TEXT OF A SPEECH BY POET ADEDARA ODUGUWA, AT THE ESOE REMO YOUTH CANNIVAL ON DEC 15TH, 2013.
Let me first of all; thank the conveners and organizers of this historic epoch- making event for the rare privilege bestowed on me as active participant in this memorable maiden public outing. The criterion for chosen me was quite not patent. Nonetheless, I am confident that this is not owing to my religion, academic prowess, sex or family background. But an occasion that evolves as a result of my age bracket “Odo or Ewe” Yoruba words that designates “Youth or young people” which qualifies me to rise as a participant in today’s occasion. I salute you further because in making this, history is concomitantly being made and I count myself blessed to be part of the pages of history.
Having said that, I want to believe the topic before me cautions the entire “Youth Community” of Remoland (Remo Metaalelogbon) and Nigeria as a whole to consciously sit focused and unanimously reason together toward what are the roles of the Youths in preserving, promoting & developing culture/tradition of Remoland and how over the years these roles have been shaped through the trio agents of political socialization (religion, family & the school) and advent of modern science & technology. In this fashion, this paper is sub-divided into three themes:
- What were the roles of young people?
- What are the roles of young people?
- How do we seek a balance between what were and what are?
Before I probe into the discourse, let me quickly invigorates our minds with definitions of certain quintessential words (Youth, Culture/tradition and Remoland) that are found in the topic of our interest.
In recent time, the term “Youth”, “adolescent”, “teenager”, “kid”, and “young person” are interchanged, often meaning the same thing, but occasionally differentiated (Dosumu, 2012). Generally speaking, “Youth” is a period of time that is neither childhood nor adulthood but somewhere in-between. For reference purposes, the following definitions were extracted and reproduced:
- Youth “Ewe or Odo” (in Yoruba): Comprises of any person found in the age bracket 15-24 (UN, 2010).
- Youth: Comprises of those persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years (UN General Assembly, 2010).
- Youth: Comprises persons between the age of 15 and 24 (World Bank, 2009).
- Youth are young people aged 15-29 (Commonwealth Youth Programme, 2010).
- Youth is defined as any member of society between the ages of 15 and 34 (WHO, 2012).
- Youth comprises of people between the age of 15 and 24 (UNDP, 2013).
In addition, the Nigerian National Youth Policy (2001) classifies youth as those between the ages of 18 and 35 years. Going by the literature, there is concord in terms of age brackets, almost all the definitions concurred that “Youth” title begins at age “15” and ends at age “34/35”. Therefore, I will describe “Youth” as a set of young persons found between age 15 and 40 who are the most energetic, inspiring, educative, innovative and inventive in any organised society. Youth are the most enterprising and productive segment of the economy. They are to cogitate, formulate and implement policies for the community while the aged are to supports them with advices achieved through many years of experience.
What then is Culture/Tradition?
According to a Yoruba Dictionary, “Asa” (Culture/Tradition) are people’s custom or way of life that is passed from one generation to the other (Fakinlede, 2011). Similarly, a tradition is a belief or behaviour passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past (Green, 1997). Thus, I see culture/tradition as the beliefs, customs, norms, mores, heritages, principles and values that distinguished a group of people, tribe, religion, society, community, nation, organisation or club from one another as a symbol of uniqueness which are traced from the ancestors to great- grand –father, great-grand-father to the grand-father, the grand-father to the father and father to the children. In other words, this value is passed from one generation to the other. The “Remo people” prided themselves in Cultures such as; taste, traditional dressing and symbols, marriage ceremony rites, burial ceremony and other festivals (Oro, Agemo, Eleku and Agbodu).
“Remoland” or “Remo Metaalelogbon” comprises of thirty-three villiages and kings which are headed by a paramount ruler, the Akarigbo of Remoland. The list of Remo towns includes: Makun,Isara,Ake,Akaka,Ilara,Egudu,Ogunmogbo,Eposo,Are,Emuren,Iraye,Ode-Remo,Ogere,Idena,Idarika,Iperu,Ilishan,Irolu,Idotun,Ikenne,Oko,Ado,Ipoji,Batoro,Ijoku,Latawa,Ijagba,Igbepa,Ipara,Ibido,Soyindo,Epe and Ofin (Ogun State Database,2008). Remo is one of the richest tribe in Nigeria; with a rich annual cultural pageantry commonly display in the market place during any of the attention-grabbing fiesta inter alia: the balufon, the oro, the eluku, the agemo, the yemoja (goddess of the river) and the egungun (masquerade) (Ayodele,2008). All having their respective Kings ‘obas’ and Chiefs ‘oloyes’. Like every other tribes and nations in the defunct Yoruba empire, Remo or Iremo people find solace in a uniform ‘oriki’ or ‘praise’, which acts as a symbol of unity and togetherness. Additionally, apart from the cultural pageantry and oriki, the Remo Metaalelogbon are known for other cultural values which mold their sedentary way of life. To mention a few, Iremo people are very respective, with different greetings for each season in the day, dedicated traders/farmers, highly intelligent, god-fearing, accommodating and enterprising people. For instance, a Hausa man can secure a plot of land for a house project in Sagamu without being rejected. This may not be possible in some towns, where there is a stringent discrimination against an alien.
