Monday 20 June 2022

Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú: A time for healing

Part I: Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú: A town of pain

An appreciation of Baba Cole

Joel Adebambo Idowu popularly known as Baba Cole, that was his nickname and I never met him, he died 4 years before I was born, he was my maternal grandfather. I have only recently begun to hear much about him. There are many ways we are supposed alike, he was an anglophile and an archivist, some sort of encyclopaedia of knowledge.

From what I have learnt and there is much more I need to flesh out, he was a literal man, of considerable influence, a prince of the town and a member of the ruling council of the town. He had three daughters, my mother being the middle one, there is a rumour that there might have been a brother, but no one has confirmed that to me.

Standing true for justice

Much as he respected traditions and conventions, he was not ready to sacrifice people for those causes and for that, he paid the ultimate price. As it transpired, an emissary was sent to our town from the neighbouring town just at the time when certain fetish practices required a stranger to be sacrificed to the town’s deities.

My grandfather made the case that an emissary from the neighbouring town who was to deliver a message and return with a response could not just disappear somewhere between the towns separated by 5 miles of forest and lands, it would be incomprehensible and incredulous. He won the argument, and the stranger was spared to return home.

Sacrificed for integrity

However, some traditionalists took umbrage at his intervention and through a combination of mystical and malevolent acts, my grandfather took on a sudden fit of involuntary body reactions and died. I inferred the rational and the irrational becoming a narrative and that has become the story of my grandfather, he was sacrificed to the malevolent forces in Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú when he stood in defence of an innocent person against the system.

That is how at around the age of 19, my mother lost her father and strangely at 19 I also had this break from the concept of Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú that grew to epitomise my reticence to visiting Nigeria. If I were to create a narrative, I embody the spirit of my maternal grandfather who is owed more than an apology for the wickedness meted out to him when he rationalised against the irrationality of traditions that should have gone into abeyance.

Beyond redress to healing

I cannot say if one needs to ask for an apology from Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú for what happened to my grandfather, much as I am not asking for an apology for what I have experienced with my father. Some things we cannot change, but there is much we can work towards reconciling that we might have the courage to do the greater thing, the boldness to write better stories, and an acknowledgement that we can find some healing after all the real and perceive hurt.

Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú has been a spectre, a haunting, a looming danger, sometimes a fearsome place that suggests a mountain of the strangest beings seething with malevolence and evil, or we have just allowed our imaginations to get the better of us and our rationality. It is a process calling for progress. I think my journey has begun.

Narratives matter and they have consequential significance even if they might seem trivial to others. I have had experiences dismissed when what I heard and saw changed me into a completely different person. Much as there are perspectives to have, the more important thing is to seek the good rather than foster the bad. Beyond my introspection and the times, I have had people counsel me, I hope I am amenable to guidance and instruction. One should never be in a position where the only resort is for God to send an ass to talk to you. [Bible Gateway: Balaam, the Donkey and the Angel]

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