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The Yorùbá as an ethnocultural identity has always been invented and reinvented as an adversarial reaction to the pressure of new collective identities. For a forceful, united, unified and purposeful identity, there must be ideals to live by that must never be broken, infringed upon or dishonoured. As of today, we have no such immutable ideal or ideals. We do not have a Yorùbá Spirit, that is inviolable!…To fashion out a unifying core, we must subject the Yorùbá as an idea to critical reflection for it to become normative. Throughout our history, the Yorùbá has been a product of conflict rather than consensus at every turn. There has been no unity in history except when confronted with Ìpónjú (adversity). To counter this adversarial response to internal crisis, we need a soul around which the Yorùbá identity can be crystallised. We need a moral dimension which is capable of articulating an identity and the recreation of our presence as a culture and nationality.

Bí ekòló bá júbà ilè, ilè á la’nu. Bí omodé bá mo’wó wè á bá àgbà jeun. Ìbà Olorun, ìbà ènìyàn. Ìbà eyín tí Elédùmarè gbé ilé ayé lé lówó, ìbà okùnrin, ìbà obìnrin, ìbà omodé, ìbà àgbà. E jé kí ó jú mií se o.

Introduction

In pre-colonial and colonial times, it was always in “Ìgbà Ìpónjú” (adversity) that we rallied around a Yorùbá identity. My task in this keynote lecture is to determine why the adversity model is not working and recommend the necessity of a transcendental Yorùbá identity that does not rely solely on the stimulus of Ìpónjú (adversity).

Who Are We?

Unknown to many, the mention of the name “Yoruba” in written tradition was first found in Ahmad Bābā’s (d. 1627) Mi’rāj al-su’ūd and in Infāq al-maysūr written by Muhammad Bello (d. 1837). These Arabic writers were the earliest to name us collectively as ‘yarba’ or ‘yaruba’ or ‘Yoruba’ as derived from the Arabic alphabet (ya-ra-ba). This was at a time when we were referring to ourselves by our diverse sub-ethnic identities such as Ife, Ekiti, Ijesa, Ibadan, Ijebu, Akoko and so on. Like other major ethnic groups in Nigeria, we considered ourselves as belonging to city-states or what is referred to as sub-ethnicities today. Each sub-ethnic group was politically independent with its own separate identities.

Yorùbá as a collective began to feel a need to identify themselves as a single ethnic nationality who understand each other’s language with minor dialectal differences after the 19th century wars against the Fulani.

The term Yorùbá originally referred only to the people of Oyo and this thought persists till today as my Àkókó people still describe Oyo traders in places like Ìkàré as that “Yorùbá blacksmith near the African maple tree as distinct from that Iwo butcher in the Oba’s market. “Bàbá Yoruba alágbède tó wà ní abé igi arère yen, yàtò sí okùnrin Ìwó alápàta”.(The story of Liadi alapata).

Yorùbá as a collective began to feel a need to identify themselves as a single ethnic nationality who understand each other’s language with minor dialectal differences after the 19th century wars against the Fulani. This war, forced many people, either into slavery or into refuge with neighbouring groups. Bishop Ajayi Crowther and Rev. Samuel Johnson who became educated in slavery, consulted with Hausa historians, who were literate in Arabic and had books written by Muslim scholars like Ahmed Baba where the name Yorùbá was mentioned. They popularised the word as a description of the whole group in books like History of the Yorubas by Rev. Samuel Johnson.

Pre-colonial Ìpónjú

Before colonialism began, the micro-national identities referred to in this lecture as sub-ethnicities in pre-colonial Yorùbá territory, engaged in invasive economic and territorial competition which eventually led to a century of civil wars. As long as these wars lasted, the truce from the various wars provided no basis nor did it create a catalyst for a pan-Yorùbá identity.

Samuel Johnson in The History of The Yorubas explains that “the nineteenth century Yorubaland was characterised by revolutionary political and economic changes. These changes stemmed from a series of constitutional and other socio-economic disruptions, initially in Oyo and later in other districts. The weakening of Oyo’s central administration after 1800, exacerbated by the spread of Islam and the expansion of legitimate trade generated rapid political changes. The most important of which was the century-long Yorùbá wars.” It is on record that Yorùbá warfare attracted substantial scholarship within Nigerian academia and outside of it. Eminent scholars like Professors Saburi Biobaku, Bolanle Awe, Adebanji Akintoye, Ade Ajayi, Toyin Falola and many more attributed the wars to attempts by various states to fill the vacuum created by the fall of Oyo. To this group, the wars were fallouts of state formation processes in Africa. However, the Anthony Hopkins Economic school linked the wars to global economic movements, especially those associated with falling revenue from trade in slaves, and later palm oil.

