When the progenitor of the Yoruba race speaks, it is like the oracles have spoken; it is compared to the voice of a deity. Not just any deity, but a deity that has the last say. The typical decider! Who else could this description fit if not the first among equals of all Yoruba obas, the one and only Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II.
The oba, who is reputed as the custodian of the Yoruba culture, was at his best recently when he reviewed the potency of the black man’s culture, using the Yoruba tradition and the events leading to the origin of Lagos as a bedrock. In his analysis, the Oba noted that what many refer to as idol worship in the black man’s way of life is far from the truth, stressing that ‘we are not idol worshippers’. He said:
“We are all messengers of the Almighty Olodumare, the creator of heavens and earth. We are his servants; we are his angels, a part of his own who are being set out for different assignments. As we have the structure and the throne on earth, so do we have in heaven.”
The oba said that the people’s culture is alive and remains alive so long as people remain
“Our culture is something that gives up an edge that must be upheld, that must be kept, and consciously followed, and the same message must be passed to the next generation,” he said stressing that the its passage to the next generation is the only thing that keeps it alive.
While eulogizing the efforts of the forebears in the creation of Lagos, the Ojaja II noted that everyone in Lagos is there because of the ancestors, who gave their all to bring to past the city called Lagos.
“All of us in Lagos are here because of our ancestors. The foundation has been laid for all of us to come together in one peace and in one accord, and for all of us to benefit from the celebration of one of the greatest cities in the world. Eko a gbe gbogbo wa o (Lagos will be good to all of us). Ilu Eko a Gbe WA s’owo, a Gbe WA s’ola, a Gbe wa si alafia (the city of Lagos will bring to us money, wealth and good health).”
The Oba harped on truth as the bedrock of the ancestor’s existence, which must reciprocated by the people who live in the city where it was founded on.
“Our ancestors founded Lagos on truth, togetherness, peaceful co-existence, and that is why till today Lagos is the most accommodating city in the whole of this country. Ilu Eko, ilu to gbo yin wa. Ilu Eko o n moyin wole, lati iwo orun. Egbo rin WA, egbo rin wole lati ILA oorun. Egbo rin wole lati ariwa, egbo rin wole lati gusu. Ire a wole gbogbo wa oo. Olodumare a gbon ire wole gbogbo wa oo. Bi awon asiwaju se adura lati KO WA Ayo wo ilu Eko, Olodumare a tun Bo ma ko ire wo ile gbogbo wa oo.”
He added that Lagos is one of the biggest colonies in the world, because it has very ‘strong link to our culture, a very strong link to our tradition, and a very strong lead to our heritage’.
Like the biblical coin with Caesar’s image, the Oba agreed that honour should be given to whom it is due.
“I just gave honour to our ancestors; they came to this world to lay the solid foundation for us which we are all enjoying. It shouldn’t be forgotten because it is through the landmark of tradition and culture that we got all the inventions that we are all using today, including the act of cloth making. Ani rin ihoho oo. Omo araye oni ri idi gbogbo wa oo.
The Oba emphasized that many of the ancestors established great emerging technologies, and so they must not be forgotten. He added that the only way to remember and honour them is to sustain their way of life, which is culture.
He eulogised Olofin Ogunfunminire, the Prince of Ife, offspring of Olofin Ajalaye, Olofin Oodua, reputed to have founded Lagos, while challenging the leaders of the great city to follow the doggedness of the founder because the city is destined to be the greatest city in the world. He revealed that his words are not his, but ‘it is message that all our ancestors put together, and bestowed on me’.
Without knowing where to go, he braced up with the ‘ipese’, also known as ‘ase’, which the forebears call ‘ebo’, and which today is referred to as ‘onje’.
He narrated that when Olofin, his wife and entourage got a place, the ‘ipese’ gave them a good sign, ‘ipese ori, ipese ri, ase ori, ise ori.’ Today, that is what has become ‘iseri olofin, iseri.’ ‘iseri olofin’.
He revealed that the invention of glass technology started with the group, and the western world developed it.
“These are landmarks of our traditions, these are landmarks of our culture, these are landmarks of our heritage that must not be forgotten.”
He also elaborated on certain landmarks like the popular Iddo and Ojuelegba, stressing that the ancestors placed serious emphasis in establishing Lagos through those routes.
“Who is here that doesn’t know ‘Iddo? ‘Won te do, won gba Ondo wole’, and Lagos started becoming bigger and bigger. That is the landmark we should be celebrating. Another great landmark in Lagos, is ‘Ojuelegba’. Who doesn’t know ‘Ojuelegba’ here? Our ancestors placed a very important deity there. ‘Ojuelegba’ is very symbolic, very sacred for Lagos, and there is no descendant of ‘Olofin’ in Lagos that doesn’t celebrate ‘Odun Elegba’. Lagos is still the centre of commerce. Nobody can take away that from Lagos. It’s very rare, for you to be very successful in Nigeria without passing through Lagos, in one way or another.”
The Oba’s reasoning lies in the fact that like Lagos, other areas of Nigeria have various landmarks which specific ancestors have set up to grow the cities, stressing that such should be tapped into, and not neglected.
“It is not only Lagos that has wealth, other states do, and it’s been there from time memorial. Why is Lagos special? There is so much explanation to it. Some people would say our colonial master came through Lagos; They came through other places too, but the prayers of our founding fathers, our ancestors is what is keeping Lagos alive till today. ‘Eko Oni Baje oo’.”
`He harped passionately on the role of culture, tourism and heritage, saying, it is part of everyone’s day to day activity, and should not be discarded. He charged the Minister and commissioners of Culture to harness culture as it is the easiest and the greatest access to foster development, eradicate poverty and further emancipate the less privileged.
“Today, culture and tradition should be placed very high; culture and tradition should be well taken care of, and generation yet unborn should know how we started our journey got far. Let us therefore, take our culture, our tradition very important,” the Ooni said.
The Ooni rounded off with a passionate appeal to everyone to make culture preservation and heritage celebration a priority, saying that ‘we are not idol worshippers’. He thanked God for his encounter with Lagos, saying the foundation Olofin and his group laid gave him the impetus to become the Ooni of Ife today.
‘la gbara Olorun, aye a ye gbogbo wa oo. A ni rin ni jo ti ebi n pona. Gbogbo wa la ma ri tiwa se leko ooo.’ Afi n ju ido, lon je oruko meji, Eko, Lagos. Ilu Eko oni baje oo. E je ki gbogbo wa parapo, ka penupo, ilu toni asa ni, ilu awon baba nla baba wa ni, awon asiwaju wa lo te ilu-eko do. Won se adura, adura yii ni afani ti gbogbo n je.”
“That is my story for today. That is the story of our tradition. That is the story of our heritage. Please do not let our culture and heritage die. May God bless us,” the highly religious Ooni concluded