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Consciousness And Praise Poetry In Africa

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The praise poetry of Africans is rooted in our cosmology
which extols humans and non-humans. Professional praise-singers praise chiefs,
kings or noble men. Individuals compose their praise songs. They promote
self-feats, greatness and special attributes linked to paternal and maternal
victors and other credentials. The aim of the poetry is not to promote the
negative traits of self; ego, nor its doctrinal derivatives; hatred, vengeance,
selfhood and personalism. It is a form that encourages individualism that is
rooted in communality. The values promoted through the poetic medium must be
rooted in communal mind. It implies that every good oral poetic composition
that praises an individual should be linked to other individuals, who share the
values and have profited from the song. It is dangerous for singers in the
society to compose songs about the negative traits of individuals with the
intension of praising them.

Non human objects influence the lives of people. Their uses
are so relevant that praise-singers compose praise songs about them. One
instance from Ogoni is palm wine. It is praised as good drink which nourishes
people ad offers them better life. A lion could be praised as king of the
forest and may be juxtaposed with a man. An elephant that stands across a road
may be praised as the mighty one with several encomiums associated with its
strength and might. Praise songs of non-human objects derive from environmental
consciousness, valuation and, economic, social and geographical relevance
associated with them; they are not praised as objects in a vacuum, the people
are attached to them in relation to their environment.

One major principle of praise poetry is to extol. It depends
on the praise-singer who decides who and what to praise. It is rational to
praise the beauties and values of a society. It is aberrant to praise bad
qualities of a non-human object or a human. Praise songs rarely mixes abuse and
praise elements. Is it the rational praising an armed robber for his bravery?
It is an unwanted bad behavioural trait which threatens the existence of
society. It does not matter whether the person is the most gifted armed robber
that is never caught even when soldiers and police are sent to defeat his team.
He is a fit subject of abuse for threatening the society; making ridicule of
him is better with the ultimate aim of correcting the misdemeanor.

What are the values in a system or community? They are in
the reservoir of communal mind and are accessible to every communal user. The
praise poetry composer draws from the reservoir using the ones relevant to him
to compose songs. The Hausa community believes in the rich fending for the
poor. The praise singer does not fall to praise a charitable king whose
community gains from his benevolence. The Igbo believe in good governance which
is fair to the rich and the poor. A praise-singer praises a king who is upright
and fair to his people. It is applicable to the Yoruba who are of the opinion
that a good king fights for the protection and welfare of his people. Other
Nigerian communities adore their kings in similar and other forms.

The self praises in Yoruba are a subject of academic
inquiry. Are they unrelated to the society? Do they carry communal ethos and
values? If they are not, how can we say they are relevant to traditional praise
poetry? Some of the praise names derive from the positions of individuals in
the family. Taiwo and Kehinde, while others are linked to the community, Ade
and Oye. They show the roles individuals play in the family and the community,
or roles their parents played. In the case of the latter, the individuals carry
the consciousness of governance along with them which makes them share the
belief with their parents or grand parents that they are from royal lineages.
The consciousness is carried like a doctrine that offers expectations that may
be realised from available opportunities. Possibilities of governing in
institutions, associations and groups are not related to the praise background
but belief is a motivational factor which creates dreams for people, and could
make such persons expectant where they work. Good spirit catalyses desire into
valuable possibilities, this is why society promotes good values.

Names of the earlier refer to the positions in the family.
The first means first child while the second means second child; they have
their responsibilities within the family. The society gives priority to time
and rank within the family. The first child who comes first in the family is
given preference over the second in sharing small things like food and clothes
as well as other valuable property. This attitude creates order in the family,
the micro-unit, and the implication extends to and accommodates the macro-unit,
the nation. This is incidentally what obtains in most Nigerians states and
African countries. The remarkable difference lies in naming: the Yoruba names
specify the positions which honour seniority.