This state of flux within Yorùbá sub-ethnicities created the initial onset of Ìpónjú dynamics in the “age of confusion” as it was referred to, in some missionary literature.

Olatunji Ojo in his paper, “Ethnic Identity and Nineteenth-Century Yoruba Warfare”, bridged the two schools and brilliantly identified a third issue: The Identity Crisis. He wrote: “Peoples and communities occupied different strata within the social system. People were also classified based on ethnicity, class, age and even gender. Each of these identities or a combination of two or more dominated the course of the nineteenth century Yorùbá history. Therefore, whether with warfare, slavery, religious observations, and property ownership, there were issues over; who were the combatants? Who could be enslaved or not? Who could be killed at religious functions? The ways in which people identified themselves, and how others identified them were at stake in discussions about political control, religious rituals, property relation and how people fought against the status quo.”

This state of flux within Yorùbá sub-ethnicities created the initial onset of Ìpónjú dynamics in the “age of confusion” as it was referred to, in some missionary literature. J.D.Y Peel, in his book, Religious Encounter and the Making of the Yoruba, wrote that, the Yorùbás, “struggled to hold onto what they could of old identities and patterns of living. As they fled into safety or were driven into slavery, they carried the springs of social identity with them in their names, praise poems, body marks, food taboos, dialects and languages, political and religious practices.” As they settled down, they sought out others who shared or recognised these markers in their new settlements. The age of collective identity began.

These internal conflicts ravaged Yorubaland so much, it prevented no meaningful resistance against European colonial conquest. In 1861, the British established a protectorate over the port of Lagos and forced Ibadan to accept an “Ajélè” – resident administrator in 1893. Thus, colonialism began a process of subsuming ethnic identities under national identities which eventually would integrate Yorubaland into the geographic area that was carved to become Nigeria. This marked the onset of sporadic mega-Ìpónjú in Yoruba polity. Wíwá sínú orílè-èdè Nàíjíríà fa kíkó eran mérò.

Post-colonial Ìpónjú Dynamics

Starting with the establishment of Egbé Omo Odùduwà in London in 1945, under the leadership of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. We responded to colonial Ìpónjú from whence a modern Yorùbá identity began to emerge within colonial and post-colonial nation-statist dynamics. The Egbé Omo Odùduwà, as an umbrella organisation to unite the Yorùbá, grew in importance in 1948 when heated debates that would decide Nigeria’s political future and nationalism began. Yorùbá politicians led by Chief Bode Thomas worked within the organisation, to chart a specific course for the development of Western Nigeria. This started the process that transformed the group into a political party called the Action Group. The party was to serve as the vehicle for realising its primary objective of mobilising the Yorùbá into one political umbrella and to implement the ideals and objectives of Egbé Omo Odùduwà.

From history, the Yoruba emerged as a contested concept and it was in Ìpónjú (adversity) that it became an evident, self-conscious entity. Yoruba as it is presently constituted, is a pivot and an organising metaphor of a very rich civilisation. The question of Yoruba Unity is often discussed to the exclusion of the fact that the evolution of Yoruba identity has a deep relationship with problems in the political landscape of pre-independence Nigeria.

Egbé Omo Odùduwà shaped the contemporary Yorùbá identity and it brought the Yorùbá into focus, first as a sociocultural concept and later as a political construct. From history, the Yoruba emerged as a contested concept and it was in Ìpónjú (adversity) that it became an evident, self-conscious entity. Yoruba as it is presently constituted, is a pivot and an organising metaphor of a very rich civilisation. The question of Yoruba Unity is often discussed to the exclusion of the fact that the evolution of Yoruba identity has a deep relationship with problems in the political landscape of pre-independence Nigeria. Our story cannot be about unity and inclusion without a distinct identity, which is embodied in a great complex of ideas and ideals. The lack of a grounded Yoruba core as the basis for a collective identity is predicated upon a fundamental ambivalence about the normative perspectives of collective identity in modern polity as defined by participation and solidarity. Enìkan kìí jé àwádé. Àjèjì owó kan kò gb’érù d’órí àti pé àgbájo owó la’fi nsò’yà

