BATTLE FOR NOMINATION OF WORLD SANGO HERITAGE CENTRE BEGINS
*FG endorses Oyo town, writes UNESCO
FROM DEBO DUROWAIYE, OYO.
The Yoruba are a highly researched ethnic group in Africa due to
their rich cultural heritage, manifested in their history, sociology
and spirituality. Archeological evidence indicates that the Yoruba lived in urban societies in the first Millennium B.C, and began to use iron to create
The genetic resemblances between the Yoruba and the people speaking
Nupe, Edo, Ijo, Efik, Fon, etc had a common origin.
By tradition, the Yoruba communities traced their origin to Oduduwa
and the town of Ile-Ife. Oral history stated that after the death of Oduduwa, his seven grandchildren (Ogun Onire, Ogiso, Alaketu, Onisabe, Onipopo, Olowu and Oranyan), scattered all over, finding their respective kingdoms in the area today known as South- western art of Nigeria.
The eldest grandchild was the mother of the Owus, the second mother of
the Alaketu, progenitor of Ketu, the third became the king of Benin,
the fourth Orangun, king of Ila, the fifth king of the Sabes, the
sixth the king of the Popos and the seventh Oranyan.
Oranyan was the youngest prince, who inherited the land, being the
first Alaafin, progenitor of the Oyos, who transferred the political
power to Oyo-Ile.
Sango, the second son of Oranyan, became the strongest African’s king,
with much power and influence.
Under Sango’s influence, Oyo culture spread within the Oyo Empire
going beyond the Atlantic Ocean and today is known in the world,
including North America, Caribbean (Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobego,
Cuba), South America, (Brazil, Ecuador, Chile, Venezuela) and Europe
In Yorùbá religion, Sàngó is one of the most popular “Orisha”. He was
a strong ruler and a notable magician. Sango was the third king of the
Oyo Kingdom. He succeeded Ajaka, son of Oranmiyan, who appears to have been a weak ruler. His symbol is a double-headed axe, which represents swift and balanced justice. He is the owner of Bata (double-headed drums), as well as the Arts of Music, Dance and Entertainment in the Yoruba Culture. In the Lukumí (Olokun mi which means “my dear one”) religion of the Caribbean, Sango is considered the center point of the religion as he represents the Oyo people of West Africa.
Stories about Sango’s life exemplify some major themes regarding the
nature of character and destiny. In a set of stories, Sango is the son of Aganju and Obatala. As the story goes, Obatala, the king of the white cloth wanted to cross a river when traveling, which Agaju the ferryman and god of fire refused him passage.
It was said that Obatala retreated and changed to a beautiful woman.
The beautiful woman returned to the river and seduced Agaju who later
allowed her to cross over the river. The result of the uneasy union
between Agaju and the beautiful woman (Obatala) was Sango.
Sango went in search of Aganju, his father, and the two of them play
out a drama of conflict and resolution that made Sango threw himself
into the fire to prove his lineage.
Sango had three wives; Oshun, (a river goddess) was his favorite
because of her excellent cooking, Oba (another river goddess) offered
Sango her ear to eat. He scorned her and she became the Oba River,
which merges with the Oshun River to form dangerous rapids. Lastly,
Oya (Sango’s third wife) was a crafty woman who stole the secret of
Sango’s powerful magic.
Oba was Sango’s first and legitimate wife, Oshun; his second wife, and
Oya; his third wife, whom he made his queen. Oshun played a trick on
Oba, out of jealousy.
She deceived Oba that if she can cut a piece of her ear and offer it
to Sango as part of his meal, he would love her the more. Oba, excited
by this information, ran home to prepare Sango’s “amala”[yam flour],
his favorite meal.
She sliced off her ear and stirred it into Sango’s food. While Sango
was eating, he saw the ear in the food and was infuriated thinking
that Oba was trying to poison him.
Sango drove her from his house and Oba ran out crying. She fell to
the ground and turned into a river which is still being worshipped
till date. She became the patron of matrimony (as “Orisha”) and it is
believed that she destroys marriages that abuse either partner.
Historically, Sango brought prosperity to the Oyo Empire during his
reign. He is associated with the sacred animal, the ram, and the
colours of red and white.
Sango is venerated in Haiti, as a god of thunder and weather; in
Brazil, he is known as Xangô; in Umbanda, as the very powerful loa
Nago Shango; in Trinidad and Tobago as Shango god of Thunder, drumming and dance ; and in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Venezuela – the Santeria equivalent of St. Barbara, he is known as Changó.
Sango displayed his magical powers by directing lightning unto his own
household killing his wives and children.
He hung himself after the incidence; he was deified as the god of
thunder and lightning. His followers refuted that Sango hung himself. It was said that Sango’s followers went to another village to acquire magical powers and returned furiously to destroy the enemies of Sango.
In an interview with a national newspaper, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi 111 said the life of Alaafin Sango remains an excellent example in leadership considering the fact that his rule of Oyo and was far less than a decade.
Oba Adeyemi stated that before Sango ascended the throne, his brother
Ajaka was deposed probably because his temperament did not meet the
requirements of the turbulent period.
‘’Sango was preferred because he was a man of valour, purpose-driven
and master of diplomacy. He became king when Oyo at its formative
stage and surrounded by mighty and warlike states such as Nupe,
Ibariba and Owu. His charismatic leadership re-defined the character
and pattern of inter-group relations and diplomacy and made Oyo the
centre-piece of his foreign relations’’.
