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Our Heritage_Omowura: Man Who Sat On 200 Needles

Ayinla Omowura (Egun Magaji)

(A review of Festus Adedayo’s ‘Ayinla Omowura: Life and Times of an Apala Legend’)

By Lasisi Olagunju, Ph.D

(Published in the Nigerian Tribune on Tuesday, 5 May, 2020)

Five hundred and thirty five pages in seven chapters girded firmly, front and back, by a Preface, a Foreword, an Afterword and an Acknowledgment! This unusual structure makes this an uncommon biography. The story, if seen as a drama, has all the trappings of a Shakespearean tragedy: There is Ayinla Omowura, the tragic hero; there is a villain in the man who wasted him. The hero’s tragic flaw, his harmartia, was possibly his love for women, beer – and brawl. Fate and fortune played parts (or pranks) throughout the lives and even, the after-life of the principal characters. A full dose of greed, foul revenge and intrusion of supernatural elements completes the tragedy for the man and his entire family. This is a dramatic, tragic story of a whirlwind man who was compelled by fate to hold out his candle in the wind.

Written in simple, fluid language; illustrated with very rare photographs and properly indexed and referenced, the book, as said by the author, plots the graph of Omowura’s tempestuous youth, his musicality, his family and feuds, the fatality of his early departure and the cataclysmic events that eventually took him out. Set in Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State, Nigeria, the story opens with a chapter on the roots and beginning of Apala music. And it is foreboding enough that that chapter itself starts with an Omowura song in which he dares anyone to confront his ‘trailer’ as he ventures out on the highway of music:

“Who dares block me?
This trailer of songs I am driving into the musical scene is awesome
It is different from previous songs, so clear off road…”

Indeed, the above sets the tone – and the stage- for every scene, every act of the life and times of a man who has refused to die 40 years after his murder in a bar room brawl with a man he accurately predicted would be his Judas.

The story moves from the general to the particular in Chapter two. It is here readers are led from the roots of Apala to the beginning of the principal character himself, Ayinla Omowura. Chapter two opens with Ayinla’s eerie invocation of the powers of his ‘mothers’ who made him sit on two hundred needles with the assurance of none hurting him:

“Igba abere l’a fi joko ni’le orin
Awon iya ti ni’kan o nii gun wa nibe…” (page 38).

We read here of the very tough, rough beginnings of Omowura. We are regaled with stories of his vagrancy which earned him the suspicion of being an Akudaaya, an apparition with no earthly address. We are told that it was during his street years that he got hooked to igbo (marijuana) and did not really wean himself off it till his death. One of his friends told the author: “Ayinla and Indian hemp were like Siamese twins and he didn’t see it as a vice at all…” (page 46). Here you read also of his several pre-success brushes with the law, including one in which he was jailed for partaking in the gang rape of a certain “Amosa oniresi ni Sodeeke…”

If readers believe the chapter is all about what the title says, they will be mistaken. The chapter actually dwells as much on the political history of Egba Ake starting with its founding in about 1840 by Sodeeke as a town of refugees. It proceeds to detail how the fecund soil and cultural essence of Abeokuta birthed a succession of multi-talented personages with one of them, Yesufu (Yusuf) Amuda Gbogbolowo siring, in about 1933, a child who would in later life be known as Ayinla Omowura. Readers of these pages will be initiated into the unknown about Omowura’s maternal grandmother, Morenike Asabi on whose ancestral shrine Ayinla built his famous Itoko home. It is also in this chapter you will read about how music had always been part of Yesufu’s homestead even before he had Ayinla:

“…Ayinla’s mother used to sing ege with other women. This translates to mean that Ayinla met music at home. (His father) Yusuf too, from sources spoken to was an itinerant sakara musician who did music as a pastime whenever he was less busy at his smithy…” (page 40).

“Ayinla met the music profession as a family preoccupation. My father was adept at singing sakara. He used to go out on musical engagements and was very good at playing one of the early musical instruments called goje. Haruna Ishola, S.Aka knew my father, Gbogbolowo.” (Ayinla’s sister, page 43).

If you are interested in the relationship between Omowura and other musicians of that era, including Haruna Ishola, the author took time to interrogate this through the mouth of Ayinla’s lead drummer, Adewole Oniluola. Was he ever in a rivalry with Haruna Ishola? No, Adewole said but the same could not be said of his arch rival, Fatai Olowonyo, and later, Ayinde Barrister who moved from being the captain of Omowura fans club to becoming a bitter rival of the Apala maestro.

Chapter three spans 88 pages and it is appropriately titled ‘Ayinla’s iconic years (1970 – 1980)’.
This appears to be the nucleus of the story where issues of fate and destiny were argued and settled for a man who would dominate the musical scene so much he would brag and threaten anyone who dared him on that turf with eternal hunger…

“Olorin to ba foju di mi l’ode
Jije mimu e tan nile aye…” (page 83).

