The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, stormed Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, on Tuesday, where he, supported by the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, headlined the launch of the Yoruba World Centre, a brainchild of the International Centre For Yoruba Arts and Culture, ICYAC.
At the historic event, an elated Osinbajo declared that the “work of centers such as the International Centre For Yoruba Arts and Culture could become a base for how culture can help in building a more inclusive, fairer, and more just society.
The Centre, according to Osinbajo, could strengthen the bonds of unity within an ethnically diverse nation such as Nigeria.
- Second from right-the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (middle), other dignitaries at the event
These facts were disclosed in a press statement issued, Tuesday evening, by the Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to the President in the Office of the Vice President, Pastor Laolu Akande.
“The work of this Centre should also offer a base and sanctuary which reflects how Yoruba culture can contribute to the tools of nation-building,” the VP stated.
Reflecting on President Muhammadu Buhari’s observation in 2018 that the rest of Nigeria could learn from the accommodating nature of Yorubas in South West regardless of religion, ethnicity, and politics, Prof. Osinbajo asked: “How can the rest of the nation learn as President Buhari observed, from the way Yorubas manage within their families to accommodate diverse faiths and beliefs?
“At a more reflective level, we will through this repository and the traditions embedded in the artworks and cultural artefacts, imbibe the triumphs, challenges, inventions, and spiritual heritage of the Yoruba people.
“And how here at home, Yoruba culture also had to adapt to the onslaught of colonialism in Nigeria by the British and in Benin and Togo by the French. In ‘Death and the King’s Horseman’, a classic play by Professor Wole Soyinka, we see forces at work that tried to adapt cultural practices with tragic consequences.”
Highlighting the Omoluabi philosophy of the Yoruba people, which is used to describe a person of integrity, trust and honour, the VP observed that, “in a nation dogged by the abdication of high values especially in leadership, perhaps the Centre might take on the task of formalizing the pedagogy on the concept of Omoluabi for teaching in our schools. Omoluabi, the true moral quintessence of the Yoruba race – the virtuous man, or the man or woman of character.
“Perhaps scholars here will distill the heart of the Omoluwabi ethos, and reveal the attributes of trustworthiness, reliability, honesty, and forthrightness for coming generations of Nigerians. Perhaps the world needs to know that the Omoluabi is one whose word to brother and stranger alike is reliable, who believes in the equality of all men regardless of race or belief, and that all deserve to be treated with dignity and fairness. One who believes that the commonwealth is not to be stolen or personalized, but it is for the good of all.”
In the same vein, the Vice President noted that “culture is not just about the past, and it is neither static nor immutable, it is constantly creating and recreating;” and “progress is not merely determined by fidelity to tradition, but by our capacity for invention and reinvention.”
Prof. Osinbajo further said Nigeria could further leverage its diversity to harness strength and raise development capital.
As the VP observed, a continuously changing global landscape and the Fourth Industrial Revolution have made it more vital to adapt to technological innovation changing at lightning speed.
According to him “the future of mankind is at an inflexion point with COVID-19 and climate change already disrupting life as we know it. To cope well, we must draw strength from our cultural capital – the wealth of tangible and intangible knowledge that emanates from a society’s core and enables it to cope with change.
“One of the tasks of scholars, enthusiasts, and citizens interested in understanding the Yoruba heritage is to use culture as a tool for helping us discern our place in the world and to rekindle our visionary capabilities. This intent is inherent in the design and work of this Centre.”
On the potential impact of the International Centre For Yoruba Arts and Culture, Prof. Osinbajo observed that “the World Centre will therefore serve not just as a place of memory, but as a place that inspires us and fires our collective imagination, even within the dynamic contexts of advances in technology, ideas and thought.”
Beyond being a place for the study of Yoruba arts and culture, he also stated that the Centre could join the advocacy for the return of artefacts to their original homes, while also becoming a destination point for many Africans in Diaspora to trace their origins to the Yorubas.
Equally, the Centre should also promote closer links between the Yoruba people in the homeland and their kin in the diaspora, he added.
The VP commended the visioners of the Centre, particularly Alagba Alao Adedayo, who is also the Publisher of Alaroye Newspapers, for the boldness and ambition of their enterprise, as well as the enormous self-sacrifice and patriotism that it entailed.
“You have initiated a place that will give context and depth to our understanding of our past, our place and role in the present, and hopefully our preparation for the future. A place that will help tell a fuller, deeper and richer story of a proud, creative, and colorful people, but also of the rich tapestry of cultures, races, ethnicities, and faiths of which they are a part,” he added.
Also at the event, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III praised the idea of the Center while highlighting the pride of place that Yoruba people hold in Nigeria and around the world. Referring to a recent speech by the VP detailing how young Nigerians are making global waves in technology and innovation, the Alaafin said such exploits by many young Yoruba youths show the high esteem of the Yoruba people.
The Alaafin, who spoke in Yoruba, also called for the preservation of Yoruba customs and traditions.
“Considering the rate at which things move these days, it will be disastrous allowing our traditions go into oblivion in the face of permissiveness. Languages often hold the record of a people’s history, including their songs, stories, praise, poetry and ancient traditions, ” the prominent Yoruba monarch said.
He also observed that with the gradual extinction of a language, humanity could lose access to local understanding of plants, animals, and ecosystems, some of which have important medicinal value, and many of which remain undocumented by science.
In his remarks, Mr. Alao Adedayo, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Centre and Publisher of Alaroye Newspaper, said, the centre was set up to preserve in one place, the culture, tradition, language of a people, adding that it will also promote the idea of Yoruba people coming together to achieve things and help in nation building.
Alao also emphasised that the centre would be to serve as a one-stop shop, offering old, new, recreated and reconstructed materials for researchers, lecturers, students, authors, journalists, historians and members of the public interested in Yoruba history, arts and culture as a tool for nation building, national cohesiveness and mutual understanding.
Others speakers at the event which attracted different groups from the Southwest States, Kwara and beyond were the deputy governors of Oyo State, Rauf Olaniyan; Ogun State, Mrs. Noimot Salako-Oyedele; and Ondo State, Lucky Aiyedatiwa.
The Vice Chancellor, University of Ibadan, Prof. Kayode Oyebode Adebowale, among other dignitaries also attended and spoke at the ceremony.