Epithets evoke qualities of individuals as well as non-human
objects. An individual is praised as the benevolent one, the defender of the
weak, the thrust-worthy friend and the victorious one, not merely to obtain
money from him, nor to get any other favour but to show him as a reliable person
who is selfless and serves many in his community.

Another person is praised as the commander, the
unconquerable lion, the python that swallows his enemies, the must-return in
sun and rain and the one who is swift like an eagle. These epithets make it crystal
clear that the role of the individual is to defend his environment. He is a
military commander who is very competent, he must have demonstrated valour,
military might and courage in previous wars.

Hyperbole heightens the qualities of humans and non-humans.
This is the nature of the figure of speech which may give the impression of
in-balance between reality and fiction. If the praises are deconstructed
through research into lives of the humans who are praised in a realistic
situation, uncoloured with poverty and quest for self realisation of the
composers and signers, the discovery is likely to be that epithets are true
evaluations of behavior, ranks, roles and social relations of individuals.
Hyperbole draw attention to them like hammer sounds on anvil in the ears of
those who are in the immediate environment of the goldsmith.

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Opinion

‘I Don’t Know What Came Over Me’

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Remorseful confessions such as “I don’t know what came over me”, have been quite many, coming after the commission of deeds of an impulsive nature. Human legal system recognises and also differentiates between crimes committed with “malice aforethought” or prior motive, and the ones committed on the spur of the moment. It is usually such deeds done on the spur of the moment that result in the remorseful outcry of “I don’t know what came over me”. But there is more to such statements that meets the eye. What is it that can come over anyone?
One Emmanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) a Swedish mathematician and philosopher, was one of the early researchers who did detailed study on what lies behind impulse actions of men and what “remote-control” element that lies therein. The work of Swedenborg was so elaborate and penetrating that a religious sect known as Swedenborgianism emerged in Europe and became a global movement. Yet, there is more to the issue of “unseen forces” than are contained in Swedenborgian philosophy.
People get excited or alarmed when they hear about “unseen forces”, but such anxieties or fears arise largely because of prevailing ignorance about such issues. Even religious teachers mix up what is natural, with artificially created “unseen forces”, such that confusions and false speculations arise. The situation gets worse and much more complex when issues such as witchcraft, hallucination often called “speaking in longues”, etc, are added to the realm of the “unseen forces”.
To begin with, there are innumerable Nature beings which are invisible to humans, representing and serving in the four elements, namely: fire, water, air and earth. So, such invisible beings can also be called Elemental Forces, so named because they represent the various elements and possess radiations endowed with force. The Nature beings or Elemental Forces carry out their services by means of the radiations natural to them, over which nothing can interfere with. This means that such Nature beings are not subject to any arbitrary influence except the Will of Whom they serve, with absolute obedience.
Therefore, those who talk about “marine spirits” etc must do further research. Only human beings of flesh and blood can be referred to as “spirits”. The Nature or Elemental beings are NOT spirits, neither do they possess freewill or personal volition like humans do. All errors, derelictions, disorder, impurity and other aberrations in creation emanate or originate from human being, via personal volition. Through the misuse and misdirection of personal volition, humans have created a wide range of artificial “unseen forces”.
