IDENTITY, AWARENESS, AND LIBERATION
The modern age of Yoruba national consciousness can be linked to the foundation (in 1945) of Egbe Omo Oduduwa. And while Yoruba owe the elders who were responsible for this great achievement eternal gratitude for starting the indispensable process of healing after the 19th century's fratricidal wars, it must be noted that they (the 'independence' generation) did not go all the way.
Because even though the ancient cords that bind our people together extend far beyond the boundaries of the plantations that were constructed in Africa to enhance the profitability of Europe's commerce and industry, there is no evidence that Egbe Omo Oduduwa set up branches amongst fellow Yoruba whose homelands were outside the artificial borders of said constructs. Yet, a fundamental component of the historic task that falls to any organisation that accepts the calling to serve as the herald of a Pan-Yoruba renaissance is to actually represent all Yoruba - which by definition must include those outside the borders of Nigeria (after all, Alaketu and Onisabe of Ketu and Sabe in Benin Republic are also sons of Oduduwa).
Therefore, the omission of Ajase and other Yoruba locales outside Nigeria from the organisational efforts of Egbe Omo Oduduwa indicates an absence of something crucial from the conception of nationhood that these nationalists had. A lack that was one of the consequences of their decision to accept limitations that were put in place by foreign imperialists. And of course ones who accept that others have a right to determine what they are will also automatically accept all other definitions that are linked to identity.
Significantly, currently existent Pan-Yoruba organisations that are similarly led by western-educated Yoruba also operate within the same restricted scope as Egbe Omo Oduduwa.
Which in effect means that the only currently operational mechanisms linking Yoruba across the Euro-Imperialist created boundaries are those that were created by pre-conquest communities. Which is something that illustrates another interesting curiosity: Western-educated Yoruba - i.e. Yoruba members of the 'international community' - exist in a world where interest in the existence of other members of this 'international community' and, the nurturing of trans-ethnic relationships overwhelms (and in some cases totally nullifies) any interest in exploring (and/or reviving) linkages with fellow Yoruba who are outside the borders of Nigeria. A category which consists of not only those Yoruba who reside in other States manufactured in West Africa by European imperialists, but also descendants of the ones who, during the centuries of our Holocaust, had been captured and illegally converted into property after transportation to the Middle East, and, to European colonies in the Americas and the Caribbean.
I begin here with two words whose etymology I find most educational. The first is Ijakadi.
While the immediate meanings of Ijakadi are "Struggle", "Strive", and, "Fight" (i.e. to wrestle), it is also used in religious circles as an alternate description for fasting. Going further, an examination of the word's constituent parts reveals it's deeper meaning: Ija/Ka/Di translates to Strive/So we/Become - and it should be safe to assume that one who is "striving" is doing so in order that s/he may become something better than what he/she was before the struggle began.
The second word is Ominira and like Ijakadi, this is a word that can be used to describe related concepts. These are "Freedom", "Independence", and, "Liberation". And just as with Ijakadi, a more profound meaning is revealed after Ominira is broken down into it's constituent parts. Of these, the first part ["O mi"] - which in this instance means "To shake" - is used in the same manner that it would be used when describing an earthquake; that is to say, "Ile mi" (i.e. "the ground shakes").
So, "Omi/Ni/Ra" broken down reveals "To shake/To own/The self"; a complex concept which implies that liberation/independence was perceived to be an active state by the ancients who constructed the word. That is to say, it has no past tense; it is never passive. Which in turns means that every person in every generation must at all times strive to assert ownership of the self in order to be be truly free. Which is done by shaking off chains that are repeatedly put in place by external forces who are relentless in the way they claim ownership of every aspect of everything in existence.
An endless task; which may be why so many of us get weary and tacitly come to an arrangement with our self-appointed owners - i.e. for as long as they do not rattle our chains (and thus make our true status too obvious), we will strive to maintain (and nurture) the illusion that a state of liberation need no longer be sought after as it has already been permanently achieved.
There is more than one mode of self-awareness. There is self-awareness of the person as an individual; an intrinsic awareness by the person of itself as a unique object that is situated in the midst of other distinct objects and phenomena that are completely outside of the person's physical boundaries. Then, there is the collective self-awareness - which is when the person is conscious of all (or most) of the facts that are related to its existence as a social being.
