Offa: Utilizing the Power of Family Ties for Development
Offa: Utilizing the Power of Family Ties for Development
Sunday, September 4, 2022 12:00 pm
Folorunso Fatai Adisa
By Folorunso Fatai Adisa
One of the genres of music that has had significant effects on other genres of music among the Yorùbá of southwestern Nigeria is Sakara. Among the practitioners of this genre of music, Yusuf Olátúnjí is unique in terms of the content, the rendition, and the performance of his special brand of music. His precision, snail-paced beats, gripping layouts, eloquent timing, and most importantly his perfect sense of praise-singing his fans are some of the exceptional attributes of Yusuf Olatunji’s brand of Sakara Music.
For example, while praising one of his prominent fans, S.A Sunmmonu, who was a native of Offa but lived in an area called “Ija Offa”— a place founded by some natives of Offa— in Abeokuta Ogun State, he compellingly rendered the panegyrics of Offa and attributed it to the much dreaded Masquerade, GBOGBI, of Ija Offa people such that anyone who listens to that track would not only savor its melody but also revere and fear “S.A Sunmonu” as an Ija-Offa man. He sang: A jiya o/ a jewe eya o
Eniba dubu e ni Ija-Ofa
Nijo ti GBOGI e ba gb’Agbo
A jiya ooo
Baba oniyen a jiya/ a jewe eya.
-He would be beaten and battered
-Whoever confronts you (S.A Sunmonu) in Ija-Ofa community
-The day your GBOGI masquerade bears the sacrificial ram
-Beaten, he would
-The fellow would be beaten and battered
The story is told by, Eyiowuawi Toluwalase, a leading fan of Baba L’Egba that Gbogi is a dreaded masquerade in Ija-Offa community back in the days, especially when he was seen carrying a live sacrificial ram over his shoulders to a location to be offered for sacrifice. A non-initiate who crossed the masquerade’s path, as he embarked on the spiritual walk, would be beaten black and blue, or even harmed.
Given that his music is a concatenation of diverse elements, ranging from, the incisive use of metaphor, imagery, rich rhythm, deep immersion in Yoruba metaphysics, and wisdom all of which are resident in his ability to situate his songs in history, you will agree with me that Baba L’Egba was not just an entertainer and socialite, he was also a historian. For most of us, it was this track that further brought the “IJA- OFFA” community to the limelight as a twig of Offa, the headquarters of the Ibolo kingdom.
When Martin Luther King’s wife, Coretta King, remarked, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members,” the people of Offa must have eavesdropped as an average Offa person treats one another with love and compassion. Their immeasurable love for their town permeates every sphere of their lives as they do not hesitate to flaunt their unbridled love for the town at their places of work, in discourse, and so on. An average Offa man is a personal PR person for the town.
It is this filial love that would make a delegation led by Alhaji Afolabi Bisiriyu (Chairman of Offa Diaspora Search Committee) visit Abeokuta, Ogun state, where I ran into them, in search of their relatives— the people of Ija- Offa community who have been in Abeokuta for close to 250 years. Alhaji Bisiriyu noted that the committee performs the duty of investigating and searching for related Offa communities and/or people who are not resident in Offa (or Offa communities that are not located in Offa kingdom) to relate with them and make them realize that they have roots. That singular action, to me, affirms the loving and lovely nature of Offa people: they get attracted to people and people get attracted to them.
In Ibadan alone, there are about seven (7) communities that are related to Offa and there are close to three (3) past Olubadans such as Oba Yesufu Oloyede Asanike, the 37th Olubadan, whose roots are deeply connected to the Offa kingdom.
That the foundation of Offa kingdom was anchored on love is an incontrovertible truism. A singular Offa man has no fears of going home today as a result of the camaraderie that exists among them. Love, Comradeship, Cooperation: Offa Grammar School is a metaphor for the aforementioned. It is a school found through unity where the Christian natives of Offa brought their western education wisdom and the Muslim natives brought their money and the teamwork result is the present-day Offa Grammar School that has produced prominent people like the current emir of Ilorin, HRH Ibrahim Gambari, late Oba Oladele Olasore, former CEO of First Bank, Dr. Femi Adekanye, CEO of the defunct Commerce Bank, General Alani Akinrinade, former Chief of Army Staff; General David Jemibewon, former governor of the old western state, the Belgores and so on.
A true kingdom does not exist without a charismatic leader. The thrilling traits of character of the current Olofa of Offa kingdom, His Royal Majesty, Oba Mufutau Muhammed Oloyede Gbadamosi, Okikiola Ajagungbade I Esuwoye II has significantly impacted on the town on many fronts.
Twelve years ago, precisely on the 9th of May,2010, the historic town of Offa witnessed a watershed that has continued to define its identity. That day, the eventful coronation of the Olofa of Offa took place with pomp, aplomb and pageantry as the whole world rejoiced with a people who had sorely missed a monarch and a unifier. His unifying trait of character surfaced in a story told by Alh. Afolabi Bisiriyu, Chairman of Offa Diaspora Search Committee, that despite the no-love lost relationship between the Late Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III and the previous Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II, the Olofa was able to jointly bring them to his coronation in 2010. Many had doubted that the Late Alaafin would grace the occasion given that the late Ooni Oba Okunade had arrived at the venue earlier. It was reported that the late Etsu Patigi, Alhaji Umar Chatta, was already sitting on the chair reserved for the Alaafin on the belief that Alaafin would not be present until the late Alaafin glamorously arrived with his entourage of Kings from Oyo State.
That event pronounced the pacifist nature of the first graduate king of the Offa kingdom and highlights the harmonizing and leadership features of Oba Mufutau Gbadamosi. Indeed, what could have been a great feat in the life of a man marked a glorious dawn in the life of a people, who had for long yearned for a charismatic and phenomenal leadership to take them to where they deserve in the sky, not where they were. Since the dawn of this new era, the Offa kingdom has not remained the same again as it has continued to witness progress in leaps and bounds, courtesy of the strategies, tactics, and operations of the king, whose passion for serving his people is unquantifiable.
Finally, it is through some of the good people of Offa whom I had met and related with that I understood a part of their panegyrics “Omo laare,buure, ikan ogbodo jukan, ba jukan l’Offa Ogun loun da’sile nile baba t’obiwon lomo” that is predicated on justice and equity which is one of their motivating factors. You may see them as proud but that is unexpected as the peacock is their main insignia— a pretty and proud bird that knows its worth and sort among birds.
If Helen Keller had said, “Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much”, it is the people of Offa who have, over the years, aptly practiced this saying with the kind of love and unity that operate within the town and its people.