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Patience Wumi: Breaking the “Yes Ma, Yes Sir” Culture in Nigeria

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When I was a child, my grandmother would scold me when I didn’t greet someone properly. As a young Yoruba girl, when you see an adult, especially a big mummy, big daddy, or an elderly person, it is important that they are greeted properly. Your two knees must touch the floor. One knee is not sufficient. If you fail to greet properly, expect a major scolding or slap.

I have a problem with some rules of the greeting customs. For example, some parents expect their children to greet them accordingly every morning. I don’t see the point of this custom if you see your parents everyday. In some households, you are expected to show respect to everyone older than you, even to someone older than you by a day.

Please note that the word “respect” in this post is synonymous with proper greeting etiquette and other actions such as using “eh” instead of “oh” to refer to someone. It is calling someone “brother this or sister that” instead of solely by their name.

It is not the same as the dictionary definition of respect which is: a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.

This automatic way of equating customary respect to the real meaning of respect which Nigerians do A LOT, is my issue. I have no issue greeting anyone properly but this does not mean that I automatically respect this person. By definition respect is elicited by some type of action from the other person. Therefore, a person that wants respect should also act in a manner that is respectful.

There are many situations where older people take advantage of automatic respect. I know of situations in which an older person will send a younger one on a thousand errands and instead of showing appreciation, the older person will still insult the younger person for not doing the job well enough. Even basic attributes such as being nice and caring are ignored. This is due to the fact that some older people think that they can talk however they like towards younger people. This issue may seem minor, but it actually transcends to bigger issues in our society. For example, sometimes a younger person will be expected to perform mundane tasks in the workplace such as cleaning up or serving as an unofficial personal assistant for older staff members. This can occur even when it is not a part of their job responsibilities.

It is no surprise that this respect culture affects our political landscape. Many of the same people from our grandparents’ generation are still in high ranking positions. There are many talented, highly qualified young people but they are made to wait their turn. Even those more qualified than their boss serve as assistants to them. The older generation is not making room for the younger generation to lead. These men (and some women) would rather die in power than give the youth the respect it needs to take over. It’s not just a matter of control but it is also the fact that the older ones feel they must remain on the throne so people can give them what I term “yes sir, yes ma” type of respect.

I love my culture and I am not here to slam it. Through it I’ve learned the importance of showing respect which is important in any society. I intend on passing this culture onto my children. However, my children will also be taught that they also must command respect and not simply demand it. In 9ice’s voice: “respect is reciprocal ori o j’ori, base b’eru la b’omo. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Jhogan

Patience Wumi Olanitori is a healthcare administrator and an aspiring novelist. She believes in living outside the box and thereby does not confine herself to one idea. She explores all her interests which include traveling, reading, writing, meditating, spreading positive energy and serving others. Find her on Instagram: @Patiencewumi Blog: http://jiriaworld.com

75 Comments

  1. zeal

    October 21, 2015 at 10:13 am

    Hmmm, Wunmi Dear, na so we see am for Naija o. However my case is different because I never grew up calling my elder ones ‘brother or Sister’. They actually detested it even when my aunty demanded we do same. So I never call anyone brother or sister because I no sabi fake my life biko, If you feel not calling you brother or sister means I am a disrespectful schild, Nna Mehn, you are sitting on a long thing biko

    • NIRA

      October 21, 2015 at 2:33 pm

      It’s easy to detest African culture and all that make us different (in a good way), yet when they go to Asian countries, they’re bowing and courtesying like their life depend on it. O di mma!!

  2. beauty

    October 21, 2015 at 10:23 am

    I agree with you totally… If I feel you’re not worthy for my respect and I find myself in a situation where it is mandatory to greet you, I greet without saying Sir/Ma sef. Nigerians have taken this respect thing and ‘don’t you know I’m older than you’ situation way to far!

  3. Alozie Bright

    October 21, 2015 at 10:33 am

    You guys are part of the problem of this country, most of u hv lost the African value and embraced western culture all in d name of bin civilised.

    3
    • Natu

      October 21, 2015 at 11:09 am

      Lol @ embrace western culture. Yet you speak English and worship white jesus. Africans are funny people.

    • TheRealist

      October 21, 2015 at 11:37 am

      How’s calling someone “brother” or “sister” any more ‘fake’ than African-Americans referring to each other as “brutha” or “sustah”? It’s never been meant in the literal sense, but merely a term of endearment or community (or, as some have posited, in specific cases because most African languages do not have a corresponding term for extended family, cousins or relatives).

      1
    • TheRealist

      October 21, 2015 at 11:42 am

      First, nothing in his/her post suggest that he’s embraced ‘white jesus’ but one can embrace western culture while retaining the essence of African culture – both are NOT inherently mutually-exclusive (for instance, most of us can speak both African and Western languages). The trick is not to lose perspective.

      2
    • Odididi

      October 21, 2015 at 12:28 pm

      Did you just say white jesus? No need saying anything to you!! Ekene kwa m gi! U no follow!

      1
    • S

      October 21, 2015 at 12:37 pm

      And you use internet to read bella naija posts and of course use electricity 🙂

      1
    • Nuna

      October 21, 2015 at 12:42 pm

      This girl just cant read

      1
    • ATL's finest

      October 21, 2015 at 1:39 pm

      @ Natu huh???? “White Jesus”??? Hmm imma keep it pushing Next!!!! Smh what a ridiculous comment – so typical of U anyways.

      1
    • vivian

      October 21, 2015 at 3:06 pm

      Natu DO YOU HAVE A LIFE OUTSIDE OF BELLANAIJA
      Do you have a man at least, cos clearly you dont, You live here.
      Natu everywhere. You can always tell a person does not have a life by how much they frequent blogs and all social media. I catch up on BN once a week and read all the past post and gist i missed and it seems you are everywhere, Na wa for you ohh. Try and get a life out of BN a bit okay. 🙂 🙂 🙂 this is so sad 🙂 – Natu Natu – i dey hail una. 🙂

      2
    • Natu

      October 21, 2015 at 4:35 pm

      @vivian you are funny. I don’t have a life yet you are also here commenting. Stupid niggur!!! @ATL here you are again suckling on my tities. This is that last time I am warning you. Get off my -.

