This week, Ibadan, my Ibadan, is celebrating its own “Ibadan Week”. And my home state is awash in cultural stimuli. A motherlode of cultural festival is serenading the iconic land of Oluyole. The celebration started on March 12, 2020 and will end on March 21, 2020. And my people, both old and young, are waxing in the waves of dancing to the celebration of the greatness of Ibadan. The legend of Ibadan and its cultural heritage are in full flow since last week and the rendezvous will carry on until the end of this week. Ibadan may have removed its old traditional landmarks, but no hammer of hell can break its cultural mores.
Since last week, Ibadan House, the great Kiniun Onibudo building at Oke Aremo, has been a beehive of cultural Broadway where the Lanihuns, Ladejos and the Labanjis have been debating the future of Ibadan in a digitalised world and its place in it. The “Ibadan Week” has the assemblage of the good, the mighty and the best of omo Ibadan packing the front row of its “Portraits of Ibadan Heroes”. Those to be honoured at this year’s “Ibadan Week” include the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji; Chief Bode Amoo, Asiwaju of Ibadan; Chief Kola Daisi, Balogun of Ibadan; Chief Bode Akindele, Parakoyi of Ibadan; Chief Theresa Oyekanmi, the Iyalode of Ibadan; Dr. Omololu Olunloyo, former Governor of Oyo State; Senator Rasheed Ladoja, former Governor of Oyo State; Chief Richard Akinjide, former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice; Chief Onikepo Akande, the first female Minister in Nigeria; Brigadier General Raji Rasaki, former military Governor of both Lagos and Ogun States; Chief Tunde Afolabi; Ambassador Olusola Sanu, first Nigerian Ambassador to China and Australia; His Eminence, Sunday Ola Makinde, former Primate of Methodist Church of Nigeria; and Senator Abiola Ajimobi, former governor of Oyo State.
Oloye Yemi Soladoye, the President General of the Central Council of Ibadan Indigene, has his own side menu. This year, under its Ibadan Platinum Roll of Honour will honour Dr. Sola Adeduntan, the CEO of First Bank; Alhaji Yemi Adetunji, the COO Downstream Operations of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation; Prof. Abayomi Salami, Vice Chancellor, Tech University; and Prof. Dapo Afolabi, former Head of Service, Nigeria.
Ibadan of rust-and-gold, Ibadan of meat-sellers-and-danfo-drivers, Ibadan of the “Tops” (Oke Aremo, Oke Ado, Oke Padre, Oke Bola, Oke Mapo, Oke Sapati) and “Bottoms” (Idi Ape, Idi Arere, Idi Ikan, Idi Isin), Ibadan of IICC and ‘Sootin’ Stars, Ibadan of Amala Politics and Penkele Mesi. Ibadan omo a’g’esin ko’le, ni’bi ole gbe njare olohun – Ibadan is where the robber is vindicated over the robbed!
Over the years, Ibadan has become a cliché, especially in political discourse. Its ignoble ‘wetie’ past is often used as a standard yardstick for its violent temper. Late Chief S.L.A. (Ese Ole) Akintola, Adegoke Adelabu and Lamidi Adedibu’s muscular politics are cruelly and readily invoked as a standard measure of its instinctive instability. For many politicians and Nigerians alike, ‘wetie’ has become a restraining blackmail aimed at discrediting the courage and valour of the people of Ibadan.
For years, I have been challenged by a very profound dilemma. I am a hardwired Lagosian. Born, bred, programmed in bustling Ebute-Metta from childhood to my early adult years. Sadly Lagos is now a relic of my past experiences, genetics and childhood pranks. It has lost its gloss. I am equally revolted by the metropolitan haughtiness of Lagos. The sordidness of suburbia does not offer me any more thrill. As ‘ageshin kole’, my emblematic home is Ibadan – ‘ita merin’ proper! What better way to show my cultural affinity and belongingness than to live under the blessed embrace of Oluyole, in the midst of my ‘kusin ciar ni’ generation.
My badge of tribal pride puts me squarely in Omi Adio. This ancient, rustic, unremarkable, relatively untroubled, moderately rural Ibadan town is my neck of the wood where I derive my verve as a true born ‘shon of the shoil’. Ibadan is the largest city in West Africa and by poetic extension it has the core population group which provides Oyo State its essential history, folklore, culture and identity. It had the first ‘ile gogoro’ embodied in Cocoa House in Dugbe. Its intellectual influence is well distilled in the seminally polemical book titled, “Ibadan” by Wole Soyinka and also in the recesses of Loyola and Government colleges and its premier higher institution of learning, the University of Ibadan.
Yearly, Ibadan provides me a rural dream, a chance for creative recuperation, some community participation and a passion for the needy Ramonus, Laniyans, Lasisis, Lamidis, Lanihuns and Lahans of this world.
Ibadan has proved its worth both in gold and silver. Ibadan has accommodated the Egbas, Ijebus, Ijeshas, Ekitis, Deltans, Igbo, Hausas and other nationalities for centuries. Jonathan, my man Friday and gardener is from the Delta region. Pa Joseph, my gateman is from Kogi State. There is peace, intermarriage, social and cultural synergy with the people of Ibadan. This particular historical recollection is still intensely strong and continues to place Ibadan uniquely as a cultural confluence for all Nigerians.
