It is time for our people to have re-think about the neglect of our culture. It is obvious that civilization to some extent has tremendously transformed the world from the primitive period to the present level where technology has made the world to be a global village which has further brought advancement in the traditional ways of living and production. In spite of these facts, some societies still hold tenaciously to their cultural practices which are further demonstrated in their system of naming, language/dialect, dressing, family upbringing among others. An adage says “Any river that forgets its source will dry up one day”. Today there is no doubt that this adage has come into reality as we the Ondos are gradually forgetting our source by neglecting certain areas of our cultural practices in the name of civilization, religion, economic and political evolution.
It is indeed very unfortunate that people of Ondo Kingdom have been caught up by these new and strange cultures which seem to have pushed our long existing traditional practices to the back stage such that simple cultural practices like giving names and speaking in local dialect have taken a new dimension. It is indeed very sad to see how some parents would rather want their children to bear foreign names than local one. In the same vein, some parents now communicate in foreign language particularly English with their children at home rather than in local dialect thereby subjecting the beauty of the local language to the background. Again, it is also worrisome to note how our marriage system has been battered such that the beauty associated with it in the time past has been eroded. Although one is conscious of the fact that culture like any other is not static, nevertheless, I believe that there are some aspects of our culture that should be preserved for future generation in line with our social, economic and political peculiarities.
Culture according to the famous English Anthropologist Edward B Taylor is defined as that complex whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, arts, morals, laws, customs and other capabilities and habitats acquired by man as a member of a society. This definition is perhaps the most widely quoted one. However, by dictionary definition; culture in society is the ideas, beliefs and customs that are shared and accepted by people in a society. Culture then invariably serves as a means of identification. When we talk of the culture of any tribe, or people, we are talking of what they are known for, things that make them what they are among others. Perhaps this was why one African nationalist was quoted saying “I am black and proud, whosoever is no proud of his own colour is not fit to live. This quotation goes far beyond the problem of colour from my own point of view as I will like to add that whosever is not proud of his/her colour is ungrateful to God, his creator. In the same vein, I will also say whosoever is not proud of his/her culture in terms of names, linguistic and family values etc, could be compared to someone who used the left hand to pint to his father’s house. Let is also see what a French proverb says “On est jamais responsable pour la tete qu’on a mais pour les betis qu’on fait”, which literally means one is not responsible for his being but for his act. What I intend to draw out of this is that whether you are a male or female, ugly or handsome, white or black, Yoruba or Ibo, Ondo of Ijebu, you are not responsible for what you are as a person. The situation is the same in the type of family and the name you are given, as well as the language you speak. Let me however remark here that the job of ensuring the survival of our culture lays with every member of the society who is a stakeholder in the promotion and the preservation of the cultural heritage of his/her society.
The importance of name in any society cannot be over-emphasized because it serves as a good means of identification. Like the Yoruba would say “ile la n wo ki a to somo loroko” which literally means the family background is the first consideration when a child is to be named”. Be this as it may therefore, one will see the significant role played by name in the ways and lives of African people especially the Yoruba’s for which the Ondos are part. In Nigeria, is is easy to identify from his Ibo or Hausa counterpart because of differences in names which differs from one region to another. Notwithstanding this however, the Yoruba’s from their various towns exhibit similarities in their names probably because of their cultural affinity. For example, when you introduce yourself as Olagundoye or Akindutire, people know that you are from Ondo town or from Ondo State. Many other names like Awosika, Fadoju, Fawehinmi, Ogundoju, Oladapo, Ebunoluwa, etc are popular only among the people of Ondo extraction. Apart from the fact that it is easy to indentify or trace an Ondo indigene with his or her family name, we also have what we call cognomen which means “oriki” in local parlance. Oriki is another medium through which the origin of one’s family and events that led to the adoption of the name in the past can be obtained.