      2
    • Dayo

      October 22, 2015 at 12:27 am

      @S, what does Internet and electricity have to do with “western culture”?

    • PACE

      October 21, 2015 at 11:52 am

      If by advocating for our outdated culture and views on issues to evolve with the times, I’m considered as part of the problem of Nigeria I’ll rather be considered as the problem itself, not just a part of it. Ideally, culture should be dynamic and not static. Times are fast evolving, we can’t keep doing things the way our fore-fathers did things. Our culture was formed by them to the best of their understanding. These fore-fathers of ours had little or no exposure nor education. You don’t expect myself in 2015 to rub my chin on the floor to greet an older person to show I ‘respect’ the person when my understanding of respect differs from that. Adhering to our outdated culture is actually one of our greatest problems. A culture that is quick to judge based on perception of a group of people over time rather than judging based on the individuals’ actions or character. I am a Yoruba man and will wear an agbada and fila all day anyday. But ask me to rub my chin on the floor to show I respect an older person, I’ll pass on that.

    • TheRealist

      October 21, 2015 at 12:20 pm

      Sorry, but I think that you are confusing culture with it’s symbols. For instance, our culture is respect for elders. Whether you choose to scrape your chin on the floor (just as the Brits bow or courtesy for royals) or simply remove your hand from your pockets or your waist is merely its symbol.

      1
    • NIRA

      October 21, 2015 at 2:36 pm

      When you go to marry a Yoruba girl, don’t greet your in-laws properly and see what will happen to you. Please our culture should be respected and preserved. You call an Hausa man or an Efik woman ‘my sister’ or ‘my brother’, then you can’t call your elder sister ‘sister Oby’?!!

      1
    • Sem

      October 21, 2015 at 5:00 pm

      My firend sharap there…You obviously are not married and if you are you are probably not married to a Yourba girl or you did not do the traditional marriage/engagement cause if you did that chin you are so proud of and believe cannot rub the floor will rub it well when begging for your wife’s hand in marriage. Prostrating for someone is part of our culture why is it that Nigerians are so quick to throwing their culture away simply because they wanna look kool, feel acceptable or believe the culture is outdated. Adopting Western styles and incorporating them in your life alongside your Nigerian culture is very possible as either one is not mutually exclusive. In Japan and many other Asian cultures people still bowing their heads as a sign of respect yet Nigerian is not as developed or advanced technologically, culturally, educationally or economically as many Asian countries such as Japan, China or South Korea yet these countries do not lose their culture in the process of accepting Western culture so why must Nigerians lose their own…people need to think…

  4. whocares

    October 21, 2015 at 10:38 am

    The greeting customs I do not have a problem with as every custom have their own signs of respect.. Mr/Mrs did not just originate to describe married people, but it is a sign of respect, the Indians say”Sere for the man or chechi to refer to an older woman” (I can’t spell that well) lol so automatic respect as it concerns greeting I have no problem with at all. The kneeling business is hard sha. Most adults now simply make do with a show of kneeling. you don’t actually have to do it fully as we all understand that all this high heels business just gives us orishirishi back and knee problems. loool. unless its your grandma or those great aunts I will kneel fully cos I dont joke with them. I have no problem with that. It is entrenched in every culture and that is mine. So be it.. However other things I do have a problem with it and I agree with it. It all begins from the home. The one thing my mother and I always fight about is how she thinks she can say all manners of unfair things to me and I have to keep mum and take it (ha ha see what I did there? mum? mother? lol. oh am too funny! ). I don’t. If she is being unfair I tell her. In as much as I respect her, she does not even have to respect me in turn as that is not how Nigerian parents roll from what I have observed (not all of them of course) I am content with her just acknowledging that I am a human being too with feelings. So those adults that like to misbehave, I never let them get away with it. Its not about reciprocal respect for me (which ideally it should be, but I wont hold my breathe) I just demand to be treated right on the basis of my humanity shikena.
    As for older people not giving younger people the opportunity to lead, I think its a bit of a stretch that, but I do get what you mean to an extent. Some people think their age is a better judgement of their experience as opposed to experience itself! ha!

    • whocares

      October 21, 2015 at 10:43 am

      I should clarify.. I think it is a stretch to posit that the greeting customs affects the need for older people to give room for younger people to grow. . I think its greed and selfishness plain and simple. Also a lack of imagination. Why die on top of a post when you could transform that position, do better, move higher and leave that post to younger ones behind you? Laziness is what I think causes that.. but that is a topic for another jare my dear sister.

  5. Hereeneve

    October 21, 2015 at 10:40 am

    Its so true. I never saw anything wrong with the customs until I had a change of environment and discovered that some people just don’t greet in the morning. This was contrary to how I was brought up. It took a while for me to understand such people….that they don’t greet you in the morning does not imply ‘beef”. I also dropped the ‘kneel finish’ thing a long time ago….whoever isn’t satisfied with me just curtsying should go and hug transformer. Speaking of respect-I’ve heard people insulting their “aunties”, saying things like “anti oshi”(stupid Aunty). I agree that respect isn’t in what you prefix before people’s names.

  6. www.eniwealth79.blogspot.com

    October 21, 2015 at 10:53 am

    Worse is, the so called ”elderly or older ones” forget that just like they’re growing one is growing too. They tend to impose their ideas/opinions on one at any given opportunity.

