By Clifford Ndujihe, Deputy Political Editor
MY father, who was by every measure, the most successful farmer in the village and in the Ibogun area, was a proud Yoruba man and he told me about Oduduwa, the founder of the Yoruba nation.
Papa had heard this story from his own father, Baba Alarobo, who had heard it from his father, Baba Elesin. Papa said this story had been told for hundreds of years in our family in this ‘father-to-son’ way. Although, my father never stopped teaching us Yoruba culture, proverbs and tradition, he made us also respect the language, the culture, traditions and way of life of other people living in the village.
FOR the first time since some Yoruba leaders alleged in 2007 that his biological father was not a Yoruba man, immediate past President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, has opened up on the matter.
Following comments ahead the 2007 polls, that the South-West, through Obasanjo had held power for eight years and as such should not expect power until 40 years later when the other five zones would have tasted power, some Yoruba leaders alleged that Obasanjo was biologically an Igbo man.
According to them, Obasanjo’s father was Onyekwelu from Onitsha in Anambra State and so his reign should be viewed as an Igbo reign.Unlike Obasanjo, he did not react to the allegation.
However, he has done so in an unusual manner via a book on him entitled: Baba’s Story: Nigeria is 50,” authored by a Ghanaian, Abyna-Ansaa Adjei. The book was presented, yesterday, in Lagos.
Political history of Nigeria
Obasanjo, in the 207-paragraph book, traced his ancestry and the political history of Nigeria.
Speaking on his childhood, and growing up days, he said on page nine of the book: “I was born in a village called Ibogun-Olaogun in what was then Abeokuta Province and which is today part of Ifo Local Government Area in Ogun State.
This village is only 30 kilometres from Abeokuta. As a child, I lived in Ibogun-Olaogun with my parents and my younger sister, Oluwola. Our childhood was a simple one spent in a typical Nigerian farming settlement. Our village had less than 50 huts built with mud walls and mostly thatched roofs and the only jobs at the time were farming or petty trading in farm products.
“By age five, I had started going to the farm with Papa and that was when he began to teach me about the history, culture and traditions of my ancestors and our land. Our village, though small, was composed of other ethnic groups such as Itsekiri, Urhobo, Igbira, Hausa, Igbo and Ijaw who were also either petty traders or farm hands. My father, who was by every measure, the most successful farmer in the village and in the Ibogun area, was a proud Yoruba man and he told me about Oduduwa, the founder of the Yoruba nation.
“Papa had heard this story from his own father, Baba Alarobo, who had heard it from his father, Baba Elesin. Papa said this story had been told for hundreds of years in our family in this ‘father-to-son’ way. Although, my father never stopped teaching us Yoruba culture, proverbs and tradition, he made us also respect the language, the culture, traditions and way of life of other people living in the village.”
With these words, Obasanjo has replied his opponents.
Also quoting from the book Obasanjo also said: “Let me tell you more of what I learned about the Yoruba history. Oduduwa was the eldest son of King Lamurudu of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Mecca is the centre of the Islamic world. Oduduwa worshipped idols instead of practising Islam.
The elders of Mecca were very unhappy about this. There was a fight and King Lamurudu was killed and so Oduduwa and his men had to leave Mecca, making their way west.
“For ninety days and nights they travelled looking for a new settlement. They finally stopped somewhere, in what is present-day Nigeria, and built a town called Ile- Ife.
“My cousin, Taiwo, told me another story about the Yorubas that his grandpa, my Great Uncle Adebayo, had shared with him. This story regarded Oduduwa as son of Olodumare, the Yoruba creator-god. Olodumare had sent Oduduwa to earth to create dry land over the water and, by so doing, founded Ile-Ife. It is, therefore, no surprise that many Yorubas regard Ife as the centre of creation and the cradle of civilization.
“Oduduwa’s eldest son was called Okanbi. Okanbi had seven children who became the pillars of the Yoruba nation. Okanbi’s third child became King of Benin. When Okanbi died, his older children got the lion’s share of what their father left. Cattle, wives, money, royal beads and the crown were quickly shared. His youngest son, Oranyan, was given only bare land.
“However, Oranyan soon became the richest amongst his siblings. This happened because to get any land to build or farm, the older siblings had to part with their ‘riches’ of animals, servants, money or royal beads. Oranyan then founded Oyo and became its first King. Today, if you visit Ile-Ife, there is a stone pillar marking where this great son of Yoruba is buried. This pillar is called the staff of Oranyan.
Other ethnic groups
“My father made sure he taught me about other ethnic groups in Nigeria. My childhood friend, Adamu, with whom I played all my childhood pranks, was Hausa. His grandfather, Papa Buba, had moved from a place in the North called Kebbi to settle in our village, long before I was born.
Oduduwa is to the Yoruba what Bayajida is to the Hausa and Daura in Katsina State is their origin. Chukwu was my other childhood friend in the village. He was an Igbo, the son of Papa Nkechi. Papa Nkechi was a palmwine tapper in addition to being a farmer.
“The Igbo people make up one of the largest ethnic groups in Nigeria. My father told me the story of how the Igbos came to settle in Igboland. The divine King, Eri, is said to be the godfather of the Igbo civilization. He was sent down to earth by God who, in the Igbo language, is called Chukwu.
When he got to earth, it was watery and swampy. There was no dry place to set his feet, so Eri told Chukwu he had had a very rough landing and, as such, had settled on top of an anthill. Chukwu sent a blacksmith armed with fire and charcoal to dry the earth. Eri then settled in the middle of Anambra valley.