Written by Alexandra Akinnadeju
I am a typical Yoruba girl. I love my cultural heritage and its adaptability to education, technology, and to scientific advancement. A culture that thrives on deep respect for elders; purity and virginity; marriage at maturity; a language filled with witty comebacks, clapbacks and beautiful proverbs; a classic way of dressing, music and dance; and of course the food. Oh! I love the games, for both old and young, the poems, the way we organize our own ceremonies – weddings are my favourite, and christenings can be interesting too.
My culture is totally rooted on a foundation of not questioning the elders or disagreeing with them. They are always right and absolutely too, their word is the final! If you rise to question their move, they tag you disrespectful. If you put your foot down, you’ll be cursed (wà á gba ѐpѐ)! If you now try to go further by calling them out, they will sit as judge in their own trial, hire a jury of other biased adults and arraign you on a 1-count charge of disrespect: it doesn’t matter if you were actually right or have a tenable defense, you have your verdict before the hearing – just plead guilty, and it might end quickly!
The side effect these have on the average citizen of Yoruba descent is the fear and hesitation to question status quo! He would rather be pushed to the wall and create a crevice! The same reason is probably why the young find it difficult to get a chance to rule even at 40; he is still a child, to some. If peradventure he breaks out of the pack by some unseen hands, he will be expected to fight and challenge injustice, and defy status quo. Of course he must do all these without offending the elders; you bet his predecessor is an elder who needs probing and spanking!
I love the respect for elders that is deeply rooted in our culture. It gives you the ‘right’ to bid your time and attain the age of no wrongdoing, being unquestionable and earning your own unpaid personal assistants. It also makes the elder responsible for the younger– a pack phenomenon. I wouldn’t want my generation to lose that for a day, but how do we make the line between deep respect and ability to question whatever seems out of line ‘thicker’ without been blacklisted. This thin line between disrespect and dishing out the facts and truth to the older generation is the most uncomfortable to cross. Trust me when I tell you that the Yorubas take their culture everywhere. Yes, to formal settings either as janitors who need to answer to a much younger senior officer or as a Public office holder avoiding a serious question on an interview.
You might say I have taken an extreme stand, yes! It might not play out like that around you or maybe it does. Maybe not all the elders around you have a cloak of infallibility, but I have chosen to speak what I consider the prevailing circumstance especially in the tribe of my origin. Let’s just assume this is all a hypothetical assumption. I just need your hypothetical submission. Do not call me out! Yes, I just crawled inside my shell of apologetics after calling the elders out. I am a Yoruba girl!