    • TheRealist

      October 21, 2015 at 12:03 pm

      Sorry, but MTV (and increasing social media) “impose” more ideas/opinions on us than almost anything most elders can tell us. Older folks have gone through some of the experiences that we are presently going through (true, it was in a different era but underlying human motivations remain largely the same), so they try to share the acquired “wisdom” (questionable or otherwise) of their experience – sometimes irritatingly unsolicited (lol!). But, if you have been raised well and perhaps had the benefit of a sound education (not just school), then it is easy (even beneficial) to listen all manner and shades of ideas/opinions and then make INDEPENDENT decisions of yours.

    • MadamD

      October 21, 2015 at 1:12 pm

      Example, MIL dearest. When I object she starts complaining. I ain’t buying all her market na by force?

  7. onyx

    October 21, 2015 at 10:55 am

    First part of this article is what I was ironically just discussing with my colleague yesterday. This pull down of everything relating to African culture. Dear Patience, greeting those older than us in a certain way is who we are abi you expect teenagers to wake up in the morning, see their dad and say “hi pops” like its done abroad? Smh. In jand, Indians, Arabs and most orientals uphold their culture in dressing, speech, etiquette and the whole nine yards but it seems like in naija being western and everything in between is the new fad. Our kids speaking britico English without any grasp of the mother tongue is a thing of pride and the more foreign our outlook the better. Make una kontinu. The other part I agree with but this write up could have gladdened my heart without the greeting bit and what not @ the beginning.

    • shior!

      October 21, 2015 at 11:17 am

      The world is becoming one big global community. that means people are picking and choosing from various customs and traditions. Internet and telecommunication makes it easy for people to be exposed to other cultures. We take the good with the bad. You are prbly happy with someone serving Chinese food and wearing India/ Arab outfit for their wedding with the DJ playing Western and afro beats and their honey moon in Ghana. Well, the flipside of these is that as people r exposed to these diverse culture, they can question some part of their local culture and adopt another.

      You spoke of Indian/ Arab cultures, well I will tell you this, I know of plenty Arab/ Indian people and it is the same. Indian friends go to their temple, wear their outfit, celebrate diwali but then also celebrate Christmas with a big tree and all.

    • thank God i'm Nigerian

      October 30, 2015 at 5:51 am

      My dear you are so right, Africans just want to throw away the things that give us our dignity, morals and values, the things that make us us, dont believe the western depiction of everything African as worthless, dont! ppl saying the world is changing and we should too, let me tell u if you dont hold on to something strong and good in this world u will be blown away with evil changes. before leaving naija I was just so involved with western ways of doing things but my dear, I came to America and my eyes just seriously opened, as in our culture for the most part is what keeps us in line and keeps us from being like most westerners. what is wrong with yes ma or yes sir for crying out loud? oyibo ppl that don’t do that does it mean they also don’t still talk bad behind their elders? I say here I have seen little children just spewing ugliness out of their mouths towards their parents and eldrrs and nobody does anything, anybody her in America will tell you how morally decadent and just off they are, that respect and a lil fear and sense of responsibility and values that were instilled in m while growing up is the reason why in my work place they respect me and know I cant do some nonsense things and I wont stay around gossiping instead of working, that naija culture is the reason why no matter what I face in life I remember the strength of our fathers and mothers even when they have nothing and the govt does not care about us and that in turn gives me strength to fight on, that naija “unreasonable, local, yes ma yes sir” culture is the reason why im more calm and mature compared to most of my American counterparts here, and that naija culture is the reason why I can respet myself here, keep out of trouble and appreciate the simple things in life they take for granted here because I and my naija people know what suffering means. of course im not saying there are some parts of naija mentality that needs to change, but for the most part its okay. Nigerians here are known to be hardworking, not troublesome and successful. when we then follow the western way which is not wholesome I promise you, we will lose our redeeming qualities. I came here and just embraced my culture with so much force, with my accent on full blast, no forming and that makes me stand out and so interesting to them, they even want to know more about where im from and im telling you when my co-workers or manager or coursemates need advice, they come to me. the western world is not everything its cracked up to be oh, heeeeh, its reasonable people here that understands this, pls people hold tight unto your culture, traditions and africanness, don’t lose urself to fit in with away people, it is extremely, definitely not worth it.

      1
  8. shior!

    October 21, 2015 at 11:09 am

    other actions such as using “eh” instead of “oh” to refer to someone

    In some cases a woman is expect to call her husband and his entire friends and family “eh”

    • nunulicious

      October 21, 2015 at 1:36 pm

      would be nice to know your thoughts on the the french who use “tu” and “vous”

  9. Ade

    October 21, 2015 at 11:27 am

    Fantastic!! Our culture is so outdated and doesn’t reflect the world we live in. While we are at it, I think we should all start calling out parents by their first name like oyinbo people do. Oshisko… Make una all kontunu….

  10. Missthain

    October 21, 2015 at 11:29 am

    This write up was long overdue. I am a Nigerian Yoruba girl and I understand you completely. I come from a home where we don’t have to get on our knees to great our parents, a hug or a smile accompanying “Good morning/afternoon mum/dad” is just fine. It gives us the platform to relate better with our parents, we don’t have to be scared, everything is all about love in our home. And funny how we grew up way better than most of our neighbours kids. They used to complain we were too white back then but where are they now? RESPECT need to start being defined differently in our homes, that way it radiates into the society.

    Being respectful is something that is required everywhere in the world; whether you are white, black, Asians or whatever race you are in whatever country you come from. Now I leave in South Africa where everyone is called by their names, I work in a company where my boss is 70+, I call him by his name but that doesn’t mean I don’t respect him… I mean he’s a professor for crying out loud so you can imagine his status. He’s very calm and ready to listen to you, he greets before you do and I can say that about most people I’ve met. It gives us a platform to relate and learn from one another. You are never too old to learn and just because you are older doesn’t mean you know it all.

