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Our Emotional Intelligence Series, Episode 3 is live now.
Watch video at:
Listen to Podcast at:
Our podcasts can also be enjoyed on:
Pocket Casts: https://pca.st/s9zmu8h2
RSS feed: https://anchor.fm/s/20c28150/podcast/rss
(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.
Check out Episode 1 of our new series on Emotional Intelligence. https://youtu.be/-ovVX72ZVQA Comments and critiques are welcomed, please. Thank you. 🙌🙌
That Nigeria is struggling under the weight of security challenges is not in dispute. That the economy is still that of a privileged few is also not in doubt. That the hydra headed monster of corruption is still untamed in every material particular is also obvious.
No one also need to look far to see the lightening rod of all this systemic shocks and imbalances. And an easy and cheap target at that – the sitting president, Muhammadu Buhari (General or not!).
Disclaimer: this post is not a defence of the person of PMB, oh no, not today. Why? Even if Mother Theresa were to be alive and president of Nigeria, she would have had to contend with the same vitriol. So, I’d be disappointing many with my humble summation. Feel free to disagree without being disagreeable, if your politics or worldview allow for that!
So, why “cheap shots”? Because placing blame is easy, passing the buck convenient. What is hard, damn hard, is owing our part in this situation and offering ourselves as sacrifice for renewal. Please be patient with me.
Take security. I am sure that you have read, or maybe even read the report of others on the Homily of the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto at the burial mass of one Seminarian, unfortunately killed in the North by criminal elements early this week? Okay.
This sermon is symptomatic of my point in this piece. That unfortunate young man and his colleagues died because of the president’s action or lack of it, right? WRONG! I mean, it is easy to blame the president for every wrong, while WE ALL should be looking in the mirror!
We can all theorise why there are kidnappers, other criminal and terrorist elements in the land all we want but answer me this questions: (1) Buhari caused the Almaijiri issue in the north right? (2) He is the sponsor of Biko Haram elements, right? (3) He is that Fulani herdsman terrorising farmers and farmlands all over the place, yes? (4) He has his hands in the pocket of governments of the States and local governments such that he embezzles their funds, right? (5) Buhari is also the reason that mechanic over charged you for fixing your equipment, right? And oh, wait, it is because of this president that Nigeria is not worth dying for, yes?
Listen to me dear reader, we ARE ALL to blame for Nigeria’s morass. Yes, you, me, all of us. And our part in the mess did not begin with this president, and except we change, will not end with this one. Ask yourself this: why is it that most Nigerians who misbehave in this country travel to Ghana (Ghana o), and strive to do the right thing? How come we struggle to gain the system in our social responsibilities (i.e. payment of adequate taxes), yet labour to build up our various religious organisations and social clubs with humongous contributions?
You, me, everyone makes Nigeria what it is. The sooner we all begin to look in our mirrors for the problem, the early Nigeria will begin to get better. It is like a child blaming his parents for every obstacle life throws at him!
Wake up Nigerians. Talk and criticism is cheap. Play your part in your little corner, and bit by little bit, Nigeria will begin to evolve. Not before then, I’m afraid.
Enjoy your day!
©️Adewale Adeniji. 13th February 2020
Under the Electric Power Sector Reform Act, 2005 (EPSRA), the Nigerian Electricity Regulation Commission (NERC) may of its own volition or upon receipt of a complaint enquire into the conduct or functioning of any licensee’s obligations under the Act, rules or regulations, codes of conduct, or terms and conditions of the licence.
According to this attached Notice, NERC claims to have ‘reasonable cause’ that the listed Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOs) have breached the provisions of EPSRA, terms and conditions of each DISCOs’ licences, the 2018 Minor Review of Multi Year Tariff Order, and the Minimum Review Remittance Order for 2019.
These DISCOs have been given 60 days to show cause why their licences should not be cancelled.
Without prejudice to NERC’s statutory powers to regulate and take tough decisions, and without delving into the merit or otherwise of this regulatory move, it is our humble view that this path is one fraught with many dangers for the distribution of electricity, with its consequential impact on the consumers of electricity – both domestic and industrial.
For one, has NERC covered all bases in terms of managing possible fall out – technical and LEGAL – from this threatened cancellation? For another, if the purpose of this is to get the attention of these DISCOs, what message might this be sending to potential investors in this economy?
How long, would this possibly drag on for; and while it is on-going, how might the DISCOs perform vis-a-vis consumers of electricity?
This we believe are urgent issues that must be on the mind of NERC. We hope they have really thought this through? Our recent history suggests not.
Interesting times ahead!
I am not surprised but embarrassed, and disappointed by the statement credited to a spokesperson of the Senate to wit: despite the conviction of Orji Uzor Kalu, he remains a member of the senate and will continue to draw his allowances!
This position of the Senate (subject to its expected denial or withdrawal) shows that members of our political class are their own worst enemies, and by extension an embarrassment to our nation.
