Exemplary history from the source — Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

Courage and Character: The Definitive History of Osun State – Volume 1 of the Osun Trilogy 1951-2018; Published by The Erudio Alphabet Company, Lagos NG101014; 2023; 450pp

Not many Nigerians have carried a book that weighs more than 10 litres of petrol. Given what petrol costs today, everybody ought to understand that this heavy book is indeed priceless.

The book, Courage and Character: The Definitive History of Osun State, commands universal attention. The packaging is nonpareil as the book comes enclosed in a bespoke home-made wooden box. After opening the well-crafted wooden box, the book is further tucked into a creamy bag and a wood-coloured paper casing – then there is the resplendent dust jacket. The editorial team that produced this revelation of a book is led by the resourceful Editor/Publisher Temitope Lakisokun and was designed by the inimitable Ogbenyi Egbe/Picador Design.

Courage and Character: The Definitive History of Osun State introduces itself thusly: “This is a book about Osun State, Nigeria. It is an epic story that begins in pre-colonial times and documents the great work of the founders and those who have had the privilege to lead the state. The Osun story is about a people’s rejection of subjugation and oppression, their quest for independence and sovereignty, and the struggle for survival and relevance. The founding ideals endure, and the story continues.” 

In the eternal words of Rudyard Kipling, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”

Courage and Character: The Definitive History of Osun State is dedicated to: “The Omoluabi of Osun – Brave Hearts, unrelentingly optimistic, and flinty in their determination. It is morning yet on creation day – Osun a dara – and to the abiding memory of the first Executive Governor of Osun State: Senator Isiaka Adetunji Adeleke.” 

It is a vast picturesque work of ten chapters and appendices. As the inspiration for the book goes, “it takes a village” working together to make hay, and due acknowledgements are given to Dr Rabiu Kwankwaso, the Demola and Titi Aladekomo (DATA) Foundation, the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation, Alhaji Suleiman Baba Ali (The Mutawalin Arewa Nupe), Hon Idia Oluwayemisi Babalola, and to the culture aficionados Taiwo Obe, Toyin Akinosho, Chido Benedict Nwakanma (CBN), and Chief Mrs Nike Davies-Okundaye.

A certificate is emblazoned in the book that reads: “This collector’s edition of Courage and Character: The Definitive History of Osun State is limited to 540 copies. This is copy NO: 276.)” I can pump my chest that I belong to an exclusive list! 

To grab the focal fullness of the book, there is the explanation: “The colours on the cover of this book pay homage to the Pan-African flag which is one of the Osun identity elements. They are the official colours of the African race: Red represents the blood that unites all people of African ancestry, Black depicts the existence of the black race, Green denotes Africa as a continent of great fecundity, and Gold depicts the abundant mineral resources of Africa.” 

In his Foreword to Courage and Character: The Definitive History of Osun State, former President Muhammadu Buhari writes inter alia: “In 2018, our administration approved the re-introduction of history in our secondary schools to ensure that new generations of Nigerians have a proper grounding, identity and patriotism that come from our historical roots. The absence of history in the school curriculum before then denied generations of Nigerians an understanding of their country’s history and its constituent units… I commend the Publisher, Temitope Lakisokun, a daughter of Osun State, for her diligence and thoroughness in accomplishing this volume. Courage and Character: The Definitive History of Osun State is not just about history; it is also about public affairs, leadership and management of resources for human development. Documenting our states’ many creation stories should provide a roadmap for the younger generation; they would not need to reinvent the wheel.” 

According to Barbara W. Tuchman, an American historian and two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, “Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are engines of change (as the poet said), windows on the world and lighthouses erected in the sea of time. They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.” 

Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, a former two-term and eight-year Governor of Osun, pens in his Preface to the book: “Each successive administration in the 30 years since the creation of Osun State added to the development of the state. Whether military or civilian, each administration or regime left footprints.” The plan was for Courage and Character: The Definitive History of Osun State to be part of the silver jubilee anniversary of Osun State in 2016 when Aregbesola was in power. 

For Publisher Temitope Lakisokun, the book is “a study in audacity and resoluteness.” She offers the revelation: “Courage and Character: The Definitive History of Osun State stands alone, yet serves as an introduction and complement to other books in the trilogy sparked by an interest in documenting the Osun Story at the landmark Silver Jubilee. There are many tales herein for the reader to savour. It is essentially a human story, an account of the striving and roles of many, many players over the years to create today’s Osun. The journey begins here.” 

Heroes make history, and the archetypal hero of the Osun story is depicted thus: “It cannot be the story of the creation of Osun State without the story of one super rich Ibadan man, born in Lagos, circa 1880, to a father from Iseyin. If there was a Nigerian Rich List at the turn of the last century, he would be in the Top 10. His name: Abdulsalami Agbaje.” 

The somewhat stingy but stupendously wealthy Agbaje rose in clout that he could have become the monarch of Ibadan, that is, Olubadan, much to the chagrin of Ibadan nobility that instantly hired the rising maverick politician, Adegoke Adelabu, to write a petition against Agbaje to the white colonial authorities. The Obas from the Osun region who gave backing to Agbaje were derided by the Ibadan chiefs thusly: “An Ibadan chief is the equivalent of the king of another town.” The appointed white investigator, Hugh Butcher, found that the power of the Ibadan Native Authority was concentrated in the hands of “a few aged and senile chiefs who owe their position not to ability or intelligence but to having lived longer than others.” 

Ibadan in the end scored an own goal when it was decided that “Ibadan had to lose its authority over its northern and central districts.” The Oshun Division had to make the journey of destiny to Osun State – from May 27, 1967 when Western State was created, to the February 3, 1976 creation of Oyo, Ogun and Ondo States, and finally to 10pm on August 27, 1991 when General Ibrahim Babangida “announced Osun State as one of nine new states, with Osogbo as the capital.” 

Col Leo Segun Ajiborisha served as the first Military Administrator of Osun State. Senator Isiaka Adetunji Adeleke of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) then took over as the first civilian Governor of Osun State. Between 1993 and 1999, Osun State had four military administrators, namely: Col Abel Akale, Navy Captain Anthony Udofia, Lt-Col Anthony Obi, and Col Theophilus Olufemi Bamigboye.  

Chief Bisi Akande of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) became the Governor of Osun State on the return of civil rule and the Fourth Republic on May 29, 1999. He served for only one term. He was succeeded by Olagunsoye Oyinlola of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who served from May 2003 to November 26, 2010 when Ogbeni Raufu Aregbesola was declared the winner of the Osun State gubernatorial election by the Court of Appeal, Ibadan Division. Aregbesola’s eventful two-term governance, showcased as “The Renaissance”, rounds up the governorship span of Courage and Character: The Definitive History of Osun State (Volume 1 of the Osun Trilogy 1951-2008.) There is the Postscript that on November 27, 2018, Aregbesola handed over to Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola.     

It is my candid belief that Nigerian history can best be written from the bottom to the top, to wit, the federating zones or states should first write their own histories which will in due course form the total package of the country’s history. The idea of writing the history of Nigeria from the top has over the years met with multiform controversies such as when as military Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo commissioned Prof Tekena Tamuno to edit a 13-volume history of Nigeria which Prof J.F. Ade-Ajayi of the then History Department of the University of Ibadan was criticised as not having as much “history” as the book of faction by Kole Omotoso entitled Just Before Dawn!             

Courage and Character: The Definitive History of Osun State shows the way that Nigerian history can be written by coming, in the first instance, from the different states of Nigeria. Since Osun State is the domain of Ile-Ife, the celebrated “Source”, it is worthy of celebration that exemplary history has been given wings to fly the world.   

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