    BUT ONE THING I OBSERVE IS THAT, PEOPLE WITH INTELECT AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS DON’T DEMAND RESPECT, IT IS AUTOMATICALY GIVEN… BECAUSE WHEN YOU SEE THEM OR HEAR THEM SPEAK YOU KNOW! ONLY EMPTY PEOPLE WITH LOW SELF ESTEEM FEEL THE NEED TO CRAVE RESPECT…

    Most African countries are slowly rotting away because of this issue without knowing it. Yes we must respect each other, but it doesn’t exclude the older generation being respectful to the younger ones. In the Nigerian environment everyone look down on each other, wanting some type of ass licking respect… usually screaming out “Do you know who I am?” I mean who are you and why do you have to make that a point, we are both human as much as I care. RESPECT IS EARNED NOT DEMANDED!!!!!

    • Bella

      October 21, 2015 at 11:56 am

      I agree with your caps comment!

  11. @BossRicky01

    October 21, 2015 at 11:46 am

    I have been waiting for a write up like this for a long time…glad someone wrote this. GOD bless you. Wunmi, please don’t buttress nor give any sort of explanation to anyone to stating your point(you have said it all). This “respect” thing is an issue especially in Nigeria, not to mention the work place(my advise is when you even respect yourself, the ones who want “sir” and “ma” would even want you roll with them) On the contrary, i have no issues with “sir” or “ma”(not like it’s even necessary) or “Mr” and “Mrs” (this is better than anyways). Just because i call you “Brother” or “sister” does not mean i “respect” . In the end, whatever you sow you will reap – whatever you call others, you must be called -however you respect others, you will be respected.

  12. Sumone

    October 21, 2015 at 11:52 am

    I get the point of the writer. However, in as much as i’m not particularly a fan of the kneeling completely greeting, i can’t shy away from it whenever it is necessary. What i have a problem with is when these “adults”/”agbalagbas” take advantage of the whole concept of respect. Even simply adding or subtracting good before the morning or afternoon is an offence. If i were to say morning to the adult, it would be an offence. yet in most cases, when you say good morning or good afternoon, the reply you always get is morning or afternoon. What happened to the good in front of the morning or afternoon. I don’t just get it really. Naija and their misused idea of respect.

    1
  13. TheRealist

    October 21, 2015 at 11:52 am

    BTW, I disagree with the writer that customary respect is often confluenced with (or mistaken for) respect of one’s action. Nonetheless, the so-called “customary respect” should always be presumptive. It is the respect that we should always bear not just towards our elders but frankly towards everyone else (including domestics, the local store help, etc). Such presumptive respect should only start to peel if/when the ACTS of each such other person erodes the presumption that he/she deserves respect.

    1
    • whocares

      October 21, 2015 at 12:20 pm

      Ahh thank you!! This is it. I was going to write something to this effect as well. Yes sir, or madam should not be equated with respect its simply good breeding and you always put your best foot forward. I honestly have no problem parroting a yes sir or ma it takes nothing off my skin and I extend it as a sign of goodwill. If however actions from the adult in question do not match up, then we will need to revise our stance. I absolutely agree with this. I may be blasé about this because I do not have to sir/ma people on a daily basis but if I had to, I honestly don’t think I would find it problematic. These sirs/ma actually have things we need. We need to get to their position, and then surpass them. If maintaining good relations with them until I get what I want requires parroting sirs/mas? fine. I have come to realise that adults like people who are inclined to be respectful towards them, but also have a backbone.

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  14. Tega

    October 21, 2015 at 11:57 am

    please don’t touch the greeting culture don’t touch it! I remember something peculiar that happened to me, i had gone shopping and i had a couple of bags i was struggling abit with came down from the bus and started walking home, the next thing a couple of kids 10-12 came and were like we want to help you carry ur bags, i was skpectical and said no thank you the next thing the kids snatch my bags run infront of me and start bringing things out, shey i wanted to cry ehen… a guy walking behind me ran and helped chase the kids, i could only imagine their future. please don’t touch the culture it has helped us a great deal

    1
    • Ayoka

      October 22, 2015 at 2:05 am

      Tega ?????

  15. Confused

    October 21, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    Funny I just had an encounter this morning, I have this former boss who keeps asking for professional favors even though I no longer work for him, he even buzzes me on weekends for job related things imagine?? I put up with it bcos he gave me my first shot after NYSC to which I’ll always be grateful but there comes a time where one has to draw the line between being used and being respectful. I told him no I can’t help you this morning for the first time, I said I have a lot on my plate, I was even nice enough to say hook me up with your subordinate I’ll put him through but no way all hell broke loose I started getting phone calls, did you really tell oga no this morning? What did you eat this morning that you spoke to Oga like that? I was just weak they take this respect thing too far I should have a right to say yes or no nah….when I’m not a slave hian!!!!!

    • TheRealist

      October 21, 2015 at 12:11 pm

      @Confused, your situation sounds less like one of respect than one of managing expectations.

    • molarah

      October 21, 2015 at 2:33 pm

      Exactly o. This one is not really a respect issue. In fact, someone that is your age mate can behave in a like manner if you don’t set boundaries properly.

    • The real D

      October 21, 2015 at 2:19 pm

      @ Confused, I am curious as to how the conversation went down. A few years ago I was having problems at work, infact, in my mid-year review that year my then boss accused me of insubordination. Why? Because I had no problem saying no, I was already overwhelmed with my workload and was getting physically ill from it but they kept pilling on more, i naively believed that just saying no to more work after I had complained on several occasions was the answer. But it only got me on the wrong foot with all the bosses and not one of them is African or African American sef. Then a friend who worked in HR said this to me, never say no at work because either way you slice it they still make you look bad. She told me just say yes but never get around to actually doing it, once they see you are too busy to get anything additional done they would back off. When they ask just say oooh I have been so busy doing this and that and I’m so sorry I have not been able to get to it, is it possible to get someone else to do it cause I am completely swamped and don’t really know when I will be able to get to it (but don’t say all this until the initial ok and a follow up, you should never be the one to contact them/follow with them, let them come to you). When you do this once or twice they will get the message. Wisdom is profitable, check, they even hired someone to assist me (something I had been wailing about for the longest time).
      Yes, there are times it is ok to come out and just say no but in a case like mine or like in your case where you really did not want to burn bridges with this dude a little tact should have been employed.

