In the forest of songs
yours is a fertile lyric
weaved for every ear.
In the sky of words
your lines are rainbow,
brighter than the moon,
illuminating beyond the
stars. Are, now that the
flute of death blew beyond the seven hills
of Ìbàdàn, I offer an
elegy to the man whose
impacts shaped our lives,
a man whose anvil forged the future we
desired. Àjànàkú, the
elephant that rumbles
the forest. If death would
have loved to receive money, we would have
offered him money.
If death would have loved
to be offered a thousand
rams, we would have loved to slaughter them.
But death took you,
beyond the earth where
the feet of children learn
to walk without stumbling.
Before the advent of the
media, your words travelled beyond the
four walls of our country.
Before the arrival of death, you were the king
and Ẹlẹ́ṣin Ọba. You made the earth look
ordinary. Now that the
song of farewell occupies the sky,
Are, let my elegy adorn
the world. Today there
are no birds to sing
because of your demise.
Today the earth trembles
because your death broke the camel’s hump.
Ọmọ Ìbàdàn, your lineage
is that of a warrior. Your
memory remains unbroken despite the
tenacity of time.
Farewell, the mountain that bends the arrow of lies.
Farewell, the rain that veils deserted lands.
Farewell to the son
of the soil.
Farewell to the scion
Let me now shift gears to the tedium of history. The late Dr. Lekan Are (1933-2020) was the founder and Chief Executive (CEO), Kakanfo Inn and Conference Centre, Ibadan. He was also the chairman, University Press Plc., former General Manager, Ogun-Osun River Basin Authority, and the longest-serving director on the board of Punch Nigeria Limited. The late Are was a member of Ibadan Elders Forum and a strong pillar of Government College, Ibadan Old Boys Association (GCIOBA). The president, Government College Ibadan Old Boys Association (GCIOBA), Chief Wale Babalakin, in a statement, said: “With gratitude to God for a life well spent we announce the exit of our dear patron and trustee, Lalekan Emmanuel Are (1948, Field House), President GCIOBA 1989-2006. Lekan Are is widely known for the passion with which he championed the GCI cause and everything GCIOBA, Lalekan Are was the epitome of a great Old Boy.”
Chief Lekan Are will be remembered as an Afrophile, a custodian of the Yoruba culture and a multiculturalist. In his lifetime, he portrays the knowledge of the continent which includes engrained familiarity with different myths, folktales and socio-cultural belief in Nigeria and Africa as well. Also, in his engagement with Africa, Chief Are extends his representations of the continent to its people. He deconstructs earlier notions that majority of Africans flux into the West without a sense of purpose. He is a grand believer of Africans having a sense of purpose and rooted in culture where they come from.
His ideas and ways of living was that of the Afropolitan, one who believes that in spite of their culturally hybrid nature, one does not sever ties and relationship with one’s African roots. Often times, he has illustrated this attitude with his narration of the story of one of his family members who married a Japanese. The family not only maintains contact with the Yoruba culture, they transmit both Yoruba and Japanese customs to their children too. A humanist and an accommodator of culturally different people, he always insists that there are people who seek to be understood beyond the rigid limits of their statehood. Hence, an affiliation to a country should hardly be the basis for understanding a human being in their totality. This worldview is well espoused in the story of how he travelled to Brazil and met Yoruba indigenes with whom he bonded passionately. Even though he is a firm displayer of the Yoruba culture, he also demonstrates a flair for cultural intermingling and interpenetration both within and outside the continent. As a major proponent of interracial mingling and inclusion, Chief Lekan Are gives primacy to interracial marriages and interethnic relationships. He is also reputed for encouraging Africans to always place cultural communality over the divisiveness of religious difference.
Are Lineage in Different Ages
Ojú inú, I can see! I can see!
Images tell their lore
Like the moon contrasts the grey of the sky
Unveiling, revealing, unwrapping
Ancient text on woven formats
Once seen through a glass darkly
Unmask hidden forms
I can see! I can see!