Yorùbá: An Idea and a Reality

The Yoruba as an idea is an expression of our culture’s struggle with its own contradictions and conflicts. It can be seen as social representation within a set of heterogenous cultural forms. These social representations are reproductions of reality that are prescriptive and they serve as controls for the formation of our collective identity. Can the Yorùbá evolve a collective identity that is not based on ethnoculturalism alone but also on economic and political integration? I don’t think so. The possibility of a transcendental collective identity that is not predicated on Ìpónjú is central to this lecture. My tentative answer to the question I posed, is that the idea of a collective Yorùbá identity that is not called into being by Ìpónjú is possible, if it focuses on a new notion of citizenship, participation and solidarity to a common core.

…the idea of a collective Yorùbá identity that is not called into being by Ìpónjú is possible, if it focuses on a new notion of citizenship, participation and solidarity to a common core.

The Yorùbá as an ethnocultural identity has always been invented and reinvented as an adversarial reaction to the pressure of new collective identities. For a forceful, united, unified and purposeful identity, there must be ideals to live by that must never be broken, infringed upon or dishonoured. As of today, we have no such immutable ideal or ideals. We do not have a Yorùbá Spirit, that is inviolable! It is incontrovertible that the cultural foundation of the Yorùbá is rooted in our common heritage and ancestry from Ile-Ife in addition to our humanist values and liberal outlook. To fashion out a unifying core, we must subject the Yorùbá as an idea to critical reflection for it to become normative. Throughout our history, the Yorùbá has been a product of conflict rather than consensus at every turn. There has been no unity in history except when confronted with Ìpónjú (adversity). To counter this adversarial response to internal crisis, we need a soul around which the Yorùbá identity can be crystallised. We need a moral dimension which is capable of articulating an identity and the recreation of our presence as a culture and nationality.

The history of the Yorùbá people is the history of its unifying culture, ideas, frontiers, as well as its divisions, both internal and external, and how it is enmeshed in the configurations of power and geo-political complexes within post-colonial Nigeria. Without question, the Yorùbá as a geographic group is constituted by history and constitutive of its own history. As narrated earlier, Yorùbá identity did not exist prior to its definition and codification. We also know that, the ethnocultural space was marred in irresolvable conflict of sub-ethnic cultures and oppositional collective identities before its construction. The idea of modern Yorùbá was constructed with strategic cultural and political goals in mind, and the reality that it represents, is also used strategically. From the foregoing, we can visualise the ethnocultural space known as Yorùbá as an idea, an identity and a reality. Which means, the Yorùbá as a nationality, is a structural force in which ideas and identities are formed within existing historical realities.

With all these great philosophical principles, the Yoruba is in want of a governing ideology. We do not have a comprehensive system of thought, a unified programme for the future, and a definitive political doctrine for mass mobilisation. This is what is called an ideology. We will have an ideology when we attach our geographic space with a concrete political interest.

Evidence from pockets of Yorùbá culture in West Africa, South America and some parts of North America bear witness to the Yoruba as the product of a complex civilisation that transcends its current region and polity. The evolution progressed as an idea and an identity that evolved as a cultural frame of reference, a geopolitical reality and later a self-conscious political block. The Yorùbá transformation, and the cultural shifts that happened with it, is conjoined with its ethno-cultural values with real effects on collective identities. With all these great philosophical principles, the Yoruba is in want of a governing ideology. We do not have a comprehensive system of thought, a unified programme for the future, and a definitive political doctrine for mass mobilisation. This is what is called an ideology. We will have an ideology when we attach our geographic space with a concrete political interest.

The task before us, is to use our cultural ideas as part of political-identity building processes for them to become ideologies. This generation, must rise to the occasion and form a cohesive collective identity in which the Yorùbá idea, identity and reality becomes a kind of consciousness. We must adopt what Pius Adesanmi on this platform called the Àtúnbí paradigm. We must be born again!