The author interrogates Ayinla’s ambivalent relationship with his Islamic religion, the Ogun and the Ogboni cults and his abiding faith in the unfailing powers of his Onisegun and their juju. Special mention is made here of his name sake and spiritual backer, Ayinla Agbejapa Oba. Still in this chapter, the author continues Omowura’s journey to fame, fights, riches, controversies and foregrounds his death which was to come soon later over a mere motorcycle, and perhaps because of a woman.

Chapter four discusses further the peculiar rancorous family which Ayinla raised; the complexities, the dangers and the competing malevolent forces that rule a polygamy – ile olorogun – plus the various philandering escapades of the family head with all manner of women, including his secret lust for the woman in whose beer parlour he was killed. Here, the author discusses the metaphysics of love in a traditional Yoruba society portraying Ayinla as a man who did everything and anything to have a woman he fancied. One of his two surviving wives, Iya Agba gives a personal example of how Ayinla got her married using love potion: Ayinla proposed to her; she turned him down. “Se ara yin ya sha?” Are you well at all? She rebuked him. He retreated. Then a certain Tai brought her a fried guinea fowl; a friend of Ayinla who was with her at her shop when the meat came warned her not to eat it. “If you eat this meat, you will marry Ayinla,” the man warned her. She ignored him, ate the meat and shortly after started craving the musician.

“I would ask my customers in the evening if anyone of them had seen Alhaji Ayinla anywhere, that it had been long I saw him in my beer parlour…One day, he came to my shop and restated his proposal. He said, ‘Iya Agba, emi re maa fe e.’ I said what’s wrong with it, that I was all right with it.’ “

He loved his women – wives and mistresses – but loved his children more. This he demonstrated in his own peculiar ways: He gave them tribal marks so that no other man would snatch them from him; he, towards the end of his life, was in a furious, desperate race to get all of his children of school age educated and he gave all he could to get this done – again, tragically, without success.

Then on May 6, 1980, he was killed with a glass cup, in a beer parlour by his estranged band manager. His murder, the recriminations and the consequences, legal, physical and metaphysical occupy the 70 pages that make up Chapter five.

Now, did Omowura know he was going to die when he did? The author answers this question in various ways through various sources. First was the claim that he told Fatai Bayewumi, his band
manager who killed him, six months before the deed was done, that he was going to be his Judas Iscariot:
“Bayewumi…Iwo re Judasi; emi re Jeshu; iwo re ma pa mi. Translation: Bayewumi, you are Judas; I am Jesus, you will be the cause of my death” (page 261).

Beyond his death, here we see the turmoil that upended everything he laboured for at his home front. The struggle for succession between his first son, Akeem and his only brother, Dauda that tore his immediate and extended families into miserable shreds. We see how that battle for the soul of Ayinla’s musical empire was fought on all planes – physical, metaphysical, spiritual – and how it was resolved finally with the death, first, of Dauda in 2005 and Akeem in 2016 (page 225). It is a classical tragic case of mutually assured destruction.

Chapters six and seven are a posthumous examination of his music and the genre to which it belongs. These latter chapters can be said to be an extensive excursion into the musical world of Omowura, his precursors, contemporaries and successors. Perhaps deliberately or fortuitously, the author exposes himself here as a voracious connoisseur of the works of Omowura. He presents here the thematic, textual and contextual analyses of every of Omowura’s 20 albums and stage songs.

But the book, like all good biographies, is more than the personal history of Ayinla Omowura. The rainbow background of the author as a media practitioner and scholar, a philosophy graduate, a political scientist and a lawyer is stamped on every page of the book. Competently tucked in those pages and chapters are the history, sociology, politics and economics of music and language of the Yoruba of South West Nigeria. The book is also big enough to qualify as a compelling brief on everything Abeokuta, its various quarters and their people.

If anyone seeks to read the book as a praise song, such will be disappointed. What I find in it is an unflattering, unpatronizing characterization of this iconic figure as a genius wrapped in dissembling contradictions. He was rich enough to ride in Mercedes Benz cars but poor enough to fight and get himself killed over a motorcycle; he was a Muslim who performed Hajj and, yet, was a bard for, and a participant in the shrines of Ogun and the Ogboni cult. The unsparing author gives every shade of opinion connected with the Ayinla story enough rooms to ventilate their points for and against him. The family of the man who killed him, perhaps for the first time, is able to speak for their hanged father and give their side of the story. “Ayinla was the aggressor,” Bayewumi’s son said forcefully. There are others too who insist that despite Ayinla’s success as a brand, he was an anikanjopon (a selfish man) who hated seeing anyone around him make waves like him. And yet, many of the other voices we hear in the book cast Ayinla as a generous giver almost to the point of profligacy.

