The Yorùbá nation and Omolúwàbí renaming proposal


My response is: What’s in a name? In what specific senses does a name or naming constitute a signpost to destiny and predestination? What causal effect does name achieve especially as the Christian bible suggest of Abram/ Abraham, Jacob/Israel or of Jabez renaming?

To be mischievous, in what sense did the name “Wole Soyinka”, within the Christian or Yoruba thinking, contribute to the impeding or enhancing of Soyinka’s fame and fortune? My suspicion is that the Yoruba condition is deeper than a concern with the name we were given. If truly the name originated from an external ethnic caricature, then at the least, we owe ourselves the responsibility of tuning that caricature around.

And that would be a really ironic success because a “bastard” would then have become a socio-economic and political powerhouse in Nigeria.

The way to get about this is not to change our name to Omoluwabi as if the mere fact of nomenclature is sufficient to transform centuries of economic and political anomalies. Omolúwàbí is an ethical term that denotes someone whose character is so noteworthy that it becomes a reference for the entire community.

The greater challenge than naming is the task of demanding the imperative of Omoluwabi from the Yoruba leadership in a manner that will reflect on the visioning the Yoruba nation require to surge forward. Omolúwàbí has an underlying reform component.

Robert Ingersoll, the American lawyer has this to say about Abraham Lincoln: “Lincoln was not a type. He stands alone – no ancestors, no fellows, no successors.” The same can be said about Nelson Mandela and Lee Kuan Yew. In the Yoruba ethical parlance, these are Omoluwabi leaders.

But being an Omoluwabi comes with what Goethe calls “a never ending song”: “Deny Yourself!” Denial is where the creation of the Omoluwabi personality comes from, and it is essentially the denial of oneself on behalf of others, especially those with whom one has significant connection, be it of family, ethnic, gender, cultural or nationality.

Noblesse oblige: Mandela gave 27 years of his life to ensure that South Africa has a chance to undermine the apartheid racial system. Lee Kuan Yew gave up the urge for greed and primitive accumulation to build a strong and modern Singapore.

Abraham Lincoln dedicated his entire legacy to keeping the United States united and stronger. As a reform strategy, the Omoluwabi paradigm is especially demanded on the Yoruba leaders of thoughts and politicians in Nigeria today.

And we have the great example of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, a politician, who has a great reform mind and cultural sensitivity that enabled him to raise the bar of governance in the old Western Region.

The question then is: What is the reform import of demanding that the Yoruba governors of the South-West become Omoluwabi? It is the unfolding of this question in Yorubaland that carries the burden of the transformation of the Yoruba people and all our expectations in Nigeria.

I have argued before now that the South-West constitutes a reform zone that carries the possibility of energising the restructuring of the Nigerian state. And that puts a lot of responsibilities on the Yoruba governors, its critical elite corps, not minding whether they are PDP or APC or of non-governmental sectors.

Unfortunately, this is an imperative we do not seem to have taken to heart yet. For me, the elite, especially those of the political class, of the South-West stand at the threshold of history of the type that great Ewi poem renditions can be made in the future. They all stand at the point of creating huge legacies that calls posterity to notice.

And this is all the more so in a period where billions of naira keep surfacing in so many unlikely places. All this have raised a huge and seemingly insurmountable distrust in the heart of the people. The worry is this, would we not also get similar revelations about those who hold power today?

There is only one antidote for political distrust. And that antidote is effective governance. The South-West has the human capital, the political goodwill, the resources and the signal of a great moment in history – Now!

The tough challenge is jumpstarting a huge infrastructural agenda that will cancel out or at least ameliorate the infrastructural deficit that plagues Nigeria and aggravate her underdevelopment.

This challenge goes beyond the invocations of religion or wishful thinking. It is something that needed to be done, and it seems to me that it will take the collective efforts of everyone, including the Ewi exponents like Pastor Kunle Omo Alaafin Orun. The greatness of the Yoruba nation can be sustained first through sincere concern, like the one expressed in the poem rendition; and then by thoughtful reform actions. We need to sing about these actions, and write about them and lobby our leadership to reflect and act on them.

It would then no longer matter, when we eventually get them to act, whether we still bear “Yoruba” or “Omoluwabi.”


•Dr. Olaopa is the Executive Vice-Chairman, Ibadan School of Government & Public Policy (ISGPP)

Related posts

Leave a Reply