“….Man Is So Lazy That They Want A Divine Being That Would Give Them Everything Without Having To Work” Professor Sophie Abosede Oluwole.
The Business Dispatch: Prof, can you shed light on what informed the ease with which imported religions, especially Christianity and Islam, were able to overcome African Traditional Religion, particularly Ifa?
Professor: The funny thing is that in the history of Yoruba tradition, Western religions were the first set of institutions to establish a universal primary school. Whereas in the case of African Traditional Religion, especially Ifa, you can only start learning Ifa at the age of six and you would only be taught the literature aspect. After you have learnt it for six years, you cannot readily progress any further. Unfortunately there is very little you were taught about Ifa. They just taught you the peripherals like proverbs, stories and so on, leaving out the major part of the subject. If you want to be a professional practitioner of ifa, you have to spend another twelve years. Against this background it is only the privileged few, in this case the professional ifa’s practitioners, that knew beyond the literatures, proverbs and stories aspects. Unlike Christianity that came preaching in the markets and open places. These Christians did their homework very well as they were much aware that most people who were listening to them did not even have in-depth knowledge of their own culture and religion. Unless you have gone to learn to become a professional ifa, you couldn’t boast of ample knowledge about ifa but these people who did not understand their own culture and Ifa can tell you the story of Jesus Christ, the story of Mary who had a baby and so on in the Bible. Nobody taught us all that, ninety percent of the people in town do not know the stories of ifa. But these people and I mean the Christians are propagandists. They say, God created Adam and Eve and He asked them to be naked. So I am asking them, suppose Adam and Eve did not disobey God, we will still be going naked? (She sighed).
You know, when they bring a new idea to you, you are not likely to be critical. Because of its newness and man being a curious being would want to try it and at the end of the day you have no choice than to follow them. I read a story that when Christianity came to Ghana, they preached that if you followed them, you would have everything you wanted. The Ghanaians said they would give up their own religions because in their own religions, to drink palm wine you have to climb palm tree, to eat pounded-yam you have to peel and cook yam. So they thought to themselves that this God that will give us everything without working was worthy of our unalloyed allegiance. Because it was advertised that God will give you everything and man is so lazy that they want a divine being that would give them everything without having to work. Let me ask you, when you go to church, how much do you get without working? But these people were invited; come, I will save you; come, I will give you everything and people gullibly followed.
Also, because these people were preaching in any available open spaces and there was no way to preach ifa in the open space. Christianity lives on propaganda and they are still doing propaganda till today. They will tell you to shout Hallelujah and you will get something. So what I’m saying in essence is that a religion has to be popular for it to gain acceptability.
With my knowledge of Philosophy, making a choice means to know two and prefer one. And in this particular case, they didn’t know one. In other words, Christianity was not a choice, that was the only one they knew and they took it. Anybody who is to make a choice today must know at least two religions and say I prefer this. Ninety-nine percent of Muslims today do not go outside the Quran. For me to choose, I have to know Islam and Christianity and even Ifa and then I decide to choose one. But when I know only one, I haven’t made a choice. Unfortunately, Ifa is not even available as a book. It was these same Christians that were describing ifa as idolatry and as this and that. They never asked the ifa people to say who are you? They blackmail them and accuse them of killing chickens which is the same slaughtering they do in Rome today and even on Christmas day. Most people did not know ifa, so they took the one that was propagated to them as a better option. The synopsis of it all was that these people never made a choice since making a choice means knowing one and preferring the other.
The Business Dispatch: How valid is Ifa divination in current scientific world?
Professor: This is a question the scientists will not answer because Ifa is Computer Science, Law of Probability and what is probability? Probability is binary, binary is 0.1. Computer is a subject under Ifa. So it has been established that Yoruba people are the one that started ifa as Computer Science whether it is scientific or not.
