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A Rose by any other name..

"Military positive identification, misplaced priority" — YCEBy Muyiwa Adetiba

As at today, in the year of our Lord two thousand and nineteen, I am, according to one gentleman, a lie. He claims that the identity I have, which my father and grandfather had, and which I have passed on to my children, is fake.

That the identity, the passport I have always carried with me and which I have always proudly projected myself with, is dubious. That by the name I call myself, and which I have been identified with, I am not the ‘omoluabi’ which my progenitors insisted I live by, but a slimy, two-faced, two-timing bastard that some mischievous race from the desert had labelled me.

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That the name Yoruba according to this gentleman, is a name that is derived from a more derogatory word. And so, according to him,because I live a lie, I live a cursed life as he himself does since he is of the same stock with me, as everyman who calls himself Yoruba does, even when evidence abounds to suggest the contrary.

Yoruba race is as successful as any race in Africa. It is as respected as any. If anybody is living a lie or a cursed life, it is the gentleman who believes he is cursed because ‘As you believe in your heart, so you are’ says the Holy Book.

I am reminded of the story of a woman who, in the twilight of her life, and because she had become ‘born again’ called her grown up children, who by the way, had become successful in their various vocations, that their father was not their father.

They told her in unequivocal terms, that the person who raised them up was their father and if anybody had lived a lie, she was the one; and if anybody was going to hell, she would be the one.

As for me and many, people like me, I am Yoruba, a descendant of Oduduwa and very proud of it. I believe in integrity and I live by it. I believe in the ‘omoluabi’ ethos of my ancestry and I live by it. My life and those of mine, have been blessed. So on behalf of those like me, I say fa, fa, fa, foul to any negative insinuation or prediction.

I would ordinarily have ignored this latest epiphany from this gentleman as I had ignored other ones in the past but for one single fact. The Yoruba race puts a lot of stock on names. We traditionally believe that names have an influence in how people behave (oruko lo nroeni).

Names also reflect the circumstances of birth. It seems ridiculous therefore to have someone bear ‘Enitan’ and there is no story (itan) behind her birth.

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Or Babatunde and there was no recent death in the family before his birth.Or aTokunbo whose parents have never left his village. Or aBidemi whose father was there throughout the nine months of pregnancy. So when someone wants to change the name for a whole race, he had better do his home- work well because we take names seriously. Yoruba is a name which has run through generations.

It is a name which many erudite historians and scholars who should know proudly bore and defended. It is a name with which one of the largest religions in the world is associated. More importantly, it is a name that has earned deep respect around the world and not derision as this gentleman is insinuating.

In any case, and this is germane, the name Yoruba or its variant, predated those who used it to deride its bearers. Just as we had used derogatory words to deride other races or nations in the past. I have read the submissions of some scholars on this and I am satisfied that we have nothing to be ashamed of. Besides,it has not detracted from the greatness or otherwise of the Yoruba race. Many of our fore fathers were the first in their respective professions.

This was in spite of, if not because of the name Yoruba. Of all the post –colonial leaders in Nigeria, Chief Obafemi Awolowo shined like a thousand stars. He was a Yoruba man when he built the first television station in Africa.

He was a Yoruba man when he built the National Stadium. He was a Yoruba man when he built the cocoa house, the then tallest building in Nigeria. He was a Yoruba man when he built the University of Ife. He was a Yoruba man when he initiated a free primary education in the Western Region in the non-oil days.

He was a Yoruba man when he designed and built the industrial layout in Ikeja. We could go on, but the point is made that he didn’t need to change his name to achieve what he achieved. The fault is not in our stars or our name but in us and our current leaders, especially people like the gentleman who have held public positions and have done little or nothing with them.

Now, to Oduduwa Republic. When people like this gentleman whose name I shall not mention in this article, talk about Oduduwa Republic, I wonder if the mere change in nomenclature would transform a region from a slum into an Eldorado. Or whether the change in name would repair the roads if the same politicians are still running the system.

Or create jobs for our teeming youth population. Why are the Oduduwa descendants in government not leading the pack in terms of service, probity or performance? Why are the Oduduwa States not giving their people a sample of what to expect when the Republic becomes a reality?

Maybe they are waiting for the Oduduwa Republic before they show their mettle. Maybe this gentleman would have been a better Minister when he was in government if he was Anago and not Yoruba. Maybe he would be receiving awards now and not facing EFCC.

I think the talk of a name change is an idle talk. It is diversionary and I wonder at the dust it had raised. What our fore fathers emphasized was the content of a man;his character; his industry. In other words, what he would do if nobody was watching.

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They called it ‘omoluabi’. That is what we need to work on and change for the better. The Yoruba race has what it takes to be a better nation within the Nigerian Nation. We don’t need a name change to achieve that.  A rose by any name should smell as sweet.

If any change is needed, it is in the mind -set of leadership towards governance.Awolowo used education and service to propel the old Western region. Education and service, not a name change, should be used to propel the Yoruba region.

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