Artificially existing “unseen forces” emanating from abuses of human volition, coupled with human passions such as fears, envy, hate and other emotions, resulted in a vast world of Thought-forms or Phantoms. Over a long period, various artificially created ugly forms, energies and radiations emanating from human beings, gathered together according to their kinds and formed centres of energy. Such energy-centres grow in power and intensity as more and more human emotions flow in to reinforce the contents of the energy-centres, which are invisible by nature. They are sustained by man.
Like electronic radiations, various thought-forms and energy-centres occupy and operate on waves in the atmosphere, according to the types of emotions and deeds which they represent. The fact that each energy-centre coalesces by the force of attraction to form a homogeneous unit, means that each of the centres becomes an “unseen force”. Each of such energy-centres is endowed with or possesses magnetic force, giving it the power to infect or flow into any human source that provides a link or access to it.
An appeal to, link or access, connecting an individual with a particular unit of “unseen forces” arises through intense provocation, causing a burning impetus or desire to do a deed on the spur of the moment. Then there is a magnetic flow of energy, coupled with strength, energy and everything else necessary to carry out the deed, on the spur of the moment. The connection or link comes like a lightening flash, taking possession of the brain and body of the person who summoned the appeal to an invisible centre of energy or power. Truly, such centres of power exist.
However, it would be quite wrong and untrue to attribute the existence of innumerable “unseen forces” to the Creator whose activity bears purity only. Neither is the construction and brewing of such artificial sources of energy the work of the devil. Rather, human beings are the architects, growers and brewers of the realm of horrifying unseen forces. The devil only took an advantage of a mechanism by which means human beings gave evidence of their utter weaknesses and inability to stand aright in the light. The entire mechanism of human derailment is worth doing a serious research into.
The mechanism whereby the human mind or consciousness lets in external radiation, force or entity is quite easy to research into. Keeping the Nature or Elemental beings quite out of the matter, two sources of invasion of the mind are the centres of thought-energy and then discarnate human spirit. An individual, groups or a nation can let corrupting influences deprive them of natural immune system available freely to diligent persons. Discarnate human spirit in the unseen realm of existence can take possession of living persons, using their brains and bodies as instruments of manifestation.
Quite a number of persons, including some of those we regard as great are rarely themselves, but are victims of what psychiatrists call split-personality. Discarnate entities, apart from thought-energy centers, do not just take possession of the minds of living persons. Rather, people put themselves into such danger by dabbling into fetish and occult activities or through intake of addictive drugs and hallucinogenic substances. From students to senators the Nigerian environment can make people prone to attraction of deleterious radiations or earth-bound dark souls.
Strong human volition and vaulting ambition can and do ignite contacts with unseen energy centres. Individuals live and move in the thought-energy which they allow to form their psychological environment and thereby provide a link with similar radiations from distant spheres. To guard our thoughts with utmost diligence is a valid and great admonition. Now we know what can come over an individual when he strays from this admonition. Herein lies real corruption!

