Reading “Wole Soyinka, Oyinlola tussle over Osogbo UNESCO Centre’s leadership” in Nigeria’s The Guardian brings to the fore, again, a hegemonic and cultural war that a former governor of Nigeria’s Osun State, retired Brigadier Oyinlola (rBO), has been waging since his governorship days on the state, nay, on Nigeria’s cultural institutions.
Using his official official position as the head of a state government, Oyinlola muscled his position to create more cultural havoc to Yoruba heritage despite his ancestry as the son of a natural ruler, now deceased, and despite his claim to being a respecter of Yoruba heritage and culture than anyone in modern day Yorubaland.
Before moving to the matter of the UNESCO Center, let me explain above contention just in passing that rBO, using his position as the one who had the last say before a natural ruler is installed, installed the “Ọba”, one Alhaji Jimoh Olanipekun as the “king” of one of Yoruba’s major cities, Oṣogbo. He presented the enabling Staff of Office to Alhaji Jimoh on a Sunday, a non-business day in Nigeria, to forestall the effort of the Ruling House due for the throne to file a court injunction which would have followed the Ruling House’s protestations that challenged the nomination. The so-called “Ọba” Olanipekun’s ancestors were bit players on the periphery of Ataọja Royal Throne: they were egungun dancers to reigning Ataọjas! Any true Yoruba knows this as an impossibility.
Using the then ruling reactionary and evil PDP to which he was a top official – by the way, rBO has now turned coat to the camp of the “progressives” – and his position as the one who would normally okay whoever was selected to succeed the late Ataọja, Ọba Iyiola Matanmi II, he performed this illegality on a day there would be no official business when his action would have been challenged.
In true – hopefully, old – Nigerian fashion since PDP’s evil reign began in 1997 to this day, “Ọba” Jimoh has refused to quit despite two court judgements against his continued parading of himself as the Ataọja of Oṣogbo, and has now piled abomination over illegality: he has led multiple annual Ọṣun Oṣogbo Festivals to the Ọṣun Grove. The case, which has been in the Appellate Court at Akure since, has not since the light of day.
The UNESCO CENTER
Using his position as Osun State governor and his closeness to retired General Obasanjo (rGO) who was head of State, rBO took over the then planned UNESCO center which had as a major contribution, the Ulli Beier materials with assistance from Nigeria’s representative at UNESCO, Professor Omolewa. Trips to the Beiers in their Australian home were easy for a governor who reportedly claimed – according to news reports – that Beier released the material on condition that he, Oyinlola, would head the center! Happily, Obasanjo’s attempt to corner the Beier materials for his Obasanjo Library was frustrated through the efforts of Wole Soyinka, materials that now rest at the Osogbo Center.
I have not been inside the UNESCO Center but it would not be uncharitable to expect to find that rBO’s father, the late Olokuku of Okuku would be very prominent in what I then described as a Museum before UNESCO named it. [Indication of this can be found in one of the essays listed below.] My interest and essays about the Beier materials and Obasanjo Library’s started in 2007 for The Nation on Sunday.
To understand the story, we have to go back some years, to when The Guardian’s Kabir Alabi Garba first wrote a story, “Controversy: UNESCO Institute And The Obasanjo Library” on August 24, 2008. Seven years on, Mr. Garba, still with The Guardian, has followed up in great journalism style with Wole Soyinka, Oyinlola tussle over Osogbo UNESCO Centre’s leadership.
Here are excerpts from two essays with links at the end of this posting that are necessary to understanding claims this essay now makes:
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.
[From Obasanjo Library and the Beier Materials, .URL below] The Nation on Sunday, September 14, 2008
This is where I must bring in the association between my writings on the archival materials that almost went to Obasanjo Library since 2007 …
“To Osun I must return to drape one around the neck of Prince Retd Brigadier Oyinlola. Your Royal Highness, Nigeria is a land of fakes in spite of NAFDAC but when you claimed to be an Awoist, many believed you. You also claimed to have gone to study law after your misrule of Lagos to help your people although I was naturally skeptical. Your name is inscribed on all Osun schools built during your reign. Awo built zillions of institutions but never had his name on a single one. Painters will get contracts to paint over them, someday. Wear this award of non-excellence on your well-fed figure for wanting to make a name without making the sacrifice.”
• Now, read part of the harangue by Prince, a sad commentary on governance level in Yorubaland these past eight years: “All these things that are on this table are pictures that I have never seen in my life. … You also have pictures of … Olokuku’s closest friend who was then the Ataoja of Osogbo, Oba Adenle… This is another picture of him with Adenle. In fact, I want to send this particular picture to The Nation reporter, Tola Adenle, who reported that she would like to hang medal on my fat neck. I want her to know how I got my fat neck. I’m not a bastard. … I’m proud of my heritage… this is me today. I lost my mother at 8 and my father at 9 … That is why I don’t give a dime [damn]… I am a product of the best in the tradition of the Yoruba and so too attached to the culture of my people to donate my heritage to anybody …I have spent my entire 57 years trying to emulate Christ in conduct and in words … there’s nothing related to Prof. Soyinka’s father in the archive, so why should he cry more than the bereaved in this case? … . All the materials here have nothing to do with him, so what is his business?… I have asked him (Soyinka), okay, … those you are enjoying their patronage, people have been asking questions, about them, who is their father? …”
Incredible! Just one item from above: the contents of the proposed Osogbo museum IS the business of ALL Yoruba unless, of course, the museum will showcase ONLY Olokuku artifacts. And I still cannot see evidence of the governor’s supposed respect for, and interest in culture beyond the braggadocio of a “royal heritage”. Reading the entire supplement, “Controversy: UNESCO Institute And The Obasanjo Library”, The Guardian, August 24, 2008 by Kabir Alabi Garba, The Guardian’s Assistant Arts Editor, rtd. General Obasanjo’s intention to “amalgamate” the Beier materials to his expensive library is apparent. As Osun State governor, it is apparent how he could have helped the former president.
All’s fair that ends sort of – well, thanks to Wole Soyinka: the former president gets an unprecedented “cultural institute” within a supposed presidential library (no thanks to his supposed UNESCO connection) BUT the Beier materials are headed to Osogbo, their rightful home. It was there – while traversing the length and breadth of Yorubaland – that Beier made his home, first with Suzanne Wenger and later with Georgina Betz.
I think my own interest in the Beier materials is clear. As for my whimsical annual “non-excellence awards”, winning one comes with the political territory to which the retired Brigadier belongs.
[The Beier Archival Materials & Obasanjo Library: Matters Arising], The Nation on Sunday, December 7, 2008. – URL below.
Please read the following two essays first from which above are excerpted, and then Mr. Garba’s latest on the “tussle” on the UNESCO Centre to appreciate that this so-called “tussle”, now in litigation, concerns all Yorubas and should not be ignored.
AND MR. GARBA’S LATEST FOLLOW-UP:
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2015. 2:20 p.m. [GMT]