By Ola Ajayi
Echoes of the Kiriji war between Ibadan and Ekiti Parapos, which ended on September 23, 1886 resonated again, last week, as prominent sons and daughters of Yorubaland including traditional rulers gathered at the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan, to review what led to the war and the lessons the South West geopolitical zone should learn from it.
The centenary anniversary with the theme: “Celebrating Yoruba in the past, present and future”, was jointly organised by the Yoruba Academy and the Afenifere Renewal Group, ARG.
The participants used the forum to brainstorm on how the geopolitical zone can regain its lost glory and become a vibrant and united nationality, which will make it a force to reckon with in the country.
The treaty entitled: ‘The Proclamation of Peace at Kiriji-Mesan’ was signed by Henry Higgins, Oliver Smith. Among those who signed the treaty were the Alaafin of Oyo, his chiefs, Owa of Ilesa and his chiefs, Awujale of Ijebuland and his chiefs.
In attendance at the epoch-making event were representatives of Governors Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State; Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State and Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State.
Others were the Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Mr. Mudashiru Obasa; former skipper of the Green Eagles, Chief Segun Odegbami; Prof. Dawud Noibi; Mr Ayo Afolabi; movie guru, Mr Tunde Kelani; Dr Kunle Olajide; Prof. Wale Omole; former Vice Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife; and the Director General of the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN), Commission, Mr Dipo Famakinwa.
Others included the Deputy Governor of Ogun State, Chief Yetunde Onanuga; Secretary to the Oyo State Governor, Alhaji Olalekan Alli; chairman, Afenifere Renewal Group, Mr. Wale Oshun; Dr. Charles Akinola; Special Adviser to Osun State Governor, Architect Muyiwa Ige; son of the late sage, Chief Bola Ige; former member of International Court of Justice, Prince Bola Ajibola, and a host of others.
Traditional rulers at the occasion were Orangun of Ila, Oba Adedokun Abolade; Oba Ajibola Titus from Ilorin and many others. Students from various schools also attended the programme.
Everything on display at the event showed the richness of Yoruba culture.
The venue was decorated with beautiful Yoruba-made products to the extent that participants, who had never seen such things began to take their pictures.
The language had a mixture of English so as to carry people, who are non-Yoruba along in the discussion. Musicians invited to the programme performed to the loud acclaim of the audience.
Speaking on Yoruba history, Prof. Banji Akintoye reminded those in attendance how one of the ancient towns in the zone, Oyo Ile, which is in Kwara State, became extinct and urged Yoruba to do all within their power to ensure that the town which presently lies in the wilderness exists once again.
The erudite historian corrected an erroneous impression that it was the Fulani that waged war against the Yoruba and killed a very popular king then, Alaafin Oluewu. He said if the gathering knew how the former Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Oluewu was humiliated and killed with the connivance of a Yoruba leader, they would weep for the nationality.
Before he ended his speech, he underscored the need to teach the younger ones the Yoruba language and speak it saying it is an abberration to tag Yoruba language, a vernacular in our schools, expressing fear that if the current neglect of the language is not addressed, it would go into extinction in the next 100 years.
To reverse the trend, he advocated that governors in the South West should find ways of making the language a compulsory subject in the school curriculum.
The other two speakers, Professors Olutayo Adesina and Ms Bamidele Olateju, explained how the nationality stands at present and how it can become a major player in the globalised world in future.
They listed some steps that should be taken by the younger generation of Yoruba to become active players in the globalised world in the new century.
Making reference to Kiriji war which they described as the longest civil war among a nationality, they said the treaty that was signed on September 23, 1816 was hinged on fostering unity and peace among all Yoruba.
Lessons of Kiriji
According to the historians, the lessons of Kiriji were predicated on the need to work together as a single nationality with the same focus and eschewing all divisive tendencies and ensure that all Yoruba irrespective of party affiliations work together as an indivisible entity and drive development through innovation that is only possible by sound education.
Other contributors, including traditional rulers, who commended the organisers noted that there should be regular programmes like this to serve as constant reminders to all sons and daughters that nothing can be achieved if the zone does not come together under the same umbrella.
They warned that the peace treaty signed after the war should be guarded jealously adding that politics or any other thing should not be allowed to erode it.