Archives

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.

Corruption Background Image.jpg

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

Blog_Social Media Image, 1.jpg
 
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.