Tuesday, August 22, 2006|
AN EXAMINATION OF THE 14TH ANNUAL EGBE OMO YORUBA NATIONAL CONVENTION, TAMPA, FLORIDA
rom the just concluded 14th Annual Convention of 'Egbe Omo Yoruba', the National Association of Yoruba Descendants in North America USA and Canada, in Tampa Florida, it is obvious that Yoruba group in North America has finally realized that UNITY is a non-compromising tool for a meaningful development in Nigeria. Such Unity could be attained through Visionary Leadership, the Team Spirit, and a Goal-Oriented Followership. In any organizational set up, it is important to have Good Leadership, Progressive Followership, and the spirit of Trust, Faith and Loyalty on the leadership. Chief Adeola Odusanya, the current President, Egbe Omo Yoruba, has a vision of promoting Unity, not only among factions within Yoruba people, but in Nigeria as a whole, if only there is a committed and well focused leadership and very understanding Followership.
When I got an invitation from Chief Odusanya, to attend its 14th annual convention, my first reaction was what the need for my attendance was. I bombarded him with bullets of questions for inviting me. In the first place, I am not a member of Egbe Omo Yoruba, locally or at the national level. I do not attend their meetings. Secondly, was my conceived notion of another gathering of OWAMBE party. I could call my friends together, under my roof for OWAMBE style of gathering, not traveling all the way to Tampa, Florida for it, if that was the reason.
Thirdly, I suffered some embarrassment with a Yoruba Group in Atlanta sometimes in 2001. Someone tricked me to show me something on our way from one of our meetings and I ended up in the Yoruba Organization's social gatherings. There was a very prominent Senator at that gathering. I was invited to the high table. Everyone on that table dressed gorgeously except me on my casual dress, which was presentable anyway. The group wanted all members of the High Table to speak about Yoruba people, starting with me, according to their coup plan.
They wanted to know where I came from, my association with Igbo, Hausa and not with Yoruba, behaving like Hausa, and not sure of my blood relations with the Igbo community, while working with the Igbos as if both Hausa and Igbo are not human beings. What a coup of the century. Some people failed to realize that I am ethnically or religiously blind, and I work with any group that decides to work with me.
Those factors were my concerns when Chief Odusanya invited me to come to Tampa for the convention. At the Yoruba Convention in Tampa, Florida, I was proved wrong, that things among Yoruba group, are changing for good.
At the first day of the convention, Friday, August 11, 2006, I found myself totally and completely lost. Not that I do not understand or speak Yoruba, it was like another world for me. I did not remember the last time I attended a gathering where Yoruba was used as the medium of conducting business. The comfort within me was blank. Not that, what they were doing were not reasonable. The fact that the business was conducted in Yoruba threw me off my balance, at least for most of the time. The whole of Friday was like, Femi, what are you doing here.
It beckoned on me what my good friend, Adisa Lambe, has been telling me that I am out of touch with Yoruba culture, minus my regular food and dress that I put on all the time. If Lambe did not know my mom, he would have said that I am an Igbo origin who 'stole' Yoruba name to claim to be a Yoruba man. He sometimes wonders and doubts my root. This similar thing would be echoed by my wife who would tell me that I behave like Hausa man. All I do tell both Lambe and my wife is that, look at me, especially my wife, you know my mom, and dad, I am not only a Nigerian, I am a human being. The only difference between other individuals and me is my size, and color. That not withstanding, I have all human parts, as a man, which made up a human being.
The second day, Saturday, August 12, 2006, the morning session was occupied with presentations by some dignitaries at the convention. They covered economy, politics, 2007 Elections and Yoruba, and Yoruba outside Nigeria. Some of the dignitaries were Chief Alao Adedayo, Publisher Alaroye Yoruba Newspapers, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, Publicity Secretary of the Afenifere, a member of the National House of Assembly, Dr. Osadebe Anam who represented Orji Kalu, Governor of Abia State, Nigeria, and Dr. Mohammed Ladan, President of Zumunta, USA. The presenters were Otunba Olu Awotesu, former Minister for Agriculture, Chief Bisi Akande, former Governor of Osun State, Mr. Toyin Olanrewaju, and Professor Mobolaji Aluko.
At the morning session, there were reverberation of words of wisdom expressed by Fathers of Yoruba race, past and present. 'Operation Wetie' was well articulated by Otunba Olu Awotesu, the game plan of the Military years in destabilizing the Yoruba race; with Afenifere; the demise of AD; the dissolution of the Marketing Board by Obasanjo as the Military Head of State, that destroyed Cocoa market; the neglect of Education; and the final turning of the Western part of the country, agric products, into the death chamber; the Oil money as THE source of Nigeria's economy base; the current incarceration of Dr. Fasehun and Adams who are not likely to come out from Prison until after the 2007 elections; and the political killings in Yorubaland which would not help the unity of that country. A song that ended the business session of the convention was the song by late Herbert Ogunde, "Yoruba Ronu". That was a very prophetic song.