A court of competent jurisdiction convicts someone for fraud, and here you are genuflecting and shamelessly posturing that he is still a senator until (and you are so sure of this) the Supreme Court confirms his sentence!
First, it is said, is it not, that show me your friends, and I will know your own character? Based on this I, Adewale Adeniji, loudly proclaim that it appears the senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a den of fraudsters!!! COME AFTER ME PLEASE, I AM WAITING. Nonsense!
Second, how on God’s earth will you pay a convict for sittings he cannot attend? I mean, it beggars belief! In a nation where when most workers are absent from work they are not paid? Again, this position of the senate (except if quickly disclaimed) shows the Senate as INSENSITIVE! You will pay a convicted fraudster for being in prison? These lot are jokers surely!!!
Third, if the ruling party, the APC does not come out to distance themselves from this position, I make bold to say that the anti-corruption platform of that party is forever tarnished!
In case the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria does not know, there are Nigerians like me who transact business with the larger world, and we are constantly ASHAMED of being queried about the shameless leaders of this country. People like me (small we may be) will NO LONGER KEEP
QUIET! This nation does not belong to you alone. All of the political class put together are less than 1% of the masses of Nigerians. And we are tired of their senseless decisions. While at it you might as well pass another senseless resolution granting him bail! Nonsense!
Even if the Senate Rules allows this senseless position, IT IS STILL WRONG! Are you encouraging corruption or what? Remove that portion of your Rules today if it says a convicted felon remains a member of your chambers and can still earn income. If you like keep felons as your members, that may be cool with you, but it is embarrassing to our nation!
My name is Adewale Adeniji, I am a tax paying Nigerian; and I am tired of being embarrassed by elected politicians paid from my taxes.
Are you the only elected leaders in the world?
©️Adewale Adeniji. 9th December 2019.
The conviction of the former Governor of Abia State and sitting Chief Whip of the Nigerian Senate, Chief Orji Uzo Kalu births in my mind this question: Can we safely conclude that the end to impunity is within our grasp as a nation?
Why now, why not when Joshua Dariye, also a former governor and senator was similarly convicted? Because then that decision was rubbished on the altar of political expediency – that Dariye is a member of the opposition, People’s Democratic Party. Even the PDP made it an official party line! Not with this case.
When Mazi Kalu joined the All Progressives Congress, many said that will be the end of this case. That he was corralled to join the APC just for that purpose. But last time I checked he is still a card carrying, bona fide member of the ruling party. And how come no one has “worked out his case on that account”?
So, can we now at least begin to hope (against hope?) that impunity will be punished, regardless of who the offender is? That as easily as a poor man who steals in the market place will be punished, so will a rich man with connection in high places? AND THIS IS VERY CRUCIAL. Why?
Because we, as a matter of national emergency, need to begin to reorientate our minds from the belief that you can do anything and get away with it, if you know the ‘right persons’. Orji Kalu is as connected as they come in Nigeria. He eats and dines with powers that be. He himself is a power that be.
Yes, he has a right of Appeal to the Supreme Court, and this judgment may yet be set aside for a number of legal reasons; but the fact remains he has been found guilty as charged. He is spending tonight in prison, and many more nights until an appeal sets this judgment aside.
So, I wager a bet, that we may just be in a new season where our laws will count in Nigeria, and no one can do just as they please.
©️ Adewale Adeniji. 5th December 2019.
All dressed up, bottom box
frills, thrills and booyahs!
No party though to go;
But appearances, keep thee up.
Your thoughts are fat,
my understanding, thin.
Grandiose ideas thou have,
manifestly minuscule in truth.
Great mansions you promised,
but no land is in sight, anywhere!
Ghosts of the past, they are here,
awoken from fitful slumbers.
You feign wealth when all there’s
to see are books, well-cooked …
Still, you swagger along,
charming pants off people.
Cookie jars a-running!
Tired am I of your
jug of jarring juxtapositions.
cold, nay hot; heated yet wintry,
in an endless rigmarole.
Successfully, you’ve made
virtue and vice mingle together;
at home with sin and penitence,
surefooted in the art of double speak.
Are you not spent,
is your power not sapped?
How many seasons must we endure?
Thou purveyor of inconsistencies?
©️ Adewale Adeniji. November 2019.
Still relevant today as it was many years ago.
In that name that is above every other name, you shall not be assailed without the help of my Heavenly Father. When you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He is with you!
No evil will triumph over you. A thousand shall fall on your side, ten thousand on your right hand, but no evil will touch you! Selah.
DO YOU BELIEVE? Then pass this on!
I have hope …
Hope for a better Naija;
where peace and
justice reign, above all else.
I have faith in
a place called home
for multiple ethnic
and religious groupings.
I can see from Kaura Namoda
to the creeks of Bayelsa
new cities and work places
built, fit for these 21st century.
I trust for a place of
where talent trumps
when brain power matter.
I see a land of promise
For all irrespective of
creed, culture and calling.
What you see, you get!
© 1st October 2017. Adewale Adeniji.