Your excellency, bring back our song


By Dare Babarinsa

One of the most interesting aspects of Ede, Osun State, is its dynamic capacity to domesticate external influence. It is one of the old towns that survived and thrived after almost a century of wars among Yoruba people in the 19th Century.

It is now a centre of scholarship, being the home of the Redeemer’s University and Adeleke University. It is not far from Bowen University, Iwo, the largest Baptist University in Africa. Another neighbouring town, Osogbo, capital of Osun State is also home to Fountain University and the Osun State University.

Ede is regarded as a lucky town, situated right at the centre of serious activities. It is home of the Adelekes, whose three flag bearers are Governor of Osun State, Ademola, founder of the Adeleke University, Adedeji and the world-famous musician, David Adeleke, popularly known as Davido.

The Adeleke’s patriarch, Papa Ayoola Adeleke, a labour unionist and businessman, was one of the five senators that represented old Oyo State in the National Assembly during the Second Republic. He also held the traditional title of Balogun of Ede. Though a politician, Balogun Adeleke commanded respect and affection. He was one of those who supported Governor Bola Ige during the turbulence that attended the nomination contests of the Obafemi Awolowo-led Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), in 1983. Today, his children and descendants are in charge of the mineral-rich Osun State. They call the shots.

The Adelekes are the only family that I know that has produced three senators; father and two sons, and two governors. When Isiaka Adeleke, alias Serubawon, said he would like to be governor of old Oyo State during the convoluted Transition Programme of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, only few people took him seriously.

In the politics of 1990s, many people felt the old Osun Division, including Ogbomoso, couldn’t produce the governor. It was the division that produced Governor Bola Ige, and despite the three-month reign of Governor Omololu Olunloyo, the famous mathematician, many felt it was only just that power went to the old Oyo Division. Then Babangida created more states in 1991 and suddenly Adeleke’s chance brightened with the emergence of Osun State. He was elected the first civilian governor in 1991 and took office in January 1992.

Governor Adeleke was young, flamboyant and full of energy. His father was known, but the son was a bit mysterious. It was a challenging period and the new governor took his assignment seriously. Then Babangida destroyed the house he had built with such meticulous care when he annulled the victory of Chief Moshood Abiola in the presidential election of June 12, 1993.

By November that year, Adeleke and all the 27 governors were out of job and the dark era of General Sani Abacha had begun after the barely four-month interregnum of Chief Ernest Adegunle Adenekan who presided over the difficult-to-define Interim National Government (ING).

I remember meeting Governor Isiaka Adeleke in Ede, early 1995, shortly after he won the election to go to the Abacha Constitutional Conference. Papa Adekunle Ajasin, the leader of the Awoist Movement and Afenifere, had issued a directive that Yoruba should not participate in the Constitutional Conference, because Abacha had decided to load it with his unelected nominees.

Adeleke obeyed and he did not go to the conference. Many other top politicians, including Chief Olu Falae, who had won the election, also declined to go.

It was the struggle of that era under the leadership of Ajasin and other patriarchs that finally led to the emergence of the current democratic dispensation. It is why we have Adeleke, the second, in Osogbo today. He is a governor who has a family legacy and also the burden of history to worry about. He can be dramatic, but he cannot afford to be frivolous.

Recently, the Osun State House of Assembly repealed the law that created the state’s anthem, flag and coat of arms. It also carried out the directive of the court that the erstwhile regime of Governor Rauf Aregbesola had no right to change the name of the state to State of Osun, when the Constitution asserts that it is Osun State.

Throughout his eight years reign, Aregbesola continued, despite the spirited opposition from many quarters, to propagate the State of Osun. It was never popular. But the anthem and the crest were popular decisions.

I believe the law should have been amended to reflect the name of the state. It is wrong to then abolish both the anthem and the crest all at the same time. We should not throw away the baby and the dirty bathwater at the same time. Governor Adeleke should help us retrieve the baby immediately.

Identity is central to the concept of federalism. During the struggle for Nigerian independence, the debate was intense among Nigerian elite whether the emerging polity should be run as a unitary state or as a federation.

At the Ibadan Conference of 1950, attended by most of the rising political stars then, including Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello and Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, it was finally settled that Nigeria should be a federation of three regions, each with its own Constitution and Coat of Arms.

I am not sure now whether each of the regions had a separate anthem for when I was in primary school in the 1960s, I don’t think we were singing any separate anthem for the Western Region. However, during the Second Republic, Ogun State had its own anthem, Ise Ya!

The right to have state coats of arms and anthems was one those victories we secured during the struggle against military rule. Aregbesola was part of that struggle, and therefore, it was indeed right and proper that he should spearhead the institution of a state anthem, flag and coat of arms for Osun. It was a victory that should not be taken for granted or treated with partisan frivolity. This is certainly beyond partisanship.
Since the Ogun State anthem was introduced during the Second Republic, no governor since Governor Olabisi Onabanjo, had ever questioned the rationale. It survived during the military rule and it remains central to the identity of Ogun State as part of the Nigerian federation.

In those days, it was the second anthem you will hear on Ogun State Broadcasting Corporation (OGBC), after the national anthem, once it starts broadcasting at dawn.

Other states in the Southwest also have their own anthems: Ondo, Ekiti and Oyo. But the scrapped Osun State anthem has an even more romantic reason why it should be allowed to stay. The original song was written by Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the lyric set into music by the legendary Chief Hubert Ogunde, the Doyen of Nigerian theatre.

In later years, it was adapted as the Yoruba anthem by Afenifere, the Yoruba mainstream political and cultural movement, and transformed into the state anthem by Aregbesola. Now it is being set aside by the son of Balogun Adeleke.

Governor Adeleke needs to bring back our song. His father was one of those men and women who followed Awolowo in his last and most spectacular bid for power during the Second Republic.

In November 1983, Papa Adeleke was one of the leaders from the old Oyo State Division that gathered in Abeokuta for the last congress of the UPN presided over the Chief Awolowo. Some of the leaders standing to sing the party anthem were teary-eyed.

Now with several transmutations, the anthem still evokes both nostalgia and deep yearning. How can Adeleke, the son of the farm not know where the yams are staked on the barn? Your Excellency, bring back our anthem. It is beyond you and Aregbesola. It is beyond politics. It is history.


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