    • confused

      October 21, 2015 at 2:55 pm

      Wow!!! thanks so much really learnt a lot from your reply, would use this approach going forward.
      What I was trying to say was that he took my saying no as a sign of disrespect, biting the finger that fed you kind of thing… oh well

    • The real D

      October 21, 2015 at 3:47 pm

      @ Confused, I am glad I was able to help. And yes I do get your point. Dude saw your saying “NO” has being disrespectful just as my none African bosses, hence,the insubordination accusation. My point being it is not a Nigerian phenomenon.

    • Passing by

      October 21, 2015 at 5:47 pm

      But that was an ex boss, @confused no longer works for that boss so he has a right to say no.

  16. Olufunmi

    October 21, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    What is the problem with this society gan sef? We just want to be western by force! We are Africans and what makes us so is our culture and tradition. Yes, some areas need modification but our culture must remain and be passed on to our children. Even if you don’t respect the older ones, greet them like that and properly too! Not to sound tribalistic here but we all know that yoruba people are quite respectful and that’s why some people like them. The only problem I have is d older ones not respecting d feelings of d younger ones and we can work on that. Even if the current older ones are disrespectful, we will also grow old, so we must endeavour to treat everyone with respect but this doesn’t mean that I won’t greet my parents well anytime I wake up or I won’t greet older ones well too. If we want to copy the western culture, we should copy the good part and sustain our culture please. BN, post my comment, thx

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  17. Becca

    October 21, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    Culture is here to stay apparently. No matter how irrational, mundane or unnecessary. Deal with it. It is culture; we must embrace it and never bury it, no matter how unpleasant. You mustn’t be ashamed of it or try to dilute or westernise it, see how the south and east asians have kept theirs. So pls do ba le very well, kiss the ground and scrape them knees. Black knees are a sign of respectfulness to your elders and OBA, the orisha for domesticity and marriage. It will help you marry quick.
    Your elders must maintain their demi-god status and you are to obey in cheerful manner without question. It is culture! And also politics and religion. If we don’t enforce our culture of ‘auto-respect’ and obey without question how will the pastors eat? The rulers rule and loot? Employers exploit? Let us not shake the system; revolution is disrespectful to our fore, fore, fore, fadas, their old prescientific wisdom still stands. Plus the bible says rebellion is like witchcraft!!

    There are even calls in another post to revive the worship of Sango, Yemoja (Yemanja in Brasil, our slave descendants kept her firmly alive and elevated. Lovely festival, the brasilians really know how to celebrate), and all manner of masquerades and willy willies. Such a shame that we weren’t allowed to develop our traditional religions, I’m told. Though I think we have, we’ve mixed Christianity with our old religions to form cele.

    • whocares

      October 21, 2015 at 1:52 pm

      *rolls eyes until they almost pop*. I detest people that reduce arguments to the absurd (reducio ad absurdum) in other to make what they consider to be an intelligent point.. Yes, I am one of those people who was/ is nostalgic about our cultural religions. I do not think they should be swept away under Christianity/ Islam or whatever religion prevails today. I think it will be an absolute shame if in 50 years time they are considered myths and we barely have books or other things that captured what once was. As it stands, there is barely any such documentation besides yoruba movies. lool. Call me absurd for wanting to preserve a part of my tradition.
      As for kneeling etc, who here has parroted that they enjoy it? and who even does that or has the time to do that in their everyday lives? Yes, this is one of the unnecessary parts of our cultures I will admit, however it does not harm anyone. Although I realise my view might be slightly myopic in light of the stories I am reading so far ( @bus.- your inlaws na wa o.) I think it is for each individual person then to decide what to do when they meet the kneeling/ dobaleing mafia. But to denigrate the whole thing as yet another archaic institution? Child, don’t make me lose the blessing that I have managed to preserve all year long biko. (of course some of our cultures are archair and should be buried deep beneath the sea)

    • Becca

      October 21, 2015 at 3:35 pm

      You care.

      Very soon they’ll all be certified as the myths they indeed are, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate them for being part of our cultural history.

  18. Tosin

    October 21, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    i over-lavish the ma and especially sir. everywhere, everybody, younger, older, you can get that one for free from me. it costs nothing. plus i like my culshor like that. and i also like namaste culture, as in, respecting the divinity in others.

    online, maybe oyinbo rules apply. no need to kneel down on the internet, 🙂 though being Ekiti, (my Ekiti people wey dey kneel down greet judge for beauty pageant sef), we may even try that 😀

  19. pink lover

    October 21, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    Na wa. It seems like these days everything Naija is bad. We are just in a hurry to get rid of our values. Guess that’s just a relic of our colonial mentality. I agree that respect should be reciprocal and everyone should have a chance to defend themselves and speak up where necessary. However kneeling down to greet or saying ‘eh’ instead of ‘oh’ is a culture thing and should not be lost. My kids have to learn it irrespective of where we live abeg. Nigerians are the only ones I know who are proud not to speak their mother tongue. Indians, Pakistanis, Chinese and all the like over here teach their kids their language and culture. For the record I call my eldest sis ‘sister’ and use ‘eh’ for her but we are still as close as any sisters can be. So, No it doesn’t create any distance or barrier. anyway to each his own.