The Are lineage of Ibadan has created a most impressive historical narrative over time. In the old era of the 19th century, they were great warriors, with one of them—Are Latosa—rising to become the ultimate political leader of the city and the overall Generalissimo of the Yoruba. Are Latoosa was famous for the greater part of the nineteenth century, and was actually the most powerful in the last quarter of that turbulent era. The Are managed a huge Ibadan empire at a time of relentless and coordinated opposition from multiple corners and sources. Oba I. B. Akinyele, who wrote a book in 1951, Iwe Itan Ibadan, on the history of Ibadan documenting this era, paid scholarly attention to the tembelekun and ote, the nasty twin of intrigues and conspiracies that defined this era. Thus, as the empire made the Are face ogun (war) abroad, there were tembelekun and ote at home also, and there were just too many of them for one person to manage. Samuel Johnson who also recorded that moment painted a picture of actions, complicated decision making, rivalries, and difficult conflict management efforts. The Are was able to stand at the center of it all. The empire and its leader dominated the events. Samuel Johnson wrote under the shadow of the Ibadan empire. His composition and portrait of the Are used the language of the empire—muscular, imperial, dominating.
As I fell on the past of the distinguished Are lineage, I composed a new song:
the hen who challenges the vulture
to a fight
The vulture circles the hen
Smiling, the hen teases the vulture:
Become a hawk if you want to eat me
Or wait for my death to eat the carcass
What can the vulture do to a hen?
What can enemies do to the Àrẹ Ọnà Kakaǹfò?
The war hawk of Ibadan
A wildfire that stays on the roof
Daring the landlord to fetch fire
Water comes, Ọkùnrinméta turns into air
Air, the husband of fire
Ekiti take flight
Àrẹ jumps thrice to retool.
Ologun, yan, yan, yanbíakin
The war captain of Ibadan
Summoning the ọmọ Odùduwà with a command;
Arm yourselves for battle in the morning
I, Yanbíọlá, the war general
Who sleeps outside until the war is over.
Àrẹ, Àrẹ, Àrẹ
Never tired of wars, he roams the world
The restless spirit of Ibadanland
Ògún ọmọ Ogun
Àrẹ I am scared
Yan yan Yanbíọlá
Wait for him if you dare!
The offspring of a compound
Full of arrows
Àrẹ the offspring of a thousand quivers
Yanbíọlá, never tired of wars.
Are was thirsty
As his thirst rumbles
The River Niger trembles
Àre, he that pours water away
On hearing the rumbling of the rain
When the rain rumbles and refuses to fall
Yanbíọlá turns the Nile into a big pot
To supply water to the city.
If the rain so chooses
Let it never fall again.
The late Chief Lalekan Are extended the glory of the lineage, carrying the genes of the older members of the lineage. He added positively to them in aspects of business, management, administration, institutional leadership, and community organizing. His mantra was hard work, analysis based on facts, the correlation of process with outcome, judicious use of resources, empathy and compassion. The foundation of his life and career was laid many decades ago. As a young man in the grammar school and university, he combined excellence in sports with distinction in scholarship.
Dr. Lalekan Are’s style shared many things in common with the warriors of old. He was a straight shooter, although not of guns but of words. Quick to the point, forever dramatic in his actions and choice of words, and very witty, Dr. Are was effective in getting to the bottom of issues and taking decisions based on facts and good judgment. Like his ancestors, he was a fearless warrior. His weapons extended to the realm of ideas and ideologies. A warrior for all battles, he courageously took up for many issues with extensive social and political import.
Alamu, ọmọ Níhìnlọla
Mo pe yin l’órúkọ
Oh, spirit of the hills!
