CULTURE enthusiasts are worried about the widespread adoption of foreign cultures at the expense of the indigenous norms and practices. To them, the most unbearable burden of civilisation is the gradual abandonment of the ancient beliefs and mores. In this interview with BANKOLE ADESHINA, the National Coordinator of Egbe Isokan Yoruba Tooto (the genuine united Yoruba Group), Mr Adeyemi Okanrende, said because of this ugly trend, Yoruba’s Omoluabi virtues, including its means of identity (language and customs), risks extinction…
What motivated the founding of the group?
Egbe Isokan Yoruba Tooto is a socio-cultural group specifically founded in 2010 to propagate unity of purpose among the Yoruba ethnic group.
The movement started with three members and now has chapters and scores of people across the length and breadth of the federation and some European countries (France and England to be precise).
This is a group that was formed to bring about rebirth of our lost socio-cultural values and the Omoluabi virtues synonymous with the Yoruba people.
As it is, the Yoruba is a culture with distinction. From its means of identity, to its moralities, the Yoruba moral teachings are more impactful and practical to those acquired via the four walls of the universities.
Our culture is outstanding in the teachings of positive morals. Our language is profoundly enriched with proverbs, which are often pregnant with logical meanings, instructions, inspirations and education. And like the literary icon, late Professor Chinua Achebe, “proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten.”
In Yoruba land, proverbs are frequently used to convey the clearest meaning of a message to the receiver(s).
Also, the characteristics of the Yoruba are deep-seated in positivity. For instance, according to history, Yoruba people are not culturally known for all the vices we now experience in our society today. But things have gone really bad today because of the incursion of the foreign customs and teachings.
For instance, we have a traditional fashion style, which are synonymous with beauty and decency. And it’s a taboo to rape in the land. But what do you have today, people parading themselves in nudity, all in the name of fashion. And in turn, this immorality has prompted high increase in rape cases, promiscuities and spread of sexually-transmitted disease and unwanted pregnancy.
Also when you get to Yoruba homes today, their children have either been banned or do not want to speak their own language anymore! Wherever you see those who manage to speak, they speak the language with alien accent.
Today, you can hardly see a child who can correctly write the Yoruba alphabets, let alone write a letter or an essay in Yoruba. This is highly ridiculous. Our language and cultural values are on the verge of extinction.
This is why we have launched this campaign for rebirth, bringing the Yoruba race into remembrance of our socio-cultural heritages and to remind them that this is not who we are nor what we inherited from our forefathers.
Are you saying that the Yoruba are not culturally known for stealing, prostitution and ritual sacrifice and wealth among others?
Historically, the dictates of our culture strongly discourages these waywardness as there are strong and stiff punishments for whoever engages in them.
For instance and like I have said, our cultural dressing is decent enough to alienate the thought of raping. And you will agree with me that except on rare occasions, raping was alien to us in the olden days. Also, our customs and tradition naturally discourage stealing by placing heavy burdens as implications for engaging in it.
In the past, an individual knows that if he or she engages in stealing and gets caught, he or she would be properly identified, stripped naked and paraded round his or her neighbourhood with the item stolen strapped to his/her head or back. Afterwards, the person also faces eviction from the neighbourhood. Almost the same humiliation waits whoever takes delight in prostitution and other untoward behaviours.
It’s the continuous neglect of our culture for the foreign ones that gives our people the boldness to think that it’s not bad after all to take people’s things without their consents, as such would be deemed a show of smartness; our younger ones now assume that it’s not bad to walk half naked on the street as such show of shamelessness was the only way to showcase how trendy they are; and all other ridiculous immoralities!
But you see, history has equally shown that if you want to perpetually enslave a people, the first thing to do is to take away their cultural identity from them. This process often brings about the gradual replacement of olden customs and traditions for the foreign and alien ones.
And that is what is happening to us today. Our children no longer speak our languages; they don’t dress decently and culturally anymore; they don’t respect the elderly anymore; and most unfortunate, they don’t abide by the moral virtues of the tradition anymore.
