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Fusion in the land of the meeting Rivers

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Recently, this column floated the idea of cultural infusion in the country.

The idea was suggested that unless one culture becomes one with another, the menace of marginalisation would continue to persist in the country. It was suggested that the Arewa should become part of Egbe Omo Oduduwa while the Ohaneze establish their headquarters in Sokoto.

The Nigerian Bar Association must become United with the Nigerian Union of Teachers while the Nigerian Medical Association moved in with the Association of Nigerian Authors.

And so on and so forth. In this way and manner whoever was looking for Ohaneze could ask the Sultan of Sokoto while the Alaafin of Oyo would know the movements and whereabouts of Jamiatu muteness Arewa!

And as if the politicians were buying into this great fusion mission, it was announced that some political figures would go in search of hand shakes across the Niger and the Benue.

These political persons made up of former governors, former senators, former former people in positions of power and eminence would walk on the Niger Bridge with their hands stretched out seeking the hand shakes across the Niger and the Benue.

From the other side former former people too will meet them seeking hand shakes. From the possible directions of cameras – from above the bridge and from below the bridge, from the left of the bridge and the right of the bridge, from the front of the bridge and the rear of the bridge – this historical moment would be recorded in the land of the meeting rivers!

This land is about meeting. It is about fusion. It is the mission and vision of the countries. The rivers started it. The cultures are following, meeting and fusing, joining, blending, becoming one entity, solid and unbreakable.

Hardly had the hands shaking one another across the Niger and the Benue returned to their pockets than something else blew out, like thunderbolt, from the south-western region of the country.

That it happened on April First deceived some people and it took such people a few minutes before they caught on to the historic blast that was happening in the land of the meeting rivers.

A Yoruba Oba, a Kabiyesi, Oba Alade, offered to give up the title of Oba and become Emir and Waziri. It was indeed a moment to savour.

Nothing such as this has happened in over a thousand years since Oduduwa gave each of his sixteen sons a silver staff and a beaded crown and bid them take over what would become Yoruba land. Except of course there was a problem.

The new Emir of his town and Waziri of Yoruba empire claimed that his town is the abode of alufas and imams. So, his new titles should resonate with these arabized peoples.

The problem was to do with meanings and hierarchies. ‘Emir’ is a form of ‘amir’ meaning a military commander. One of the praise names of the Caliph was commander of the faithful – amir al-mu’minin – and the emirs ended up being commanders in the army of the jihadists. Imagine the king stepping down to take the title of one of his soldiers!

As if that was not humiliating enough, the new Emir added ‘Waziri’ -Minister – to his title as Minister of Yoruba land. Like President Buhari giving up the presidency to become a minister under himself. Or a governor rejecting the title of executive governor to take on the title of commissioner under his rule.

Before looking at the response of the Yoruba articulates to this title swop, let’s look at the fusion possibilities of this title dropping. We would welcome the Ooni of Onitsha to the next meeting of Arewa.

The Sultan of Abeokuta would grace the gathering of the Ohaneze. And Obi of Kano would open the exhibition of Yoruba bath drums in far away Bauchi. Wallahi Tallahi the land of the meeting rivers would be truly blessed.

But people who see but do not understand would have nothing to do with this fusion. First, they abused the Oba and called him unprintable names in a Yoruba ewi – rap – that immediately went viral in Yorubaland in Africa and in the diaspora.

He was accused of not knowing the worth of his beaded crown. And, worse of all, he was accused of wanting something from the traditional rulers of the northern half of the land of the meeting rivers.

What could that Oba want that he does not have. He has youth. He has handsome, nobody can give that to anyone. And he has sazziness and flamboyance, stylishness and of course money.

So, he was not looking for anything from anybody. He was simply looking at the possibilities of fusion and blending in Nigeria. He was looking at the tired phrase ‘unity in diversity’ and wanted to turn it to ‘diversity becoming unified’.

Everybody howls everyday praying for unity of this country. They pray in all living languages and even in tongues, crying out for unity.

The darwishes spin in eternal cycles dancing for unity for Nigeria. Not only those who seek that unity do not specific to create it. But also they do not recognise the work of unity when it happens.

The Yoruba newspapers were the loudest in their condemnation of the Oba’s gesture. They could not believe that anyone, least of a reigning Oba could abandon our much loved Yoruba institution for a mere emirship from the north.

And who was making him a Waziri of Yoruba empire? Was he crowning himself, or rather turbanning himself? To whom would he answer in his new ministry?

There is a veritable dilemma in a multi ethnic, multi cultural and multi lingual society like ours seeking unity. Unless we seek unity of purpose under a constitutional citizenship we waste our time. This is because we would always be unable to do the needful.

Imagine each of the more than two hundred and fifty languages and ethnicities has a pot of culture from which we pour some into the big pot of Nigeria. From each culture something into Nigeria.

Thereafter do we destroy the pots of ethnic and linguistic cultures so that the Nigerian pot will strive?

The needful is to contribute to Nigeria. Must the cultures die for the one culture to survive? The Amayanabo of Gusau, the Deji of Daura and the Sultan of Onitsha tell us what you think!

bankole.omotoso@elizadeuniversity.edu.ng


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