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(MBA ATBU, B.Sc. ABU Zaria, ANIMN, Cert. Computer).
Tinuoye Peter Sunday is a native of Omu-Aran in Irepodun Local Government Area of Kwara State of Nigeria. He was born into a Christian family on the 7th of April 1974 and started his early education in First Baptist ZEB primary school Offa Kwara State from 1979 to 1985 and proceeded on his secondary education from 1986 to 1992. He gained admission to study Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and gained admission after completion of his first degree to study Masters of Business Administration. He had one year experience as Marketing Officer and three years experience as a Customer Care Officer with Power Holding Company of Nigeria Plc, Bauchi. He is presently the Prepayment Officer of the same company. He his happily married with a kid.
TABLE OF CONTENTS Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 : : : : : Traditional Offa-Yoruba Religion Mystical Powers As Mechanics Of Social Social Order In Old And New Offa Death and Its Exegesis Other Specifics On Death Offa-Yoruba Traditional Economy And Community Development Economic Activities In Offa Control,
CHAPTER 1 TRADITIONAL OFFA-YORUBA RELIGION RELIGION AS OFFA-YORUBA MAN UNDERSTANDS IT On religion generally, its discussion shall consist of various beliefs in myriad realities of life’s existence. For this reason we may pre-empt our discussion on this topical issue with an explanation on the “Big Bang Theory”. “Big Bang Theory maintains that the universe originated in a cosmic explosion of hydrogen which became condensed into galaxies”. This explanation of the theory may directly or indirectly translate to mean that cosmic explosion described above is not unrelated top the origin of the whole universe that existed in orderly and harmonious manner and so undisturbed prior to such an explosion1. Indeed”,…… heavens and earth were one piece, then we parted them”, the two pieces being fused and bound together to make a homogeneous mass2 before an action – the cosmic explosion – to break, diffuse or separate it took place. This is an equivalent of the saying that “The world was created by one god (the original and earliest creator) who at the same time was both male (residing in his celestial realm “orun”) and female (living on the planet called the earth – “Ile”)……... to whom eventually dominion over the realm thus created was ceded”. This “original god” suggests the only one God as the source of all souls and beings. It is also suggested that he is “an earlier god” than all other gods3. To be candid, Yoruba name for the supreme God is Olorun or Olodunmare – being the more earlier used than Olorun. However, Olorun appears to be the more common name at the present time; but there is reason to think that this popularity is of relatively recent origin. The name clearly means “owner of
the sky”; “its very clarity may suggest that it is not very ancient”. Its monotheistic implementations make it acceptable to Islam and Christianity, religions which, as we may have realized, have been growing rapidly among the Yoruba for the last 175 yeras4 while it may be noted that while “Olorun is not identified with the sky in a literal way but is understood as associated with the world beyond” to which the sky is the gate”,5 in general, it appears that Olodumare represents an older, less rationalized concept of God than does Olorun. He is a kind of cosmic power, manifesting himself in various ways in different contexts. For instance, as Olorun, He is identified with the sky (Orun) which is his mat and thid is the one who is been spreads over the whole extent of the earth, the owner of a mat that is never folded up6. Offa-Yoruba belief, the principal characteristic religio-cultural rights offer man unlimited and unrestricted possibilities for research in all disciplines and techniques such that he may approach any possible question of reliugion, not only in terms of material reality but also more in terms of those of the spiritual world which brings him (man) closer to his Creator (i.e. God), thereby nourishing his mind and soul with higher truths. The Offa-Yoruba world view encompassing the belief system on focus encourages man to contemplate (study carefully) the universe and the events taking place in it so as to discover the secrets behind God; invites man to ponder on the god who is the Absolute other than His creation. The creator cannot by any means be the same kind of being as that which He created explains the importance of God and His infinite scope; expects man to use his knowledge for the general good of humanity; and always stresses belief in the unseen or the invisible who is self-subsistent and the only one who is without like or equal. Thus, if any created being can be said to ‘cause’ anything, that capacity to ‘cause’ anything, that capacity to ‘cause’ was itself
created within that being. Thus, no being in the universe can be said to be self-existent. Rather, it owes its existence to the Creator who alone is selfexistent as well as self subsistent. Hence it flows from the fact that the Creator (God) alone truly creates, that for each being He has determined all possible ‘causes’ and ‘effects’7. THE NATURE OF OFFA-YORUBA MAN AND HIS BELIEF IN VOODOOISM In the general perspective of man’s belief, let it be drawn out that on the one hand, on arrival of man on earth, he is by nature given to hatred, depravity (viciousness), wickedness, brutish, solitary, transgression (going beyond the good with attributes of sin); whereas on the other hand man can be kind, compassionate, loving, accessible and humane. Indeed, there is the complete environment in which he dwells which is what we call or refer to as universe and man is at the centre of it and therefore its focus 8. Pursuant to this, having examined a couple of stories about man’s creation duly, from Yoruba and Hindu mythology, we have come to the conclusion that the only authentic story of creation is the one contained in scripture books, most especially the one vividly expressed in the Bible which explains the origin myths of the beginning of manly important realities of the universe, people, etc. believing that though man is a religious animal, a political, as well as social animal and as acquisitive being, it is, therefore, conclusive that man (African man inclusive) in his sober mind, in his serious thought and calm situation – not in fancied mood and/or imagined fashion – is convinced that religion is the vehicle by which he believes he can ride to heaven through, e.g. God’s own chosen intermediary called, namely, Jesus Christ by Christians, Anobi Mohammed (SAW) by Muslims, etc9.
TRADITIONAL RELIGION Generally, therefore, religion is the essence of good morals. This is the main belief of the Africans in religion. True religion; not minding its types, is always the same in the essence everywhere on the globe, if it is able to maintain its part or parts, particularly the part that is especially a spiritual or immaterial entity we cal, spirit10. This true religion we are talking about is not un-associated with the inward nature of the true substance of anything having important feature or features of sincere kindness that instils fears of God into mankind and inculcates good virtues in the individual man. Therefore, any religious free thinking of beauty and esprit de corps uttering a sense of union and of common interests and responsibilities in his sermons and preaching emanating from some religious group of any religion must obviously be the religious order necessarily needed to imprint on the man’s – African or European – archetypal (original) ideas about or of God and his belief in one True God; the fact of the belief that had already been adduced that all creation is the result of an emanation or a series of emanations from the Divine Being. Candidly all religions, indeed true religion – traditional African or modern – preaches that humanity’s business is to reconcile God and man consciously or unconsciously and to give to each only its just rights in relation to the other. Even if the coming of Christian religion duly illustrates the setting of a particular example. The example of its intrusion must not necessitate or be confined to the throwing-down of all things of African origin such as the pangs of European incendiary acts of colonialism have now afflicted (distressed) us almost to the very fabric of our socio-cultural heritage. The outcome of vanity and possessiveness of colonial mentality
that has always been ending us in humiliation and defeat according to the period of history, its needs, customs, difficulties and circumstances to the chagrin (feeling of disappointment, etc) that there are many disadvantages of being colonial stooges. We are now engaged in the search for the best way to de condition Africans by removing them from the scene of European conditioning. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF RELIGION: If the original stories of the theory of “Sociology of Religion” by Emile Durkheim say that “Durkheim, despite his agnostic and scientific mentality”, held that “society could not exist independently of religious forms of sentiment and action”, then the significance of religion in man’s social life is established thereby exactly reemphasizing, in this theory, the religiosity of African, and, therefore, Offa man; as he goes further to posit that: ‘into any social event there will intrude religious forms of expression; Even science, that most secular and sceptical form of human enterprise is not immune to religious modes of thought and conduct,. Indeed, to the extent that science grows and acquires the character of a “community”, we might expect to find it (science) incorporating more of the characteristics of a religious institution11. And that by Bolaji Idowu (1973:56) re-echoed in his discussion of the revelation of God (Olodumare) in religion in general, that which is an equivalent of what Durkheim had said, when he emphasizes that: ‘We find in every age and generation that there is a direct contact of God with human soul (manifesting) personal awareness of God on the part of man through God’s own initiative. What man knows of God, what he discovers about God, comes as a result of this self-disclosure. Man, may of course, by his own rational mind interpret what is
revealed to him and he may rationalize it. But first of all, the truth is revealed to him in ways which he may be able to describe it or not1, 2. In addition to the above, in Durkheim’s thought, and rightly too, the most essential of the characteristics of any religion, including African and Offa-Yoruba indigenous religion, is the quality of sacredness. For example, all known religious beliefs, whether simple or complex present one common characteristic classification of all things, real and ideal, of which men think, into two classes or opposed groups, generally designated by two distinct terms which are translated well enough by the words “profane” and “sacred”13. Thus, by interpretation, this division of the world into two domains – the one containing all that is sacred, the other, all that is profane – is the distinctive trait of religious thought to the effect that the beliefs, myths, dogmas and legends are either representations, or systems of representations, which express the nature of the sacred things, the virtues and powers of which are attributed to them or their relations with each other and with the profane things4. Of course, by sacred things one must not understand them to mean simply those personal beings which are called gods or spirits, since a rock, a tree, a spring, a pebble, a piece of wood, a house, or in a word, anything can be sacred15 namely, a rite can have the character of the sacred. “In fact rite does not exist which does not have the character of sacredness to a certain degree”. Despite the fact that “An amulet has a sacred character” yet the respect which it inspires is nothing exceptional” if it is said of a man that he makes a religion of those beings or things, whose eminent value and superiority to himself, he only recognizes”; such that it is clear that there is nothing in such relations which is really religious16. Here, let it be stated that acceptance of this view is not to denigrate religion; God, or the life
hereafter; but to bring them, or at least some aspects of them, within the range of understanding. YORUBA BELIEF IN DIETIES, DIVINITIES AND THE GODS To the people of the world had been committed the care of the earth, “to dress it and keep it”. Though rich in all that the owner of the universe could supply, the earliest people were not to be idle. Useful occupation was appointed them as a blessing, “to strengthen the body, to expand the mind, and to develop the character”17. Here we have cause to recur to the very past beginning that in the Garden of Eden was the tree of knowledge of good and evil where the Lord God commanded man, saying “of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat” but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shall not eat”13. Created to be “the image and glory of Gos”19 people of the earth had received endowments not unworthy of their high destiny. Graceful and symmetrical in form, regular and beautiful in feature, their countenances glowing with the tint of health and the light of joy and hope, they (the people), without mincing words, bear, in outward resemblance, the likeness of their Maker. Not only was this likeness manifest in the physical nature, every faculty of the mind and soul reflected the Creator’s glory. Thenceforth, endowed with high mental and spiritual gifts, the people were made out a little lower than the angels20 that they might not only discern the wonders of the visible universe, but comprehend moral responsibilities and obligations. Thus far, the Lord God created the earth and there “He put the man whom He has formed”21. Here on earth, in the very beginning, there was the book of nature which spread its living lessons before them and which
afforded an exhaustless source of instruction and delight. These living lessons of the creation were the handiwork of the Creator Himself such that on every leaf of the forest and stone of the mountains, in every shining star, in earth and sea and sky, God’s name had been written and His mysterious powers in them not incapacitated for particular actions. With both the animate and inanimate creation – with leaf and flower and tree, and with every living creature, from leviathan (= great source) of the waters to the mote in the sunbeam – the dwellers on earth held converse (communion), gathering from each the secret of its life. God’s glory in the heavens, the innumerable worlds in their orderly revolutions, “the balancing of the clouds22, the mysteries of light and sound, of day and night – all are the objects of study for use by the peoples of the earth’s surface, e.g. the laws and operations of nature and the great principles of truth that govern the spiritual universe in which reside the deities were opened to their minds by the infinite Author of all. In the light of knowledge of the glory of God”23, their mental and spiritual powers developed and they realized the highest pleasures of their peaceful and harmonious existence, hence, a fit study for those who were made in His image. As all that are happening today have been structured in the Garden of Eden model and, therefore, a representation of what God Himself desired the whole earth to become29 as well as His purpose that as human family increased in numbers, they should establish places of worshipping Him – the shrines, the temples, the tabernacles, the churches, the mosques and the like. In African religious thin king shrines in Africa of the old were occupied with deities (gods or goddesses i.e. divine beings called small gods) where the wonderous works and acts of God should be studied in a way that should be fitted more and more fully to reflect throughout endless ages the light of the knowledge of His glory25. In
the process of Africans objectifying their religious thoughts and intention images were created to stand between them and their God as intermediaries and conveyor-belts that would reach their God with their supplications. They never pray to the idols but to their God in steadfast honesty. This observation is confirmed in the discussion of “God and the Gods in West Africa by saying that at one time, Olodumare/Olorun and the sky which is His abode were nearer to the earth than they are now, “so near that one could reach up and touch the sky”. But as time went on “man did something that annoyed the Divine Being such as using the sky for food or whipping his hands on it” as a result God and the sky separated themselves from the earth. Since that time Olodumare has controlled the world from a distance”27. Having been affirmed and understood as such, the ultimate power is in His hands but, like a great king, He does not attend to the details of administration. There are entrusted to his agents, the lesser divinities who represent him on earth”28. Practically, however, Olodumare or Olorun (the Yoruba name for the supreme God) has no regular cult of his own but he may be thought of as the ultimate recipient of worship offered to other divinities. Although, as thus stated that in some ways, as rather distant being, the name ‘Olodumare’ has “always carried with it the idea of one with whom man may enter into covenant or communion in any pace and at any time (He is); one who is supreme, superlatively great, incomparable and unsurpassable in majesty, excellent in attributes, stable, unchanging, constant, stable”29 (Ibid) that he could be approached through an intermediary of one’s own understanding . he is not worshipped directly and, truly, has no images, shrines or priests,
yet prayer (s) may be directed to Him and it is assumed that in some sense the sacrifices made to the lesser deities ultimately reach him30. THE OFFA-YORUBA ORISHA (“THE LESSER GOD”) The Offa-Yoruba belief in and understanding of Orisha (the lesser Gods) in general perspective may be discussed along the points that: The Yoruba deity is almost certainly related to Offa-Yoruba Orisha, name commonly used for the multitude of “lesser gods”. The chief or ‘great’ orisha of the Offa-Yoruba is Orishanla who is said to have been the first creation of Olodumare (i.e. Olorun (God) or even his “image or symbol on earth”. Other names for him are Orishanla, “the whaite divinity” or Obatala, “king of the white cloth”, He is always clothed in white, the inside of his temple is white-washed and his preists wear white. As he is sacrifice is the bloodless snail. Orishanla/Orishala is the chief of the “white divinities” of whom they are said to be ovber fifty31. That in the belief of the people at times he takes on the role of the supreme God – “Orishanla may be an excpression of Olodumare in respect of the role as an artificer” (= a craftsman, maker, or contriver) 32. It is even speculated among the people that because he “is sometimes referred to as creator – craftsman, maker or contriver – it is possible that his cult i.e. his particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonmies33 – was independent of or earlier than belief in Olorun who usurped his position”.34 That according to one account Orishanla was entrusted by Olodumare with the task of creating the world and given some earth and a five-toed chicken. He threw the earth on the “watery waste” and set the chicken to work this process started is the lcation of the present city of Ile – Ife – the place where
the earth expands athwarth. That there are a number of variations on this story. According to one of them, Orishanla, on his way to carry out the job of creation was distracted by a party, became drunk on palm-wine, and went to slep. His younger brother, Oduduwa, took the earth and the chicken proceeded to do the job successfully and then established himself as king at Ile-Ife. When Orishanla awoke he felt that his brother had improperly usurped his place and a battle ensued. Consequently upon this, Olodumare intervened and allowed Oduduwa to continue as king but gave Orishanla the responsibility of creating men to pupulate the earth. That thus, it may be said that while Oduduwa is the creator of the world, Orishanla is the creator of mankind. That the later manifests his power, especially through those who are in some way deformed: cripples, dwarfs, albinos. That these are not “mistakes” but evidences of the activities of Orishanla and thus sacred to him35. That the story of the conflict between Orishanla and Oduduwa may represent an encounter between early inhabitants of the land, represented by Orishanla, and the invading group, represented by Oduduwa who established the divine kinship at Ile-Ife. That at any rate, descendants of oduduwa then spread out, establishing their rule in the whole of Yorubaland. Some or most Yoruba still refer to themselves as sons of Oduduwa36. That according to Yoruba belief, Oduduwa may also be identified with the earth. According to one of the Yoruba views, there is close relationship between Orishanla, Oduduwa and the supreme deity such that Oduduwa is also reported as being identified with the Creator, Olorun. In a liturgy (or a form of public worship/communion) used in Ile-Ife, Oduduwa is referred to as Iye ‘male (i.e. Iye Irunmola) “mother of the divinities” or “motherdivinity”. By this understanding Oduduwa may also be identified with the earth. Thus it may be said that Obatala and Oduduwa represent one
“androgynous deaity” i.e. at once male and female deity comparable to the cosmos having the two halves of a hollow, closed calabash, the lower part being the earth and the primeval waters on which rests the habitable world; such that Obatala is identified with the sky, and oduduwa with the earth thereby respectively representged as the upper and lower halves of a calabash which can never be separated. That as there is relationship between Yemowo (mother Mowo) another name for Oduduwa, worshipped at Ile-Ife as the wife of Obatala/Orishanla and the Ogboni cult, another name for Oduduwa in this respect is “EarthMother”37 that is onile (Earth owner) or simply Ile (earth). That this “EarthMother” has close associations with the ancestors and the dead generally who are thought of, for some purposes, as living in the earth. That aiye (the world) rests on her (i.e. Ile or the Earth-Mother); she supports people during their time in the world and receives them when they die38, she, the EarthMother, sometimes also called Oduduwa, has a cult, Ogboni; which traditionally was “the major governmental organ for preserving law and order, checking excesses in kings and keeping the citizens law abiding. Members of the Ogboni cult consider themselves to be in a special sense, the “sons of Oduduwa”, suggesting again that Oduduwa has been, to some extent, merged with the Earth-goddess. That thus far we have been speaking of the concept of “ultimate” or creative power; it is clear that in Offa-Yoruba there are alternative ways of conceiving this power. Namely, Olorun, Olodumare Orishanla/Obatala and Oduduwa, all represent the original power of the universe. They are not simply “different names for the same god”, they overlap, interpenetrate, and are for some purposes interchangeable. Indeed, basically, Offa-Yoruba have belief in one ultimate power. Yet, that power is a complex one, associated with the phenomena of aky, earth and
sea; with the establishment of kinship on earth, and with the relationships between male and female. For reasons of illustration and clarity, the English words “divinity” and “deity” may be helpful here as they can refer to “that which has the quality of being divine”. In comprehensive sense and also to a particular divine being, Olodumare or Olorun can be thought of as “divinity” or “deity”. In practical sense and in reality, Olorun or Olodumare is not normally thought of, especially in modern sense, as an Orisha, although it is reported that He is sometimes termed “The Orisha” as Yoruba are went to say “alase, ekeji Orisha”, i.e. The Orisha containing all the Orisha within Himself. Indeed, it has been suggested that the Offa-Yoruba and other West African groups think of God both as Creatgor and ancestor; He transcends the world and humanity, acting upon them from without; but He is imminent (i.e. having the pervading presence of God in His creation), acting within and through nature and man; just as they are imbued with an idea of a universal unity of Being, manifested in the variety of human and natural worlds. This immanent (all pervading) aspect of the Divine is personalized in the lesser “divinities”. According to Newell S. Booth (1977) an Orisha or voodoo in among Yoruba peoples of West Africa is thought to “live” in the spiritual realm but is also associated with particular places. When the physical image of divinity is at times referred to by the Offa-Yoruba in particular, this may be taken a meaning that the image is inhabitated by the Orisha on certain occasion for certain purposes, although ultimately “the home of the divinity is in heaven”39. It has also been affirmed that the image is not finally to be identified with the divinity is indicated by the fact that the former (the image) can be replaced when it has worn out; that in other words, the people, the Offa-Yoruba, are not idolators. By way of objectifying the existence of the divinity, it goes without saying that the existence of the
divinity thus depends on its being recognized and worshipped by man; it is also said that it is by prayer and sacrifice that men “give power” to the divinity. There is also a Yoruba saying that “where there is no man there is no divinity”40. In the Orisha divinity is brought down to the human level; thus in a sense, they are man-made. Each divinity has his own particular worshippers “valled” by the god and initiated into his cult particular worship ceremonies which usually involve a symbolic “death and ressurection” Those so possessed are the wives of the Orisha, regardless of sex; has his/her own appropriate music, dance, offerings, taboo(s) and specific functions to perform in relationship to human needs and problems. Cult groups associated with the worship of particular divinities not probably developed originally from kinship groupings and it is still true that many deities are identified with a particular clan which all members, male and female are worshippers by virtue of birth into it 41. RELIGION AND OFFA-YORUBA BELIEF IN VOODOOISM With regard to the above, we are referring to belief in super natural power possessed by the super humans, the gods of the land, and there are the gods of the lands etc. In Offa-Yoruba country, as in the Nile Valley or in Mesopotamia, the early Offaman recognized a personality behind every phenomenon. It is indeed believed that every external object or happening just because it was external and, therefore, not under his control, was a manifestation of some power independent of himself (i.e. the Offaman) and to be understood only in terms of his (Offaman’s) own personality and in accordance with his way of thinking, regarding the happening (s) peculiar to himself only. Thus, in so far as the conditions of his life were bound to take a local colour to emphasize certain aspects of the apparent universe in a
manner which would differentiate him and his beliefs from those of other men’s in other lands. These beliefs though all starting with a common stock, develop an Offaman’s religion distinct from that of the Arabs or the Europeans’. Not necessarily because Offa people were worshipping sun-god called Amon-Ile by the Egyptians, the early Offa men and women recognized that the dominating feature of the existence of life in Offa is derived from the sun when it appears. They recognized in it the source of life, the source of a certain power as it crosses the heaven unclouded, from sunrise to sunset “’and nothing is hid from the heat thereof’”42 as well as not only in accord with the Egyptians’ make believe story that emphasized the personification of the sun’s power which later on metamorphosed into the true creation story of One God, the Supreme God, the Creator of all things not only for the Egyptians but for men all over the earth to believe, Offa men and women not exempt; but because such belief in sun-god, regarded as the only one god amidst the very many gods, had over-turned its supremacy, at least in part, to assume the posture of a synergetic process whereby varying local beliefs were brought into a specious (seemingly true) harmony among beliefs in vario process whereby varying local beliefs were brought into a specious (seemingly true) harmony among beliefs in various gods to the extent that persistently a small hill appearing was believed to be the nucleus of the earth, it self believed to be made by the creator god whilst itself could even be the creator god so much that it is believed that in any case it was the spot chosen by him (the creator god) for his earthly temple. Consequent upon this, in the course of time, every shrine43 in Offa claimed to occupy its own primordial hillock of its own god. Hence, such shrines were in different places and were homes of different gods, excepting Onmaka/Moremi house
which has no devotes per se. the gods were Shango (god of thunder), Ogun (god of iron) Oya (river goddess),Osun (river goddess), Egungun (masquerade), Shaponna (god of small-pox). Of course in Offa of old, there were as many shrines as there were devotees of different gods acknowledging allegiance to different chief gods. In fact, the act of setting up shrines was attributed to the emergence of varying deities. In the old kingdom of Offa-Yoruba, religion was, at that time, in a very fluid state such that there were no order of priesthood: The local nobleman (i.e. the head-man of a clan) acted as priest on the necessary occasions and was simply assisted by a body of laymen who took it in turn to serve in the shrine for a stated period. In their belief in the gods of the land, in the more striking reversal of values, the significance of death as the act or handiwork of the gods is expressed such as this: that if life be miserable, perhaps made so by a god or gods, death may be the beginning of something better – “death is before me today like the convalescence of a sick man going forth after an illness”44. In positive sense, this translates to mean that the Yorubas, including Offa-Yoruba, had always cheerfully assumed that the gods were on the whole kindly being; or, in the negative sense, if now the whole fabric of society which summed up Offa-man’s ideal of happiness had broken down, that was, of course, the acts of the gods or at times they asked; were the gods to blame, or had there been something wrong with society? At this time, the sense of moral unworthiness as the cause of misfortune begins to show itself. This of course, cannot be called a revolutionary change in Yoruba religious thinking. Rather, it was a revelation of old Offa ideas, but new in the emphasis which it laid on ethics. This is because, on ethical lines, in theory at least, that which was evil in
man’s life is being weighed in the balance of ‘a god’ against that which was good. Indeed, therefore, morality and religion are here made independent.