Another area touched at the convention was the problem with the Yoruba leadership after the death of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Otunba Awotesu was of the opinion that the problem in Yorubaland started at the death of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. After his death, everyone was clamoring to be the Yoruba leader. Everyone wanted to step into his shoes. According to Otunba Awotesu, he has not seen anyone that could step into Awolowo's shoes. It's too big for anyone to occupy. In his wisdom, it would take some collective efforts to fit into that heavy shoe of late Awolowo. In other words it is only the collective efforts that would bring all differences in Yorubaland together. I believe with the show of leadership skills of Chief Adesanya, President of Egbe Omo Yoruba, Yoruba in North America, would unite Nigeria through Egbe Omo Yoruba.
Part of the convention that Otunba Awotesu covered was Agriculture, which I liked most. Unfortunately, the South West Governors are paying lip services to Agriculture. The best way to approach that would be to empower the Yorubaland with agriculture; needless to talk about the power of food in life. I believe agriculture is the only profession that would never liquidate. Every human beings must eat and wack at the same time. Investment on agriculture and empowering the people would be one of those things Yoruba people should embark upon. If we look around to other parts of the world, the strong supporters of any Presidential candidate and one of the richest groups in the world are farmers. Agriculture should be used as the backbone of the Nigeria political future. No one invests in agric that fail. Agriculture is America life support system. Yoruba could make agriculture its life support system as well.
Fortunately, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti States share boundaries with Kwara State, the front runner in Commercial farming, and other Yoruba States could borrow from the Zimbabweans farmers in Kwara State. Kwara State Government is training its Youth on commercial farming, while Government incentives are available to Kwara farmers. Some guaranteed loans are also available. It would be beneficiary to the six Yoruba States, Ekiti, Ondo, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, and possibly Lagos to ally with Kwara State and take back one of the glories of the Western part of Nigeria. Ogun State is already capitalizing on the Cassava products with its sales to China, boosting its economy. The climate is on their side; rainforest with cash crops, and good soil for other agric products. The Cocoa farm should be brought back to its glorious days.
In another development, at the Convention, in fostering unity, there was a unanimous feeling to take all steps necessary to end political violence in Yorubaland. According to Otunba Olu Awotesu, who was one of the 'pioneers' of 'operation wet e' in those days, admitted that they were pushed to the wall in resulting to violence against the unjust election results. They contested an election, and the election was rigged, on appeal to the Court, before the Court could hear the case from their lawyers, went ahead to announce the election results as valid. By the time they held the lawyers hostage in Lagos, or so, the people in Ekiti could not contain their anger, they resolved into burning properties and their political opponents. In this century Yoruba people should not allow that to occur again as 2007 is very crucial in the life of an average Yoruba man.
Needless to say that the events in Yorubaland are gradually moving to that direction - Political Violence of the old - Wild Wild West at 'WWW.WETIE.DIE.' The irony of such is that the culprits would never be found. Late Chief Bola Ige has not been resolved, Funsho Williams, a PDP Gubernatorial candidate in Lagos State, murder resolution is still dangling in the air, Alhaji Rauf Aregbesola, the current Lagos State Works Commissioner, another gubernatorial aspirant in Osun State, on the platform of AD, life is still in danger. While Dr. Ayo Daramola's slaughter, from Ijan-Ekiti, another Governorship aspirant, in Ekiti State, is very baffling.
As eminent as Otunba Olu Awotesu could be, most attendees refused to buy most of his statements about the 'wet e' rejuvenation, the rays of criticisms about Obasanjo's administration, from NEPA through Ige's death, election rigging, grounded Education and the emergence of private Universities, the 1979 hand-over to a civilian government because Obasanjo emptied the treasury, that nothing was left in the National Treasury, that Obasanjo started the national debt and corruption, to the dissolution of the Marketing Board, to most attendees, were distortion of facts. Most attendees believe that, Nigeria should move forward and it will be a better thing for the Yoruba group to join in the progressive move.