  20. bus

    October 21, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    My story right here.before I got married I just genuflect a little bit to Greet my parents and sometimes sef forget to greet them in the mornings and we never had a fuss about it.fast forward to when I got married,after 9 months of marriage my in laws held a meeting concerning my ‘disrespectful act’ of not kneeling with my knees pataapataa on the floor to greet them,their relatives and friends.kai ever since then anywhere I see them I embarrass them with ikunle,I mean anywhere even if na middle of the road and plss note that their kids don’t do this and they are well educated and travelled. In my own opinion ikunle isn’t respect in fact I do it so they can get off my case,and I have learnt to ‘ carry face’ when people give me the weird look when I greet my in laws anywhere.to let peace reign I do it.that’s all

    • vikky

      October 21, 2015 at 1:37 pm

      @bus that’s always the scenario, they look away from their own daughters and face the iyawo in the family as if she has committed an offense by marrying into their family.In the yes ma, yes sir culture, I have given so much respect I have been disrespected by being too polite, too respectful, too avaliable for my madam at work, notice how some nigerian bosses now become very rude and speak to you in slights once they see how respectful and probably kiss ass one is to them..

    • molarah

      October 21, 2015 at 2:37 pm

      Again, please understand that this is a clear case of abuse of the practice. That they don’t enforce this with their own children but expect you to do same is a sign that they are just being mischievous about the so-called offence you are creating.

  21. mosdef

    October 21, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    well…. i totally agree with what the realist said… just don’t lose perspective…. funny thing is i got the look that could rip ones heart out just because i was eating with my left hand in a restaurant… FFS

  22. The real D

    October 21, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    While I think I understand what message the author is/was trying to pass across, I do not agree with some points that were raised to buttress the message and that’s what people are bound to focus on. The hidden message I get from this are:
    1. Many in our culture believe you born into respect, I.e age and perceived status is what earns you respect, not your actions.
    2. Due to point #1. Many older ones do not respect younger ones to be able to take over positions of authority (This point I do not agree with).
    I have learned to appreciate and embrace certain things about my culture and this happened after relating with other cultures and understanding how embracing other peoples culture goes a long in enabling things run smoothly.
    Have you seen them Japanese bow so much you think one is about to topple over and you begin to wonder who would stop the bowing marathon first? It is done as a sign of respect.
    In as much as I agree that we have become extreme with regards to demanding respect instead of earning it. I believe point #2 has absolutely nothing to do with respect but greed and our inability to plan appropriately for our golden years. You see many westerners are richer after retirement for us it is the opposite, someone that was making millions can barely keep a roof over their heads once retirement hits so people want to cling to the source of that income as long as possible.
    The problem with respect in many Nigerian settings is not the kneeling or sir/ma but the fact as with most things, we have abused not only symbols of respect Per our culture but also the word respect. I mean my last boss always responded to me as ma’am because he felt my age and years of experience had earned me that and dude is as “white” as it gets, I mean he is downright country and more importantly, he was my boss.

    • Passing by

      October 21, 2015 at 6:17 pm

      Westerners are richer in retirement because they plan for retirement. Everyone as a retirement plan. We don’t have a planning or saving culture. That is not an excuse to hold on to power

  23. molarah

    October 21, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    Una don come again o. This campaign of “Hate-on-African-culture”. E no dey tire u ni?

    What I find amusing (and sad) is that these are all notions picked up from interactions with foreigners through work or schooling abroad (which the wicked traditional parents spent their hard-earned cash to pay for).

    Sometimes we need to chill OUT. Sometimes the saying “Don’t go breaking down a wall until you understand the reason that wall was built” is the word of wisdom for the situation. Sometimes we need to pick our battles, sensibly. What irks me is that we get exposure to foreign, advanced societies and all the application we get is how to question the practices that indicate respectfulness or thoughtfulness in our culture, but not those that perpetrate corruption, poverty or low regard for human life.

    My final question is, has kneeling down or prostrating ever killed anyone? All I ask is, has it?

  24. Cindy

    October 21, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    For all those of you shouting “our culture must remain”, “must we copy the west?”, please you all need to shut up. Stop taking things to the extreme. The author is not asking anyone to go on a disrespect spree so you all need to calm down. Like someone said, elders need to understand that as they grow, we young ones grow too. If I see a five year old kid and ask him to sit still, I expect him too. When we both grow older and he is 17 or 24, I shouldn’t demand the same of him even though the age gap is still the same. I think elders should try to trust the judgement of younger ones at they grow. Elders should always watch what they say because it goes a long way to affect a person’s psych. I grew up in a household where the highest for of insult you’d hear is “you are not serious”. (Is that even an insult?) Any way, something happened to me last night and I was so hurt. I currently stay with a family friend right now because of school and distance. I went out yesterday and I got back feeling very sick. I’ve always struggled with motion sickness since I was a kid. It gave me some insecurities especially when traveling with people that are not family. In fact I sometimes get sick within five minutes of getting into a car. Sometimes, I throw up other times I don’t. I gt how yesterday feeling very sick. When my aunt asked, I explained to her. The next thing my uncle said was ‘how do I cope when I travel home’. I simply told him I delibrately sleep off. He just went on a rant about how I’m too lazy and how I should find away to fix it and all. I was just standing there stunned wondering how suffering from motion sickness is my fault. It’s like blaming someone for their allergy. To him, it was that it wasn’t a big deal. To me, it was a major thing I’ve had to deal with all my life. What is my point in all this? As an adult, it is not your RIGHT to talk to people anyhow just because you were born years before. You have no idea how much your words hurt others. Let’s keep what is good from our culture and do away with those that aren’t. I’m sorry I don’t intend to sound tribalistic however all this trying to impress in-laws thingy going on with Yorubas is just asking. You have to call husband’s siblings especially those younger by aunty and uncle. For what exactly? Is it written in their birth certificates? Culture or no culture, everything you do should have a purpose. I believe that is why there is so much hypocrisy.
    I feel most people antagonising the author have younger siblings and that’s why it’s no big deal to them. This topic hits close to home because I’m the last child. I just started getting closer to my older ones recently when all the unnnecsary demand for respect stopped. I guess they grew up too and saw the immaturity in some of their actions. In fact my older brother asked me to stop with prefix brother and I just call my sister sissy now. It doesn’t mean I don’t respect them. In fact if you see us relate now compared to back then, it is obvious I respect them. At the same time I feel at ease with sharing my secrets with them because I know they are not their to scold but there to listen as brother/sister relationship should be. When I look at my family now, I just smile at how much we have all revolved and grown as a family. I used to hate going home before because of chores. They will just heap everything on me as the last child but thank God, everyone helps everyone. Now, I see home as my comfort zone not a zoo where I’m scared of someone calling my name. Okay, I’ll stop now. I just needed to rant.

