Thursday, July 13, 2006

Oduduwa: An Empowering Force

The Oduduwa Concept: An Empowering Force
KeyNote Speech at Oduduwa Day 2006
The John F Kennedy Community Centre
315 Howdershell Rd., Florissant MO 63031 USA
Speaker: Oluwasayo Aderemi Ajiboye, MA, MSW
Prince of Imesi Ile, Ijeshaland in St Louis MO

I count it a privilege to be chosen among many wise descendants of Oduduwa to give this speech. I have chosen to share with you from what I learned of the Elders especially what my Father taught me.

The Oduduwa Concept
Understanding the Oduduwa concept releases a flood of Empowering Understanding. The name is Odu ti O du Iwa, it means “The Oracle or Wisdom that focuses on Good Character or the Perfect life" When we claim to celebrate Oduduwa day, are we refocusing on Good Character and the Pursuit of the Perfect Life? If we are, then we are already an Empowered People!

Oduduwa Stories
There are mythical stories about Oduduwa and there are historical stories. I choose to glean from the historical.
i. He was A Man that Took a Principled Stand: There would never have been a Yoruba race but for the fact that Lamurudu and his son Oduduwa took a principled stand. There was a mass conversion of people in their community to a new religion, Oduduwa and his father took a stand not to go the way of the masses, they chose to stick with the way of their ancestors. This led to a war and Oduduwa Team lost to the new religion crowd; Lamurudu in fact lost his life. But rather than wallow in self pity, Oduduwa led his people away from the site of contention. This set back was the genesis that gave rise to the Yoruba race. Application: There are many of us who are facing tough times today. It may be possible that the conflicts that we face will be the genesis of super excellent achievement. I am challenging you to hold on and not give up. You may also become the father of a race.

ii. Oduduwa was a Master Negotiator: When Oduduwa got to the land that is now call Yorubaland, he met it as an occupied land filled with highly developed people. There was a system of Worship that was already established as the ruling force in the land. But Oduduwa was able to negotiate relationship with the occupants of the land in such a manner that his person and his leadership skills were accepted. Application: The Yoruba in the Diaspora need to revive the negotiating skill of our fathers.

iii. A negotiator must understand the Dynamics of Personal Presentation. How do I present myself such that I will not be overlooked or pushed back?

iv. A negotiator must be clear in his goal of personal Ascendancy. We must unashamedly pursue excellence and seeks to be the best in whatever community we are located.

v. He cannot do this with negative aggression however. Note that I use the term NEGATIVE AGGRESSION. Ascendancy is not possible without some form of aggressive action. Nobody is going to make room for you except you stand up for it and work for it. Force must be deployed in a positive factor. We need to understand and develop the skills for positive and strategic forcefulness. We must find the Synergy that allows us to be forceful without being obnoxious. Our fathers were specialists in these skills, we must master it anew.

vi. Oduduwa Understood The Strategic Implication of Location. Oduduwa had only one son, his name was Okanbi. Oduduwa encouraged Okanbi to disperse his children across a land massive land mass stretching from the Niger Delta Area of Nigeria into Republic of Ghana. Application: Modern Day Yoruba in the Diaspora must take an advantage of this strategy of planned spread. We must plan to be represented in every community where there is an effective economic activity. We must boldly stake out claims on regions far and wide, we should encourage our children to spread and occupy at every levels. Our fathers say, ibi gbogbo ni ile owo, every ground is holy ground. This spread must not just be a physical spread, it must be a professional spread, it must be residential spread, it must be investment spread. Let us reach out to take possession of this land in which we are placed.

There are other options that makes the Yoruba race an empowered race before the advent of any white man; I will like to look at these options.