Another presentation was made by Mr. Toyin Olanrewaju, Vice President Midland Financial Services; with its headquarters in Bellville, Maryland, a Mortgage Financing Company. In his very brief, straight to the point, and very factual presentation, he encouraged the audience, Nigerians, and Yoruba especially, to do as Romans do when they get to Rome. In most cases, Nigerians based their business decisions on assumptions without actually finding out facts. Midland Financial Services is there to help those in need. He addressed the issue of bad credit, which made him laugh when Nigerians talk to him about that, as an impediment to buying a house or having to do whatever they want to do, and other myths about bad credit. He advised them to check it out first before they write-off their business plans as a result of bad credit. They could also get loans for any property in Nigeria. Bad Credit, according to Mr. Olanrewaju, is NO problem. You might want to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 240-644-9254. According to Toyin, "when it comes to Mortgages, we understand your need."
As to where the Yoruba should stand in 2007 elections, since it is not logically advisable to field a Presidential candidate for the 2007 Elections, but there is nothing wrong with that in a civilized environment, but could not be morally agreeable in the Nigerian setting of today (2006) any way. Professor Mobolaji Aluko, President, Nigerian Democratic Movement, a foremost political commentator in the Diaspora, an activist, a 'placard carrier', from Howard University, Department of Chemical Engineering, Washington D.C., made very brilliant and empirical presentation on 2007 Elections in Nigeria and Yorubaland. One key factor of his presentation is for the South West to be watchful of the Electoral Officers and Police Commissioners posted to the six Yoruba States, as most of them were instrumental in the rigging of 2003 elections in some parts of the country in 2003. He advised the Yoruba States to be aware of the 'stooges' planted in those States. The Electoral Officers, according to the records are those that were posted to other States where there were 99% winning votes for PDP in 2003.
Unfortunately, those campaigning for one of the political evils in Nigeria, the Evil Genius, as he love to call himself, Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, are the Yorubas. Regrettably the Northern Youth rejects IBB, the Middlebelters are strongly behind the South-South bid for the Presidential candidate, and the rest of them, from the North, are on different paths, why should Yoruba not support South-South. The best shot for the Yoruba, even if Bolaji Aluko disagrees, is for Yoruba to support the South-South bid for 2007 Presidential slot, for the Unity that Egbe Omo Yoruba Organization is yearning for.
If I may reiterate again, this writer DOES NOT support rotational Presidency of the PDP, but for the unity of Nigeria, it is one of the sacrifices all Nigerians have to make. Nigeria Unity, an essential ingredient for progress and TEAM efforts in that country, is a task for all Nigerians all over the world. No one has the monopoly of good candidate. It might solve the Delta's challenge.
According to Chief Bisi Akande, the former Osun State Governor, in his wisdom, it would be for those Yoruba living outside the country that could bail out the Yorubaland. That is, if those Yoruba in North America and elsewhere outside Nigeria could speak out, it would help the situation in Yorubaland.
One aspect of the convention that is worth mentioning was the "Rebirth of Moremi" agenda, which was presented by Mr. Folarin Da-Silva, from California Chapter at the gala night. He gave a presentation on the "Rebirth of The Moremi Foundation." Folarin was a Presidential Candidate in 2005 and lost to Chief Odusanya, the current President. The leadership skills of Odusanya might change a lot of minds within the organization, and attracts more membership. His leadership skills are proving that there is "Strength in Unity". In the past, it would mean that when a candidate lost an election, the Organization loses his election manifesto, or program as well. The winner would not even make an attempt to reach out to his election opponent. I was highly impressed by the steps taken by the Executive for picking up Folarin, the 'lost' candidate of the election campaign. Things could be changing for good among the Yoruba group with the right leadership. The link to Moremi website is http://www.moremifoundation.org.
The final aspect of the convention was what I noticed about the OWAMBE style of partying. The gala night was also pure business. Things are changing for good with the leadership of Egbe Omo Yoruba in North America. The usual lousy stylish of Yoruba's gathering was absent. The Key Note Speaker was Senator Olaleke Mamora, representing the Lagos East Senatorial District. Despite Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora's 65-minute, well articulated speech, that got the full attention of the audience, the listeners were very attentive, very patient and absorbed the lecture from the Senator. I was surprised that the OWAMBE which I harmer on so much, was just a microscopic part of the gala night. There was no rush for the live-band to play the music. Everyone was very attentive to every single aspect of the night.
The night was rounded up with the presence of His Royal Highness, Oba Adejuyigbe Adefunmi of Oyotunji, North Carolina, USA, who chaired the 11th Excellence Awards banquet. He came with his Royal entourage, while the Oyotunji masquerades performed. The recipient of the award for Oodua Excellence was Otunba Gani Adams, Culture and Language; Ex-Officio Award went to Lasisi Ogunmola Mohammed, the immediate past President; Presidential Milestone Awards went to Idowu Ajanaku of The Guardian Newspaper, Nigeria, Yinka Odumakin for Dedicated Services to the Community, and Dr. Femi Ajayi for the Medical Philanthropy.