BELIEF IN THE MAGIC, SORCERY, ETC. In man’s life, virtue (moral excellence) is not always consistent with the acquisition of material prosperity. In consequence there arises the dilemma: the latter (material prosperity) could not be forgone, and yet the last judgement could not be disregarded. Nevertheless, the practicallyminded Offa-Yoruba solved the dilemma by the use of magic, against which the gods themselves are powerless. In its formulation; the people believe that a set form of words, accompanied by a set ritual of action can, if properly used, exercise compelling force. Thus, already, in the old Offa, early medicine men (Babalawo) had been instructed in the use of certain utterances whereby each of them could propitiate the malevolent beings of the other world. Now, the modern Offa general public have had a share of the privileges of the ancient Babalawos such that however much evil a man had done in his life time he could face the judgement of the gods with equanimity (i.e. calmness of mind) provided that he knew the right thing to say and the right way of saying it so much that in case he should forget, the formular was incanted (or enchanted) inside of his coffin at death so that such reciting of an incantation, was a sure passport to the realms of the blessed dead. As if a routine matter, in a stereotyped manner, the incantation (or enchantment) of the formular in the coffin ensured that every awkward question by the gods on the last judgement day would be countered automatically and the trial of the soul shall thereby be reduced to a force.
Indeed the motive of magic was not ethical but the safeguarding of man’s own future enjoyment. Some of these magic turned cults to which the public was admitted and even participated in them, the myths of indivisibility, having been accredited to the magic powers, gave to the cult something in the nature of a popular religion. BELIEF IN THE MYSTICAL POWER CALLED EVIL MAGIC OR AJE (WITCHCRAFT) Evil magic in Offa – Yoruba belief involves the belief in and practice of trapping and using this kind of power to do harm to human being or their property. It is here that we find sorcery at work in addition to order related practice like witchcraft, conjuration, e.t.c.. however, we must point out that a great deal of belief here is based on, or derives from, fear, suspicion, jealousies, ignorance or false accusations which go on in Offa and her surrounding villages. Namely, people fear to leave around their hair, finger toe nails, clothes or other articles with which they are normally in direct contract like saliva chewing stick, e.t.c. in case their ‘enemies’ will use them and work evil magic against them. This is because the hair or foot print and finger nails, when secretly acquired, may be burnt or pricked or otherwise used in a harmful way and thus cause inflictions of pains, diseases or death upon the person from whom they come. It is even feared that an enemy might prick it thorns or collect a person’s foot-print and incise it with evil medicine and thus cause harm to the victim. This is what James Frazer distinguishes as contagious magic5 James Frazer gives one useful category of this kind of evil magic. He has called it ‘homeopathic magic’ which in African-and Offa-Yoruba-societies could be illustrated with endless examples. ‘Homeopathic magic’ involves the belief
that what happens to an object which looks like another will affect the latter. It involves the method by Babalawo, of treating diseases by use of very small doses of this medicine which, in large doses, produce in healthy person symptoms similarly to those of the diseases he (the Babalawo) want inflicted on his enemy.6 For example an enemy might, through the help of Babalawo or any other medicine-man, makes a doll which looks like and represent aparticular person in Babalawo’s mind such that by burning or pricking that doll the very real person will be harmed accordingly. Really, it is when used maliciously that mystical power is condemned as ‘black magic’, ‘evil magic’ or ‘sorcery’. Nevertheless, the person’s belief in magic power is not devoid of superstition. For example, it was forbidden and feared in formal Offa society to praise somebody else’s children or property too often. For to do so might cause someone else’s mystical power e.g. ‘Aje’ – ‘witch craft’, to harm or destroy the particular child or children or property. For this reason one need “the Third-eye” to see, to read and to understand the meaning of signs, object and odd articles that may be found in Offa-Yoruba homes, fields, possessions and even on their bodies. Presently, however, the tension of this situation in the society has reduced considerably to the barest minimum. Today, many of our men and women of small, very small, age ride in flashy cars of varying types in town and in their respective station of life and outside Offa without bothering about the danger of large series of generic troubles of evil magic from which they now see themselves as having being set free from modern way of thinking and understanding. Also there are many who have built and have been living in mansion and other magnificent buildings of varying grades of architectural beauty in town.
Furthermore, while there is no doubt that there are those who still believe that protection or prosperity comes from the object of mystical powers which they wear or otherwise used, others believe and acknowledge that the object in themselves have no inherent power as such. Instead the object represent and symbolise power which comes from God, especially when used to procure protection or prosperity, but when used otherwise, their power will amount to evil magic. Thus, this magic power we are talking about may be directly supplied by God; or it may be trough the spirit the living-dead or as part of the invisible forces of nature in the universe. Conversely, despite this fact, mystical objects can also use their effectiveness and when this happen their owner or owners must get new ones or if possible get old ones recharged like a car battery. At some particular point, religious controversy gets complicated when religion and magic are formed to merge and there is no clear way of separating them any more than magic has been separated from Christianity or Islam at certain point. This is because some traditional medicine specialist who use “good magic” claim that the mystical power which they have and use comes ultimately from God, and as many have been seen, part of their profession truly involves praying to God directly or through the intermediary of the living-dead and/or spirits of solicit His help as such it may be contended that “this is ‘spiritual power’ functioning through physical means” such that as we have seen, for Offa-Yoruba people, the two worldscelestial and terrestrial globes-are but one universe with such a difference that the spirits, living on the celestial globe, have more access to that human beings sort of power than do on the planet of ours. It is this, believingly, which stature of the Yoruba belief in invisibility of the departed, even if these died as children, for upon death, the living-dead (i.e., the departed)
enter into a higher dynamic hierarchy than that of the living
truly speaking some Babalawos are experts in their business; yet there are others who supply their clients with cheap, false articles for the sake of gain; e.g. false mediums. As for the false mediums in most African societies, these explain why modern men and women, do not stand on the primitive ideas of their ancestors nor continue to believe in things similar to what their forefathers believed in; in that false men and women mediums abound. Malams and Prophets who have joined the band in West African societies have had among them false practises of medium, claiming, for the sake of gain they want to make, what they cannot do, because they are what they are not. Under evil magic we have the following: SOCIETIES, MAGIC AND WITCHCRAFT These are types of evil magic. We would discuss sorcery as it relates to evil magic per se and, perhaps vis-à-vis witchcraft. So that at times we may use each of these interchangeably because they are each other’s useful auxiliary for expatiating on the thrills of African voodooist; because in many respects they mean the same. Technically speaking, sorcery, just like evil magic, involves the use of poisonous ingredients put into the food or drink of someone. No matter the academic finesse (delicacy) involved, one might say that for Yoruba people in general sorcery stands for anti-social employment of mystical power, and sorcerers are the most feared and hated by members of their communities. It is being feared that they employ all sorts of ways to harm other people or their belongings. For example, other animals to attack their enemies of their communities. It is being feared that they employ all sorts of ways to harm other people or their belongings. For
example, they send flies, snakes, lions or other animals to attack their enemies or carry diseases to them; they spit and direct the spittle with secret incantations to go and harm someone; they dig up graves to remove from them human flesh or bones which they use in their practices; they invoke spirits to attack or possess someone. These age-old uses of sorcerers spells to harm, not devoid of magic account for why Offa-Yoruba people feel and believe that all the various ills, misfortunes, sicknesses, accidents, tragedies, sorrows, dangers and unhappy mysteries they encountered or had had and experienced, but which no orthodox medical doctor could unravel, are caused by the use of this type of mystical power called evil magic, in the hands of a sorcerer, a witch or a wizard. They equally account for why we may understand, for example, that a bereaved mother whose child died from malaria will not be satisfied with the scientific explanation that a mosquito carrying malaria parasites stung the child and caused him or her to suffer and die from malaria. She will wish to know why the mosquito stung her child at the time mosquito did and not somebody else’s child but her own. The only satisfactory answer acceptable to her is that someone sent the mosquito against her child. While, agreeably, this is not a scientific answer, it is a reality for the majority of Yoruba people, including Offa-Yoruba. That is to say that we may easily get rid of mosquitoes and prevent many diseases, there will always be accidents, cases of barrenness, misfortunes and other unpleasant experiences which are considered as mysterious happen stances. For Offa-Yoruba, these are not purely physical experiences; rather they are mystical experiences of a deeply religious nature. In Offa town and people talk freely about them – African voodooisms, for they (voodooisms) willy-nilly belong to their (African
peoples’) world of reality, whatever else scientists and theologians might say. To them (Offa-Yoruba, indeed Africans) nothing happens by chance: everything is caused by someone, directly or through the use of mystical power, ‘good’ or ‘evil magic’. If one has one’s ears open, one will hear the names of people being blamed for misfortunes, sicknesses, accidents and other forms of suffering of someone or the other in every village. With regard to this, it is mainly women who get blamed for the experiences of evil machinations; and many a woman has suffered lynching in the hands of her accusers and continues to suffer humiliation and disgrace under such accusations, sooner or later in her life, i.e. if she survives lynching and lives on. According to the Yoruba version of its historical antecedents, sorcery among Yorubas developed out of the superstitious concept of immortality of the soul. For instance, it someone suddenly lost his speech or fell seriously ill, going into convulsions, maybe beside offering sacrifices to the supposed ghost worrying him, his family would also beseech the gods. This is because in their belief guiding their approach in this way, many living things and objects (that include non-living things e.g., stone, rock, tree, etc) in their natural world had spirit which in Yoruba is ‘emi’ imbued with spiritual (i.e. in body and soul) power which could harm people at any time or place, if so manipulated. They (the Yoruba people), therefore, feared and venerated these spirits and a greater many in Offa of today still do as in earlier times. Though superstitious practice reveals the savagery and backwardness of primitive religion in ancient Offa culture, as in any part of African culture, there is still a certain proportion of the population which believes in their primitive witchcraft and ghosts. For instance, “if a person fell ill, he would, more often than not, think that his ‘soul’ had been spirited away or carried
off secretly by a particular ghost and would have to ask someone to practise divination; to determine which ghost did it”, before trying to exercise. Again “If a person felt pain or suffered stomach trouble or felt dizzy or had some other disorder, there was a host of items which could be offered as sacrifices to different ghosts and gods”. A survey shows that at the advent of Islam and Christianity in Offa, Offa people had many ghosts (of the living-dead) and spirits which were being revered, but not worshipped, as being erroneously believed. At that time, the missionary workers of the two religions realized that the people had adopted for quite long an attitude of intimacy and dependence towards the ‘gods’ and ‘good ghosts’ to the point of almost irreversibility, to the effect that during weddings, funerals and festivities, they would offer oblation (sacrifices) to them (the gods) and seek approval before taking any action, that is, in terms of ‘good ghosts’. As for the ‘evil ghosts’ and monsters, people quite often tried to curry (solicit) their favour so that they would not become angry and, in a show of force and power, harm them. The natural consequence or result of the foregoing may be understood as fore-showing the conclusion that this type of “analogous judgement (by mystical powers) forms the basis (of the people’s) illusory explanations of natural life”.48 This is the reason that in Offa-Yorubaland, once somebody died, it is believed that something caused the death, as if to say that nobody dies a natural death in the community. Such suspicion ranges from poison, oracle (i.e. what the oracle says), enemy witches to natural death. This is the reason why some sociologists say that sorcery does not form part of the system of beliefs which Africans, and, therefore, Yoruba, regard as religion. Both witchcraft and sorcery in Offa-Yorubaland are regarded as reprehensible (i.e. deserving reproof, rebuke or blame) and
anti-social and rites which magicians (mostly sorcerers) perform are mundane and improvised. E.g., Awon Onidon is a condemnation in Yoruba, used to refer to some of them. OFFA-YORUBA BELIEF IN ORACLE The plethora of meanings of oracle includes the place where the hidden knowledge is believed to be revealed, e.g. the shrine of Apollo at Adelphi in ancient Greece49, the shrine of a god in Africa or Babalawo’s place in Offa. Here the prospective clients who go to a place where the god gives such an answer believe that many a Babalawo or any other priest or priestess through whom the god’s answer is given will be able to form his/her own judgements of the methods which she/he adopted to work the oracle to their favour. Even in ancient Greece and Rome oracle is taken to be the answer of a god to some question50. Such an answer always has a hidden meaning that is hard to understand by the clients. Oracle is regarded as a realiable or sure guide, divine revelation or utterances making up a message from God for the guidance of man or the one who does such revealing. Oracles abound in the Bible51. In Africa, Offa-Yoruba practisioners or practical Babalawos of ‘Ifa’ are said to form the best organized and most knowledgeable magicalreligious institution of their country or community, such that Offa-Yoruba religion and medicine have achieved liaison with man. Indeed, the basic purpose of ‘Ifa’ (oracle) is to determine the correct sacrificial offering necessary to secure a favourable solution to the problem con fronting the client. A person’s life destiny may also be determined by Ifa. In accordance with this beliefd, there is also the belief that Orisha (deity/divinity) are functional deities having to do with super human powers that are in some
sense available to man. The concept of divine is also closely associated with the natural environment as well as with human relationships. Divination of what the Orisha wants can be thought of as ways of conceiving and coming to terms with such practical concerns as weather, disease, fertility, kinship and government. Also the concept of the divine is closely associated with the natural environment and with human relationships57. Therefore, the divine, and the natural environment together with the human relationships kindred with them are a continuum for consideration in this wise. This was the situation at the advent of foreign religions, Islam and Chriustianity. Truly, it has been recognized by several observers that African thought is basically man-centred such that to understand African concept of divinity/deity, we have to look at such concept from the human point of view, that is, in terms of human needs.53 As already mentioned, the basic purpose of Ifa (oracle) is to determine the correct sacrifice necessary to secure favourable resolution of the problem confront ting the client. Whenever a deity wants a particular sacrifice to be performed, the message is sent through Ifa. A person’s life destiny may also be determined by means of Ifa. METHOD: One method employed, in brief, is for the Babalawo to transfer quickly sixteen palm nuts from one hand to the other. If one nut is left behind a double mark is made in the powdery substance placed on the divining tray. If two are left a single mark is made. If none is left or more than two, the throw does not count, and, as a result, the process is repeated eight times, with the result of two series of four marks each, such as: I II I II II I
There are sixteen primary figures called odu and there are 256 of them making for a variety of possibilities from which the one most exact and related to the client’s problem is chosen. The upshot of it all is that the system of divination is called Ifa; and sometimes this name is also used for the deity. The priests of Orunmila are the practitioners of divination. They have the title of “Babalawo” – “father of mysteries” “The B abalawo constitutes a focal point in the traditional Yoruba religion; channeling sacrifices and worshipers into different cults (various worships of different gods)……………………. He heps his clients deal with the wide Range of personalized and impersonal Forces in which the Yorubas believe, And to achieve the individual destinies Assigned to them at birth”54. In the process, it needs be affirmed that there are sixteen primary figures called Odu, representing the combination’s possible with four marks. Each figure may be combined with the same figure or any of the others to make a total of 256 possibilities. For each of those there are number of verses, which also may be known as Odu. They usually describe a problem involving some mythological figure, a sacrifices that was made, the outcome, and the application. A competent Babalawo should know several verses for each of the 256 Odu. Thus, when a particular Odu (primary figure) has resulted from the process of divination, the diviner will recite the verses until the client selects one that appears to suit the problem. The verses
associated with the 256 Odu have been called the Yoruba “unwritten scripture”. Certainly they provide considerable information regarding the deities and their activities, much of it ancient, ‘medium’ is another form of divination; an equivalent of ifa oracle. It refers to one who communicates divine revelation55. He is a person who said to be capable of communicating with the spirits of the death56. or a person through whom supposed messages from the world of spirits are received and sent57.*
FOOT NOTES 1. 2. 3. 4. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. The World Book Dictionary (1974), vol I, pp200;478 Ko r’an 21:3 describes this formation of the universe fourteen centuries ago. Newell S. Booth, Jr (1977), African Religions: A symposium Lagos: NOK Pub Ltd p 162 Ibid, p160 5 Ibid. 6. Ibid, 161 Mohammed Amin (1976), West Africa, 28 October 1996 p1679; 1680 on Islam and the Creation. Tell, No 44, Nov. 1, 1999, p10. Ibid. Ralph Waldo Emerson, World Book Dictionary (1974) vol 1, p713 R.P. Cuzzort (1969), Humanity and Modern Sociological Thought, p29 Bolaji Idowu (1973), African Traditional Religion, p56 Roland Robertson (1969), Sociology of Relgion; p42. Ibid. 15, Ibid. 16. Ibid
17. 18. 19. 20 21.
Allen G. White (1952), Education; The Allen G. White Publications, p20 Genesis 2: 9 - 17 1 Corinthians 11:7 Hebrews 2:7 Ibid (1952), p20
22.Job 37:16 23.2 Corinthians 4:6 24.Ibid, (1952), p22 25.Ibid 26.Newell S. Booth Jnr, Ibid, p159 27.Ibid, p161 28 Ibid 29.Ibid, 30, Ibid. 31 Ibid, p163 32. 34. 37. 40 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. Ibid Ibid. 35 Ibid 36 Ibid. Ibid, p164. 38 Ibid 36 Ibid. Ibid 411 Ibid, pp 168 – 167. Wooley, Sir Leonard (1963), History of Mankind, Cultural and Scientific Develoment, London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, p714. The place where traditional believers worship. Ibid, p721 In John S. Mbiti, Ibid, p200 The world Book Dct (1974) vol I, 1003 Ibid, p199. 33.The World Book Dictionary (1974) vol I, Ibid, p513.
48. 49. 50. 51. 52. 54. 56. 57.
Plekhanor G. (1982), On the so-called Religious Exporation in Russian, in Social Aciences in China vol I, No 2, 1982, p176.] Lexicon Webster Dictiobnary vo I, 1976, p665. The World Book Dictionary vol II, p446. John L. Mc Kenzie, S.J. (1975) Dictionary of the Bilbe, Geoffrey Chapman Pub, p628 Op ut, p175. 53 Ibid Ibid, p168 55 op ut, p694 Lexicon Webster Dictionary, Ibid p593 World Book Dictionary vol II, Ibid, p1281.
