Custodian of Yoruba tradition

Custodian as defined by Oxford dictionary is a person who has responsibility for taking care of or protecting something.

In order words, a custodian of Yoruba tradition is someone who actively promotes all things Yoruba and building on positive legacy of the ancestors for this and generations to come.

Ooni Okunade Sijuade was said to be the Custodian of Yoruba tradition. I know my people rejoice in giving unearned praises but why do we have to stoop so low in 2015 when little was left for imagination?

My nephew last week was excited to share the news about his WAEC results. He had a B in Maths, a C in English and the rest of his papers were all like these two. I was happy for him as anyone who had written a WAEC in Nigeria could testify – it is not easy. Exam questions were just fine, the same can not be said for standard of teaching and available facilities.

So I asked “Aburo, what did you get in Yoruba?”

Reluctant to tell me. So I cut in to repeat what I had said earlier, that he had done really well with all his core subjects, just a shame that interest in Yoruba history and language is dying within the country.

So he muttered “F9.”

He is 17 years old.

Yoruba language is low value to many and I don’t blame them. Why would anyone take interest in the history and tradition of a language that elders preach one thing and did the opposite?

Many Yoruba of my nephew’s age understand enough Yoruba language to get by, no any real interest in tradition, culture and history because they have seen/read enough of some of our Yoruba kings’ drama on television/newspaper throwing words at each other, the fights is never about ways to unite Yoruba or leaving memorable legacy for the younger generations – usually it is about self-important and who deserved better recognition. The famous kickstarter of these exchanges usually is our dear Ooni Sijuade.

According to Femi Makinde of the Punch Newspaper, an Ife elder hinted the ‘crucial’ qualities the next Ooni of Ife must posses:

Whoever wants to succeed him must be a very wealthy person.”

“…The late Ooni was feeding about 500 persons everyday. The number was not static because sometimes, it could increase to about 700 and the new king must inherit those dependants too.”

To the first point, am sure in 10 years time someone like my nephew would likely nod along taking this for truth instead of asking:

And he could not afford to repair the road leading up to his palace even with $79M fortune?

To the second point, anyone who grew up in SW is likely to scratch head and ask:

Are these 500 people disabled or gang of Trouble Making Enterprise?

Most people in SW are subsistence farmer. Even folks from SE and SS in the area lease land to farm their vegetables. So how come people who owned land have to rely on food handouts?

Listening to Senator Omoworare reading Ooni Okunade Sijuade’s Biography to the senate tells priceless story about the king.

For the whole four minutes, we heard about honorary titles from different universities, and relationships with Nigerian kings – no single mention of any from Yorubaland. Not even his best buddy Alaafin of Oyo?

Oba Okunade Sijuade’s international repute were not left out yet no single traditional ruler from within the continent.

“He built ‘bridges’ across Nigeria” – How I wish the Senator could make this biography texts available online so Nigerians could read all about these wonderful ‘bridges.’

I am grateful that in Yorubaland today, we still have many Obas that are not as wealthy, with far less honorary titles and yet have contributed enormously to Yoruba race – to these kings, I say, thank you.

Now, who is going to be the Custodian of Yoruba tradition we didn’t have for 35 years?

18 thoughts on “Custodian of Yoruba tradition

  1. FK, I’m sure you are aware the South Asians of Britain never ease up on teaching their languages to their kids.
    I remember when visiting Nigeria at Heathrow airport, my Aunty would say of the Yorubas those guys never compromise in their culture. Some have never been to Nigeria, but they know Yoruba. The same can’t be said of the Igbos. I’m a casualty of such negligence, but I do intend to learn Igbo and Yoruba. I know a little of both languages and can even ask a few questions and greet people.
    Yoruba culture is one of the most powerful and distinctive of black cultures and if that goes, then there is no hope for the others.
    I always liked looking at books on ethnography and Yoruba was one of very few ethnicities that came under ‘Y’. I always thought of their ornate dressing and beautiful language and rich traditions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are very right about rich Yoruba culture and traditions flourishing around the world, it is incredible.

      I don’t know why people think Oba Okunade Sijuade had anything to do with the spread of this wonderful culture when he was alive hence I do not think he deserved to be called ‘the Custodian of our tradition’ – Maybe the title Ooni but definitely not this King.

      Now there are lots of people working to get youths back into appreciating the language, culture and traditions. I read about a group of scholars from DC visiting Ibadan recently, giving lectures on how things used to be and so many beautiful advantages of why we all should make efforts to keep going – to me this is commendable even if I wasn’t there.

      Also on social media now, there are handful of people communicating in Yoruba with proper tonal marks – just really inspiring to see. So it seems there is momentum building up…


      1. That is good news may it continue.
        I just had a thought, if you decide to switch to Yoruba only, then people who know little (like myself) or no Yoruba will be locked out of your world… 😦
        I guess it would be a worthy sacrifice, no worries.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. And here I thought it was the Ibos that can barely speak their language. I actually find it hard to believe that some yourubas can just barely get by. I serve in Ekiti State where the teachers teach even English language in Yoruba. I told a fellow corps member that if they could sing the national anthem in Yoruba They would. He thought I was being funny. Maybe a little when I tried to explain osmosis and diffusion in mock Yoruba.

    Anyway to the As and Bs, my little brother got A1 in Igbo Language. Go figure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great re your brother’s performance in mother tongue.

      I think many Yoruba secondary school students too no doubt will perform very well especially those raised in our small towns. My nephew is Lagos born and bred, his Yoruba is ‘broken’ as reflected in his final result.

      Actually, many families will insist children communicate only in English at home and even pay for foreign teachers to train in preferred foreign accents (British, American)

      Many organisations are working now to bring back the lost interest in the language and culture as truly is wonderful as we can see from folks in South America who have left the continent for a very long time – I am hopeful.


                1. That’s great to study tow local languages, will be nice to have that in all of our schools.

                  As far as I’m aware Yoruba is the only Nigeria language taught in most schools in SW, this is not just state and fed schools, the same is the case for many private schools.

                  There is deep insecurities preventing our leaders from seeing the beauties of local languages. Now, apart from Yoruba, French is the other leading language…


                    1. French in schools has always been popular. I did French too in state secondary school for one year. I think it would have been better if that was Hausa or Igbo then I’ll have chance of practicing.


  3. When I caught the honorable senator reading the biography on telly, I just couldn’t help thinking about what your thoughts would be when you heard it…

    When ever your get to read #EveryoneHatesTheEnglish please start with ‘The Assassination Of Obasanjo’…. Some interesting parallels there.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Don’t mind them Yas. We were kids in the seventies and in their minds we are still kids in 2015…

      I must start on #EveryoneHatesTheEnglish at the weekend if only to read about Baba mi Agba Obasanjo 🙂

      I am currently reading a book recommended by a commenter here Blueprint for Revolution by Sroja Popovic – haven’t been so excited about reading like this in a while, very funny and full of insights to how people like my royal father is such a joker.

      Liked by 1 person

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