GROWING up as a child, I spent quality time with an uncle, Baba Falade, the Obajemu and Aoro Orangun of Odo-Oro Ekiti, who was a top member of the Babalawo cult. He was not just a Babalawo, but an Orunmila one for that matter. Babalawo Orunmila, for the understanding of the not so esoteric readers, is the one who can use all the objects of divination (kola nut, cowries, sand, opele and ikin) to interpret the hidden knowledge of the celestial, through the instrumentality of Ifa.
On so many occasions, I watched him as he consulted for his numerous clients. Equally amazing to me then, were the various issues the clients brought forward for solutions. Unlike the modern diviners, turned prophets, who first listened to their clients’ issues before seeing the visions, whoever came to see Baba Falade would speak in hushed tones to the objects of divination. The interpretation would follow, based on the particular “Odu” Ifa (Ifa Corpus) and Baba’s chanting of the panegyrics of, again, the particular “Ese” Ifa (Ifa Verse), that had to do with the knowledge the clients sought. The poetic rendition of the panegyrics drew me more to him; his’ was peculiar and distinct. But, also, I discovered that some of the issues the clients brought were too mundane and elementary.
Issues that I felt that one could easily resolve at home without seeking anybody’s opinion. As an extrovert, I asked Baba questions after the clients might have gone. I interrogated the usefulness or otherwise of coming to consult Ifa over what could be easily resolved. Baba Falade was not just a patient man, he was equally a good teacher. He would explain how and why human beings should not leave anything to chance.
He always closed those probing chapters with this catchphrase in our native Ekiti dialect:”omode mo ogigun e hi pe lefo”. I translate or transliterate: “A child who does not know the usefulness of a leaf, calls it ordinary vegetable”. In essence, things are not as they appear to be. So I knew at a very tender age that Nigerians are very anthropological and superstitious.
We attach importance to every happening no matter how inconsequential. We read meanings to every event. In most cases, we seek the understanding of both the terrestrial and the celestial to help in unravelling any riddle we consider inimical to our existence. We are greatly interpretative and nothing conceivably happens to us by chance. There must always be a reason. But we may not be wrong, after all. Our world outlook before the ‘civilisation’ of foreign religions (Christianity or Islam) made us so. I did not watch the January 15 Armed Forces Remembrance Day ceremony on television. To be honest, I hardly take time to watch on television or listen on the radio, anything that has to do with the occupants of Aso Rock Villa. I would rather read or watch clips on social media. I trust that platform to bring to me only the exciting moments in whatever involved our Dear General Muhammadu Buhari and his government. God bless the wordsmith, Professor Wole Soyinka and his recent prescription of keeping one’s sanity. Expectedly, I was not disappointed. Minutes after the ceremony, the social media was literally set ablaze with so many headlines on the Buhari pigeons, which refused to fly after they were released by the Daura-born Retired General. As it is the custom in such an occasion, the president releases some white pigeons which are expected to fly away; to signal peace, purity and abundance of harmony in the land. But this time around, Buhari’s pigeons refused to fly; not even when the Commander-in-Chief tried to help them. For where? The stubborn birds would not budge.
For me, and I say this with all sense of sincerity, whether a pigeon flies or not is immaterial, especially at a time like this in Nigeria. Such “frivolity”, to borrow the language of one of the Buhari people on the internet, should not be our concern.
I almost agreed with him and others, who in the last 72 hours, had made spirited, but unsuccessful efforts, to explain off, the refusal of Buhari’s pigeons to fly. Then I remembered that things are not as they appear to be. Again, those who believed that the refusal of the pigeons to fly in Abuja as it was in Hope Uzodinma’s Imo State, would not let us rest. That the pigeons refused to fly, they said was and is a bad omen. Some folks went the extra mile to show that Buhari’s pigeons actually stopped flying some years ago. They backed it up with video clips. I saw one, where Professor Yemi Osinbajo, PYO, the Vice President, found the recalcitrant posture of the pigeon in Buhari’s hands amusing. In another clip, PYO looked worried and concerned. One commentator even wrote that the professor of Law ran immediately to the Redemption Camp of the Redeemed Christian Church of God to seek the face of the Lord. Naija people; ask me if the commentator accompanied PYO to the church! Of course, the videos were said to have been recorded in two consecutive years; back to back! Then the Buhari people countered that. Even in 2014, they said, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GEJ’s, pigeons refused to fly. It turned out to be a war of ‘it is not my president’s pigeon alone that refused to fly’!