A man is never all beauty without blemish, so is this work. One of the strengths of the book ironically harbours its weakness. The author laced the story with songs after songs of Omowura. All lovers of Yoruba language will find the lyrics, well accented, a delight to read and sing along. But the author did not translate many of those beautiful, witty, pithy songs to English for non-Yoruba speaking readers to understand and savour. However, what such readers miss in the non-translation, they gain in the effusive examination and interpretations, by the author, of the thematic and philosophical imports of each of the songs.

There is also what I see as an unresolved issue of the name of Ayinla’s mother. The tragic hero surnamed himself ‘Omowura’- son of Wura. That presupposes that one of his parents – his mother, was Wura. But Wura is the abbreviated form of a name, a prefix which must have a headword. What is that to which Ayinla’s ‘Wura’ is affixed? The author on pages 39, 40 and 240 settles for Ayinla’s coinage ‘Wuramotu.’ Users of Yoruba language know that ‘Wuramotu’ is not a Yoruba name and certainly not a Yoruba word. The truth is Ayinla’s creative genius simply, maybe, impulsively, grafted an Arabic suffix – ‘mat’ (as in Wulemat/ Wulemotu) onto a Yoruba prefix and conveniently sang it as his mother’s name. Future studies may seek to find out if the real name is Wuraola or whatever.

It is significant that the Foreword to the book was written by Professor Ebenezer Obadare, a sociology teacher at the University of Kansas, United States who confessed to, as a pre-teen, knowing “literally every word of Omowura’s songs by heart.” The Afterword was written by Professor Wale Adebanwi of the University of Oxford, who said he was drawn, as a kid, to Omowura’s music so much that he converted, in later life, one of his famous lines into a declaration of self-conscious autonomy: omo b’ao r’eni gbekele, a te ‘ra mo se eni (roughly: child of one who works harder in lieu of someone to lean on). Obadare is pleased that Adedayo has finally answered a question of his youth on what really was behind “the elemental bond” between Omowura and his fanatical fans. Adebanwi, on his own, gives a closure to the appetite whetted by Obadare in the Foreword. He expresses his satisfaction that the author has been able to explain why Omowura, despite his personal failings, foibles and weaknesses and “his contradictory impulses,” remains a celebrity “long after his – as they say – untimely death…”

In all, this book is a competently written account of the life and times of the subject as well as of the history of the various genres of Yoruba music; the socio-economic philosophies underpinning the rivalries – petty and major- among the practitioners and the contextual cultural allure which grew the trade. It is also a significant addition to the literature (or portraiture) of the impressive characters that drove the entertainment industry in the first three decades after Nigeria’s independence. It is a compelling read.

Our Nation_Ponder This Series_Corruption. Everyone Is A Victim.

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Corruption. A lot rail against it, some defend it, many condone it. But it really affects all of us, whether we acknowledge it or not; whether we see the effects immediately or not. Regardless of our social standing, without prejudice to our clout or influence, corruption is an ill wind that blows nobody any good. (Permit the cliche)

Let’s take tax evasion, for example, which is a form of corruption. Those who pay a fair share, whether they want to or not are most likely to be those who work in the formal sectors of the economy, those whose income can be tracked. For many in the category, their tax is deducted at source. For some others, they are compelled, by reason of trade or professional requirement to pay. In some cases those in this category do not pay the total tax they ought to. What they pay is “guesstimated” (a corruption {sorry now!} of “guess” and “estimated”!)

More difficulty comes with the high-end earners in the informal sector, the business or professional categories. Without mincing words, observance for many in these categories is more in breach than compliance. There are several legitimate and less-so legitimate ways of not paying their fair share, or at all!

So, how does it affect everyone? For the folk that pay their fare share, with or without compulsion, they are affected in the schools, hospitals that ought to have been built and equipped; in the roads that ought to have been constructed and/or properly maintained; in the social safety provisions that ought to have been designed and funded. But are not!

For many in this tax paying category, because of corruption of paying or avoiding due tax revenue by others, they now have to pay premium for basic education; they get mis-diagnosis for treatable ailments or ailments that if caught on time should not be terminal, and even when diagnosed, they go through hell and back to afford palliative medication that keeps them coming back for more ineffectual treatment; they risk limb and life on roads that are not safe for human passage; they are left bereft of succor when they have financial emergencies! And they repeat this cycle, day after day, year after year, until some die prematurely in middle age! A form of constructive homicide tax defaulters ought to be charged with, if you ask me! 

For the upper class, those who have perfected the art of gaming the system, they live in constant fear of their lives because the gulf between their status (sustained by the way with the full taxes paid by others) and the generality of others. They virtually live in prison, behind high walls, they hoard the protection of policemen who should ordinarily keep the peace among generality of the citizenry. When they do fall sick, they travel abroad to pay premium because their dishonesty has denied their immediate environment funds to build, equip and run first class health institutions. They pay premium for vehicles that can ply the failed roads, and pay higher premium to avoid plying those roads by investing in helicopters. One can on and on!

