When elephants fight; situation demands caution, silence – practical lessons…

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Hon Rotimi Makinde

By Hon. Rotimi Makinde

If I start yelling, will it solve anything? and will the repercussions of my yelling not get me into more trouble?

Iya Alade was one of the popular “Onideeles” at Oriyangi in Ile Ife, Osun State. So many people called her “Pooye”. For those who don’t know about Deele; it is a traditional local dish commonly eaten in Ile-Ife. It is made of grinded beans, mixed with okro and pepper. It is usually fried in the evening of every good day till now. Mama Alade’s local shop usually attracted the likes of our big brothers then; such as the respected Dele Momodu and that gentleman of blessed memory; late Dele Agekahmah. These big brothers of ours would use their strength and might to shove people like me off the crowd to ensure they take their turn before my likes can do. Booda Bisiriyu Alagbon now Olu omo of Ife, Chief Gbenga Owolabi of the then Enuwa Square took precedents along this line. This used to be the days when youths still have the greatest honour for elders. We were fed with breast milk and not cow milk; we were trained by grandmothers and not nannies. These our egbons (big brothers) would also ensure they got their portion of anything including Deele before us. The fact is that we all love Deele, every indigene of Ife both at home and in diaspora love it.

I am not very sure if this woman I chose to write about today had any formal education but she was the very first best marketer I ever met and admired so much in my youthful age. She didn’t keep any known record book nor ever seen to engage any account clerk but she could tell all her debtors off hand and had a system she used to calculate all her anticipated profit on daily basis. She does this calculation by the numbers of Kobiowu (cup) of beans she is to use daily plus the number of the firewood and of course with her labour in consideration. A very good marketer you will agree.

My late mother Ajitoni was one of the closest sisters she had. Ajitoni was much younger compared to Iya Alade but they were very close and I guess because they both had one thing in common: They both suffered and went through hell as mothers with records of loosing kids at interval (Abiku I understand they called them). Alade the father of “Teacher” now a big man was a brother to little Kokumo now Rotimi. Kokumo was then called A- ji – lomoto by many in that vicinity until the duo of Iya Alade and her sister in conjunction with Baba Onitiju the then Obaloran of Ife Ilode Quarters fought these set of people to a standstill to drop that name which was almost becoming irritating.

“Eni e pe ni Aroworamoto ko ra keke to fi ku, adaran ko da kijipa. E si mi agbaja, e ma pe omo mi ni kokumo ati A ji lomoto mo. Ola omo mi ti duro timi, Iyi ti duro ti, Ori ja ju Oogun omo mi ti duro timi, Oye to ola ti duro ti Ola ro ti mi. The name Olarotimi finally stands till today, hurrah and thanks to Mama Alade, Pooye of blessed memory.

Back to the story of Iya Alade my dear reader.

I grew up to love her policy so much. She could shout and deny many people the right to buy her Deele on credit but never would you see her meddling into what happens opposite her which includes those Oyo people who usually rent a portion of place to sell “Eko” (Pap cake). Opposite her house is a stall of a particular Baba Ijebu, where a certain man also rans a lock up shop, a notable blacksmith business which doubled as a money lending store though operated secretly.

The story of Baba Ijebu, Baba sikiru the barber is another episode entirely. Baba Ijebu also of blessed memory would lend people money or gold to be used at funeral party (Ile olooku), engage them secretly, collect their Aso Ofi and other items as collateral and when it was time to pay back, many of them would fail. When he demands them to honour their agreement, the borrower would refuse, thus resulting into a feud. (kataka go burst). Baba Sikiru would begin to shout Aaree! Aaree!! in such a way to attract pity in his opposite direction. His apprentices and errand boys including his sons and daughter would be expected to take his side.

He would expect Iya Alade to also mediate, to join him in seeking redress despite her ever busy hard labour and her level of penury. But Iya Alade Onideele would always choose to be neutral, her experience and sorry tales had taught her some bitter lessons. The scenario was always a matter too big for her as a common Onideele. She would always Say; “You are both big in nature, the power to borrow and the power to lend is beyond Onideele Ilode in many ways. I am a common mother of Alade while you are both big in money, rich in power and in family strength than I am and when you eventually settle, will you care to upgrade my level, make me own a lock up shop and remove me from this shame; the poverty and shadow of daily smoking myself in the name of deele? I have to borrow myself some good sense in any of your cross fire”. That was mama Alade for you.

Mama Alade would later call young Ajitoni who always had me hanging around her neck and they would resume their usual gist. They would talk at length in so much detail on how they intend to maintain their respect to both the lender and the borrower. Their honour mattered to them as well as they wished to maintain respect for the rich and the semi rich. They often described themselves as the poor and the semi poor.

Mama Alade and Ajitoni of blessed memory taught me how best to keep mute in the heat of any cross fire. “Run from discussing persons but be bold on issues.” They taught me to jettison my principle and to adapt the call to talk less. When any matter arises, the ‘big’ for the ‘big’ parties involved may know and see what I the little one do not know and that ‘Seebe’ and ‘Oka’ (snakes) are products of the same family.

When God is at work, only a fool will seek to be a hero, mediator or an intruder. When two elephants fight, the grass who sees beyond the day must be cautious and careful but he may struggle to maintain his or her dignity and begin to think deeply.

I am not at a cross road.

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