Reading Time: 9 mins read
Professor Akinwumi Isola’s Efunsetan Aniwura (1981), the first play written in 1961-62 while he was a student at the University of Ibadan, is highly celebrated. It is a historical drama which reflects proceedings of the 19th century reign of the heroine, second Iyalode (Queen of women) of Ibadan, Efunsetan Aniwura. Aniwura – one with a surplusage of gold – a fiery, Egba-born but wealthy Ibadan slave owner and merchant, held the title from 1867 – 1874. The unwritten law among the coffle of slaves she kept was that no female slave must get pregnant. Thus, when Adetutu, one of her female slaves was audacious enough to get impregnated by a fellow slave called Itawuyi, upon hearing the news, Efunsetan’s immediate but fierce retort was, “afefe ti fe, a ti ri’di adiye!” Translated, it means, the wind has blown and the hidden rump of the fowl has been exposed.
So many reasons have been adduced by historians for Efunsetan’s outlawing of procreation among her over 2000 slaves. One was the emotional instability she emerged with from the death during labour of her only daughter child in 1860. This necessitated an absence of a progeny to inherit her tremendous wealth. This powerful Ibadan woman chief, aside her many slaves, also owned several farms, exported agric produce to Porto-Novo, Badagry and Ikorodu and traded in tobacco, while also manufacturing a local product called Kijipa, which she exported to America. Efunsetan also traded in arms and ammunition and was on record to have granted credit facilities on ammunition she sold to Aare Latoosa and his warriors in 1872 while they were on military expeditions.
As a result of the psychotic depression she got from her barrenness, Efunsetan took out Providence’s denial of a child on her slaves. She inflicted unbridled injury on them through verbal abuse, corporal punishment, threat of killing them – Orun la’la! – and in some cases, cold-blooded murder. To God, who she regarded as the architect of the tragedy of her barrenness, Efunsetan vented her spleen on every of His creations, the society He created and her neighbours. She once ordered her slaves to beat Old Ogunjinmi, a palm dresser, to death, his crime being encroachment on her property. Efunsetan also punished her male slaves for tardy execution of their daily chores by tying them to trees. She also blatantly refused to assist anyone in need (reference to the brusque maltreatment she gave Akinkunle, who sought financial assistance for his ailing son). All in all, historians claimed that Efunsetan ordered the decapitation of over 41 slaves, including pregnant Adetutu. This cruelty was one of Aare Latoosa’s three-count charge against Efunsetan, leading to her deposition as Iyalode on May 1, 1874. Though she paid all the fines levied against her for these obviously politically motivated allegations, she was murdered in what was regarded as state murder, orchestrated by Latoosa, through two of her slaves, on June 30, 1874.
However, a feminist re-reading of Akinwumi Isola has accused him of recuperating and contextualizing, within the Yoruba socio-political and economic narratives of the late18th and early 19th centuries, a continuation of the masculinist oligarchy of traditional Africa in the play. The unbridled cruelty which he painted of his eponymous protagonist and heroine, Efunsetan Aniwura, is perceived to be a fictionalized misrepresentation of the great heroine, especially taking into consideration the unequal relations of power between the male and female gender of the time. Indeed, several studies have vilified Isola for unfairly reinforcing this image of a wicked, atheist and self-centred woman in his perceived pejorative representation of Efunsetan.
The Efunsetan “Afefe ti fe, a ti ri’di adiye” expresses excitement at the final unraveling of a long-held secret, the denouement of a cryptic play whose ultimate exposure ends in tragedy. Literally, the hen’s naked and ugly rump is hidden from view by feathers that give it a seeming aesthetic beauty. The moment the breeze blows the feathers, exposing the contours of the rump, the hen is presented to the world in its original form – the bumpy, uneven surface – as opposed to the smooth, feathery assemblage of quills that the world saw hitherto.
Last week, Ogun State quaked like a city afflicted by a thunderstorm. Respected journalist-turned politician and Chairman of Ijebu East Local Government, Wale Adedayo, was the wind that blew the feathers off the Ogun hen’s rump. As the thunderstorm raged, it left hanging in the space a foul and smelly tang that was offensive to the nose. In a petition addressed to former governor of Ogun state and a leader of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) Chief Olusegun Osoba, copies of which were sent to the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, (ICPC) Adedayo called for the investigation of Governor Dapo Abiodun, alleging that he was a kingpin of the mismanagement of local government funds in the State. Specifically, the now suspended chairman claimed that Abiodun withholds statutory allocations paid to councils in the state from the federation accounts. He also alleged that this blind thievery began immediately Abiodun took over the reign of office in May, 2019, leading to “zero allocation” of funds to develop the councils.
Adedayo also claimed that ecological funds due to the councils too had “developed wings without trace” as well as an N8 billion sum released by the Buhari government to the 20 local governments under the SURE-P assistance. This, he said, was also swallowed by the Abiodun administration, with no single payment to the councils. Adedayo claimed that upon enquiry from the state government, the councils were reportedly told that the deductions were due to funds the councils reportedly owed the state government, to which Adedayo said, “But I know for a fact that my Ijebu East Local Government is NOT owing Abeokuta one Naira!”
Allegations of theft of local government monies by state governors in Nigeria have had a long gestation. Several scholarly offerings in the area of local government administration have contextualized the local government as where the elusive redemption of the poorest of the poor of Nigerians can come from. This is because of its centrality and proximity to the grassroots of locality administration. However, local government administration is itself suffocating under the strangulating hold of corruption and fief grips of state governments who see them as cash cow where they can get easy largesse, allegedly filching the bulk of their heists from them and resulting in total asphyxiation of grassroots governance. Farida Waziri, former EFCC Chairman, in discussing this blight of corruption, once noted that “…waste of government resources at the council level had reached monumental proportions. The local government council in the country could not explain the mismanagement of over N3.313 trillion allocated to them in the last eight years. …a whopping sum of N3,313,554,856,541.79 was allocated to local government across the country.”
Festus Adedayo is an Ibadan-based journalist.
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