Collective self-awareness is a shared awareness and, while all who are bound together with the same cord may not be secured with knots of equal tightness, there is a mark on the persona of all who share this self-awareness which, while not always of the same intensity, is otherwise uniform in expression.
ORGANIC AND IMPOSED AWARENESS
In most instances, organic awareness has a mythic source. That is to say, even where what we may consider to be solid historic data exists to support authorised (and unauthorised) versions of narratives about the origin of sources, further digging always reveals the sources of the oldest historic data to be word of mouth - i.e. myth. And since most myths are the products of ages when humanity was less bound by the strictures of modern data verification, origins of the most venerable/venerated collective organic awareness are therefore more often than not found in the supernatural (i.e. that which cannot be explained by using the same logic and language that is used in reference to everyday objects and events).
Also, because a feature of our human consciousness makes us more fascinated by a structure's architecture rather than by the mud from which its bricks are/were made, even today, regardless of whatever pretensions of being beyond superstition (due to 'education') that ones may assign to themselves, many can still be reduced to a state of awe by whatever speaks the most profoundly to them about phenomena that lie beyond the mists obscuring the furthest limits of current knowledge about a subject.
And while this feature is responsible for human intellectual adventurism, it is also the characteristic that makes it possible for misleaders to impose modes of awareness on others because, if a person can find an attractive way to describe what lies at the unseen end of a path that s/he wishes people to walk along, even if most (or all) of what s/he says has no support in logic (or precedence), many will still happily set their feet on the path that s/he described to them. Similarly, imbue a word or label with as much negative connotations as you can think about, then use it to describe any activity (or line of thought) that you do not want people to have a positive attitude about (or give fair hearing to) and you can be certain that all things that are incompatible with your agenda will be avoided.
Therefore, call a thing "self-defence" when it suits you and you will be supported by public opinion. Then call the same thing "terrorism" when circumstances do not favour your interests and the same people who loved it when it was called "self-defence" will now abhor it.
So, a Fulani Shehu kicks thousands of Ewe, Asante, Dagomba etc. out of Nigeria and the act is described, non-judgementally, as "Ghana-Must-Go" - a label apparently so harmless that it is thereafter freely used to describe a type of bag by the same people whose eyes popped out with rage as they yelled "Tribalist!" at the Yoruba Babatunde when he kicked 17 Igbo out of Eko.
IDENTITY AND FAUX-IDENTITY
When an African person subjects his/her intellect to a process of rigorous exposure to history, s/he will eventually reach a juncture where the accumulated weight of certain facts will force upon him/her a choice between accepting or rejecting an identity and self-awareness (individual and/or collective) whose sole origins can be traced directly to foreigners who came to (and mostly still remain) on the African continent as adversaries.
That is to say, a choice between whether or not to offer unconditional and complete surrender to the structures erected by these adversaries.
One such choice for the Yoruba person who also has the faux-identity 'nigerian' imposed upon him/her self is the decision about whether to identify the self as Yoruba and African or, as Nigerian-Yoruba. There are significant and irreconcilable differences between these two choices.
If mosquitoes could celebrate, it is certain that they would celebrate the day each stagnant body of water that they emerged from (and later laid their own eggs in) was first formed. Also, if vultures, hyenas, and other scavengers could celebrate, they too would commemorate the moments that carrion-producing carnage first broke out.
Therefore, it is understandable why some would welcome any opportunity to celebrate the macabre feast that is otherwise known as Nigeria. Which brings us to the matter of 2014: a year that will be the centenary of Nigeria's existence.
Rather than mark this mournful act of war as it deserves to be marked, Nigerians, often a most amusingly perverse collection of peoples, can be trusted to celebrate it.
But it is important that Yoruba - in order that we not lose our collective self - never forget where we are, how we got here, and where we should be going. Therefore, Yoruba should use the dawning of Nigeria's centennial as an opportunity to collectively engage in dynamic introspection - i.e. to look backwards as well as forward in a subjective manner - with the intent of seeking out the most efficacious methods that can be used to liberate our nation from its captivity in what is nothing more than a bubble that was built by ones whose sole intent was (and still is) to restrict our capability and capacity to grow.
A bubble whose structural integrity is currently maintained by other vampiric entities (foreign and domestic) who happily inherited that intent.
A maintenance that is basically implemented through the manipulation of awareness about identity.
