Omotosho: Trouble And Railway Consult Ifa Divination

TWICE Reluwe (Railway) went to seek the service and the advice of the Ifa Priest. Dafida Trouble and his assistant Alaba are sitting in the deserted Railway Station in Lokoja. “I didn’t inanimate subjects and objects went to see the Ifa priest”, was the surprised response of Trouble. But knowing Alaba and his various sources of knowledge, Mr. Trouble ought to expect anything and everything from Alaba. “What advice would Railway want from the Ifa Priest?” Alaba said he did not think such mundane questions deserved answers in as much as he, Child-Wiser-than-Parents had made the statement to the effect that twice Railway went to consult the Ifa Priest. “Tell me what happened then,” Trouble saved his breath and prepared to listen. The trouble was that Mr. Trouble was never sure if this young man was not taking him for a ride, taking advantage of him, and making up stories to entertain him. That’s better, Alaba said and continued. Some preliminary comments are in order before the narratives of the consultations are narrated. William Bascom, for now, is the only writer on Ifa Divination – communication between Gods and Men among the Yoruba, who has recorded some of the updates and upgrades in Ifa Divination. Everybody else, for now, has ignored the modern content of Ifa Divination. As if Ifa Divination has not encountered cell phones that have been in existence now for twenty years, they restrict their studies to what Ifa Priests said before Islam, Christianity and British imperialism came to Yoruba land. Yet, Ifa Divination deals with all of these topics and even more but our scholars ignore the modern concerns of Ifa Divination. A tear for them, and a sigh for us, for not insisting that they turn their attention to these things. Like modern Yoruba proverbs, which are abundant in the society. The other day someone told me that the person who is hit by the car is not the one who would take the license plate number of the car in terms of the division of labour! But let me get back to the two times that Railway went to consult Ifa Divination.

  “The road is very straight, it does not bend” was the one who cast Ifa for Railway on the day that he was seeking advice and going to trade with the Whiteman. The Ifa Priest said that all the luggage of the Whiteman would belong to Railway. The Ifa Priest said that Railway should make a sacrifice. The Ifa Priest said that all the loads of the Whiteman and his clerks would belong to Railway. 

  Railway refused, he did not make sacrifice. From that time on, if everybody puts his or her load inside Railway, when they get off the train, they take their loads off and carry them away from Railway. Is there any surprise that the loads and luggage of everybody white, black and in-between are no longer carried by the Railway but by heavy trucks. These trucks carry containers, they carry inflammable fuels. Don’t you wish Reluwe made that sacrifice those long ago years? Today we would have been enjoying the services of Railway in our country.

  And the second time when Reluwe went to the Ifa Priest?

  The same Ifa Priest whose praise name is “The road is straight, it does not bend,” cast the opele for Reluwe, this time because he was in tears because he had no followers. Everyone who came to Reluwe left after some time and distance. They never stayed overnight. Or stay long enough for Reluwe to get to be friends with them. What should he do, he asked the Ifa Priest, to retain those who came to him? The Ifa Priest told him that he would have followers and retain friends if he sacrificed three cocks, three shillings and the clothes he was wearing at the time of the consultation. Reluwe offered three shillings and the clothes he was wearing but did not offer the three cocks to let people stay with him overnight. Reluwe became a person who had followers but when evening came his followers went away, everyone going to his or her home. From that time go, all travellers who enter Reluwe have been leaving each evening. Nothing last, even Reluwe has not lasted. Perhaps in the future when we make the necessary infrastructural sacrifices, then our Railway would last and spread and multiply with friends and followers staying many, many nights.

  What are you trying to tell me, Alaba? Nothing new, but something new that concerns us. Our knowledge base is skewed against us. We cannot take off into the future without any of the props that our ancestors used to keep themselves alive and sane until, and here you must decide whether or not you agree with me because I do not agree with me, until Islam or Christianity or Europe came to save them! 

  Our knowledge industry needs to look at the robust encounters between our Ifa Priests and the malams of Islam, between our Ifa Priest and the clerics of the Christian churches that invaded our country with the arrival of British imperialism. These are recorded and available for all to read and understand. The core of Awon Babalawo did not rubbish their faith and their way of life. Some did and handed themselves over to the new comers. There is need to revisit those arguments and add ours to theirs and bring forth something new.

  Unfortunately, the Bascoms of this world have made things difficult because of the way and manner they present this updates and upgrades of Ifa Divination content. William Bascom calls them parodies! Parody here means “something so badly done as to seem an intentional mockery”. Is Bascom saying that these compositions are simply mimicking the style of Ifa Divination and not serious attempts to bring the Ifa Divination to the modern period in the lives of our people? Or is Bascom saying that those arguments did not take place? They did and our Babalawo did accommodate the new knowledges they were encountering, a process needed to domesticate new knowledges and then contribute to it into the future. We need this process and we need it to commence immediately.

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