CHAPTER 2 MYSTICAL POWERS AS MECHANICS OF SOCIAL CONTROL, SOCIAL ORDER IN OLD AND NEW OFFA
Mechanics, in the sense of social control and social order, refers to the technique or means by which peace and stable government, in old as opposed to modern Offa, are achieved. Our attempt here is at systems approach to understanding the solution of the problem of peace, order and security in society. Facts can be established that powers of African voodooisms; working together as parts of socio-political arrangement1 do function to produce social control and social order towards peace and stability for the working system of the society, in regular and predictable manner. Belief generally is that “Everything in the universe is produced and can be explained by mechanical or material forces”2. Henceforth, certain mystical forces propping old Offa social structure by which certain particular effects were produced for the society’s goal-attainment, adaptation; integration and pattern-maintenance are to be accomplished in a conscious or an unconscious mental process which motivates emotional and behavioural responses. They are being used to advantage. They are necessary in most societies and due for consideration here. Many authorities have affirmed that African societies are authoritarian societies; Among the agents of social control that can bring about social order, not the least are those which instill fear, order and discipline in the people and thereby inculcate customs, good manners and good behaviours in the youth and all other members of the society, by employing the
gerontocratic wisdom of fear, emphasizing the Biblical saying of “spare the rod and spoil the child”. Such agents of social control, social order constitute an endless illumination, intellectual, enlightenment) in which all forms of misdemeanor in the society dissolve, sometimes as if they had occurred by sheer ignorance but many a time voodooists invoke them deliberately or one way or the other get them extirpated outright for peace, order and stability to reign supreme in the society, by the fears of their power and force, expressive in every way of man’s existence. For discussion in their descending order of precedence, we may mention ‘aje’ (witchcraft), ‘Shango’, (good of thunder), ‘Ogun’ (good of iron), ‘Epe’ (curse), ‘Egungun’ (masquerade), ‘ogboni’ (secret cult) and ‘Oro’ (secret cult) to enable us to see how much wisdom of authoritarianism is enshrined in each for the maintenance of social control, and socialorder, for peace and stability in the people’s social set to gain footh ok especially before the whitemen came with their philosophy of peace maietenance by legal system of theirs. Though when they came many new arts and secerices had been added to the people’s stock of knowledge of socio-political organization and governmental system ,the quest for the timeless and unversal use of the above mentored mechanics of social control is still urgrig the thirsty enquirers on to use some of these to decide case of theft, false accusation, disbates between adversaries, hollow pretencios by evil machinations, and expose the real evil doer(s) instantly with instants justice. As a corollary at the instance of the newly introduced politico-legal system, the traditional world of the people was, and has since been, engulfed in a mighty catalyst of the whitemen’s civilization which well-night wiped out the channels of the people’s autochthonous culture and civilization, with the result that there are today speculative booms, political bandwagons, fashion’ cycles and
irreligious revivals which today adversely affect the existing mechanics of social control, and social other. This is the situation that impels, through the understanding of particular social pheneomenon, as well as the manifold of sense of perception; the rules of “productive imagination” in the process of realizing the knowledge or experience of these agents of social control for use: THE REASON OF THE EFFECT OF SOCIAL CHANGE ON AFRICAN CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS As a rule in the society, younger people will rarely attempt to use mystical power against older members of their community, unless it is in taking counter measures. The older a person is, the higher his social status and the more he is thought or expected to have a personal mystical power for use, either in himself or through possession of the necessary objects in which it may have been stored. With respect to witchcraft machinations, Barbara Ward (1986)
has rightly observed that economic factors have
exacerbated family and lineage tension’s and witchcraft accusation’s have been on the increase with the necessary setting up of new cults to combat witchcraft machination’s in African societies. This is because certain effects follow whenever and wherever a money economy is substituted for a subsistence economy. Thus, owing to impersonal influence of modern economic conditions, the close interdependence of the members of a family breaks up e.g. when any one member has had the opportunity of meeting his own needs by producing something for the home or world market, e.g. cocoa, cotton, groundnuts, palm produce, etc. Therefore, as it is usually the younger generation who are alive to the new opportunities they become independent of their elders, such opportunities together with
Christian/Islamic teachings and school education eventually condemn beliefs in ancestral spirits and in magic as well as practices which express these beliefs. They jointly aim at the eradication of supernatural beliefs. They also condemn such practices as polygamy (and cling onto monogamy) and the initiation school as well as all forms of marriage payment. Today, in Offa, all forms of scatrices on cheeks are being phased out gradually by discontinuing such cicatrisation. For instance in the 1960’s high marriage payments were brought down considerably. Consequently, the Offaman of modern development in family life is confronted with two main social configuarations – that of his traditional community where the older generation still form the community based on the ties of kinship and marriage, but from which most of the young men are actually absent for much of their time, in search of golden fleece in the urban towns and cities, or overseas, where all have had the experience of the new and different urban world whose values they bring back home. At any point in time, in the town, where majority of the population consists of men detached from their own homes and kindred, there is such continuous coming in and going out of it that it is difficult to form a community of any particular kind, European or African.14 THE WORKING SYSTEM OF TRADITIONAL MECHANICS OF SOCIAL CONTROL, SOCIAL ORDER, WITCHCRAFT. Witchcraft, by definition; is the possession of a quality which enables or drives its possessor to injure his fellows by merely wanting to 5. Primitive Govt, London: The scholar Press, p134). Witchcraft, the world over, is associated with fear, horror, carnage and the specter of witches sucking
blood and killing people. Associated with this is Dr. Freedman’s belief that the whole universe must be interpreted as tied in its detailed working to the lives of human persons so that for the ordinary man in the street, not so endowed himself, the practical problem is to study his fellowmen and discover whom among them he ought to avoid or follow.6 So that such universe is man-centered in the sense that it must be interpreted by reference to humans. In discussing idea about Yoruba concept of witchcraft belief, we may insist on the concentration of curiosity on the singularity of an event. For example, if an old and rotten ‘granary’ or ‘barn’ (‘a ba’ or ‘ahere’) falls down and kills someone sitting in it or under its shadow, the event is ascribed to witchcraft. Indeed, Offa-Yoruba witchcraft belief in vogue is not like what obtains in some societies in Nigeria where the power of witchcraft still reigns supreme like Amaigbo7 called “The forest of thousand witches”, because the dense forested area has not been visited by modern civilization; where every native-born child is genetically programmed into the powers of witchcraft, in the sense that the people in the area have a natural blend into witchcraft, having been born into it. Paradoxically in Offa-Yoruba town where so appearing to them in outlook as such modern Offaman in this scientific age – and for other various reasons too has not given credence to the existence of witches an d the science of witchraft, because the practice of witchery is dismissed as a gross misrepresentation among the natives who have no hope of finding a way out of the woods of their primitive chains of bondage; yet, of course, there are Offaman and women whose belief in witchery persists with them in that witchraft belief dominates the understanding of the society at large’ that every human being is born with special powers to do certain things or perform anything of feat at all that their imagination can convey to them,
either during special occasions or in times of emergency. In the main; they believe that there are some individuals who are more successful in dealing with natural forces that others; that it is only marked individuals, and not all humans, who are significant in this respect; that such marked individuals gradually draw to themselves lesser men and women in their wake, whether their endowment is for good or evil fortune, until when he comes into the limelight and pulls crowd. So that even though Offa people freely admit that it is in the nature of old and rotten granaries to collapse as well as believe that if a person sits for several hours under its shadow day after day, he may one day be crushed when it falls; yet the general rule of believing in witchcraft havoc is obvious but not an interesting field for them for speculation. Nevertheless, in circumstances such as this, the question that interests them is the emergence of a unique event that cues out of t that interests them is the emergence of a unique event that comes out of happen stances. For instance, they would want to know or find out why there were many hours when no one was sitting under that granary when it might have collapsed harmlessly, killing no one but did not fall them; why there were many hours when n other people were sedated by it who might have been victims when it fell but who happened not to be there inquisitive questions, the fascinating problem (or question) is: why did it fall when it did, just when the particular Mr. so – and – so was sitting in it and no one else was sitting there; thereby raising the question’s as to why did it have to happen to him at that particular time of his sitting in it? What can he do to prevent such misfortune in future? Is it anyone’s fault – as a cause? Especially when technical fault’s information has been exhausted”. And curiosity instead tends to focus on the
involvement of a particular person within the universe, leading to further questions as follows, why me? Why today and not any other day? What can be done about it?. Indeed in Offa, as in elsewhere in Nigeria; there are many developments in societies which have their origin buried in the traditional history and systems of beliefs which many tend to see today as purely rigid and sacrosanct which must be strictly observed and kept intact. One of such is the respect, reverence and fear of elders and what come out of their mouth and theiur actions. Hence, “the words of our elders are words of wisdom”. Naturally the lkive issue in Offa today is how to organize other people especially oneself in relation to them; how to control the turbulent youth, how to soothe disgruntled neighbours, how to gain one’s rights, how to prevent or side – step usurpation of authority or how to justify the act of someone. In consequence of how to organize other people and one’s relation to them and the related social problems, as mentioned above, to serve these practical social ends, all kinds of beliefs in the omniscience and omnipotence of the environment are called into play. This is because when social life in a particular community has settled down into any sort of constant form, social problems tend to crop up in the same areas of tension or strife. So, as part of the machinery for resolving them, these beliefs about automatic punishments, destiny, ghostly vengeance and witchcraft crystallized into the established institutions of coercion. Indeed, in the course of social evolution, institutions proliferate in the society and specilize8 in various aspects of way of people’s life.
WITCHCRAFT AS MECHANICS OF SOCIAL CONTROL, SOCIAL ORDER Back to witchcraft belief, there are some who believe that witches (aje) are not limited to women, though formerly only old women were witches, often referred to as malignant old women, professing, or noted to have, magical power or the power of the agency by which social – personal events are determined. Their rather weird pattern of answer during altercation or their type of person is distinguished by their odd, fantastic, queer looking and wrinkled face. They always do something mysteriously or frighteningly strange, something that seems not to be of this world or due to something above or beyond nature, and something that suggests the frightening effect that is unnatural. Usually, their all night weird cries come from the jungle with tales of uncanny feeling that their eyes are always peering (=peeping) from darkness. Nowadays, however, all are agreed that today the witches include younger as well as older persons of opposite sexes; that though men do not actually have the power of witchcraft, the husbands of witches (called Osho in Yoruba) are said to be members of the witchcraft “society” while some of these (men) play their role in such a “society” as butchers (olobe in Yoruba). In a BBC Network Africa programme9, a man, Malikanga, of West African Republic, accused of witchcraft activities and arraigned in court where he confessed his nefarious scheme stated how he did his action by placing smoked meat – flesh and bones – of the killed victims of his on market together with the meat of other animals like monkeys, etc. similar occurrences are obtainable in some Nigerian markets. Some of these Osho act as intermediaries between the
person who is in the grip of the witches and between the witches themselves, as some of these either act as intermediaries or advisers or healers (medicinemen or Babalawos). They help the aje (witchcraft victim (s) by seeking to find out what the witches would want or demand for the release of the victims. Ordinarily one avoids speaking about the witch because it is thought that witches overhear even private discussion’s about them and thus may be angered. As we have noted ‘the witches’ cannot be recognized either by their physical characteristics, as described above, or by their overt behaviour, as mentioned in the previous pages. As a corollary most people cannot assuredly tell who the witches are, but some believe that a close observer can detect them by the way they speak and by their attitudes towards others. We may cite the following examples to support: First, a young woman who defies her elders; and, secondly, a woman who had had about eight children but at long last had only three or none left. In the latter case, the woman is often suspected of using her children fore contribution to the feasts where witches jointly eat one another’s children. Another identification sign is that concerning a woman’s after return trip from the nocturnal meeting of the witches and some or anyone becomes ill. Most common today is the Church system of detecting witches, after traditional atigari system had given way to it. Officers in Christian churches maintain that they can recognize witches through the power given to them by God. Thus, judging by the level of peace, social stability and social security that characterized the country in pre-colonial days, before the British came
to Nigeria; one may elucidate the justification of the usefulness of witchcraft as mechanics of social control, social order with the following observations: that witchcraft is not evil all of the time. Unlike in Amaigbo in Igboland, Offa people do not know witchcraft as the mother and cradle of creation neither can one be categorically sure that they do not believe that witches’ power stems from evil. What is sure is that ordinary people believe that witches have a common bond that binds them together such that it instills in them the confidence that if we all know the same thing, you can’t tell anybody what he already knows. We will respect each other such that while we live happily together, we individually prepare our defenses well. Indeed there lies the secret of harmony. When you all know the same thing and are not afraid of each other, then peace and harmony will reign, so says Dr. Okdo (1995) 10. The lack of authenticity of the witchcraft believers’ no-evil claim aside, the fear the witch-caused trouble has instilled into the public at large and individuals in particular that it is not unrelated to one of the most important areas of the witches’ power. Their power is well vested in the psycho-herbal healing which is a combination of psychic (spiritual) and traditional (i.e. herbal) healing. Another is that witches have the ability to see intestines, liver and other internal organs of human beings as well as foetus in the uteruses of their mothers. They can make women temporarily infertile or permanently barren, cause over-due pregnancy as well as its miscarriage, make child delivery difficult, induce frightening dreams and sleeplessness, cause a person to dry up (i.e. lose weight) or to have headaches, stomach aches or other illness, cause blindness, make one lose job or reduce him to kobolessness, bring madness to their victims, suck human blood or kill the
victim(s) by other means and frustrate any type of human effort. As a matter of fact it is not untrue that some seek witches’ assistance in committing crimes such as theft, etc. It is equally true that for fear of antagonizing the witches by their acts of misdemeanour; there is the fear of the trouble it takes to seek the power to fight back’ their enemies, even if the enemies are their kith and kin; including sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, co-wives and other relatives, except their fathers and mothers, and the awareness of the witches having the ability of impersonating a friend or a relative when doing harm as well as the belief that their power can also be used to make one prosperous or popular as well as to cure illness or to insure a long life, the entire community believes that as far as the quality of the witches’ power of life and death is concerned, the period of gerontocracy – when elders of the community ruled the state – i.e. during the period we might refer to as the period of minimal government of the traditional African societies – aggressive purposes as well as outrageous acts of the individuals inimical to the social control and social order in the state were kept at bay or reduced to the barest minimum. Of course the checks and balances operating in this system involve the agreed fact that witches get their power from God rather than from the Orisha (the gods). A story says that in the past, evil people tried to spoil the world when certain women called upon God to give them power to fight the villains (the wicked) with the power given them, they fought and won the battle but they did not return the power to God again; since that time this power is being passed from one generation to the next, such that while it is believed by some that witches are as powerful as the Orisha; tahre are those who hold opposite view. There are many others who emphatically say that
“Orisha must be more powerful than the witches otherwise Shango (god of thunder) would not be able to kill them”11. Thereby one can assuredly say that Orisha hate the witches and kill them and, therefore, conclude by insisting that witches themselves are under the control of the Orisha (the gods) as they want. Practically therefore they are responsible to the Orisha (the gods). Also there are some who have countervailing power against witchcraft machination’s and those supernatural, spiritual or magic power can compel the witches to submission and to surrender. It is also true that as far as the information of my present assertion goes, there is certainly a real witchcraft composed mostly of elderly women with male leaders. It is very widespread, highly secret and much feared by the people and the witches alike. Here we may cite the coming of the Atinga witch hunters from Ghana to various towns of Nigeria, including Igbajo which was visited early 1951. The member of Atinga cult in Southwestern Nigeria (i.e. in Yorubaland) never visited a settlement unless invited to do so by the chief and people or, by the sons the soil as happened at Igbajo, early 1951. at the end of secret preparation of anti-witchcraft medicine a kind of lotion), the Atinga possessed devotees claimed to have the power of recognizing witches and opf discovering where sorcerers and sorceresses kept their harmful objects. Wiches were quite often pointed out when detected and were asked to confess their sins. Right away, confession cleansed a woman of her witchcraft while the adamant ones who refused to confess were tested for witchcraft.
According to my eye-witness account I may say that of interest was the attitude of the wealthy and influential men who willingly or were desirous of inviting the Atinga devotees to their towns and not minding to pay their expenses while they were in residence, e.g. happened at Igbajo a town of about 20km from Ikirun or 40km from Oshogbo. The sponsors did not prevent Atinga attacks on their relatives who are witches, even if they be their mothers12. SHANGO – THE GOD OF THUNDER AND LIGHTNING As gleaned from it, we have drawn extensively upon the story of Shango told by Newell S. Booth Jr. (1977), subsumed in the “God and the Gods in West Africa” in “African Religions: A symposium” (1977) 13. The story goes on to say that a “semi-independent deity, with his own associates, is the one who manifests himself in thunder and lightning”. Indeed, among the Yoruba he is generally known as Shango who is said to have been an ancient king of Oyo and the grandson of Oduduwa. According to one account14 he was a violent and cruel king who was so hated bvy his subjects that he finally went out into the forest and hang himself. In contradistinction from this statement, however, when someone said that he had hanged himself, Shango became very angry and sent lightning from heaven to destroy the one who had insulted him. Another account, the official one, told by his priests, Shango really ascended into heaven. That he was falsely accused of hanging himself. Nevertheless, in either case, it is important to refer to ‘Shango as “The king who did not hang himself”’ in order to avoid his wrath Oba Koso15. Observingly, in another sense, it appears that Shango has taken over, to some extent, the characteristics and functions of a more ancient “thunder god”, “Jakuta” “the one who hurls stone”. With regard to
this, some have suggested that “Jakuta was an early “Supreme God”; but that, unlike Shango, he does not seem to have ever been a human being. “He is an expression of the wrath of God against various forms of immorality, such as lying and adultery. This same concern has indeed come to be associated with the fugure of Shango in Yorubaland and the ewe land. Thus, it is not surprising that thunder is seen by the Yoruba as manifestation of the divine wrath as this aspect of Shango’s life is noted for its violent storms, especially in Yorubaland in fact considered to be “the second region in the world for lightning frequency, consisting of “The resounding booms, the deafening sound of the thunder claps; the blinding, dazzling, criss-crossing; end to end flashes of the lightining” all of which contribute to and affirm the sense of divine presence in the storm; such that the following song is reported as addressed to Shango: O Shango, thou art the master! Thou takest in thy hand the fiery stones, To punish the guilty! To satisfy thy anger! Everything they (the stones) strike is destroyed, The fire eats up the forest, The trees are broken down, And all things living are slain:
(Af. Religions, Ibid, p172). Shango has followers and priests. The priests of Shango have responsibility for the burial of anyone killed by lightning. They may also inspect proprerty struck by lightining in order to fuind the thunderbolt (Edun Aara in Yoruba). Shango’s symbol is the double axe which are his representations rising above his head, a common phenomenon among the Yoruba practitioners of Shango. As regards political sense, it may be true to say tat Shango is the great national divinity of the Yoruba in general, although not in the ultimate religious sense. For he is rather nationalistic, almost imperialistic, god who is given a great deal of attention. The Aalafin (king) of Oyo who claims to be a descendant of Shango is traditionally crowned in his (Shango’s) shrine. In married life, Shango is associated with a spouse. Her name is Oya, the Niger River goddess as well as the strong, damaging wind that brings no rain. She is fierce, wears a beard and is supposed to be terrible to look at, although she can also be attractive and kind. Having said thus about Shango, it follows that throughout Yorubaland, men’s fascination found its greatest satisfaction in the prevailing peace, order and stability in the society in which they lived before the Europeans arrived Africa. Truly speaking, since the beginning of time man has always demonstrated hatred towards his fellow man and his natural tendencies for greed through unnecessary intra-mural feuds (i.e. infighting) which need be put in check by interventionists. Surprisingly enough, as African man continues in battling with the untoward circumstances surrounding him, one is bound to agree with one area of thinking, on the part of the advocates of inward looking theory, that of the two stories ever told of Shango, the one which is of less legendarily miraculous but is of historical importance is to
the effect that Shango was the first king of Oyo after Oranmiyan and Ajaka (Shango’s elderly brother) who were his immediate predecessors when the latters (i.e. Ajaka’s) seat of government was at Oko – this is because after establishing the settlement on the ‘slippery place’, i.e, the ground where Oranmiyan’s horse stumbled only to be called simply as Oyo in Yoruba Oranmiyan later on relinquished his domain to his elder son (being older than Shango) to rule as his regent and successor, after he had returned to IleIfe, his original homeland where he died and was buried there at Ile-Ife. Ajaka ruled Oyo-Oko as Alaafin until he (Ajaka) eventually ceded the throne to his more vigorous junior brother, Shango. That was before he died and became defied as god of thunder. Thus, as narrated above, Shango was an historical figure; a legendary king of Oyo at first, wsho later on became a god. This divinity (or, god) of thunder and lightining is thought of as powerful, crafty and ruthless, and is so persistently feared as such by many people. An Ifa diviner said that Shango is so powerful that he is chained by God to prevent him from coming down to use his full power. Shango, he continued, had been initiated into the Ifa cult by Orunmila so he respects Babalawo’s 16 houses. In the opinion of an Ogun priest Shango does not act unless he is provoked; but once moved to anger there is no hope for the one who annoyed or criticized him. With the help of Oya, his wife, Shango uses thunder-stones to destroy animals, houses, and people. Through the use of traditional medicine and incantations, Shango whorshippers call on him to avenge wrongs. One procedure for using Shango to attack enemies involves rubbing on Ibeji figure (doll carved in the image of twins) with hot peper and other things which Shango and Ibeji (twins) must not eat. When Shango strikes down a
wrong-doer, the man’s relatives will ask Shango followers to come to the house that has been damaged – perhaps the victim himself has been killed – m for a feast and offering of purificatory sacrifices. After this, the Shangoists will pull the thunder-stone that caused the damage out of the ground where it had struck and gt embedded therein. For is believed that if the thunder-stone is not found and dug out, everyone in the house will die rubbishing the house to grass-growths i.e., grass will grow where the house once stood. All, or nearly all, of the property found in a house thereby struck by lightining may be confiscated by Shango worshippers. Conversely, Shango devotees may also appeal to the god of thunder and lightining (Shango) for protection against evil spirits for children and for health and wealth 7. Among oriki (praise-names5) giving salute to Shango, one hears the frightening epithets of him (Shango) as “Enia ti a bu lehin t’o si mo” – “A man who gets to know who has spoken ill of him behind his back” “Enia ti a bu lehin t’o si gbo” – “A man who hears all that is said of him behind his back” “A bi eti lu ka ‘ra bi ajere” – “He who has ears all over his body like holes in a colander”. “Ma bu u, ma sa a, ma s’oro re lehin” – “Don’t abuse him, don’t hack him, don’t backbite him” (Babalola, S.A., Ijala songs, p222 – 223) “Atunwon-ka nibi won-gbe-ndana iro” – One who scatters them where they are conspiring”. Ololo afi-enu ika- lole” “One who punishes the wicked by causing them to rub their mouths on the ground”. “Ati lojo ati lerun ko si eni ti Shango o le pa” – “Both in the rainy season and in the dry season, there is no one who cannoit be killed by Shango” 18. (Simson, George, Ibid, p22).
OGUN – THE GOD OF IRON One deaity who is not a “diuvine mediator” as “are Orunmila and Eshu, but shows something of their universal quality, is Ogun”. He is the god of iron and of those whose occupations are related to the use of iron: hunters, farmers, warriors, smiths and, in modern situation; chaufferurs and mechanis19. (op ut, p170). It is said that “Ogun himself is not iron but that property of iron which giuves it the power to cut”. Also he is said to be the pioneer god who goes before others to clear the way – “Ogun is the possessor of two machetes with one he prepares the farm and with the other he clears the road 20”. Offerings must be made to him in connection with any sacrifice because he is responsible for the knife that is used. Namely, for similar reasons, apparently, he is associated with circumcision and other operations and because of his relationship to machinery; Ogun is one god who seems to be more than holding his own in modern society. In practice, Ogun is also associated with justice; oaths are taken in his name over pieces of iron; anyone breaking such an oath must expect to be hurt or killed by iron in some form. In general, Ogun is a rather fierce and unbending deity, viz: “Where does one meet him? One meets him in the place of battle One meets him in the place where torrents of blood Fills with longing as a cup of water does the thirst”.