The paramount ruler further explained that Sango’s dynamic
alliances, including marriages were constructed to pursue the greater
interest of Oyo just as he spared no effort in consolidating the
military ascendancy of Oyo in the region.
‘’Under the inspirational leadership of Sango, the Oyo kingdom became
known not just for the effectiveness of its political system, but as
well for its military strength Sango’s seven years reign was marked
with several wars fought to liberate Oyo from its predatory and
truculent older neighbours. His short reign consolidated the position
of Oyo as the foremost Guinea Savannah State and also secured the
independence and sovereignty of the nascent kingdom.’’
Sango, Alaafin asserted eventually became the hero of his people and
the circumstances of his death as controversial and mysterious as they
were have continued to be referenced all over the world. He died with
the concern of his people paramount in his heart. He paid the supreme
sacrifice and left Oyo more grandiose, more stable, better
administered and more secured than he met the nascent kingdom. He is
today been remembered as one of the rare African leaders who became
instant success in empire building.’’
UNESCO Seeks Support for Alaafin
Similarly, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural
Organisation [UNESCO] has called on governments of South-West States,
corporate organisations, well-meaning individuals and Yoruba in
diaspora to support the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba (Dr.) Lamidi Olayiwola
Adeyemi 111, in his efforts to preserve and promote the rich cultural
heritage of Yoruba.
The Director and Country Representative of UNESCO in Nigeria,
Professor Hassana Halidou, in a message during the last World Sango
Festival said what owners of the culture do not appreciate at home
were being cherished, admired and highly valued by those outside and
are doing everything humanly possible to acquire it by all means and
at all cost.
He noted that ‘’the uniqueness of Oyo traditions is worthy of
emulation taking for examples the respect Yoruba people have for the
institutional authority, clothing and mode of dressing, the beauty of
Yoruba language with its semantics, the use of proverbs and aphorism,
different satires of Yoruba poems full of wisdom and philosophy that
has no equal all over the world.’’
He explained further that Oyo tradition is the pride of Oyo, adding
that it is the main reason why the city continues to enjoy respect
among the African nations and the black races in general.
‘’ This best explained in the common saying that due process is the
nature of administration at Oyo. This is justice which Sango stands
for. It is the practice his Imperial Majesty. The Alaafin of Oyo is
known for, and this is what Nigeria should be known for because where
there is justice, there shall be peace and where there is peace, there
will be development and it is development everybody should be working
towards to complement whatever the governments at local, state and
federal levels are doing.’’
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has expressed its support for the
Alaafin of Oyo, Oba. Adeyemi 111, and Paula Gomes Cultural Foundation in the pursuit of preserving and safeguarding both the tangible and intangible heritage of ancient Oyo town, with a view of preparing candidature dossiers for World Sango heritage nominations.
This is contained in an official letter dated 8th of April with
reference number FMCT/ECR/11/461 which was written by the Permanent
Secretary, Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National
Orientation, Mr. Nkechi Njele, to the Director-General, National
Commission for Museums and Monuments.
A copy of the letter, which was copied to the Regional Director, United
Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation [UNESCO]
Regional Office in Abuja, Professor Hassana Alidou, was made available
to WESTERN POST
Dr. Paula Gomes from Portugal is Alaafin’s Cultural Ambassador. It
stated that Oyo town, located in Oyo State, South-west of the country
holds a remarkable and rich set of tangible resources such as temple,
palaces, markets and traditional compounds as well as natural
resources like rivers and forests.
This notable set of buildings and natural resources, Federal
Government pointed out sustain the maintenance of a millenary culture
based on a unique and complex traditional, political and religious
‘’The intangible heritage preserved in Oyo include music, traditional
craftsmanship, poetry [Oriki], as well as complex and intense
festivities calendar that culminates with the important Sango
Festival, make Oyo town a bulwark of Yoruba traditional culture in Nigeria’’.
The letter reads in parts. ’’Moreover, as it is widely known, Oyo town
was the capital of one of the greatest African Empires. As such, it
was directly responsible for the diffusion of Yoruba
Culture,traditions and beliefs throughout west Africa, covering a
large territory that extended from the South-west Nigeria to Benin,
Togo, up to Ghana. This same cultural heritage was later on diffused
through the transatlantic slave routes to the Americas and the
Caribbean and preserved from generation to generation to date. In some
cases, such as in Brazil this culture was classified as national
heritage through the preservation of the Nago communities of Bahia’s
Due to the size and scope of Oyo-Sango’s heritage, the letter went on
‘’it is clear that this nomination process will require an extended
multidisciplinary research work. It is therefore necessary to approve
the constitution of an inter-institutional Network to support this
work and the project implementation. Therefore, I am suggesting that
the following will be required to carry out the projects;
representative of the Ministry of Tourism Culture and National
Orientation, National Commission for Museums and Monuments, UNESCO, the Alaafin’s palace, the relevant Local governments, Paula Gomes Cultural Foundation and members from any other relevant
Essentially, it advised that they will be expected to embark on
inscription of Sango Festival into UNESCO Representatives list of
Humanity for 2015 and 2016, as well as inscription of Oyo town into
the UNESCO World Heritage List, so as to be listed on National
Commission for Museum and Monuments tentative list for submission
to the World Heritage Committee in the near future.
Another letter of endorsement and support to World Sango Festival from
the Ministry with reference number FMCT/CIH/28/C/1/8 was also conveyed to the Alaafin of Oyo. The letter, acknowledged the festival as a global one being celebrated in over twenty countries, more importantly as it attracts all Sango worshippers in the country and in the Diaspora together with those from the Caribbean, Brazil and Cuba among others.