Truly, the Buhari people are right; in 2014, the pigeons released by GEJ refused to fly. But what the Buhari people have refused to acknowledge in the 2021 Armed Forces Remembrance Day and Buhari’s pigeons, is the interpretation they and their supporters gave to the 2014 incident. History is a perfect recorder of everything good or bad. . When GEJ released the pigeon and they refused to fly, the All Progressive Party, APC’s, spiritual vuvuzela then, Fr. Ejike Mbaka of Enugu Adoration Ministry, intoned that such signified that the spirit had left Jonathan. That was a prediction from the spiritual realm. GEJ ran from pillar to post. The man was troubled and from kneeling before ‘anointed’ men of God to being encircled by traditional rulers, who pointed walking sticks at him, Jonathan sought spiritual solutions to no avail.
He lost the 2015 presidential election to the incumbent General Buhari and Fr. Mbaka’s reputation as the ‘true servant of God’ soared. How I missed Baba Falade! Buhari people celebrated the victory and told everyone that the refusal of GEJ’s pigeons to fly at the 2014 Independence Day celebration at the same Eagle square, was responsible for his fall from power. If it was so in 2014, why would they now believe that the case should be different? That Mbaka is in spiritual hibernation to tell us the ominous signs of Buhari’s pigeons, does not change anything. The ‘spirit’ does not have to leave us, for us to know that the signs are bad and ominous. That’s too obvious! We don’t need any spiritual interpreter to tell us Pigeon, or eyele, or, nduru, or tattabara, or elikhukhu, has its own spiritual connotations. It is not a mere bird, but a harbinger of good things. White pigeon, called “eyele fifun” in Yoruba, as used in ceremonies like the Abuja one, represents purity. It brings fortune, hence we say; “ati otun, ati osi, ni eyele fi nkore wole”- the pigeon uses both the right and the left wing to bring fortune. It is also a bird of peace, harmony and love. Pigeon or dove plays a role in all religions. In Christianity, it is a messenger as demonstrated after the flood. In Islam, hundreds of pigeons are found at the tomb of Mohammed, hence they are referred to as the “Prophet’s birds”. In African Traditional Religion, ATR, they are used for so many things. They are known for loyalty and patriotism. They are for piety and beatitudes. ornithologists say pigeons are close to human and like humans, can see in colour and even more; they see ultraviolet light which humans cannot see. They have the ability to conceptualise.
Little wonder they refused to fly in Abuja. They probably have realised that even Nigeria herself is not flying anywhere. We launched the multibillion Naira logo of Air Nigeria in July 2018 and three years down the line, we have no single aircraft flying in our name. Yet we expected common pigeons to fly for our president. Boko Haram has been occupying Sambisa Forest for years now and our Chief of Air Staff and his Officers and Men are too aviophobic to go there and level the place, but we expected the pigeons to fly. We think pigeons are mere birds, whereas they knew that probably, in the entire Eagle Square, only the cubicle occupied by Buhari and the other Aso Rock dwellers was safe; the rest were vulnerable targets for roving and unhindered merchants of death that have been killing citizens daily. We wanted to endanger the lives of the peaceful pigeons when some of us remained in the cities and refused to go home during the Yuletide for fear of being kidnapped. How do we ask pigeons to fly as a sign of harmony, when the very leaders releasing the birds are at the very root of the disunity and disharmony in the country.
Pray, tell me, which government is more divisive in the history of this country than the present Buhari regime? How do we ask pigeons to fly for peace of the nation when murderous herdsmen reign supreme, unchallenged; when kidnappers and other bandits are the kings of our roads? Who pays the ransom if the pigeons are kidnapped? Which prosperity will the pigeons be flying for, when our economy is in comatose; when Naira exchanges for 475 dollars in the open market? How are we sure that the birds were not even thinking of what would become of them when they returned to their handlers, who possibly borrowed the seeds with which they were fed before coming to the Eagle Square? Or have we suddenly forgotten that we borrow to do everything in this country? Won’t the birds think about the hospital where they would be treated in case they collided with any object while flying? Which hospital do we have to take care of the emergency? Let us forget about any bad omen that the refusal of Buhari’s pigeons to fly portends. The bad times are here already. Not only the gods are wise; the birds are also wise!
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