By Remi Oyeyemi
In Yoruba land like in most African cultures, respect is the hallmark of
our tradition. It is given, most times without question but never in
isolation of other moral variables.
Respect is a very important tenet of the concept of OMOLUABI, among many
others that I will touch on here.
We give respect to our elders as a matter of course. Without being
individually demanded, our culture and tradition make it obligatory on
everyone in every stratum of our society to give it to whom it is due.
This principle is so deep that the Yoruba believe that at times an elderly
could cheat a younger one without too much protest from the youngster. I
believe that is the origin of the saying, “Kò sí nkan t’a nfi àgbà dídà
nse ju pé kâ fi yan omodé je.”
However, the Yoruba in its full understanding of human nature which has
been functionally related to its dexterity in social engineering that had
been evident in the socio-political institutions created in its History,
has placed enormous responsibility on the leaders and elders in a Yoruba
social set up.
Sayings such as “Àgbàlagbà kii se lángbálángbá,” “A gbó ejó enìkan dá,
àgbà òsìkà ni,” “Àgbà kìí wà l’ójà kí orí omo tuntun wó,” “Àgbà kò sí ni
ìlú, ìlú bàjé, baâle ilé kú, ilé d’ahoro,” “Àì f’àgbà f’énìkan ni kò j’áyé
ó gún” among many others are witting expressions of our ethos.
In these aphorisms, elders and leaders are expected to be responsible at
all times. They are expected to be above board at all times. They’re
expected to be stainless moral leaders and authorities in our milieu.
Based on that, they would have earned the respect that the society made
obligatory on the rest to give unto them.
But the Yoruba people, because of their understanding of the human nature
believe that there would always be some let downs, some disappointments
among the old, elders and or leaders, it was made mandatory by the Yoruba
tradition to call such errant ones to order. Hence the saying, “Àgbàlagbà
tí kò bá mo eran è l’òbè, à nyóo fun ni.” This may be one of the reasons
Uncle Bola Ige once contended in absolute terms that the Yoruba “have the
best Culture in the world.” Despite the temptation of such a claim and the
naturally enticing embedded pride in it as a proud Yoruba son, I would not
agree with this statement of Uncle Bola. I would rather apply the
philosophical rule of the Theory of Relativism and say that the Yoruba
have one of the best Cultures in the world.
Now, the command of respect by the elders or leaders alike and the
obligation of all members of the society to observe this rule is
functionally related to acts of moral probity, honesty, integrity and
dignity on the part of the elders and leaders. Their utterances, acts or
deeds must be beyond reproach. The moment this expectation is breached by
the older ones or leaders, all bets are off. Such leaders are open to
remonstrations, rebuke, restrictions and conscriptions where applicable.
This is one of the reasons why the Yoruba could call an Oba “Aláse èkejì
Òrìsà,” or “Kàbíyèsí” or “Ka bi ó kò sí” and yet would depose such a king
or Oba if and when he over steps his boundaries.
In Yoruba land, respect is not just for the take. It is not given without
conditions. Thus, when a leader or an elderly begins to lie in the public
shamelessly or engage in ignominies, it is automatic that he would lose
respect. Omoluabi concept lays a responsibility on a leader or elder to
stay clear of behaviours or acts that could tarnish his integrity and make
him lose respect.
As Yoruba, it is incumbent upon us all, to ensure that all leaders who
have become loose cannons and are contributing to the moral paralysis that
is destroying our society be called out appropriately. Political
affiliation or loyalty should not be a factor in this venture. We can not
allow our politics to determine or define our morality. Rather our
morality should determine and or define our politics.
One of the major reasons many people have been demonizing Yoruba faiths as
compared to either Christianity or Islam is because Yoruba faiths are very
consequential. The underlying irresponsibility embedded in human nature
nay Nigerians have made them to malign and demonize Yoruba faiths. You
can’t swear falsely with Yoruba Orishas. You would pay a very heavy and
consequential price if you do. Whereas, you could get away with false
swearing using the Bible or the Quran. This is why a President or Governor
would begin stealing the very day he or she takes Office because he or she
is very sure nothing would happen as a result of that swearing-in.
This is why degeneration and decadence is on the increase. The least we
can do is to eliminate respect for elders or leaders who don’t deserve it.
By their actions and utterances, they have violated the concept of
Omoluabi. Such elders or leaders could not expect to benefit from the
positives of the Omoluabi concept.
There must always be consequences for actions.
The Yoruba are complete in their understanding of human nature.
May Èdùmàrè bless my ancestors. Ase.
© REMI OYEYEMI