Thus we are told, over and over again in a multitude of languages (i.e. verbal, graphic, etc.) that we are what the European imperialists made us and that this is all we can and should ever aspire to be. We are told that consequently, our greatest achievement in the field of societal organization will be to build upon and cherish conditions that our enemies left us in. We are told that we should not look back because there is nothing behind us aside from terrible (and 'Godless') darkness and, we are told that we should be proud of our status as humans whose organic identity has been modified by other humans (who we sometimes describe as 'God' when we speak of how our bubble came into being).
The African child, when finally tall enough to look over the fence that surrounds the manure-pit that is its playground will observe better worlds outside the borders of the pit. And on gaining the power of expression, its first words may speak of a desire to transform its reeking abode into the likeness of the glitterous (and perfumed) worlds outside it. If so, it will be informed that it should dig within the piles of dung because, somewhere in there, kindly souls (with whose excrements his present abode was constructed) had placed vials of magical fluid that will transform layers of shit into fluffy clouds of paradise.
In other words, Africans are told, by what seems to be a 'universal' consensus, that the keys to unshackling the potentials of indigenous African nations lie solely in the prematurely (and chronically) arthritic hands of faux-nations that were forced into being by foreign exploiters and their mercenaries.
We therefore look for ways to devalue (through denigration) any stirrings of true nationalism within our consciousness. We look and, we are lucky to find the word 'tribalism'. We are even luckier in how most of the intellectual work that goes into rationalising the usage of a label has already been done for us - which means that all that is left to do is to find ways to indicate our recognition of 'tribalism' as an emotion that is fit only to be despised. And having done this, we shamefully subdue the impulse.
CONFLICT IN THE BUBBLE
In today's world, nations invading the territories of other nations is generally frowned upon. Yet in Nigeria, Fulani (a people indigenous to Guinea) roam the so-called Middle-belt and the northern reaches of Yorubaland seeking to seize land for pasture and water. Well-armed, they drive their cattle onto fields that others had laboured to cultivate and when these (the farmers) defend themselves and their property, Fulani leaders begin making noises about how their people are being denied rights. And partly because we have no way to accurately describe the roots of the conflict that will not make us look like 'tribalists', rather than treat these incidents as what they are when they occur, the consensus that describes them as an internal affair which the Nigerian 'nation' will find a solution to is allowed to dictate events.
And when Berom soldiers kill Ijaw, we are told that what happened was merely a matter of the Nigerian 'national' army upholding its legal responsibility to eradicate 'rebellion'/'militancy'/'terrorism' ....etc. etc.
In all parts of Africa, armed men in uniforms believe themselves justified as they commit atrocities. Yet in most instances, the indiscriminate brutalities that they permit themselves would never occur if the arena was their home-ground. In other words, in most instances, what is recognised as state-sponsored barbarism on mass scales are the works of men who are in the midst of crowds that they feel no fellowship with.
But they get away with it because the murderers and their victims are members of the same faux-nation. Therefore, what would be described in another part of the world as an unprovoked act of aggression by one nation against another is allowed to occur on a daily basis in Africa - simply because perpetrator and victim belong to the same faux-nation.
Fro sure there would be an uproar if Germans went into a French town, leveled the place and killed most inhabitants, yet in Nigeria, ones can arm up, go into towns and villages where they are foreigners, do the same thing and, get away with it. Because victims and perpetrators are all called 'Nigerians'.
The point I am making here is that rather than protect Africans and act as facilitators for collective advancement, the artificial countries manufactured by European imperialists have actually served the purpose of corralling Africans into killing grounds where nation can turn against nation until one gets the upper hand. After which, whatever follows is simply described as an aspect of governance within a 'sovereign nation'.
Sometime in the future, the similarity between what we allow to be done to us and, what is done to creatures captured in their natural habitat and placed in zoo cages (where they slowly go mad) will be recognised as fact.
AWARENESS WITHIN THE BUBBLE
Yoruba say: "Eni jin si koto n'ko ara eyin lo'gbon ni." - "One who falls into a pit serves as an example for those coming behind."
Hunters vary the locations of their traps because they know that animals sense where another animal was killed and avoid those places. We humans believe that we are smarter than animals and this is why it is considered insulting to be told that one is dafter than (or as daft as) some animal.