We cannot borrow this ideology. It must be organic, it must be home grown. Our elders say, Àwínná owó kò ye ‘ni, àgbàbò sòkòtò ko ye omo ènìyàn; bí kò fún un l’ésè á á sò ó; ohun eni ni íbá ‘ni mu. (It is improper for a respectable man with whom a subscription is kept to spend it; it is improper for a respectable man to borrow another man’s trousers. If it is not too big, it will be too small. It is only what is yours that fits perfectly). The task before us, is to use our cultural ideas as part of political-identity building processes for them to become ideologies. This generation, must rise to the occasion and form a cohesive collective identity in which the Yorùbá idea, identity and reality becomes a kind of consciousness. We must adopt what Pius Adesanmi on this platform called the Àtúnbí paradigm. We must be born again! It is an urgent necessity because, it was colonialism and conquest that unified Yorubaland. It was not peace, neither was it solidarity.

June 12: Catalytic Ìpónjú Identity

Ìkòkò to maa j’ata, won n’ìdí rè á kókó gbóná…June 12 remains one of the most remarkable dates in Nigeria’s political history as it has shaped Nigeria’s successive elections and democracy. The June 12, 1993 presidential election, widely acclaimed free and fair and won by the late Chief Moshood Abiola, was annulled by General Ibrahim Babangida led military regime when efforts to stop the election had failed. June 12, became a catalyst for Yoruba Ìpónjú identity as it reminded us of our identity as Yorùbás within Nigeria as a country. As a result of the annulment, we felt cheated and the Ìpónjú (adversity) acted as a catalyst for the reordering of our political priorities.

The June 12 Ìpónjú gave the needed bite to the Afénifére. The Afénifére was formed earlier in 1993 as a socio-cultural organisation for the Yoruba people. It had Abraham Adesanya as its leader and Chief Bola Ige as deputy leader. Other founding members were Pa Onasanya, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, Adegbonmire, Okurounmu Femi, Ganiyu Dawodu, Olanihun Ajayi, Olu Falae, Adebayo Adefarati, Alhaji Adeyemo and Ayo Adebanjo. Ìpónjú galvanised the Afénifére and the entire Yoruba such that, when the Alliance for Democracy (AD) political party was formed in 1998, it adopted the Afénifére agenda as its official manifesto. As soon as the AD won in all Yorùbá states, everyone retreated to their sub-ethnic caves until the next Ìpónjú came along. Of course adversity is a constant in life but the ill-prepared are often taken unawares.

Ìpónjú came again! When the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in 2003 made an attempt to create a one party state, it used sophisticated chicanery and garrison politics to win the South West. Only Tinubu in Lagos State stood as the lone survivor of the political onslaught. The loss of Ondo, Ogun, Oyo, Osun and Edo States in the 2003 elections created the atmosphere for rancour and split within Afénifére. The politics was bitter and the level of treachery within the ranks grew. It became a classic situation of Àdàbà kò fi oúnjé s’òfun òrófó, olúkúlùkù nwa oúnjé s’énu ara rè. (The dove does not put food into the mouth of the green bush pigeon; each bird finds its own food). Some political juggernauts emerged from the ashes of the election loss. The loss reshaped Yorùbá politics and Yorùbá bò, wón ní, àkùko kékeré kò gbodò kò, níbití nla gbé wà. We are still paying the wages of the split today and facing the consequences of it.

In 2008 the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) was formed with the stated intent of reuniting the feuding factions as an alternative to the faction headed by the older generation of leaders. Once again, Yorùbá forgot the age long adage that says, Àgbà ní íje orí àdán, omodé ní je orí eyekéye. It is the elder who must be prepared to undertake the most difficult task while the younger people tackle less difficult problems. After each Ìpónjú, we retreat to our sub-ethnic caves until the next Ìpónjú comes along before we start scampering.

The national festival of Ìpónjú by the Jonathan administration exposed the ugly underbelly of Yorùbá politics. We seem to have forgotten that: A kìí korira atókùn ká dìgbò lu egúngún. You cannot hate the masquerade’s guide and opt to collide with the masquerade. Those who should take charge preferred the collision course. This time with a leprous masquerade. But the Yorùbá does not forget. The reason is not far fetched.

