Taking Yoruba cultural renaissance abroad
DURING her days in NTA, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, who was then attached to the office of the First Lady, the late Stella Obasanjo, as a reporter for the national television station, in one of her trips to London, took time to visit Nigerians in the city.
Her report, when she came back was a shocking revelation of how deep European culture had eaten deep into the fabric of Nigerians.
In the report, Dabiri, as she was then known, assembled Nigerian teenagers from different tribes and communicated with them in their local languages.
She spoke to Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba in their different languages. While the Hausa and Igbo responded with remarkable fluency, the Yoruba teenager could not. Instead, he spoke in English language.
When asked to give reasons for his inability to speak Yoruba, he retorted “My mother said I should not speak Yoruba because it is a dirty language.”
If this happened more than a decade ago, one can then imagine what obtains now over there. Children no longer want to be identified with their mother tongue; traditional attire is no longer fashionable to them; even local delicacies are poison to them here in Nigeria.
But a group of sons and daughters of the Yoruba race has taken up the gauntlet to reverse this ugly trend by taking the battle to Europe and America. Recently, this group converged on Istanbul, the capital city of Turkey for a cultural summit put together by Oodua Progressive Union (OPU), a brainchild of the National Coordinator, Gani Adams.
Indeed, the attendance was impressive. From the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Italy, Ireland, Austria, and other parts of Europe, they came in their hundreds to the largest city in Turkey.
The train did not stop in Turkey, but it later moved to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. There were lectures, seminars, general meetings for all the OPU coordinators in Europe and “inter-continental networking for cultural-tourism development.”
The event, which was packaged by OPU members in Europe, also featured birthday balls in celebration of the OPU President, Adams. But besides the wining and dining, key decisions on the growth of the union, the development of the Yoruba race and how to attract quality tourism to Nigeria also formed the fulcrum of discuss at the summit.
In his welcome address, the OPU coordinator in Turkey,Ola Abiodun, said members of the union in Turkey were happy to host the first edition of a summit on the Yoruba cultural identity in Europe.
He said OPU members in Turkey were delighted that Adams was in the country for the celebration of his birthday. Abiodun lauded Adams for championing the cause of the Yoruba in Diaspora, and encouraged those who might have forgotten their roots to retrace their steps, re-embrace their values and teach their children the intrinsic norms and identities of the Yoruba race.
The OPU coordinator in Europe, Banji Ojo, said the occasion provided an opportunity to further promote the Yoruba cause in Istanbul and Dubai. He said the gospel of re-enhancement, rejuvenation and resuscitation of cultural-tourism among the Yoruba in the Diaspora, being preached by Adams would be taken more seriously after the event.
“We are happy that we are not here to eat, dance and make merry alone, but to learn more about our culture and what to do with it in our different locations when we meet for interactions,” he stated.
Adams, who is also the Founder and Chief Promoter of Olokun Festival Foundation, while speaking on the topic: ‘Cultural-Tourism Values: Tools for International Cooperation and Understanding’ said the decision to establish OPU was borne out of the need to sustain the Yoruba identity, describing the union as a socio-cultural organisation that was different from a self-determination group.
He enjoined Nigerians living in Turkey to be proud of the cultural tourism assets of their fatherland. He said Yoruba people in the Diaspora should have a sense of belonging and identify with their roots at all times. “You need to come back home and invest. You do not know when you will want to seek elective positions back home.
You need to know your people at home. It is pertinent for you to contribute to the development of Nigeria. Let it not be that it is when you need to seek elective positions that you will run back home and start running helter-skelter. Let your people know you. Things are not as bad as you read out here.
Things are moving fast and getting better in Nigeria. “I see this gathering as another unique opportunity to spread the gospel of Yoruba cultural tourism to a wider audience in a socially venerated environment devoid of political posturing and economic tension.”
he said During the general meeting of the union the following day, the coordinator of OPU in Sweden, Victor Adewale, who is also the Deputy Coordinator of the body in Europe, announced that the countries that make up Scandinavia such as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland, have approved the teaching of Yoruba Language in their schools.
The approval, he disclosed, followed the well-attended launch of the union in Sweden on November 29, 2014. The ceremony, according to him, was attended by government officials from the Scandinavian countries, who thereafter approved the teaching of Yoruba language in their schools He noted that the union also established the OPU Radio, which, he informed, had been helping to popularise the Yoruba language across the Scandinavian countries.
“We are happy to report that the Yoruba language has got the approval of the authorities for it to be taught in schools in the Scandinavian countries.
It is a major breakthrough for us in popularising our mother tongue. We look forward to doing more,” Adewale said. Some of the issues discussed at the meeting included the challenges of the union as well as its many concepts, including a housing project in Ikorodu, Lagos; the Oodua Cultural Centre in Ile-Ife, Osun State and the Oodua House in Europe.
Adams expressed happiness at the development that the union has experienced since it was established. The OPU members, he said, should operate with unity of purpose.
We are happy to report that the Yoruba language has got the approval of the authorities for it to be taught in schools in the Scandinavian countries. It is a major breakthrough for us in popularising our mother tongue. We look forward to doing more.
“We are building the OPU for the promotion of Yoruba culture, customs, values and tourism. We will soon expand strongly in America,” he promised. According to him, OPU had been launched in 56 countries with a view to protecting the image of Nigeria.
He tasked the OPU leaders to ensure that chapters of the union were set up in at least 25 of the 28 countries in Europe, adding that the leaders should liaise with the embassies or the missions of Nigeria in all the countries where they are based for assistance.
Among those at the event were the Zaki of Arigidi Akoko, Oba Yisa Olanipekun; Chief Executive Officer/ President, Infogem and Consultant to the Osun Osogbo Festival, Ayo Olumoko, Publisher of Freedom Online who delivered the summit lecture, entitled, ‘Leadership and the Nigerian Challenge’; Gabriel Akinnadewo, CEO, Eagles Online, Dotun Oladipupo, Publisher, Metro News Online, Femi Davies, former Special Adviser to Former Governor Gbenga Daniel, Raheem Ajayi Baglo, Seun Oloketuyi of Best of Nollywood Awards and members of National Coordinating Council, Oodua People’s Congress, among others.
Olumoko described Adams as “one of the very few Nigerians who are blessed with uncommon insight to things which ordinary men are not privileged to have.
I became close to him when I realised that he is honest, dogged and always in support of the truth. I wish him long life and prosperity.”
Oba Olanipekun said: “Adams is an enigmatic personality who does not only love the Yoruba race, but has been doing and using all within his private capacity at promoting the cultural-tourism values and heritage of Yoruba race.
Akinadewo enjoined OPU members to develop leadership capacity in order to run a truly strong organisation. He described Adams as a man of vision, who knows “where he is heading to and is consistently going about it diligently without permitting distractive tendencies to take him off the track.”
A Nigerian resident in Istanbul, Sani Olajide, said, “I left Nigeria so long ago. I have not had the opportunity to interact like this and learn more about my culture as I have done here today.
This is great. When I listened and saw the way we danced to Obesere’s songs, I was home sick and I am sure I will be home before August,” Akogun Ojo emerged the OPU coordinator in Europe, while Victor Adewale became his deputy. Femi Emmanuel also emerged OPU coordinator for Sweden.