? How many can open their cupboards for scrutiny?
Who are today’s Yoruba business leaders of note and how are they helping their race? What entrepreneurship programmes do they have for the Yoruba youths being churned out of school every year? Someone said the unemployment figure among the Igbo must be the lowest in Nigeria and he may as well be right. Many Igbo youths are learning one trade or the other but the Yoruba youth are those doing “Alright Sir” all over the place. They are the rival cults killing and maiming all over the place. They have become a law unto themselves and walking the street in broad daylight now has become high risk for the law abiding. I was at Akure during the October governorship election: Our youths were the ones engaged in the buying and selling of votes. Everywhere, Yoruba youths are the enforcers. They are the political thugs. After ENDSARSNOW protests went awry mainly through the satanic machinations of the government that unleashed criminals and joy killers on peaceful protesters, the arsonists who took over, if an accurate census is taken, could be Yoruba youths in the main.
The Yoruba business leaders should, as a matter of urgency, think about how to take our youths out of the streets and channel their bounteous energy into profitable ventures. We need to improve on what the Igbo are doing for their own people. Is it for fun that trade and commerce in Yoruba land are in the hands of the Igbo? The economy of Yoruba land is dominated by the Igbo. We must reverse this trend. I dare to say that it is an ugly and dangerous trend. Northern youths have the back of the Federal as well as their State governments. They corner virtually all Federal jobs and peddle influence that makes them multi-millionaires just on the altar of “man-know-man” They dominate the forex trade; never mind if their activities cripple the Naira and ruin the economy. They also have agriculture, into which government deliberately pumps billions of Naira. The Yoruba are dependent on the North for food supplies; yet, we have a huge expanse of fertile and arable land left uncultivated. The foresight, dream, programmes, and plans of Awo and our heroes past have been left to rot by fawning and fumbling Yoruba leaders of all hues and persuasions.
The political leaders of the Yoruba since 1999 have been its greatest tragedy. They lack commitment. They lack foresight. No focus. No passion. No fervour. Simple-minded and profane, they are selfish and self-centred. Wasteful, inept, corrupt, inefficient, errand boys and lackeys of feudal oligarchies, they are office-seekers and title chasers who run after positions for positions’ sake. Mostly, they are the kind that the Yoruba describe as bamu-bamu ni mo yo; mi o mo bi ebi n pa omo enikan kan. That has been the greatest tragedy of the Yoruba since 1999. When a Yoruba person was in power, he marginalised the Yoruba and empowered others. Yet, the wisdom of the Yoruba is that omo eni o se’di bebere ka f’ileke si t’omo elomiran. Not the Yoruba political leaders! And when others are in power, they benefit their own people. So, head or tail, we lose. Don’t expect others to be as foolish as the Yoruba who spurn the wisdom of their own people. Is it not the Yoruba that say when you give even a mad man a hoe… Oh oo! But mad men have proven wiser than Yoruba political leaders, never minding their so-called academic and other qualifications. We deride Muhammadu Buhari but whatever you may say, the man has served the interests of his own people with single-mindedness of purpose, not minding whose ox is gored. Not only does he do so, Buhari even corals the South’s smattering of leaders to follow suit, at the expense of their own people. And the South’s leaders are those who even come out to defend the indefensible and call their own people asking germane questions unprintable names!
The first challenge the Yoruba must tackle is that of Yoruba leadership at all levels. The political leaders are a problem. The religious leaders are a problem. The Kabiyesis are a problem. Our business leaders are a problem. These are the logs in our eyes. Until we remove them, we shall not be able to remove the speck or tackle the problems of Hausa/Fulani and Igbo domination. At last week’s meeting of Yoruba leaders with Presidency officials, I was sad that the Yoruba leaders wasted a golden opportunity to speak up for their long-suffering people. But, going by the reasons adduced above, I was not totally surprised that they spoke tongue-in-cheek. They even gave further ammunitions to the enemies of their people to decimate their own people.
Who does not know that any war against social media is war majorly against the South-west? How can the South-west leaders give qualified support for government’s plan to muffle social media? How can they also accept the government narration that ENDSARSNOW was hijacked without saying who first hijacked it? How can our leaders accept or even defend the victimization of ENDSARSNOW organizers? It was the government that first introduced violence into the protests with a view to breaking it as well as giving a dog a bad name to hang it – which, eventually, they are now trying hard to do. Unfortunately, the Yoruba leaders ended up giving the government a helping hand in this regard. They should have learnt from their Northern counterparts who were resolute in their support of SARS and opposition to the ENDSARSNOW protests. Now that the protesters have been declared terrorists (reasonable people are aghast), it is our sons and daughters in the South that have been so declared as terrorists. And they are the ones that will be hunted down and killed at will, just as was done when IPOB was declared terrorists and IPOB members became fair game for regime enforcers. Yoruba leaders should have known that, and they should have vigorously spoken out against it – not support it. You know why they did – because some of the governors were at the receiving end of the protests! Self-centredness and selfish interest – but they should have seen beyond their nose! How can South-west leaders support the victimization of ENDSARSNOW organizers who are mostly their own people? Northern leaders defend Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen terrorists! They rehabilitate them! They pay them! They recruit them into the army according to reports!
Witness our leaders’ tepid statement on insecurity in the South-west when they should have insisted on Amotekun! It is now clear to all that South-west leaders have sold out on the regional security outfit that the entire Yoruba nation, home and abroad, rose up like one man to support. Who, then, do the Yoruba leaders speak for? Southern borders are closed but it is business as usual at the Northern borders; preferential treatment is given to one man of Northern extraction while our own people suffer the effect of border closure and our leaders cannot use the sternest words to condemn this – but they only spoke tepidly! What is the relevance of Yoruba leaders that they cannot use their oft-touted influence in this government to get Lagos the promised special status instead of begging for peanuts for it as a result of the massive destruction that followed the ENDSARSNOW protests? But, then, a Yoruba man was there and he never did it. Instead, like Rehoboam the son of King Solomon, he made the case of Lagos worse!
The Yoruba need a new set of leaders. The present crop across board has failed the people. They have only looked after their own interests and feathered their own nests. At the very best, they have only paid lip service to Yoruba interests or been halfhearted in its pursuit.