• Friday, April 19, 2024
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Lakisokun’s eight-year journey to tell the Osun State story

Lakisokun’s eight-year journey to tell the Osun State story

The girth and weight of this coffee-table book draws the reader to it at first glance. It is huge. Courage and Character: The definitive history of Osun State commenced as one of those project ideas by consultants but turned into a mission for the promoter, Temitope Lakisokun. Instead of 18 months, it took eight years.

“This is a book about Osun State, Nigeria”, the blurb proclaims. “It is an epic story that begins in pre-colonial times and documents the great work of the founders and those who 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.”

The book is a panorama from “the unlikely catalyst” Chief Salami Agbaje through colonial admin officer HLM Butcher to various leaders of the Osun State movement. You see the positives, negatives. and recurring patterns.

Integrated marketing communication expert Temitope Lakisokun read mass communication at the University of Lagos and did the Owner Manager Programme of the Lagos Business School. Doing Courage and Character: The Definitive History of Osun State made her at home with history, the discipline that late Chief Lakisokun, her father studied in the UK and taught for more than 40 years as schoolteacher and Principal Special Grade.

What were your Hopes and Dreams as you set out to write the Osun story?

For a people once dismissed by the colonisers as lacking history, it’s astonishing that we aren’t feverishly seizing every opportunity to document our stories, as books are the only way the truth survives. I just wanted to tell the story of our people and honour the memory of those who did the heavy lifting. They endured oppression under their Ibadan and Oyo central overlords until they decided they’d had enough. I was also intrigued to learn that Osun State (indirectly) came into existence because of an insult. There’s something in that revelation that I find deeply satisfying.

What were the low points and high points in the journey?

Low points? How much time have you got? We toiled on the project for eight years, persisting because giving up was not an option. Former Governor Rauf Aregbesola commissioned the book, but progress stalled when he left office in 2018. I would say the low points were caused by individuals who could not uphold the cherished Omoluabi ethos of the Osun people…and there were many such individuals. They shall, of course, remain nameless.

Conversely, the high point was discovering the straight-backed men and women of honour from whom the Osun people descended. The founders had a moral nerve and were motivated to forge a place they could call their own in a context of cooperation and fairness. Their life’s work is a tribute to the supremely Omoluabi virtues of sacrifice, justice, integrity, honour, and responsibility. There’s this thing where life happens to people, and they forget who they are. If this book accomplishes one thing, I’d like it to remind our people of their identity and heritage. It’s also gratifying to see the dreams of our ancestors alive in our time.

Who supported the project?

The book owes its existence in large part to former Governor Rauf Aregbesola. He saw the project’s merit, gave his word (and in the face of myriad challenges,) and followed through. Grants from various individuals and foundations also helped.

What did you learn about the Osun people?

Osun people have a very proud past. They disdain nonsense. They do not like being disrespected or condescended to. A line of the state anthem (I hope it’s still in use) says: “Igbagbo wa ma nipe, ba’ti bi eru, la bi omo.”*
*We believe that all men are created equal.

It’s such a powerful statement. I pause and ponder every time I hear it. By the way, Yorubas ask the “Who is your father?” question for emphasis because there are no cuss words in the Yoruba language. I don’t think it’s classist. It’s their way of asking, “Who the hell are you?!”
They may appear placid, but you take Osun people for granted at your peril. In my travels across the state, I noticed a quiet dignity in how the people went about their daily lives, whether the farmer trekking to his farm or the akara seller hawking her wares. They would never harass you or beg for any handout. Outsiders mistake this inherent dignity for passivity, so they are sometimes forced to prove them wrong every other election cycle.

The Military administrators we interviewed for the book also corroborated this steely core of the Osun people and how they could not be suppressed during the Abacha years. Indeed, Progressivism would never have been a thing in Nigeria were it not for the creation of the Oshun Division in May 1951.
Understanding a people’s psyche is crucial. If the Americans had bothered to understand the nature of the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War, they’d probably have retreated to Cambodia.

It is a hefty tome. Are there any plans to produce a slimmer version for the average citizen and students?

“Courage and Character” is Volume One of three. It’s a political biography of the state and is privately distributed. Volume Two is “Yoruba Was a Country,” a cultural biography, and it’s already in the works. Once the trilogy is complete, we will consider condensed versions for a broader readership.

Is there any support from the current Osun State Government?


Is there any way to profit from the book?

The primary motivations for the book aren’t commercial. The tremendous eight-year timeframe invested in researching and writing makes it more of a passion project. I consider the preservation of history and honouring heritage more important than profitability.

Was it deliberate or coincidental that the book came out around the anniversary of the creation of Osun State?

Since the book chronicles the state’s origin story, we felt it would be symbolic to release it around the state anniversary. This ties the book’s narrative directly to the milestone event that led to the creation of the state.

A study in audacity and resoluteness.

More than one hundred years stood between the creation of Osun State on 27 August 1991, and the beginning of the quest by the people of the territory now called the State of Osun, Nigeria for a place of their own.

The journey started in precolonial times, intensified during the era and continued through the military-civilian-military periods of Nigeria’s political development.

A defining characteristic of the struggle was the courage of the proponents and their steely resolve.

This book captures the long journey.

This volume goes back to the time of the struggle for the creation of a State, through the creation, and how it has been governed. It is an exciting journey filled with interesting characters and intrigues.

How was the state built from scratch? Who were the key players? What were their challenges? What were their triumphs? What would they have done differently?