If only everyone pays his/her fair share of tax! Then maybe, just maybe, all will not lose out.

Then there is the issue of embezzlement, brazen or subtle, the popular form of corruption known to all. It is now known that the crudest way to become ‘financially independent’ is to hold government office, or be a beneficiary of government largesse. No, not for provision or delivery of service, but for what you can get out of gaming the system, deliberately broken. This malaise is not political party, gender or faith specific, so no one should come here to beat any chest! It is pervasive, among public office holders, and sadly even in the private sector, and their hangers-on. 

Yes, everybody loses in the end. 

Where public services are deliberately compromised to feed corruption – the roads that are budgeted for but not constructed or maintained, the hospitals that are stocked with fake medications , or no medication at all despite budgetary provisions for them, the public transport system deliberated compromised so that more funds can be allocated for repairs and purchases that are never done etc.; everyone suffer the telling effect. Those who perpetrate these dastardly acts, and those who see and turn the other eye, hoping for a time when “my turn/the turn of my person, will come”, or when for primordial/parochial sentiments, condone or defend such acts!

Maybe time has come for a PERSONAL conversation with ourselves? Would we want our lives run the way we have allowed our governments, and public enterprises’ to be run? Would we wish that our children, born and unborn, continue to suffer for our collective amnesia? Oh, yes people can emigrate, but how many can do so? Even for those who emigrate, would you rather have access to a little of a whole, or a whole of a whole? 

Each person to his corner, to her tent, meditate. How have I been part of the problem? What can I do, in my little corner to begin to reverse (note I am not saying change, for that is a long, long way down the road) the trend? 

It will be a long, hard grind; but as they say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with just a step! And please this is not a political piece! 

Ponder this, dear reader.

©Adewale Adeniji. 3rd December 2018.

Our Nation_Social Media & The Mob Mentality

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If you use the social media platform for work, ministry or just to socialize, you will have fallen into this trap of “shooting from your hips” on hot and topical issues. Been there, done that!
 
It may be trolling supporters of football clubs you do not support, or on relationship issues, or on political/economic issues. On football ribbing, ask me as a supporter of Arsenal FC! On political/economic issues, the easiest lightening rods today being presidents Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria and Donald Trump of the United States.
 
And the comments and/or contributions would usually be acerbic, regardless of facts to the contrary. Some would think this good fun, and/or exercise of their freedom of expression. The reason (s) for this state of affairs should be a research field for social psychologists, to ascertain why we all are so eager to vent ourselves through hot button issues from settled prejudicial positions and not with an attempt at objectivity.
 
ReadIng threads of post can be very interesting, and many times a tad frustrating! Our rush to judgment is truly amazing! It bothers on mob mentality. Truth, however, is that for a few, their initial vituperation begins to soften after reading and considering contrary comments; which is very commendable and noble.
 
But equally true is that for many, no matter the superior and obvious truth of contrary comments, they will NEVER see the obvious error of their own comments; and then this happens – they cuss those with contrary views, and/or resort to Nigerians’ perfect excuse and justification for our own inadequacies – push the tribe and/or religious button!
 
Many would, without any proof, conclude that for having contrary views, you must either be a stooge to ventilate opposing views or a tribal irredentist. What about a fake so-so ‘Christian’ or “Moslem’!? Super Nigerians!
 
Chisos!
 
What is the essence of our reasoning faculties if we cannot appreciate contrary views, even when we do not agree? Must our default defensive position be abuse? We are easy to push our fundamental rights to freedom of expression, yet we seek to deny it to others with contrary views! We say our views are in support of democracy and good governance, yet we block those who express views contrary to ours and cuss them to get off our walls! Why would you post on social if you do not want people’s comments? Nigerians can be holier than thou sha!
 
This much I know – it pays to reason out issues within ourselves, and tarry before we comment. And this is why:
 
Any competent Mentor should teach his Mentee that “your first thought or impression on any emotive issue is usually not the perfect understanding of the issue. So, save yourself the embarrassment of being wrong the first time!” It takes introspection to reach a fair viewpoint, even on hot button issues. Doing otherwise means you allow yourself to be corralled into a mob!
 
PS:
This piece is not relevant to paid commentators, but genuine users of social media space to ventilate personal views! Why? For the obvious reason that it is better for the brain, not the pocket to speak!
 
Now, let me sit back and be amused by the abuse sure to follow. 😂😎😄🤣
 
© Adewale Adeniji. 24th October 2017.

I Love Women! (International Women’s Day, 2017)

I love women, that is undeniable. 

I have 3 wonderful, strong women in my life; as wife and daughters.