To give honour to whom it is due, the unity of an essentially Yorùbá tradition is a pervasive assumption underlying the visions for the Yorùbá by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Oni Akerele, Chief Akintola Williams, Professor Saburi Biobaku, Chief Abiodun Akinrele, Chief Ayo Rosiji, Chief Bode Thomas, Sir Adeyemo Alakija, Chief H. O. Davies, Dr. Abayomi, Dr. Akinola Maja and others. After the June 12 treachery, Chief Abraham Adesanya, General Alani Aknrinade, Chief Bola Ige, Chief Bisi Akande, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Professor Wole Soyinka and many unsung NADECO chieftains held the torch for us out of the desolate darkness of that era. The words of our elders taught us that: Méjí ni ilèkùn, bí kò sí s’ínú á sí s’òde, bí kò tì s’ínú á tì s’òde. (The door has too ways. If it does not open inwards, it opens outwards, if it does not shut outwards, it will shut inwards). With ever fewer options, a united Yorùbá became tenuous because of the Afénifére split.

As a consequence, the ARG adopted what I call the Igi Àrúwé (Regeneration) philosophy. It is based on the expectations and consolation of Teníbégilójù – where trees can rejuvenate after getting cut and they develop new branches and leaves. On social media, the Igi Àrúwé philosophy is being championed by my brothers, some of whom are here: Prof. Pius Adesanmi, Omoyele Sowore, Dipo Famakiwa, Dapo Rotifa, Ayo Turton and other powerful voices like Mallami Adekunle Kayode, Ayo Ojeniyi, Adekunle Al-Muftau Adeiite, Folashade Oshun, Dotun Oyeniyi and many others who are proudly Yorubas. In furtherance of the Igi Àrúwé philosophy so many young Yorùbás along with young people of other ethnicities fought and stopped the National Iponju of the Jonathan administration of which the Yorùbá got the largest share.

The national festival of Ìpónjú by the Jonathan administration exposed the ugly underbelly of Yorùbá politics. We seem to have forgotten that: A kìí korira atókùn ká dìgbò lu egúngún. You cannot hate the masquerade’s guide and opt to collide with the masquerade. Those who should take charge preferred the collision course. This time with a leprous masquerade. But the Yorùbá does not forget. The reason is not far fetched.

For Yorùbá Renaissance to happen, we must bow to a common inviolable core that must never be touched regardless of our differences in religion, sub-ethnicity, politics, education and social standing. My recommendation is that we must build a collective identity based on unity, character and Integrity as an immutable Yorùbá ideal – a YORÙBÁ SPIRIT. This is based on the notion that the idea of Yorùbá has always been linked to the pursuit of the values of Ìsòkan, Ìwà àti Òtító, which can be summed up as Unity, Character and Integrity.

Ìrì kérékéré ní ídi odò, irì wàwà ní ídi òjò, bí omodé méje bá ko oúnjé alé ní ídi ìjà àgbàlagbà. (Tiny drops of dew can become a stream, heavy dew sometimes turn to rain; whatever circumstance that causes seven children in a household to refuse dinner will ultimately cause a rift between their parents). The fight was open, it was dirty and there was so much filth involved. Again, we don’t forgive treachery in Yorùbá land.

The Way Forward: Beyond Ìpónjú

For Yorùbá Renaissance to happen, we must bow to a common inviolable core that must never be touched regardless of our differences in religion, sub-ethnicity, politics, education and social standing. My recommendation is that we must build a collective identity based on unity, character and Integrity as an immutable Yorùbá ideal – a YORÙBÁ SPIRIT. This is based on the notion that the idea of Yorùbá has always been linked to the pursuit of the values of Ìsòkan, Ìwà àti Òtító, which can be summed up as Unity, Character and Integrity. For a sufficient appreciation of these three values, I will go into the Ifá Corpus. For reasons of time, I will dwell on Ìwà and Òtító. Bí o tilè jé pé omo ìyá kan náà ni orí àti ìwà, ìwà ju orí lo. A sí mò wípé òótó dé ojà ó kùtà, owólówó ni a nra èké. Truth came to the market and could not be sold; yet we buy lies with ready cash.

Òtúrá Ògúndá
Òtúrá ré ‘rá, béèni ò dé ‘rá
Àkòtí r’àjò, béèni ò da ‘jò
Òtító inú yó ‘ni, ó l’ájekù j’oúnje lo
O dífá fún Òrúnmìlà
Tó nsawo lo sí ìlú iró
Òtúrá ré ‘rá, béèni ò dé ‘rá
Àkòtí r’àjò, béèni ò da ‘jò
Òtító inú yó ‘ni, ó l’ájekù j’oúnje lo
O dífá fún Òrúnmìlà
Tó nsawo lo sí ìlú èké
Òtúrá ré ‘rá, béèni ò dé ‘rá
Àkòtí r’àjò, béèni ò da ‘jò
Òtító inú yó ‘ni, ó l’ájekù j’oúnje lo
O dífá fún Òrúnmìlà
Tó nsawo lo sí ìlú òótó
Òtító dé o, omi alè Ifè
Enití ó bùú mu ò wopò!

