Religion & Culture | Ipadawale: The journey home to Nigeria
Bukola Shonuga is a well-known Nigerian journalist and entrepreneur. Over the last year, she has assumed the Herculean responsibility of representing His Imperial Majesty Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, the Ooni of Ife.
She is tasked with fulfilling his vision that the sons and daughters of the African diaspora should return to Ile Ife in the state of Osun.
According to Shonuga, the King or Ooni of Ife, was moved by a message he received from Oludumare (God) that he should go to the Americas and beckon his people to return home.
He assented and visited New York and Philadelphia in 2016 with an entourage of more than 100 chiefs and security personnel.
Shonuga recalls the Odunde festival in Philadelphia as awe-inspiring. "Odunde marks the New Year and it has grown in popularity in the United States. I was particularly taken aback by the overwhelming response of the people. There was a surging crowd, all wanting to touch the King."
She describes a numinous experience when everyone raised their heads to the heavens at the King's request.
At 41 years old, Ojaja II is the youngest man to have ascended to the throne.
"He is from a different generation and as a result is able to identify with young people through technology and social media. It's an advantage that past kings did not have. He has dedicated his throne to the youth of his nation and the diaspora. He is devoting his life to social justice and the well-being of his people," Shonuga states.
Traditional leaders continue to be crucial to the political process in Nigeria, Shonuga notes. "It's a role that will never diminish."
The clarion call to return to the source is hardly quixotic. It is based on an existential need for black people in the Caribbean, Brazil, and the United States to benefit culturally, spiritually, and economically from repatriation.
Shonuga compares the return to Ile Ife to Aliyah or the immigration of Jews in the diaspora to Israel or Christian pilgrims to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
"Every nationality in the United States has somewhere to return to," Shonuga argues. "The King is offering Ile Ife, the home and birthplace of the Yoruba peoples as that place. It is there we our ancestral lineage."
She mentions the brutality of the separation and the "disruption of spirit" caused by slavery. Also notable is her comment on the tangential role played by some Africans in history's most cataclysmal event.
"It is important that we heal; that we appease the ancestors for the part we played in the displacement of our brothers and sisters."
Shounga believes that the annual Olojo festival in October is ineffable and should be experienced by as many people as possible in the Americas. It celebrates Ogun, the god of iron, said to be the first son of Oduduwa, the first Yoruba.
"The journey home will cost between US$2,500 and US$5,000, depending on the tier of hotel accommodation," says Shonuga. "But once you set foot on African soil, you will be overcome by an emotion that you have never, ever experienced. And for those yearning to return and cannot afford it, financial aid is available through our company, Travel Africa 3D."
Interestingly, Shonuga reconciles her personal religious beliefs as a Muslim with Yoruba cosmogony and culture.
"African culture is a way of life," she emphasises. "This is called Isedale - a philosophy on living. You are never called upon to suspend your own religious beliefs."
Ipadawale, according to Shonuga, involves business and economic independence.
She speaks of a diaspora village, a gated community that offers the African diaspora ownership of property in the Motherland. "The land is already there and the construction of chalets will begin in a couple of years, with the first village having some 500 units."
She refers to the diaspora village as ambitious, pivotal, and transformational.
When the owner is not in Ile Ife, his or her unit will be rented. "The investment aspect is very attractive," she adds.
Shonuga baulks at any question regarding safety and security. "Ile Ife is an ancient town; you can feel its traditions and spirit. Furthermore it is located in the South West region of Nigeria where there is calm and tranquillity."
She is dismissive of terrorist concerns, citing the diminishing presence of Boko Haram in the North of the country.
"Terrorism can occur anywhere," she argues. "Look at France and Britain." While conceding that widespread corruption and mismanagement have suffocated growth, she says that Nigeria remains relatively prosperous.
"It is the largest economy and is the most lucrative route in Africa, with every major airline going there. There is absolutely nothing to be concerned over. Ile Ife - the Osun state is a marvel. It is truly a hospitable place, a cultural hub with good people, really good people."
- Dr Glenville Ashby is the author of The Believers: Faith and Spiritism in the Caribbean Diaspora; now on Kindle; and Anam Cara: Your Soul Friend and Bridge to Enlightenment and Creativity. Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter@glenvilleashby.