On Friday the 12th of August 2016, Dawn Commission hosted the second edition of Yoruba Historical Conversations, a monthly lecture series designed to contribute to conversations on Yoruba history, culture and identity. The event took place at Dawn Commission’s office at the tenth floor, Cocoa House Dugbe Ibadan, with the theme “Yoruba Know Thyself.” The lecture was delivered by Prof. Banji Akintoye, academic, historian and writer. A former Head of the Department of History, Obafemi Awolowo University (then as the University of Ife), a keen student of the policies of late Yoruba Politician and Sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, representing Ekiti constituency on the platform of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) between 1979 and 1983.
Prof Akintoye in his lecture raised critical issues about the status of the Yoruba nation, its origins, its current state and the way to chart a better course for its future. He discussed on the nature of the Yoruba as a freedom loving people who had learnt the principles of democracy before even a lot of civilizations and countries that are regarded as advanced today. He gave an example of the principle of separation of powers, which is a major tenet of democracies today. For hundreds of years, The Oba was the chief executive, but he could not make or enforce any laws without his Oyomesi, the council of chiefs which advised him and also had the power to remove him, if they feel he is no longer fit to rule. There was also a sort of Judiciary, the Ogboni who had the power to adjudicate cases and whom nobody; no matter how rich or poor had any immunity against. Even the common people had a voice, the Okebadan festival being one of the numerous examples of the people being allowed to speak out against their rulers without fear of reprisals.
Prof. Akintoye also touched on the industry of the Yoruba, pointing out that the Yoruba evolved several collaborative systems like the Ajo, Esusu, Aaro and Owe as a way of creating wealth. Because there were so many ways of collaborating, poverty was an alien concept in ancient Yorubaland. As part of his discussion on wealth creation, He touched on the subject of Yoruba women, mentioning that they were unmatched in trade and industry. Yoruba women were so industrious that they created trade routes as far as present day Sudan. There were no restrictions on who can be wealthy and ancient Yoruba history is littered with prosperous men and women. thus For him, if there is so much poverty in the Yoruba nation today, it is because the Yoruba nation as a result of being shackled with the Lugardian contraption called Nigeria has lost its independence and industriousness and has become lazy and dependent on the oil wealth. The future looks bleak for the Yoruba nation if the current reality continues. To put it in his own words “Nigeria will never be great until the nationalities within it are respected and given a chance to find their own voice.”
The guest lecturer, however expressed optimism that it is not all bad news, as he can see the signs that Yoruba nationals all over the world both young and old are asking critical questions about self and loss of identity. For him, the realization that the Yoruba nation has lost a precious part of its essence is the first step towards change. He posited that the Yoruba nation states must become self-reliant in order to be able to exercise its own political and economic freedoms, also individuals and organizations within Yoruba land must start looking for to spread good news about Yoruba culture and identity without relying on politicians who are likely to be short termist in thinking. He concluded the talk by fielding various questions from the guests present.
The Director General of Dawn Commission, Dipo Famakinwa expressed appreciation to Prof Akintoye for giving his time to share from his profound insight and wisdom and to all the guests for being present at the event and for raising intelligent questions and insights on the question of Yoruba identity. He added that for the Yoruba nation to return to the thriving civilization that it once was, there is a need to develop an “expulsion mentality” similar to what Lee Kwan Yew did with Singapore after it was expelled from Malaysia, changing Singapore from a poor, near failed state to one of the most developed economies in the world.
The event was well attended, featuring guests like Mr Yanju Adegbite, General Manager of the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State, Mr Adebayo Raji, General Manager of the Oodua Group, Ayo Alex-Alao CEO of Jet Heights as well as correspondents from various press outfits in the city of Ibadan.