Having spoken so much about the subject matter concerning names, let is now examine the extent to which the present generation has relegated our culture to the background with the type of names some parents give to their children. It is common nowadays to hear names such as Favour, Miracle, Gift, Sylvester, Cornelius, Precious, Dorothy and many other Western names being given to children at naming ceremonies instead of the local ones that have meanings and reflect the background of the family. These are names without antecedent in our culture. In fact it is not only the irrelevant of the name to our cultural heritage that give one some concern but their negative effect on its development. For example, my name is Adesujo Olagundoye, if I give a name say Precious to my son by calling him Precious Olagundoye, and I give Miracle to my grandson, what will happen when eventually my grandson grows up, and decides to bear his father’s name. It means his name will become Precious Miracle. I will get to a stage when other generations after him may be not be able to trace the background of Mr Precious Miracle to the Olagundoye family; the consequence of this is that the history of the Olagundoye family’s may have been wiped out for ever. This problem of name requires urgent attention if we don’t want our culture to be wiped off completely because it is very sad to see how some of our educated folks indulge in the popular Akin .family of Ondo but none of his hour children bear Ondo or Yoruba names but Precious, Dominic, Suzan and Samson. Funny enough none of the children where christened in the church. It is ironical to see how some people are attracted with names in the bible which they give their offspring but whose character does not reflect such names. For instance, many people prefer given names such as Joseph, Samson, Andrew, Paul, Isaac, etc to their children, but are they rally bringing up these children in the way of the Lord as directed by the Bible? More so, many of the names in the Bible are of the Jewish culture.
The tow orthodox religions that dominate the world, Christianity and Islam, made it clear in their teachings that God will judge individuals according to his/her handwork and not by name. It is indeed very sad these days to hear many people that bear Mr Moses, Jacob, Usman, Timothy, Miss Dorcas, Amnat to mention a few languishing in prisons all over the world for criminal offence and atrocities. What is even more annoying is the fact that neither Britain nor the America from where we borrowed those names would want to give African names to their children even, when such children were born outside their country of origin. The developed countries know the importance of names in the preservation of their cultures, this is why, in spite of the unification of all countries in Europe as European union, citizens from each country still retain their names and languages. With the type of names some people give to their children these days in Ondo Town, I am afraid one day we may never wake up to find Mr Cornelius Gift occupying the position of an Ondo High Chief in future. Meanwhile, one other aspect of our culture that deserves attention these days is the way and manner with which our traditional marriage is being conducted. A lot of new things have cropped into it different from what it used to be in the time past. For instance, it is surprising to hear the word engagement taking the front position instead of the real marriage. Engagement in the Western world simply means a promise made by a man to his fiancée. In the typical Ondo traditional setting, wedding simply involved the payment of dowry known in local parlance as Eeejo.
It also involves the commitment of the groom’s family to take care of the bride. The family of the groom in addition to the payment of dowry will accord respect and honour to the bride’s family. It was the type of wedding that were practiced by our forefathers (which was stable and durable) before the arrival of Western civilization. A Yoruba proverb says, If you call you cloth a rag, it will be carried with stick. By renaming our traditional wedding, engagement, we have no doubt destroyed its importance as well as its cultural and traditional values. With the embracing of the western marriage system and the relegation of ours to mere engagement, our style of traditional wedding may soon go into extinction id care is not taken. Meanwhile, aside from name and the problem concerning the little attention being paid towards our marriage system, other cultural heritage which are fast loosing recognition in Ondo Kingdom include the famous Obitun cultural display, the traditional drum beat (gangan) which is fast being replaced by trumpet, and the traditional Aso-Oke of different styles and make which has been replaced with jeans trousers and shirt.
From what have been said so far, how can we justify the popular saying that culture is a means of identification, when today we are abandoning our names, dialects, marriage system, dressing, traditional music, traditional dancing and family values for foreign ones under the guise of civilization, religion, human rights, woman liberation, economic and social development. If we have to be sincere with ourselves, we will accept the fact that there is no amount of argument that one can put forward to justify the current neglect of our culture in the areas that have been touched in this article. To address the problem therefore, there is need for us to change our attitudes towards the promotion of our culture by ensuring that children are given opportunities to participate in Ondo cultural activities and by inculcating in them our family cultural values. I am using this medium to call on ODC to give more attention to the cultural values of the kingdom by enlightenment the indigenes especially the young ones on the importance our culture in the Nigerian polity. ODC must also organize cultural activities from time to time as part of their developmental programme for the kingdom. Finally, all stakeholders in the Ondo kingdom: Kabiyesi, chiefs, intellectuals, all Ondo Sons and Daughters must join hands together to address the problem concerning the neglect our culture for prosperity sake.
Written by: Mr Desujo Olagundoye.