Ekiti, My Small Nigeria


By ‘Dimeji Daniels

At independence, Singapore was confronted with a serious problem of nationhood owing to the diverse nationalities that make up the country. The Malays looked to Malaysia as their homeland, Indians to India and Chinese to China, thus making the country look like a forced marriage (contraption), or a mere geographical expression as stated by Obafemi Awolowo regarding Nigeria. What the government did was to give the people a sense of belonging to give them the feeling of a stakeholder in the destiny of Singapore.

Eighty percent of Singaporeans at the time were without housing. Providing free housing for the citizens was one step that quickly made them see Singapore as home. The government then moved to establish a strong anti-graft machinery that ensured (ensures) that no one, irrespective of his/her status, lived (lives) above his earnings. Seeing as bigwigs were scape-goated, Singaporeans were convinced that the laws of the land were (are) supreme and gradually they had that strong conviction that their country offered equal opportunities and chances to everyone, irrespective of pedigree and without having to lick the ‘pot’ dry. Till today in Singapore, woe betide that person, citizen or foreigner, who is caught peddling drugs or involved in corruption.

Nigeria, just like Singapore, has diverse ethnicities, but has not been able to find a symbol of unity that would set it on the path of nationhood. Football could have done this for Nigeria until federal character was introduced into it.

Whatever the intention(s) of the proponents of federal character, they have only succeeded in drawing Nigeria far apart and I dare say that Nigerians are aware of this grave problem and are all pushing forward their various suggestions. Some have suggested disintegration, arguing that the Igbos would be better on their own (in their own country), the Yorubas and Hausas too.

If this is allowed to fly, wouldn’t the Jukuns in the North or the Kataf in Kaduna cry of marginalisation in such a country, or would they get their separate country too?

Wouldn’t the Ekitis say they would not allow the Egbas and Ijebus to lord it over them if Oodua Republic eventually comes into being? Or would Ekitis be given their own country too? Heaven knows how many parts Nigeria would be torn into!

Unlike Nigerians, all Singaporeans, rich and poor, were serious about their country and were ready to take on a common identity. In Nigeria, however, we are in this mess because the ruling class have always found a convenient lie to divide the people further to suit their devilish needs. They have always championed tribalism, ethnicity and federal character above competence. It has always been what favours them and not the country.

Should Nigeria disintegrate, will this trend not continue? Will there not be elites, out of their selfish motives, who will tell the Ijesas to ‘fight’ for their ‘rights’ and not allow the Oyos to ‘subdue’ them?

Ekiti, where I come from, which I call my own Nigeria, has been largely described as the only homogeneous State in Nigeria, but you only have to visit my State to understand the dilemma of this country.

Right from when I could discern my environment (long before Ekiti was created), I had known that even in Ekiti, there is division brought about by politicians, our parents and then politicians.

As a young boy, I learnt from my parents and elders around me that as a native of Ado, I must not marry from Ikere-Ekiti (which is about the closest town to Ado-Ekiti) because “Ado and Ikere people don’t like one another”. I took it with a pinch of salt until after my university days when I fell in love with a girl from Ikere. It was like dealing my mother a deadly blow.

“Ikere people are loquacious”.

“Ikere people are fetish.”

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“They are stubborn.”

My mother just wouldn’t stop!

If my mother would be excused because she was illiterate, what about the girl’s parents? They too had so many theories about Ado-Ekiti people.

“Ado men do not take care of their women.”

“Ikere people have always suffered in any marriage to Ado people.”

“Ado women do not stay in their husband’s house. They are promiscuous.”

On both sides, they went on and on. Eventually, the relationship crashed since at every opportunity, our parents would say, “We said so!”

Ikere was not the only town you could not marry from in my family. Ikole-Ekiti was also on my parents’ list. My grandmother, on her own, seemed to have every Ekiti town on her list, save Ado-Ekiti, her town. You would hear theories (claims) like “There are too many witches in that town.” Which town does not have witches? The pith of the matter is that our people are simply too petty, selfish and jejune!

Another trend I have noticed in Ekiti is the seeming distaste of the other towns for Ado. I have heard traditional rulers in the State who said, “Must everything always go to Ado? Ado people are too acquisitive!” In taxis, you would hear conversations like “Awon Ado, won lagidi. Won ti jora won loju ju” (meaning “Ado people are too stubborn and they are self-conceited). If you were from Ado, it would take a lot of patience and maturity for you to keep calm and pretend not to hear a word.

One would expect the university environment to be different, but I had a taste of the anomaly during my days at the University of Ado-Ekiti, now Ekiti State University. Most times, the school authority would find a way to disqualify non-indigene from becoming the Students’ Union President while propping up an incompetent indigene to win.

Where then is the homogeneity of Ekiti? If governorship is rotated based on senatorial zones and not necessarily competence, where is our homegeneity? If other Ekiti indigenes who dwell in my town (Ado) would say “Ado people are rude”, where is the homogeneity? If traditional rulers don’t see all Ekitis as one, a people with a common identity and destiny, separated only by artificial town borders, where is the homogeneity we shout about? If Iworoko and Ado-Ekiti both lay claim to the location of Ekiti State University (even though Iworoko’s claim is shrouded in subtlety), where is the homogeneity? If in this age and time, Ekitis still think in terms of towns and not as common indigenes of a single binding entity, of what use then is the much-touted Ekiti homogeneity?

If Ekiti, the only homogeneous State in Nigeria, can be like this, you can imagine the mess Nigeria is in, in its clamour for nationhood and how tall and elusive the dream seems.

•Daniels writes from Ekiti State.

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