I was born and raised by an amazing woman.

My sisters are great women raising great families of their own.

I have worked and still work with competent women.

I have women as friends, doing good and loving others.

Therefore, I always honor women.

Do you love women?

Do you honor women?

Tell them about it!
© Adewale Adeniji

What Goes Round ….

That chief, fortunate bagger, he be.

Ligali marries two women at once!

Alas, he neither of them loves … but

the King has decreed it, coloured as ‘favour’.

She whom he truly adores, his eleyinjuege*

this aponbepore* for who, day and night, he pines, 

Another’s love captive be!

Who says life cannot a shrew be?

Recompense for his progenitor’s sin.

Tale told of his grand daddy, a chieftain

who for power sake, two women slay,

on the road to the market place;

frenzied to show his might as Balogun*.

Got away with murder, he did, but the women’s kin, 

Aworo, the diviner, noted for vengeance, 

swore Balogun’s generations will love in vain!

Who says life’s not Karma? Two generations 

hence, Kigali, Abese Oba*, dogs

the Oba’s every movement, even as

Royalty visits his harem, where he swoons

on the favours of she who Abese adores.

Of a truth, Abese must egg the Oba on:

“Well done sire, grind harder!”

What goes round does come round.

Glossary:
* eleyinjuege – Beautiful doe eyes

* aponbepore – Light complexioned beauty

* Balogun – Head of King’s Army

* Abese Oba – Chief that accompanies the King on all missions
© 26th September 2016. Adewale Adeniji.

The Harem … Part 3.

How on earth did they cope,

Rulers of dynasties old?

What strength possessed them

To rule roost o’er these cesspools?
Kingdoms ruined, alliances bust

By shenanigans of the Harem politics

Fortunes, hard won, easily lost

Yet, this institution endures.
Why on earth do men do this,

Pursuit of flesh to gratify flesh?

Who can man save from this pull of

the sweet and sour taste it bodes.
Harems, meant to show man’s prowess

Yet in deed shews forth women’s might

As birds a nectar draws, men always drawn

To that which eventually his death makes!
(The end… Or is it?)
© 25th September 2016. Adewale Adeniji.

Our Nation_The Curse of Nollywood

Fellow Nigerians, I, like you, have been assailed in the last two days by 2 ‘burning’ issues in our polity (No, not the recently hot topic of the DSS/’Corrupt Judges’ saga). These are the twin issues of Aisha Buhari’s BBC Hausa interview, where she publicly gave counsel to the man she sleeps in the same house with; and Reuben Abati’s discourse on the ‘cursed’ Aso Villa, seat of Nigeria’s presidency, a sort of hammer house of horror tale.
In fact, yesterday evening, a dear friend and brother, (tagged in this post) called and urged me to start a discussion on Abati’s article published in a national daily. 
I have resisted that particular invite until this evening when my Babe casually mentioned something in a discussion on an unrelated issue.
What strikes me in the manner of our discuss these days is that it appears we have lost all propriety and balance. Vitriol (often transferred aggression more than any thing else) dominates almost all discussions. The implication is that we just jump on every issue without recourse to introspection, and just unload. 
I have quite a number of friends I follow on social media – and it always amuses me no end when having unloaded their preconceived views at the beginning of every new issue, they gradually climb back down when better reasoning surfaces! Maybe you have also noticed? 
So, how does this affect these twin issues I identified above? 

PMB was in Germany when ‘Aishagate’ (as a friend uncharitably called it) broke. And to town we all went, talking about ‘the other room’!; about the fact that PMB has been abandoned by his wife; and the like. You get my drift?
Can anyone recall why our president took the trip, or what he achieved in Germany, if at all? How would our tottering economy benefit from that trip? All many saw was Angela Merkel’s face when PMB uncharitably publicly replied his wife!
Then Reuben Abati’s tales by moonlight surfaced. And everyone, initiated and otherwise, began to see ‘sense’ in the fact that Babalawos and Mamaalawos have buried whatever at the seat of power. ‘No wonders!’. ‘I talk am!’ began to surface. 
No one paused to think – what the world reference of the purveyor of this mumbo jumbo is? And trust Fani-Kayode to pour petrol on a cindering issue! Is this not an attempt to explain away the obvious, and now admitted, incompetences of past leaders? How about Abdulsalam Abubakar? What evil(s) assailed him whilst he occupied Aso Rock? How do you explain that none was obvious during his tenure? I can go on and on. So, why do a hasty generalization, as Abati did? Maybe because many still live in fear and awe of what they cannot understand? Why not sit down and think deeply on this? What is the state of health of the average Nigerian, in or out of Aso Rock? Is one an indication of the other? Oh, that is a long thing? (Apologies to the Koko master!)
My conclusion? Nigeria has become (to our collective shame) a land of educated folk who choose not to think, but allow others (a few, calculating agenda setters) think for them. 
Welcome to Naija’s Nollywood generation. A world of make belief, awada kerikeri generation. More of salacious topics. Let’s go get them mentality. The sad thing? This happens not just in public discuss o; but in private interactions too. It pervades every area of our existence now! 
For the next couple of days, you will see murals, cartoons etc. on Aisha and Buhari’s OTHER ROOM. It will carve itself into our lingo just like Mama Patience’s ‘Diaris God o’ did, as did that artiste’s ‘Iyalaya anybody’!
Fellow compatriots, can we not think deep for a change? So that we can ask ourselves and our leaders hard, probing questions, devoid of primordial connotations, shorn of fears?
When would we begin to set ourselves and our leaders a long ‘to-do’ list for our selves and our nation?
Isn’t it time we left Osuofia, Lalude and Bala in Nollywood where they belong? Let us begin to live as we ought to. In tune with reality, captains of our own destinies. 
Reactions to this will determine if we are able to do this. 😜
{My sincere apologies for the length of this. Nah! Didn’t mean that!}
© 15th October 2016. Adewale Adeniji.

