– By Alaba Yusuf
“Whoever thinks of leading others without having people following from behind is merely taking a walk in the park, and all alone by himself.” – Malawian proverb.
The phenomenon of Pan-Africanism was conceptualised in the last century to unite the Continent of Africa shortly after its colonial conquest. The designers of the laudable idea were some of the best and brightest political egg-heads of yesteryears; such as the Late Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe of Nigeria, a.k.a The Great Zik of Africa.
Those were the reminiscent halcyon days of African shining glory. It was an era that heralded the emergence of thinkers who led and enlightened followers who followed obediently. It was an age that truly depicted the ideals of selfless service and good governance. It was a time that the late sage and political economist, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, as premier of the Western Region, instituted universal free education and established the first television station in Nigeria. He also built the University College of Ibadan in 1948 and constructed road networks across parts of Yorubaland. We still remember the then towering colossus called Cocoa House also in Ibadan. Also a period that Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Saurdana of Sokoto, engaged the populace economically to build the groundnut pyramids of wealth in Northern Nigeria. Both palm oil and coal mining also raised the Eastern Region, under visionary Chief Michael Opara, to an enviable pedestal of pride and admiration.
Rhetorically, one cannot but wonder what could have become of a thorough union of African countries without borders and visas! The notion of a United States of Africa, USA, in the Continent’s current political climate where money-bags make a monkey and mockery of the intellectually endowed, can only be a fertile oasis in the dreamland of Kalahari Desert. How soon lofty dreams die? Still, African unity remains a missing gap – if not a mirage and, possibly, a stale tale in the slave-cave of history!
Meanwhile, Pan Africanism was not in itself a novelty. At a microscopic level, the philosophy of Ekiti Parapo far outdated the Nkrumahs, Nyereres and Ziks of this world. Deep inside the 19th Century, the ancestral fathers of the heterogeneous Ekiti settlers, located between the rainforest of Ondo and savannah of Kwara, had sent a clarion for the mainly agrarian and hunting clans and tribes in Ekiti; to bond and bunch together, like a team of brooms, to fend off enemy’s incursions during the Yoruba internecine wars. That call for unity in diversity was known as Ekiti Parapo. And it later became the magic wand truly needed by Ekiti war heroes such as the famous Fabunmi of Oke-Imesi, whose military prowess secured and defended the territorial integrity of Ekitiland for so long a time.
Here was the real reason why most towns and villages in this zone add Ekiti as a unifying symbol and emblem of commitment to their original names, both in war and peace times. Take a look at the constituencies of Ekiti State today: Ado-Ekiti, Ikole-Ekiti, Ikere-Ekiti, Ifaki-Ekiti, Oye-Ekiti, Iyin-Ekiti, Ilawe-Ekiti, Ijan-Ekiti, Ode-Ekiti, Aramoko-Ekiti, Emure-Ekiti, Ijero-Ekiti, etc. This is the ideology behind Pan-Ekitism, a parapo factor.
Aside agriculture and hunting, the Ifa oracle also played a unifying and arbitrating role in the centre-point of Ekiti socio-politico and religious administration. In fact, in primordial times, Ifa determined and marshalled the destiny of the people. Little wonder, most Ekiti traditional names derive from the Ifa source, same way that Christians cherish orthodox titles today. For instance, Ifabunmi means (oracle gifted me); Ifagbamila (oracle saves me); Ifayemi (oracle favours or honours me); Ifayose (oracle will do it or achieve it) and so on.
Ironically, the contemporary gladiators of Ekiti politics in recent times carry the Ifa tag in their surname, although prefixed with ‘born again’ Christian first names. One is John and the other Peter – names made famous by two of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ. Both outgoing Governor Dr. John Kayode Fayemi and the yet-to-be-sworn-in Mr. Peter Ayodele Fayose are no doubt original sons of Ifa. It is a phenomenon that no new age religion can erase in a hurry.
Those who know Fayemi so well said he desires and loves to toe the path of honour. This may be in deference to the true meaning of his African name, particularly as he has accepted electoral defeat and congratulated the winner. And Fayose, on the other hand, may be reaping his leap fortune from a mixture of predetermined Ifa interference plus a concurrent interplay of political correctness. Only time can tell.
However, as the pendulum of peace stands at equilibrium position, no one needs be reminded of the inevitability of Ekiti Parapo and the ever-lingering clarion call for unity and development. Natural wisdom must also be explored to sustain current opportunity of liberal democracy being displayed by the sons of Ifa. As such good governance should be the people’s lot. Lest their decision to vote in or vote out any candidate may jolly well end up as an exercise in futility or a progression in error!
At this juncture, the greater lesson for Nigerians at large would be for all to see the precedence already set in Ekitiland as a veritable foundation to consolidate upon for future elections; minus the militarisation that inconvenienced the population prior to the polls. After all, power really belongs to the people. In Malawian parlance, those aiming to lead others must have people following them from behind, lest they will be taking a walk in the park, all alone by themselves.
Hence, all contenders for political offices should be honourable enough to accept the results of elections conducted within a free and fair atmosphere. Therefore the spirit of sportsmanship, now in vogue in Ekiti State, should be emulated to the letter and upgraded to a national democratic culture. Nonetheless, this is not to suggest that those genuinely aggrieved during elections should not seek arbitration from modern day Ifa Oracle – the court of law.
This paradox of the Ifa sons and its concomitant paradigm shift must be watered to success in the interest of all. So honour in defeat and humility in victory should become our watchword. May we have the listening ears of the political class and game changers as the nation inches towards 2015! Long live Democracy in Nigeria.
The writer, Alaba Yusuf, is a public affairs commentator and strategist based in Abuja