Organized Leadership: Our community was not left to haphazard leadership; every community is organized into a strong royal patriarchate which leaves a large room for an effective feminine expression. The King was Alase Ekeji Orisa, he is the One with authority, who is second only to the gods. His ase or authority however is a moderated Ase. It was moderated by his inner cabinet of chiefs with whom he must meet everyday, it was moderated by the council of elders or the Ogbonis a sort of court of justice; it was moderated by the influence of the priests whose once in five days divination gives direction to the community; it was moderated by the influence of the Iyas, who silently watch over the activities of the King & his Chiefs, the Justices& the Priests. Application: The question for the Yorubas in the Diaspora is who moderates our activities? To be Empowered we must be Accountable. We must give someone the authority to speak into our lives, we must identify mentors and accountability partners who will help us negotiate the pathway to success. . The Yoruba Kings and their communities succeeded because they did not act alone. They involved many layers of safety in the decision making that affected their lives, we can learn from these and create personal layers of wisdom that will keep us from danger

Role of Women: It has been said by many that African women were little regarded by their communities; this is absolutely not true. There is none so respected as women who control the homesteads. Let me cite an example from traditional Yoruba worship. The greatest of the gods, that which is worshiped even before the Irunmales is Ori. There are many Ifa corpuscle pointing to this fact. But do you know the person responsible for Ori Apere, it is the woman of the house! She is the one who watches over this most important of the deities. So the men take care of the lesser deities, but the woman takes care of the most critical one! I cannot go into extensive details but who do our communities respect even more than the king? It is the Iyas, the great mothers. Application: I challenge the Yoruba in the Diaspora to honor our women the way our fathers honored the mothers.

Two Lessons from the Yoruba Social Life
Lesson Number 1: Yorubas Capacity to Break with the Norm and Develop New OptionsA major strength of the Yoruba people is a capacity to reinvent themselves. When the Fulani Jihadists pressed on the capital of Yorubaland, the pragmatic Yoruba leaders abandoned the capital retreated into the forests and built another city that is now known as Oyo Ile. By doing this, they saved the race from absorption by the Islamic Jihadists. The Nupe Kingdom, Bariba Kingdom, Ebira Kingdom and many others were neutralized by the Islamic insurgency and they did not survive in their old formats. Only the Yorubas were strategic enough to survive till today!
At Oyo Ile, the leaders of the young people decided to change the system of Leadership, they wanted Adelu to reign in place of His father – something which could not have been in the past. The young warriors reinvented the system and the Great General Kunrunmi, the generalissimo of Yorubaland who opposed this move was confronted and eliminated by the Ibadan forces.
When the Ibadans became too powerful and began to oppress the rest of the Yorubas, my great Uncle, Fabunmi of the fiery sword started an insurrection; he mobilized the Ekiti - Ijesha confederacy and handed over leadership to the Oore Lotun who in turn handed over military leadership to Ogedemgbe who was mighty in War and Fearful in Festivities. Together with the different leaders, they reinvented what relationship between the different Yoruba people group should be.
Maybe it is time for Yorubas in the Diaspora and back home to understand that our people were great experts at reinventing themselves. Maybe what I am saying will empower us to positively reinvent ourselves. Maybe it is time for us to look inward and say what can we do to be special in mid America?

Survival in Yoruba Mythology: I was surprised to learn that one major Yoruba strategy for Survival is actually to learn to “Walk on Both Legs” This is Yoruba euphemism for knowing when to “rush forward” and when to “rush backwards.” For those who may know, I am actually quoting the Ifa corpuscle Odi Meji which is a story about a legendary prince whose name is “Modeeere Morinre” who had opposition to establishing himself in Ode Ife – our traditional ancestral home. He was advised by Orunmila to go to Ode Ado (with great honors to our cousins the Benin people who are here). By the time Modeere Moriinre got to Ado or Benin, the people were looking for a King and they have been informed by the Oracle that if Moddere Morinre ever shows his face, he must be made king…I am not vouchsafing for the accuracy of this but this seems to be a form of the story of Oranyan who was the King of the Yoruba golden age. He ruled in Ife and also in Benin or Ado as Eweka Dynasty that took over from the Ogiso Dynasty and whose direct descendant Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo Erediauwa (Oba Atokpeye!) is still King in Benin today. This is why the Oba of Benin’s appellation is "Abieyuwa N’Ovbi Odua Nuhe, The son of the Wealthy Odua of Uhe." Uhe in Benin language is the Ancestral Ife of the Yorubas. This same Eweka or Oranyan (choose what you will!) was the founder of Oyo and his Direct Descendant Iku Baba Yeye reigns still. Application: The essence of the Ifa story is so relevant to us in Mid America. There is a place in this great land that is waiting to celebrate each one of us. Let us find that place. Let us learn to walk on both legs, to go in and to come out.

