Yoruba Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow [Part 2]

One who dedicates his/her life exclusively to visions of a desired future will always lose out to the other whose every move is dictated by present-day conditions and circumstances - most of which are shaped by the past (distant or immediate).

On first hearing, this sounds like a most undesirable (and even deplorable) way to look at things. However, when confronted by the immutable facts of existing in worlds created by man, things like opinion, emotion, and judgement are all irrelevant. What matters is how we deal with these facts.

One such fact confronting Yoruba in Nigeria today is that though the entire machinery of State coercion at all levels is dedicated to protecting the assertion that what is called 'Nigerian citizenship/nationality' outweighs every other identity persons may subscribe to, the opposite is actually true. 

With the exception of one on one relationships - and even then, often still dependant on circumstances - for so-called Nigerians, the most natural identity is the ethnic one. This means that declarations and protestations about being 'de-tribalised' can be regarded as one of two things: One being that the person speaking is a liar and the second that he/she is genuine; being one who (by upbringing) was cut-off from all linkages with the ethnic group of his/her ancestors - which would make this person a home-based diasporan (the Diaspora being the future - which like the past, is another country).

The home-based diasporan, though he or she thinks of him/her self as one with a superior conception of how things ought to be, belongs to the class of those who dedicate their lives exclusively to visions of a desired future. And as stated in the first paragraph above, such always lose out in the end.

So, knowing what the concept of citizenship (and nationality) truly represents within the context of the present-day reality that Yoruba find themselves in (i.e. Nigeria), it becomes necessary for Yoruba by themselves, for themselves, to arrive at a conception of what it means to be a citizen of Yorubaland in this time.    

From our past, we get evidence of what it meant to be the citizen of a town founded by Yoruba. From our past, in the story of  Iyalode Tinubu, we learn that citizenship was not merely a matter of where you were born. We also learn that the struggle against foreigners who did not respect local customs is not a new one.

" Today Madam Tinubu is called a patriot by some, I am not too comfortable with that term because technically there was no ‘Nigeria’ when she was alive. However, Madam Tinubu did take a stance against the British in their efforts to further flex their colonial muscles into Yorubaland. In 1855, she spearheaded a campaign against Brazilian and Sierra Leonean immigrants in Lagos who she felt were actively trying to oppose the King and did not respect local customs. Apparently, her actions against these immigrants worried the British (who had been keeping an eye on her since she helped King Akintoye regain this throne). By supporting the local king and insisting that foreign residents respect local customs, Madam Tinubu’s activities were getting in the way of British colonial and mission policies. In 1856, colonial authorities in Lagos deported her from Lagos to her home town, Abeokuta 


Historically, for Yoruba, (like for Hausa and other widely dispersed African nationalities), the primary characteristics that distinguished members of the nation from foreigners were language and cultural affinity. In the ages preceding western imperialism, this meant that all persons who were Yorubacentric in world-view were considered to be Yoruba - regardless of the origins of their ancestors. 

It should be noted that this facility for assimilation was/is not unique to Africa's indigenous nations. For example,  in various countries throughout the European geographical space (including the British Isles), nationality was not immutable for persons of Caucasian stock. This meant that a man (or woman) whose ancestors had emigrated from Holland could easily become as English as contemporaries whose ancestors had been in the country since its foundation. 
For Yoruba, this use of cultural affinity and language as a group identifier is indicated by a description of Yorubaland as "ile ede Yoruba" ("the land of the Yoruba language"). 

In the settled communities established by Yoruba, inhabitants might all be omo-ilu (ones indigenous to the town/village) or, a mix of omo ilu and alejo (visitors). In most of these settlements - especially those most dependant on trade with the outside - various mechanisms were set up to implement the assimilation of those descended from alejo into the ranks of omo-ilu. Examples of these mechanisms operating can be found in how offspring of alejo (who had been born in the town) would be introduced (at the appropriate age) to the cultural-religious institutions that were represented by Egungun, Oro, Agemo, Osugbo, Ogboni, and Oosa sects. Another of the assimilation processes was through induction into the socio-political institution of Chieftaincy. 

While it would be difficult, due in part to the large populations that now exist in most settlements, to advance assimilation through the same mechanisms used in the days of old, the need to assimilate new members into the bodies of host communities still remains a paramount requirement for successful social engineering.

Consultations can therefore be held to come up with suitable vehicles that will fulfil the purpose at this time.  

