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Ile-Ife And The Nigerian Tragedy ―By Olusegun Adeniyi


The less you say, the less risk you run of saying something foolish, even dangerous. In 1825, a new czar, Nicholas I, ascended the throne of Russia. 

A rebellion immediately broke out, led by liberals demanding that the country modernize–that its industries and civil structures catch up with the rest of Europe. 

Brutally crushing this rebellion, Nicholas I sentenced one of its leaders, Kondraty Ryleyev, to death. 

On the day of execution, Ryleyev stood on the gallows, the noose around his neck. The trapdoor opened but as Ryleyev dangled, the rope broke, dashing him to the ground.

At the time, events like this were considered signs of providence or heavenly will, and a man saved from execution this way was usually pardoned. 

As Ryleyev got to his feet, bruised and dirtied but believing his neck had been saved, he called out to the crowd, “You see, in Russia they don’t know how to do anything properly, not even how to make rope!”

A messenger immediately went to the Winter Palace with news of the failed hanging. Vexed by this disappointing turnabout, Nicholas I nevertheless began to sign the pardon. 

But then: “Did Ryleyev say anything after this miracle?” the czar asked the messenger. “Sir, the messenger replied, “he said that in Russia they don’t even know how to make rope.”

“In that case,” said the Czar, “let us prove the contrary,” and he tore the pardon. The next day Ryleyev was hanged again. This time the rope did not break. 

Learn the lesson: Once the words are out, you cannot take them back. The momentary satisfaction you gain with your biting words will be outweighed by the price you pay.


The foregoing story titled, “Always say less than necessary” was lifted from chapter four of Robert Greene’s “48 Laws of Power”. 

It is one lesson that many Nigerian politicians have refused to learn to our collective detriment.

 Anytime there is a crisis, without even interrogating what the issues are, many of them would take to the media in a bid to outshout the other; not necessarily because they care for the victims but essentially just to score cheap political points. 

The danger is that their biting words, which in most cases earn them the applause of an unreflective mob, have contributed to the spiral of violence that now defines the current season in Nigeria.

It is in that context that I want to commend the Governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, for the maturity with which he has handled the tragedy at Ile-Ife, despite provocations from two sides: 

One, a section of the Yoruba establishment that was goading him into making inflammatory statements that could have resulted in reprisal killings; 

Two, reckless officials of the federal government, including the Police, who have evidently taken sides, given their sectional actions and irresponsible utterances.

Notwithstanding the much known Ife-Modakeke palaver that has given the town notoriety, there is something about Ife that is unique. It is a town that when people visit, they hardly want to leave. 

The University may have a lot to do with that. 

In all the years that I have known him, for instance, whenever Harvard University Professor, Jacob Olupona says he was going home, it isn’t to Ute in Ondo State (where his parents hailed from), it is to Ile-Ife where he built his country home. 

My friend and former classmate, Charles Ukeje, now a Professor in our Department (International Relations) at Obafemi Awolowo University arrived Ife with his Igbo parents when he was only three years old. 

Today, Charles not only speaks better Yoruba than me, he can also speak in Ife dialect, the town where he has built his home.

In his piece last Saturday, Chief Dele Momodu (Bob Dee) wrote about the allure of Ife and the generations of people from other cultures and ethnic groups that have found home within the community. 

So, the tragedy at Sabo is not about Hausa-Fulani “invaders” coming to disturb the peace of Ife; it is about the travails of a people that have domiciled within the community over many generations and have been so accepted that Ife is the only place they know as home.

On Monday, Governor Aregbesola inaugurated a six-man committee with a strong emphasis that it was “not an inter-ethnic, inter-religious or inter-regional conflict by any stretch of the imagination. 

It was just an ugly development, a breach of public peace, masterminded by hoodlums and criminals resulting to loss of lives and property”. 

He went even further: “While not denying the political and economic roots of conflicts in our land, every infraction of the law is primarily a law and order matter. 

“Even while we seek political solutions to a problem, the first line of approach is law enforcement…

“Some people, for reasons best known to them, might decide to fan the embers of discord, division, even separation and incite one group against another, with a false narrative of Yoruba-Hausa conflict and call to arms. 

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