Ogun is sometimes said to be the eldest son of Oduduwa. In concretizing this saying, it goes without mincing words that Ogun was originally a human being. It was after his death that he was deified and became the god of iron. When it was said that Ogun is sometimes the eldest son of Oduduwa, to with, he was the first-born son of Oduduwa, the progenitor of the Yoruba or one of Oduduwa’s children. “When Ogun arrived on earth from heaven, one of the first places he visited was Ara where he found the peole engaged in the act of offering a dig in sacrifice to ‘Olodumare’, ‘the Almighty; Ogun joined in the ceremony; (he) waited till it was concluded and then went his way”22. In a very definite conviction; Ogun has been described as a very great hunter and warrior, brave and victorious in war, much spoil. He was notorious for his hot temper, which made him often quarrelsome with other people23. Having been so described as a strong man of great prowess and invicibility, he was later on described as a native of Apa near Shaki from where one day he went to Ile-Ife in his capacity as Chief Alapa, in order to defend his kith and kin against an oppressive uncle called Obatala. Prior to one of his feats, at Ile-Ife, he was shut out at the town – gate by Obatala. But meanwhile, Oranmiyan was engaged in single combat with the wicked Obatala. Inside the town and fortunately Oranmiyan succeeded in killing Obatala and threw the town-gate open to Ogun who thus came into Ile-Ife. During his few months’ stay at Ile-Ife, Ogun decided to go and live in solitude on a hilltop near the town of Ire, alternatively called ‘Ilu Ina’ ‘The town of fire’, because the inhabitants worship fire as a god. One day, as he was strolling through the town, Ogun felt thirsty and desired to drink palm-wine. But to his surprise none of the people to whom he spoke uttered a word in anwer. He did not know that the traditional taboo
associated with a festival had enjoined (placed) absolute silence on all inhabitants of the town on that day. In annoyance, Ogun slaughtered as many of the people as they refused to speak to him in answer to his request for information about how he might obtain some palm-wine to drink. On the following day several people informed Ogun that a man called Aparo Degbeaha had been responsible for the failure of the inhabitants of Ilu Ina (i.e. the town of fire) to have ready some palm-wine for Ogun at the previous day’s festival. The man, Aparo Degbeaha, the informants alleged, had misled the people by assuring them that Ogun would not come to the festival ceremony. On hearing this, Ogun became furious and at once went out to search of the alleged culprit, Aparo degbeaha, intending to kill him as soon as he could get hold of him. When Aparo Degbeaha saw Ogun coming took flight and turned himself into bird which flew to the top of a palm-tree nearby. Ogun in turn ordered his followers to uproot the palm tree after he had applied a magical spell to prevent the bird, Aparo, from being able to fly away. When the palm-tree had fallen down Ogun ordered his men to strip off all its branches and capture Aparo. The punishment thereupon meted out to Aparo was that hot embers were placed on the bird’s head as a result of which his head (Aparo’s head) became bald. Throughout the ordeal however, Aparo kept absolutely still and mute as he suffered the torture. But just before Aparo died,, he said,” ‘It is not uncommon for a person to pass a whole day by a fire side’”24…………. Before returning to his residence that day Ogun threatened that he would come to the town again the following day; and that if the people of Ilu Ina (i.e. Ire) could not provide him with palm-wine to drink, he (Ogun) would massacre them all.
Hence, human beings – hunters, warriors and blacksmiths – who had received the secret of iron from Ogun did not forget him as “Ogun Onire” – meaning “Ogun the owner of the town of Ire”25. Whether it be true or not that he haiuled from Ire or Shaki;
Ogun is the Orisha (god) of iron and of
the things made of iron and hence of war27. In other words Ogun is the Orisha of war, of hunt, and of all pursuits in which iron or steel is used. He is held to be mischievous, powerful and crfuel. Idowu says that in pranks (tricks) and mischief-making, “Ogun is next to Eshu” but that justice, fairplay, and rectitude rather than evil are associated with him. Some men till today make covenants and take oaths in the name of Ogun by washing a knife or any piece of iron in water containing palm leaves and drinking the water from itoo (a type of calabash); putting a gun and cutlass on Ogun’s shrine, pouring water into the barrel of the gun and asking those taking oath to eat kolanuts and drink the water; kissing something made of iron and asking Ogun to witness the oath; or when a person is suspected of a crime against somebody, e.g., a relative, taking white and brown kolanuts to Ogun’s shrine and eating the kolanuts and calling on Ogun to punish the offender by making him ill or killing him, perhaps by snake bite or as a result of contact with something made of iron, e.g. by getting a wound from stepping on a nail; by injuring himself with a knife or cutlass; or by being accidentally shot by hunter. An aggrieved person may take one accused of theft to Ogun’s shrine to clear himself by calling on Ogun to punish him if he has lied. Instabces of occurrences of this abound. To mention but one, a muslim diviner who still worship Ogun because he is a hunter told of the following incident:
A pressing iron was stgolen by one of the washermen. The washermen called a meeting, washed one of the irons in wsater and each drank some of the water, calling on Ogun to kill the thief. Three days later, one of the men was bitten by a cobra. Ordinarily dpeaking; all those who work with materials made of iron, including carpenters, mechanics, fitters, truck and taxi drivers, appeal to Ogun to protect them from injuring themselves and others. So also do other people who use iron tools, instgruments or mechnics. Namely those who use knives in circumcising and making tribal marks and in surgical operations wash their instruments in water issued from snails and then present them to Ogun, asking that the wounds heal quickly. In addition to the special powers and concerns of Ogun, he, like many of the Orisha, may be appealed to for children. All in formants on Ogun agree that failure to provide an annual festival for him may have dire consequences that include famine, civil strife and accidents of all kinds. All of the above – mentioned categories of Ogun followers go to make or show distinction between those who are Ogun worshippers because he is their lineage god (Orisha) and those who become worshippers because of their occupation. Women are included in the first group but not in the second. (Simpson, George E., op ut p29 – 32) conceptions of Ogun and people’s attitudes towards him are revealed in his praisenames (Oriki) as follows: HIS PRAISE-NAMES
1. Ogun okunrin 1. Ogun the ogun, ato powerful one, polowo iku. sufficiently to advertise death
Eni somo’nia dolola
ti 2. One who makes human beings prosperous.
Emi Ogun ‘o 3. One who is gbe bi ni eniti not enriched by ko robi sebo ogun will find it difficult to get sacrificial kolanuts. Gbigbe ni o 4. Ogun enrich gbe mi bi o ti me as you gbe Akinoro ti enriched Akinoro o fi kole ola. enough to build amagnificient house and make him eminents.
Ogun awoo, Ogun the alaka aiye osin powerfuful one, ‘mole. the strong one of the earth, the great one of the other world. Agbe lehin eni 6. The protector a nda loro of those who are being injured Ogun gbe mio. 7. Ogun, support me.
THE SONG FOR OGUN
1. 2. Meji meji, kondo ye e ! Animoro, kondo ye e! 1. Slaughter them, cut them into two halves. 2. Amiroro (a warrior) cut them into two halves. 3. Gbogungboro ( a
Gbogungboro oloke Amoye.
warrior) of the Amoye hill. 4. 5. 6. Odidi, omo afodi di. Ajamode, baba sogbe ! Odidi, omo afodi di. 4. The one who heals the cuts. 5. Deep, broad cuts. 6. The one who heals the cuts.
SHAPONNA – THE GOD OF SMALL POX. To be mentioned alongside the above-mentioned African/Yoruba gods, we find somewhat more ‘independent’ deities who in turn have their own associates or pantheons (i.e. temples or shrines dedicated to them respectively). Whether or not we consider them as the deities of Offa-Yoruba collectively, one of these pantheons (deities) commonly believed in is Shaponna as one of the independent deities because actually he is not simply one god but the “generic name for a group of deities” (= pantheon) 28. This is why Shanponna is sometimes said to be the “earth god” but his concern is not so much with earth as a source of fertility as with earth as licus of disease and death. In Offa he is often referred to as the “small pox deity” (Orisha Olode). This is the result of identifying hinm with the most obvious sign of his wrath. He is associated not only with small pox (olode) but also with all fevers, boils and rashes. He is a “hot” deity, especially because he is quite often present in hot, dry weather. Hence, he is called “Ile gbona” in Yoruba. Here when a person dies of small pox the usual term for death is not used. It is said that “The king has taken him29. In such cases there must not be any mourning but instead an expression of gratitude for what the king has done; otherwise his anger will increase. By extension; special funeral rites
are carried out by the priests of Shanponna. In the process, presumably the body is disposed of in a way that will minimize the chance of spreading the disease. Meanwhile, Shganponna priests have sometimes been suspected of intentionally causing the disease and because of this, the cult (worship) of Shanponna was outlawed in Nigeria in 1917. it is also a common knowledge that Shanponna’s shrine is often located outside the town, either because of his fierceness or because as “king of the earth”, he cannot be too close to a human king. It has also been suggested that whether this – the reason givewn for locating Shanponna’s shrine outside the town – is due to his jealousy of human rule or the human king’s jealousy of him is not entirelty clear30. Soonest, perhaps in the immediate succeeding pages, we shall embark on the discussion of Offa-Yoruba mode of burial rites and ceremonies.
CURSE AS SOCIAL CONTROL MECHANICS As part of social control mechanism, curse spells or causes man’s doom in life. Veritably, it is unAfrican and inhuman to make a mockery of old age, because Africans and all human beings pray to God to prolong their life span. Somehow any Yorubaman found to be sunk in gloom, looking miserable is quite often suspected by the people in the community, including spiritualists, parapsychologists, politicians and even some senior citizens, to have a total crash of one or the other plan of his and link such a crash, maybe from grace to grass, to the curse placed on him by somebody31. The cursing word of elders in this respect emanates from the African social dictum that Africans and all human beings pray to God to prolong their life
span. Hence, those who indulge in the abomination of making mockery of old age shall not live to be old. They shall die before their aloowed life span, and they shall suffer for vilifying the root of the tree from wshich they sprouted. Indeed, curses, if placed on people genuinely and in righteous anger, are potent in their effects. It is from this prism that elders believe in cursing any embattled enemy, in dispute. This kind of cursed will forever affect the accursed, especially if the man who placed the curse could not be revoked as a result. The Yorubas yhave an adage that “Ti omode ba soko lu alagemo, a pon’laso bi aparo ni’” Translated, it menas that “if a child stones a chameleon, his clothes will forever be stained and be cursed with the evil having the verisimilitude to the feathers of bush-fowl’s quills; that he will forever be dirty”. In those days of old Offa, old age was a sacred thing; regarding old man as next to God. You cannot talk to them anyhow, let alone abuse them. If you do, you will pay the price. And many have paid dearly for their impudence against their elders. However, curse in the web of traditional and modern beliefs may be discussed in terms of character training towards attaining social control, social order. Although supernatural sanctions for the use of elders are losing their force in modern societies of Africa, in the days of “ancestor – worship’ which we have already interpreted in this book to mean ancestor-veneration; the head of the family and the spirits of the living-dead to whom sacrificves had to be made to secure the member’s welfare. For example, if one of the family members seriously offended the head of the family the latter could refuse to sacrifice on his behalf until a formal reconciliation had been made, more especially when the offending family member, by his acts, was held to
commit sin against or offend the spiritual beings who are quite often thought of as the ultimate guardians of the family or community at large and who, by such acts, caused danger to or endanger, the community by bringing the living-dead’s anger dopwn upon the community or family at large. In cases of what Radcliff – Brown calls ‘the crfime of being a bad lot’, the wrath of curse may be incurred by the culprits. Such people may be habitual thieves bringing disgrace to the family, etc. Indeed, the father’s curse quite often relates to the definite invocation of some disaster upon an offender or a sinner or an immoral actor. This case was believed to actually bring upon the disgruntled iconoclast the intended punishment or woe. Any resultant sickness, therefore, might be explained by a diviner as due to the anger of some senior relative.
FOOT NOTES 1. 2. As do parts of machine. The world Book Dictionary (1974), vol III Ibid p 1278. 3. Some Observation’s on Religious cult in Ashanti, Africa vol XXVI, January 1986 No 1. p 47. 4. Lucy Mair (1969), Agrican marriage and social change pp19 & 20
Mair, Lucy (1977), Primitive Government, London: The Solar Press, p134.
Robertson, Roland (1969), (ed) Sociology of Religion, p89
7. 8. 9. 10. 11.
In Igboland. Ibid, p96 Of 29/4/95. Dr. Okolo (1995), Prime people, p5 Simpson, George E (1980), Yoruba Religion to Medicine in Ibadan, Ibadan: Ibadan University Press, p 77
12.For differing points of view on whether or not witchcraft contributes to the stability of the social stgructure, see S.F. Nadel (1952), Wiotchcraft in four African Societies: Anm Essay in compariuson, American Anthropologist, NO. 54, pp 18 –m 29, Bohannan, Paul (1964), Africa and Africans, Natural History Press, pp 232 – 233; John Middleton and E.H. Winter, eds (1963), Witchcraft and Sorcery in East Africa, Fredrick A. Paeger. 13. 14. pp 1781 & 172 In 1971.
Newell S. Booth (1777) African Religions Ibid, p171.
16. 17. 18. 19. 20.
The old man who knows the secret Simpson, Geirge E. (1980), Ibid p21 Ibid, p22. Ibid (1977), p170 Ibid. 21. Ibid.
22 Babalola, S.A. op ut, p6. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. Ibid, p4. Ibid, pp 4 – 6. Harold Courlander, op ut, pp 36 & 37. Ibid, pp 63 & 64. Fadipe, N.A., Ibid, p261. Accoduing to Herskovits in African Religions (2977), Ibid, p171. 29. 30. 31. Ibid Ibid. Weekend Concord, Saturday August 12
2000, p3: curse that caused Okadigbo’s fall.
CHAPTER 3 DEATH AND ITS EXEGESIS In general understanding, death may be realized as occurring within the will of God but paradoxically it could be said to be outside the will of God. Prior to advent of modern religion’s – Islam and Christianity – it has been said that ‘at first there was no death in the sense of the seperation of soul and body and the reusultant corruption of the body’. However, by concept of death and its exegesis we mean Yoruba view of death; while its exegesis is concerned with scholarly explanation and interpretation the Yoruba and generally the African meanings attached to death of man. While ordinarily death means the act or fact of the ending of any form of life in a person, animal or plant, the Yoruba view of death spectacularly refers to loss or absence of spiritual life, the stopping of inhaling and exhaling – i.e breathing in and out. The Yoruba believe tjat at death, the spirit or, one might eay, when the ‘death’ occurs the ‘breath’ leaves the body, believing then that it has left its bodily habitation and gone to live in the spirit world, even though it is not actually clear to hem just where this spirit world is. In essence, they associate their view of death with that of the soul. To them ‘The soul comes fgrom without into the human body and passes into other habitations. In other words, death is regarded as the passage into a new stage
of life and it is in the process of becoming an ancestor. That is to say that it is in the process of not simply a dangling dead-end of life but a link in the continuity of existence which unites the past and the future through the present.So that particularly, at this juncture we may discuss Offa-yoruba belief about death in a little detail. OFFA-YORUBA BELIEF ABOUT DEATH. Offa-Yoruba belief in life after death begins with belief in the occurrence of death at the end of one’s span of life and provides the basis for the rise of ‘the belief in life after death’, because we are assured by modern religious teachings that ‘God gives life after and death’, that ‘all that survive after physical death goes back to God, the original Source of all things’. It is We (God) who will inherit the earth, _____________. All beings thereupon: to us (God) will they all be returned’. In furtherance of this, Offa-yoruba believe that life here on earth is not interminable. They hold that sooner or later the inevitable phenomenon called death will come upon man who is only a sojourner on god’s earth. No matter how long a person lives on earth death must come as a necessary end. As we may have said already that death is a spear-head connection between the world of the living and that of the spirits, the Offa people believe that death is only a transition, only a means of passing from the world of the living to the world of the spirits. Tha Yoruba word for death is ‘Iku’. This same name is the name for the personified power which had been commissioned by the supreme Being to kill (or end life) and remove people from this world. THE HISTORY OF DEATH OCCURENCE.
By inference, from the above, when an Offa-man dies, he becomes an ‘Oku’ – death person or ghost. As concerning the origin myth of ‘Iku’ (death) it is said that mythical statement of how ‘Iku’ began his killing function has been narrated by E. Bolaji Idowu in his ‘Olodumare; God in Yoruba Belief’. The well-known myth states that death began to kill when he was greatly offended through the killing of his mother. The mother of ‘Iku’ (death) was killed at Ejigbo-Mekun market. Consequently ‘Iku’ (death) became offended and started to revenge by killing other people. Another version of this story is that in which we may demonstrate that in Yorubaland ‘Egungun’, that is, ‘masks and masquerades’ are means by which OffaYoruba try to concretize and materialize the spirits of the dead. Nevertheless, it is well-known that mythical statement about Iku may not be wholly accurate; yet this does not mean that its theoretical model can be totally invalidated or that its empirical formula based entirely practical experience without regard to science or thory that all knowledge including religious knowledge, is based on experience, can be proved to be unequalto the exigency of the situation demanding attention on the possibility of realizing its truth for examination for validation. Meanwhile, Offa people use euphemistic expressions to describe death of someone. When an ordinary man in town dies, the euphemistic descriptive word of his end of journey in life is ‘O ku’, meaning he dies. Their is difference between ‘O ku’ and ‘Oku’. While ‘O ku’ means he dies, ‘Oku’ means a ‘dead person’ or a ‘ghost’. When Offa-Yoruba man says Mr so and so ‘ku’, he means to say that Mr so and so dies; whereas the Yoruba saying ‘mo ri oku; in English means I saw a dead person or a ghost. According to tradition; when an Oba (king) or chief (oloye) dies, he is said to have gone
into the ceiling, that is, ‘o waja’ in Yoruba. On the other hand, if a noble or rich man dies, the most commonly used term to describe his death is ‘Igi araba nla wo’, meaning ‘a mighty oak tree has been uprooted and fallen’ or ‘erin wo’ meaning ‘an elephant has fallen’. Truly, no Offa-man would use a common phrase to describe the death of his Oba or Chief. It is unethical to say the Chief is dead or describe it in such plain terms the death of an elder or a man of any importance. Uptill today, anybody who mentions the death of a Chief or an elder without using the appropriate euphemism to do so is never looked upon with good eyes. It is regarded as denigratory to do sop and, in the past, suh a person, caught up doing so incur death penalty to himself. Even in announcing the death of a person – any person – the Yoruba culture demands that the voice should drop to a whisper level when using each of the expressions to describe the death of such a person. Furthermore, these terms are used to indicate the dead person’s departure from this physical world; more so Offa men and women believe that death of someone is not a total departure or total annihilation of the spiritual part of the departed. They think about death as not the end of man but rather as passage from this wordly existence into another, the spiritual world, part of which, it is believed, belongs to the ancestral spirits; they believe that through the death of an individual, the living are reminded of their relationship with the dead who they know are in invisible existence. Despite the general belief that death is universal, unpredictable and inescapable for all mankind and ultimately eyond human control and with a strong belief that death is a kind of metaphorical ladder which everyone has to climb, it follows that while the Horubas in particular use the expression “Ojise Orun de” – “Heaven’s Baliff has come” to dedscribe the descent of
death in one fell swoop, they also believe that death (Iku) is regarded as a debt which everyone must pay; in such a way that Offa-man’s belief is in “man is for both life and death”, in the flying death that swoops and stuns (i.e. deadens consciouysness)” is established8. As do other West Africans, death is regarded by Offa people as one of the crises of life, and, therefore, there are some religious rites associated with it. As a corollary, man, as we have seen, is made up of physical, tangible body, and the personality – social, which is the real human essence. Such that Offa-Yoruba believe that when death occurs, the personality-soul which is the spiritual substance and, therefore, the essential part of a person, is separated from the physical body; such that invariabl;y the left-over, that is, the remains of the fallen physical body decays while the personality – soul returns to the original source (God), the Supreme Being, from whom it comes. This Offa-Yoruba belief is demonstrated in the importance which the people attach to funeral rites. Alongside this belief, the people again believe in life after death and are, therefore, convinced that unless the funeral rites are carefully, elaborately and properly performed, the spirit of the dead would not be able to join others in the Land of the Dead. It would be compelled to roam about the earth without rest. This explains why the funeral rites and ceremonies are quite often elaborate while great care is taken to go through all rites. All have said may look superstitious. They are true beliefs in olden day, including the fact that in passing we may observe that if everything had ended with the passing away of the physical body, the Offa-Yoruba, indeed, Africans, would not have been bothering to engage themselves in such elaborate funeral ceremonies till today. It would have dawned upon them enough to enjoy as much of life as possible, doing
whatever they think will suit their selfish purpose without adequate regard to the discomfort of other people. But since they know that death only brings change of life and that at death man passes from this physical world into a new type of life where the conduct of man in the physical world will be adjudged, the people then prepare themselves for the final end while alive and the survivors of the dead engage themselves performing funeral rites, right from the time when the breath of life departs from the body, after drfawing his or her last breath. AT SICK BED-SIDE Preceding kicking the bucket, the cerfemonies observed at death by Yoruba tribes, according to E.B. Ellis (1979:155), chiefly differ from those of the Ewes. In the midst of various indications of death appearing imminent and religious observances, especially prior to the time when the breath of life is wishing to depart from the physical body, there is the usual outburst of exaggerated grief, more so when the last breath has been drfawn. When the breath of life has departed from man’s body the usual lamentations with frenzied gestures take place. Prior to this, however, that is, when it has become manifest that the sick person cannot survive his or her sickness, the eldest son of the sick man/deceased or his brother, if there be no son, at once sends for a Babalawo (the medicine-man diviner) to ascertain if the sickman died or is going to die from natural causes or through the machinations of witches. Sometimes before the occurrence of death, that is, as Offa old traditions in retrospect assert, when an Offa-man falls seriously sick his eldest son or brother, being very close to him ought always to be by the sickbed. Indeed tradition demands that he should very often be at his bed side. At point of death or comma those at the bed side call in a diviner – a
Babalawo – in order to ascertain the cause of the person’s illness that is leading to his death, especially if the sickman lingers on in pain, to enable his relatives to know as “the beast of the ancestors” in accordance with Babalawo’s ifa oracular prescription (s) and direction to avoid the scourge of such a death in large-scale devastating the family in ones and twos. This is because Offa-Yoruba distinguish between natural death and accidental death. Their belief is strong that only the aged die. That is why the death of a young man is regarded as premature, the cause of which generally speaking, might be due to some supernatural forces, such as witchcraft, magic, sorcery or powerful curse, which he was unable to take preventive measures against. Hence Offa-man’s ejaculation: “Olorun mase e ni akuta” meaning “may God nip occurrence of such death in the bud”. The death of a young man, therefore, does not evoke the same degree of cheerful feeling as death of an aged person. The death of a young man, in Yoruba parlance, is tragic and it is an occasion of sorrowful mourning; whereas the death of an aged person is welcomed as good news involving moments of emotion of encouragement and approval of praise and joy, because at ripe age such a person has been recalled to join his ancestors in the land beyond from where he would be reincarnated. HOW OFFA PEOPLE BURY THEIR DEAD How funeral obsequies (rites) are carried out in Offa is the concern of this part of the book. In old Offa, funeral obsequies of the dead were quite often carried out and celebrated with utmost grandeur and solemnity. As John S. Mbiti (1969) has said: “birth being the first rhythm of a new generation; the rites of birth are performed in order to make the child a
corporate and social being: Initiation rites continue the process and make him mature, responsible and active member of his society; marriage makes him a creative and productive being linking him with both the departed and the generation to come; finally comes death, that inevitable and, in many societies, most disturbing phenomenon of all,” Thus, all along death stands between the world of the human beings and the world of the spirits, between the visible and the invisible. There are many, and often complicated, ceremonies connected with death, burials, funerals, inheritance, the living-dead, the world of the departed, the visit of the likving-dead to their human families, reincarnation and survival of the soul. Thus, it follows that, when we have lived to full age, it is obvious that decath is something that concerns everybody, partly because sooner or later everyone personally faces it and partly because it brings loss and sorrow to every family and community. It is no wonder, therefore, that rituals connected with death are usually elaborate since it would be futile to imagine that we could deal adequately with the subject of death within the scope of this book. We shall take a few specific cases for consideration below. We shall take quite a few specific cases with which to illustrate the processes of how Offa people bury their dead. Dead, we have said earlier on, is regarded as a passage from this earthly existence to another world. Thus, as a process of transition, the funeral rites of an aged Offa-man are characterized by feasting, happiness and merriment. As Bolaji Idowu (19 ) says of the Yoruba aged in general – and the same is true of Offa – the aged Offa-men are prepared to die in order to enter the next world and join their ancestors therein. It is a belief among Offa people that such people in their state of coma, before they become
deceased, can communicate with their ancestors in the life beyond when they get there. Meanwhile, during periods of ascertainment of the kind of death a man had died and purificatory sacrifice at death, the babalawo, after sacrificing a fowl, inquiries at the oracle of Ifa by means of an Ifa board (called Opon Ifa) and sixteen palm-nuts for ascertainment of whither the deceased is bound, and if it affirms that the death was caused by witchcraft, further inquiry is made to know if any other member of the family is, or is being, threatened with a similar fate and also if the soul of the deceased is in danger of further molestation from the evil spirits who have been influenced to act as such by the evil machinations of the sorcerers. Should the oracle declare in the affirmative that the soul of the departed is in danger, a sheep or goat is sacrificed and the carcass on which is smeared some quantity of palm-oil before it is carried outside the town, is deposited at a cross-road or road-junction of two or more paths which has the effect of causing the evil spirits to disperse in as many directions as there are paths. After this the babalawo then prepares the usual water of purification with shear-butter and edible snails. Dipping in to the vessel containing the water, palm-fond sacred to Ifa, he (the babalawo) sprinkles the corpse, the room and the spectators (or the by-standers) around with fluid, as a ritual act of cleansing from the pollution (uncleanness) caused by the death of the departed. At the same time he invokes the soul of the departed to leave the house as soon as the funeral rites have been performed and proceed peacefully to its destination; to “Ipo oku orun” – the place of the dead, wishing it safe journey, as he says some short prayers, including “May the road be open to you. May nothing evil meet you on the way. May you find the road good when you go in peace.”
