Let me start with a darting question to Airtel boss, Segun Ogunsanya and his team: what exactly was in their head casting popular Nollywood thespian, Mama Rainbow, as a moronic Yoruba woman, good at nothing and always of second-class intelligence to her fellow Igbo rival, Ngozi Nwosu, even in tying gele, in which Yoruba woman holds a cultural advantage? After watching series of the advertorial heralding the network’s 4G, with intellectual depreciation coming in for the Yoruba woman in script after script, one can conclude the characterisation is the perception of Airtel top dogs, of the Yoruba woman: the classical Mama Risika eleko, the neighbourhood nuisance.
If Ogunsanya and his people must know, the second fiddle in their advertorial who can’t tie gele, use blender, operate water dispenser, take selifi, et al, without subjecting herself to odium, lousy and classless is the Yoruba woman of their imagination, their graceless descent into illogical ethnic profiling of a race with civilisation blood, since ages gone by, when some were still cavey, cultivating groundnut and palm-tree farms, in their birthday robes. Though Indian Suni Mittal owns the telecoms firm, the man who possibly signed on this was born of a Yoruba woman, except Ogunsanya is just a titular CEO.
The offensive Airtel portrayal looks a poor artistic impression of the usual jokes about Yoruba being ever-fretful and forever-cowardly, always content with being an extra and must open mouth wide making sounds.
Airtel’s ribaldry feeds into sit-com narrative and stand-up laughfest of the yoroba pesin (depictive imagery of Yoruba) and whether it is Mittal, Vittal or Ogunsanya, whoever is behind it must be told in clearest term that this is textbook definition of racism or more like ethnic roasting. It is likely that while sketching the offensive scripts, someone pointed at the creativity bias, and someone somewhere said, shebi Yoruba ni, dem no go talk.
Maybe, such a mindset would be correct about the race, at least, for the cultural, social, economic and political leadership it parades now and the following being commanded. Or maybe, talking for talking sake, would be more appropriate because when truth is knowingly unsaid, talk will be very cheap. Or maybe, talking without taking appropriate steps, would be apt for wrapper-tying men we have today as the defenders of the race’s interest. Were Airtel injustice done to these lily-livered, hedonism-personified, self-glorified Yoruba men, who always crouch before power for the sake of their belly, bank accounts and ambitions, maybe I would enjoy the laugh at the idiocy of the Mama Rainbow’s character.
Can Ogunsanya and co leave the Yoruba woman out of this? If the character of Mama Rainbow is made a male, Airtel, perhaps, might be helping the Yoruba race with a life-size mirror that hides nothing. In the name of my party-is-better-than-yours, felicitous moments that should speak to the collective strength of Oduduwa, are allowed to slip into revelry of partisanship. The race isn’t just playing second fiddle in Abuja, the demeaning role of Babaloja-General allocated to the star-boy of Yoruba race in this dispensation is hugged by the majority as the next-best-thing after Akomolede Yoruba. What exactly is doing the Yoruba nation or what exactly is it doing? When are we going to start asking critical questions about the future that is around the corner? Today, at the slightest provocation, others threaten us with starvation because we have lost the capacity to feed ourselves and the best we have been in business is Maga-Yahoo.
I always feel bemused whenever our people engage Igbos over Lagos or other political issue. I have heard arguments like, ‘let them leave, it will give opportunity to take-over.’ The question is what were you doing before the initial take-over? The second best option won’t be frustrating those doing well out, it would be, breaking new grounds, for a competitive future.
While being futuristic is great, there is a present danger the race must confront with everything that can be thrown into it. No, it isn’t the mania of herdsmen grabbing for ransom on major highways of Yorubaland. No, it isn’t the farm forlorn syndrome setting our sweet-tooth on others’ apple. It is our disparate, Babel-made voice as a nation. Yes, maybe we open our mouth too wide to make sounds, but if we are loud-mouthed in majority oneness, what is seen as alebu (minus) today, could become a measure of the race’s strength. Let’s become elenu nla, with a united purpose.
Obviously, politics has failed us. Commerce isn’t our strength yet. Yoruba corporate players, apart from a listable few, fish in ponds. It is time for apolitical best to take the lead because no soothsaying is foretelling there won’t be gbe, gbe, gbe (every nation to self). Resolving beleaguering issues of criminality and marginalisation would require a united voice and tact, founded on Godly wisdom, which Harvard won’t teach.
Yoruba race needs a true leader. There is one in the horizon right now. But can we try a tripod. A collegiate leadership of Aare Afe Babalola, Aare Ona Kakanfo Gani Adams and Pastor Enoch Adeboye? This aro meta should balance our broth, God willing.