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Obasanjo Library & the Beier Materials

“I think I read how Nigeria’s representative at a world body is supposedly running around towards Obasanjo Library being classified as a World Heritage Site. $4 million annual grant is a possibility. What a travesty that would be!  This is the same president who is aware of the classification of Osun Shrine as a World Heritage Site through Adunni Olorisa Iwinfunke’s selfless work….  Over a year ago, … I wrote an open letter to then President Obasanjo detailing Iwinfunke’s dedication and work to the cultural growth of Osogbo, and requesting that she be given national honors and have a landmark named after her.  Now, the former president wants to immortalize himself through the naming of a library whose cost was coerced  “donations” from state governments, etcetera as a World Heritage Site.  Nigerians, through the press, must raise their collective voice to say “no” to this second rape.” [September 27, 2007.]

It seems we may still be lucky to wrestle Beier’s materials from the retired General’s enterprises.

Long-time readers of this column know that since 2003, no individuals have featured here more than two retired army officers, General Obasanjo and Brigadier Oyinlola.  Although I have crimson red Ekiti/Ondo States blood in my veins, marriage “outside” has made a proud Osun of me.  Rightly so therefore that I seemed to have been interested in these two individuals whose personal interests and/or ambitions would later collide with the interest of not just Osun but the country; I knew it NOT back then, though.  With the brouhaha over the Beier materials which has gotten retired army officer Oyinlola’s spin on what happened at Ulli and Georgina Beier’s place Down Under, a glance through essays from ’03 to date reveal that fact.  Even on a topic as innocuous as “Language unbecoming”, these two “democrats” whose undergarments of army surplus show, are there!  The wives have also made appearances including Mrs. Oyinlola on more than two occasions regarding proceeds from “donations” for her first lady project which reportedly became personal property.  AC sued about the rental hall that she claims is from her “sweat” but I’m unaware anything came of it.

From December 2, 2007, “Language Unbecoming”:  “Retired Brigadier Oyinlola (RBO) is fond of resorting to abusive language to get at his opponents…”a bunch of ignoramus … very few of our opponents in their right minds … some idiots were trying to propound theories in Lagos…”AND General Obasanjo:  “CAN my foot…”;”It was as if his mother’s rival, his stepmother is after him” re Mimiko’s declaration for governorship under a party other than PDP…”.

Ulli Beier, whose first wife was the former Suzanne Wenger now Adunni Iwinfunke Alarape, had the center of his Yoruba “universe” at Osun with Ede, Ilobu and especially Osogbo at the heart of that universe.  When Brigadier Oyinlola had the public presentation of his father’s biography, I made little of the presence of Ulli Beier all the way from Australia beyond what an Osogbo indigene described as “preparing grounds for an Oba Olasore-type transmutation”.  Oba Olasore, of course, was an accomplished technocrat and businessman whose reign over Iloko has propelled the town to big things. May be not exactly the same, however, for Oyinlola whose Lagos- era rule as military governor as I’ve written here, was a disaster.

Rtd. Brigadier Oyinlola has not championed the cause of Osun on cultural matters as he should.  Parlaying slim old filial Beier tie to pursue the old man has apparently not been for Osun. Note his failure to nominate Adunni Olorisa for a national honor award that would have shown his REAL commitment to cultural development. Here’s from March 2, this year under Matters Arising:

/////“ … After writing an open letter to RGO [retired General Obasanjo] on Adunni Olorisa,… two years ago, I received several communications, … not just from Osogbo indigenes.  One man felt so strongly that he found my address… and wrote about the timeliness of the call for a woman who has brought honor not just to Osun through the naming of Oshun Shrine as a UNESCO World Heritage site…  Mr. X also had suggestions about what steps to take to achieve our goal.  Ditto OAU History Professor, Richard Olaniyan, an Osogbo indigene who suggested I go through Osun’s governor. 

I mentioned to both gentlemen that as a newspaper contributor, mine is just to draw attention and since the governor is an indigene of the State and is very aware of Iwinfunke’s contributions, it was not necessary to go “beg” him; it is his duty. ….  And for a guy who’s supposed to be well-versed in cultural matters, I think the continued omission of Iwinfunke’s name from his list speaks more about his grasp of culture than “a whole governor prostrating for somebody!”

Incidentally, in that same column was the piece below about Brigadier Oyinlola’s “celebration” of Osun Festival in Paris, including the absurd suggestion that the state would request for more heritage sites!

“Osun Osogbo in Paris?

“I read a story mid-week in The Nation, “Osun festival for French audience” and it necessitated this postscript:. Osun’s governor in far-away Paris at “the inaugural version of the annual Osun Osogbo festival …  said the listing of Osun Osogbo as a world heritage site had gone a long way in exposing the state to the world … the state would soon request for the recognition of more sites.”  I do not know about “more sites” or even the need to celebrate Osun in Paris but I just wonder what retired Brigadier Oyinlola has done to get recognition for the person who made the naming of the Heritage Site possible, a woman who lives barely twenty minutes from the Government House – a lot closer than Paris, and cheaper for Osun tax payers.”/////

The Paris/UNESCO trip can now be seen in a different light now that [UNESCO’S Nigerian representative] Professor Omolewa’s role in the attempt to hijack the Beier materials is out there.  I deliberately did not name the “Nigeria’s representative at a world body” but did call on “Nigerians, through the press,” [to] “raise their collective voice to say ‘no’ to this second rape”.  Thanks to the effort of Soyinka who took it upon himself to try to give the people back what is rightly theirs.

With regard to Oyinlola’s response to Soyinka on his Australian visit, I think Nigeria’s political class has a way of pirouetting around facts with semantics.  Of course all of us know Beier as being more Yoruba than many of us.  It would be surprising if he and Georgiana totally kept Brigadier Oyinlola’s entourage from their place.  From Soyinka’s piece, it is understood that Oyinlola’s entourage did not sit at table during the discussion about the materials.  Entertaining them thereafter should be expected from this old scholar who has become an unwitting and unwilling participant in the Nigerian grab-grab game.

I’m sure the retired army officer knows that respect – even in certain parts of Yorubaland where prostrating is almost an art, pardon this up-country lady – for culture goes far beyond mere expression.  Two text messages after the above essay hinted that “the governor would not do what he’s doing to Iwinfunke if he is from Osogbo and not Okuku, a small town.”  Osogbo indigenes, especially, are deeply saddened about their treatment in the hands of the Oyinlola administration but there is palpable fear in Osogbo today in view of pervasive violence against the administration’s opponents.

With impressive quotation from Achebe, Oyinlola however ensured he made the press release his own by manufacturing puppeteers for Soyinka.  I think his reference to his respect for Soyinka as an elder and his being a grandfather devalues his argument that whoever wears a masquerade garb in Yoruba culture is to be respected.

Nigerians should put all these events that started out as being unrelated, together, and come to their own conclusion.

The Nation on Sunday, September 14, 2008

===========

Related Essay already posted here:

https://emotanafricana.com/2012/11/09/the-beier-archival-materials-obasanjo-library-matters-arising-tola-adenle/

 

 

Sunday, March 17,2013, 2.30 p.m.

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