Yesterday, at the installation of the new Olubadan of Ibadanland, I took my time to listen to his cognomen, with studied interest. I came out of the encounter first, with laughter, then shock and trepidation. His Royal Majesty’s praise chants describe him as “omo o toro obe, toro abe; boo bun mi l’obe, bun mi l’abe nitori abe dun j’obe lo” Roughly translated, this means, the child of he who begs for soup and begs for sex; he says if you don’t have soup, hesitate not to give me the taste of sex because sex is sweeter than soup.
Such cognomens and songs give indications of traditional African society. They reveal, not strictly the promiscuity of pre-colonial Africa but even other sins they committed like killing one another for killing sake. Take for instance the cognomen, oriki of the Iloko lineage of Oyo Yoruba. Iloko proudly dances to chants of lines like omo abe’nilori fiyoku bun ni, translated to mean, one who cuts off somebody’s head and then forgives the victim after the act. My friend, Lasisi Olagunju, an Iloko, proudly flaunts this.
Elders of our land, today, your traditional Africa is under serial attacks. That same traditional Africa which, in nostalgia, you label the purest of all societies, is today mocked by a generation I call the Cryptocurrency generation. As the Olubadan’s cognomen was being chanted, I listened to a very naughty little boy of that generation beside me say, so their generation too was that decadent; so why do they disdain ours?
Early this week, as the lifeless body of 22-year-old Oluwabamise Ayanwole, the young lady who commuted on the Lagos Bus Rapid Transit, was found, you were mocked, elders of our land. Oluwabamise’s remains had been dumped on Lagos’ Carter Bridge, with some of her body parts alleged to be missing. Whether the young hapless lady’s death was as a result of a rape gone awry or ritual killing, we are yet to be fully told. However, Nigerians have recently witnessed a resurgence of killings for money rituals.
Respected British scholar, Prof John Peel, in one of his works, said his research found out that in pre-colonial Nigeria, mortuary killings were predominant in Southwest Nigeria and strangers were often killed to preserve the life of a community.
Whenever and wherever mutilated bodies of victims of ritual killings are found, your traditional Africa suffers terrible blow. As tears roll down their cheeks, children of this generation are quick to warn you, canvassers of the purity of traditional Africa, to save your crocodile tears for another day. They claim that the graveyards are filled with bones of hundreds of people your forefathers murdered for what they called the sustenance of traditional Africa; that money ritual is one of your bequeathals to their generation.
As if that was not enough, the Cryptocurrency generation calls you hypocrites. What impudence! Asked to elaborate, the vociferous ones among them said that while your forefathers, in one breath, fascinatingly rendered the ancient poetic lines of J. F. Odunjo Alawiye’s poem which asked us to spare that crawling insect and not stamp our feet on it because it is also God’s creation in the chant, Yi ese re si apa kan, ma se pa kokoro ni, kokoro ti iwo ko le da, Olorun lo le da…in another breath, your cultic forebears gorged out eyes, breasts, hearts and private parts of their victims. They said those body parts symbolised creationism and multiplicity. With body parts for rituals, wealth and communal wellbeing were assured.
I know you are stupefied at this generation’s daring guts. But listen yet again. This generation says it is amused that you are bothered at the common occurrence now of teenagers, barely off diapers, driving around shining, metallic wonders-on-wheels. Why are they aghast that we earn millions of dollars from Yahoo Yahoo scam of white men and women? they chorus.
Again, they ask you to cover your faces in shame. Rather than the villains you say they are, the Cryptocurrency generation says it is a generation of heroes and warriors. Their defense is that, this is a generation that has chosen not to stand by and lament the over-a-century slave trading and despoliation of the fecund lands of Africa. According to them, they chose instead to fight your battles, battles that you were too effeminate to fight and could not have won against your taskmasters. By defrauding offspring of your colonial taskmasters who took you into slavery centuries ago, the Cryptocurrency generation claims it is helping you repatriate the unpaid wages and sweats of your forefathers who, centuries ago, were hewers of woods and drawers of water for Europe and the Americas.
