African traditional tropes are rich and deep, with wise sayings, proverbs and lore helping in the embellishment that transcends mere decoration, to the level of enhancement of meaning. Little wonder that Chinua Achebe believes that proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten. Good enough, no Eurocentric proclivity made us to believe that western annotations of figures of speech were imported commodities that gave Africans the cultural richness that stands Africa out globally. Unfortunately, magical realism was borrowed to describe the weird and ghostly characterisations that have always been part of the African life. For the umpteenth time, there is the urgent need for Africa to purge itself of colonial mentalities in order to set a home-grown agenda for her growth.
As commendable as the language policy of the PMB government to get learners to be taught in their mother tongues (languages used in their environment) the first six years of their school life is, it is regrettable that teachers might have been left only with the debased forms of such languages, thereby also limiting the African notion of deep-thought. May Nigeria not continue to embarrass us all, as she exports her own crude for the purpose of living up to the irresponsible billings of reckless ‘imported’ consumerism!
One of the proverbs used to justify an action or dismiss a potently serious matter is the saying about the king’s goat eating his yam. This proverb was underpinned by the ordinary feeling one has, or reactions put up, when one loses something good or of interest to an ally. Yam is one of the crops planted by farmers in Nigeria, including the southwest, where the wise saying had its origin. Yam similarly could be processed to make few other culinary varieties like pounded yam, yam flour(Amala), porridge, etc. The process of peeling the yam before being cooked could in a domestic kitchen in a rustic traditional setting go give loitering goats, being common stubborn domestic animals, access and could bite off some part, or eat up the whole lump or tuber, if not expeditiously restrained. In the case of the latter possibility, the meal to be prepared would be aborted, and the person to be catered for may go hungry, if there are no immediate alternatives.
In such a case of atrocious behaviour by the goat, and in order to mitigate the severity of the hurt, it could be said that the king’s goat was responsible for eating the yam of the king, with the platitudinous proposition that the yam would help nourish the goat, which would also end up being eaten or sold by the king, at a time in the future. It is also implied that the ownership of the yam and goat by the king would make the matter less contentious, as different from when the goat is owned by a subject in the king’s community.
Expectedly, during traditional dispensation, the owner of the goat would have been heavily sanctioned by the king who has both cultural and political authority and influence on the subjects. Kings are today installed on the authority of government, which seemingly authenticates the fool-proofed but malleable traditional processes that precede the selection of the agency to be so crowned. Instructively, the clamours for more constitutional powers for traditional leaders are not lost, given the waned authority of kings in postmodern era. The Sultan of Sokoto is not afraid of the sledge hammer of government, analogous to the one Ganduje gave the former CBN governor and deposed Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, as he recently renewed his commitment to continue to speak truth to power. Depositions of traditional rulers by military and democratic governments remain one of the dangerous vestiges of colonial subjugation of congenital African societies’ worldviews that were nonetheless not absolutely congenial.
Cases of sexual violations, particularly incest, have been on the increase, reflecting the socio-cultural pollutions that accompanied postmodern realities. As I argued elsewhere, the issue of ownership of the body, its usage and enhancement, particularly in claustrophobic spaces, have reduced the female body to an endangered specimen, with alcoholic and drugged ‘manhood’ manufactured as the joy-stick with which sexual power is performed. Apart from instances of individual or gang rapes that have made victims of females across age groups, incest is one worrisome practice that tends to cut apart filial attachment and unification. Even though the oldness of the abominable act was, for instance, found in the indiscretion of the classical narratives of Noah and his daughters in the Bible, the pervasive propensity in contemporary times of high religiosity and bogus liberal civilisation calls for great concerns.
Incest is a sexual relation between close relatives, especially immediate family members and first cousins, and it is considered in most societies as taboo. Another form of incest is the emotional or covert incest which may or may not involve sexual overtures, which could involve either gender parent with either gender child. It is, however, mostly commonly found between mothers and sons. It is difficult to underscore this type of relationship within a family setting these days, when parental, particularly fatherly, cares towards children are commonplace. Sigmund Freud’s Oedipus complex is fairly but largely definitive.
While it is easy for parents to checkmate predators within and without the family in-grouping, parents remain unsuspected potential violators, as they are both the supervising and reporting authorities. For this, the family domain is a contaminated arena of bottled anger, slick escapades and dangerous whispers. Whereas the whispers would have to travel across the wall when shady sexual exchanges are done over barriers, such would get melted into ordinary conversations, as casual facial looks and moods would convey more meanings too difficult to decode, but only by the heinous partners.
The media waves are constantly enriched with unverified stories of incest, with some involving fathers that are equally ‘men of God’, whatever that means in a dispensation of wrong-naming and poor attributions. There have been situations when the wife of the violating husband and mother of the violated girl would be in the know of the atrocious dealings between the two sexual competitors, but she would become deliberately dumb, not to wash the dirty linens of the family in the village square. Such a feeling is done against the backdrop of the king’s goat eating his yam. The interest of the violated girl is often at best negotiated away on the altar of desperate push to protect family name and reputation, most especially the toga of spirituality that is now for most people mere emblem. Anyway, God knows those that are His!
Spousal sexual transgressions recently got revved up when a police recruit returned home after nine-month training to find his new wife pregnant for his brother. Japheth Aba from Nasarawa State was said to have travelled shortly after his marriage to his new wife who he could not impregnate before the compulsive departure, and he left her in the care of his stepbrother, Samuel Aba. Angela, the woman in question, claimed she was lured by Samuel to violate her marital vows to Japheth. Notwithstanding the other stories around the characters, this combustive sexual transgression would have been euphemistically dismissed as another instance of the king’s goat eating his yam, with little fuse as they would argue that nothing is new under the sun.
One artistic depiction that doubly treats the issue of incest and relational connection cum spiritual standing is Sophocles’ Oedipus the King and the adaptation of same in The Gods Are Not to Blame by Ola Rotimi. Both protagonists in the plays, Oedipus and Odewale, become victims of the modulations of the prescriptions by the gods, through Ifa oracle in the case of Ola Rotimi’s adaptation, leaving them to a fatalistic incest with their biological mothers, who simplistically are their circumstantial wives. Apart from the painful configuration of the protagonists as vipers, in the moulds of people who get trapped by vicious sex partners, the manipulations of spiritual processes in the texts remind one of the many suspicious nebulous things ongoing in traditional and orthodox spiritual engagements. Like I would like to remind us, as opined by Karl Marx, ‘religion is the opium of the people’.
As we pretend to think that matters of grave consequences could be seen as a case of the king’s goat eating his yam, we must note that wishing, hoping or praying would not give us a better society instead of being deliberate about emplacing a better human enclave. The many violations ongoing within the family setting must be exposed, to get psychically violated people healed of their toxic experiences that would make an aggressor of them later. Similarly, scientific processes might become desirable when spirituality is reduced to a mere exploitative tool by the few. If not for the redundant platitude of the king’s goat eating his yam, the oppressed would rise naturally against their oppressors, for rationalising their interests, to attain personal aggrandisements!