Masquerading Oduduwa Nation And Avoiding Cataclysmic Breakdown Of Social Order

For The Records

By Sesan Michael Johnson

With heterogeneity of over 300 ethnic groupings in Nigeria and in spite of some of the common areas of inter-group relationships that would have been utilised as social capital for Nigeria’s progress, the Nigeria project has stubbornly remained complex and complicated. Focussing on Yoruba countryside, the on-going onslaught of killer herdsmen and sundry crimes, with sordid ambivalence on the part of the FG is reinforcing and affirming the fears of calculated attempts to alienate the Yorubas from their ancestral land.

Thus, the ideation of presentist epistemology and (the) sociation of current political eruptions and cultural temporalities in the Southwest are the driving wheels of this short essay. What could be called the Yoruba Experience or the Yoruba Question has been in existence for over 2,000 years (ca. 300BC). The history and the experience of time of the Yoruba are that of change and continuity. Without attempting a revisionist historiography of the Yoruba, what the Yoruba is facing currently is not novel. Various nuances and intrigues that characterized deep-time histories of the Yoruba are being re-enacted amidst the varied encumbrances currently pervading Yoruba geo-political space in Nigeria. Hence, it will be ahistorical not to rethinking what should be the responses of the Yoruba people to on-going temporalities invading or pervading the region. Will the Oduduwa descendants easily and boorishly forget how the old Oyo Empire was ransacked by the Fulani jihadists? Will they also forget how Ilorin fell under the auspices of Fulani oligarchy?

Premised on the current torments of some elements of Fulani extraction, who will speak against efforts at protecting Yoruba land by the likes of Sunday Igboho? One may probably disagrees with their methodologies, but it very cumbersome to fault their motives and love for the generality of the people of Yoruba.

Each time I engage my students in history classes on historical themes such as the 1884/85 Berlin Congress, Treaty of Westphalia, Unification of Italy, Unification of Germany and Russian Revolutions, as well as the Chinese Revolution; I begin to rethink the convoluted and contested struggles for Oduduwa Nation. Amidst the cacophony and remix of Fulani orchestrations vis-à-vis brazen killings of farmers and rural men/women, wanton destruction of farmlands and farm produce, raping of women, kidnapping, alienations and other anomalies; who can appropriately fault the call for Oduduwa Nation? Like never before, the frenzy and currency for the creation of Oduduwa Nation is dramatically accentuating. It is has gone beyond the conclaves of Gani Adam’s Odua Peoples’ Congress (OPC). With the special interventionist agenda of Sunday Igboho and the support of Yoruba descendants in the Diaspora, massive support for the creation of Oduduwa Nation cannot be undermined again. An average Yoruba descendant will no doubt have undeniable sympathetic support for this movement. What began in the 19th century as an Egbe Omo Oduduwa is already a Movement or Revolution today.

For Toyin Falola, attempts to create Yoruba Nation are not new. One of the most vigorous attempts to create the ‘Yoruba Nation’ began during the 19th century. It was during this period that the name Yoruba became popular as a collective identity for all Yoruba sub-groups. Names such as Aku, Nagun, Anago, Olukumi, etc had been used by neighbours and European visitors to describe Yoruba groups. Beyond this, the notion of Pan-Yoruba nationalism as collective consciousness was rigorously proliferated to galvanise the will and the spirit of the mass of the people towards achieving common goals. For instance, this precipitated into a political expression in 1945 with the formation of cultural-cum political society tagged the Egbe Omo Oduduwa (the descendants of the children of Oduduwa) by Chief Obafemi Awolowo. History shows that Yoruba communities continue to ally together to promote what Falola called ‘Yoruba Peoplehood’ and what Akinwumi Ogundiran described as ‘Yoruba Community of Practice’.

Oduduwa Nation is not just a concept or idea; I consider it as a ‘technology’ that must be intentionally utilised to achieve well thought out set goals. Howbeit, there is a binary challenge for both the integrationists (those who still believe in Nigeria) and the separatists (secessionists). On the one hand, (for integrationists) should Oduduwa Nation be masqueraded to wade off current onslaught of straying aliens tormenting Yoruba forested spaces and those marauding the Yoruba countryside? While doing this, can it serve as a tool to achieve restructuring, thereby repositioning the Yoruba advantageously within Nigeria? On the other hand, (for separatists) Yoruba Nation must be manufactured and taken out of Nigeria, to foster a great nation for the descendants of Oduduwa and pro-Yoruba groups not only in Nigeria but across the Atlantic. Since, the idea of Yoruba has already been Atlanticized to Brazil, Cuba, Europe, etc.

Using Italian Unification as an archetype to speak to the proponents of Oduduwa Nation; who are the Cambonaris? Is Ibadan playing the roles of Kingdom of Sardinia? Are there religious rulers acting as Bishop Pius IX? Can we call Professor Adebanji Akintoye, Giuseppe Mazzini? Is Alaafin or Ooni ready to play the roles of Victor Emmanuel II? Is Sunday Igboho or Iba Gani Adams playing the roles of Giuseppe Garibaldi? Who is playing the roles of Camillo Cavour? Militarism (Sunday Igbohoism) alone cannot achieve Oduduwa Nation. A nation must have its philosophical and intellectual foundations. What is being done to sell this idea of a new nation to the aristocracies and royalties? Is it going to be forced on them? What about the political class currently benefitting from the status quo? I am aware of the on-going orientation around various cities to orientate the masses. I am conscious of the various media conversations going on. I posit that manufacturing Yoruba Nation requires a rethinking of Yoruba experience from the Stone Age to the present period in new ways by reconsidering ‘ways of beings’ (ontology), ‘theories of knowledge’ (epistemology) and regimes of values and aspirational principles (axiology) of the Yoruba people. I hope the processes to achieve the new nation are being articulated beyond street and social media sensationalism. What would be the political ideology and paradigm of the new nation? How will the various sub-groups of the new nation be galvanized towards prosperity and posterity? What roles will Diaspora Yoruba play in achieving the new nation? These are few of the questions that must be interrogated within the prism of Yoruba collective goals.

For me, the two options must be well articulated in order to avoid cataclysmic breakdown of social order. If the Yoruba refused to masquerade Yoruba Nation to stop these marauders, what befell the Old Oyo Empire may befall the whole of Yoruba countryside. I am not a prophet of doom; rather, I am a student of history. Also, if the notion of the creation of Oduduwa Nation is not well thought out and strategically executed, it may likewise leads to war. Manufacturing and/or masquerading Oduduwa Nation has become a contingency and an exigency in order to avoid cataclysmic breakdown of social order.

*Sesan Michael Johnson is a Historian, Researcher and Public Affairs Analyst.

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