Like the Americans and Britons, the Chinese are now having their pound of flesh of us. They are gradually penetrating our system, trying to make incursion by pressuring our government, Lagos State Government, to be precise, to introduce their language(s) to our elementary and secondary schools!
The question is have we done enough in teaching our own culture and it morals to our children? Have we probed enough into what we represent as a race? If the answer is no then, it’s not logical enough to burden our children with other people’s customs and tradition when they rarely know their own themselves.
As a group, we see this as a conspiracy of the neo-colonialists to permanently subdue our people by gradually taken their language and other precious tradition away from them. And this is what we stand against and will preach against come rain come shine.
I have been campaigning against this. And as a group, we have on air, explaining the implications to Nigerians.
How do you relate the cultural positivity of the Yoruba, especially its Omoluabi virtue, with the recent discoveries of ritual sites and factory babies in the region and the regular parade of its youths among the most dreaded armed robbery gangs arrested by the police?
In all sincerity, I disagree totally with this. The Yoruba are not the ones that are heavily involved in these atrocities.
Ritual killing is a general problem of the Nigerian nation without reference to a particular ethnic group.
Go to the Eastern part of the country, we have ritualists and kidnappers there. In the North, we have ritualists there too but the most pronounced are the religious extremists, especially Boko Haram; the same applies to the South-South, where we have militants, oil vandals and kidnappers and South-west too.
But everything boils down on the wrong types of values we have embraced as a people and the wasteful and unjust political system we operate as a country.
The foreign cultures we now practice are responsible for our woes as a people and a country. Soka discovery in Ibadan among others are the by-products of the bad value system we have embraced.
How does ritual killing relate to foreign culture?
Starting with the Yoruba, it’s a taboo in our culture to kill the other for whatever reason, except in a case of self-defence. It’s equally an abomination in our land to go against Omoluabi virtues that our forefathers are known for.
Historically, the Yoruba don’t lock their doors whenever they want to sleep at night, an indication of maximum safety and security of everyone within the neighbourhood. Yoruba don’t stay with their goods during the market days too. What they do is to shade, put the actual amount they intend to sell their product by the side of the goods and buyers, who clearly understand this message, does patronise without violating the chord of transparency. So, we are not known for stealing.
The get-rich-quick-syndrome is against our culture too.
But with the introduction of foreign languages, our ways of life have changed for ever. Everything now revolves around economic prosperity. The essence of living is now determined by the substance acquired.
This development, which has unfortunately brought about relentless research into how to make money, has promoted a desperate and heartless society, where its people’s desperation for quick prosperity sees nothing wrong in going to the length of sacrificing lives.
Before, we were a contented and happy people. That was what our culture has thought us. Yet, we have the prosperous ones among us and nobody seemed to be envying the other.
But now that riches determine everything, including one’s social status and life longevity, how can ritual killings, kidnapping for ransom, armed robbery be avoided?
And to make matter worse, we now have a system of government, which does not care about the welfare of its people, its supposed primary responsibility.
Do we have to blame the government for everything we do?
This is not about blaming the government needlessly.
It’s about the wrong structure of administering our society that we practice. What we have now is totally negative to us and there is no way you build a negative culture on positive one without expecting an awkward impact.
What is your advice for youths?
My advice for them, especially those who are already overwhelmed with the desperation to get rich quick, is to desist from such acts as it would not but bring them closer and faster to their doom.
Apart from that, they should realise that they are the ambassadors of the ethnic group and realise that whatever they do, especially those against the Omoluabi virtues synonymous to us as a people will bring disrepute to us as a race.
I advise us to go back to the ways God created us and re-embrace the positive moralities our culture have thought us.
It’s assumed that the Yoruba have suffered more marginalisation because of their lack of unity?
There is need for us to come back together and unite. We stand to gain nothing in our unity-in-diversity approach to life.
We have realised that our people are now divided along political and religious lines. Our people should realise that our glorious eras were made possible because of our unity of purpose and this is the spirit we should try and reignite.