Ibadan! Ibadan!! Ibadan!!! You are like the ancient city of old civilization. You are my place of beginning — my Garden of Eden. You are the prehistoric city that produced my stock from generation to generation. You are the fearful domain of brave warriors–brave, old warriors who feared nothing but dared all. You are not the smoky, choky, concrete jungle like Lagos but a snaily, sleepy, relaxed and unperturbed land of peace and tranquillity. You are the prime artery, the passageway for the lorry juggernauts from the North. You guide them through the snaky lane of Ojoo and pour them onto the Lagos-Ibadan expressway to their timeless, Lagos destination. Ibadan, ha, you are the citadel, no, the portal, no, the Valhalla, yes, of the valiant Lagelu whose voice was like thunder on the fevered hearts of kings who warred against him.
You are the undefiled land of amala; the land of e wa se gbe ibehun, the land of ageshin kole, the land of cusin cia ni, the land of wetie, nihilistic temper that raged like a bestirred ocean wave. You are the seat of knowledge. A premier city of learning. The gates of UI are still open. Its premiere foundational structure is still the concrete carapace that accommodates, yearly, thousands of youths hungry for learning and thirsty for knowledge.
You are a famous and renowned city. Your life giving rivers, dense forests, tributaries, streams, roads and footpaths offload into Ogun and Osun with dominating presence. You are the city of cities. You are the largest city in the whole of West Africa. For years, Ibadan had accepted its largest city attribute with humility and studied calm. Ibadan is not loud, loutish, arrogant, boisterous and rude like Lagos. Ibadan wears its ‘no saking’ badge with relaxed calmness.
Lagos is modern, cosmopolitan and racy. Ibadan is ancient, conservative and slow paced. On men’s faces, tribal marks running from the crown of the head across the bridge of the nose are still visible. Women still wear ‘pele’ on lovely, soft faces. The tribal mark tradition is dying among the new generation of indigenes. Civilization, modernity and rejection of tradition are re-configuring the old love for century-old heritage. On this, Ibadan is becoming ashamed of its tribal mark past glory. My father wore his tribal mark with fierce pride until death. He was the ‘no saking’, no nonsense, proudly Ibadan man of the tribal mark generation.
Ah, Ibadan is a land devoid of social pretence. Ibadan is a land of highly socialized people with distinct flair for the good life. The midweek humble artisans are something else come Saturday evening. Yes o! The Lanihuns, Lagokes, Ladejos, Labanjis and Laniyans, all, are party animals who do the party circuits from Apata to Yemetu knocking down bottles of ‘33’, Star, Guinness, Gulder, Oguro, Burukutu and if the nerve is strong, Paraga. They are the children of Bacchus on Saturdays but hardworking, focus and money-minded bloody artisans on Mondays.
Ibadan is a mystery. Politically, it had a notorious reputation as a land of mayhem–a tempest-driven kingdom of irrational, wetie thugs. No, Ibadan is not. Ibadan is a mere victim of its past. That old political stricture of ugly demonisation has been cleansed. Ogunpa has cleansed Adedibuism from its soul. The heady flux of the activist wetie of the sixties which turned Ibadan into a cauldron of political pandemonium has been exorcised. Ibadan is now a city, no, a nation at ease with itself and determined to forget the blind side of its past, dark reputation.
However, the youths of Ibadan, in a sordid mockery of fate, are neither packing Zik nor Sultan Bello Halls of the University of Ibadan with tomes in their hands. They are outrageously and tragically embracing bricklaying, tailoring, plumbing, carpentry, barbing and vulcanizing. Daring ones with brave heart go for the thrill of ‘okada’. Why are the Ibadan people becoming enragingly and devastatingly illiterate?
The role of a one-man advocate urging the artisans like Lanihuns, Lanlehins, Ladokuns, and Ramonus who work in my house to ensure that their children are future Lawyers, Doctors, Engineers, Journalists, Accountant and Bankers would not have been my cause.
Ibadan is in serious intellectual famine. And to crown the anti-intellectualism hanging on the city, savage illiteracy is quickly encircling Ibadan. The city is in the throes of intellectual bankruptcy.
Old, shining stars like Richard Akinjide and Victor Olunloyo have rested their glory on nostalgia. The temper of the younger generation is not embracing intellectualism, robust learning, discursive public engagement and high scholarship.
Ibadan needs a new guidepost. The city needs a robust, intellectual calibration among its elites. The youths need to be given long, absorbent tissue papers which will wipe clean their lukewarmish antipathy towards education. The youths of Ibadan have been cut away from the norm of academic reality for far too long. Ibadan has to peel off the yoke of its intellectual backwardness by encouraging the Lanlehins, Lanihuns, Ladojas, Lagokes and Ramonus to power up and reconnect into public, discursive tradition both at local and national levels. I am filled with a blend of mortal shame that Ibadan has no towering, intimidating, formidable public intellectual who bestrides our engaging public space.
Ibadan needs to produce its own Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe. The time is up to revolt against the crippling orthodoxy which regards Ibadan as an ancient city of ‘amala’ ‘alfa’ ‘elehas’ and ‘wetie’ politics. Over to our dynamic Governor Seyi Makinde to alter this orthodoxy of academic somersault among teeming Ibadan youths.
Ah, Ibadan, for the love of you, I will not abandon or forsake you. You are like the tree planted by the streams of water. You will continue to yield your fruits in season. Your leaves will never wither from generation to generation. To all Ibadan indigenes both at home and in the diaspora, happy Ibadan week. Oke Ibadan aa gbe wa o. Toast to the land of my ancestors.