In your very eyes, those lullabies of purity of traditional Africa are exploding into smithereens, elders of our land, you who are the last surviving offspring of traditional Africa. You are at a crossroads. You are right now at that place where three footpaths meet, the very place you called the crossroads that turns the stranger into a novice, the ikorita meta ti n damu alejo.
In the name of fashion, your children are today the archetype of what you resented with the whole of your being. Your children happily flaunt sartorial madness, regalia of that same species of beings you loathsomely labeled as one whose insane dances at the Market Square are scintillating to watch but whom no one prays to have as a child; the were dun wo loja, ko se bi l’omo.
This Cryptocurrency generation wears that same locked, disheveled, filthy, lengthy, bushy, dreadlocked hairs that the local madman in your area wears, the equivalent of the hairs on the head of Jesus the Christ’s generation’s Madman of Gadarene. Your abetiaja cap they mock to ridicule as Stone Age sartorial cruelty and your agbada receives their scorn as a needless parachute. In its place, they wear torn jean trousers like this same Madman of Gadarene and place their trousers below the heap of the two clefts of their bottoms – the bebere idi. But of course, they are ever quick to refer you, our elders, to the aforementioned Olubadan’s cognomen as a proof that the generations of yesteryears were not as innocent and pure as they have been made to believe!
Ah ah! The myth of purity is exploding in your very eyes like vapours of nothingness! Today’s fashion, the fashion sense of the Cryptocurrency world that we live in, blatantly mocks all that excessive coverage of the essential body parts. Your daughters scarcely wear anything at all today. They make public spoils of their nakedness, advertising their cleavages, the bodily variant of what legendary Yoruba Kennery Music exponent, Orlando Owoh, called the sweet pineapple within which there is multiple sweetness – the ope oyinbo to fi dundun s’ewa.
Didn’t your forefathers teach that there is wisdom in masking glory before its maturation, which you concisely couched in that pithy aphorism, bi isu eni ba ta, a f’owo bo je ni? Your male children today and their new wives pose for photographs on Facebook and Instagram with protruded pregnant alaboyun tummies, more naked than the prehistoric Adam and Eve, in a wild celebration they call Baby Shower. When your forefathers sighted a naked man or woman on the street, aghast, they shouted Ikunle abiamo o!, a lamentation of the labour pain of a woman that has come to ruins. If, in lamentation of nakedness, your forefathers, when they saw a naked madman on the streets, murmured, aso o b’Omoye mo, Omoye ti rin’hoho w’oja, why do you, elders of our land, tolerate your children wearing nakedness as clothe to the marketplace and you laugh and dance with them?
The best place to begin the interrogation of what has gone wrong with us is to find out whether this generation and generations before them share a meeting of the minds on what values are. We need to dispense with this before we accuse one of cultural and value impunity and beatify the other as torchbearers of standards, values and purity. Why has the social media become the new German philosopher, Fredrich Nietzche’s Superman, dishing out absolute moral codes to our children and turning them to alien spectacles we can scarcely recognize? Why have we chosen to look away in odious resignation while our fruits, the leaders of our tomorrow, decimate the values that gave us our sterling identity and pride of old?
In Africa, such values as respect for elders, hard work, respect for seniority, the extended family system, valour, premium on children etc reigned. Pre-colonial Africa is often held as the Golden Years of the continent.
Let us pick the above African values one by one and see where they are in a 21st century world. Respect for elders. Celebrated columnist, Reuben Abati, faced one of the most acidic attacks ever recently when he demanded that his age be properly attributed on a television programme. Abati was facing what the late poet, Gabriel Okara, mirrored in his Piano and Drums, piano symbolising modernity and drums, traditional Africa. Unfortunately for Abati, he forgot that television and modern broadcasting are 21st century objects, with their own set codes and ethos, to which he wanted to sacrifice pre-colonial ritual objects! Greetings and respect for elders in Africa, Nigeria and among the Yoruba, like Rome, were not built in a day and did not die in one day. They die gradually. In Yorubaland, the gradual death of respect for elders began from youngsters offering what is called idobale igbingbado – the corn-planting prostration position. It then moved to the merely-bowing-of-head position and today, respect for elders is facing total annihilation. Youngsters offer handshakes as greetings to elders.