This is a task that must be accomplished sooner rather than later before the increasing numbers of foreigners establishing homes in all corners of  Yoruba territory becomes the cause of ethnicity-based conflict. We only have to look at the world around us to get confirmation of the fact that two distinct entitities cannot both claim the same territorial space. One is subsumed by the other. This being so and, since these foreigners came of their own free will to join Yoruba on their lands, it cannot be expected that Yoruba would be the ones to be incorporated into their nation. After all, were we conquered? If the answer is negative, then why would anyone in his/her right mind willingly take on a characteristic of the conquered? Why would any person in his/her right mind expect ones to do this?

To remove land as a potential cause of conflict, the tradition by which all land was the common property of the community must be fully restored to superiority over all other legal arrangements. This will mean that all an individual (or corporation) can ever hold as private property is the building on the land, crops under cultivation, or, whatever minerals he, she or, they are licensed to extract. 

To allow for a dispensation where large numbers of unassimilated and (more importantly) unassimilable foreigners become owners of Yoruba lands is a sure way of laying the foundations for future conflict over who owns sovereignty. We make certain that neither we or our descendants will ever be challenged over sovereignty by ones who insist of asserting their alien origins in our lands by drafting non-amendable laws that will ensure the perpetual collective ownership of all lands by of whatever branch of the Yoruba nation first settled on it. 

By making membership in the nation a condition of having a share in the ownership of Yoruba land, another incentive is provided for the alejo to assimilate. 

If we need reminders about the urgency of the tasks before us, recent occurrences should serve that purpose. In Eko today, we are told that "the land belongs to all Nigerians". We are told that Yoruba have no right to demand that foreigners abide by their age-old customs - even though it was these customs that enabled Yoruba to create an environment that was conducive enough to entice and allow settlement by foreigners seeking to better their life circumstances.

Let us assume that it was true that "all land in Nigeria belongs to all Nigerians" and that because of this, so-called Nigerians have "the right to live wherever they like". This would mean that they have the right to live under Sharia law in places like Zamfara State, Kano State, and in cities like Maiduguri, etc. 

So, why not go there? After all, 'oil money' was also used to develop those places. Why not go there? What could be missing from those places that can only be found in Lagos, Abeokuta, Ibadan, Ado-Ekiti, Ikenne, Sagamu, Ilesha, Ife, Ondo, and many other cities, towns and villages in Yoruba land where Igbo (and others from all over Nigeria) have settled in (and peacefully made livings) for decades? 

The root word of Federation (which is what Nigeria is supposed to be) is the Latin word Foedus. The meaning of Foedus is Covenant. Which implies that a federation is based on a covenant between its member entities. There was no covenant made between the constituent indigenous nations when Nigeria was manufactured. And if there was no covenant, then logic dictates that there is no federation. 

Referring now, as some are wont to do, to various 'constitutions' that were drawn up either under the supervision of alien imperialists or the guns of the military as 'covenants' that validate the so-called federation of Nigeria is like describing an agreement reached under duress as fair and just.

Which is why Yoruba should have one demand underlying all political undertakings. This demand will be to be allowed to decide the terms of our association with the other nations in this sham federation. 

While this demand is nothing new, it has always been subdued to other events (current and prospective). This means that politicians and other leaders who once advocated for a conference of the nationalities have put working towards this goal on the back burner whenever some more interesting prospect  came up (or looked like it might come up).

Finally, while the aim of being citizens of a country where people are judged by ability and character instead of by ethnicity is a worthwhile one, the country that we are in today is set up in such a way as to make living this ideal self-destructive. 

Subject-matters have emerged into popular consciousness and the way component issues were clarified ensures that they will never be forgotten and, the knowledge gained will forever affect the way we relate. 

Because the truth has now become harder to ignore or rationalise away. 

The truth being that Yoruba have some neighbours who only respect those who refuse to accommodate them and, refuse to deal fairly with them. 

In other words, if there are people who cannot help but to see courtesy and hospitality as being signs of 'weakness' and, since 'weakness' (once perceived) invites insults (and worse), it will be best for Yoruba to suppress those qualities (that are seen as 'weakness') when relating to them.

It is said that the humans species evolved from the animal. And that prior to that, all animals evolved from a single species. It may also be that as we evolved, our collectives took on different (but specific) attributes from the ancestor species. That is to say, diversions in the development of some physical attributes went hand in hand with the retention of some behavioural characteristics. 

Which is a way of explaining why some are like dogs; creatures who only respect ones who subdue them with a heavy hand. Why like dogs, they will attempt to dominate whatever they see as weaker. 

Indeed, the full effects of lessons some are so eager to teach have started to manifest.