Between people's traditions and the speed of information flow


Sango (the god of thunder and fire) was a powerful king in yoruba land. he was powerful and brave man before he ascended the throne of his fore fathers and when he became a king, his activities continued to stimulate fear in the mind of his people. legends said he can speak with fire coming from his mouth when he gets angry, and he can dispatch thunder to strike at will and at any target ... such was the myth around him across the land.
But he had two equally powerful generals who joined him in palace when he became the king. Sango did not trust his generals especially when one of them disobeyed his order not to match in war against a certain town. so he schemed to have them both eliminated...but the event led to series of power plays and subsequent public personal battle between the two powerful generals. one of them lost and was killed by the other, Gbonka.
One day, the victorious general decided to move against him by demystifying the power of fire. he asked the men in the land to get the most powerful fuel in the land burn him alive. Happy that he was about to see the end of one of his enemy, the king gladly granted the wish. (some accounts said it was the king who order the burning alive of the general) Unfortunately, Gbonka survived without any injury and then returned to give the king ultimatum to go on exile of face disgrace.
Since his most potent symbol of power has been demystified, the king had no choice than exile along with his wife. to cut the story short, he felt humiliated and hence hanged himself on the way to his mother's town. some people heard the story of his suicide and, then spread it across the land. "Oba so" (the king hanged himself). it was a humiliating story for a once powerful and feared king.
To redeem his honour and reputation, his old associates and friends reportedly came up with a way to subdue the dangerous rumour that is destroying the ex king reputation. Sango was seen as a above normal humans and a god among men.
so they they observed and targeted every single person and groups who uttered and spread the statement "oba so" (the king hanged himself ).. they (the distributors of the offending rumours) woke up one day to find their houses and properties destroyed by fire. Thunder, reportedly struck them. This continued for a while and created even bigger fear in mind of people who came to believe that sango was punishing those who spread the malicious rumours. They eventually stopped the rumours and changed the narrative from "oba so" (the king hanged himself) into "oba ko so" (the king did not hang himself).. It was only after this new narrative gained foothold that people began to see peace and prosperity...and confusion disappeared as everyone returned to their normal life. (the narrative varries but message is the same, oba ko so!)
in yoruba land, there are many instances where breaking bad news attracts severe penalty. for instance, the man who bring bad news to the king may thank his star if he escape the fate that awaits him. in similar way, you are more likely to hear some yorubas say, i am rich when in reality they are actually saying they are super broke and has no money.
among such taboos is also on the passage of the obas to world beyond. when the king died, yorubas generally say.. "oba waja" the king travelled. i do not know the origin of this but they dont break the news of king demise as do normal people. The kings are seen to be next to gods in rank and often reported to have gone to join their ancestors or traveled to next world. it was the tradition and it is the tradition.
Hence when the news broke that Oni of Ife was no more, i was intuitively expecting drama of sort and i told my friends that oba is not dead.."Oba waja".. we had some good laugh over my jokes. only for us to wake up the following day and read that the king is alive..and the next day, another news and then the news cool..., no one really sure of the fact again as the chiefs countered that argument and said Oni was alive. now the chiefs have succeeded in confusing most people who have now been forced to wait for tradition to take its course. is he dead or still breathing or they are only delaying official announcement in order to perform rite of passage? well, this is yoruba tradition, the question will unveil it own answer...wait and see...
Whatever the case, they have shown us all that tradition is still alive in Africa . and of if you insists on quickly breaking the barriers that tied the traditions to the past by using modern tools, then confusion awaits you till someone provides a clearer picture that neither side can fault. otherwise, like the story of Sango, it is clear that in the battle between tradition and modernity, there are bound to be some confusion until they found and strike the right balance.

Isqil Najim

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