The Harem … Part 2

A place of sordid tales, a coven of jealousies

One’s misfortune, another’s joy

Oh, harems are sodden with plots

All are drawn in, willingly or coyly.
It’s taste turns oft to wormwood

Relish its waters are your own risk

Whatever pleasures are dished

Rest assured you’d be pissed.
Harems, a place of plots, sub-plots

Envies are shaped, talons sharpened

The happy, rendered sad,

The sad, raucously happy at other’s misfortune 
Men, thought powerful, brought low

Dignities ruined, egos bruised

Your ride today, another’s tomorrow

A place indeed best for vipers … Or is it?
(To be continued …)
© 25th September 2016. Adewale Adeniji.

Dancing Rhythms Of Love, Part 2

 

Dancing Maiden_Courtesy Shutterstock.com

 

 

Lagbayi.

 

Lagbayi, ara Oyo*, lion of the land

Great Oyo meesi*, Akinrogun* of Oyo

Proud warrior of dated ancestry

Tales of your battles far and near titillates.

Son of Lemboye, witty husband of Hunbo. Welcome!

We salute your courage, great wrestler.

To what do we this honor owe, seven full days before

The great maiden dance fiesta? You left Oyo early!

Indeed! Early riser, that’s how my fathers taught me.

Me, the lion of the battle field. Amororo guided me aright.

Seven days, yes. But to your land I come to see for myself

That beautiful damsel of the land – Silifa.

News of her dazzling beauty traveled far! Even strangers say

News of her elegance delights the ear! More wine, please!

 

Silifa ba wo*? You married from the great Sabe people, remember?

Dahomeys, who do not take kindly to oroguns*. Oran re o!*

How will princess Hunbo take it? How will Onisabe* react?

This is real trouble. Fitinati* births in our midst!

Oso sini lenu, o bu iyo si!* How would we sort this out?

But, Lagbayi, between Oyo and here, many maidens

You saw; of diverse shapes, of various sizes, pleasing to

Sights. Why us, why now? Enjoying our season of rest from war.

Kabiyesi and our Chiefs, do they know your real mission here?

Are they aware that this year’s maidens’ dance just became war?

And that is my fault, how? I heard, I came, I intend to conquer!

More wine, please! Woman, don’t just stand and stare – wine!

Yeeee! Apologies my lord, more wine coming up…

 

Lagbayi/Kabiyesi Amona

 

Amona, my ancestors told me of the war with Allada,

how whole villages were slaughtered who dared defy

the missive of the Alaafin, iku Baba yeye.

Amona, I warn you, on Silifa’s matter, no retreat no surrender!

Instruct Alao and Moripe not to cause war between us!

Vassals do not query their masters, I’m sure you know.

Lagbayi, calm down. Okun ki ho ruru, ka wa ruru o*

Amona, Amona, Amona! How many times did I call you?

Akinrogun to you, not Lagbayi. Only my friends have that privilege.

Ok, Akinrogun Oyo, I counsel patience. This is not state matter.

War? On this small issue? Patience! The girl is betrothed!

What????? To whom? How? When? The last I heard, she wasn’t!

Now, she is, Akinrogun. Now she indeed is! Nothing I can do.

So, what is the point of your maidens’ festive if their best is taken?

 

Lagbayi/Alao/Moripe.

 

Karaole o* To what do we owe the honor of your visit, Akinrogun?

Moripe, bring a stool, bring food and wine for our August visitor.

Save your greetings Alao, save your ministrations! I came to confirm.

I heard a rumor. A little bird whispered that Silifa is betrothed

My mouth immediately vouched for you. Not Alao, I said. Not Alao.

