By Ayodele Ale
Every Ekiti man loves Ekiti. ‘Omo ayiye l’aare’ (We are good breed) is the sing song. Ask an average Ekiti man in Australia or Japan where he wants to be buried, he won’t think twice before replying that he would love to end the journey of his life in Ekiti. Some few years back, Emeritus Professor Araoye, a man that had the appellation ‘Oracle of Medicine’ globally recoiled to Ilawe-Ekiti after his retirement and was building a standard hospital for his people, while offering them free medical care until he was called home.
When you travel from Igbara-odo, through, Ilawe to Ado-Ekiti, Ifaki to Otun, Ido to Otun and so on, you will notice the magnificent buildings that could favourably compete with the houses in Victoria Island, Lagos especially the ones at the entrance of the towns. In Ekiti tradition, you are not successful until you come to plant a building or a project in your community. This explains the reason behind the establishment of a world class university in Ekitiland by Chief Afe Babalola (SAN). One of the orthodox churches in Ikere Ekiti has the footprint of Chief Olanipekun (SAN).
Interestingly, some of the buildings are occupied by family members or aged parents, while the real owners pound the streets of Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt or London or New York. BEWARE: If you come to plant churches in Ekiti, capitalising on the fine buildings at the entrance of the towns, you have made a mistake. There real owners are not around please. But they make ocassional shots to the land to attend family related programmes. When you see them, don’t be surprised at seeing the big names in Nigeria eating bush meat and drinking palm wine inside the moon-shaped calabash under the tree, while throwing banters. It is in their character. Ekitis don’t discriminate.
Ekitis are also principled people. Politicians, Professors, Lawyers, Engineers and so on. That old man playing Ayo (local game) under Odan tree can blow your brain off with his grammar. So don’t underrate him.
You see, Ekiti’s also love God. The early missionaries explored this big time and planted big orthodox churches with schools to win the souls of the people. Some of the churches also planted hospitals, just to ensure that the people make heaven.
Pentecostalism is a new phenomenon. Some are die hard Catholic or Anglican church members. And their priests are not complaining. They are comfortable with seeing the congregation happy, and are used to their widow’s mite. It was when I attended a friend’s wedding many years back that I realised that coins still exist in Nigeria, as the old women unwrap their skirts to bring out their ‘offerings’. Last March, I attended a funeral programme in Ilawe Ekiti and I could see some old women dancing joyfully to the front holding their N5 or N10 high. The Rev. Fathers are also happy seeing them. They know the members by name and even visit them at home even when they are about to take their last breath.
Catholic, Anglican or Methodist parishes in Ekiti do not give business targets. So, they are filled without stress. Though at times, they organise harvest programmes and choose the old men and women as ‘Alaga’, the children are always happy to see their parents honoured and such opportunities are used nowadays to celebrate the birthdays of the aged people, even when the actual date of birth is unknown.
Ekitis are hardworking, but they are not the Hushpuppi type. So, as a church leader or bishop, if you are interested in genuine soul winning, you can come to Ekiti, but if you are searching for a religious oil block, a mining field or where to raise fund to buy a new private jet, please, sunmowaju
Omo Ayiye laare (we have good upbringing)
*Ayodele Ale is a lawyer, journalist and public affairs analyst