The story of Moremi Ajasoro

6 Sep

moremi 1There is no how the story of Ile Ife will be told without the mention of the historic deed of a woman called Moremi who did not allow the kingdom to have become history by now. Where men failed to secure Ife from the claws of the enemies, Moremi succeeded using her beauty and also sacrificing her only begotten son, Olurogbo, as sacrifice so that her people will not perish. Queen Moremi was said to be the wife of King Oranmiyan of Ife. She was said to be beautiful and a virtuous woman.

Ife people was at the time of Moremi and Oranmiyan faced with constant raids and enslavement of its people from adjourning tribe known as the forest people, Igbo people but not Igbo of the eastern part of Nigeria. The Igbo people were said to appear to Ife people as weird on battlefield that they were thought to be aliens. They believed they were sent by the gods to punish them for some evil deeds they might have committed. Sacrifices were offered to the gods in vain as the invasion persisted and the land was thrown into a state of panic. As a mother to Ife nation, Moremi could no longer stand the invasion of her people by the aliens so she seek the face of her river god and asked for guidance on how to end raid and conquer the aliens. She made a vow by the water that if she was able to conquer the aliens, she will offer the most expensive sacrifice she could to the river god, Esimirin.

What did she do? She allowed herself to be captured by the enemies, relying on her beauty to give her a soft landing. When taken to the kingdom, she found favour in the sight of their king who took her in as his wife. Using her woman power, she was able to extort the truth about the so called aliens from her husband who told her that they are normal human beings only that they only wear strange mantles of grass and bamboo fibre when they are going to the battlefield to make them look weird. She also gathered that because they are wrapped in dried grasses, they do not go near naked fire as could burn to their death if they do.

As soon as she felt she had gathered enough secrets of the alien warriors, she found her way back to her homestead and relayed the secret to her people. On the next visit of the aliens to Ife, they lighted a local torch a told by Moremi and they were able to defeat their greatest enemies. After Ife conquest of the aliens from Igbo (which some said is Ugbo in Ondo state), Moremi proceeded to the river to fulfill her vow of a huge sacrifice. She went to the river with fowls, sheep, and bullocks but the god rejected it and demanded for Olurogbo, Moremi’s son. Left with no other option, Moremi gave out her only son as sacrifice.

To immortalize Moremi for her great deed, the Edi festival is held yearly to celebrate her and her sacrifice for the people. Many monuments and building renamed after her like the female hostels in the University of Lagos and Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile Ife in Osun state.

He also erected a statue of Moremi very close to his Enuwa palace. The liberty statue bearing the symbolic torch used to defeat the riders is said to be the tallest in Nigeria and fourth tallest in Africa. It stands at a towering 42 feet and is a beauty to be hold. Moremi Liberty statue is said to be erected in the exact compound Moremi lived while alive.

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Efunsetan Aniwura – The greatest Yoruba woman to ever live?

6 Sep

Efunsetan-Aniwura-By-Akinwumi-IsolaThe story of Efunsetan Aniwura is perhaps one of the most motivating thrillers in Yoruba political history. It captivates, in the most astounding manner, the place of women in Yoruba political history. But all along, the story of Efunsetan had been written and foretold by her tormentors and painted grimly by mostly chauvinistic men. 
It must be understood the context of Efunsetan’s coming into global fame, at least at this time, the World was defined as the circumference within which local people operated within a phenomenon.
The 1700s up to 1900 were centuries of great wars and arms build-up in the vast Yoruba country of old. It was a period of great revolutions and social upheavals across the Yoruba country. It saw the massive production of weapons and the importation of military hardwares by Yoruba leaders, from as far as Hambourg in Germany.
I visited the Ogedengbe of Ilesa few months ago and was thrilled by the amazing exploits of Ogedengbe, the war General who led the Ekitiparapo war and who by 1860s was importing military weapons from Europe in the prosecution of war.
To show the grandeur of the Yoruba nation, around 1880, it was reported that the then King of England had invited Ogedengbe for a state visit. England marveled at the military tactics of Ogedengbe, his command structure, his Spartan lifestyle, his mysticism and above all, his science of war which he largely derived from the painstaking study of the movement and behavior of animals in moments of ferocious encounters with death or engagement with trembling. It was at this period that a bomb was invented at Okemesi, which turned around the fortunes soldiers of Ekitiparapo war led by Ogedengbe. Contrary to widespread assumptions, the word KIRIJI actually emanated from the sound of the new weapon produced at Okemesi Ekiti. General Ogedengbe, who was in command of about 100,000 soldiers, had declined the request for a state visit to England, saying that he was too busy with state matters. In Ilesa, during my visit, I saw the picture of the then King of England which the later had sent to Ogedengbe as a mark of respect and honour.
Back to the main topic. The story of Efunsetan Aniwura is intriguing. Her date of birth remains uncertain, but she must have been born around 1790s or around that period. Yoruba epic films and folklores portray Efunsetan as a very vicious woman, filled with prejudice, a woman who died in tragic circumstances. But there are hidden thrills and heroic feat that those who wrote his history continue to undermine. There is nothing as perplexing as having the story of a great woman being relayed by men, in a society credited for not giving women any chance in socio-political affairs, especially in the primordial times, where women were seen as objects consigned to the kitchen and on the mat top. It is to the glory of Moremi, that her story definitely ignited passion in subsequent Yoruba women, one of which was Efunsetan Aniwura.

