Yoruba have a way of chastising the uncharitable behaviour of neighbours. Those who take malignant pleasure at the anguish of another person get the back side of their tongue. Doing that, the Yoruba people make a comparison between two birds. One is Odidere (parrot), which has another name as Ayekooto (the world hates the truth). The other bird is Elulu (a brown-feathered bird, reputed for its mystic power to draw rain). In condemning the degeneracy of such infamy of gloating over another person’s misfortune, the Yoruba sing a song. The song aptly shows the grieved individual as better in character and content than the ignominious felon gloating. It goes thus: Ojo pa Odidere (The rain beats Odidere); Elulu nyo (Elulu rejoices/gloats). Elulu ma yo mo (Rejoice not, Elulu); Ewa ara eye koi ti lo (The beauty of the bird-Odidere- has not faded). The message in this folk song is simple. No matter the travails of Odidere, it shines more beautifully than Elulu, which draws rain that drenches it for it has no nest to hide when the rain falls. In essence, it is most thoughtless for any individual to rejoice at the misfortune of another. Differences in political or ideological inclinations, religious callings and ethnic backgrounds won’t be enough excuses. Calamities, misfortunes and ill-lucks are communally shared in Africa. That is what defines our humanity as a race.
On Saturday, April 3, 2021, something more than a calamity befell the Yoruba race. That black Saturday, the curtain was suddenly drawn on a patriot, fighter and humanist, Yinka Odumakin, the spokesman for the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere. The news jolted the entire nation. Yinka, in life, was everyway a Yoruba man; body, spirit and soul. He was a man who picked all his battles purely on personal convictions and he made no bones about that. His Yoruba outlook notwithstanding, he equally stood for and fought on the side of any oppressed Nigerian. His voice was never lost whenever injustice was served on anyone. The group he spoke for, Afenifere, at the risk of sounding immodest, remains the most cosmopolitan, elitist and the most fearless group ever, in the history of Nigeria. Thus, when the news broke that Yinka was no more, it was not just the Yoruba nation that felt the pang of his untimely death. The entire nation and all men of decency and decorum knew that a big tree had fallen in the forest. Little wonder then that almost immediately the news of his sudden departure broke, condolence messages started pouring in torrents. It was in the midst of these that the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), also sent in its own condolence message, the content of which provoked this piece. For the benefit of those who might not have seen the full text of ACF’s condolence message, it is reproduced here in its exact form. I am doing this so that it will be easy for readers to make their own judgements. ACF speaks: “CONDOLENCE MESSAGE TO AFENIFERE: The Arewa Consultative Forum ACF today received the sad news of the death of Yinka Odumakin, the spokesman of the AFENIFERE. While he was alive, Yinka held on to his views very strongly. We often disagreed with him on many issues. Our disagreements were however on principle and not personal. The fundamental difference is that the AFENIFERE group admits only descendants of Oduduwa as members, while we in the ACF admit even descendants of Oduduwa who are northerners. The nature of our membership, accommodating hundreds of ethnic groups has made it very difficult to always agree with a group whose membership is limited to one ethnic group. We continue to hope that the AFENIFERE will one day turn a new leaf and see issues not from the narrow and limited perspective of one ethnic group but from the broad perspective of a multi ethnic federal republic. We had hoped that Odumakin will live long enough to work for and see the new day. His death today has robbed us of that opportunity. We however pray for the CONDOLENCE of his family and his colleagues in AFENIFERE. We shall certainly miss him”. The message was signed by Emmanuel Yawe, National Publicity Secretary ACF.
Before the denotative and or connotative meaning of the word, “condolence”, is lost on us, let us take a brief look at how the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines condolence. “Condolence: sympathetic grief, sorrowing with and for others. Outward expression of sympathy for another’s grief; especially, a formal declaration of regret for a person’s bereavement, misfortune, etc”. I chose this particular dictionary, of all the collections I have, because among grammarians and linguists, especially those with flair for semantics, Oxford and BBC with Received Pronunciation, are considered the authorities in meaning and phonology. The definition of “condolence” given above presupposes that while expressing such empathy, nothing is added. I am sure no man of good conscience will say with any atom of conviction, that what ACF expressed in the above quoted letter to Afenifere is “condolence”. I will not run away from the fact that while Yinka was here on earth with us, he was a pain in the neck of the ACF which speaks for the Northern oligarchy the way Afenifere speaks for the Yoruba and the Ohanneze does for the Ndigbo. If Yinka were to be alive and these kinds of odiferous verbiages were emitted by ACF on another person, he would have been acerbic in his response while condemning the obviously distasteful and inhuman piece. I personally did not expect ACF and what it stands for to be sad that Yinka departed prematurely. And if you ask me, I will tell you without thinking that the ACF un-condoling condolence is nothing but raw cowardice! It is indeed true that “eyin ajanaku la yo ida; ko si eni to je yo agada loju erin’’- it is only when the elephant has died that one brings out the sword; no man brings out the scimitar in the presence of the elephant. The fact that nobody has been sensitive enough among the rank and file of ACF to condemn this inhuman message from the group speaks volume. It is unmitigated ignominy that a group which hopes “that the AFENIFERE will one day turn a new leaf and see issues not from the narrow and limited perspective of one ethnic group”, will choose the occasion of the untimely demise of Yinka, a man ACF only disagreed with “on principle and not personal” to re-launch its lost battle with Afenifere. Which African culture allows this kind of “condolence’? I make no hesitation to state that not even Boko Haram and the bandits of Zamfara would write that about their enemy. And if I may ask, what is the basis for the comparison between ACF and Afenifere? On what ground is ACF making that juxtaposition? Hear ACF again: “The fundamental difference is that the AFENIFERE group admits only descendants of Oduduwa as members, while we in the ACF admit even descendants of Oduduwa who are northerners”. Really? “Descendants of Oduduwa” like the late Aro of Mopa, Chief Sunday Bolorunduro Awoniyi? What did Awoniyi gain for being ACF Chairman? How many of his children are holding choice positions in Nigeria today, I mean those positions that have become the exclusive preserves of ACF’s promoters? What has the membership of ACF and Afenifere got to do with the death of a fine soul like Yinka Odumakin? Which blood flows in the veins of ACF and its promoters? Why can’t ACF just roll out the drums to celebrate the demise of a man, Yinka Odumakin, whom they “often disagreed with on many issues”? Who is ACF deceiving by saying it “shall certainly miss him”? Miss who? And when ACF penned that “the nature of our membership, accommodating hundreds of ethnic groups has made it very difficult to always agree with a group whose membership is limited to one ethnic group”, did it not occur to it that the only reason other ethnic groups find it repulsive is the sanguinary tendencies of its kith and kin which it never condemns? So ACF still needs to be told that every other ethnic nationality in Nigeria today, curses the very day the Northern and Southern Protectorates were amalgamated!
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