April 28, 2019

I fear that Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, other languages may go into self-induced extinction — Oba Ajayi Michael

I fear that Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, other languages may go into self-induced extinction  — Oba Ajayi Michael

Oba Ajayi Michael

In a lecture on culture delivered by Oba Michael Ajayi, the Elerinmo of Erinmo, during the Culture Fair Week of the College of Humanities, Redeemer’s University, Ede, Osun State, he stressed the importance of culture in a global village. Excerpts: 


I imagine you have appropriated this topic to me in recognition of my present office as a custodian of culture and a Yoruba traditional ruler, especially one who has passed through the four walls of a university graduating at the age of 20 years about three decades ago. I will not pretend to assume the roles of our professors and academics here seated. I will try, however, to do justice to the topic from my own perspective as a Yoruba monarch.

I fear that Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, other languages may go into self-induced extinction  — Oba Ajayi Michael

Oba Ajayi Michael


For ease of discussion, let us understand the following about culture:

In sub-Saharan Africa, people and culture are inseparable since there is no denial of the fact that what makes any human society is its culture; a Latin word which was derived from “colore” meaning to practice or cherish.

Generally speaking, culture is the culmination of accepted norms of social behavior found in human societies. In common parlance, culture is often used to refer specifically to the symbolic activities used by an ethnic group (or any homogeneous group) to distinguish themselves visibly from each other. Such cultures are transmitted through social learning in human societies from one generation to the other.

For instance, I am certain that the visioneers of this institution set it up based on certain basic principles they are known for and hence this institution has its own culture unique to it. Some institutions even have dress codes and so on. Simply put, culture is the set of customs, traditions and values of a society or community, such as an ethnic group or nation like the Yorubas; it is the set of knowledge acquired over time describing specific practices within a sub group of a society. Looking at the Yorubas, respect for elders is a major part of our culture hence male prostrate while females knee to greet, this as you know is not the same with other ethnic nationalities even in present-day Nigeria. That is why we pride ourselves as OMOLUABIS.

For a society to be societal it must be cultural; therefore, society and culture are also intertwined. In the same vein, going by the theory of environmental determinism, the culture of any society is largely dictated by its geography. Put another way, there is conspicuous sociological interplay among the concepts of culture, nurture, and nature.

Culture refers to the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving.

Culture in its broadest sense is a cultivated behavior; that is, the totality of a person’s learned, accumulated experience which is socially transmitted, or more briefly, behavior through social learning. A culture is a way of life of a group of people—the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next.

Culture is symbolic communication. Some of its symbols include a group’s skills, knowledge, attitudes, values, and motives. The meanings of the symbols are learned and deliberately perpetuated in a society through its institutions.

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The culture of a people is their identity as it affords them due recognition. It is their underlying distinguishing factor from other peoples and cultures. In fact, all societies across the globe have various and divergent cultures which they cherish and practice. Nevertheless, no two cultures, when juxtaposed are absolutely identical as attested to by ethnographers. In order for a society to operate functionally and effectively, they must ensure and maintain strict and constant adherence to the various components of their culture.

Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, arts, morals, customs, laws and other capabilities which are learned, shared by men as members of society, and transmitted from one generation to another. Culture has two essential qualities: first, it is learned and second, it is shared. Sociologically, many activities of members of any society such as eating, music, dancing, occupation, education (formal, informal, and informal), visiting friends, courtship, marriage (its forms and types), beliefs (festivals and liturgies), naming and burial ceremonies, entertaining friends and guests, greetings, and system of government, are all found within the confine of nonmaterial culture which is the exclusive preserve and concern of this study. Material aspect of culture, which comprises the physical and touchable implements or objects such as wears, computer, spoon, pot, cup, cutlass, building, phone, and sandal, is also invaluable and complementary.

Culture and Globalization

The term global village was coined by Marshall McLuhan, a Canadian philosopher, in the beginning of the 1960s. He had a vision of technology reducing the size of the globe to that of a village, with information floating freely and simultaneously from one end to the other. Therefore, the term global village represents the concept of simplifying of the whole world into one village through the use of electronic media bringing communities, people and activities together outside the realm of physical contact.

In our global village, we need to embrace new experiences — realize that it takes dozens of communities and hundreds of years for each culture to evolve and develop its own values, morals, business practices and ethics. As our multicultural environments expand, often our nonverbal differences such as social, educational and economic discrepancies, power dynamics and spiritual beliefs, become the leverage for our communication.

Since culture connects every aspect of life, doing business on a global basis requires a good understanding of different cultures. For instance, in the Western world, a handshake is a sign of a successful business discussion or transaction whereas in the Middle East, the same handshake means serious business is about to commence. Anyone who intends to enjoy a warm welcome will have to take steps to understand the cultural expectations of his clients or business partners or hosts.

Let us review the effects of globalization on a few aspects of culture below:

Language – In this modern day, we can easily notice a situation where our traditional language has been modified or totally abandoned by our children who now feel more comfortable speaking and adopting some other widely spoken languages. If this drift is not curtailed, we will get to a point where indigenous languages (Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, among others) will go into natural self-induced extinction.

Dressing – Another aspect of our culture being adversely affected is our traditional mode of dressing. The global village incursion has affected the usual cultural means of dressing that we are known for, hence while we Africans are desperately replacing our traditional African clothing, non-Africans fancy our attires and admire them when the opportunity arises.

Religion – Our African traditional religion has been most affected by colonization, then subsequently by globalization. Many of us no longer remember who we were and from what religious background we have come, most have merely embraced what they find convenient and “modern”.

Telecommunication – We must admit that the technological development in the world has positively influenced our people. The local illiterate farmer in my village whose son has bought him a phone is now able to communicate with his son who is thousands of kilometers away in America, I am also able to speak to and see my kids on video real time. This is a positive influence of the technology on us.

Trade and Commerce – With the global village trade has been made easier through non visual communication and this has brought millions of potential buyers to producers some of whom are in remote villages around the world.

Behavioral Patterns – Knowledge, as they say, is power. It is now easy for people to acquire knowledge. We have equally witnessed the unabashed promotion of habits, behavioural patterns and even sexual preferences, hitherto unthinkable anywhere in the world. Has it not become commonplace to find people expending hard-earned resources on sex change? All of a sudden, same sex intimacy and marriage, even bestiality have become the norm across our world.

The world itself is in crisis, so is Nigeria. Perhaps, only once since God created the world has humanity witnessed the level of moral decadence currently ravaging cultures across the globe. That record was in the bible times, when angels were reported to have descended from their ethereal abodes in heaven to have canal relationship with the daughters of men! The scriptures are also replete with other accounts of immorality such as temple prostitution, flagrant disobedience, stubbornness, theft and widespread violence.

I have gone this way back to show that the vice we are contending with is not really an innovation in human history. The society has mostly been in decadence, from time immemorial. Recall that even in the beginning, “The world was without form and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep.”

There must be hope for the present and perhaps future generations.   It must, however be emphasized from the beginning that although my prescription focuses on the role of traditional institutions in this process of rediscovery and rebirth, our search for moral reawakening must naturally be all inclusive and extend to everybody.

We all have a role to play. It will in fact be a disservice and an exercise in self deceit to think that only one stratum in our natural leadership pyramid, such as the traditional institution, holds the key to moral rejuvenation.