Warning: This Is A Personal Story
Legend has it that my ancestors migrated from _Oyo_ through the forests up North until they arrived at _Ejuku_, in present day Yagba West LGA. They moved from _Ejuku_ again to _Oke Igiro_, from where they became the founders of _Kiri Kingdom_. In the decades following their arrival, they built one of the most formidable states on the Northern fringes of the Yoruba Empire. The king of _Kiri_ land ( _Olu Kiri_ ), was lord over the entire _Bunu_ people. My ancestors built an impressive kingdom known for civility, culture and her trademark cultural festival, _Ajon_.
In the 18th and 19th century, while the slave trade held sway, _Kiri_ kingdom and other neighboring tribes became victims at the hands of _Nupe_ slave raiders. My fathers stood tall to defend the kingdom with heart and pride. Our kingdom survived that era, preserved her dignity and honor, laying up a legacy for generations to come. They sealed a precious lesson for us: when the going gets tough, a prince stands up and lead with heart.
The _Tapa_ people were our northern neighbours. Because of their access to River Niger, they processed fish as their primary occupation. My forebears waxed their relationship with the _Tapas_, and became middle-men, trading fish to other Southern people.
With the British’s introduction of the era of “legitimate trade”, trade expanded, particularly with access to European articles. This birthed the first wave of migration.
My great grand father migrated to Lokoja – the first capital of the British Constabulary, in search of business opportunities. While there, he had my grand father and named him _Braimoh Oloruntoba_. When Braimoh got baptized, he added Emmanuel to his name.
In those days, people bore only their names without the appendage of a surname. Years down the line, my great grand father made a success of his business and returned back home in affluence.
The world was now changing faster than it used to. No more slave raids, but they now had stationed officers pauperising the king and the kingdom. The kingdom was evolving. The people were, too.
My grand father sought his own career to _Ikare_ – in present day Ondo state. He dealt his own trade in palm wine and assorted local drinks. Like him, my great uncle – Jonah Olowosaiye, made his own move too, and built a successful career as a musician.
I particularly grew up to become fond of my great uncle. We played together. Sometimes, we even wrestled. I hated that he always found a means to win. His back would never stay down for long. As we played, he built resilience into my character, and taught me how to persevere to win.
Like my great grand father, both men returned home after having distinguished careers.
My grand father became a noble man after he returned back to the kingdom. He led unofficially, and became the embodiment of the values and virtues of our ancestors. He was a simple man, but grand in appearance and manners. He instructed the people and guided their affairs. His house stood a few meters off the King’s palace. Himself a royal prince, he was as grand and revered too.
The African Church was the first to enter the kingdom. They built their cathedral – a delicate piece of architecture, in the early part of the 20th century. My grand father pioneered the move into the church and became their _”Baba Isale”_.
He was already over a century old when I arrived. Yet, he took his pen and wrote to my father. Few years down the line, I stumbled on that letter. It was now brown but still neat, tucked away safely in a file. I caressed the edges of the paper against my palms, lost in ecstatic wonderment, imagining how his pen glides down that piece of paper, scribbling a name for me.
In 1998, he gathered his final breathe, passed on the baton, and joined his forebears. He was a hundred and twenty years old. His remains lay by the side of his fathers in the sand of _Kiri_ land. My grand father, Braimoh Oloruntoba Emmanuel, was an important link in a long chain.
In his days, the world changed many times. The kingdom too. Born in the final days of slavery, he witnessed the advent of colonialism and outlived it. He saw the bright light of national freedom and the ripples it had throughout the kingdom. He saw modern civilization eating our culture away and stood as a strong presence that held together the best in our people, and passed on a value chest to help preserve posterity.
In his final days, he saw his own son take on the battle. He knew that victory would be hard won. It wouldn’t be easy or clear cut. But he was assured. He had seen his own son battle bravely. And more, he saw the arrival of another prince.
By the time my father matured, he was caught between two defining eras, interlaced with both. Born deep into the colonial era, he saw the glorious days of the kingdom – its fledging economy and thriving social life, its happy people and green pastures. Life was good. The kingdom prospered.
