The Nexus Between Socio-Economic Woes And Cultural Degeneration

The recent disrespect of Oonirisa, Oluaye, the Ooni of Ife, Kabiyesi Eniitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, by the Eleko of Eko, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, has once again reopened the challenges the Yoruba Nation faces as it saunters around in search of a compass to get out of its present political, social and economic quagmire.

The resulting controversy brought about wide condemnation of Oba Akiolu for disrespecting the ÀRÓLÉ OÒDUÀ, the accepted representative and royal progenitor of the Yoruba race. The wide condemnation of Oba Akiolu is a sign that the majority of Yoruba still care about their heritage and their culture. In my view, for any race not to be History, it must care about its History.

There have been reports that the disrespect of Oonirisa by Eleko was informed b previous relationship between him (Eleko) and the then Prince Eniitan Ogunwusi. Regardless, that is no justification for what happened and widely and rightly too, condemned by all and sundry. Whatever might have transpired between them before the ascension of Kabiyesi Ojaja II, is irrelevant. What matters is that the old Eniitan Ogunwusi, is a different person now. He represents the Yoruba race now. He is the official ÀRÓLÉ OÒDUÀ now and sits on that stool of Oòduà. As our forefathers often said, "Ení bá fi ojú àná w'òkú, ebora á bo l'àso." Oba Akiolu ought to have known this.

However, the resulting controversy has dredged up the importance or otherwise of the need to pay serious attention to traditional institutions in Yoruba land and orderliness that has been the hallmark of their inter and intra relationship across the Yoruba Nation.

To a school of thought, the continued discussion and the attention that this controversy has generated is an unnecessary distraction from the daily economic realities facing not just the Yoruba Nation, but the contraption called Nigeria as well.

To this school of thought, it is important to cease dwelling on the controversy and begin to seek ways out of the socio - economic challenges facing the people. This school of thought insists that the religio - political cum socio - economic challenges"are more important things" than the concerns being shown about extant traditional institutions.

To another school of thought, we should actually de-emphasize order but focus on giving recognition to what individuals on the throne can bring to bear on their domains. This school of thought seems to forget that the essence of careful selection process of prospective rulers is to ensure and sustain normalcy in terms of social peace, economic progress, political harmony and religious freedom insofar as the Yoruba Nation is concerned.

I have no disagreement with this except that following laid down rules with tinkering here and there is of great importance. I do not subscribe to installing popular or famous princes as rulers only for such to turn out to exude aridity of character on the throne. Following the age long traditional ways of selection could still be beneficial, though politics have been intervening in recent times.

I am in serious disagreement with the first school of thought described above that views any discussion of our traditional institutions, as to whether they are doing well or not as a "distraction". I view such position as a dangerous one that could exacerbate the moral morass in which we, as Yoruba, have found ourselves.

It is my considered view that what this particular school of thought considers to be "more important things" than the discussion of the progress or otherwise of our traditional institutions are functionally related to the ability to sustain or otherwise, our tradition.

Let me break it down for easier comprehension. Tradition is the progenitor of Culture. Culture is the incubator of values. Values are the determinants of the righteousness or unrighteousness of a society. The degree of righteousness of a society determines its prosperity, peace and progress.

The breakdown of our traditional values is functionally related to several obnoxious behaviors that are being exuded in the public offices. The endemic corruption that we are witnessing in public offices are by products of a people who have lost sense of their values. People are so confused about what is right and wrong that it is now a common place for kleptomaniacs to walk freely on our streets and even hailed by the victims of their crimes.

When you see elders of the society, preaching for accommodation of certain people who stole from public purse and come around to dole such out in acts of philanthropy, generosity and so called kindness, then one should realise that things are out of joint.

Thus, the controversy kick - started by the disrespect of Oonirisa by Eleko is more than a "distraction". It is indeed a serious matter that has to be exhaustively discussed to ensure that such egregious anomaly never repeats itself. There's need for us as a people to look inward and reach for the beauties embedded in our Culture.

The beauty of showing respect without losing your voice. The beauty of orderliness in our ways of life. The beauty of religious freedom among our people that the politicians are trying to poison for selfish ends. The beauty of communal support and loyalty. The beauty of honesty in dealing with others. The beauty of ordinary words being the bound of those who uttered them. The beauty of hard work and the dignity of labour.

Yes, the beauty of self pride and self confidence. The beauty of knowing the meaning of shame. The beauty of appreciating value of a good name. The beauty of the place of integrity in public affairs. The beauty of ostracising emergency millionaires or billionaires whose sources of wealth could not be explained, et cetera, et cetera.

The diminishing beauties highlighted above are results of not taking our traditions seriously. They are results of dismissive attitude to our Yoruba ways of life. The impact of this dismissive attitude has seen our people refusing to allow their children speak Yoruba in their homes. They want to ape the white man in all manners of ways. At the end of the day, they would never become white after ceasing to be Yoruba.

Our heritage is very important. It describes who we are. It underscores our uniqueness, why we are different and special. Our heritage as bequeathed is our gift to the world. It is to be guarded and protected jealously. We can't afford to treat our heritage with levity. As posited by Olaitan Okedeji, "Empires rise and fall....kingdoms come and go.... emperors debut and exit...... charismatic rulers emerge and disappear ..... but heritage remains."

An insult on our heritage is an insult to us all as a people. A disrespect of our heritage, is a disrespect to us all as a people. "Sugbon bi onígbá ba se pe igbá e, laa se ba pee." This, literally, would mean "It is the way you treat what belongs to you that would determine the way others would treat it." We can not allow our culture or any discussion of it be a "distraction". Otherwise, we are unwittingly inviting disrespect from others.

It is the same unconscious attitude that is being brought to bear on the unacceptable behavior of Eleko towards ÀRÓLÉ OÒDUÀ. The Yoruba Nation is bigger than anybody. OÒNIRÌSÀ is the physical representation of the Yoruba spirit and Yoruba Nation. He could not be toyed with. He should not be toyed with. And he must not be toyed with.

This is why I disagree with the school of thought that considers the discussion, focus and attention given the Eleko issue a "distraction." It is not a distraction but a very serious matter that must be paid attention to along with other traditional institutions of Yoruba land. If we fail to stem the gradual disconnection from our uniqueness as a people, by reconnecting with our culture and traditional values and wed such to modernity, peril is the only thing that can result.

Take away from a people, their culture, they lose their heritage, uniqueness and spiritual being. Our disconnection with our tradition is costing us enormously as is evident in our milieu. There's need for a change of attitude to our tradition and culture as a means to and for moral renaissance which in turn would be a stepping stone to building a fair, just and egalitarian society that we so much crave.

With a revert to our tradition, moral renaissance would serve as it's concomitant. By implication, the meaning of shame would be redoubtable. There would be less crime and increase in righteous acts and behaviours. This in turn would bring about sincere public servants who would engender social harmony, economic progress, political tranquility, religious freedom.

It is only the righteousness of the citizenry that could and would turn around a country. This is what is meant when it is said that righteousness exalts a Nation. By going back to our roots, we can rediscover our values and rebuild our Yoruba Nation, nay Nigeria.

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Articles by Remi Oyeyemi