After these preliminaries the corpse is washed with new sponge, soap and clean but moderately warm water and/or sometimes with a decoction of aromatic herbs on a mortar (turned upside down and used as seat) on which the deceased is held up by supporters. Following this, the deceased is attired in his/her best clothes (the one he loves to wear most); the thumbs and the great toes are then tied together with strands of cotton thread; while the nostrils are stuffed with white cotton wool; as his/her hands are placed on his/her chest. If the deceased be a man, the head is shaved with a razor or loal knife after which then hairs is carefully wrapped up in a piece of white cotton with which the deceased is buried in the earth, behind the house or in one of the rooms in the house. But if the deceased be a woman the hair is plaited to match her status in life whereas the exposed parts of hers are smeared (or rubbed) with a decoction of the bark of a tree which gives a reddish hue =colour) to the skin. This reddish hue (or colour) of the camwood or a red dyewood, commonly obtainable in Western parts of Africa, is called Osun in Yoruba. Finally the corpse is wrapped up in may dignifying native clothes or attires, supplied by the relatives and placed on a mat at the door of a room. Nowadays, a well-decorated bed is used, placed in a well-tidied, neat sitting room. Sometimes the body is treated with resinuous herbs so that it becomes desiccated (thoroughly dry) such that while it remains in the house, the soul is believed to abide in its old home till such time as proper ceremonies can be held. Reason for all these is that the corpse has to be prepared in such manner in order to give the dead person a worthy appearance in the ancestral community and to make it comfortable for people to sit around it when lying in state invariably for three days. For it is believed that if the corpse is not
properly washed, the deceased would not be permitted to enter orun (heaven) and also if the spirit were to be reincarnated the dirts of the formerly deceased would cling to the body of the reincarnate. Essentially, it needs be reinstated that great importance is attached to the washing of the corpse because it is believed that one has to be clean in order to be admitted into the abode and comity of ancestors. For funeral obsequies (ceremonies) to begin; immediately after the corpse has been washed and dressed and the death (of an old man) is announced there is the booming of guns that invites concerned people from different parts of the town or village as well as those from other towns and villages to start trooping in for mourning expression of sympathy and all forms of condolence visits; while others move around the town or village weeping and crfying aloud, as a search party combing the town for their missing member singing a mourning song: “A nwa; a o ri, a o sun, a o wo, a o mo bi to wa; a o wo bi to ba lo o”, meaning “We are looking for him; we cannot find him; even during all night vigil; and we are worn out by the labours of restlessness; he is not among the lots; it’s over, he is gone; we do not know which way he has passed.” These rites which are a must to be performed presuppose life after death. They are performed to enable the deceased to make his/her journey to the other world easy and hitch-free. These would also make the spirit of the departed contented in the world beyond. In another sense, they are also performed to honour and to pay the last respect to the deceased by the living. During the time of funeral ceremony much time and expenses are lavished on the departed to ensure a proper funeral. That is why as soon as a person breathes his or her last, the living survivors get a fowl ready. Its descriptive
name is adie irano in Yoruba or “a fare-fowl” in English. It is killed by way of immolation and offered for the ancestors to open the gate for the deceased as well as make it easier for him to get to the Land of the Dead; since the purpopse of this is to clear the path for a safe journey back home. Dujring the adie irano funeral rite, it needs be recalled that processionally, as the deceased person makes his last journey and the corpse is carried from the home denuded of him to its grave-yard, a man goes with the live adie irano (fare-fowl) feathers till they reach their destination where the ritual fowl is immolatged and ceremonially eaten by the partakers. The sacrifice of fare-fowl admits of two or more meanings. After inviting him (the deceased) in a leery (careful and unburdened) manner by the living calling him by name three times and adjured (i.e. entreated) him to depart his dwelling place as he is no longer wanted to haunt the dwellings of the living but to be gone forthwith, the sacrifice of “adie irano” (or “the fare-fowl”) as it (i) buys the road (ii) secures a right wayh” for the dead; and (iii) besides securing a right of way for the soul of the deceased it is supposed to guide it. Furthermore, as the feathers of the fowl are plucked, they are scattered around the house and the bird itself is carried to a bush-road where it is cooked and eatgen. The road on which adie irano is eaten must be outside the town and leadaway from it, for trough the people believe that the Land of the Dead is beneath the earth, they think that it is necessary to eat the fowl (adie irano) on such a road leading into the bush, in order to place it in a proper position for commencing its office of guide to the soul. It also has the connotation of te reason why the Yoruba often say: “adie irano ki ise ‘un ajegbe”, meaning “The fare-fowl is not eaten without reciprocation”. In other words, “he who partakes of adie irano will in turn (in the future)
provide a fare-fowl when he dies”, (Awoladu, J. Omosade, et al, (1979), West African Traditional Religion; p 259). All said and done in this way presuppose that Offa-Yoruba beliefs in as eternal verities, i.e. truths, true statements, facts, opinions, doctrines, etc. MOURNING AND WIDOWHOOD PERIOD In the mean time, during period of mourning, it follows that as monourners and other sympathizers flock into the deceased’s home, food and drinks are provided freely by the survivors for the guests and members of the cult to which the deceased beloged in his life. In this part of Africa, as in other parts, there obtains the custom to abstain from eating for a day or two following some person’s death. One must also stop work for a few days as a sign of respect for the deceased person. Indeed some normal activities are expected to be suspended until all funeral rites are completely performed, showing thereat one of the family members has been separated from their midst. As corollary of this custom and practice a king or chief’s death, as well as its funeral rites, is a national affair. The major funeral rites requiring a lot of elaborate preparation, as much of it involves a great deal of pomp and pageantry demanding a lot of wealth to be spent, people, in order to pay their last respect to the departed king or chief, national mourning is declared for all and sundry to observe and adhere to. By this time, a deathfeast ought to have been prepared and commenced to be served to the people. It is a yam meal and part of it which is meant for the deceased is placed near the bier while outside the house a continual beating of drums is kept up together with frequent discharges of crackles of musketry fired in honour of the departed. At its advanced stage, the feast at which intoxicants are lavished, soon becomes a veritable (true) orgy in which the chief
mourners, that is, the widows, close relatives and children of the deceased, take no part, more especially the widows. Indeed, in pre-colonalization era in Offa it happened that during funeral ceremony burial rites are followed by feast, drinking, wailing, drumming and firing of musketry (e.g. Dane-guns) in honour of the deceased on a large-scale, depending on the status of the deceased one. If in life he or she belonged to some secret societies such as Ogboni, Egungun, Oro, etc, the secret societies are connected with and are involved in the observances of the funeral rites. After the death of a secret cult member, relatives of the deceased have to pay a huge sum of money and make a number of presents to the society; failing which burial may be delayed. That is, if relatives encounter difficulties in paying the amount and in making the presents as the laid down rules of the secret society direct the body of the deceased may not be allowed to be buried in time. The fact that if a member of Hunters’ Guild dies, several other rites performed by the Guild indicates people’s belief that the ‘soul’, at times called the in-dwelling spirit, lives on after death. It is a custom that as soon as the close relatives of the deceased have performed the last offices for the dead and have placed the corpse at a conspicuous place, on the bed either by the door of the house or in a large apartment the chief mourners, especially the widows, are shut up in an adjacent apartment where they are confined and compelled by custom to remain until after the burial ceremony, the confinement lasting about seven days during which the first to third day the corpse invariably lies in state. While the close relatives are thus immured, they are forbidden to wash clothes or wear neat and tidy clothes or take bath. Also traditional oractice requires them to refuse all types of food, at least for the first tgwenty-four
hours, after which they usually allow themselves to be persuaded to eat, as it is in vogue today, for they are in period of “Ofo”, i.e. the period of the “unwashed”.
THE WOMEN MOURNERS AND WIDOWHOOD Of truth the conventional mourning is the business of women of the household in addition to the widows who are already engaged in wailing, uttering loud cries of lamentation. While their men are feasting, eating and drinking, these women mourners keep on lamenting the departure of the dead person recalling in their wailing and weeping the good things he did and said as well as reminding them that he lives on in the next world. These the women do in the apartment in which they are being confined for a week or so; and in consequence the descriptive word of this ritual in Yoruba is “Isokun oku”, meaning “the ritual sobbing and crying in mourning the dead”. It marks a period of mourning set aside by women for the deceased. Hence, according to custom, a mourner is often applied to a female child of the deceased; while a male child, on the other hand, is sometimes called iwale, a digger (of a grave). In other words it is the females (women) counterparts dig the grave. Following this custom, a father of e.g. two daughters and a son might thus say that he has begotten two mourners and a digger (grave-digger). As female friends usually come from their various homes to join and participate in the lamentations and disperse (at their own respective times), there is the conventional character of the mourners which is referred to as ‘ “A mourner mourns and goes on their way (without aforethought), but one who ponders over sad memories mourns without
ceasing”’10. The literary meaning of this in Yoruba is that “Bi abani sofo ba sokun tan yio ko ri si ile re; eni ti oku ku fun ko ni dabo ekun sun u”. (Translation nine). According to Ellis’s “The Yoruba speaking peoples of the slave Coast of West Africa” (1974:157) and the same goes for Offa-Yoruba, there are professional mourners who are well-versed in sob-stories of the departed ones, in remote and immediate times, chosen for their poetical tune of expression whose services are engaged, in well-to-do households who often contrive (i.e. invent a plan) to work up real mourners to condition’s of frenzied grief. For instance, a professional mourner sings in a modulated wail, viz: “He is gone, the lion of a man. He was not a sapling 11 or a bush to be turned out of the earth, but a tree, a tree to brave the hurricane; a spreading tree under which the hearts of his family could rest in peace”, etc, etc; while the widows and daughter(s) of the deceased lament their lonely and unprotected state, somewhat as follows: “Odi gbere”, a farewell greeting which occurs in lamentation and dirges at funerals among most Yorubas when mourners bid the departed good bye, namely: “Odi gbere” in Yoruba means upon next meeting is until “gbere” – time unknown. “Od’arinnako – “It is now a matter of chance to meet on the way” during wayfaring or “Odi oju ala” – our meetings will now be in dreams”. They epecially the widows, pray to him (the dead) not too forget his children, to look after them as well as ask him for personal benefits like children, good husband or wife, good work and victory over all evils, enemies, etc, etc. BEFORE INTERMENT
On the afternoon there follows the funeral procession. The body is placed on the stretcher-like board on a door taken off its hinges, covered with a rich native cloth and borne at trots through the principal streets of the town by men followed first by male sympathizers, with the women group coming behind. The entire members of this procession consist of male and female friends and relations who accompany the brier, singing praises of the deceased and throwing handfuls of money-coins (owo eyo) in olden days – to spectators and bystanders lining their routes. The procession returns home towards evening, and the corpse is interred and laid to rest in the grave that has been dug in the earthen floor of one of the apartments in the house or dug immediately after death in an uncultivated ground in the near-by vicinity of the house, sometimes near to the main compound or town, quite often dug by clansmen and others, while the grave is so contrived that the head of the deceased, if he is to be buried in the house, may project beyond the line of the outer wall of the house; or at times it is dug at the back of the deceased’s house. This probably symbolizes the belief that the deceased person has not gone away from or left homestead completely. He is in effect still present in the midst of his family and clansmen. Nowadays, however, the corpse is often carried to the cemetery for burial and the grave is jointly dug by male sympathizers, relatives, sons-in-law and at times of the deceased who may later be joined by others arriving late. Also before interment takes place, most of the cover cloths in which the corpse is wrapped are taken off and the body, usually remaining in white shirting or calico, is carefully lowered into the grave12 though there is another version of this statement which affirms that at the grave side gifts are presented to the deceased in the form of food, money, clothes, fowls or
animals, rums, cowries, etc. these things which are offered by the children and relatives of the deceased to acquire something on his journey to “Ipo – oku” – “the Land of the Dead”. The gifts offered are placed in the grave. Adding to all these are personal belongings which are together buried with the corpse, to accompany the deceased man so that he does not find himself poor in the hereafter, believing that these things are part of him and he must not be robbed of them by the surviving relatives or else he would visit them and demand what is his own. It is also opined that the animal killed afterwards serves, as it is to accompany the deceased, to provide him with food on the way and livestock in the next world13. Furthermore, inside the grave the body of the deceased is spilt or sprinkled with the blood of the animal, offered as sacrifice. It is usually a he-goat, sacrificed to propitiate the Elegba a otherwise called Esu in Yoruba but satan in English. In another sense the he-goat is called the “beast of the ancestors”14. This selfsame “beast of the ancestors”, when so sacrificed, is also a sign linking both the departed and the living members of the family as well as an assurance that the dying person will not go into a friendly (even festal or festive) community set with joyful mood ready for reception of the returnee. There is yet another opinion that the ‘living-dead’ are present at the death of their human relative who may asked, through the slaughter of their animal (‘the beast of the ancestors’), to hasten the death of the sick man in order to terminate his pain or suffering quickly15. However, the official or professional ritualist afterwards goes into the grave to offer the slaughtered sheep or goat to the spirit of the deceased, he splits kola-nuts and places them and other gifts beside the body of him that is dead now, already laid in the grave. The composite demand of this custom
is known in Yorubva as “Biba oku yi ‘hun” which in English means “Entering into a covenant with the deceased16. Before the grave is filled up with earth amidst the wishes for a safe and pleasant journey home, in the Land of the Dead, the sons and daughters of the deceased weep and customarily their tears are to be seen to fall on the corpse in the grave. The significant importance of the presence of the children assures the departed that there are someone to remember him, to keep him in ‘personal immortality’ when he has disappeared finally, physically. Messages and gifts are sent through the deceased to the relatives and friends who died earlier on. To cover up the grave, torn branches, pot shreds or broken but suitable planks of appropriate sizes – length and breadth wise – are fitted together and stuck into or piled over and around the open spaces round the corpse to keep off animals from tampering with the grave, particularly the pigs. When the earth has been shoveled over back to the grave pit and the grave has been filled full with the earth, the earth is smoothed down and sometimes when many articles of value have been entombed with the deceased, the grave surface is moistened with water and beaten flat to pulp, to make the earth settle down, although A.B. Ellis (1974) says that in certain of Yorubaland, when many articles of value have been entombed and the surface of the tomb has been moistened with water to make the earth battle down, slaves and other dependants are made to sleep on it night after night for the double purpose of protecting it and of obliterating traces of its exact position, methinks this is an unusual practice in Offa, at least no oral tradition mentions it. After interment, that is, with the completion of burial ceremony, a gun is fired to indicate that the suppose has been finally buried17, then the dispersive flock of mourners from a desolate cemetery
moved to the former house of the deceased where the feast which had been suspended since the afternoon recommences together with drinking and shouting amidst the firing of muskets while jungle (harsh, dull and heavy sounds) of native gongs and the dull sounding thud (beating) of the native drums continues all night. Offa-Yoruba do not practice burial of the dead by cremation. The deceased having been sent to the spirit world in this manner and thus leaving off the living relatives as a result, the survivors, after burying the corpse, return home from the cemetery joyfully amidst singing, drumming and dancing with the talking drum saying, while relations of the deceased, sympathizers and all chant same in chorus: Ile O! Ile! O!! Ile! O!! Ile! O!! lo lo ta rara! Meaning: O our home! O our home!! O our home!!! Baba (father) rele re (goes to his own home); to his celestial home he goes without wobbling and trudged”. In this way, the strategic places in town are set to this sort of music for passing through till they return to the house of the deceased in the dusk of the evening twilight. DECEASED OBAS SENT TO THE SPIRIT WORLD AMIDST ABOBAKU ENTOURAGE Though the form of burial among the ancient Offa-Yoiruba indicated that they conceived of burial as seeing off someone who is going on a journey and, therefore, needed to be provided, in the grave, those things which the would-be living-dead might need on such a journey. However, particularly as concerns kings in Yorubaland, it is unheard of in Offa history that some of the Olofas were provided with an entourage of “abobaku”, “those who die with the king”. Rather, the practice is very common with the Alaafin of Oyo and some paramount chiefs in Ghana, where, like in Egypt, servants and wives of kings or other rich people were buried with the body
of the deceased king due to the belief that the departed needs wives and servants to keep him company when he reaches there and other property he needs for use so that he would not arrive there empty-handed and/or remain poor in the spirit world. “The court case in Ghana on Akyia Mensah’s demise (1944) is a proven case of those kings who died with the king”. Cult practice in various parts of West Africa substantiates this. Akyia Mensah was a chief of a small town of Apedwa in the Gold Coast (now Ghana) whose decapitated head was buried with the corpse of Sir, Nna Ofori Atta I, a paramount chief of Akim Abuakwa at Kibi; otherwise referred to as Omanhene of Akim Abuakwa. Again, we may mention that “The greatest treasures ever discovered in a burial place were those of king tutankhamen of Egypt who died in BC 1352, discovered in his tomb 3300 years ago in 1992 18. OTHER CATEGORIES OF DEATH Most African peoples have mythological explanations of how death first came into the world. We have discussed earlier on that of the Yoruba. Thus, Offa-Yoruba man has since accepted death as part of the natural rhythm (functioning) of life; yet, he believes that paradoxically, every human death is thought to have external causes making it (death) both natural and unnatural. Indeed, there are categories of death in Yorubaland – bad or good death, death of the young and of the aged. Bad deaths do not normally receive full funeral rites. When a child dies the parents and relations lament the death and dispose of the corpse as quickly as possible, since it is a bad death. Deaths caused by anti-wickedness divinities like the gods of thunder
(Shango) small pox (Shaponna), and Ogun (Iron) are regarded as bad. Such deaths are regarded as capital punishment from the divine god(s) and as such they are not to be mourned. The same thing happens when death is caused by curse. Curse is something greatly feared in Yoruba societies, and a powerful curse is believed to bring about death to the accursed person, praying that hail (i.e. the curse) and lightning might descend from heaven on the accursed person or thing. Curse in Yoruba belief is any malignant influence of obscure or mysterious origin which withers hope, blasts prospects and /or checks prosperity of a person. To injure as such a blight does, in Offa-Yoruba, a common imprecation (or prayer of a curse) is “oku igbe” that is, “Bush death”, meaning “may you die in the bush alone uncared for and so receive no funeral rites”. None the less there are yet other deaths which may not receive befitting burial, even if they be deaths of the aged. Namely, in contrasting a man’s duties to his relations with those towards the members of any secret society to which he (the deceased man), whereby the deceased man or the chief mourner insists upon the importance of the former because of the obligation his relations to bury him, it runs thus, that a man must honestly perform all the duties incumbent on his relationship with his relatives, even though he may belong to a secret society. Thus, in his life, when he has attended to the society he must attend to his relations “because it is they who must bury him when he dies”, an equivalent Yoruba saying that “Ore timo timo iye kan kata kata; ojo ti ore timo timo ba ku iyekan kata kata ni yio gbe sin”. Deaths of the deceased caused by gods of thunder, small pox, iron or curse (s) require that their victims are buried with purificatory and expiatory (atoning) rites to appease the divinities concerned.
Other types of bad death include death of children, unmarried people, those who die through suicide or as a result of some diseases like leprosy, small-pox or epilepsy, and people who die as a result of accidents like falling from a palm tree, women dying in child-birth, women dying in pregnancy, lunatics, suicide and those who have been murdered or burned. Such deaths are perhaps regarded as abominable. Full funeral ceremonies are not performed for all the persons who died one of those deaths. 8in other words they may not, or are not given, complete, full and formal burials. Furthermore, the burial of a person who dies a bad death is not attended by common people but by specialists which are versed in the essential rituals involved. For example among Offa-Yoruba, a person killed by Shango (god of Thunder) is buried by Baba Magba, the devotee priest of the god, shango, at the spot where the deceased person had been struck dead or in the “evil forest” while the deceased’s belongings are not to be touched or used by anybody unless the oracle directs otherwise. The same thing happens to the belongings of the victims of Shaponno (the god of small-pox). It is also believed that people who died bad death cannot join the ancestors in the Land of the Dead. In actual sense, people do not even give such death any much thought; else, they are not discussed beyond the point of the necessity to dispose of them, as hurriedly as possible. That is why such deceased persons do not enjoy the attention given to the ancestors or are not regarded as such and as such they are not remembered nor are they provided with ancestral shrines. However, modern change tends to make burial procedures more even or similar for everybody, excepting that it may be noted that while, generally, clansmen dig the grave when death occurs, a father does not dig grave of his son or daughter, or husband for his wife.
