• Killings by Fulani herdsmen comes under heavy hammer
Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
The culture of a people is their identity, which always positions them for recognition and respect. Unarguably, Yoruba are rich culture and tradition. Despite modernisation, the Yoruba still maintain their rich culture and traditions to a reasonable extent.
Notwithstanding, Yoruba are losing some percentage of their culture and tradition as a result of cultural imperialism, globalisation, Western education, and demonisation of local culture and tradition.
It is not uncommon to find some Yoruba finding it awful to speak their mother tongue, including those with heavy tribal marks on their cheeks, let alone making sincere efforts to be vast in the culture and tradition.
The erosion of culture is not limited to the Yoruba alone. However, the need to address the causes of rapid erosion of cultural values and the imperativeness of using the gains to advance the cause of sound education in Yoruba land, Nigeria, and Africa at large were the focal points of a recent international conference, entitled: “African Knowledges and Alternative Futures. “ it was organised to honour a professor of African History at the University of Texas, Austin, United States of America, Toyin Falola.
The event, chaired by Prof Jide Owoeye, Proprietor, Lead City University, Ibadan, was attended by scholars from different parts of Nigeria and other countries, including the President, Historical Society of Nigeria, Prof Chris Ogbogbo and Gloria Emeagwali, a professor of History and African Studies at Central Connectticut State University, United States of America, who delivered keynote addresses.
Also in attendance were Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola; Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III; Orangun of Oke-Ila, Oba Adedokun Abolarin; former Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Prof Tam David-West; President-General, Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes (CCII), Chief Yemi Soladoye; former Ambassador of Nigeria to the United States, Ambassador Olu Saanu, and people from different parts of Nigeria and other countries.
Vice Chancellor, University of Ibadan, Prof Idowu Olayinka, was represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Administration, Prof Emilolorun Aiyelari. The conference held at the Conference Centre, UI, was put together by over 30 universities.
According to Falola: “The idea was to do a major conference on contemporary Africa and the future of Africa. But in doing it, we did the conference around my scholarship and my contributions to the country. It’s an intellectual feast, comprising the presentation of close to 400 papers, two keynote addresses, and major speech by Aregbesola, and another speech by the Alaafin on Culture and Future of Africa.
“The conference comprised close to 90 per cent of the contemporary generation of university teachers. Young men and brilliant women in their 20s dominated the conference. We call that intellectual empowerment and the ideas from this conference, too many of them will get to the classrooms.
“These ideas include those on politics, development, youth empowerment, and role of women. As these ideas get to the classrooms, they get further circulated and there are also policy dimension aspects in which people are talking about development, issues about political restructuring, current issue on Fulani herdsmen, farmers and conflicts and how to resolve some of them. It has various components.
“What people tend to forget is how conferences like this is also developed in local economies. If you bring 400 people to a place, they are spending money, they’ve rented hotels, they are going to eat and drink, they are going to socialise, so from this conference alone, close to N10million will get to the Ibadan and the University of Ibadan. That is how we have to always evaluate these costs.”
Oba Adeyemi noted that the Yoruba had succeeded in designing a model of administration, which allowed Oyo Yoruba cultural hegemony to provide the sinews of political ascendancy over a considerable extensive area of land:
“The success of the Oyo Yoruba political thought in building enduring states was predicated on the ability of the Yoruba culture to be hegemonic and at the same time benevolent. I have employed my brain, resources and brawn in the search for knowledge in order to know how best to advance and enhance cause of humanity, especially in Yorubaland.
“Let me use this auspicious occasion to re-affirm my faith in the capacity of the Yoruba culture to solve essentially existential problems and advance the cause of human civilisation.
“I, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, Alaafin of Oyo, consistent with my philosophy, solemnly pledge my commitment to advancements in knowledge production, acquisition and utilisation, among the Yoruba at home and in the Diaspora. The Falola Foundation and indeed all institutions committed to using Yoruba cultural and intellectual traditions to promote scholarship could count on my unflinching support in extending the frontiers of knowledge in Yoruba studies.
“Let us jointly rebuild the broken walls of education in Yorubaland as reflected in Nigeria’s colonial mentality, anachronistic regulations and guideline, ill-conceived policies and poor educational governance architecture.
“The Nigerian case calls for the intellectual input of the Yoruba to re-define the nature and pattern of relationship among the diverse and seemingly disparate ethnic groups or nations in Nigeria.
“Scholars should lead other stakeholders and segments of society to provide intellectual response to restructuring the Nigerian federation. The African academia and intelligentsia should not concede leadership in this enterprise to indolent politicians and self-appointed opinion leaders whose stock in trade is soapbox grandstanding and parliamentary rhetoric.
“Our claim to being educated will only be meaningful, if we acquire knowledge, internalise its values and appropriate wisdom therefrom for finding solutions to the twin problems of underdevelopment and state collapse.”
Aregbesola, in his address, dwelled so much on politics. He condemned killings by herdsmen as “veritable threat to security of life and property. It is condemnable and it is hereby condemned very strongly. The taking of human lives, especially of unarmed innocent people, who are not in any state of war, is unjustifiable, cruel and should not be tolerated in any civilised society.
