By Tunde Odesola
The wine from the palm tree intoxicates the gourd in Iwo. Explaining the meaning of Oduduwa, the first ruler of Ile-Ife, the Oluwo says Oduduwa means a child that came into the world black – Ó-dúdú-wá. Coming from a supposed custodian of Yoruba culture and tradition, who expectedly should undergo a three-month tutoring on Yoruba mores in ‘ipebi’ – royal tutelage – this definition of Oduduwa is sad and insulting.
To put a needle to the inflated balloon of Oluwo’s ignorance, a simple reasoning will suffice in this regard. For the colour of the newborn Oduduwa to be so noteworthy at birth, it would suggest his parents, siblings and probably community were either mainly whites, red or albinos. If his parents and siblings were black, it makes no sense to name the newborn ‘Ó-dúdú-wá’ because the whole family was already black.
By the bubblegum definition, the Oluwo infers, without regard for medical and biological realities, that Oduduwa, at birth, was as black as charcoal, whereas the colour of newborns (be they black or white) ranges from dark red to purple, never black! Ó-dúdú-wá ko, O-funfun-lo ni.
Going by his divine powers, the most probable meaning of Oduduwa is Odu-ti-o-di-iwa or Odu-di-iwa, which means a repository that birthed existence. ‘Iwa’ in this context means existence or being, not behaviour.
When the Oluwo woke up one day and assumed the title of emperor, his moonlight craving for titles without substance turned full cycle. But if it knew, the bull would’ve coveted cleverness, not big horns, to check the predator. If the snail had a choice, it would’ve sought speed instead of the pseudo horns on its head.
According to ‘The Britannica Dictionary,’ an empire is ‘a group of countries or regions that are controlled by one ruler or one government.’ The dictionary lists the British and Ottoman empires as examples, adding that an emperor or empress rules an empire. Ancient Oyo that ruled beyond Yoruba land was an empire. History also evidenced Russian and Roman empires. But Iwo was never an empire!
In total disregard for scholarship, history and knowledge, Oba Akanbi pronounced himself an emperor, when there is no verifiable proof in any published source or any archival material to support his claim. There’s also no record in the Colonial Office in London that faintly suggests his supposition.
There has never been an instrument of office in the pre-colonial, colonial, post-colonial and contemporary times that assigned the duties of an emperor to any Oluwo. The word emperor connotes empire-building, imperial wars, imperial conquests – none of which Akanbi had the honour of participating in.
The letter of appointment presented to Akanbi by the Osun State government in November, 2015, read Oluwo of Iwo, not Emperor of Iwo. Calling himself an emperor is as inconsequential as a head is without a brain. No Oluwo was ever a warrior ruler. Until Oluwo Alausa enshrined Islamic religion in Iwo monarchy, and was sustained by Oluwo Anide Nidi Ibon, Oluwo Momodu and Oluwo Lamuye, the stool of the Oluwo was divine with ancestral roots in Ile-Ife and Oyo.
To wean Akanbi off his penchant for ignorance, I recommend the following books for his education: ‘Iwe Itan Ibadan’ by Oba Isaac Akinyele; ‘Travels and Explorations in Yorubaland’ by WH Clark; ‘Traditions of Origin and Growth of Iwo Up to 1960’ by Akanmu Adebayo; ‘Iwe Itan Iwo’ by Adunade Amao; ‘The Growth of Islam Among the Yoruba’ by T.G.O Gbadamosi; and ‘The New Oyo Empire’ by J.A Atanda. These are some of the numerous authorities from whose fountains of knowledge I drew my arguments.
Though I was born and bred in Lagos, I don’t seek to belong to the Lagos elite class in Elegushi by fire by thunder, and allow myself to be folded up in the front seat of a luxury SUV, while the colleague vehicle owner sat in opulence at the rear even as a popular musician, rubbed salt into the wound, calling me ‘Ìwo’ of Ìwó. Tí nbá j’oba, mà j’èbà: If I can’t be oba, I can eat eba. I’ll never allow myself to be dragged like a Tiger generator. I’ll not watch a musician, who is a high chief, bow on the Talazo floor to my junior colleague, and yet disrespect me. I’ll respect myself and sit down in my Jegede position.
Akanbi’s claim that Iwo sent baales to rule Ibadan aeons ago exposes his aridity of historic knowledge. Unlike Iwo, Ibadan started out like an army with a state. The second Ibadan empire came into existence around 1829 by the military class through a policy known as ‘Iron and Blood’. Ibadan was a city that became the source of attraction to strong individuals and military adventurers from most parts of Yoruba land. Iwo and its neighbours produced war generals in Ibadan, who chose to live and die for the cause of Ibadan.
Among this class of warriors were Basorun Ogunmola of Fesu, Balogun Oderinlo from Ayorinde, Olupona, Osi Balogun from Kuta, and Baale Orowusi had an autochthonous root in Ogbaagba. All these warriors weren’t from Iwo. All these towns had their own rulers in the 19th Century.
Oba Akanbi wore a crown on his Jamaican former wife, Chanel Chin, and went ahead to defend the charade, saying Oduduwa gave a crown to his wife, Olokun. What’s the source of Akanbi’s action? He said he got his breakthrough inspiration after observing the effigies of both Oduduwa and Olokun. Can you beat that? The whole scene is covered in smoke, beclouding reasoning.
In the highly patriarchal Yoruba society of those centuries, where a woman could only be seen, and not be heard, it’s most unlikely that Oduduwa would wear a crown on his wife. Also, Akanbi failed to realise the simple fact that there was no photography when Oduduwa lived; all the images of Yoruba forebears available to us today are mere artistic impressions, they’re not actual representations. Akanbi would’ve probably been right if he based his claim on oral tradition, written history, etc. But, sadly, you can’t give what you don’t have.
Also, it’s very wrong of the Iwo traditional institution to first turban succeeding Oluwos before putting the Akoko leaves on their heads. It should be the other way round. The Oluwo is king over Muslims, Christians, atheists, and people of other faiths. His first duty is kingship and not religion.
Ó kù, ó kù ní ìbon ń ró; I still got so much to say, but I’ll leave other issues like Alaafin Sango, religious mercantilism, UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, performing religious rituals before entering 10 Downing Street, etc, until we meet in person. When we meet, gongo á so.
I love you, kabiyesi.
Odesola, a United States of America, USA-based journalist and public cum political analyst, writes from the USA, and can be reached via: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Facebook: @tunde odesola; and Twitter: @tunde_odesola.