As for good death, it is that which comes when one lives to a ripe old age. Indeed, so far as it is beyond what is normal or expected to have some special power as well as unpleasantly severe and painful, death is regarded a uncanny (strange in an uncomfortable way) and disturbing when it occurs, yet the death of an aged person is an occasion of much rejoicing in as much as the elaborate ritual is heaviest when a funeral ceremony is being organized, since people see nothing so strange about it. Of course, there are occasions when the death of a young man or woman is not considered totally bad: For example, such a person must have lived an exemplary and good life; and must have left behind some children of high social standing and reputed for their achievements; such that in consequence, people believe that the departed will have a good place to occupy among the ancestors in the abode of the ancestors in the abode of the spirits. Although they lament and mourn such death, they still give the deceased a befitting burial. There is also what people refer to as premature or untimely death. Offa-Yoruba believe that the death of a person – young and old – must have a cause or must have been brought about in one or the other way by some evil forces, namely: sorcedry ‘Ogun’ (magic power) and ‘aje’ (witchcraft). These are often regarded as the cause of the untimely death of young people. That is why when a young person dies his clansmen often try to find out and believe the pronouncements through the oracles of divinity or divinities, as enunciated by the latter’s priest(s) or priestess (es), the cause of the death. Respecting what people call natural death, this may come as a result of old age. The person may ass away after a brief illness. But when an old person dies as a consequence of an inexplicable disease or a prolonged sickness, people still ascertain whether or not the death is due to some
human evil machination. However, there are times when old people really know that death is imminent. As such, such people usually send for their sons, daughters and some dear and close clansmen who are not at home to come back home in good and quick time, before he, the dying man, draws his last. At death-point such dying man gives advice to his children and other people concerned as to what they are to bury him (in the house or in cemetery) and the type of funeral arrangements he wants. He could tell them the people he owes and what he owes them; what other people owe him; where he keeps his money and the people in partnership business with him; including his capital outlay in the business and what they should do with the inheritance he is leaving behind. Further to the above, he blesses his children, talks about those who have passed away before him; as if he is already together with them in the ancestral abode, an indication that he is getting prepared to give up the ghost, as people by his death-bed begin to sob and make all sorts of effort to save him from dying. Although people already know that the man is old enough to die, his words at death usually bring tears and people shed them. Even as the man’s hairbreadth escape turns out hopeless, the deceased’s children and clansmen are happy that their father/head of the family is dying a good death and that he is going “home” to join his own ancestors. For in a sense, it those who die a good death that are given impressive burial ceremonies. That is why people everywhere strive to die a good death which alone will entitle him to a formal burial, and to as much as possible, avoid a bad death which will not only deprive them of burial rites but also deny them admittance to a good place in the world of the spirits. Hence, this sounding note of warning to Offa-Yoruba man, like any other good man,
thus: “E ma sika laiye tori ao ro run; E ma sika laiye o tori ao rorun; t’ a ba de bode ao rojo”. Meaning: “Thou shall not do wickedness on earth, because thou shall go to heaven; Again, thou shall not do wickedness on earth, because thou shall go to heaven. At the gate of its thoroughfare ye shall recount the deeds ye did while alive19. Emphatically, befitting burial ceremonies are the ones meant for people who die good death. WHERE DO DEAD GO AFTER DEATH? The duo-question that where do the dead people go? And what really happens to the deceased persons go after death? May be answered on these points: that at death, as we have already intimated, the soul does not die; but that before it separates from the body at the death of a person, it gets a taste of it (death). That in any case, after death – physical death – all those who die return to God, in heaven, and equivalent Yoruba saying that “Ti a ba ku orun li anlo”. That the Yoruba-man has reassuring confidence in his abncestopr in the spirit world when he says “O di owo baba mi l’orun” meaning “To thy care O my bosom father in heaven, I commend myself”. That in the ‘forward’ page of “Education” by Ellen G. White (1952:7), the author’s definitionof education that “True Edducation” is well defined as the harmonious development of all faculties – a full and adequate preparation for this life and the future eternal life” has established the fact that death is a transition or change of place of death especially passage from this life to the next, such that it means that our life’s period of existence on this planet called earth is an apparent life of probation. Realistically, as our stay on earth epitomizes, each person is a sojourner in transit upon it with a destination to reach in sight. The
destination in sight in this case is what Offa-Yoruba call “orun” – “heaven” such that the time between the two distinct period of living and passing away from the world incorporates the features of life that now is and the life in the hereafter with a change or passing from one condition of living in selfsufficiency or man-made imperative of live-and-let-live indulgency at the former place of activities, etc, to another, that of living-dead, consisting of a state of misery, not deserving the name of life. The Yoruba have an idea of “atorun bowa saiye”, “a coming back from heaven to enjoy life”. This imputes that somehow they hope that there are those have departed that will come back to life here on earth, or at least they expect to meet again; maybe at “home”, “ile”, as heaven is called in Yoruba. Thus, from Yoruba philosophy of life: “Aiye l’oja” – “The world that now is what we should call market place”; “orun ni’le” – “Heaven is the home”, one can say that is why when an old person dies at Offa, the obituary is published in the newspaper(s) or announced throughout the town by women singing, after the dead has been laid to rest, “Ile o, ile o ilke, Baba re ile re, lle lo lo tara ra” a song expressing the deceased man’s feeling home sick of his home in heaven, as if he has been longing to go to his celestial or heavenly home, since “ile” means home and “Baba re ‘le re; ile lo lo tara ra” means “father has gone to his (ceslestial) home; to that heavenly home he has gone straight”20. Nevertheless, from the muddled idea about the “soul” that dates back to the very early times when men, under the stimulus of a dream of apparitions, came to believe that their thinking and sensation were not activities of their bodies; but believe them to be those of the distinct soul indwelling in them. That is to say that is the soul which inhabits the body and
leaves it at death. Hence, one is inclined to conclude that the living soul and the “soul” of the deceased were similar to, as well as different from, each other. That is to say from the time men have been driven to reflect about the relation between this so-called in-dwelling “soul” and the outside world such that it follows that if upon death the soul took leave of the body and lived on and there was no occasion to invent another distinct death for it, the OffaYoruba religious philosophy asserts that in comas and dreams, as in death and eternal sleep, one’s “soul” temporarily drifts and leaves the body at death and after a while returns when he (the dying man) has regained consciousness. Thus there arose the idea of its (man’s soul’s) immortality and becomes the living-dead; in that at death a person’s soul leaves his body permanently for another world called variously as the world of spirits, the Land of Dead, the ancestral world, etc. Hence, this “soul” was/does called “the soul of the dead”or“ghosts exist independently in the naturally really physical world but invisible to the human eye and against it people are defenseless. In a nut-shell, all of the above show that among Offa-Yoruba, the concept of soul; and ghost-viewing is extremely common among the Yoruba of Nigeria21. It is the spirit of a dead person come from the world of spirits. The separation of this soul from the physical body at death has been confirmed by St Mark (8:36): “for what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul”? While it’s (the soul’s) existence in the Land of the Dead, lasting there for a long time, is at the same time affirmed by the saying that “John Brown’s body lies a-moldering in the grave. His soul (i.e. his ghost) goes marching on”.
Alongside “Life after death”, belief in the hereafter is confirmed many times and in various places in the scripture books of both Islam and Christianity. The Yoruba-Muslim’s believe that as the living people pray for their departed so are the latter (the dead) for the former (the living). Yoruba quite often say : As we invoke God’s mercy and blessings upon the living till the latter (the living) shall come to join and be like them in “Ipo oku” or Iwale Aja” – i.e. “in the sepulchers” where they are more than sepulchral effigies as they exist in their own right, as an embodiment of wordily power, even when the long withheld from his remains, that is, succeeding or prior to sepulchral ceremonies, the dying man hears/heard his own name in the hollow sepulchral tones of death22. There is a section in the Qur’an which affirms that for a whole month, after death, the deceased Moslem hover over his former place of abode looking over the living, his or her survivors, and watching at what they are doing with his property, in cash and kind and the treatment of his family – wife/wives and children – left behind – whether they are treating them good or bad – before his final departure from the house23. In accordance with this observation; Yusufu Ali’s statement (1975) that “why should man disbelieve in the Hereafter” presupposes life in the afterlife. (Qur’an p781). It is this belief in life that has resurfaced in the belief in the Hereafter as well as in the belief in “the Day of Judgement”, as it is frequently being called and hinged on God’a warning that “every evil deed must have its punishment” “which”, it is said, “often begins in the very life’s time of the living”. Thus, in fulfillment of the Covenant-based bilateral agreement between man and his God, A. Yusuf Ali (1975) says in his “The Holy Qur’an24” that “The first need is to mend our lives and worship and serve God--------”. The next is to
realize the meaning of the Hereafter, when every soul (i.e. the in-dwelling soul which quits the physical body of the deceased at death) will get the need (i.e. reward of praise that hath gotten thee fame) of its conduct in this life”, as God says: “Verily the Hour is coming my design is to keep it hidden (or make it manifest) for every soul. They receive its reward by measure of its (soul’s) Endeavour25.
THE OFFA-YORUBA THEORY OF “ORUN RERE, ORUN APADI”. Although to know where the deceased persons go after death is a desire of ages, the “orun rere, orun apadi” theory of the Yoruba ought to have begun our discussion of the Yoruba belief in life in the Afterlife and further explanation of what really happens after death. The “orun rere, orun apadi” (“The good heaven, bad heaven”) theory seems to answer the agedold question of the life and death, especially the one which asks about the whereabouts of the dead after death and confirms the “Ultimate Reality” of happenstances of the existential and transcendental life of every man after death, Dr. Tm Laftaye in his “Life in the Afterlife” (1980) says that “Everyone has a vested interest in the life beyond death”. Unlike what Christian doctrine says and teaches about this that inbetween the good heaven (paradise) and the bad heaven (hell or heaven of torment) there is the great gulf fixed (1980:31), the Yoruba good heaven, bad
heaven theory seems to compare the whole kingdom of heaven with that of a great king that consists of two different states with one full of people doing great mischief on earth and the other filled with obedient, peaceable people but constantly subject to incursions from wild tribes from whom the good people were willing immunity to be procured for them by their conqueror, by paying their conqueror tributes in return for their protection against the incursionists. The conqueror obliged and built-in between the two a strong barrier, constructed of iron and with iron gates. The jambs (upright posts) of the Gates were constructed with blocks or bricks of iron while the interstices (narrow openings) were filled up with mutton lead so as to form an impregnable mass of metal. The blocked entrance so constructed provided the permanent protection the good wanted from the bad; while the closing of a mountain gap between them and through which incursions were made on the good people provided the much-needed permanent precaution that separates the good from the bad such that neither was unable to see the other. On the other hand, in order to gain a complete picture of the Old Testament teachings on the subject of where the dead reside at long last, Dr. Tim Lattaye (1980:28) gives a description of Sheol and Hades both of which are the abode of the dead. Though Sheol is the temporary place of the dead, Proverbs 9:18 describes it as “A place where the dead exist”; Psalm 86:13, “A place for the soul”; Psalm 9:17, “A place for the wicked and those who forget God”; Genesis 44:29, “Even a godly Jacob expected to be there”; Psalm 88:3, “David expected to go there”; Psalm 89:48 “All men will go to sheol”; Eccelesiastes 9:10 describes the Land of the Dead as a place where there is no work” or “knowledge” or “wisdom”. It has been said that thirty-
nine books of the Old Testament refer to sheol as the world of the dead sixty-five times. As for its translation; the word sheol may translate to mean “grave”, “hell” or “death”. Of course sheol must not be confused with “the pit” or the “lake” of fire. For, it is the place of all those who have departed this life, e.g. both believers and unbelievers (Tim Lattaye 1980:27). The New Testament has its own word (or name) for the World of the Dead. It is ‘“hades”, appearing therein forty-two times’. Again; as Jesus Christ Himself used it eleven times, “Gehenna” is also the New Testament word for the permanent place of the dead in contrast with Hebrew word “sheol”. However, both refer top the afore mentioned temporary place of the Dead; whereas “Hell” is a permanent place of Torment for those who died as wicked’. According to Tim lattaye, the Land of the Dead has been compartmentalized into three: Paradise and Hell with portion in-between them called “the Great Gulf Fixed”, an impassable gulf which separates the righteous from the unrighteous, but over which the latter may took and converse but not cross, as had happened in the story of lazarus and the certain rich man, narrated in Luke 16:19 – 31. “The most complete description of Sheol and Hades in the Bible came from Jesus Christ Himself. (Luke 16:19 – 31; Tim Lattaye), 1980:29). The upshot of it all is hereby epitomized by the Yoruba saying that “oloto o ni sun n’ipo ‘ka” meaning that “the truth-sayer will never have his eternal sleep in the sepulcher of the wicked”. However, going by the description of the three compartments of the Place of the Dead, by Lattaye who did so with impressive substantiations
from the Old and New Testament sayings, though he himself said that very few details are given about the “Greta Gulf Fixed”, we have been intimated with the fact that it is an impassable gulf over which men, at death, may look and converse but not cross over. Its attribute of the kind of contraplex. (e.g. system of sending messages in opposite directions) by God’s own contraption has led Christian teachings to postulate that God designed it so that those who want to pass from ‘here to there’ cannot; nor can those who want to come from ‘there to here’ pass across, making it, therefore, evidently a chasm that separates the believers from the unbelievers, the wicked from the righteous in the next life. Once a person dies, he is confined to one side or the other – comfort or torment side. In the midst of this selfsame vein of the thought, there are sanbe sayings about escape from Sheol-Hades. One of them concerns one of the many outstanding changes wrought by death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ which consolidates the belief in Christians that when a present day believer in Christ (or any Christian during the church age) dies, he no longer goes to Sheol-Hades; his soul proceeds immediately to Heaven, to be with his Saviour, Jesus Christ26.
OUT-OF-THE-BODY EXPERIENCE. Although to know where the deceased person go after death and what become of them in post-life afterlife is a desire of ages, we need to be careful not to be confused a bit by the vague similarities between out—ofthe-body experience research findings per turning to the “soulish state” of the deceased and the claims of many ancient or modern groups of writings
which, by the way, are only a tip of iceberg, for many books recount such events. The availability of such books shouldn’t discourage us; for “life after death” is pretty a heavy stuff. By its characteristic feature, on the demise of a person, the “soulish state” describes the on-going condition of the dead. We may have already noted that the “soulish state” of the dead has been described in Luke 16:19 – 33 as a condition of life that is quite different from that of our physical life; it is conscious and recognizable; it can converse and be comforted or tormented; in that state earthly events are remembered and those who go to torment may not pass over into comfort. While the part of this statement suggests the unforceable forgiveness of sins, it is unthinkable that the Old Testament believers could be said to “have been taken by Christ up into paradise (the place of comfort in the Land of the Dead) where they have been joined by the souls of Christians at death ever since the first century. The soulish state is both conscious and immediate upon death” 2 .
We have had some comprehensive look at life in the Afterlife. In Offa there has been increasing fascination with life beyond the grave, a concern over what happens to the soul, that is, the in-dwelling soul that gives driving force to the physical body, after death. There, at Offa, many amazing experiences have been reported by people who were considered clinically dead but then “miraculously revived” to tell the story of their out-of-thebody experience. Available are also stories of sick bed/death bed visions while at the present and future activities of the dead are being revealed to the people through the pages of God’s written revelations to man in the scripture books of Islam and Christianity respectively. It is these important accounts of life that we have turned, to discuss in greater detail and to shed light on
the age-old questions of life and death. When a man faints or an Offa person da’aku, he is regarded as being clinically dead for a while, and out of the body such that after revival to life, he narrates his out-of-the-body experience activities he performed.
FOOT NOTES 1. 2. Newell S. Booth, Ibid, p148 Ralph Waldo Emerson (1985), Coming back: The Science of Reincarnation; London: The Bhaktive danta Book Trust, p1. 3. 4. 5. 6. Ibid, p140 Yusuf Ali (1975), Qur’an p775n. 2492. Ibid. Kwamena Amponsah (1975), Topics on West African Traditional Religions: Religious Studies, vol II p63. 7. 8. p 186 Ibid, p53
Johns Mbiti (1969), African Religions and Philosophy, p149.
E.B. Ellis (1974), Ibid, p157. That is, a young tree, especially a young forest tree, i.e., a young or inexperienced person.
Gone are the days when otherwise is the case, as enunciated in A.B. Ellis (1974), p158.
K. Amponsah, Ibid, p66; J.S. Mbiti, Ibid, pp150 – 156.
Ibid. ), Olodumare, God in
E. Bolaji Idowu (
Yoruba Belief, p190 in K. Amponsah, Ibid, p66. 17. 1. Ibid, p159. J.S. Mbiti (1975), Introduction to African religion’s London: Heinman, p114. 2. 3. 4. Interpretation mine. Interpretation mine. Social sciences in China vol III (1982) No 2
June, 1982, p174 5. 6. The World Book Dictionary vol II, p1883 “Oro o nile” (1974), Radio Nigeria programme, Ibadan. 7. 8. Page 792n. 2545. A. Yusuf Aliu (1975), The Holy Qur’an p792 – 3. 9. 10. Tim Lattaye 1980: 32 – 33 Ibid, pp 34 &35.