Not only that, Science before ifa used material things, today the Westerners know that there is nothing like pure matter. Matter and non-matter are not separable. Meanwhile Yorubas have said they you cannot separate them. When you say, matter and non-matter cannot be separated what you get is Practical Physics, which is ifa! And this made it superior to Western study. For your information about the computer science, if you read Professor Olu Longe the Yorubas were operating Computer system before Jesus was born. The Western computers were discovered less than 200 years ago. The idea of Computer did not occur in the west until this time and we can rightly argue that we were there before them.
You know most times when I talk I can tell you where I saw it, I quote, I don’t speculate and the facts are there for you to further research. When you look at ifa, oyinbos have discovered that ifa is computer system (no argument). I am not preaching that you should not be a Christian but what I am saying is that for you to say that Christianity is better there must be two. Do not let anybody tell you what ifa is, go and read it. Some people say I am worshipping ifa, who told you I am worshipping anything? I believe in God or did you see palm kernels in my house?
The Business Dispatch: Ma, the world is tending towards one language and a critical look at all available languages show that English Language stands the best chance. What do you think is the hope of the Yoruba language when this happens?
Professor (looks at us heartbreakingly and shook her head. She was visibly annoyed at this question and did not hide this.): ‘Kinni won ko eyin omo won yi ni ile-iwe?’ meaning ‘What are they teaching students in our schools?’ There is an atlas of world languages, it was not written by Yorubas and it states that when a language dies, the people die. A language is where you store all knowledge you have and everybody seems to be fighting so that their languages will not die! So I do not know the meaning of one language you are insinuating. In the United Nations, the French people speak French, the German speaks German. There was one day the person from Belgium started speaking English, the President of France walked out. Speak your language so that it can be translated! There are some words in Yoruba languages that cannot be translated in English and how do you explain those words when English becomes the universal language? English is becoming popular but nobody has ever preached that you kill all languages and have just one. Many languages have died but what killed them was because their speakers were asleep.
Let me ask you a question, I said the Yoruba people created the computer but the word ‘computer’ is not in the Yoruba Language? I don’t want to mention the name of a Professor who said Yoruba Language is not good and should be destroyed and his reason was because he said that Yoruba language did not have a word for Mathematics. According to him, the word ‘isiro’ means ‘addition’. Well I remember very well when I was in primary school that when I come to class, my teacher would write isiro and he would be teaching us multiplication, division and addition!
But let us look at the word isiro. ‘shi ko ro’, meaning ‘think and add’ and that is what is called calculus and that is higher than Mathematics. Another thing the same Professor said in the same paper was that there was no word for ‘television’, that we use ‘telifision’? The Professor further argued that ‘a m’ohun m’aworan’ does not suffice. What is the meaning of ‘a m’ohun m’aworan?’ something that captures voice and picture. Television is from Latin, ‘tele’ means sound while ‘vision’ means sight from a distance. Where is the word ‘hear’? Television means seeing from a distance, what of the voice? The term a m’ohun m’aworan, means you see and you hear. So a m’ohun m’aworan is ten times superior to the television and this man is a professor!
The Business Dispatch: How do you think Yoruba cultural values can proffer solution to our degenerated society?
Professor: Unless you have the knowledge, you cannot use it to proffer solutions. You cannot give what you don’t have. I will quote another Professor that I hold in high esteem. I presented a paper that I made a claim that Yoruba tradition agrees that children have rights, the man stood up and said that if I were a student he would flog me for telling him lies. He told the people that he wanted to help me that the Yoruba people don’t believe that children have rights and I asked for an example or proof of that. He said “enu agba ni obi ti gbo” meaning children have no right to talk. So I asked him the meaning of agba (elders)? I told him, you are in the Department of Physics, if I write a PhD is it not to the Professor who will supervise it? He said, yes and I asked if he has heard a proverb “agba dida, ko koan ojo ori”? meaning ‘to be called an elder is not a function of age’. It refers to words from the mouth of the wise not age! So one may be younger in age but wiser in knowledge. So I told him I needed him to explain a word so that I would accept that he was right, he asked me to go ahead. I asked him that there is a saying in Yoruba that “agba dida, omode laa fi r’eje”. He exclaimed very good! It means, we cheat children under the guise of being an adult. What is cheating? Cheating is depriving me of what I have. So if I have no right, what are you cheating me of? After this, the man started worshipping me as a reasonable person. All this is because we do not analyse as we are supposed to. The Yoruba people know that the children have rights but because you can beat him and he cannot defend himself, you cheat him of what is his rights. Our problem is that we do not analyse our words.