By: Bright Amirize

Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

The Hypocrisy In Us

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Expectedly, since the news of the arrest of the Yoruba Nation activist, Sunday Adeyemo, also known as Sunday Igboho broke on Monday and the story about the federal government’s move to extradite him to Nigeria from Benin Republic keeps filtering in, many groups and individuals have questioned government’s recent hounding of separatist agitators while bandits, herdsmen and militias that have been terrorising the country keep getting away with their atrocities.
In a statement entitled ‘The reported arrest of Yoruba Nation crusader: Pursuing the shadow, not the substance’, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome, said “The same government that is suddenly effective in the cases of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho had never been able to capture kidnappers, bandits and Boko Haram that are daily ravaging us, turning Nigeria into a sprawling field of human carnage.
“They take ransom. Innocent school children are paid for. Where is the same government when kidnappers are demanding that the parents of kidnapped children should now be feeding them in their kidnap dens?”
Several Yoruba groups, the Middle Belt Forum, the Pan Niger Delta Forum, the Ohaneze Ndigbo and many others have also taken a swipe at the federal government over Igboho’s arrest and the apparent lopsidedness in the handling of insecurity challenges facing the country for decades now and other national issues.
Often, we have heard people in government assure and reassure the citizens that measures were being taken to address the security challenges which have claimed many lives and made many refugees in their own land. Yet, there is no evidence of such efforts.
At other times, they create the impression that the bandits, kidnappers and the insurgents in certain parts of the country are faceless even when some governors from that zone are seen taking pictures with them and Sheikh Ahmed Gumi, the self-appointed mediator between bandits and the federal government visits their abodes at will.
Meanwhile, the same government that seems helpless in tackling these problems in the North shows the stuff it is made of whenever a similar or even less severe situation arise in another part of the country. We are all witnesses to how the Nigerian security forces quelled the recent uprising in the South Eastern part of the country, killing and arresting battle-hardened members of the Eastern Security Network (ESN), the military wing of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
So, while some insurgents in one part of the country who have made the country a living hell for many people are handled with kids’ gloves, some other criminals and freedom fighters from other parts of the country are fished out both within and outside the country and dealt with. If that is not hypocrisy, I don’t know what else to term it.
However, while we oppose the hypocrisy and lopsidedness of the government in addressing security concerns in the country, we should not engage in the same hypocritical act by failing to condemn anti-constitutional deeds irrespective of whether we share the same faith, origin or political inclination with the perpetrators or not.
Some of these non-state actors apparently have spewed certain rhetoric that were capable of threatening the peace of their states, regions and the nation at large. They might be seen as freedom fighters by many people but in the eyes of the government they are a threat because some their words and actions were not in conformity with the law of the land. Is it within the rights of any citizen who feels marginalized or aggrieved to make any demand? Of course, the answer is right. But shouldn’t such demands be made in line with the constitution of the country?
The same way we want President Muhammadu Buhari and the security forces to uphold the constitution in addressing banditry and insurgency should be the same way we fight to ensure that the government prosecutes its job with the non-state actors who have employed non-constitutional means in pursuing their demands.
As alluded earlier, the reason why some people are demanding that Nnamdi Kanu, Sunday Igboho and the likes should be set free is very clear. We have a government that has shown every form of nepotism, abuse of the rule of law and is not adequately upholding its mandate of welfare and the security of the Nigerian State but if we continue to allow everything go, then the nation will be doomed.
 It’s just like Sheikh Gumi and the likes demanding that the bandits, after all the disservice, mayhem and chaos wreacked on the Nigerian state and the citizenry should be handsomely rewarded by being incorporated into the country’s security system, and be placed on salaries as a way of ending kidnapping in the country; or granting amnesty to some criminals under the toga of Niger Delta Militants.
In my opinion, such a fence-mending attitude cannot bring the desired lasting solution to the problems. Crime should be treated as crime. It is tantamount to hypocrisy to say that someone who has acted against the dictates of the constitution under any guise should not have his day in court. What we should rather be canvassing for is that the court process should be free, fair, transparent and swift.
Some people have always maintained that Nigeria has capable hands in the military, the police and other security agencies to deal with the serious security situation that has been our lot in the country for decades now, if only the powers that be are ready, willing and determined to do so. And the arrest of IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu in Kenya and Igboho has indeed laid credence to such insinuation.
We hope to see the same energy put in also in getting those who are within the walls of the country terrorising the nation to face the music as well. Most importantly, we need to get to the root causes of the separatists’ agitations across the country and address them sincerely and objectively. Because if we think that by getting Kanu and Igboho out of the way, the agitations will end, we might be deceiving ourselves.