CHAPTER 4 OTHER SPECIFICS ON DEATH Other specifics on death are definite statements concerning death, including what happens after death. They shall run on the following: OTHER RITES PERFORMED BEFORE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD FINALLY PART COMPANY After interment, the deceased is believed to be around for a number of days and until certain ceremonies are performed he will not get a place in the abode of the ancestors. In consequence, on the third day of the burial another ceremony takes place in the house of the deceased. This ritual ceremony is called in yoruba ‘lki ta’ or third day of burial ritual’ in English. On this day, the children of the deceased will another animal known as ‘’the beast to accompany the deceased ‘’ as well as prepare loaves of beans – Akara. On this occasion people again eat, drink and make them—relives merry. Again on the seventh day there is yet another ceremony which is a little more elaborate than that of the third day. It is called ‘lki je’ in yoruba, meaning ‘’the seventh day burial ceremony. This is the day spirit of the death will finally set out on his journey to the spirit world. At dawn of this seventh day, the windows (if there be any) who have been living in confinement till that day are brought out. They are washed ritually to get them out of the first phase of their widowhood, One write says that widow may be continued in a room for about forty days. During the period her clothes should not be washed in consonance with “Ofo”“unwashed” -ritual regarded as
imperative for observance1 other authorities, Omosade Awolalu and Ade lumo Dopamu (1979)1 say that after widows have been washed ritually during the “Ije” – “seventh day burial ceremony”, they can now go out to farm, market and stream . but they cannot yet attend ceremonies during which they could be hailed with fanfares in showy parade of any kind or go to visit anyone with pomp until the second phase, taking place on the fortieth day, is over. The widowhood period spanning forty days is the period styled “ofo” – the unwashed period otherwise referred to as the period of mourning which varies with the rank and influence of the deceased. For some obvious reasons some cults (or traditions) demand that other ceremonies should be performed on the thirteenth, seventeenth and fortieth day of the burial of the deceased. Usually the second phase of the widowhood ends on the fortieth day when another ceremony similar to that performed on the third day preceding is performed, killing or not killing an animal, since either of these depends on the financial strength and capability of the survivors. However, without doubt bean-cakes (akara) are provided and given to the people present. The widowhood rite performed in the manner described above is to ward off the spirit of the dead. For on the last day of the forty day ceremony, they (the widows) have to shave off their heads which may be taken to be a symbol of separation between the dead and the living, showing in particular that their husband has been separated from them and at the same time regarded as an indication of Yoruba belief that death does not destroy life since the growth of new hairs on the shaved heads indicates that life continues as they spring and reappear2. Sequel to this, the widows can make thanks-giving visits to those who assisted at the funeral ceremony and/or sympathized with them
during their period of grief. They are now free to go to anywhere they please. For after all funeral obsequies have been performed and celebrated with the utmost grandeur, fanfare and solemnity in a way and fashion befitting to bid farewell to and prepare the spirit of the deceased for “Ehin iwale Aja” i.e. “Life beyond”. Contrary to this, the rel;=atives of the deceased are disgraced if they are unable to hold proper funeral ceremonies for their dead; because his spirit would not be able to get to the Land of the Dead, unless the rites are fully and completely performed. As a result, relatives and children of the deceased, therefore, go abbnorowing. In the process huge sums of money are borrowed to finance the observances of the rites and, not inconsequential, the relatives are by so doing become heavily indebted. As huge debts are thereby incurred and most relatives sell their properties to pay off their debts, such plight quite often reduce them to almost a state of beggary, after carrying out the funeral rites. They, or some, even pawn their children to raise the money necessary which sometimes the borrowers are unable to defray for several years running. For those who want not to believe in this sort of thing and kick against the traditi9onal practice of this kind, their case has a number of substantiations. For instance there is the belief that the deceased is present spiritually during burial of his corpse and the performances of the funeral rites. There is also the belief that it is when the important aspect of the funeral ceremony is performed and so neatly concluded that the deceased will actually be given a permanent place of rest in the spirit world. Because if not so done he (the soul of the deceased) will prowl about, haunt human habitations and become ever restless. Although some consider 5that the second phase of burial ceremony is of first importance and magnitude, they
also hold that if the seventh day ceremony is elaborate and the fortieth day ceremony is performed, they are enough to gain the deceased admittance into the spirit world to the effect that the observance of the second burial ceremony wh8ich, in this case, is to feed the people, can be postponed indefinitely; considered long enough more so that a commemoration – feat is often held a year after the death of a person, especially a noble man 3. The commemoration – feast taking place a year after the death of a person is a ceremony which, if performed, is known as the ceremony of calling back the soul of the departed to his people”, principally the nuclear family and it amounts to a sort of renewal of covenant between the living and the dead relatives4. On the fourth day, that is the day following the burial of the deceased person, mourners carry on the feast till the evening of the next day when the bones of the victims that have been sacrificed and those of the fowls, sheep and goat that have been eaten by the guests are collected and placed on the grave of the deceased; while all the articles used daily by the deceased, such as his tobacco pipe, his mat on which he slept, the plate or plates or vessels from which he ate, his calabashes from which he drank and other things like pillows, cups, etc, are carried into the bush and burned. Meanwhile, up to this point it is believed that the soul of the deceased is supposed to have been lingering near his old home and destruction of his property now is intended to signify to the soul of the dead that he must depart from his old home, since there is no longer anything belonging to him in the destruction of the deceased’s property was carried much further. Speaking of the Yoruba ceremonies at birth, marriage and death generally, A.B. Ellis (1974:159) says that “usually the apartment in which the deceased is buried is closed and
never used again sometimes the roof is removed’’. According to him rich families even abandon the house altogether; and it said to have been usual in the days by-gone to burn it. In the final process of all these parting funeral rites the deceased is called by his name three times and adjured (commended) him to depart, for he is no longer to haunt the dwellings of the living. After this invitation to be gone, the soul of the departed quits the house and other environs. ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION OF THE DEAD However, in modern times, at the one-year anniversary celebration of the deceased man’s demise, if the be Christian, depending upon the agreed resolution at a meeting of the family – heads for the occasion, or at the fortieth day funeral ceremony, if he be a Moslem, where and when all the relatives and friends well wishers are gathered for a big funeral occasion for the dead and all and sundry are in festive mood till the occasion lasts. This ceremony, as elaborate as it might be, puts an end to all the interruptions of normal rhythm of life caused by the death of the departed. It also puts an end to all the restrictions hitherto imposed on the normal life of the homestead of the deceased, may be following the death of the family, viz: as such restrictions are lifted, normal life resumes, for there after the widows are free to remarry, if they want to; the property of the deceased can now be shared, arrangement as concerning the taking care of the children and other care of the late man’s household are also made. Finally, observingly, the yearly ceremony marking the remembrance anniversary of the death of a deceased one is, partly, a symbolic way of ‘revising’, ‘inviting back’ the departed and thus renewing contact with him
in the next world; and, partly, declaring a formal resumption of life. In terms of African-Yoruba religious philosophy, it is a ritual celebration of a man’s conquest over death: for according to such religious philosophy, death has only disrupted, it has not destroyed, the rhythm (functioning) of life. It also indicates that the departed is not really dead. Rather, he is a living-dead and can be contacted, invited back and drawn into the human circles. During the ceremonies it is patently clear that son, in Offa-Yoruba society, plays a leading and continuing role in the ceremonies of his father’s funeral, e.g. in keeping up his (father’s) memory and in caring for the household in place of his father, the ceremonies which mystically (or mysteriously, hidden from or beyond human knowledge or comprehension) link the human world with that of the departed. COMPLEX SOCIETY DUE TO CULTURE COMPLEX IN MODERN OFFA It may be said, in the fineness of feelings, thoughts, tastes, manners, etc, that the study of culture complex of Offa modern society, consisting of traits of the traditional culture, Islamic culture and Christian culture, shows a process by which the prevailing trait or pattern of culture spreads outward from the point of origin of Yoruba traditions and practices, the original whirl-pool of the ripples of culture complex. Of truth, Emory S. Bogardus says that when missionaries are sent from one country to a “heathen” country, culture diffusion may take place……..’5. notwithstanding, there is the truth that despite the social and economic pressure of our time as well as the impact of the influence of the Islamic and Christian teachings and preaching against extravagant spending and expenses being lavished on traditional funeral ceremonies, that is, with reference to this kind of
particular system of hero worship among the Yorubas in general, especially the cult (or custom) of funeral rites and ceremonies, as described above, great admiration for the cultic sayings and ritualistic practices by which Yhoruba belief in the cult (tradition) of their culture hero which had grown after the latter’s death – though continually being frowned upon by people of Islamic and Christian faiths in theory – seems to be flourishing in practice, and not perhaps, aggravated by the elites of our societies. Namely, today, in Offa, the chief Yoruba town of the Ibolos in Kwara State, corpse of a deceased Christian could remain embalmed and kept in mortuary for several months before interment, if the siblings and other close relatives of the deceased are well to do. Though Moslems bury their dead the instant one of their members dies, the expenses lavished on the eight and fortieth day funeral ceremonies always looked alarming whenever they took place and got one stunned and spelt bound. In both Christian and Moslem funeral ceremonies, huge debts are often incurred and cannot be said to be so a meager incurrence of liabilities enough to doom the cost of traditional obsequies to condemnation. As of now, neither Christian nor Moslem funeral ceremonies incorporating personal responsibility for the costs of asho ebi and the number of cows to be felled by individuals could condemn the costs of funeral ceremonies of old to drudge (mere hard work). On the strength of this observation, it is trite saying that nowadays’ cost of funeral ceremonies in Yorubaland drowse away the cost of those of the olden days. For instance, there is a popular Oshogbo story of a rich man, Pa Oparinde, who died in the early 1950’s and his corpse laid in a glass cofin, over-laden with five hundred pounds of those days (now one thousand naira): one hundred pounds each was put under each of his feet; his left and
right foot respectively and another one hundred pounds each under his left and right hands in like manner while the remaining one hundred pounds was put under his head. Other valuables like gold, clothes (made up of costly materials), etc, were included. All inserted in the coffin were put on display in the glass coffin placed on the hearse rolled round the town in majestic motion and with pump and pageantry of a well-balanced music of aro (tgwo pieces of music-making iron by striking), shekere (another music-making implement – a gourd covered with cowry shells shaken to produce music sounds) and talking drums. Amidst the joyous people in the procession were men of the underworld who, when the hearse was ear-marked to head for the Baptist Church cemetery, dispersed to go and get ready for their usual deal of night marauding activities intended to exhume the corpse this time around and make away with all the valuables contained in the entombed cofin. Unaware that all valuables were removed, that the corpse alone had been left intact in the grave, the exhumers betook themselves to their selfimposed task of removing the earth from the six-foot sepulcher with seriousness and ardency till they reached the coffin which they removed with very great care. They broke in upon the corpse of the deceased rampageous and searched for what they could get to carry away, but to no avail. Indeed, none was found to their disappointment, dismay and disgust. Annoyingly, therefore, they left the exhumed corpse uncared for, even when they left it nakedly. In that bare state, the deceased lay till the following day when the death of a child was reported to the Reverend in-charge and the latter and the parents of the dead child went into the cemetery to choose a site for the child’s grave. When they came to the deceased man’s corpse, lying down naked, it was eye-sore. As a result, the Rev. turned about and
rushed home to get a cover cloth which he used to cover the naked body of the deceased, noble and elderly in his life time. There after, the Rev. ordered that death knell be tolled which caused Church elders to want to know for again the bell was being tolled. They rushed in to vicarage to inquire who died again from the Rev. They were told the story of the ugly situation of what transpired. The Church members were surprised and arrangement was quickly made Yoruba. In the abiding sense impressed upon our mind by Islamic and Christian teachings that trend towards causing men and women of nowadays to depart from the evil of extravagant spending on funeral ceremonies and practice of ‘ancestor-worship’ as well as seeking at the same time to reform people’s social life, we are quite often told that material things entombed with the corpse of a dead person are of no benefit or advantage to the deceased. Essentially, this sermon which requires some deep consideration calls to mind a similar but popular story about the Englishman who went to place a wreath on the tomb of a deceased relative at the same time that a Chinese was putting rice on the tomb of his own deceased relative. The Englishman characteristically asked the Chinese “’my friend, when is your relative going to eat the rice that you are offering?’ to which the Chinese promptly replied ‘when yours is smelling your flowers’”6. In Offa-Yoruba town of today, while it is true that social change effect came into the people in the wake of spread of Islam and Christianity, it is also substantially true that continuity of culture of the past and social change to re-bury the exhumed corpse. Today, burying gifts, in cash and kind, with the deceased is no longer in practice among Offa-
effect are abiding pari-passu with the people, with the survivals of the past always manifest in the said social change effect. For instance, all funeral, including all ritual, ceremonies put together are a ritual celebration of the deceased’s conquest over death has only disrupted and not destroyed the rhythm (the functioning) of life, as being preached by the saying that “Jesus Christ died, rose from his death on the third day and ascended to heaven thereafter”7. Though the grave is, paradoxically, the symbol of separation between the dead and the living, turning it to the shrine for the living-dead converts it (the grave) to the point of meeting between the two worlds, an equivalent belief of the cruciferous (cross-bearer, as in ecclesiastical processions); yet social change effect has had considerable impact on Offa-Yoruba, indeed African, culture. We may mention also that whatever be the case in Offa, burial is the commonest method of dealing and dispensing with the physical body of the dead. In doing this, different customs are followed. Sometimes the people bury the body inside the house, in the room where the person was living at the time of death. Sometimes it is buried in the compound where the homestead is situated. Sometimes they bury the body behind the compound and sometimes the corpse is carried to the cemetery for burial. The shape of then grave commonly found is rectangular and lying horizontal on the ground, not circular or round as those of the Gwaris of Niger State of Nigeria. Method of disposal of corpse and funeral rites and ceremonies, described above, apply mainly to those who are adults and are at old age or die normal death.
As coined and explained by John S. Mbit (1975) 8. explanation of the living-dead is as follows: While surviving relatives remember the departed, the spirit of him (the departed) more or less leads a personal continuation of the life which later on has become what we have called the living-dead. This is because people regard the spirit, otherwise referred to as in-dwelling soul and, therefore, the driving force of the human person while alive, as being much like a human being, although it is dead. We have already intimated that at death, the in-dwelling soul does not die but here we are affirming that when it separates from the body at the death of the body, it (the in-dwelling soul) gets a taste of death. On several occasions when it (the former indwelling soul) appears to members of the family, they will say that they saw ‘so and so’. Up to that point it has not lost its personal name and identity. During this period of appearances of the spirit and its visits which may last up to four and even five generations, it is possible for something of the features, characteristics and personbality of sucyh a spirit (called formerly the in-dwelling solul in man, but now the living-dead) to be noticed, even in a newly born child. When this occurs then the people would sa ‘so and so’ has come back, has returned or has been reborn. DEATH AND BELIEF IN LIFE AFTER LIFE By its real scholarly explanation and interpretation of the principle of dedath, reincarnation is not a “belikef system” or a psychological device for escaping the “grim finality” of dedath; rather it is a precise science or an assayhed statement that explains and interprets “our past and future lives”. We have heard quite often and many books have been written on the subject, usually based on hypnotic regression; near-death experiences, accounts of out-of-the-body experiences, etc. by hypnotic regression; we mean
dreamlike reversion of a dead person to an earlier stagte of condition of the living when he was alive. Indeed, it is generally believed by all men that death is not an end to life but a means to a new life in eternity. Of truth, from the earliest times in Africa, men had been accustomed to place in the graves of their dead the things that they (the dead) had used and enjoyed in this world and would equally require in the next of course about the existence of that world, there was no doubt whatsoever, but the inconsistencies and contradictions with which the Offa-Yoruba man has accepted this belief nowadays make it difficult to discover quite (completely) what was/is his conception of the future life after life, i.e, life after death. However, that the Offa man of the old kingdom believed firmly in a future life is certain. Because he recognized the fact of physical death; only he was unable to conceive of any form of existence other than that of the physical life. Therefore to him; the difference between the living and the dead was one of degree rather than of kind. The belief prevailing at Offa was that the dead lived on but in less real manner. Thus, they (the dead) required food and drink, just as they had done in this world before they died. Hence a prudent living man would do all he could to ensure that that provision was regularly made for his (the deceased’s) soul’s sustenance. However, since it was patently clear to him as true that the dead could not and did not eat nor drink, it was the spirit to which the offering was made that mattered rather than its (the soul’s) sustenance, such that, in the Egyptian experience of the Pharaoah’s days, a loaf of painted wood was as satisfactory as a wheatened loaf (or loaf of wheat bread), the wine-jars and tray full of meat – meat carved in relief (or in engraved relief) on the walls
of the tomb chamber – were as sustaining as actual meat and wine, and had the advantage of being incorruptible. The same goes for Offa-man of old. Indeed according to him the dead man was actually alive in his tomb (grave). Altruistically, in the olden days, that was the reason for the care taken to preserve the body of the deceased from decay or destruction, and, in his belief, because decay was only too probable, a portrait-statute was immured (enclosed within walls or entombed) which would, in case of need act as the body’s substitute 9. Generally it is a Yoruba belief that the dead was not dead. He was always alive. A curious illustration of his belief, in the literal truth of the dogma, is afforded by the gifts with which the dead were entombed. The pictures of such oujtpouring are not in any sense a memorial of the wealth and luxury that the man had enjoyed in his lifetime. It has been supposed that they represent scenes of what obtain in the next world, characteristically conceived as being a replica of this world – this explains the Yoruba saying: Bi a ti nse laiye ni an se lo run” – and that their presence in the tomb would, by sympathetic magic, ensure for the dead man just the enjoyment of such things as he had most enjoyed while alive; that there too, in the world, he would be the lord of broad acres, owing the cattle so realistically figured on the tomb walls, feasting and hunting, just as the relief (i.e figures or designs) on the tomb walls showed him doing: such a belief, one may assert, does seem to have been developed in the later phases of Yoruba history when men were obsessed to a far greater extent with the thought of another world and the germs of such belief may well have been present in the muddled minds of the later Offa-Yoruba.
Though deriving from ordinary life of the people, objective, lighthearted and full of bustling activities, they believed that the owner of the tomb is not dead and living in the tomb he looks on at life as he has known it, though he no longer can play a direct part. Generally too, paradoxically, early Yoruba man was not very deeply interested in another world to which man may go after death, except in line with the fact that the whole of his elaborate funerary ritual aimed at securing the continuation of life in this world, of course subject only to those conditions which the fact of death imposed. Such a belief is the belief of a prosperous and happy people who enjoyed life so whole-heartedly that they could not endure the thought of losing it (life);
as opposed to some, the
poor, for whom costly burial was impossible; but presumable they got as much happiness as they could out of life when they were alive and vaguely hoped for the better, or even the best, thereafter. Since aforetime, the belief has it that “A man survives after death. His deeds are laid beside him for treasure”. REINCARNATION From birth to death, experience of man is not unconnected with Offa belief system. This belief for discussion is about the belief of life after death together with the principle of reincarnation. Such belief in reincarnation reaches the conclusion that the existence of strong personal attachments and the facts of death is the most upsetting and disorganizing to man’s calculation’s ending up abruptly. These personal attachments and facts of death are perhaps the main sources of Offa religious beliefs. In his life experience, the man undergoes various transformations in his present nature
at different stages. As at birth, and as a child, man’s powers of mind and body remain yet undeveloped. But as he grows they too grow and certain moral qualities such as courage, daring with the will to conquer unfold themselves. In the extreme old age, however, these are again obscure and a second childhood supervenes (i.e. come directly as consequence of old age) such that the back of the man who formerly walked proudly straight and erect is now bent whilst his vivacious dispositions gradually extenuates till he dies. Hence, this Offa belief system sees death as the most disruptive of all the events of catastrophes, since it removes a family member away into the spirit world. Therefore, Offa religion, be it traditional or otherwise, deals with the problem of death in the following manner of reincarnation thoughts. In our academic approach to understanding the principle of reincarnation, we dare to state that a funeral ceremony expresses the belief in immortality which denies the fact of death, which merely necessitates soul transmigration into the world beyond as well as reappears in the present world later on as “Babatunde” or “Yetunde” (i.e. “Papa or Mamma has come back to life again”) as the case may be. Other mourners support the bereaved by their presence at the funeral ceremony of the departed, which in the longrun comforts the bereaved, even as at the time when the departed is being given appreciation to the full life he spent just as other encomiums overwhelm him. The comfort and support checks the emotions which death produces. It also controls the stress and anxiety, which might disrupt society. Further to this, during the goings-on at the funeral ceremony, the community group unites to support the bereaved while at home or abroad. This expression of social solidarity reintegrates Offa society.
That by its real scholarly explanation and interpretation of the principle of death, reincarnation is not a belief system, or a psychological device for escaping the “grim finality” of deadth; but a precise science that explains ‘our past and future lives’. We have heard quite often, and many books have also been written on the subject, usually based on the hypnotic regression; near-death experiences, accounts of out-of-the-body experiences, etc. By hypnotic regression, we mean dreamlike reversion of a dead person to an earlier state of condition of living when he was alive on this planet. That the belief of Offa-man in reincarnation is like that of the British poet laureate, John Masfield (1985) and future lives, writes: “I hold that when a person Offaman) dies returns again to earth, new flesh Another mother gives him birth sturder limbs and brighter brains, takes road again”. Indeed, Offaman believes that at death, man, the living being, transmigrates from one body to another. In other words, transmigration relating to the doctrine of reincarnation of the soul in a human body after death, represented by death, refers to the passing of a ‘soul’ (‘emi in Yoruba) at death into another body for the purpose of metempsychosis. Metempsychosis is the passing of the soul at death from one body into another. In other words simply put, it is the transmigration of the soul. OffaYoruba belief in this respect apart, some oriental philosophies teach that by (an His soul Arrayed in some disguise, with The old soul
who in his well known poem about past
metempsychosis a person’s soul” lives in an animal’s body” 17. The belief in metempsychosis is, therefore, a characterizing feature of most animistic religions and has reached a high degree of sophistication in Buddhism and Hinduism. Animistic religions are religions founded on animism whereas animism itself is an attribution of spirit or soul to inanimate things 13.
ON THE WHITEMAN’S CONCEPT OF ANCESTORWORSHIP AFRICAN NATIVE VERSUS WESTERN IDEOLOGYOF
LEGITIMATION Standing apart from the Whiteman’s ideology of legitimating; by Christian clerks who came to Africa to propagate Christianity, emphasizing the necessity of their religion as better than or superior to the African traditional religion which the Africans have to abandon in preference to theirs, it is important to assert that in Offa of old, spirits and idols were – and still are – not being worshiped as it is erroneously believed by the white men and their apologists. The error of such belief derives from the wrong interpretation of the Yoruba verb world ‘bo. In this author’s belief and understanding, the Yoruba verb word ‘bo’ is an abbreviation of these Yoruba words ‘bu owo’ or ‘bowo’ which in English mean or means ‘give respect’. Of course this kind of respect is given with a bow, as we bow our heads in prayers to the Almighty God. So that by extension, if we say in Yoruba to someone: bo ori baba we are saying, in English, to that person to have an occasion to venerate his living-dead father in order to propitiate the latter and assuage his dangerous anger without necessarily involving Christian or Muslim mode of worship.
Though relations, well-wishers, other people of goodwill, etc, gather together to grace the occasion with a kind of festivity that involve eating, drinking and dancing, the occasion therefore was for merry-making as people eat, dance and wine to their fill, as on a Valentine’s Day. The occasion is without religious setting, in the modern religious sense. It is totally wrong for anyone to interpret ‘bo ori baba’ to mean worship of ancestor or ancestor worship; just as the Yoruba epithet ‘Aborisa’ must not beseen as “The who worships ‘orisa’ (god) but rather as one who passes his supplications to the ultimate God for accomplishment through a divinity, which now serves as conveyor-belt in the transcendental duties between man and God. Such interpretation of the festival occasion of veneration of one’s living-dead is erroneous and particularly derogatory because our contention in this respect smacks of the scripture books of the modern religions whose Yoruba and English editions have one of their verse which decrees as follows: “Bowo fun bba ati iya re ki ojo re ki o le ba pe lori ile ti oluwa olorun re fi fun o”. Its English translation reads: “Honour thy father and thy mother that the Land on which you are may be prolonged”. Since the Yoruba word “Bowo” was not interpreted to mean worship but “Honour” –an equivalent, venerate, etc – there is no gainsaying the fact that ancestor honouring or ancestor venerating (or veneration) is not the same as ancestor worship, more so that many dictionary meanings of worship include ceremonies or services, often formally prescribed, in honour of God. ANCESTOR WORSHIP Ancestor worship in Yoruba is “ori baba bibo”. It is a kind of hero worship or veneration that involves special anniversary celebration of some cultural carnival that derives from a postulation that we need to do honour to
our dead. In Yoruba culture there is usually death, burial and mourning. The Offa-Yoruba are always aware of the dead such that even when they don’t know where somebody is buried, there is a symbolic burial, as hunters’ guilds are wont to do burying the deceased man’s effigy (or image) called “ipa”. As the lives of the dead and the living are seemly inseparable, in OffaYoruba culture if a man has not laid his dead to rest their ghosts (the ghosts of the dead) are believed to be floating and believes that a lot of the problems he is encountering evolve primarily from the fact that his dead have not been shown the gratitude by him; the living folk, and have not been accorded a befitting repose, invoking blessings upon blessings on the living children, grand children and great grand children for long life and prosperity while prayers perfect repose of their ancestors are said to round up the occasion of the pouring of libation that puts paid to the ceremony. In spite of the Whiteman’s derogatory name assigned to this occasion of honouring the ancestors, carnivals of sumptuous meals comprise the ceremony which is not different from what many nations do, including the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Nigerian Army, under the Armed Forces Remembrance Day on January 15 of every year to commemorate the repose of martyrs and gallant heroes in war.
FOOT NOTES 1. 2. West African Traditional Rfelikgion (1979) p26. John S. Mbiti (1975), Introdujction to African Religion;
London: Hieneman, pp 114 & 115. 3. A.B. Ellis (1974), PP 159 & 160; Omosade Awolalu, et al (1979), pp 261 &262; Kwabena Amponsah (1975), pp 66 & 67. 4. 5. 6. J.S. Mbiti (1969), African Religions & Philosphy, p151 The World Book Dictionary vol I (1974), p513. E. Bolaji Idowu (1973), African Traditional rfeligion; London: SCM Press Ltd, p179. 7. 8. New Tgstament Text: Mathew, Luke. Mbit, John S. (1969), Introduction to African Religion; Ibid, p119. 9. Leonard, Wooley Sir (1963), The B egining of Civilization; London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, pp 718 – 719. 10. 11. 12. 13. Ibid, p720 Coming Back: The science of Reincarnation, p11. The World Book Dictionary (1974), vol II, p1295 Ibid.
