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Rivalry (orogun sise) in African society

By Ilesanmi Augustine Lisa.


In the traditional society, the concept of rivalry in the sense of the Yoruba word Orogun sise has been misinterpreted as essentially feminine and related to matrimony.

Rivalry, far from being feminine, is a unisex and universal phenomenon which permeates all facets of world’s social, political, economic and religious spheres of human interactions in all societies of the world. It is the societal structure that necessitates the phenomenon of rivalry which unavoidably can be positive or negative.

Rivalry practice is not totally negative in effect and its manifestations treated from the social, political economic and religious spheres of human interactions in all societies of the world.

When people practice rivalry in healthy manners divorced of bitterness and negative consequences, they rarely employ the word rival to describe the participants. This is where the principle of friendship, togetherness and gamesmanship positively surpass the notion of rivalry.

The qualification for calling some people rivals in Yoruba culture, is the unhealthy ways by which situations which involve competition and sharing of our desired values hence selfishness as a relatively natural human character underlies unhealthy rivalry practice.

It is to be noted however, that rivalry abound in all societies of the world. It is this phenomenon that has led to the establishment of rivalry settling organizations such as the COURTS, UN O.A.U and UNESCO to  moderate people and settle disputes arising from rivalry.

In the social life, the genesis of rivalry experiences begins from youth. Man is naturally born and must be bred in human societies. At this level, interaction is compulsory un-negotiable where the peer group behave as if they are rivals to one another.

Rivalry phenomenon is a life-long experience which continue even after school age it is therefore, such as a phenomenon which begins from youth to the end of one’s life.

As a matter of further elucidation, a discussion of human social life circle is incomplete without a discussion of matrimony. To complete the lifespan of man.  Marriage seems to be the next necessity for the adult male who has started work after school.

Yourba like some other Africans tradition sanctions two or more wives for a single man, provided he can cater for them.  When Islam came, it also sanctioned polygamy, besides, African agrarian economy requires many hands on the farms to boost productivity. This need also encourages polygamy for men who by the patrilineal nature of the society own the farm. women of the same husband are referred to as Orogun (rivals / co-wives).

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On a different but related note, the same rivalry phenomenon is not markedly different from what obtains amongst workers in offices especially in the same units or departments.  More often than not, co-workers vie for positions and promotions to enhance salaries and wages. The         guest for headships of many departments units and companies may lead to rivalry among workers. This breeds enmity and envy as one of a major cankerworm that has eaten so deep into the fresh of government workers just like other people in the larger society. This is a justification that rivalry practice is not limited to woman alone. The act of being jealous as it is with women, so it is with men (owu jije, botiwa lobinrin bee lo wa fokunrin)

From the angle of political rivalry, where two parties exist, the seed of rivalry had been sown. One party usually acts as a detractor to the other.  In situations where a party is working to discover and show the faults, inadequacies and secrets of a rival party, the Yoruba would explain this kind of situation as the height of rivalry concept. This is because, the mode of operation by opposing camp is not different from how women practice their own rivalry.

One major area of rivalry in politics is in the area of political linguistics.  The antagonism and characteristics of political opponents find expression during political rallies which often culminate into physical combat, lynching and house burning.  This is especially so in some African societies. The term politics of bitterness best describes types of political rivalry practice which we have in mind.

Besides, right from the local government of political hierarchy of administration, wherever the need to vote for candidates becomes necessary, such candidates are viewed as rivals of one another. It is not uncommon to hear in world political register, such words and phrases as opponents, opposing camps or opposing parties.

In the economic rivalry in human societies, it is a known fact whether it is social, political or religious, the economic factor and gains not only permeate but is fundamental to rivalry in action, behaviour and habit. This is so, because, the three basic necessities of life –namely, food, shelter and clothing require some kind of struggle to meet them. This struggle requires the unavoidable need to step on other people’s toes, more often than not.

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However, to paint the picture of economic rivalry on a more sound perspective, let us examine the marketing situation, especially from the Yoruba viewpoint. What is traditionally and metaphorically regarded as the market is believed to be the centre of economic activities in all nations of the world.

Rivalry starts from getting good places that enhance or promote good sales. The kind of place is known as Iso (shop/stall) or selling places, where articles of trade are displayed. Usually, traders have to struggle for ideal locations in open and accessible areas. The assumption is that those in accessible places could easily be reached and make more sales than those in the obscure area. The situation of securing and maintaining Iso  (stall) often cause rivalry because those who sell less would be jealous and envious of those who sell more.

Consequently, various measures once often employed by traders to get better stalls (Iso). Such strategies may include bribery of those who have the legal authorities to allocate shops, warehouses or Iso. In addition, in most markets, the arrangements present avenues for rivalry phenomenon. For instance, some marketers are structured and arranged in such ways as to locate the same area of the market for the sales of similar trade items.  This is apparently to help customer know where to go for what items desired. In this circumstance, it is not uncommon, for traders/sellers to struggle for customers by calling or pulling their hands or clothes with the intention of taking them to their shops for patronage.

Furthermore, the same phenomenon is usually observable among commercial motorists especially in garages (motor parks). Quite often, commercial drivers are seen struggling for passengers especially when such drivers ply the same routes.

On another economic dimension, contractors struggle to get the same contracts in private and government establishments. In this perspective, such contractors are rivals undoubtedly, various means are used to gain the favour of those who award the contracts.

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From the religious angle of rivalry phenomenon in human societies is the descriptive terms of religious intolerance which can otherwise be termed religious rivalry Apparently, it is the practice of adherents of one religion to see those of other religions as heathens, enemies or unbelievers. This is a classical example of rivalry phenomenon in religious circles. This inter-religious rivalry can best be discussed from Nigerian experience especially in Yorubaland where three major religions can be said to lock horn regularly. This is especially the case right from the 19th century when Islamic religion came with colonialism till date

To begin with, the chronological embrace of three religions in Yoruba land are realized in the following ways:

Ayela bafa, Aye la ba male, Osan gangan nigbagbo de (we met ifa religion on earth, Islamic religion followed, Christianity came lately). Essentially, however, evidence abound to show that the three religions in Nigeria see one another as rivals, struggling to win converts and, possibly, destroy the image of other religions.

Apart from the above inter-religious rivalries, there also exist intra-denominational rivalries within a single religion. This is particularly noticeable in Islam as in Christianity. Within Christianity there are denominations Catholic, Anglican, Celestial, Penticostals, Apostolic etc, Christians that see one another as rivals. Also, within Islam organizational sects such as Ansar-u-deen or Hammadiya, Ansarudeen and the Jijaniyan society are denominations that see each other as different forms of the same Islamic religion.

The above exposition has led us to the following conclusion; our societal structure necessitates the phenomenon of rivalry (orogun sise), almost unavoidably. Thus, the layout and acquisition of human places of abode, their political views and lives, economic activities, the mode and choice of religions and social interactions are affected and largely influenced by the need for rivalry.

It is established that the mode of rivalry can be positive or negative. When it is practiced with the spirit of good sportsmanship, gamesmanship and friendliness, results in co-operation, compromise, concord and healthy living.  On the contrary, rivalry or bitterness breeds envy, hatred, conspiracy, war and even death.

Rivalry (orogun sise) in African society

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