By Dare Babarinsa
On Saturday, September 24, Kabiyesi Oba Adeyeye Eniitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, the Ooni of Ife, will play host to thousands of people joining him to celebrate this year’s Olojo Festival.
The Festival is set aside in Ile-Ife to commemorate the day of creation. It is the most important festival in Ife calendar when the Ooni wears the sacred Aare crown and lead his high priests to the sacred mould of Ogun at Oke Mogun.
After performing the ritual dance and stopping at various traditional stations, the Ooni would return to his palace and the Aare crown will retire to its own house within the palace ground. It would not have another outing again until 2023.
Nobody knows the date of creation. Carl Sagan, the famous cosmologist, says that the earth is billions of years old. He says even now, the universe is expanding and no one is sure of its limit or its boundary. Our Mother Earth, which is only one of the nine planets in our own solar system (There are thousands, possibly millions of solar systems), is so far to our knowledge, the only planet habitable by man and animals as we understand them.
During the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York, Heads of States and Governments are going to deliberate on the state of the earth and the danger we are all in. As of now, the depletion of the Ozone Layer that is protecting the earth from the direct ultraviolet rays of the sun is changing violently the weather of our planet.
As of now, almost 25 per cent of Pakistan is covered with water due to torrential rain. This weekend, a violent storm is berthing at Haiti and other Caribbean islands with predictable devastating consequences. All these calamities are traceable to our misusing the earth, especially because of carbon emission.
During our secondary school years in Ile-Ife, Chief Fabunmi, the Odole Atobase of Ife, use to tell us a lot of stories about old Ife. One of his favourite was how Oduduwa descended to earth from heaven through a celestial chain. He was armed with the soil of heaven and in his left hand was a giant cockerel. He poured the soil on the water and chaos he met on earth and the continents took form. All the continents were joined together until over the years they drifted apart; hence, the name of where the earth started drifting apart is called Ile-Ife (the land is expanding).
There are geographical evidences that indeed, all the continents were one until they drifted apart. Whether the continents are still drifting now is not clear. What is clear, however, is that humanity is drifting from its purpose. Man has not discovered any other habitable planet even outside our solar system. It means that for eternity, mankind is trapped on this small planet. Like our ancestors millions of years ago, we have no other planet to call home. We have to make do with this little planet called Earth.
The United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York now would have to come up with measures to save the earth before it is too late. Climate change is affecting every part of the earth. The ocean level is rising daily and the icecaps on the Arctic are disappearing, swelling the volume of water in the ocean. The earth is getting warmer and in some countries in Europe and the America, temperature has risen above 40 degrees. Man is busy killing the planet and there is no escape route. No one is sure of what may come next and everyone is busy blaming everyone else.
It is clear now that the blame-game would not solve the problem. We can see that the old world is disappearing before our very eyes. Many of the creatures that shared the earth with our ancestors have been wiped out by human greed and ignorance.
Christmas is coming and some desperate but ignorant youths would put fire on the hills of Ekiti and other places claiming they are looking for games. Elephants, tigers, lions and other animals that once roam this land, have disappeared or are dangerously endangered. In Ekiti today, there are no more flying termites and fireflies are nowhere to be found. Yearly fires by misguided miscreants have virtually wiped them out.
Our biology teacher in Ife Anglican Grammar School, Ile-Ife, in those days, told us that the world is divided into living things and non-living things. Animals and trees are living things. Hills, mountains and rivers are non-living things. One day, when we were in class three, our principal, Prince Israel Adenrele Ibuoye, invited Baba Fabunmi to come and talk to us. Baba Fabunmi said all things God created are living things. He said they have their date of birth and if care is not taken, hills, rivers, oceans would also have their dates of death.
Today, Lake Chad is dying and we seem helpless about it. By 1900, Lake Chad was one of the biggest bodies of water in the world. The competing European powers divided Lake Chad among themselves and was inherited by independent African countries, including Nigeria, who founded the Lake Chad Basin Commission to manage its water. Today, Lake Chad is barely one quarter of its original size. Areas once covered by the water of Lake Chad are now pathways for okada riders.
Other bodies of water are hardly faring better. The mighty River Niger is struggling to survive. River Osun too is thinning out. Its once majestic timbre as it rumbles through the forest has been reduced to painful whispering. Mother earth is warning us. Woe betides the child that ignores the warning of his parents.
Africans are victims of the misstatement of the earth, especially by the Western industrial powers. We have seen how much weapons the Russia War on Ukraine is unleashing on the earth atmosphere. Carbon emission is the main culprit. There are also little things that had big consequences like the mismanagement of water and the misuse of plastic.
If you drive from Lagos to Abuja or to Port Harcourt, you will see how every foot of our road is littered with plastic containers. If Lagos or any other city is flooded, it is not because the authorities have refused to clear the drainages; it is simply because the citizens preferred to clog the drainages with plastic waste. If mankind should disappear from the earth today, archaeologists from outer planets would know how we live when they excavate the tells of the future.
Africans especially have two challenges in this wise. We have to maintain our relevance and capacity in our own corner of God’s earth. We have to prepare for a future world that is already here through the incidence of climate change. Building the competence that is required for both challenges would require us to focus on education.
We are talking not just of the education of the youth, but continuous education of even the adults. No serious nation will allow its universities to be closed in peacetime for almost a year, as it is happening to us. We must continuously pay the price of knowledge to be able to hold on to the right of ownership of our country.
It is clear now that Baba Fabunmi is right. Everything has life. The rivers, the lakes, the mountains, the forest, the glades, the vales, the land of our ancestors; we cannot afford them to die. If they do, then we have lost everything.
When Ooni Ogunwusi climbs the Oke Mogun hill with the Aare crown, it is to remind us that there was a beginning, no matter how hazy, and we have no right to take what we have inherited for granted.
Next time you throw plastic bottle out of your car, or clog the drains with plastics and other non-biodegradable waste, know that you are injuring Mother Earth. Be reminded always that this Earth is your mother and it has no replacement.