Perhaps, no other name has been seriously exploited for economic and political gains by individuals and groups in Yorubaland as that of Oduduwa. Mostly guilty in this respect were the elite both traditional and modern. Where and when the name is not invoked in ordinary daily conversations between and among individuals and groups, prayers are being offered in that name particularly on important occasions.
In some extreme cases, concerns are expressed and oaths are taken or administered in that name because of its perceived potency. This seeming veneration notwithstanding, it would seem that rather than inspiring awe, the name has become more of a tool to achieve one’s aim or desire without much questioning, get to one’s promised land without any resistance or opposition and in the recent times get away with glaring acts of injustice without any questioning.
Without gainsaying and the negative or selfish use to which it has been put notwithstanding, the emergence of Oduduwa as the acclaimed progenitor of the Yoruba race laid the foundation for the emergence of the Yoruba as a nation. The Oduduwa factor has thus remained a rallying point of unity, or was adopted as such by the elite, in the contemporary period. Despite the acknowledgement of unifying function of Oduduwa factor, there still exists among some Yoruba groups the tendency to lay claim to descent independent of the Oduduwa tradition.
A very good example is the claim by the ljebu sub-group of the Yoruba that they migrated from Wadai, somewhere in the present day Sudan. Significantly neither has this claim been substantiated nor proved either in terms of identifying common traits with the people of Wadai nor bringing out clearly the distinguishing traits between the Ijebu on one hand and the rest of the Yoruba on the other hand. Historical findings have however shown that there were communities that developed independent of the-Oduduwa tradition.
Three of such communities have been identified. These are Oba-lle near Akure, Oba Igbomina and Igbo Idaisa in the present day Republic of Benin. Their independent tradition notwithstanding, their cultural and language affinity with the other Yoruba groups is not in doubt.
Apparently, the re-emergence of Oduduwa factor as a dominant feature in the history and politics of the Yoruba can not be traced further beyond 1940s when it was revived or perhaps contrived by the Yoruba elite to serve one purpose or the other. The emergence of Egbe Omo Oduduwa in the mid 1940s marked the revival of the Oduduwa factor in Yoruba history and politics.
Since then, Yoruba history has witnessed emergence of various Pan- Yoruba groups of different sizes and shapes. Among these groups were Egbe Omo Olofin, (Olofin is another name for Oduduwa), Oodua Development council, Oduduwa Assembly, Pan-Yoruba Congress, Yoruba Parapo, Yoruba Leaders Forum, Yoruba Council of Elders (Y.C.E.) and Oodua People’s Congress (O.P.C.) among others.
Beginning with Egbe Omo Oduduwa, founded and dominated by the likes of Chief Obafemi Awolowo among others, it would appear that the elite who constitute the core of these groups see the Oduduwa factor as a launch-pad for involvement or participation in politics. Thus, the metamorphosis of Egbe Omo Oduduwa into the Action Group (A.G.) in Nigeria’s First republic is apposite.
Although it has been consistently argued that the Egbe Omo Oduduwa is different from the Action Group, it is clear that distinguishing them amount to an attempt at separating Siamese twins joined particularly in the head. Interestingly and as a further proof of its links with politics, the A.G had since reemerged first as the Unity Patiy of Nigeria in the Second republic and the Alliance for Democracy in the present dispensation.
Interestingly, despite its professed goal of providing a rallying point of unity for the Yoruba and using it to secure to a favourable political space in the broader national politics, the history of the Egbe Omo Oduduwa and its successor-organisations have been characterized more by the opposite of what they professed. Thus the split that occurred in the early 1960s which led to the emergence of Egbe Omo Olofin championed by the likes of Sir Adetokunbo Ademola and Dr Adekoyejo Majekodunmi and occasioned by a combination of personal and ideological differences has remained a recurrent decimal in the history of the race.
This is evident in the emergence of the Yoruba Council of Elders to rival and perhaps whittle down the influence of the Afenifere beginning from 1999. Of course what could not be divorced from the rivalry was the decision for power position and privileges. The same scenario played itself out with the polarization of the Oodua People’s Congress into two factions headed by Dr. Fredrick Fasehun and Chief Gani Adams respectively.
Arguably, the issues of accommodation and exclusion are central to the various splits that characterized the Pan-Yoruba movements since independence. In the process the people labelled as ‘renegades’ or ‘bastards’ often found accommodation in splinter organisations having been excluded from the main organisations. Not only is the Yoruba Nation the worst for it as it lacked credible leaders that command wide acceptance and could speak for it but also because it has been difficult for the race to speak with one voice on pertinent national issues.
More importantly it has provided unfettered opportunities for opportunists, charlatans and exploiters to hide under the guise of seeking to protect Yoruba interest to fan their own nest and in the process sell the Yoruba nation for a pot of porridge while still invoking the name of Oduduwa.