Ìrosùn Ògúndá
Ajá suwòn títí ó fi d’éyín
Àgbó suwòn ti ròrò
Ajá ò ní ròrò
ká relé ká lo rè m’ágbò wá
A dífá f’órí, a bù fun ‘wà
N’íjó tí wón nbò wá s’ílé ayé
Ìwà nìkàn ló sòro
Orí kan kìí burú tó fi d’álè Ifè
Ìwà nìkàn ló sòro
Ìwà nìkàn ló sòro
Orí ìbá burú tó fi d’álè Ifè
Ìwà nìkàn ló sòro!

From antiquity all Yorùbás have shared belief in a universal God – Olodumare and the Yoruba language which we have in common. In contemporary times, Olodumare has become Jehovah and Allah in Christianity and Islam respectively. I argue that our cultural foundation is predicated on our belief in God and our common language. Even though, we were united by colonialism and conquest, instead of peace and solidarity. Our unity must be based on a framework of shared experiences, common goals and a collective plane. We must appreciate that identity is not only our defining characteristic as a group nor what we have in common but that which separates us from others within the Nigerian nation state. The representation or presentation of others must not matter to us. What should be of concern to us, is the nature of the difference that is being constructed because identities are relational. It is also important to distinguish between personal and collective identities. Being an Omolúàbí is a personal identity. Personally we can all be Omolúàbí and have the Omolúàbí ethos but we must subscribe to the Yoruba Spirit of Ìsòkan, Ìwà àti Òtító.

To my hosts, I will like to say,

My parting words to the Afénifére Renewal Group and the Yoruba nation is that we must shed our Ìpónjú identity and subject ourselves to and inviolable and immutable common core – the Yorùbá spirit of Ìsòkan, Ìwà àti Òtító. Yorùbá Ronu!

kí erú mo ara rè l’érú, kí ìwòfà mo ara rè n’ìwòfà, kí Omolúàbí mo ara rè l’érú òrun. Let the slave realise that he is a slave, let the pawn realise he is a pawn, let the Omolúàbí realise that he a slave of the gods. You are here to serve Yoruba land, do not expect any reward. In the end, I cannot do but galvanise you to the timeless composition and rhythm of a great cultural warrior and genius – the late Hubert Ogunde, who in his exasperation in 1964 wrote and performed the play – Yorùbá Ronu (Yorùbá Think!). In what was the first instance of literary censorship in post independence Nigeria, Ogunde delivered a biting attack on the premier of the Western region and his company was banned from the region. His exhortation is as relevant then as it is now. My parting words to the Afénifére Renewal Group and the Yoruba nation is that we must shed our Ìpónjú identity and subject ourselves to and inviolable and immutable common core – the Yorùbá spirit of Ìsòkan, Ìwà àti Òtító. Yorùbá Ronu!