At the brink of national freedom, he saw the emergence of a new world, defined not by the long held cultural pattern of the people, but by a new political system that politicized the mere act of existence. The conservative nature of the kingdom, founded on the shared ideals of the people, would be tested against the rushing waves of modernity. Traditional occupation was losing relevance as the parameters that defined an age transformed so quickly.
The kingdom was at risk of been left behind. Our people were losing relevance in modern schemes. The demand for new skills outgrew the rate at which our people could acquire those skills. The basic amenities of life, which now defined the new world, existed as a myth to our people. The new reality challenged who they were, and corroded their sense of identity. The kingdom was under threat. Our people were in a battle against time, and they were losing fast.
In those bleak days marked by confusion and despair, my father – a worthy prince, stood to rescue a generation. His light shone brightly, and guided the kingdom through those decades of uncertainty and fear. And Goodness! If he had failed at all, the kingdom would have disappeared much quicker. But he became the bridge that connected a generation to their future.
He traveled through the jungles of _Bunu_ land fearlessly and knitted the people to a strong chord of brotherhood, inspired by their collective aspirations and guided by a shared vision. The years eased into one another, but the kingdom still lacked the one thing that could qualify her people for a better life: “`EDUCATION“`. My father dared the dangers of the highways, traveled to high places and secured a better deal for his people. Because of his work, the first school came in to the kingdom. The second soon followed. But he wanted more for his people.
So brilliant was he that he drew attention and won a scholarship to travel abroad. But he turned it down to help free his people from the tyranny of ignorance and enforced illiteracy. He would battle long and hard to help secure justice and equity for his people. To help liberate the people faster,he qualified as a teacher and knocked on every door to get transferred home. With his broad smiles and assuring gaze, he inspired the heart of young boys and girls to dream and believe their dreams.
My father’s image transcend the kingdom as he set national records. He carried the National torch at Nigeria’s first National Sport Festival, much to the pride of his people. But he chose to return home to build one of the strongest sociopolitical organizations of his era, and led his people for decades. His works helped to secure the people’s right and offered them a better chance at life.
In the days when the dread of the oppressors filled every mind, he stood up and led with heart. His legacy is cemented eternally in the hearts of the people whose lives he touched.
Another prince would come. But it would take a long wait. When at over a hundred he took his pen to scribble a name, he knew exactly who it is. The grasses were already growing pale. The kingdom was a shadow of her glory days. In a new world that was strange and unkind, life itself became a task.
Still, the old man rejoiced and hoped again. He searched the sky for the morning dews and watched for the rising rays of the sun. Like the sun’s strength at noonday, he bursts in faith, boundless, without limits, excited by the arrival of a son, a Prince.
The world kept spinning and changing. My father battled the tides, trying so hard to yoke the people to the times. But they weren’t changing fast enough to meet the times. By dawn, the world had gone.
Now left behind and stung by the times, the people grappled with the remains of the days gone by. The dust of the earth – to which all mortals must return, sprinkles itself on rooftops, spreading through mid-day air, as testament of the times. Still, the world keeps spinning and changing.
How different is my world from theirs! How different, the enormity of the task! How so? That the kingdom that my fathers built now shares the same fate with hundreds of others, doting the surface of my nation? It turns out that our kingdom was a tiny part of a big nation, left behind by the times.
That the fate of all peoples of this nation is now intertwined and literally inseparable is one thing. That the peoples of this nation do not yet know is quite a different thing. One suffer loss, if one seals a ripen plantain in a golden box, in admiration of, and in order to secure its freshness. Time changes everything.
Peoples of all faith and tribe – my own people, the peoples of my nation, held down and subjected to the same necessities, the same wants,the same desires. No soul craves for love than another. No stomach wants food than another. No heart desires freedom more. No one desires life less. This is why we are all humans, because no one is more human.