Wealth Creation
Let me deal briefly with Yoruba concept of wealth, our fathers clearly delineated different layers of well being. The first layer is Nini Owo layer. This is the layer where you have money be a show-man in the community. Our people are convinced that Nini Owo ko gba Agbara. They do not respect much those who have money but posses little sense in the community. Nini Owo can be equated in Mid America to having a good job and great credits. When you have this as far as our fathers are concerned you are just beginning life. They are watching you and asking, can he make it to the next level which is the level of Olá. A man who has money and knows how to use it in the community is called said to have Olá. Note that this is not yet the goal of the average Yoruba man in the pre colonial era. His goal is the stage called Olà; this is the stage when people are getting rich and blessed because you are in their community. This is the stage when you are not just an accumulator of wealth but you are a facilitator of others into becoming wealthy. At this stage, what you count is not how many people works for me, but how many people have by working for me grown to the point of being a source of life for others. Who have been blessed and have become a blessing because of me?

Let me go over these again, access to Owó (money) is not access to Olá (true material wealth), and access to Olá is not a proof of Olà. There is one more thing to the Yoruba concept of Olà, you will never be able to say by yourself I am now an Òlólà, no man gets Olà by power, Olà is possible only by communal acclaim! It is others that will say you are an Olólà. You know the Yorubas will glibly call anyone with a few coins in his pocket Ololá, but rarely will you here them speak of Olólà; this is because it is very rare and very difficult to attain to that position. But some did attain, who were truly Olólà. There was Alaafin Abiodun, who ruled Oyo from 1774 – 1789, who by wisdom and riches brought peace back to Yorubaland after the terrible reign of Bashorun Gaa, there was Oba Adelu, Ogunmola in Ibadan, Kiriniun Onibudo Ajayi Ogboriefon, Lisabi in Egba land, Ogedemgbe of Ilesa, Fabunmi of Imesi Ile, Labinjo of Lagos, there were women like Iyalode Tinubu of Lagos/Abeokuta who single handedly kitted the Egba forces against Dahomean invaders, Efunsetan Aniwura of Ibadan (who I personally consider a victim of revisionist literature). Application: The challenge is this: who is a successor to the excellent history of our people who will be the Olólà in mid America?

Classic Yoruba Entrepreneurship. It excites me to dream of the flowering of the classic Yoruba entrepreneurship, to dream of industrial systems owned and operated by our people that is capable of employing thousands of people. I dream of systems that spawn off other systems and becomes landmarks in the American landscape. Why Not, each of the persons I mentioned their names above have over 2000 men in their retainer-ship. They employed and catered for them before the Europeans came, why can it not happen again. Are we not their offspring?
To tightly secure our tomorrow, to guarantee a truly meaningful life for our children; to be at rest concerning Òla (tomorrow) we need to pay attention to Olà! How do we create Olà in the Yoruba community in Diaspora? This will be the epitome of Empowerment.

I am a dreamer and a preacher, but I will not take any more of your time. I will however close with a passage of the Bible, will you permit me to share this: The Bible says

“Do you see a man whose heart is right with God, He will stand before Kings and not before mean men”

The second passage says “God’s eyes is going to and fro over the face of the earth looking for a man whose heart is right”

Will you be the man or the woman that will be Empowered to carry on the great mantle of Yoruba cultural leadership? This is my challenge to our Community.

Oduduwa a Gbe Wa O!

Thank You

Please Read the Part 2 in Yorubas: An Empowered people, A Mid 20th Century Perspective

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