“As a people, we need to tread carefully here on the killings by the herdsmen across the country. As bad and reprehensible as they are, they are not as deadly as the Nigerian Civil War we fought between 1967 and 1970.
“So, I condemn the herdsmen atrocities. We must go beyond that to situate what will be our reaction and response as a people and a nation. However, I am joining other well-meaning people in calling on the security agencies to bring an end to the wittiness of this act.
“The cardinal duty of the government is the protection of lives and properties. Every life is sacred and the government should keep it so. Those who are engaged in this barbarous act should be hunted to the end of the earth, apprehended, tried and serve the full deed of the law. That should be our demand.
“We should demand the apprehension of the criminals, who torment the compatriots, and adequate judicial action should be taken against them. That is the only way we can tell Nigerians that their safety is guaranteed by the law and the government.
“Peace must be promoted throughout the country. This calls for all of us to be more reflective on issues and not just act as if it does not matter. What we see in Syria, Yemen, what we are seeing in Sierra-Leone, and what we are seeing in Nigeria, makes it clear to us that peace is the only way to progress.
“However, in the interest of the black people of the world, Nigeria must not just exist. In the interest of the black race, Nigeria must not just exist but it must be strong and must be able to lead the continent to achieve its manifest, historic destiny, that is why we must be careful in responding to some of these actions.”
Oyo State Governor Abiola Ajimobi, represented by Alhaji Olalekan Alli, Secretary to the State Government (SSG), said his administration believed in knowledge-driven government and governance as upheld by Falola, who is the Chairman, Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker in the Humanities at the University of Texas, USA.
Orangun of Oke-Ila, Oba Adedokun Abolarin, said the essence of education was to serve others in achieving intellectual development:
Dean of the Faculty of Arts, U.I, Prof Ademola Dasylva, noted that Falola has made unparalleled contributions to knowledge production in Africa.
Emeagwali extolled the virtue of Falola in the great contributions he made to advance knowledge in Africa, tracing the history of the glorious past of Africa, how the continent got to a sorry situation and why a glorious future should be the target of all and sundry for Africa.
Ogbogbo stated that hard work, sincerity, selflessness, and patriotism are some of the qualities Africans must have in the context of African knowledge and alternative futures, adding that political will is also important in achieving greatness for the continent.
Highlights of the conference included public presentation of Falola’s latest 1,044-page book: “The Toyin Falola Reader,” donated free by the author to conference participants.
The three-day conference was rounded off with the award of honorary doctorate degree on Falola by the Vice-Chancellor, Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, Prof Ganiyu Olatunde. He said in a letter to Falola: “Your profundity in academics is rare and valuable. We at Olabisi Onabanjo University are very proud of your outstanding achievements, which have endeared you to people.”
According to the Senate and Council of OOU, the award was in recognition of Falola’s contributions to scholarship, his globally preeminent stature, his unparalleled mentoring of thousands of scholars, and his generosity. In arriving at the decision, the university noted that it recognised his “indelible contributions to the International Students of Africa, teaching excellence and valuable writings on the transformation of Nigeria.”
Falola’s views on the controversial cattle colony being proposed by the Federal Government: “It’s a very dumb idea and I think they are not going to do that because you can’t go to other people’s lands and say ‘I will turn you to a colony,’ for some people that are not from there to be staying there.
“Rather than do that, here is my recommendation. They can ask the Southern states with the land, they can plead with the farmers with incentives to plant grass and you who is interested in trucks can create a transport industry to move hays, grass to the North. That’s a win-win situation in which the Southern farmers benefit and the Northerners keep their cattle there. Everybody benefits.
“But there’s no power in the world that will say I will create a colony for other people to be living on your land. Traditionally, lands in Nigeria are part of identity. They are part of how people develop themselves.
“I cannot just go to the people in Kogi State and say I’m giving your land to the Fulani. I can’t go to Ogbomoso and the governor will say people of Ogbomoso, give your land to other people. That is a recipe for disaster.
“There’s a second thing, which they have to do immediately, disarming people with AK47. The government has the power to disarm them, the police and the army can disarm them. That has to be done fundamentally and with enforcement of strict regulations.
“You and I can’t be carrying guns on the street. Why are these small boys allowed to carry guns on farms and they have not been arrested? It just has to be done.
“And there’s what we call the nuclear option in politics, which means that if everything has been tried and it doesn’t work, this nuclear option, you can control them but citizens can also engage in their own nuclear option.
“If the government doesn’t take control, people in Benue State, are going to buy AK47 themselves and they will turn themselves into militia and protect themselves. We may get into a state of anarchy.
“If I’m a Tiv or Igala, what am I going to do? Am I going to allow them to be killing my people? So, instead of going into that state of anarchy, in which those people will be harming themselves, the government should disarm everybody.
“And an ultimate nuclear option, we call it the boycott option. In three months, if the people in the south refuse to eat beef don’t buy suya, the businesses of the Fulani will collapse.”
The event was to honour Falola on his 65th birthday on January 1, 2018.