This woman of substance has been consistently portrayed as a villain who ran a Gestapo of sorrow and blood, a blood-sucker who beheaded people’s head at will. No. We must deconstruct the narrative that veiled real stories under the cover of the superiority of men over the distinction of some brave women in our troubled history. Efunsetan was the son of an Egba farmer, Ogunrin, a native of Egba Oke-Ona. She rose to become the Iyalode of Ibadan. She was the first woman to set up a flourishing agrarian economy that employed no fewer than 2000 men and women. Around 1850, worried by the spread of war and combat in the Yoruba country, she introduced infantry military training into the midst of her workers. She was said to have had her own military training in urban and guerrilla warfare after which she requested that the same training be impacted on her slaves, about 2000 of them.

The workers mainly worked in the vast farmland. They produced cash crops, cotton, groundnuts, maize and beef. She was said to be in possession of a vast dairy farm that could feed the entire Yoruba country and beyond. She traded up to Ghana and the Hausa country and even exported her produce to Europe. In her book, A History of the Yoruba ,Prof Banji Akintoye wrote about Efunsetan who she described as a rich “woman trader” that ‘had more than 2000 workers employed on her farms.” This was at a time the industrial revolution was gaining strength in Europe and agriculture had become the most industrious enterprise in Yorubaland, being one of the service points for European products. 
David Hinderer, a missionary who wanted to erect a Church in Ibadan could not source human labour because all the men and women were engaged in large scale farming. The Generals of the Yoruba Army had also taken to farming to beat famine as a direct consequence of war. Hinderer wrote of his travel to Ibadan in 1853 with a caravan of traders and carriers “consisting of not less than 4000 people.” Prof Akintoye wrote “It is not unlikely that Efunsetan was the richest person in the whole of the Yoruba interior in about the late 1870s.” Efunsetan had her own pains and anguish. She had no child after several years of marriage. Unfortunately, her only daughter died in 1860 during child birth. She also adopted a son, Kumuyilo. Now, having lost her only daughter, she went into recluse and became suspicious of life and living. She even became an atheist, ignoring all the gods wondering why she should lose her only daughter.
She may have been pushed to some form of extremism. She ordered that no one among her 2000 workers must marry or have sex within and non of the girls must conceive. It came that one of the workers broke the law. She ordered that the woman be executed. No doubt that she carried out outrageous order of execution, but this was nothing compared with her heroic contributions to the economy of the Yoruba nation. Due to this act, the Aare ordered that she be brought to justice. This was just the proverbial hawk that was looking for every opportunity to clawlift the chicken.
It is believed that her persecutors merely waited for her to carry out a dastardly act as an opportunity to seek revenge against her perceived emergence as a strong and influential woman, whose mutual rival was Madam Tinubu of Lagos who was also her friend. It was at a time her own army had become a threat to the fiery army of Latoosa. How could a woman raise such a vast array of armed soldiers? There are two varying accounts of her death. One claimed Aare Latosa led a strong infantry army to lay siege on her house and instead of being overpowered, she committed suicide by drinking the Hemlock.

At this period, her army had been divided and the loyalty fractured due to the execution of some of the 2000 workers for acts inimical to her authority. The other story said Kumuyilo was bribed by Latoosa to poison her but that the attack on her was carried out in the night by two of her slaves who sneaked into her apartment through the ceiling and clubbed her. There were events that indicated that the Ibadan chiefs were unhappy with the way Efunsetan was brought on her knees. Infact, with Latoosa there was a meeting on 8th of July when the Egba leaders came to Ibadan requesting for a Commission of Inquiry on the murder of Efunsetan.

The two slaves were subsequently brought before the Ibadan traditional court on 10th of July 1874. They were impaled right at the Basorun market. Efunsetan has been painted in forbidding pictures through Yoruba history. It is time to deconstruct and give her due honour as a heroine. At death, Efunsetan’s property was declared the property of the Yoruba country. `But there were other reports that she was indeed given a befitting burial with full military honours by Ibadan military rulers, after her enforced death.

