By Busuyi Mekusi
Existing historiographies are very informatively unequivocal about the various pathways humanity has travelled in the course of evolution and civilization. As times and seasons eclipse, different notable changes get added to ways and manners respective societies carry themselves, and structure their norms, modes, cultures and traditions. One of the human tropes that have been subjected to variations and moderations, overtime, is marriage. The traditional institution in Yorubaland has witnessed many colourations, with the occupation of the stool politicised beyond democratisation, and monetised far above the place of divinity. This is not to suggest that the traditional method of selecting a king was insulated from manipulations. However, just like the bastardisation witnessed in Nigerian variant of constitutional democracy, Ifa is now made to ‘play-sing’ the tunes dictated by pound sterling or dollar. With the new characterisations of royal personages, the recent intention of the Oluwo of Iwo to marry a Princess from the Ado Bayero dynasty is definitely more than a royal handshake.
Marriage remains the union of any two people, to the exclusion of all others, in the real sense of the word, but most African traditional societies allowed men to practice polygamy, with the man privileged to marry more than one wife. Also, concubines line the sideways, depending on socio-political and economic buoyancies of the beneficiary. Kings are believed to have the licence to marry as many wives as possible, as part of the enrichment of the palace, or mere fulfilment of emotional desires. The Alaafin of Oyo is still an ‘old striker’, and the Ooni of Ife is youthfully ‘yarning’ in the palace. This is not to say that some women, in such a dispensation, are insulated from flirtatious relationships and multiplicity of sexual escapades. For this reason, some women would get a man, other than their husbands, to father children through them, while under the roof of their husbands. The 21st century liberalisation of spaces has increased the tendency of complicated paternity, with DNA being the most reliable evaluative instrument to determine where one really stands in terms of legitimacy.
The instructive and impactful influence of parents on who their children and wards should marry was almost non-negotiable in pre-western civilization in a country like Nigeria. This parental control was enormously absolute that recommendations on whom a child would marry were done independent of the suitors, even in cases where they would not have met before. In most cases, and beyond any consideration given to the interest of the players, women were then betrothed for the purpose of economic survival and socio-political placement of the parents, just like what Ananse does with Anansewa in Efua Sutherland’s The Marriage of Anansewa. Often times, commoditised women live within their forced marital spaces as conquered slaves and pawned servants. It must be stated, very clearly, however, that the right to choose presented by the new regime is relatively more complicating, as separation and divorce are now alternatives desired.
With the Bible remaining one of the reliable explanations that tend to help unmask the ‘myths’ about human evolution, the templates established for marriage at the very beginning emphasised marriages between people with filial relationships, as restrictions were placed on marriages with people outside a definable family or clannish nucleus. Specifically, In Genesis 24, Abraham put his eldest servant on oath not to take a wife for his son, Isaac, from the daughters of Canaanites, where he dwelt, but that he would go to his country and kindred instead. Isaac repeated this format in Genesis 28, when he charged his son, Jacob, not to take a wife from Canaan, but that he must go marry one of the daughters of Laban, his mother’s brother and uncle. The identifications and distinctions both Abraham and Isaac embarked on are indicative of the changes that have occurred in the process of individual and group engagements, associations, and orientations, and would ordinarily be redundant when viewed against the backdrop that the human race, as enunciated in the Bible, started with the commonality of Adam and Eve.
As human beings continue to move away from the ‘centre’ of human evolution, particularly in quest for spatial control and ownership, achieved more by aggressions and usurpation, the old thin socio-cultural and economic lines get widened by the desperation pushed by exclusiveness and bifurcation. For every ‘we’ there is an ‘other’/’them’ that must be disadvantaged or overridden for the purpose of massaging the egos of the seemingly advantageous. The ‘others’ created by indices such as religion, capitalism, etc., are at daggers-drawn, with a firm hold on the jugular of the patently vulnerable ‘we’.
Movements across borders for the purpose of the Atlantic Slave Trade, explorative voyages by Europeans, missionary ventures by Arabic and Christian groups from one location to another raised new frontiers and created new hiccups. These movements were not excluding of intra dealings in a country like Nigeria, where tribal wars and family dissents got some to migrate to new spaces, for self actualisation. The notable history of the Fulani is central to contemporary engagements in Nigeria, as it borders on politico-economic factors and influence. The Fulani are believed, according to Britannica, to be “a people of obscure origins” whose expansion started in Senegal in the 14th century, through Macina in the 16th century, and settlement in Adamawa (northern Cameroon) in the 19th century.
Their pastoral life took Usman dan Fodio in the 1790s to the northeast of Sokoto where he quarrelled and rebelled against the Hausa kings who he accused of being a little more than pagans. With support from Hausa commoners and Fulani pastoralists, he waged the Jihad (holy war) through Hausaland, Nupe and Yorubaland to the south, with the northern part of Oyo invasion signalling the usage of the emirate of Ilorin in the northeast as the base for the spread of Islam among the Yoruba. Successively, the recession of this empire aided the commencement of British control in the late 19th century of what was later designated as Northern Nigeria. The dispersal of the Fulani across West Africa remains a boil on the buttock.
The half-castes that the sexual intercourse between whites and blacks in America and South Africa raised are predominantly staging a revolt against hypocritical preservation of whiteness. One is not left in doubt of the ascendancy to political placements that marriage and birth could offer elements outside to a preserved throne or office. As the Buckingham Palace continues to struggle with the invasions of royalty, as it relates to King Edward VIII and a divorced American woman, Diana and Prince Charles (James Gilbey), Prince Andrew who was stripped of his royal patronage, and recently Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan, the presidency of Barak Obama, and Vice Presidential position of Kamala Harris are pointers to how cross-racial marriages could cede political positions to formerly racially excluded individuals or their offspring.
Oba Abdul-Rasheed Adewale Akanbi, the Oluwo of Iwo, has been in the news a couple of times for the not-so-pleasant reasons. Apart from his uncommon approach to the stool in terms of being just himself, a youth full with exuberances, he has also cut a niche for himself by openly associating with the Fulani/Hausa northerners, amidst the volatility precipitated by alleged Fulani killer-herders that are believed to be behind most of the maiming, kidnapping and killings in south-western Nigeria, that led most states in the region to ban open grazing and emplace the Amotekun Corps as complementary outfit to wrestle criminality down in the region. Oba Akanbi had said he adopted the title of Emir, which he claimed was an Arabic equivalence of English king, as a metaphor, to deride the disunity among Yoruba Council of Obas, as against the bond he said existed among northern Emirs, stressing the need to change the past for a better present and future. The Oba has also complemented his decision with the adorning of the Turban and flowing robe as well as the South-Eastern Igwe attire at different times.
Beyond the request of expensive expenditure support of N20, 000.000.00 (twenty million) naira only made by Oba Akanbi to the Governor of Osun State, who is struggling to lift the people out of poverty, his decision to have children through a Kano emirate princess is an abridgment of the trajectories leading to the ascendancy of the Fulani to the royal stool of Iwo, which could not be achieved through the brutalisation of either Jihad or killer-herders. Either we like it or not, cultural dynamism is taking its tolls on traditional institution in Yorubaland, as seen in the open Islamic burials given recently to the Soun of Ogbomoso and the Olubadan of Ibadan. Definitely, Oluwo’s decisions are a future foretold!