  25. molarah

    October 21, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    I’m not done with this article…

    “There are many situations where older people take advantage of automatic respect. I know of situations in which an older person will send a younger one on a thousand errands and instead of showing appreciation, the older person will still insult the younger person for not doing the job well enough. Even basic attributes such as being nice and caring are ignored. This is due to the fact that some older people think that they can talk however they like towards younger people. ”

    On this issue, I think you should speak for the older people you know. I (and I’m sure several others) know older people that prioritize respect to their younger ones. That some people abuse a practice does not make the practice of showing respect in itself evil.

    “This issue may seem minor, but it actually transcends to bigger issues in our society. For example, sometimes a younger person will be expected to perform mundane tasks in the workplace such as cleaning up or serving as an unofficial personal assistant for older staff members. This can occur even when it is not a part of their job responsibilities.”

    Erm….this is kinda ‘standard’ practice in many workplaces, even in ‘the abroad’. Intern work responsibilities can involve a spectrum of duties including coffee preparation, errand runs, baby sitting, you name it. Whether it is right or wrong is up for debate, but don’t make it an “only-in-Africa” scenario. In a sense employers use this to gauge the newcomers’ level of responsibility and ability to manage duties beyond their immediate call. The caveat here is that young people as well should be able to decide what they want to get out of a job experience and not let their engagement be all about errand runs. A young person in this situation must learn to speak up and ask for responsibilities related to the skills they wish to get.

    “It is no surprise that this respect culture affects our political landscape. Many of the same people from our grandparents’ generation are still in high ranking positions. There are many talented, highly qualified young people but they are made to wait their turn. Even those more qualified than their boss serve as assistants to them. The older generation is not making room for the younger generation to lead. These men (and some women) would rather die in power than give the youth the respect it needs to take over. It’s not just a matter of control but it is also the fact that the older ones feel they must remain on the throne so people can give them what I term “yes sir, yes ma” type of respect.”

    My dear, we have a lovely traditional proverb that states “A child that learns to wash his hands properly will eat with the elders”. Rather than complaining that elders are not giving way to young people, how about you ask why young people are not being considered for positions of responsibility. Let me tell you categorically, there is a level of wisdom and responsibility that a young person will demonstrate that will leave the elders in awe and quickly make way for that person to rise to leadership positions. I have seen this happen, even in this traditional society of ours. Let’s stop asking to be carried up (which just stems from an entitlement mentality) and instead learn to grow and show ourselves worthy of the positions we desire.

    • Olufunmi

      October 21, 2015 at 6:00 pm

      I love your reply molarah. I couldntt have explained any better. If we want to copy the west, let’s copy the good part and find solutions to the problems of the country, not complaining abt respect in Nigeria and the other many irrelevant things we complain abt

  26. Weather

    October 21, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    It’s even the one at the work place that pisses me off. Totally uncalled for. Some people will even say things like “I am not his/her mate”. Is that what we are here for? In a professional setting, it is what you bring to the table that matters not your age, so plllllssssssssss!

  27. Pam Pam

    October 21, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    Ahhh, this matter is very important. That’s how some folks in this Lagos will say because I am from the east and I cannot kneel to greet an elderly person in Lagos, it means I am not respectful. lool. I laugh in greek.

  28. Damseldami

    October 21, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    This reminds me of the conversation or should I say a heated one about Mr saying I have to call his sis whom am 2 years older aunty I was like what??? Sibo? Er hell no her name is her name. What’s up with titles in Nigeria is not as if they gave them tittle when they named them kmt! Abi shey they will receive reward for that? Auntie ko iya ni

  29. Yue

    October 21, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    Corporal punishment must be put to an end.
    All these cutural beliefs that adds nothing to us must be put to an end.
    Parents controlling the lives of children or teachers, the lives of students must be put to an end!
    Full Stop•

  30. Dustifarian

    October 21, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    i didnt bother finishing the article because i got infuriated at a point. i am not saying that some irrational ways of thinking in yoruba land shouldnt be stopped; but why is it that you people are so damned adamant on killing the yoruba culture, for example it is almost a sin for children to speak yoruba now, see you people shiuld have a rethink and either go live elsewhere or just leave the yorubas alone. greeting isnt a bad thing, why complain about it. if you are a spoilt child, why impose it on others? FULL STOP

  31. Passing by

    October 21, 2015 at 6:03 pm

    I get why the writer started with the issue of greeting and respect before going into the lack of mutual respect our culture promotes. I do greet, i don’t kneel but I endeavor to sound respectful even when i think you are absolutely full of shit. i think all that should be left for social interactions. when it comes to work place culture, please leave that cultural respect at he door. Do your job and act respectfully to every one based normal courtesy and not age.
    I had an experience years back doing my housemanship in LUTH, a nurse who was mnuch older and had known me since i was a student did something outside of normal protocols and i called her out on it. I followed appropriate channels and had her reprimanded. She and her colleagues responded by complaining that I had no respect, for calling out someone who was using clinic materials to provide free treatment to a patient who was not even registered. she stopped greeting me or more like responding to my greetings. I eventually ignored her existence. I did advise her that respect did not mean looking the other way because it is deemed disrespectful to question your elders.
    Our culture is great but we have to realize that change is a constant. We need to evolve, keep the things that are beneficial and discard those that have not or cannot bring about progress. No one should be disrespected by an elder just because. I don’t do the Sister and Brother bullshit. I can count my siblings on my finger tips. I don’t let my younger cousins or siblings call be Auntie or Sister. No one can call me disrespectful but i will not be disrespected by anyone regardless of age