Play

Mo wo Ile Aye o, aye sa malamala;
Mo ma b’oju w’orun okunkun losu bo’le;
Mo ni eri eyi o, kini sele si Yoruba omo Alade, kini sele si Yoruba omo Odua;
Ye, ye, ye, yeye, ye awa mase hun, oro nla nbe;
Yoruba nse r’awon nitori Owó, Yoruba jin r’awon l’ese nitori ipò;
Won gbebi f’alare, won gba’re f’elebi;
Won pe olè ko wa ja, won tun pe oloko wa mu;
Ogbon ti won gbon lo gbe won de Ilé Olà, ogbon na lo tun padawa si tunde won mole;
Awon ti won ti n s’Oga lojo to ti pe, tun pada wa d’eni a n f’owo ti s’eyin.
Yo, yo, yo, Yoruba yo yo yo bi ina ale;
Yoruba ru ru ru bi Omi Òkun;
Yoruba baba nse…Yo yo Yoruba ronu o!
Yoruba so’ra won di boolu f’araye gba;
To n ba gba won soke, won a tun gba’won s’isale o;
Eya ti o ti kere te le ni won ge kuru;
Awon ti ale f’ejo sun, ti di eni ati jo;
Yoruba joko sile regede, won fi owo l’owo;
Bi Agutan ti Abore n bo orisa re o!
Yo yo Yoruba r’onu o!
Ori ki ma i buru titi, ko bu ogun odun;
Leyin okunkun biribiri, Imole a tan;
Ejeka pe Olodumare, ka pe Oba lu Aye;
k’ayewa le dun ni igbehin, igbein lalayo;
Ile mo pe o, Ile dakun gbawa o, Ile o;
Ile ogere, a f’okó yeri…ile!
Alapo Ìkà, o te rere ka ibi…ile!
Ogba ragada bi eni yeye mi omo adaru pale Oge…Ile, dakun gba wa o…Ile!
Ibi ti n pa Ika l’enu mo…ile!
Aate i ka, o ko ti a pe Ile…Ile!
Ogbamu, gbamu oju Eledumare ko mase gbamu lowo aye…Ile…dakungba wa o…Ile
Ehen, ehen awa gbe ori ile yi pe o;Eni
ba dale, a ba ile lo…peregede o…ehen ehen awa gbe ori ile yi pe o;
Oduduwa bawa tun ile yi se o…to’wo, t’omo o…ehen…awa gbe ori ile yi pe o;
Oduduwa da wa l’are o, kaa si maa r’ere je o…ehen awa gbe ori ile yi pe o!
yo yo yo Yoruba ronu o!

English Translation!

I look down upon the Earth and it looks faded and jaded;
I look up to the skies and see darkness descending;
Oh! What a great pity!
What has become of the Yoruba?
What has befallen the children Odua?
Hey, hey hey hey, hey hey…We appear helpless and the situation ominous;
The Yoruba inflict rain on themselves for the sake of wealth;
The Yoruba under-mine one another in pursuit of position;
They declare the innocent guilty and the guilty innocent;
They induce thieves to invade a farm and invite the farmers to apprehend them;
The same cleverness that was responsible for their past successes;
Has now turned out to be their albatross;
Impactful leaders of the past have now been rendered irrelevant;
Yo, yo, yo Yoruba yo, yo, bright as light on a dark night;
Yoruba ru, ru, ru as the rumblings of the Sea;Yoruba baba deserves to be baba;
Yo, yo, yo. Yoruba reflect.
The Yoruba have turned themselves into a football for the world to kick about;
They are lobbed up into the sky and trapped down to the Earth;
A region that was already small, has its size further reduced;
And those through whom we could have sought redress;
Have been rendered men of yester years;
Yet the yoruba sits down helpless, like a sacrificial lamb;
Yo, yo, yo, Yoruba reflect;
But misfortune, I say, does not last for a lifetime;
For after darkness comes light;
So let us cry unto Edumare, the makers of heaven and earth to grant us recovery;
For he who last, laughs best;
Oh mother earth! I call upon you;
Mother earth, oh! Mother earth;
Please come to our aid, mother earth;
Slippery earth, whose head is shaved with a hard worker’s Hoe;
Whose wicked container spread out to contain evil;
Flung out as is mat, in the manner of my mother scion of those who spread ash to heal the earth;
Mother earth please come to our aid, mother earth!
Fame that confounds the wicked…mother earth please come to our aid, mother earth;
Spread out and cannot be folded…mother earth please come to our aid, mother earth!
The sheer expanse of Edumare’s view cannot be contained within human arms…oh mother earth, come to our aid!
Yes, yes, yes, yes, so we may live long on this earth;
Those who renege on oath will pay the price, yes yes yes, so we may live long;
Oduduwa, please aid us to replenish the earth for our success and fecundity…yes, yes, so we may live long on this earth;
Oduduwa vindicate us so that we can succeed;
Yes, yes, yes, so we may live long on this earth.
Yo, yo, yo. Yoruba reflect.

Thank you!

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú, who maintains a weekly column on Politics and Socioeconomic issues every Tuesday, is a member of the Premium Times‘ Editorial Board. Follow her: @olufunmilayo

This is the Keynote address delivered at the 2015 Afenifere Renewal Group (USA Chapter) Conference delivered on October 17, 2015 at the Cobo Convention Centre, Detroit, Michigan.