I am a Yoruba man.
I was born and raised in Nigeria.
I was born and raised in a town called Ilorin.
Ilorin was a Yoruba land. Infact it’s name Ilorin, means a place where iron is grounded or formed.
History says, years ago, the Yoruba people of Ilorin fought a war. Afonja lost that war and essentially lost Ilorin to the Fulani people.
The name Ilorin wasn’t a coincidence. The founder of the town and his lineage had strong military ties to the Oyo Empire. Oyo Empire is essentially the greatest heights of Yoruba people’s reign.
There is no Nigerian history without Oyo Empire because the history of Nigeria in a sense is the history of the dissolution of powerful ethnic tribes to form integrated forced shared identities.
I find this very fascinating to lead with as I explore the conflict in Gaza because I do not intend to offer a solution. I do not intend to offer a solution because I do not think there is solution ideation that magically solves the problem. Also if there is, I don’t think echoing it on medium will get us anywhere.
In Ilorin, the current solution for peace has been a weird integration of oil and water which has strangely remained calm. Today, ilorin is primarily habituated by Muslim Yoruba people with a Fulani Emir.
The resolution of that war still resonates in this land and in the identity and politics of it. We still ask, whose land is Ilorin? Are ilorin people Yoruba? Why are we Yoruba but have an Emir?
My dad is an Ekiti man. Ekiti, is a different state within the geographical and tribal region owned by Yoruba people in Nigeria. As a Yoruba man, he found life in Ilorin interesting. He was accepted at work and appreciated until he attempted to put his name in the hat to become the overall leader of the hospital he helped build.
My mom started after him. After he decided to resign prematurely to protest his mistreatment. Year after year, she rose through the ranks. Sure enough as soon as she became qualified for the highest roles in administration, she also ran into the non Muslim or non Fulani wall that governed the land invisibly.
Both of my parents are Yoruba. They have more ancestral claim and links to the original settlers and founders of Ilorin than any Emir or Fulani person but the war, the loss, changed the history of power and this identity in ilorin.
Before the Fulani’s triumph, I am sure the Yoruba people of Ilorin practiced traditional african beliefs. Yet now the identity that thrives is a Muslim one. If you are not a Muslim in ilorin, there is a cap to the level of achievement that will be celebrated or embraced. Muslim Yoruba in ilorin is the legacy of and identity of the people that lost to the Fulani leader whose ancestry visibly rules Ilorin.
I say all that because America would like the rest of the world to be like her. To adopt true democracy and conduct elections where the best man for the job elected by the people based on whatever format is deemed acceptable. A republic even might be the more correct way of describing it.
But has anyone considered the fact that a true democracy might make sense in a melting pot like America where any tribe or clan or group of people from anywhere in the world can apply and establish home. Their children become eligible for presidency as long as they are born in the US.
Identity is not tied to land. And in the case of the US, it’s not even tied to blood. It is tied to a Boolean or binary response to a simple question:
Were you born in the United State of America ?
Have you followed and met the stringent qualification requirements to become a citizen of the United States of America ?
The rest of the world is not like this!
I do not assume to know what is the better system etc but mostly want to highlight the fallacy in American positions of conflict.
The issue of land is an issue of history. It’s an issue of identity. It’s an issue of spirituality. These — history, identity, spirituality, are not things that are easily understood by an outsider.
The western world assumes because they have decided to dilute their blood lines, and their culture; the rest of the world must do the same.
The western world assumes because they have taken land in every region of the world and sown their seeds, fused their bloodline into cultures that may not even desire them. They assume the rest of the world must do the same.
To relinquish your land to some is to be displaced of your spirituality, to be displaced of your spirituality is to be displaced of your history. And who is a people that feels disconnected to their history? They are people with an identity crisis.
Over the years, I have studied and talked to and listened to black Americans express the impact of slavery on them. One of the things that has consistently struck out to me is the impact of two of these tree words — identity and history.
One of my friends explained to me how their bloodline got an Irish (I think it is Irish) last name. But more so how her family changed the spelling to differentiate their blood lines from that of the slave masters.
What does this have to do with land dispute you ask ? Well when a people group with long history to a place get displaced. Often they are scattered. Their culture is stretched. Their identities are stretched.
Their children are forced to marry in the land they find themselves. At best being accepted in another land means needing to love and reproduce. The more that cycle is repeated with people that do not share history or or values or culture with them, the higher the likelihood of trapping resentment and hate in human bodies.
Love is a beautiful thing. Interracial mating is a beautiful thing. The key here is having to do it in mass as a people group to survive. And seeing your children have no options but to mate with people of cultures that do not align with yours. It breeds hate.
You look around as elder statesmen responsible for safeguarding and extending your people’s history; and all you see is a new generation disconnected from their land, their history, their faith — their identity.
On both sides of the Gaza — Isaraeli conflicts; that is what they fight for.
Americans maybe even westerners struggle to understand what the emphasis on land is. I mean, in the US, you just move around. You are born in Texas, you move to California, you marry a white girl. Your sister marries an Asian guy. It’s a beautiful life in a melting pot.
There are regions of the world that do not want to be a melting pot. And even if they accept other races, tribes, they do not want to do it at the expense of kicking into gear the chain reaction for extinction. And at best, they do not want to be disconnected from their ancestry, their history — their land.
It really doesn’t matter who is right about land ownership. What can’t be ignored is the emotions, memory and connection forged over years of deep relationship between land and people.
The analogy that comes to mind is of a child that was adopted by a barren mother’s sister. He was never told who his biological mother is. He has formed a deep love, attachment and history with his mother’s sister. Only to be told 45 years later that his biological mother was killed by her sister for the sake of him. Just so who he has called mom could use him as a cure for her feeling of barrenness.
What is the truth gotta do with helping him decide how to move forward ?
His biological mom is dead.
The one he has called mom looks like him or he looks like her.
He has searched all his memories looking for clues. He can’t seem to find any clue.
Because he was, is loved. A very fervent love story that.
So much love his biological sister killed her sister just so she could love him as her own.
Now the story comes out that his biological mother was a drug addict that went around telling her family that she was scared of being a mom and she hated the fact that she was gonna bring another human into this cruel world. Indeed the world was cruel for her.
His mom, his biological mom’s sister was killed because the only way she was gonna adopt him and love him was to love him as her very own with no future claim hanging over her head.
His mom severed every chord that traced back to his biological mother. Including killing her own sister. So I ask you the question he has been asking himself.
Does my mom love me ? Is love a good enough basis to choose my identity ? Does my identity depend on the truth about my history or does it depend on the history I choose to define my identity.
Lastly, his biological mother’s death was orchestrated by her dad because he could no longer afford to pay for her petulance and she was beginning to force him to choose between securing his own blood born children and taking care of her — she was adopted.
Europe is the father that adopted the Jews and then chose to find them a home when they felt they had a “Jewish problem.”
If the analogy is hard to follow. I promise it’s clearly mapped. I also promise it’s sole purpose is to communicate how messy, emotional, human it is to sort through what is right or best or to even predict what should or will happen.
I don’t know my history well on this. I don’t attempt to offer a solution. What I do know is that whatever seems right and easy and straight forward is not. Any mess that includes history, humans, and holocaust in an intoxicating concoction of forced inheritance, stolen land, genocides, eroded identities, and convenience politics. It’s rarely so simple.
We must begin every solution with an empathetic acceptance of irrational rage.
What is on full display is hurt people hurting people in a trapped cycle devoid of forgiveness that forgets.