Written  By: Akinlolu Da Vinci

THE MAN BODE THOMAS (HISTORY LESSONS)

6 Sep

Bode Thomas was born to a wealthy trader, John Thomas in 1918. He attended C.M.S. Grammar School, a missionary school founded by Samuel Ajayi Crowther. He travelled to London to study Law with Remi Fani-Kayode and Chief FRA Williams. Bode Thomas, FRA William and Remi Fani Kayode founded d 1st indigenous law practice in Nigeria ‘Thomas, Williams and Kayode’. The law firm was in Jankara Street and it thrived. His huge frame earned him the appellation “bulldozer”.

He became a member of Regional House of Assembly in 1951. From there, he, Prest and Akintola were selected as members of the House of Representatives. Sir Adesoji Aderemi, Ooni of Ife also joined them in the Central Council of Ministers. But, Thomas was the leader; astute, workaholic, thoughtful and forward-looking.

On the floor of the House, Thomas was a charismatic speaker. He was a lover of facts. He was a fire brand nationalist. He wanted self-rule and independence at a faster pace his colleagues from other zones could not comprehend.

During the debate on self-rule, his speech infuriated the legislators from the North. Thomas labelled them collaborators in the extension of British rule. He did not only speak; he acted. Thomas and the three AG parliamentarians consequently resigned from the Council of Ministers in protest over the elongation of colonialism. On that note, the MacPherson Constitution collapsed immediately.

In the quest to preserve Lagos as part of the old West, Thomas was also at the forefront. In contrast, H.O. Davies was campaigning vigorously for the retention of Lagos as a symbol of national unity.

At the 1953 London Constitutional Conference held in August, AG vigorously campaigned for the preservation of Lagos as part and parcel of the region. Awo, the AG leader and Thomas, Deputy Leader of the party, were delegates to the conference.

Whenever he set a positive goal for himself,every obstacle on the way must be uprooted.His successes in law practice, politics and government were hinged on his sheer resolve to triumph in the face of all odds.Bode Thomas was a founding member of ACTION GROUP which sprang up from EGBE OMO ODUDUWA.

He was the first Legal Adviser of the group.He was a senior at the bar to the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Hezekiah Oladipo Davies, Justice GBA Coker, and Udo Udoma. Bode Thomas and Ahmadu Bello, Premier of the North, were also not the best of friends. I will give you reasons.

Bode defended Ahmadu Bello before the colonial court over allegations of financial embezzlement of Native Authorities funds. Thomas won the case and Ahmadu Bello was freed. But, he was perplexed at the way the Sokoto prince fretted in the court room. Bode Thomas after winning Ahmadu Bello’s case insulted him. He called him names. He saw Bello as unlettered and uncultured. Bello’s unpleasant encounter with Thomas made him conclude that his more qualified educated rivals in the South were pompous and arrogant.

Many believed that Bello was reacting to that complex by refusing to come down to Lagos to serve as Prime Minister but allowed Tafawa Balewa.Thus, while Thomas was universally acknowledged as an accomplished lawyer, he was also perceived as arrogant and supercilious.Bode Thomas was hated by his peers from the North to the extent that Bello always preferred to communicate with Ladoke Akintola to Thomas.

He had endowed Jankara Street, in the heart of Lagos, with visibility when he and his friends, the meticulous Rotimi Williams and the rascally, yet deep and witty Remi Fani-Kayode set up a chamber in partnership in 1950.

Thomas was ahead of them his peers. He was a Senior at the bar to the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, his bossom friend, political soul mate and leader, Chief Hezekiah Oladipo Davies, Justice GBA Coker, and Udo Udoma, a former federal parliamentarian and jurist.

But, a hot-tempered fellow, he was perceived in some circles as a bully, a successful, yet arrogant lawyer and a domineering figure. Some judges loathed his style of argument in the court. But, he was full of masterful logic.

Judges hated the way he comported himself in court. They saw him as brash and arrogant.T homas died in a controversial circumstance. It was a chain of events that led to his death. According to many accounts, there was a protracted feud between him & Alaafin Adeyemi II, father of the current Alaafin Lamidi Adeyemi III.Both Alaafin Adeyemi and Thomas (Bode Thomas was Balogun of Oyo) were members of the Oyo Divisional Council. At a time, the respected ruler was chairman of the council.

Later, Thomas became the chairman when the Oba was still a member. Then his rudeness to the Alaafin led to his mysterious death.

Thomas arrived at a meeting of the council, all the other councillors, except Oba Adeyemi, stood up to welcome him. He rudely told the king “WHY WERE YOU SITTING WHEN I WALKED IN? WHY CANT YOU SHOW ME RESPECT?” Bode was 34 years. The Alaafin was in his 60s.T he Alaafin felt very insulted. he told Bode “SHEY EMI ON GBO MO BAUN? EMI NI ONGBO BI AJA MO BAUN{ IS IT ME YOU ARE BARKING AT LIKE THAT? IS IT ME YOU ARE BARKING LIKE A DOG AT LIKE THAT? KEEP BARKING.”