Moreover, this paper will further concentrate on answering the three identified questions in previous sections.
What were the roles of young people?
Before the emergence of colonial masters, young people in Remoland and it environ helped to demonstrate the rich culture/tradition, enforcement of laws and orders, facilitate progressive community policies, educate themselves on the norms and mores of their ancestors, perform various ceremonial rites and the protection of their geographical boundary. Through cultural displays/dance, the vigilante, taste, sense of dressing and various age-groups “egbe”. The Remo people were happy with their language, ruler and way of life. The aforementioned were the acceptable morals of our people. More so, any deviance against the norms and mores of the people was labelled a “taboo/ forbidden” “eewo” which attracts penalty.
I will like to share some of these norms with you. It is forbidden for a man to fling his wife’s delicacies from the cooking gas on the platform of angry. If that happens, the King would send the “olumale” (A position reserved for head of oro diety) to such house to perform their rite and certain fine was occasionally levied against the culprit (the man). Similarly, it is forbidden to disobey king’s order, if that occurred, at liberty, the king can order his aides to lock-up the house and clothe the entrance with palm fronds “mariwo-ope” until such time he is appeased. Furthermore, in Remoland, In-laws are kings to the bridegroom. He must prostrate to them at his wedding three times or more with his friends and family (all in their traditional attire-“aso ofi” with cap “fila”). Then, he saw his wife’s family as his while his in-laws were deemed to reciprocate. In addition, prior to his wedding-in courtship, he is not allowed to see his in-laws directly but indirectly through an intermediary called “Alarena”. Moreover, like many other Yoruba quarters, royalty comes with symbols. A royal blood is symbolised through dressing, particularly the use of beads “iyu” both as necklace and hand-chain.
Again, disobedience against the King “Oba” or the throne “Ilu”, youths were at liberty to execute the king’s order (locking of the culprit’s house), perform the “oro” rituals (under supervision of onimale) against the man who flings his wife’s soup, supports the bridegroom at his wedding ceremony and cultural displays; the balufon, Agemo and egungun among others. All these were immediately switched when the colonial masters set the stage with indirect rule (Oduguwa, 2012). Our culture, like bata, was in exchange for modern science & technology, foreign religion, language, education and modern wears. As if these were not enough, we were cunningly deceived to completely reject our taste, fashion, religion and morals. These lines extracted from the poem ‘Lamentation of our brain’ (Oduguwa, 2004) explains further:
“…They came, exploited and went.
Leaving rotten meat with microwave their land
They press homewards with key belonging us
…Blacks, our time rouse!”
What are the roles of young people?
In today’s world, young people position in cultural values and heritages are completely spectatorship. Modern African youths are drowned in the deep-sea of civilization, religion and technology at the detriment of our rich culture. Leaving our culture /tradition to plummet. An example in point is the role to demonstrate and educate others about our cultural heritages. If I may ask, how many member of ESOE Remo group dressed in traditional attire on his/her facebook profile page? How many bother, at least occasionally, to speak and be identified with our ear-friendly Ijebu dialect? How many of us spread the news of cultural festivals like Agemo, Agbodu day, Balufon and Egungun on our facebook page? How many of us call their children with powerful Yoruba names like Adedara, Ibunkunoluwa, Itunuade, Abimbola, Ige and not David, Joseph or Jack? And finally, if we have the whole resources in the world, how many of us are happy to invest a billion naira on our culture and tradition?
Seeking a balance
I am of the opinion that we cannot preserve, develop and or precisely promote any idea if we are not first proud of it. Let me add this experience of mine, about two years back, I was in a tete-a-tete with a female friend from Zimbabwe and she said“ Dara, I think you should stop wearing your traditional cap, you can still do with the bead because I think a lot of white people around may take you for a terrorist. You see, many Africans adopt English names in order to have friends and job here.” My response was that “will any Englishman buries his/her culture for mine?” Although, I later realised what she was talking about, nonetheless, I remained firm and proud of what it is to be an African and Remo person in particular.
I am thankful to the organisers for being able to demonstrate our rich culture, promote our heritage and on their way to preserving it through the formation of this highly welcomed organisation. It is therefore of utmost importance for all of us; young, old, male and female to respect our cultural values, promote, preserve and help in the development of our cultural heritages, at any place and anytime, through our fashion, taste and dealings.
Long live ESOE REMO Group!
Long live Remo Metaalelogbon!
Long live Ogun State!
Long live Federal Republic of Nigeria.