Of national unity, culture and marriage

Nothing else advertises Nigeria’s unity aside the kind of wedding ceremony that took place on the Plateau, Jos Capital, recently.

Sunday Saanu

Despite her potpourri of problems, Nigeria remains a great country with her abundance of natural and human resources. The beauty in her cultural diversity and multilingualism is simply astonishing. Evidently, it is a blessed nation. In terms of weather, God is clement with Nigeria. While many other countries of the world are dying of extreme coldness, Nigerians enjoy temperate atmosphere condition. The land as well, is suitable for all manner of cropping.

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The size of this country is another major advantage. Nigeria is the biggest country in Africa and one of the most populous countries of the world. The cultural diversity and sweetness in this tremendous size represent a big advantage, if properly harnessed. From Lagos to Maiduguri, Calabar to Ibadan, and Aba to Damaturu, it is so rewarding moving around to savour the gift of nature, and what people are doing with what they have. Those who have moved round Nigeria will not pray for the dismemberment of this country. We are obviously better in unity. Perhaps the only requirement for this much-desired unity is the current mantra in town: restructuring towards equity and justice. If the leadership is courageous enough to initiate a process of social, political and economic fairness and equity, this country will certainly become a Paradise on earth.

However, apart from football competition between Nigeria and any other country of the world, which usually generates national unity, nothing else advertises Nigeria’s unity aside the kind of wedding ceremony that took place on the Plateau, Jos Capital, recently. It was a society wedding, bringing together, Nigerians from various cultural backgrounds who were so united in love and celebration. A wedding ceremony which attracted 10 First Ladies (Governors’ wives), from different states of the federation clearly merited the appellation of “society wedding” This was a wedding ceremony of Mr Sam Golji Waklek and his heartthrob, Maryam Awu. Mr Sam Golji Waklek is the son of the University of Ibadan Pro Chancellor and Chairman of Governing Council Nde Joshua Mutka Waklek – a retired Accountant-General of Plateau State. Luckily, one of the daughters of Nde Joshau Waklek is the wife of the current state Governor, Dr. Simon Bako Lalong. In other words, Pa Waklek is the Governor’s father-in-law. But he never disclosed this to anyone in University of Ibadan since his appointment. Nobody knew that Pa Wakleck wielded a lot of influence in his state. He is so humble and humane. I remember the first interview I had with him at Chancellor’s Lodge in UI, we ate together. He served me by himself.

In solidarity with the Council Chairman therefore, the University of Ibadan raised a 10-man delegate to attend the wedding ceremony of his son, with the Vice Chancellor , Prof. Abel Idowu Olayinka leading the UI’s team to Jos, the venue of the solemnization of the holy matrimony. On the VC’s entourage were the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration), Prof. Kayode Adebowale, the DVC (Academic), Prof. Adeyinka Aderinto, University’s Bursar, Dr. Michael Alatise, and the University’s Librarian, Dr. (Mrs) Helen Olubukunola Komolafe-Opadeji. Others were Prof. Mohammed Kuta Yahaya of Agronomy Department, the Deputy Registrar, (Council), Mr. Ibunkun Ajibola, University’s Protocol Officer, Mr. Samuel Badejo as well as this writer, who is Media Assistant to the Vice Chancellor.

Upon arriving Jos, the delegate paid a courtesy call on the Governor’s father-in-law where the rich cultural ambience of Plateaus was excitedly experienced. We were warmly welcome with pomp and ceremony. Plateau people are said to be so hospitable. We witnessed this culture in no small measure. Nde Waklek ushered us into a room where assorted meals had been perfectly arranged. We ate and drank to our satiety. Our chairman later introduced his family members to us in turns. It was at this point some of us got to know that one of his daughters, Victoria is the wife of the Governor. Nde Waklek was so elated seeing Yoruba people coming all away from Ibadan to share in his joy.

It was indeed a cultural intercession as we began to appreciate the way of life of our hosts. Just like in Yoruba land, the local drummers accosted us as were leaving Baba’s house, sang our praises in their language, expecting monetary rewards. Some of the leaders in our team gave out the highest denomination in the country. “Ibadan, Ibadan, na go de”, the praise singers shouted as we took our leave.

On Saturday, December 8, which was the second day of our visit, was the wedding day. Three different weddings were scheduled to take place simultaneously at the headquarters of Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN). We got to the church much early as our leader, UI VC, Prof. Olayinka hates lateness with passion. This timely arrival afforded us to appreciate the more, Nigerian cultural richness and diversity. Different people in their resplendent dresses filled the church to the brim. The church service was quite interesting with the Preacher urging couples to love each other.

However, at Langfield Parks and Gardens, Little Rayfied, Jos, the reception venue, guests were lavishly treated to an amazing entertainment and hospitality amid tight security. Many First Ladies including that of Zamfara, Nasarawa, Kogi, Bauchi, Gombe, Sokoto among others graced the occasion in support of their colleague, Mrs. Victoria Lalong of Plateaus. We were overfed. It was indeed a colourful occasion.

The University of Ibadan was accorded due recognition. In fact, we enjoyed much respect and acknowledgements. For instance, the Chairman of the reception party was the Vice Chancellor of Plateau State University, Prof. Yohanna D. Izam. Immediately he got to know that UI VC was around, he left his seat to pay homage to our own Prof. Olayinka, describing the UI VC as his “senior colleague”. The Plateaus State Deputy Governor, Prof. Sonni Gwanle Tyoden is UI’s alumnus. He also extended due courtesies to the UI delegate as we took photograph with him and the Governor. We were offered all manner of gifts.

Retiring into our hotel, we were shocked to discover that Mrs Victoria Lanlong had again dispatched another round of food from the Government House for our dinner despite the amount of food we ate at the reception not too long ago. In order to avoid food wastage, we began to eat again. We ate to repletion. Workers in the hotel were asked to come and take their portion . Again, on Sunday morning as we were set to leave, Plateau State First Lady also sent breakfast from the Government House. More impressively, ecstatic we were when the UI Protocols Officer, Mr. Samuel Badejo hinted us that Mrs Victoria Lanlong had sent baskets of potatoes, tomatoes, and carrots to Ibadan as our gifts. Mrs Lanlong, along with her father, simply “killed” us with kindness, thereby confirming the culture of giving of Plateau people. How can we thank her enough? Anyway, givers don’t lack.

Expressing his joy, UI Council Chaiman, Nde Waklek disclosed that he never expected the number of people who came from Ibadan. According to him, “I was expecting only one or two people, and all of you left Ibadan to grace this occasion because of me, I am so grateful”. The UI VC had earlier told him that the University greatly appreciated the fatherly disposition of the Council Chairman as he never interfered unduly in the running of the University. Prof. Olayinka who paid glowing tribute to the Waziri of Pankshin stated that the peaceful and simple mien of the Chairman was a great motivation for the management to work hard for the University, saying, Nde Waklek “is a great father and mentor”

Obviously, with the cultural intercession between Yoruba and Northerners in Jos, it is clear that Nigeria will be far better for it, if the bond of unity across the country is strengthened. This is where the political class is challenged to maintain peace in the land. This country must not be set ablaze because of political office. As elections draw nearer, the unity and peaceful co-existence of all federating units must be paramount.

No harm’ll befall Northerners in Igboland – Nwodo

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Saanu is the Media Assistant to the Vice Chancellor, University of Ibadan

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