CHAPTER 5 OFFA-YORUBA TRADITIONAL ECONOMY AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES IN OFFA Economic institution is an important Offa institution in the life of a people. In Offa economic activities consist mainly in subsistence farming. It is the income earner for about 80% of the adult men. It is the income for about 80% of the adult men. Agricultural crops include yam, cassava and potato. No export crops are cultivated in any commercial quantity. There is no cocoa and no palm produce. There are abundant farmlands. It consists of shifting cultivation, use of hoes and cutlasses and bush burning. There are long distance farmers. There are farmers who travel several miles before they reach their farms on which they dwell for several months before returnbing home. Some of these come home during festival celebrations, like “Odun awe” (Idil Fitril: Moslem Ramadan festival); “Ile-ya” (Idil Kabir or Greater Biaram –another Moslem fesytival during which rams are slaughtered). They may come home during Christmas or during traditional festival of “non maka” (or “Laare”: First fruit ceremony of yam festival). About 10% each accounts for crafts and traders respectively. As for trading, a complex marketing pattern moves agricultural Products from producer to consumer and imported good come into the town from various parts of the federation. The businessmen are merchants, distributors, wholesalers and retailers who by so doing help to make essential commodities reach purchasers/ consumers at grassroots level.
TRADITIONAL NATIONAL ECONOMIC LIFE IN OFFA –YORUBA. Objective of this topic are to discuss and to list sources of economic development of our environment, to appreciate the contribution of the economic development to societal development. The two make good bedfellows; and to explain the role of human resources in economic development. The economy of any nation has many aspects which can be divided into three main sectors namely the primary sector made up of agriculture which include farming, forestry, fishing, poultry and livestock; the secondary sector which includes manufacturing, processing and construction; and finally the tertiary sector which consists of Banking service; trading and teaching etc. ln this part of this book, we are solely concerned with the Agriculture primary sector which is agriculture farming is an integral part of agriculture animals: it involves management of domestically animals so farming is the most prominent aspect of agriculture. Farming includes livestock, crop production; and fishing. Farming is crop production has been for subsistence. Subsistence farming is when a farmer produces for the feeding of his family only. Nigeria is yet to produce for export. We are yet to reach the stage in agricultural development when export of food crop will contribute a large chunk of our foreign earning. However, the main crops produced in Northern part of Nigeria are Beans, Guinea corn, Rice, Onions, Millet, Pepper, Tomato, Sugarcane, Cotton, Groundnut etc. Most of these are also produced in offa. Among offa- Yoruba the usual economic unit is the family, nuclear or extended and sometimes, elders or family head who holds
the entire family land in trust are responsible for the allocation of land for use by the various families according to their needs. Often the land is not given fully to individual owners but is regarded as being held in trust. That a family may use the land but not own, as ownership might harm the future well- being of the family, i.e., the larger family as a whole. The altitude towards land holding is an old one and still persists in many parts of the town. From the point of view of usufructuary right; Land planted with cash crop, and crop planted for cash sale, may eventually become the property of the family member planting the trees, due to long years of use e.g for subsistence farming. This is the practice not only in offa but in Yoruba land in general, recovery of such pieces of land from the allottees is often two difficult, if not impracticable, to accomplish. The area of ground devoted to subsistence crops varies with the size of the family, the land of soil and the amount of labour required clearing the bush. In offa –yoruba crops produced are yam, cassava, maize, kola nut, oil, cocoyam, etc. Although some crops such as tobacco, groundnut, cotton, palm produce, kola nut, rubber etc. are industrial raw material, none of these could be reagarded as being produced on commercial quantitly in offa for export trade.
Types of Soil in offa. Sand Soil Clay Soil Loamy soil Silt.
The best soil for farming is loamy soil. Loamy soil is a mixture of sandy and clay soils. It is always dark in colour, showing the prosence of decomposed plants and animals. It also contains almost all the macro nutrients. It has moderate pore spaces. FARM WORK This done by all members of the family, especially those who are able to wield a hoe, more so those who are known to do so with dexterity. Here sex roles are involved. Generally the men concentrate on clearing and burning the bush to make farm and planting operations; the women look after the weeding and harvesting. The chief farming tools are the hoe and the cutlass. Hoes vary in size. Often a large and fairly heavy hoe is used for digging while light one is for weeding. Although it has been criticized as a primitive and inefficient tool, the hoe has certain advantages: it is light and handy to use; it is easily made by local blacksmiths or cheap and easily available to buy at village stores; it suits the Africans soil which is often too thin for any heavy farm implement to dig deeply; it allows the farmer to cultivate large areas too broken up by tree trunks and laterite rocks for easy ploughing. PRACTICED SHIFTING CULTIVATION By this system of farming, a patch of bush is cleared. Or in the forest, trees and bushes are felled in the middle of dry season. They are left to dry out before being burnt. In the drier savannas of Offa people the withered shrubs and grasses are burned off at the end of dry season. So that after farming for two or three years, it is allowed to go back to bush while another patch is made ready for cultivation. This period of rest or fallow given to farm before it is re cultivated enables the already used up farmland to regain
the richness of its soil in the long run. However, the longer the period of fallow the more complete the recovery of soil fertility. This explains the reason for long distance farms on which live farmers who travel several miles before they reach their farms, dwelling there for several months, or make them more or less permanent places of abode. PLANTING After the land is cleared and the first rains have fallen, seed and tubers are planted. Several crops are usually planted and grown together in the same plot, but varieties change from year to year. Details of cultivation vary with the nature of the crop and the custom of the people. Customarily in Offa, yams are usually grown in mounds, sweet potatoes in ridges, cereals in furrows and cassava by placing cuttings in holes made in the soft ground. Unlike in the forest where little weeding is done, grain crops in the savanna, Offa, must be kept from being choked up by new grass springing up from the roots or the under growths which were not destroyed by fire when the bush was being burnt. CHIEF FOOD CROPS YAMS: These are widely cultivated during the sufficient six to ten months, raining season required for growth. The yam is grown from tuber cuttings planted in mounds of earth, and, as it is provide to support the foliage. It is a good food crop (at least equal in nutritional value to potato of temperate lands5) and it keeps well. It is eaten boiled like potatoes, mashed with palm oil or pounded into fufu. There is much internal trade in yams at Offa. Some are carried to places like Lagos.
MAIZE: This is grown without need of irrigation everywhere as wet season lasts for five months 5. It needs a richer and deeper soil than millets but yields much more grain per acre of land. It is eaten as fermented paste or ground up paste (tuwo) and boiled or roasted on the cob. It is also made into porridge. GUINEA CORN: Typically, it is one of the staple foods. Together with millets where they exist, they do well when they are grown as a wet season crop. They do well even on poor soils as they are used to resisting drought. Guinea corn can be made into ‘ogi’ and finally porridge. CASSAVA:: This food crop is popularly grown throughout West Africa. Farmers love growing it because of its advantages, it does reasonably well on poor soils and it can withstand both drought and a lot of moisture. If it is grown in a weeded plot, it will yield a crop more quickly than yam, though it may be left in the ground until it is wanted. Whilst growing it requires little attention from the farmer. Although, seemly, it is the chief food now for Offa people, like many areas in West Africa, it is not very nutritious, consisting mainly of starch without fat or protein. It has many uses. It is eaten pounded as fufu, or scraped, partly fermented and dried as gari, etc. Commercially, it yields starch and tapioca. SWEET POTATOES: These are food crop with which Offa people are familiarly and popularly refer to them (Offa people) as “Offa omo a’ janomo” – “Offaman son of him who loves eating potato quite often”. To grow very well, potatoes require good aoil and a moist growing seasonb. It is “more nutritious than cassava” 6 but they are not an important food crop in many areas in which they would flourish.
LIVESTOCK FARMING Livestock is the rearing of animals. Animals reared in Nigeria are goat, sheep, camel, and cattle. Cattle are mainly reared by the pastoral Fulani. Cattle provide us with milk; goat provides meat and cow is used for production of beef and hides and skins used for making bags and shoes. POULTRY FARMING Poultry farming is the rearing of birds and fowls. Poultry farming has become a large industry in Nigeria today. Poultry farming is yet to reach the level of production for export. Birds and fowls are reared for meat. Eggs are sources of protein. FISHERY AND FISHING Fishery involves the rearing in fish ponds. Fingers hatched from fish eggs are grown into large fishes. Fishery is not as popular as poultry farming in Nigeria, most especially in Offa, pastor present. Fishing involves catching fishes in the sea, rivers, lakes and oceans. Fishing is one of the important occupations of the Offa people. Fishes are sources of protein. PRACTICED AGRICULTURE IN OFFA-YORUBA LANDS By practiced agriculture we mean system of agriculture acquired and perfected and made proficient through practice that has continued to accomplish the people’s needs in terms of food stuffs, exchange earning
locally and internationally, etc. We have referred to practiced agriculture because we don’t want to confuse agriculture with farming. Farming is an integral part of agriculture. In our study of natural resources of man, we learnt about their influence on man with reference to local and wider context. We at the same time read about how man utilizes the natural resources in his environment. We will, in this topic discuss agriculture as sources of basic economic commodities. Principally, agriculture plays a vital role in the Offa-Yoruba economy. Over 80 per cent of Offa people are farmers. Agriculture, therefore, provides employment for most people in Offa. In addition to this, it provides most of the raw materials for the manufacturing industries today: palm fronds are used for basket weaving, fence-making and brooms; it produces food that feeds the community as well as earns foreign exchange for the country in modern times. As we get along, we shall discuss types of crops that can be found in Offa and their importance, as well as explain the importance of livestock, poultry farming and the importance of fishing in national economic life of the people. Simply put, livestock refers to the rearing of animals. CASH CROPS IN NIGERIA Cash crops are agricultural products grown for the main purpose of selling either locally or abroad, therefore, when a cash crop is specifically grown for export purposes, it is referred to as an export crop. This si s paradox of what obtains in Offa. Nigerian cash crops include cocoa, rubber, palm oil,, palm kernel, kola nuts, groundnuts, cotton benniseed, cashew nuts and tobacco. Among
the cash crops listed above cocoa, rubber, palm-oil, palm kernel, groundnuts and cotton are export crops. Offa has none. The cash crops available in the forest belts of southern Nigeria include cocoa, rubber, palm oil, palm kernel, kola nuts, cashew nuts and tobacco. The cash crops available in northern Nigeria include groundnuts, cotton and benniseed. Even where these are to be available in Offa, they are always in very small quantities, too small for exportation purposes. PALM PRODUCTS Nigeria has been a very good source of palm products to the European countries ever before colonization. Two important products from the palm tree are palm-oil and palm-kernel. Palm trees grow well in the forest zones of southern Nigeria. Palm trees provide the main cash crops in the Cross River, Imo and Anambra states of Nigeria. A large quantity of palm trees are also found in Bendel, Ogun, Oyo and Ondo states. Nigeria is still the largest exporter of palm products in the world. In 1969 alone, Nigeria exported 36,700 tones of palm oil and 176,100 tones of kernels to foreign countries 7. Palm products are used in different ways both locally and abroad. Many of our industries use palm-oil for the manufacturing of margarine, different types of soap as well as candle. Palm-kernels are also crushed for producing oil. Palm-kernel oil is processed in some industries into perfumes and manufactured products. Importantly edible oil, palm-oil, is pressed out and obtained not by machinery but by hand methods, production is not on commercial quantity. People traveled far away, in the past to “Odo Ehin” or “Iyin”, a town in Ekiti, but nowadays to Onitsha, in Anambra State, to buy affordable quantities for local consumption. Hence some history books call
Offa-Yoruba ‘Ibolo’ meaning “palm-oil gatherers” 7. (R.S. Smith (1969), The kingdoms of the Yoruba p169). Palm products are very important in the lives of every Nigeria for they provide oil for cooking as well as our local soap. The Nigerian Palm Produce Board markets the palm products of Nigeria and Offa-Yoruba are not exempt. GROUNDNUTS Groundnut which was introduced into Nigeria by the early Portuguese traders also has its origin traceable to America. Groundnuts grow well in the savanna areas of northern Nigeria. Groundnuts require very minimal rainfall, even though it can still tolerate heavier rainfall. Some major groundnutproducing areas of Nigeria include Kano, Ktsina, Sokoto and Borno. The Nigerian Groundnut Board markets the groundnuts. Nigerian groundnuts are not only for domestic consumption but also for export. Groundnut oil is used in the manufacturing of soap as well as margarine and ‘kuli-kuli’ (groundnut cake) a commodity carried about by Nupe hawkers, to their customers. COTTON Cotton is grown for local consumption as well as for importation in some parts of northern Nigeria. Large hectares of cotton plantation are found in Katsina, Sokoto, Kano and Zaria. The Nigerian Cotton Board markets our cotton. Nigeria cotton is used by local cloth weavers as well as textile factories. Textile factories are sited at Ikeja, Kano, Kaduna and Aba. From this yarns (spun threads for weaving) are, in the past made in Offa.
KOLANUTS Kola nuts are harvested from the kola trees. Kola trees are available in the forfest zones of Nigeria. The trees are planted by peasant farmers. The nuts are usually eaten raw. Kolanuts are produced in Ogun and Oyo states for internal trade. Kano is the chief kola nut market in Nigeria. Some Offa farmers talk about production of these in small quantity, very few of them. OFFA-YORUBA FOOD CROPS Food crops are sometimes referred to as subsistence crops. They are crops which are grown only for home consumption. Farmers grow food crops mainly for consumption of the family but surpluses are usually sold in the local market. Important food crops of the forest belts of the south are root crops such as yam, cassava and cocoyam. Others include pepper, okro, melon as well as different types of fruits such as oranges, bananas, pawpaw, pineapples, pears and sweets potatoes. Other food crops grown are mostly grains, such as maize, millet, guinea corn, and rice. FISHING OCCUPATION Although it is mostly coastal peoples that engage in fishing, in Offa fishing is carried on in small streams with hook, line sink and hook attached to a reasonably long stick by both children and adults. Apart from Afelele lagoon no body of water nearing that of China’s Yellow River floods that is being constantly controlled with dikes exists in Offa. But, apparently there is a man-made ditch. Water from it could be conveyed for irrigation purposes while fishing in it is affordable. In lagoon such as this, various kinds of traps
are used to catch fish, e.g., the movement of fish being directed by long bamboo making under-water fences into the conical or spherical cane baskets. In many territories of West Africa, “fishermen employ harpoons and spears with either fixed or movable heads” 8. This is not practiced in Offa. In addition to the above-mentioned as approved obtainable in Offa other methods used in rivers and streams in Offa include the harmful method of poisoning fish in isolated pools during raining season. After the fish have been landed, they are taken over by the women who may either be the families of the actual fishermen or by traders who are ready to buy the catches. Pertinently, some of the fish caught is sold fresh for local consumption. A little “is preserved on ice” and sold as iced fish in town. The greater part is, however, preserved by various other methods, namely: small fish are dried in the sun, larger ones are dried either by smoking in ovens or by salting. And depending upon the method used and the thoroughness of curing, “dried (or smoked) fish” could remain edible for periods of between one and six months 9, as may be easily found on sale in Offa markets and elsewhere by Nupe (Tapa) fish mongers. Fishermen of various types know the type of tackle to be used as well as know when to go fishing. From experience, it has been stated by local fishermen that fish are fewer in numbers and harder to catch these days than they once were. This may or may not be true, but if it is, among the several reasons which can explain it are those ones: (1) good fishing areas have been fished too much and too many fish have been taken out of their waters; (2) small fish have been caught in fine-meshed nets (= networks) before they have had time to breed; (3) streams have been poisoned. These reasons must, in time, have reduced the stocks of fish in particular areas. Remedies appear to lie in governmental control of the methods of fishing in the Offa Local Government Area as well
as in the development of fish farms in order to re-stock freshwater fisheries of the area. ANIMAL REARING AND ANIMAL PRODUCTS SHEEP AND GOAT Most families in Offa keep sheep, goats and poultry. Sheep and goats are kept by old men and ladies. These sheep and goats bear a Biblical resemblance to each other and usually have hairy coats and tough, strong flesh. From home to home, their numbers vary. They haunt the compounds and houses looking for what to pick and eat. Offa-Yoruba men and women traders often travel to the north-east Nigeria to buy sun-dried sheep and goat’s flesh for sale at home, Offa. HORSES Here at Offa, a few horses were reared in Offa and chiefs’ compounds and noble men’s. But since they are no longer required for military purposes, their ownership in town is now a luxury; yet they remain the joy and pride of the chiefs who sparingly ride them. PIGS These were introduced into coastlands of West Africa by the Portuguese. The small, ugly, long-headed West African pig commonly found in Offa and the surrounding villages resembles that found today in southern Spain. They are regarded as unclean by the Muslims; but they are sometimes found in dirty areas of the villages around Offa and around refuse dumps in
Offa township, living on what they can forage and scavenge for themselves, occasionally eked out by a ration of chaff from corn or millet. CATTLE REARING It is said that apart from goats and dwarf cattle found in some parts of Nigeria, domesticated animals are not easy to rear owing to which transmits in its bite a disease called trypanosomiassis, the presence of the tsetse-flyfree area. This makes animal rearing possible. Unlike in the north where laden donkeys and horses, used for transport, are a familiar sight along the roads, most flocks of cow and herds of other animals – sheep and goats – are owned by nomadic tribes called ‘Cow’ Fulani who move from place to place in search of seasonal grazing grounds called transhumance and water for their animals. Economically speaking, majority of the cattle commonly found along the roads are of the Zebu type and the sheep have hairy coats, which, when tanned, provide good leather. Especially valuable in this respect are the fine skins of the Red Sokoto goats, which for centuries have been imported from north-west Nigeria during Ileya (Idil Kabir). The well-known tanhouse is located in Sulu’s compound, Popo area, Offa and headed by the late Alhaji Raji Alawo. Cows raised in Offa area are often sent by rail or on foot, to be slaughtered in markets oif Offa, but those exported to Offa from the north are for Offa abattoirs and markets of Lagos, Onitsha, Ibadan and other cities in the south. To the Fulani cattle are a source of wealth and money rather than food. They sell live beasts for cash and buy meat from village/town butchers and grain from the farmers. In farmlands around Fulani cattle ranchers, cattle dung left on fallow fields are paid for with grain by farmers. Both men and women butchers are seen engaged in meat selling all over the town. (Ibid, pp70 – 74).
PROBLEMS OF AGRICULTURE IN NIGERIA, OFFA-YORUBALAND There are many problems which badly affect agriculture in Nigeria. The same apply to Offa. Finance: This simply means money. There is hardly enough money to put into agriculture in Nigeria. Not all farmers benefits from agricultural loan scheme. Land tenure system: In Nigeria, land is fragmented according to kindred. So there is hardly enough land for commercial agriculture. Conservatism: Taboos and belief in superstitions and the failure of our people to agree to change or adopt the new method of farming is yet another problem adversely affecting agriculture in Nigeria. In some parts of Nigeria, some lands are associated with evil spirits and therefore not farmed at all. Also, some lands are not farmed at certain periods of the year, for fear of the wrath of the spirits. Furthermore, our people have always failed to adopt the scientific method of agriculture. Some believe that the application of fertilizers and the use of hybrid variety crops will “kill” their soil. Lack of extension workers: The absence of agriculture extension workers who educate the farmer on the best method of farming is another factor which badly affects agriculture in Nigeria. Because of this, Farmers are not educated on the use of different types of fertilizers in farming and the application of pesticides. Use of crude implements of farming: Our people still use some crude implements of farming such as hoes and knives. The use of these implements causes low agricultural productivity. Hot damp climates are quite enervating and prohibitive to long hours of work in farmlands.
Solutions Money should be made available to the farmers through liberalization of the agricultural loan scheme. The present land tenure system should be abolished. Farmers should be educated on the modern method of farming. They should have knowledge of the use of fertilizers and pesticides. Farmers should also be educated on the dangers of their conservative idea and superstitions attached to lands. Modern tools of farming should be provided to farmers in form of incentive: Importance of Agriculture Production of food for man. Agriculture makes the foods we eat. All the essential food nutrients, vitamins and minerals which help man’s growth are available in the food we eat. Agriculture helps us to produce raw materials for our industries. For example, sugar cane is used in the sugar factories. Timber is used to manufacture plywood. Cotton wools is used in the textile industries. Hides and Skins are used for making shoes and leather bags. Groundnut is used in the production of groundnut oil and animal feeds. Agricultural products are sources of foreign exchange for the country Nigeria exports goods such as palm produce, cocoa, groundnut, etc to other countries. It is also a source of national income. Agriculture is a source of employment to many Nigerians. More than 70 per cent of Nigeria is engaged in agriculture. PEOPLE’S AUTHOCHTHONOUS INDUSTGRIES From society to society in Africa, autochthonous methods of development of local industries differ, in terms of economic systems. At the
twi-light of colonial era in Africa when social engineering on the continent began, societies were simpler, not complex as industrial societies are today. Their respective economies were traditional in forms and contents. Trade wars involving keen competition were absent. During the colonial era trade by barter – trade by exchanging one kind of goods or services for other goods or services without using money – gave way to money economy when the method of production and distribution of products took a new dimension. However, each of the African societies has its own traditional economies which has certain features in common with others’, universally manifesting characteristics in the method of organizing system of producing goods and servicing its needs for its own perpetuation and in arranging the distribution of the fruits of its production among its own members; so that more production can take place. In Africa today there are three ideal types of economic systems: economy run by tradition; economy run by command, and economy run by market. We shall focus our attention on economy run by tradition; production and distribution are based on procedures originated in the distant past. In this type of economic system of production; the individual quite often takes on the job which his father and grand father had undertaken and continues to be undertaken by the offspring from time immemorial, with a kind of hereditary chain which assures that certain skills and crafts are passed on from one generation perpetually, perhaps repeating and/or following production method in exactly the same way(s). the same goes for distribution method, e.g. by porterage. This is the type of economy that is predominant in virtually in Yorubalands till modern time, not perhaps alongside other types of economies. In Offa, there abound Ile Alogbede, Ile
Onigba, Ile Gbena, Ile Atagi Soro, Ile Ologa Ile Aponbi. Edach of these houses is a compound of specialists who had once specialized in one trade or the other. For example, in Ile Alagbe, there live people who are practicing backsmithing, Ile Ologa had once been the home of slave buyers, Ile Balogun is now the compound of the people who were war fighters, etc.
FOOT NOTES 1. J.S. Mbiti (1975), Inroduction to African Religion, p10 in R. A. Owolabi (1984), Yoruba Religion & medicine in Offa, p 47. 2. 3. Population Census, 1963. F.G. Higson (1964), A certificate Geography of West Africa, Longmas, p74. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. Ibid, p 80 Ibid, p 78 Ibid. Leo Chukwuma Ogueri, et al (1989), Social Studies, p 65. Ibid, p69 Ibid. M.A. Orebanjo, et al (1990) Social Studies Macmillian, pp 63 – 69. Robert S. Smith (1969), The kingdom of Yoruba, p169.