Hardwork. Today, only a tiny population of our youths believes in hard work. They want to ride Bugatti and Bentley the day they are born. Music as popular culture in pre-colonial Africa and even immediate post-colonial Africa helped to underscore the value of hard work. Musicians of that period sang that sorcery and magic cannot make one wealthy. Today, musicians sing praises of felons and exalt virtues that they say are in scamming and 419.
In the same manner, the values of the extended family system, valour, premium on children and others have become extinct. Those days, Europeans and Americans celebrated our virtue of communal living, our Ubuntu. Ubuntu is a South African social philosophy of culture which explains Africa’s capacity to express compassion, dignity, harmony and humanity while building and maintaining a sense of communaliity, justice and mutual caring. Ubuntu is a fellow human feeling which is diametrically opposed to the individualistic theory of society propounded by the French philosopher, René Descartes, expressed in the Latin word, cogito, ergo sum – I think, therefore I am. For us in Africa, our underlying social philosophy of culture was, I am because we are. Today, Africa has returned to Descartes. It is everyone for himself and God for us all.
The social media is today held as culprit of the implosion of immorality in Nigeria. I do not subscribe to this fully. I think what we have now is an explosion of reportage of evil, not explosion of the act. The truth is, there is little difference in the decadence prevalent in pre-colonial African society and now. The little difference is that, the ratio of righteous countrymen then, compared to now, has dwindled considerably. Promiscuity was like pestilence then and immorality ruled our world. Until the Nigerian law forbade it, bastard children, products of liaisons with married women, littered the space. Murder was like sport and injustice was everywhere. In the politics of the First Republic, dead bodies were brought to the front of the houses of political opponents so as to rope them into murder. What the social media can be accused of doing now is coordinating all these indecencies that seem to be latent in us – ones in Zamfara, Ebonyi, to Osun – and making them available across time and space, in a baffling spontaneity that looks like a spike.
The way to begin is for each of us to return to our homes. As the saying goes that whoever the gods want to destroy, they first make mad; the family in Africa has become a mad place. William Yeats, Irish poet, dramatist, writer and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature, writing in his poem, The Second Coming, talked about things that have gone awry, purity that has been polluted. It is same in our families today. The falcon cannot hear the falconer as things (have) fallen apart; the centre cannot hold. Right inside the family, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. Parents gladly receive car gifts from their Yahoo Yahoo children who they know are kingpins of scamming. They are the ones who help to philosophize the fraud rot that has destroyed many victims’ lives forever by saying that Yahoo Yahoo is an attempt to repatriate stolen African valuables by the West. I learnt there is even an association of Yahoo Yahoo mothers.
We have to begin from our homes to teach our children the values and purity of hard work and the unenduring worth of indolence and fraud. We must begin to teach them morals by asking our children to remember the child of whom they are. Though we are in a 21st century world, J. F. Odunjo’s books, his poems, the stories of Tortoise and his Wife who we called Ijapa and Yannibo, stories that moulded us to responsible adulthood, are evergreen, imperishable, relevant for this age and are calling for our attention today. Each family must teach their children, from the diapers, about Odunjo’s classic poem, Ise l’ogun ise (Work serves as antidote to poverty). In fact, it must be hung on the wall as we did almanac those days. That poem teaches that we should intensify efforts at work because, not only is there dignity in labour, work is the only thing that can lift one up.
If we religiously do this, we will be rescuing this generation and the ones to come from the madness of swindling, indolence and warped sense of achievement. More importantly, we will be saving our children from the hands of this fast-moving, all-that-is-wrong-is-right Cryptocurrency generation, the scions of the ZaZuZeh culture that kills the Oluwabamises of this world for rituals, believing that in their severed body parts, lie antidotes to poverty.
Festus Adedayo is an Ibadan-based journalist.
This is the text of a paper delivered on Saturday, March 12 at the Kegites Club’s celebration of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s 85th birthday, which held at the OOPL (Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library) in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
Support PREMIUM TIMES’ journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401…