Rise up, oh warrior, rise up
Tough and stubborn, Bàbá kan ṣoṣo
The fearless, never bothered by threats
Baba hears, Run! Run! Run!—he refuses to run
Baba hears, Give way! Give way!—he refuses to
Tactful warrior, offspring of the Great Warrior
Ọkọ Ọlábísí who challenges death.
Death carries a club,
Baba Fúnkẹ́ carries a club.
Elephants and lions take flight.
He who witnesses Baba Ayọ̀ and Death in
a duel does not live to tell the story.
Alamu, expose the treacherous— treachery
Baba Dàmọlá, show the face of the wicked:
The hyena who roams the jungle, taunting
the dogs to emulate him.
Gently! Gently! Baba agba.
Please! Conqueror of death.
we think no evil, speak no evil
Hear no evil of Baba wa
I will first sacrifice to Bàbá Àrẹ
Conqueror of Death
Before I sacrifice to Òkè’bàdàn
Lord of the Hills
Òkè’bàdàn can wait, Bàbá cannot
Accept my kola
Bless my kola to multiply
May I never see the wrath of Baba
Only his praises.
Rats see the cat and run.
Baba Revenge! Revenge!
not once, but twice
For they who scheme evil
against you yesterday morning
Are dead by day break.
Baba, Lord of the land and sea
Five men in one, never to be subdued,
Tiger of the plain,
Baba, chew silently
to say your incantations
Grind on the thick stone
to make your charms
Open your mouth
Clear your legs
Praise us, when you mean it
abuse us when we deserve it.
We bend and bow
to avoid the fiery eyes
to avoid eyes of blood
We are quiet
to avoid the tongue that lashes
We appease Iyalode
to calm your temper.
I am a beneficiary of his large mind and grandiose generosity. Although I have not been able to take him up on the offer, he mandated his staff to let me stay at Kakanfo Inn for free any time I am around. He funded the publication of my long book on Ibadan. May the Are of the future be great men and women of heroic characters like the Are of the past. May the Are of the future be great entrepreneurs and investors as the Are of the present. As we celebrate the departed soul, do please join me in dancing to a new song:
He watches our war steps
We, who never run away from death
We wage wars at four corners of the house
We told him the four:
The bow carrier in front
The quiver carrier in the middle
The arrow carrier stays to the left
The gun carrier at the back.
Lekan, master of our moves.
Are turns into an Egbinrin
Egbinrin, creator of colors
Offspring of the slim Iroko tree
Master of clothes
If there were no cloth
We would have misbehaved
Egbinrin would have offered the feathers
For us to fool the world.
Are is reborn
Reborn into wealth
If you are pursued by death
It will not catch up with you,
Eat Kola, the nut of life
The bitter kola that elongates life
May you live long
The sweetness of life
You will live a sweet life
No one chooses water as an enemy
May you become water
Water that has no enemies.
Baba mi, the good
Who is grateful for favors
On the bad, a thousand favors
A fit man with
Ears for wise sayings
Head for counseling
Brain for ideas
Chief Lálẹ́kan Àrẹ, serve no fools
Who weep in the wilderness
Who plant lotus on dry land
Baba mi agbalagba oye,
The water with no enemies.
And after the dance, let us close with a final meditation:
Somewhere young turned old gents
Will handle a photo album with fragile fingers
And its dust will turn breathable air,
Old dreams, wise words will grace wrinkled faces
As silence breaks into sweet single tears
While they sniff the nostalgic smell
Of your youthful posture
In black and white
Ajanaku nla, we will see life the way
It is meant to be
An assemblage of your youthful bravery actions,
Wise words and old age pictures
Which will be imagined through the eyes
Of living old men
Who were once lads sitting at your
Feet that walked this earth…
I remember when waters were clear
death was not a word
nor sorrow ever heard
we bathed in milky lakes
doves skimming an infinite blue
something lived on…
Chief, your actions are living on.
Professor Toyin Falola is the Bobapitan of Ibadanland
- Professor Toyin Falola is the Bobapitan of Ibadanland