My LORDDDDDDDD, what can I say. Bashiru will be my in-law.

Why, Alao, why? Why are you in such a hurry to marry her off?

Hurry, my Lord? Our Silifa is overripe for marriage; and she’s made her choice! Her choice is Bashiru. What can we do?

How am I not sure Silifa has anything to do with this, Alao?

Moripe, say something. Don’t just stand there! Am I lying?

Yes, oloye; just as my husband said it, just as he said it!

 

Alao! Moripe! Ema ma gba Esu l’abule yin?!*

Oloye, Esu bi boooo?* How is this a problem?

You’re asking me that, Moripe? Alao, answer your wife now…

O, your mouth is trapped, abi? My coco yams, my dried fish,

My adire eleko, my.., answer now, Alao! Since the last dance; nothing missing, nothing lost from your list.You think you can disgrace the great Lagbayi? Haaa, Esu a se! Iji a ja!* Alao!

I shall return to Oyo via Ilugun, if you know what I mean?

I shall visit your homestead and revel all my ears have heard!

I am sure Dauda, Moripe’s brother would be interested …

To know who burnt down his inheritance, because your in-law  refused your offer for Moripe, three times! Will it not become clear

why some love birds used the bush as cover to flee Ilugun?

 

Silifa/Bashiru.

 

Silifa Silifa! My rose among thorns. You see, my heart dances

Just at the sight of your beauty! Eledua* did overtime on you…

Yeeee! You will be my death yet! Kaa sa!* Come near me now …

Stop, Basiru, stop I say. Don’t touch me please…

You flatter to deceive me, Bashiru. Is that fair?

How on Eledua’s earth do I do this? You, I worship day and night?

How? You ask, ‘how’? You promise and you fail, don’t you?

Or is it because you think you have gripped the machete stump?

That’s why your word is no longer your bond? ‘How’, he asks?

Ololufe mi* Tell me what I have not done? and do it I shall

Tell me to bring ten cows, I shall. What will I not do?

Drunk as I am with love! Not just any love – Silifa’s love.

1 moon ago, when you came with your friends, remember?

1 moon ago? 1 moon ago? When I came with my friends?

Many issues were discussed, Silifa. Ok, help out this poor soul..

How remiss of me to promise and fail my sweetheart…

 

When you asked us to step aside from the motley crowd…

Oh, oh, that. I now remember. You told me to prove I will always

Love thee, no matter what, by hunting for ogbori efon’s* head..

Silifa, were you serious then? When I thought you were teasing …

Teasing? No, I was serious. My first and only request of you, and

Failed me you have. Bashiru, is that a taste of what I am in for?

Omo adaamo!* Haa, Yee! What was a rumor, I now believe, Silifa.

Oh, so you really do not want to marry me, abi. Aye ma ni ka o!*

Can your own forebears confront ogbori efon, talk less of killing it?

Ha, ha, ha! If that’s your plan – to kill me before we’re wed, you lie!

My wife you shall be; the taste of your wetness I shall enjoy!

Ogbori efon ko, ogbori elemoso* ni! Get out of my way joo …

 

© 17th May, 2016. Adewale Adeniji.

 

Glossary.

*Oyo – a great Yoruba kingdom

*Oyo meesi – titled chiefs of Oyo kingdom, closest advisors to the king

*Akinrogun – A title for a major warrior, lower in rank to Balogun.

*Silifa ba wo? – why Silifa?

*oroguns – wife rivals in polygamy

*Oran re o! – This is war!

*Onisabe – King of Sabe Kingdom in Dahomey (Benin Republic)

*Fitinati – Trouble

*o so si ni lenu, o bu iyo si – Conundrum/Bitter sweet.

*okun ki ho ruru, ka wa ruru – unwise to stoke the flames of fires

*Karaole o – greeting for a titled one, lesser than a king.

*Ema ma gba Esu l’abule yin?! – You better not allow the devil in your village.

*Esu bi boooo? – Devil’s visitation, how?

*Haaa, Esu a se! Iji a ja! – O a truth, there shall be chaos!

*Eledua – God

*Kaa sa! – exclamation.

*Ololufe mi – my darling

*ogbori efon – a mythical monster of the deep forest.

*ayanfe mi – my choice to marry.

*Omo adaamo – Expletive for ‘wicked soul’

*Aye ma ni ka o! – Wicked world!

*ogbori elemoso – another mythical monster of the deep forest.

Our Heritage_BENIN KINGDOM. How A New Oba Will Emerge.

Eheneden Erediawa, 6

 

 

According to Benin tradition, the Oba never dies, he only joins his ancestors or he transits. Nobody announces his burial because he did not die in the first instance. What is announced after an interlude is coronation, which usually lasts 3-4 months.

 

BREAKING OF WHITE CHALKS.