Women Awards went to Ms. Sophia Oluremi Owoleye, Mrs. Olufadekemi Oladenide, Mrs. Olaide Odusanya, Mrs. Aderonke Sodipo, Mrs. Adetoun Gbadegesin, Dr. (Mrs.) Barbara Adeboye, and Mrs. Modupe Adeniran. Recipients of Leadership Award were Mr. Aderemi Alawode, Mr. Olaseinde Akerele, Mrs. Monilola Tenabe, Professor Olusegun Gbadegesin, Mr. Olumuyiwa Isaac Ogunsan, and Alhaja Iyabode Folasade Adeniji.
Egbe Omo Yoruba leadership has actually made a difference at what direction the Yoruba should take its course from this point (2006). The leadership is focused on Nigeria unity. Chief Odusanya brought in the Zumunta National President and reiterated the need to continue that unity, using their trip to Nigeria as a foundation. The Igbo leadership could not make it, but sent in a solidarity message to the Association. If we may recur, the three Apex Nigerian Organizations, Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba Presidents went to Nigeria to be part of those that 'killed' the Third Term Agenda of Obasanjo's administration. They met with Nigeria lawmakers to stop the Third Term Agenda.
Egbe Omo Yoruba's current administration of Chief Odusanya came into life in Atlanta 2005, when they were elected. It is amazing for what this administration has done within a year of its existence. Odusanya has led two other major Nigerian organizations in North America to Nigeria on a major key issue that could have destroyed the country. When he called me up late 2005, to link him with Zumunta group, after a lengthy discussion about his vision for Nigeria, I told myself that this is one of the rare Nigerians that have Nigerian interest at heart whom I could work with. He sounds very authentic.
When I also mentioned to him about my pet project, Medical Mission to Nigeria, he immediately registered his support. He linked me with his Vice President's wife, Mrs. Lara Aworunse, who might be interested. I did not know this until I got to their meeting in Tampa that Mrs. Aworunse was his VP's wife. Lara has made so much contribution to the Medical Mission to Nigeria. She has been one of my key people in networking for the Medical Mission personnel in Tennessee. Mrs. Wuraola Adesinasi, another member of Egbe Omo Yoruba, Tennessee, joining the Mission, is proving that Egbe Omo Yoruba, Tennessee, is another good testimony of a visionary leadership that Yoruba group needs.
If for one thing, the Leadership, the Captain of the Yoruba Organization, is focused and the Unity in his mind is being approached diplomatically, putting aside any other considerations, the Nigeria future is bright in the eyes of Egbe Omo Yoruba. Chief Adeola Odusanya is one of the visionary leaders that Yoruba needs.
It was a fruitful convention. I was personally impressed by the amount of dedication some people put into the convention. His National Executive Team members are Oyebode Aworunse, Vice President, Oladapo Odunlami, General Secretary, Monilola Tenabe, Treasurer, Olatorera Ogunsan, Financial Secretary, Dele Alade, Esq., Legal Counsel, Bolaji Olaribigbe, Publicity Secretary, Idowu Akinleye, Assistant National Secretary General, Dipo Ogunrinde Assistant National Publicity Secretary, and Lasisi Ogunmola Mohammed, an ex-officio member, the immediate past President.
Nothing could be accomplished without the support and co-operation of other Chapters that give some boosters to Odusanya's administration. They are Taiwo Talabi, Houston, Texas, Chief Lekan Awojoodu, Washington, D.C., Anthony Fela Amos, Columbia, Missouri, Dr. Babatunde Onabanjo, Atlanta, Georgia, Gbadebo Adekoya, Greater New York, Dr. Wole Okunade, Greater St. Louis, Missouri, Esther O. Odunusi, Nashville Tennessee, Professor Gabriel Tenabe, Baltimore, Maryland, Yinka Belo, New York, New York, Dr. Yinka Bankole, Tampa, Florida, Chief Kolawole Akintola-Thomas, Oakland, California, Mr. Adetogba, Boston, Massachusetts, Dr. Yiwola Awoyale, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Babatunde Sofolu, Jacksonville, Florida, Joseph Akanji, New Orleans, Louisiana, and Alhaji Haziz Ajayi, Chicago, Illinois.
All I could say to Egbe Omo Yoruba, under the leadership of Chief Odusanya, is Egbe Omo Yoruba has landed on a solid ground.
See you all in Baltimore in August 2007.