  32. Rotimi

    October 22, 2015 at 8:33 am

    If u don’t like the culture, stay outta the country. As in, honestly, people like this wunmi annoy the hell outta me. The French also have a reference tense in their language when addressing older ppl, much like the Yoruba e, or o. Look, to keep it very simple, we have a flipping culture, that’s what that is. If you don’t appreciate it, swallow agbalumo seed. All these ppl tryna change meaningful culture, that’s how the nonsense starts, eroding at our values, till we more or less mirror the west, miss me with that bullshit!!! Leave Naija/Yoruba culture alone. I bet she wishes she was born white so she could call her parents by their names, storm out on them, yell at them, shut the door in their faces, etc, ode. When u marry whoever you do, & give birth, your child can call you wunmi & wave at u, & her boyfriend can call ur husband by his name with no regard, that’s ur preference, that’s your life. Don’t attempt to make the nonsense that’s permissible in the west the Nigerian standard, ode. English speaking ode. Western philosophical jargon ti fo o ri e. Wo, if your parents didn’t do a good job of impressing upon you that the Yoruba culture of respect is sacrosanct, that’s your family’s problem. #IamDone

  33. Rotimi

    October 22, 2015 at 9:00 am

    Ok, apparently I wasn’t done, lol. Now, this is a very slippery slope. In Yoruba culture, the elder is entitled. Yorubas say agba di da, a fin re omode je ni. Now, this should in no way be construed as me condoning abuse, cause I don’t. But this new generation of Nigerians are drunk off that western liquor, the cultural imperialism is promoted through the Internet, western shows that support western ideals, just put on Nick or Disney & see what ur kids are being programmed to think is universally right. Ten years from now, someone as culturally insensitive as wunmi is gonna start a #StopProstrating campaign, positing that it is demeaning & damaging to self worth or value. Twenty years from then, this little ‘e, o’ she lightly touched on, unYoruba Yorubas will start crusading against it. & then someone is gonna tell me change is constant, let’s evolve, please, there is also something known as de-evolution. Not all change should be welcomed. & on Easterners in Yorubaland, if there’s something Easterners do in particular to show respect to their elders & I was in the east, I would do it. It’s called cultural sensitivity. & it is only sensible.

  34. Koffie

    October 23, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    I have no problem with addressing people with ‘sir’ or ‘ma’ (no matter their station in life). It doesn’t bother me, nowadays, everybody na “yes ma’am”. I have no problem with addressing my older brothers as “Boda mi” even when we’re outside the country, or in a corporate setting. I have no problem with kneeling to greet the “Olori ebi” of my family or other old folks. I curtsy in greeting to my parents but if I were to visit my fiance’s house, I’d kneel to greet his parents not to impress them but because it’s a part of me. Subsequent greeting would be done with a curtsy. In fact, where I’m from, to show that you accept a daughter (wife) into your family, when she kneels to greet the MIL, the MIL would hold her halfway and ‘accept’ her in her arms (hug?).
    If I were to find myself in a different culture, I’d greet their elders the way the children of the land do it. Cultural sensitivity like Rotimi mentioned.
    The one part I don’t like, is when new wives in my family call me “Aunty Koffie”, ko jo mehn. I always smile and tell them firmly that I’m a small girl and I’d rather they simply address me as “Koffie”. One of them no gree hear, she con modify her own to “Sisi Koffie” just so there’s sha a prefix. I taya for the matter. I’d never address my husband’s sisters that are my age or younger as “Aunty lagbaja”. It all depends on how enlightened the family is that someone will be pressing P on top you didn’t add ‘Aunty’ even though you’re the same age.

  35. Julie

    October 25, 2015 at 3:28 am

    Hold fast to your culture as if it were precious gold. No harm in showing respect. Some things are meant to stay.

  36. nigerians are just precious *smh*

    October 30, 2015 at 6:23 am

    Lmao! Pam Pam e taya mi oh, ha si na if you don’t kneel and greet its one of the reasons they don’t like you and your people, you know, as if kneeling and greeting guarantees genuine respect towards the recipients of the kneeling and greeting *side eye* nor be here we dey dem dey complain about am? lmao. ha si kwa na as an easterner in the land where they kneel while greeting, you kneel yasef down and greet! hahaha Nigerians are wonderful.

  37. Ola Yahaya

    May 9, 2016 at 6:48 am

    Big shame! You believe you are well acquainted with the Yoruba culture, that you have used an English word (RESPECT) to describe a Yoruba act. “be humble towards elders”, that’s part of the norm, that makes us who we are, would you be proud thats it’s in your time/age a tradition is lost? And as a Yoruba boy, I go “pschew” for you.

    1
  38. Jay Fiji

    August 22, 2017 at 5:46 pm

    Nice read. it’s about time we start understanding the correlation between our flavour of respect and the effect on our socio- political landscape.
    The fact that you are pretty much forbidden to question the authority and competence of your elders means they assume a state of infallibility that is detrimental to progress, dialogue or any chance of more capable person having the chance to have an input.

    What’s sad is the criteria for respect extends not just to age but also social standing, name, wealth etc. and rarely on to a person’s actual relevant experience. And like the blogger stated, that’s why certain names just never seem to go away on the political scene.

    Even as a child my older sister was infallible and still is today in the opinion of my father. Really winds me up.

    • Seun Olaoye

      April 2, 2019 at 9:51 pm

      Yoruba will forever be synonymous with respect. E shey o..

      1

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