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01.06.2012 Feature Article


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The culture that teaches that a king could become a slave and a slave could become a king in their midst and that the way a child is born is the same way a slave is born put the Yoruba culture up front amongst world cultures, East, West, North and South. In Western Nigeria it is not so much where you come from but how willing to assimilate and be accommodated as one of theirs, never had ethnic roundup. Always survive by their wish for others sometime to a fault.

Western Nigeria is unique with its cultural accommodation and assimilation irrespective of any ethnic group in search of success. Nigeria is not United States and will never be but it is unique in its generosity that may be hard to understand in today's troubled environment. Like the days of Go West Young Man in USA, most wanted success based on agriculture, some on gold rush, away from polluted and overcrowded environment, as others sought a new way of life.

If Western Nigeria is conducive to success, why are so many Nigerians crossing the desert? We have very driven people on one hand ready to find success or die trying; on the other extreme are people that pray that only God can provide for tomorrow while they worry about today. Between these extremes are Nigerians that are unique in their own way in the pursuit of success inside or outside their base. They may turn into different animals in a foreign country.

The Western part of Nigeria and the surroundings are occupied by the Yoruba and their cousins. What stands out is that more Nigerians have been more successful inside this western part of the Country than inside or outside of Africa. Indeed, many Africans got their clean breaks in the West. It could be the water, food or the air they breathe in but the fact has more to do with accommodation of others to strive and prosper to their highest potentials benefiting their host.

Ghana's role as accommodation for all Black freedom fighters in and outside Africa must also be recognized after their Independence where the Yoruba spread across West Africa played a role in Diaspora in particular and as African culture in general calls for one another brother's keeper. Upon this African culture, Yoruba built cultural and commercial success through communities that encouraged educated entrepreneurs. It's not recent Cocoa either, for their earlier success.

Many historians have credited Lagos at the seaport as the commercial junction even before the Country became Independent or made Lagos its capital. Lagos was not the only place made the capital of Nigeria. Looking deeper into the origin of the accommodation enjoyed by those that came from far and wide, point to a cultural history of people. Before the Yoruba fought fiercely within during slavery, they were united by culture and religion of Ife spread across West Africa.

However, Ibadan not Lagos was the most accommodating place in Western Nigeria contrary to the general belief shared in the Country. Indeed, it was the political melting pot where outsider could be crowned their leader out of accommodation; but only with Ile-Ife assimilation. It was an unprecedented example worthy of praised, but never enough for political opportunists that would stoop to conquer. No accommodation anywhere else in the world, without assimilation.

Moremi in Yoruba history loved and seduced the Igbo. While many were forced to change their confrontations and assimilated; marauders were expelled. Yoruba and Igbo histories remember Moremi. Yoruba also disguised or changed locations during wars. History teaches us that there were a few Ife locations moving north and south but the original one remain around the area it is today in the rain forest. It is backed by scientific research of spreading out of Africa not into.

Religion and culture of Oduduwa before Christ, children and grandchildren were noted on the Nile as Sun, River and Sky worshippers that would not bow to other religions, even if sent packing. What Nigerians call Yoruba diplomacy, slaves used it as Santeria diplomacy to stick to their culture and religion in captivity. Africans in general, even at the height of Ghana, Mali and Songhai empires play religion with Muslims and Christians but never gave up their own religion as practice today by those who call themselves devoted Christian and Muslims, like Santeria.

Oyo itself as the town, moved north and south. Nupe, Igala, Tapa and Hausa also know Yoruba in their histories. The real question becomes the recognition of other people's histories in Yoruba culture big enough to rejuvenate by accommodating and assimilating others as long as they are willing to absorb the original culture from Ife in which all Yoruba prosper in terms of ability to get along and live together in peaceful harmony fostering commerce and friendship.

Therefore accommodation of different groups of people did not start in Lagos, it is a Yoruba culture brought into seashore by children of Ogunfuminire father of Eko Omo-Onile, one of the earliest Awori from Ife. Some historians claim that Oduduwa is not from Ife either, that he was accommodated after showing the original settlers the marks or writing all over his body written by his own Oduduwa father so that he could be accepted when his children returned home.

There are very few societies in the world that fully embraced equally-born philosophy as the Yoruba until 18 or 19 century. Not the teaching of the world ancient religions or governments that focus on themselves first. Until lately, women were considered a fraction of a man in the western civilization and slaves were blessed by most world religions to expect freedom only in heaven. While western countries now champion equality, they are Johnny-just-come-lately.

Haiti was one of the first countries after United States in the Americas to gain Independence. So many scholars marvel where they got the idea of freedom from. Oh well, it was speculated that their leaders heard and read about French and American revolutions. But none of the scholars credit the great African civilization they emerged from. These were children of kings, warriors, artists and philosophers that circumstance pushed into slavery yet strive by trying to assimilate. For that, Haiti is still economically drained and punished today.

The Yoruba method of accommodation and assimilation to attract other ethnic groups squarely fall on their skills in traditional medicine, mathematical skill counting into thousands to millions, marks as beauty on women and men bodies where they cannot be easily visible and of course in arts and carvings that others recognize as tattoo, ethnic marks to the distinguished. Those that could neither read nor write saw it as Chinese or musical writings puzzling the uninitiated. Even not all Yoruba can read and write some of the ancient puzzles like Idi sacred book in Ile-Ife.

Many attracted to Ife by rich cultural oral history; writings of the Yoruba of West Africa on objects, human bodies, and carvings that were known far beyond Iwo Eleru where artifacts were dated back to 10,000 BC. So much has been written and said about Herodotus testimony of descriptions of Africans in Egypt with marks especially on their foreheads. Yoruba used it as greetings to recover lost souls everywhere, like recognized Omo Oduduwa on his return home.

However, as frontiers expand and communities seek independence from the cultural center in Ife and the generals in Oyo, inter-communal clashes disturbed the common bond. We still see some of the resentment today since personalities has taken over loyalty to Ife and modernity challenges Ife and Oyo. Every town and community wants their Oba, governor and president. Yoruba will survive these rivers and problems, since they wish for others what they wish for themselves.

Farouk Martins Aresa
Farouk Martins Aresa, © 2012

The author has 569 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: FaroukMartinsAresa

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