The Business Dispatch: What is your take on the attempt by the Governor of State of Osun to introduce the study of Ifa into the school curricula?
Professor: I remember very well that Aregbesola put it there for a reason. I was sitted with him and he brought out the Quran and said Mohammed said that religion is not compulsory. It varies. So for him, to teach Christianity, Islam and Ifa is to give them options. He was not forcing anybody to follow anyone. It’s a matter of choice and it’s not a must that everybody must accept one.
I wanted to come in but he has already given that assignment of what to put in the curriculum to a man I know. I know the man who wrote the curriculum knew next to nothing of what is the academic aspect of Ifa. So I wrote to him, I still have the proposal in my house although he did not approve it. I wanted to take out about 150 verses in Ifa which talk about Mathematics, Geography, History, Computer Science etc. because I can cannot talk about religion aspect alone. Ifa is literature that contains more than religion. So they can put ifa there. They shouldn’t limit the choices by putting only Christianity and Islam. Ifa and any other traditional religion can be put there and the children can later be allowed to make their choice because you have to know something to argue against it. You cannot just dismiss something you do not know anything about. If you ask me, I would say the word ‘ifa’ be taken out and replaced with ‘Yoruba intellectual knowledge’ because Mathematics is there, Geography is there, History is there, Economics is there, Democracy is there and please is that religion?
What is democracy, what are the basic laws of democracy? Let me read it out for you from ifa, (she starts reciting it in Yoruba language), is that religion? Let me interprete it, they said, “the idea that I am bigger and stronger is the idea of the greedy ones who rule, they think that their words are so clumsy that nobody can figure out but we warn them not to deal with humans as if they are animals, we warn them not to turn political parties into stealing organisations, we told them not to divert public funds into private use, we warned them but they did not heed so we drove them away”.
What are the laws of democracy? All the laws and principles of democracy are there in Ifa. If all the politicians obey these laws, will you be fighting with them? These laws were formulated long before Christianity came. But I read this to my Honourable Governor of Osun state, I said Mr. Governor there is something in Ifa corpus that I want to say but if I say it, you may lock me up then he promised not to lock me up. In the verse, the people there told the governor that they do not want him that he should go away. So but in our contemporary world this cannot be done without being put behind bars. We cannot send our cheating politicians away, that means that our political institutions are beyond the people now. The Governor was laughing but I only read what I saw in the papers, I wasn’t the author.
When Aregbesola wanted to introduce ifa, he was criticised from religious angles. Christianity and Islam are out there, why are you bringing another one? The man never said he wanted everyone to do ifa, all he said was that let there be three literatures. So they thought he was trying to force it on them. It is just like French, they teach French in schools but are you forcing me to speak French? No. It is just an opportunity to learn another language. When I offer you more than one thing, it is an opportunity and the final decision is yours. For example, I know why I choose not to follow Islam, some people may follow it but it is a choice. During the early years of the University of Ibadan, there was the Department of Religious Studies but for many years what was taught there was only Christianity because the populace were all Christians. Islamic studies was later introduced, it didn’t destroy the Christian studies. What we are saying is that we should have them side by side. If you want to be a good liberal man, you must know as many as possible so that you can be better. Those of us who have read Indian religion did not mean we are worshipping Hindu? So when you know several options, you are in a better position to make up your mind.
The Business Dispatch: What is your take on the proliferation of religion in the world?
Professor: If you say Buddha, what was he trying to do? To teach you about God. What about Mohammed and Jesus? They were trying to teach you who God is, but that is at a higher level, a spiritual level. Jesus was going about teaching, what was he teaching? He was teaching about how to reach God.