That was on 22nd November 1953.  It was reported that Bode Thomas got home and started barking. He barked and barked and barked all night. Then he died. He died on 23 November 1953. He was Balogun of Oyo. He died without fulfilling his many potentials. Bode’s friends went on to reach the peak of their careers. Fani-Kayode died in 1995. FRA Williams went on to be Nigeria’s greatest lawyer. Remi Fani-Kayode died in the early 90s after a successful spell in the Legal Practice and in politics.

So when next you hear about that Popular Street in Surulere called Bode Thomas Street, remember that genius whose arrogance cost him his life… at a very early age.

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HOW I OVERCAME SELF DOUBT – Ayobamigbe Igbalajobi

6 Sep

Have you ever looked at yourself and felt like you couldn’t do something? Saying to yourself, ‘’No… this isn’t just for me’’ It’s like planting maize; All it takes for maize to grow is fertile soil and seed; now properly groomed, it keeps growing until it matures… that is, ‘A seed growing into an edible maize’. This is the same way doubt grows in the hearts of men, especially in the innocent vulnerable-fertile minds of children. A seed of doubt growing into a man full of doubts I decided to share my story because I have found a lot of my peers and even older folks struggle with one thing or the other.

Things that they have cerebral capacity to do but have found themselves unable to. This is a psychological block called Doubt. It could be self-planted, planted by older authority figures, religious leaders, society or our parents. It was 2007, and I was awaiting admission into the university when I decided to enroll for piano lessons in Akure, Ondo State. Being a music lover from a young age, I had always dreamt of playing the piano in large concert halls, leading an orchestra or playing in front of the Queen and other world leaders.

 

Unfortunately, my piano lessons came to an end after 3 weeks as my piano teacher had gotten a job with the State Government and relocated to Ore in Ondo State. Ayo, you can do this! I told myself, so I continued to learn but then I realized Pianoforte “Smallwood” isn’t that small especially since I was left-handed and it was a bit difficult to play the keys with my right hand. Then it crept in unannounced, “Doubt”… Thoughts of failure began to germinate in my mind as I allowed it to grow and spread its roots, then I began to rationalize my inability to continue playing the piano to my being left-handed, ‘’I probably won’t be able to learn any musical instrument. Maybe I am just not good enough’’… ‘’Dreams are for children’’

Fast forward to 2011, I heard a motivational speech on a friend’s laptop during one of our numerous free periods (When lecturers don’t show up for classes). After which I decided to try the guitar. I bought a box guitar, I thought to myself that if the piano is not meant to be, the guitar would. Long story short, I abandoned that within a month due to reasons best known to me. Doubt found a way in…

 

I came to Lagos in 2013 and my life changed forever. I attended a church where instrumentalists were paid monthly. My uncle was the choir master and he had to rally around for money, much to my chagrin to keep them from leaving. They usually threaten to leave if they aren’t paid on time. I got upset and felt useless at the same time. I could have played for him for free! But ‘Uncle Doubt’ wouldn’t let me shine. I made my mind up, I can do this, in fact, and I will do this.

As soon as I finished school, I bought a used piano with the savings gathered, took the piano to Bauchi during NYSC and decided it was either make or break now. Luckily for me, the first church I stepped into in Bauchi had no pianist, so I started, one key at a time, and then it became chords, learning with no tutor but YouTube and songs on my phone. It has been 3 years since I made that decision and I am happy to say that it was one of the best decisions I ever made as it has opened doors for me in places I never expected. So, if there is anything you have been battling with, tried to learn, extra pounds you have tried to drop or burn off, projects you’ve been trying to carry out, savings plan you’ve been eyeing, go for it!

Most of the time we are unable to because doubt takes control. Remove it from the equation and you will suddenly find that the reason you have been scared to drive is mostly in your mind. Banish Doubt! Send Fear Packing! No room for excuses! Try again even if you failed at your 1st, 2nd, 3rd… attempts like me and you just might break through on your next try. Williams Shakespeare said in his book Measure by Measure “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we often might win, by fearing to attempt” So go all out, keep trying until you win, don’t let doubt rob you of the joy of winning. Remember your faith can move mountains while your doubt creates them. I still haven’t played for The Queen just yet, but I am improving daily and I have also taught a few the little I know about the piano.

PS: I doubt if I try to learn the Saxophone with its convoluted and confused looking shape, I’ll be able to play it. So, let’s set a target that in the next 6 months, we would overcome at least one thing we doubted we could do. For me, I’m overcoming self-doubt and learning ‘The Sax’. What about you?

 

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Aside

You don’t know what you have until it’s gone

16 May

Too often we don’t realize what we have until it’s gone. Too often we’re too stubborn to say, ‘Sorry, I was wrong.’ Too often it seems we hurt the ones closest to our hearts, and we let the most foolish things tear us apartloss