In a world free but caged,these basic human aspirations are still elusive, inhibited by ignorance and lack. The people of my nation are still plagued by these diseases, denied access to the things that can give their lives true meaning. They stand still, desperate to get over, but the gulf of ignorance and lack, stands between them and the life they dream.
I have dreams of my own. Some of them are personal. Some of them are not. Like thinking of my own children, my family. I crave for “my love” and the babies we would make. I crave for my daughter. I want to throw her in the air and catch her just before she falls. I want to read to her, and help her to nurse her dreams. I want to tickle and tuck her into bed at night.
I want to be my son’s first playmate. We can crack “silly” jokes and have a good laugh. I’ll teach him how to write a few codes. I’ll put him on his first bicycle, and when he turn 16, we can still have some laugh about how often he tumbled before he learnt to ride. We would have so many walk in the park, and I’ll share stories I heard from my fathers. We may even strategize on how to get his first date. I mean, we’ll plot the coup.
But I have my fears about this too. Sometimes, I’m scared. I’m scared of the world and the environment they would grow up in. If my nation fails to get her bearing right today, will my children get their chance to have a full and abundant life? Would they exhaust their potential? Would their environment contain them?
I know that however hard I try to protect my own children, if there are still millions of children outside who are not cared for, or protected, my own children cannot be safe. I know that if millions are still lost in their daily struggles, and unable to fulfill their basic human aspirations, it will be a blight for my own children. I know these things.
But I know in my heart that I must never quit on them. I owe it to them to help shape the future for good, to help lay the foundation of a new future and help rebuild our nation.
*We are too connected to be unaffected*
In my own time, our challenges are new and different. No walls could be high enough to hold off the influx of poverty, and to keep anyone safe from the impending danger. We are all bare, but thank goodness! Not hopeless!
Even though today we are faced with new problems, the virtues with which we meet them are not new. We must still be guided by the same immortal ideals that guided our forebears. The ideals of empathy, of equity, of justice. We must be governed by the same laws that tasks us to _”be our brother’s keepers”_ and demands of us to _”do unto others as we would like others to do unto us”_. These things never change.
As my own days lengthens, I’m reminded of the unfulfilled dreams of my forebears. I hear echos calling me out to embrace my destiny. Sometimes, I feel them watching, trying to see if my life will live up to the hopes they nursed. The hope of a worthy and dignified life for all peoples was dear to them. My father led by serving. _He had a dream of a beloved society guided by the principles of love, equity and justice_. He lived and sacrificed for this.
It’s true that I share in those dreams too. It seem to matter to me how another man lives. It matters to me whether or not he has food in his stomach. It matters to me whether he has roof over his head, whether he feels that he’s worth something, whether he feels that he is somebody. It matters to me whether that man has a life, whether he is living, whether he is truly alive. These things don’t just matter to me, they burden me.
Now when I stare into the starry nights, I see the faces of my seeds. I can feel and touch them. Beyond them are the peaceful shades of my forebears. Their laurels lay by them. They seem to call out, asking what world I would pass on to my seeds.
So assured are they in their legacy. Their calm glare at me seem to query: _what will your legacy be?_.
A certain resilience and ingenuity carried through my grand fathers, now seem manifest in me. Like them,I feel propelled, guided by the same ideals that inspired them. They battled bravely against the prejudice of their days, and shone majestically, becoming the standard to which others aspired.
The destiny of all peoples in my nation is now greatly intertwined than it has ever been. People of all faiths,tribes and tongue now share a common fate. My task now inevitably demands the evolvement of a new vision that captures the hopes and aspirations of the people I identify so strongly with. I’m tasked with leading courageously, committed to the immortal ideals that have preserved humanity over the centuries.
I am now yoked with them. Their burden is my burden. Their struggles is my struggle. Their triumph is my triumph.
_If destiny indeed beckons,I’ll walk to it unfazed_
“`My fathers built a kingdom. I’m tasked with rebuilding a nation“`
If you feel as I do, if you have the same persuasion as I do, then join me on the 13th of October at Citizens Conference 2018, to learn how you can help to rebuild our nation.
Register here: www.citizensconference.org.ng