All the parables thatJjesus spoke, infact there is a parable that Jesus spoke and I want the Bishops to explain it to me. There was a man who had a garden, when he was sending his boys to go and collect his returns, they will kill them, so the owner of the garden thought to himself that this people are killing my servants because they are not my children. If they see my son they will respect me. When they saw his son, they killed him. Jesus asked, what would the man do? According to Jesus, that man did not send his son with the expectation that he would be killed, since the son of the man has been killed what should the man do? Kill them all? But what did Jesus tell God? He said, father forgive them for they know not what they are doing. My Christianity is along that line, it is different from you who say that God sent his son so that he can come and die. I don’t say you are lying, but he said that God sent his son so that he can be accepted not to come and die. It is failing to accept and recognize the son that amazed the sender. The proverb did not say I send my son, if they kill him I will be happy with them. That may be in your Bible but I do not know.
The Business Dispatch: As a former Dean of Students Affairs of University of Lagos, what can you make of the three years validity being considered by the Senate for UTME scores?
Professor: If I take jamb this year and I pass, fine, I do not have to study again or my parents do not have to waste money. If I score 240 this year and the cut off mark is 235 this year, next year if the cutoff mark is increased to 260 what is the benefit of my score? I am not saying that this is not good, we have to be very careful. I may take it and get worse, how are am I sure that my jamb score this year will put me in a better position next year? It maybe or may not, next year’s result may be better or worse. So it has its negatives and positive sides but for me, if I have a child I will allow him take it next year, the one of this year may be good so that he can have two opportunities.
The Business Dispatch: Do you subscribe to some section of people who say our politicians should swear to oath of office using traditional gods like Sango as against the usual practice of the Bible and Quran in order to check corruption?
Professor (laughed): What is swearing? To me, the corruption they are fighting today is not corruption everywhere, it is corruption majorly in politics. In other words, you abuse your political office by taking money that belongs to the public. Like a verse in ifa said that ‘you should not not convert public money to private money’. The swearing they are asked to swear is laughable. They would hold a Bible and make a promise and concluding that ‘so help me God’ is that swearing? In Yoruba, when they swear, it means you would hold something and make a pledge that if you break that promise you would pay with your life or something sinister would happen to you. But this people just make a promise and say so help me God, suppose God does not help you? It means you cannot blame them when they fail, because it is God who did not help them. (Laughed and sighed intermittently)
The Business Dispatch: Lastly, what can you make of recent campaign to buy made-in-naija goods?
Professor: Is there any country in the world where the people are buying only their own things? (She asked rhetorically). America is making good things but do they not buy things from other countries? You cannot make a restriction law unless you are going to go the way of Moscow in 1917. What Moscow did was to shut the door, not to let anything come in. You do not just say patronize, you put two things and I make a choice but what Moscow did is that they said “don’t bring it”. When I was in Moscow, the things I brought were seized at the border. I complained that their own things were bad and they said that is what they have that I should go out if I could not use theirs. I had to leave everything I brought but as long as you open your borders you cannot force to take one thing when there was a better one.
Is ogogoro different from imported gin? So the best thing is to leave ogogoro and imported gin and allow us make a choice. But traditionally, oyinbo man has a way of advertising and writing the recipes used in botanical names but the ogogoro man does not. They say ogogoro is impure, yes but let us improve on it. When you stop it, how can I improve on it? You bring two things and you say the oyinbo man own is better without any evidence, who wouldn’t want the better one? Our goods are not hundred percent. We should improve on them, then stop importation. Otherwise, when I go to the market it is what I like that I would buy. We can find Nigerian products that are better. I was going to have an operation on my cataracts about seven years ago, when I went to the hospital, I was told that my cataracts were not developed enough to be operated on and that I should wait till it matured. When I got back home, a carpenter told me about an herb. I’ve been using that herb for seven years and I don’t have cataracts anymore. Mr Journalists, would I have to go to the hospital when I have something that will do it better? I rest my case