(Published in The PUNCH on Monday, January 18, 2021)
Abomination walked naked in Elegbeka community of Ose Local Government Area in Ondo State on November 26, 2020 when some sons of darkness, brandishing guns, killed a god.
First, they cocked their guns and kidnapped the god. Moments later, they shot the god, shedding the blue blood of a first-class Ondo traditional ruler, the Olufon of Ifon, Oba Adegoke Adeusi.
It wasn’t the first time traditional rulers would be felled by heinous bullets across Nigeria. But it was the first time a first-class Yoruba king, bedecked in his regalia, crown and sceptre, would be untimely dispatched to the land of his ancestors.
Historically, the Yoruba have a strong kingship institution that dates back to the 8th Century. Revered as the ‘Igba ’Keji Orisa’, that is, second-in-command to the gods, the reward for looking a king in the eye was death by the sword.
In the days of yore, when a king took your wife, you fell flat in obeisance, thanking him for considering your wife’s farmland worthy to sow his wild oats. That was how powerful the king was; his word was law and order. He was the unquestionable, the ka-bi-e-o-s-i.
The whittling of the kingship authority in Nigeria by modern political power, notwithstanding, kings are today still revered as the custodians of culture and tradition.
But the assassination of Oba Adeusi asterisked the efficacy of African traditional power, setting tongues wagging and questions tumbling, “How can an oba be killed by bullets just like that? Did he not ‘insure’ himself with African bulletproof called ‘ayeta’? Why did ‘odeshi’ fail the king?”
When the sons of homicide snuffed life out of the Olufon, many questions popped up in my mind like pimples on an adolescent face.
When I couldn’t find answers to the distressing questions, I stepped out of my ignorance and travelled the highway of knowledge to Ile-Ife, Yoruba’s believed source of civilization. At Ife, I headed straight to the palace of the Ooni, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi.
After paying obeisance to the kabiyesi resplendent in flowing white robes, white crown, white scepter, white shoes, I asked: “Is ‘ayeta/odeshi’ fact or fiction?”
Hardly had I uttered the last syllable of my question than the highest Yoruba monarch hit me with his own question, “What is ota?” “Bullet,” I answered. The Ooni expounded “Everything has a name. If you call ota by its real name, it’ll deflect bullets from you. Even when the bullet hits its target, it won’t have any effect. This is why it’s called ‘ayeta’. But it has its taboos.
“The white man has his own ‘ayeta’ in the form of a bulletproof vest. ‘Ayeta’ can also be put in the tyres or glass or body of a car. If someone calls you Moses, will you answer? No. But if you’re called Tunde, you will answer. ‘Ayeta’ will deflect any caliber of gun, be it a dane gun or AK-47.
“During the Ife-Modakeke war, ‘ayeta’ was used. Even some people who survived gunshots were taken to medicine men who called out the bullets from the bodies of the victims. We, the Yoruba, need to develop our traditional arts and science.”
From Ife, I went straight to the shrine of the Araba of Osogbo, Chief Ifayemi Elebuibon, who said, “African bulletproof exists in reality.”
Elebuibon, however, said there was no African medicine that could deflect bullets from AK-47. He explained, “An African-American came to me from Atlanta, he said he needed preservation called ‘owo’ in Yoruba. I did something for him. He wore it on a cock shot it, the cock didn’t die. He wore it on a goat and shot, the goat didn’t die. Anytime he calls me, he shouts: Osogbo Power! His name is Lucas, but the medicine is for police guns, not military.”
When I pointed out that armed robbers like Ishola Folorunso and Mighty Joe who boasted of being invincible to bullets later succumbed at the stakes, Elebuibon said, “You would notice that they didn’t die when the bullets were first fired at them. That was the time they would have utilised in escaping if they were not tied to the stakes.
“Many People can’t obey the taboos of the charms. They can’t abstain from women and they engage in ridiculous sex styles. It’s true that military ammunition is different from hunters’ guns of those days. But ‘ayeta’ will make it jam and prevent it from shooting, not that it will deflect the bullet. Then, there’s ‘owo’, aka preservation medicine that would make you escape attacks. You would’ve been gone by the time a bad occurrence would happen.”
One of the warriors of the Ife-Modakeke war, Chief Sunday Adeyemo, aka Sunday Igboho, said: “I have authentic ‘ayeta’ that can withstand any type of gun, including AK-47. I fought in the Ife-Modakeke war. I can also lock an AK-47 from shooting. I challenge anyone to come to the public and test my ‘ayeta’.”
But a retired Nigerian Brigadier General, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, said there was no charm that could withstand the firepower of military assault rifles. A prince steeped in the socio-cultural mores of the Yoruba, Oyinlola, who fought in the Chadian crisis of the 1980s and also commanded Nigeria’s contingent to the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission during the Somali crisis in the early 1990s, said, “I was a renowned marksman in the army for 30 years. I can knock off kites in flight easily, I won so many laurels for shooting. Don’t come to my sight with your ‘ayeta’ o, because if you do and I press my trigger, you’re gone. Nothing will stop an assault rifle.
“In the dane guns masqueraders use in deceiving people, it’s the gunpowder in them that explodes, they’ve removed the balls in the guns.
“As for soldiers missing their target when shooting at armed robbers tied to stakes, you must realise that it’s not easy to kill a fellow human being. Some of the soldiers are newly recruited. Some shut their eyes and shoot up. There was a time that the officer commanding the shooting had to kick out one of the soldiers because he was closing his eyes and shooting up.
“If it was ‘ayeta’ that made bullets not penetrate the robbers’ bodies initially, why did they die eventually? “
A retired Assistant Inspector General of Police, Mr Tunde Ogunsakin, said: “I was involved in many encounters with the bad boys. After they were subdued, you would find on their dead bodies various amulets, why did they die with their ‘ayeta’? If you give me an AK-47 and you wear an ‘ayeta’, it will kill o. Maybe ‘ayeta’ worked during the Kiriji War in Igbajo. But I don’t think it does nowadays.”
The Chief Imam, Ataoja Estate mosque, Osogbo, Sheik Adegbite Obe, said, “Basically, it’s wrong for anyone to dare bullets because they have ‘ayeta’, that’s akin to daring God, it will fail. Someone who’s a devout Muslim could have the grace of Allah not to die if hit by a bullet.” Obe added, “Nobody should face the bullet, no matter the ‘ayeta’ they have. Most of the shootings people do in public are fake, it’s only the gunpowder that’s fired, there are no bullets in the gun.”
Pastor, Redeemed Christian Church of God, Jesus House parish, Huntsville, Alabama, USA, Peter Oyediran, said Jesus was the only bulletproof of Christians. “Nobody should dare the gun. But, the power of Jesus is greater than any armament. God created all things, even the gun.”
In the 1980s when General Olusegun Obasanjo, at the height of apartheid rule in South Africa, called on African countries to deploy juju in the fight to emancipate blacks from colonial rule, he probably had ‘ayeta’ in mind.
But, does ‘ayeta’ really work? I walk away.
Facebook: @tunde odesola