ODUDUWA offspring, men and women, young and old, converged on the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan on Sunday 20th November, 2016 for a common purpose. Everyone was there to ruminate on the fleeting heritage bequeathed to them by their ancestors due to their empire wrecking nature.
They had come to brainstorm on how to retrieve their language and culture that are being steadily swept away by the erosion of the so called civilization. All of them were bothered that their offspring no longer speak genuine and intelligible Yoruba language just as they know next to nothing about the culture of the race.
To make the matter worse, Yoruba language and culture are being embraced at an alarming rate by white people in America, Britain, France and other European nations while the owners fritter them away.
What, however, provided a platform for them was the birth of a Yoruba cultural organization known as Egbe Agbasaga Ile Yoruba Agbaye, whose aim is to reawaken the interest of all Yoruba people across the globe to the preservation of the language and culture which are threatened with extinction because the language is no longer spoken while the culture has also been jettisoned.
While welcoming his brothers and sisters to the occasion, the president of the new organization, Baale Yemi Ogunyemi established the fact that there had been civilization in Yorubaland before the coming of the whiteman, who came to colonise us and subsequently forced his way of life and religion down our throat.
“Yoruba people believed in the existence of Olodumare as the only Supreme God, we had our language, mode of dressing with different types of dresses. We had different ways and manner by which we embellished our bodies, we had our systems of worship, political administration, commerce, warfare, and communication. Ogunyemi regretted that when the whiteman came, he condemned our culture and language as he branded them as being devilish, while he stole some of our artifacts that he said were devilish to his country.
Yemi Ogunyemi stated that it was not the white man who taught the black man how to be gentlemanly in Yoruba land. “We have ‘omoluabi’ (good conduct) way of conducting ourselves. We do not behave like beasts; we do not move about the streets with dangerous weapons like knives, swords, cutlasses and clubs. We love one another.
“Although the white man is superior to us in modern technology, but we too would have moved higher if he (the white man) had not discouraged us by disparaging our culture and technological prowess; after all, we too fabricate hoes, cutlasses, guns and knives.”
Ogunyemi asserted that Yoruba people’s ancestors were very creative, saying, “Our fathers created kanako (a medicine that shortened long distances in those days) for their use thus it rivaled the white man’s airplane. Our fathers created ajan (a traditional telephone gadget) before the white man made his own brand of telephone. Who can underrate our father’s ability of turning osanyin to white man’s television? The white man had Winston Churchill, we too had Obafemi Awolowo. They had Adolf Hitler, we too had Basorun Ogunmola, Iba Oluyole, Ogedengbe and Lisabi Agbongbo-Akala as well as Aare Ona Kankafo.
“God gave the white man William Shakespeare and he also gave the Yoruba race that powerful creative writer, David Olorunfemi Fagunwa. They had British empire, we also had Oyo empire. They had Socrates, we also have Wole Soyinka.”
Chief Ogunyemi however counseled that in spite of the fact that the white man forced his way of life down Yoruba people’s throat, they should embrace it with caution so as not to kill their heritage. He warned that Yorubas should not abandon their way of living, urging that they should continue to make use of their traditional healing system, egungun should continue to be a good source of entertainment, magicians should continue to thrill the people, and peace and love for one another maintained.
The Araba Ifa Agbaye, Chief Yemi Elebuibon and Barrister Niyi Akintola, SAN, shocked the congregation when they narrated their respective experiences in the United States of America when some whitemen were derided in Yoruba language, but the people responded immediately in Yoruba language. Akintola, who disclosed that the Obafemi Awolowo University was to teach all its courses in Yoruba language as it obtains in Japan, China and other Asian nations, before some forces shut the idea down, also said that most police recruits in America speak Yoruba language.
In his own contribution, Alhaji (Imam) Zakkariyau Balogun, who is a Muslim cleric stressed the fact that there was no collision between religion and culture. He emphasized that whiteman destroyed our language and culture, stole and even borrowed part of our language and incorporated it into his own language that he forced on us. Alhaji Balogun largely blamed the cultural calamity that befell Yoruba race on those described as religious fanatics in both Christianity and Islam, calling on all Yorubas to retrace their steps and embrace what is theirs in order to protect the language and culture for the next generation.Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu, a retired Methodist cleric and a Prince of Oyo Kingdom, informed the congregation that towards preserving some of Yoruba heritage, the United Nations Education and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) had decided to protect and raise the bar of black soap production, traditional drums production and calabash carving so that this and other generations of Yoruba indigenes would meet them.
The cleric, who also corroborated the claim of those who spoke earlier that Yoruba language was gradually becoming popular among non-Yoruba across the globe, more especially among the white people, admonished Yoruba people to ensure the language is spoken to their children as a means to preserve it.
Archbishop Ladigbolu condemned those who stood on the platform of religion to condemn their cultures, stating further that everything about Yoruba culture was not fetish. To him, if the running down of Yoruba culture was stopped by clerics, there would be a rebirth of both the language and culture in the hearts of the people thus leading to their health and subsequent transmission from generation to generation.
The icing on the cake of the programme was the exhibition of various dance steps to various rhythms emanating from various Yoruba native drums brought to spice up the occasion, and what looked like a competition among various Yoruba poets who struggled to register their presence.
Both Dr Tunde Adegbola, the guest lecturer for the day and Aare Latosa, Chief Mabinuori Adegboyega, an icon in Yoruba tradition and culture, were united in the warning to the Yorubas to avoid a situation where the Yorubas would pay the white people in future to learn Yoruba from them. The warning followed the alarming rate at which the whitemen have developed interest in learning Yoruba language as well as the way they practise Yoruba culture, as most of their universities now offer courses on Yoruba language and culture.