Iwalesin- A Word From Jeyifo

Iwalesin- A Word From Jeyifo

Tuesday, April 30, 2019 3:02 pm

Babafemi Ojudu

By Babafemi Ojudu

I picked up a new word from The Nation’s column of my former teacher, Prof Abiodun Jeyifo, recently. It is a Yoruba word. You know BJ is one of the best academic and public intellectuals that this part has given to the world.

Iwalesin is his new coinage.

I have heard of iwalewa – character is beauty. It was my friend’s dad inagije, nickname. Yes Taiye Abiodun’s dad. I remember my dad taking me on a walk in our neighborhood in those days. He used to say let’s stop by to say hello to Aba Iwalewa. The man stayed through to that name all his life. Incidentally, I and the son, Taiye, who now resides in Canada with his family met in primary school and remained friends ever since.

I love the word Iwalewa so much it was one of the names I gave to my first daughter. I know too that Iwalewa Haus is a German Center for African culture. Ulli Bier , I hope I am right, must have taken it from here to Germany.

The other word of Yoruba which fascinates me and hold so much meaning for me and for my life is sekoni – toil so that you can have. That incidentally is also the name of another teacher of mine in Ife who shaped my thoughts and character. This also defines my attitude to our young ones who want to have without toiling and take begging, particularly the social media variant of it as a pastime .

Yes character is beauty. One of the Yoruba musicians of the earlier seasons sang ‘tobirin ba dara ti ko niwa asan loje . It simply means beauty without character is nought.

Now Prof Jeyifo , a deep thinker ,has come up with iwalesin which literally means “character is faith, is religion”. It is so apt . For me it conveys a sea deep meaning . Our men of God sure have one or two things to learn from this simple but philosophical word. I have seen some men of God up close I begin to wonder if their character hasn’t belied their faith. It is not enough to be able to quote the Bible and the Quran or see vision and make predictions. Character matters. That probably informs Gandhi to make the famous statement “ I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”

The preachers of the word today want to have everything. Several cars in their garage, airplanes, Mac mansions in exotic parts of the world, bespoke suits, expensive wristwatches, snake skin belts and shoes, gucci eye glasses. They compete on whose church is bigger like the currently running Glo advert gele mi ga ju ti e lo. They forget that biblical passage Mark 8:36. “ For what shall it profit a man , if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

In short character is everything.

Iwa ni gbogbo nkan!

Thank you for this word Prof Jeyifo.


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