By: Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

Consequences Of High Bride Price

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Bride price is payment made by a groom or his kin to the family of the bride in order to ratify a marriage.  It is paid by the family of the groom to their future in-laws at the start of the marriage usually in cash and materials.
Bride price in Nigeria varies from one ethnic group to another.  What obtains as bride price in Rivers State may be different from Kogi State in terms of cash and materials required by the bride’s family. Although there are a few similarities in the list of items to be provided by the groom in Nigeria. 
It also varies from family to family. Some families collect as low as N5,000 while others collect as high as N1,000,000.
There are criticisms that this African tradition of paying bride price to the bride’s family before marriage degrades a woman by putting a required monetary value on a wife.But those who support the tradition uphold it as a cherished cultural and religious symbol of marriage.
Some families see bride price as symbolic, hence they ask for less. I have seen a situation where the mother of the bride collected N30,000 and later gave it back to the couple, asking them to put it in their bank account so that it will serve as a “starter pack”. This shows that she wasn’t really giving her out for money.
In our local setting, a marriage is recognised only when bride price and gift items have been presented to the bride’s family.  It is important because it validates marriage to give a woman respectable status in the society as a wife.
The importance of bride price can never be over-emphasised. It is one of the highest honours confirming a bride’s value and womanhood, giving a husband the full rights to the economic and reproductive powers of his wife. It is an honour bestowed on the parents that their daughter is getting married.
I see nothing wrong in payment of bride price but in recent time, the issue of high bride price seems to be competitive among families whose daughters are ripe for marriage.It is alarming and heart-breaking how newly-wedded couples end up paying debts years after marriage. When demanding for high bride price, some parents do not realise the fact that the yet-to-be couple will plan for church and court (Registry). The Registry requires little token. Although, the clergy will not ask, but the couple need to settle one or two things in church. 
More worrisome is the fact that some parents demand a live cow from an in-law as if the lady is to be exchanged. I know of a culture where cow must be provided to her kinsmen by the surviving husband or children before a late woman must be buried. The claim is that the man didn’t complete the marriage rites before the death if the woman. This is just to extort money from the late woman’s children.
A young man was mandated to pay about N2million to the wife’s kins after losing her during child birth, simply because he never completed marriage rites. What about the welfare of the surviving child?
A situation where a basin of fish that costs over N200,000 must be presented in the name of bride price for a traditional marriage to be contracted gave me concern. 
A father also demanded about N1million as dowry for his daughter. For Christ’s sake, no amount of money collected as bride price can pay all the expenses from birth to University level of a lady as this is the dream of greater percentage of our parents nowadays. No amount of money can buy a woman. “Her value is inestimable”.
High bride price can cause disharmony between husband and his in-laws. A young man was lamenting that after his marriage, his in-laws can never be allowed into his family. This is as a result of whatever high bride price they would have charged.
High bride price can cause a man to exhibit violent behaviours when he remembers how much he paid. He gets angry at every little thing the wife does which can lead to domestic violence. The implication is that the woman will suffer in silence with the fear that the man may demand for the high bride price if she leaves the marriage.
Income from her job or personal business is seen by the man as his. She is being denied freedom on using her income and often leads to a situation where the husband must be consulted before any monetary transaction in the family. This leads to hostile marital environment and can destabilise the marriage.
Man dominates the woman in terms of decision-making. The woman has little say or nothing when issues come up in the home. He can say: “Don’t talk, I paid heavily”.
One of the consequences of high bride price is that if perhaps divorce occurs, the bride and the family, according to customary norms, have to return the dowry. If the dowry were very expensive to the tune of N1million, they may not be able to pay back.
High bride price encourages gender inequality. It reduces the power and prestige of the woman with the perception that she was paid for.
High bride price leads to poverty. A couple may have been forced to incur debts in the course of marriage. These are young men and women who are starting life perhaps after graduation and have not made enough savings. Paying back debts incurred during weddings for two to three years should be discouraged.
For many young men, withdrawal syndrome sets in when they remember that they have to provide as much as N1million to marry a wife. You see someone going to marry at the age 50 because he didn’t have enough.  Even the ladies are also affected here. Some men get scared of going into such families or ethnic groups for marriage.  When will they train their children? 
No matter the status of the groom, minimal amount should be fixed for dowry to avoid certain consequences in future. Family of the bride should take cognizance of the fact that their daughter deserves some comfort in her new home.
It is high time the traditional institutions worked through their subjects in the various communities to create awareness on the dangers of high bride price in our society. 
Community heads who are saddled with the responsibility of marriage functions and rites should be advised to cut down some of the items and reduce the costs of available ones.
I call on local government councils to work with traditional rulers, community and family
 heads as well as women leaders to come out with minimum and maximum amount of money and other items needed as bride price and dowry. 
It should be domesticated in the by-laws of the local councils across Nigeria.

By: Eunice Choko-Kayode

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