 

During this period, the custom prohibits social engagements like burial ceremonies while markets are shut. The Esogban of Benin Kingdom breaks white chalks in front of markets to signal the closure of markets for a period, but no open announcement.

 

All male Bini sons are required to shave their heads in respect of the Oba. The burial arrangements are not public, so many, except a privileged class, do not know his resting place.

 

PILGRIMAGE TO USELU.

 

Immediately the Isekhure of Benin Kingdom announces the coronation programme, the crown prince proceeds to Uselu where he is the Edaiken, and where he will spend 90 days and make all necessary rituals.

 

After that, he will climb the traditional tree (Udianamasunamieuwa tree) and proceed to a wrestling contest at Ogiamien’s palace on Sakpoba Road. The history is that Ogiamien had never pledged allegiance to the Oba, he has always been at loggerheads with the monarch and would always want to prevent every incoming Oba from gaining access to the kingdom.

 

A palace source, who corroborated the narration, said, “They will begin from Egua-Edaiken, the traditional residence of the heir-apparent to the Benin throne. On a day fixed by the Edaiken, his people at Uselu will escort him on his journey back to Benin-City. On the way, he stops at an historical  palm tree named `Udin ama-mieson aimiuwa’ (translated `work before pleasure’), which the Edaiken climbs emblematically.

 

“This little ceremony dates back to the time of Oba Ewuare the Great whose life, as heir apparent to the throne, was characterized by long suffering which included periods when he personally had to climb palm trees on this spot to cut the fruits for a living.

 

“This act of torment by the father of the first Edaiken has ever since been re-enacted in a representational way by every Edaiken. From the palm tree, the Edaiken continues his journey to Benin-City. But at the first moat called lya-akpan, in the area where the firm of defunct Mid-Motors (Nigeria) Limited now stands, the Uselu chief in the procession, takes leave of the Edaiken and returns to Uselu, while the Edaiken is escorted into the city by Benin chiefs”.

 

The source went on: “Thereafter, the Edaiken enters the city via Iguisi (now Lagos Street) and proceeds to Eko-Ohae (bachelors’ camp) where he stays for three days. After three days at Eko-Ohae, the Edaiken continues his journey to Usama, the venue of the traditional coronation rites. Usama was the site where Orominyan, the father of Eweka I, built the first palace and all succeeding Obas from Eweka I were crowned and lived there, until Oba Ewedo in the 13th century moved the palace to the present site in the centre of the town.

 

“The Edaiken remains in Usama for seven days performing all the rituals and ceremonies of the Oba. Before the expiration of seven days, he visits Use, a village few kilometers outside Benin, where he performs the ceremony for choosing the name he will answer as the Oba of Benin”. Interestingly, he added, “This tradition started during the period of Oba Eweka I whose maternal grand-father, Ogie-Egor, lived in the next door village of Egor. When Prince Oromiyan left Benin, he left behind his Bini wife who was pregnant in the care of her father, the Ogie of Egor. The woman delivered a male child who was dumb from birth.

 

“The maternal grand-father then sent him to Use, the mother’s village, for treatment, but when he grew up and still could not talk, words were sent to his father at Uhe. His father sent seven magical Akhue with which the dumb prince participated in the popular village game known as Akhue. With only one seed remaining on the ground and every player having failed to strike it, the young prince used the magical Akhue from his father and succeeded in striking down the remaining seed.

 

“Excited by this feat, he spoke for the first time exclaiming in Yoruba, Owomika (my hand has struck it). He later assumed this expression for a title which became corrupted to Eweka.

 

“Later, having picked a name at Use, the Edaiken returns to Usama where the crowning ceremony is performed by Oliha, the leader of the Uzama, and proclaims Edaiken in his newly acquired name as the Oba of Benin. It is significant to note that until the ceremony at Use, the Edaiken never knows beforehand what name he is going to be crowned with”.

 

REINFORCEMENT BY OLIHA.

 

Another source puts it this way, “Ogiamien poses a problem to every Edaiken. However, he is usually defeated. After that, the Edaiken advances to Uzama-Nihiron at Siluko road, where the Oliha of Benin prepares him spiritually, physically and traditionally for final ascension to the throne. That is where he gets a name. His name is changed and the new name is what he answers throughout his reign.”

 

CORONATION.

 

Following the fortification, he saunters to the famous Urhokpota Hall in the heart of Benin at the King Square where the formal coronation of Oba of Benin takes place. The governor is most likely to present Crown Prince Ehenede Erediuwa with his staff of office same day. From that day, he becomes the 39thOba of Benin.

 

INSTALLATION RITES IN PROGRESS.

 

Before the palace announced the passage of the monarch, the crown prince, was formally installed in March as the Edaiken of Uselu after the successful completion of traditional rites.

Credits: Emma Amaize, Vanguard Newspaper & Simon Ebegbulem

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