Obafemi Awolowo sacrificed what would have been a great career as leader of the Western Region because he wanted to serve Nigeria. Later on, in their quests to go down in history as 'great Nigerians', Olusegun Obasanjo and MKO Abiola, conspicuously subordinated the interests of their own Yoruba nation to the interests of ones whose ultimate aim was/is to establish hegemony over Yoruba.
Which is why when tales of the misadventures that each called a political career is told by historians (who have no reason to poison their accounts with flattery), the tales told will be ones of ignominy.
Again: "Eni jin si koto n'ko ara eyin lo'gbon ni." - "One who falls into a pit serves as an example for those coming behind."
In the Ijakadi we all fondly know as Nigeria, Yoruba will never have to look far for opponents. Even if the current geopolitical dispensation changes, because there is no natural border between us and our nearest neighbours, mechanisms that will enable us to co-exist peaceably in an atmosphere of mutual respect are necessary. But even then...even if we were somehow able to devise an environment in which symbiotically beneficial relationships could flourish between ourselves and our immediate neighbours, the same geographical facts that make it essential for us to maintain equilibrium in our interactions with these neighbours will also demand that they be at peace with their neighbours. Which would be a matter of interest to us because, a neighbour who is engaged in conflicts is more likely to be a troublesome neighbour than one who is not.
A question may now arise in the mind of one reading the above: If it is true that we need to be at peace with our neighbours, isn't a set-up like the one we have at present - where we and our neighbours already belong to the same country - not as good a mechanism as any for the building of this mutually beneficial co-existence?
The answer to this question is No. And it is so for several reasons: first of which is that the borders that were put in place when present-day African countries were manufactured do not actually unite, they divide.
Not only are peoples like Yoruba, Ewe, Hausa, Fulani, etc. cut off from their kin by these borders, the principle of sovereignty that makes the borders of these worthless African countries inviolable also make it possible for countries that have nations straddling their borders with neighbours to serve as bases for the destabilisation of those neighbours.
Which is why Kanuri 'jihadists' from Cameroon or Chad can cross the border into Nigeria, cause havoc and return (across the border) to the safety of sovereign countries whose populations are more likely to be sympathetic to them than to the Nigeria military (who in any case will most likely be made up of ones that are seen as foreigners).
This is very similar to what happened when armed groups moved between the borders of Sierra Leone and Liberia or, between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
WHEN THE BUBBLE BURSTS
There comes a time when all the rubbish that one has been immersed in since birth is sloughed off. This happened to me and what I found to be a notable side-effect of the occurrence was the realisation that while my legal/official self is classified as Nigerian, in my heart, I am not a 'Nigerian'. I am what I am at the core of my being and while I am several things, none of the identities rooted at my core can be described as 'Nigerian'. This is because after detailed and scrupulously honest sessions of self-examination, I acknowledged the truth: 'Nigerian' is meaningless: It is meaningless because it has no substance. Like a hermit crab whose behaviour has been modified to enhance its acquisitiveness, 'Nigerian' forces itself into the carapaces of other more substantial beings. 'Nigerian' takes up what is Yoruba and calls it 'Nigerian'. It takes up what is Nupe and calls it 'Nigerian'. 'Nigerian', which is nothing, claims to be everything. So, what I really mean when I describe myself as a 'Nigerian' is that I am Yoruba.
In short, the identity 'Nigerian' is an alias because, at my core, I am no more 'Nigerian' than I am Norwegian.
With regards to the other nations with which my collective shares the identity 'Nigerian', the truth is that I feel no greater fellowship for the Hausa of Northern Nigeria than I do for the Mende of Sierra Leone. Nor do I have greater regard for the Igbo of South-East Nigeria than I do for the Baule of Cameroon. In other words, I do not feel the existence of any special bond aside from the one that links us as fellow Africans. This is the only cord that binds us together. Yet, I cannot relate to them on those terms. I must instead relate to my fellow Africans either as fellow 'Nigerians' - i.e. as co-owners of an alias with no reputable provenance/history, or as Beninois,Togolese, etc. - also all aliases that have no intrinsic meaning or value. Which is why our inability to find a common ground that will enable us to present a common front to the hostile world that we exist in is no longer a mystery to me. Like the ones who voluntarily gave up vision and the power to speak meaningful words even though they were lost in a wilderness, we stumble around blindly, colliding with each other and tripping over obstacles that are obvious to those with eyes opened - all the while hearing nothing (aside from indecipherable sounds) from others in a similar condition.