FOLORUNSO FATAI ADISA
It was Lupita Amondi Nyong’o, a Kenyan-Mexican actress, who said, “What colonialism does is cause an identity crisis about one’s own culture.” For me, I would appropriate the expression as, “What RELIGION does is cause an identity crisis about one’s own culture.”
Religion has infiltrated the Yoruba culture and it has corruptly eaten deeply into its fabrics to the extent that our cultural clothes are now shredded.
Culture, they say, is the way of life of a people. And It has been categorically stated that the greatness of Africa lies in its culture and not in its science or technology. Every culture has its modalities of doing things to recreate history, to follow tradition, to show class/rank, or to ensure orderliness and so on.
One of the most impressive displays of culture among the Yoruba people of Southwestern Nigeria is resident in its kingship process, from the emergence to the end of a king’s reign.
The sacredness of being a king in Yorùbá land, traditionally, removes an Oba from the realm of a mere mortal and reverently places the king on the same pedestal as the gods; he becomes custodians of art and culture. Thus, he gets the cognomen, “Kabiyesi Oba alaase ekeji Orisa,”— the unquestionable king and deputy god.
The aforementioned cognomen points to the fact that a pastor or an imam has no reason to become a real Yoruba King except he agrees to go through the traditional processes of becoming a king, which begins from the “Ifa consultation”, the Kingmakers input, the “Ipebi” rituals and so on.
Similarly, the burial of a king has its sacred processes too. From the announcement of his death, which is not expected to be done by an “ordinary” person, to his burial, there are rites that are expected to be performed. Little wonder we do not say, “Oba ku”— the king is dead. Rather, we say, “Oba w’aja”— The king is in the ceiling. All of the aforementioned are some of the reasons the Yoruba traditional systems and values are clothed in reverence and admiration.
Contrastingly, in the last two months, the manner of the burial of two eminent kings, Soun of Ogbomoso and more recently Olubadan of Ibadan, in Yorubaland is both desecration and degradation of our culture and traditions as both kings were hurriedly buried in the Islamic way and have the pictures of their remains circulated in the media. This visibly explains to us that our culture has lost its vigour. As schemed by religion, the traditional systems created by our forebears have been jettisoned for western cultures and foreign religions. Consequently, we now experience cultural decay and a breakdown of order and values inherent in our traditional systems.
Incontrovertibly, once one’s culture is lost, one’s soul is missing and one’s future is in peril. This is the situation we have found ourselves in. Little wonder a former governor once promoted chiefs to the rank of kings to prove points or whatever— a disregard to the Yoruba culture. The chicken has come to roost as observers who had commented that the Oba-elect is not qualified to be the next Olubadan may be right as their reasons are solid and sensible.
Sadly, religion— Islam and Christianity— has dealt devastating blows on our cultural and traditional systems. It has infiltrated them and diluted them in a manner that has made them, almost, lose their potency and poise. The burial of both kings is equivalent to the burial of our culture. I would not blame them as I find solace in a saying that goes, “Aladalu Ewa nika l’oon’ s’ooto.” The seller already told you it is an “Adalu”, a mixed grill. Therefore, if you chew on a stone in it, you wouldn’t be surprised.
I blame our traditional institutions and traditionalists who have failed to ensure that all the requirements that are needed to be fulfilled before a person becomes an Oba are fulfilled.
Overall, to avoid the devastatingly impending perilous periods, we have got to start reorientating and imbibing our cultural values in our people. The words of the late Professor Akinwunmi Isola, in his book, “Making culture memorable: essay on language culture and development” are useful here. He submitted: “This power of overwhelmingly familiar phenomena to benumb our perception and compromise our recognition provides dangerous environment for careless or criminal tolerance that allows atrophy, decay and stagnation to set in. Perhaps, this is why most otherwise intelligent and patriotic Nigerians do not, in at least, feel disturbed today that all aspects of our cultural heritage continue to suffer neglect, corruption, bastardisation and demonisation to such an extent that they are now in danger of disappearing.”
In other words, our traditional rulers and the traditional institutions owe us the duty to protect our culture and tradition from being destructed by westerners and foreign culture. The mode of burying a king should be completely explained to a king before his enthronement; if he is not satisfied with it, he should leave it for whoever is ready.
. Folorunso Fatai Adisa writes in from Abeokuta.