ENCOUNTER WITH ROYALTY: “PRIME PRINCE”

by
Babatunde Fagoyinbo

Story! Story!! Once Upon a Time

A little story to herald this work in order to show what we were prior to western civilisation. This man would be my age. The son of the Ǫba of my hometown. I got disgusted by his haughty walk-style. I didn’t grow up in the community so there was no interaction between us. Sometimes in 1968, I saw him in the vicinity of the Post Office of the Divisional He

Governance in Pre-Colonial West Africa

adquarter; with his haughty walk. I believed that it would do him a lot of good if I talked sense into his head.

 

I called him by his father’s name adding the title Prince. He stopped and turned as if was neckless. He was about one pole away from me and across the road. He couldn’t figure the person that called him. He turned back and continued his movement. I called twice more; the same way as the first call. He reacted the same way. The fourth time that I called, I signified to him that I was the one calling him. I knew that within him, he was furious after sizing me up. But he didn’t know me and thus could not conclusively decide what to do.

I stood my ground; implying that he should come over to me. He considered it for about three minutes and then complied.

I didn’t give him any breathing space when he got to me.

“You are… ?” I began.

“Prince……..”, he took it off me.

I marked that.

“What brought you to the Divisional Headquarter?” I asked.

“Just felt like strolling.”

“That’s about seven and a half miles!”

“I didn’t tell you I walked the distance” he retorted.

“You said you felt like strolling”.

He knew I couldn’t have been a military man; considering my age. Should he snob me and leave? He looked at me with disdain but reconsidered the situation. He wasn’t sure what would be the outcome of our meeting. But he was at a loss. Armed Forces personnel had stormed the headquarter twice and carried young men off for conscription into the force. On the main road, middle of the town, he was sure that I was confident of myself. I’d made up my mind that I would deal with him if he misbehaved.

“Did you know me before?” He asked.

“How would I have known your name if I didn’t know you before?” I demanded.

He noticed another of his errors.

He raised his left hand to rest it on my shoulder but I pushed the hand away.

“You don’t do that to somebody you don’t know very well!”. that instilled some fear into him but he summoned up the courage.

“How did you know me?”

“I ‘ll tell you at the appropriate time” I declared. “By the way, do you have a problem with your vertebral column?”

“Why do you ask?”

“I want to know and I need to know”

I could notice some fear but he tried to mask it.

“No problems with my vertebral column”.

“What of your neck?”

“None.” He wanted to add the word “Sir” but the “prince” in him stalled him. I was enjoying the game but he was uncomfortable.

“Why then do you walk as if you have kyphosis?”

“What is kyphosis?”

“When you get home, walk in the front of a mirror then you’ll see how those who have kyphosis walk.”

“But that doesn’t answer my question.”

“I know. I don’t have to. I give it to you as an assignment. Most likely you don’t have the disease but you inflicted it on yourself psychologically.”

“You are insulting me!”

“I’ll just start now. If you move an inch I’ll deal ruthlessly with you.” I  stated with some force and paused a little; to let it sink.

It actually sank deep into him. I could see some sweat balls building up from the head and the neck area.

“Have you rolled a drum before? Empty one?”

“Me? No”

“Of course, you.”

“What of one filled with water?”

He offered no response. I knew that he was terribly angry with me and could’ve struck me but for the fear of not knowing who I was. I walked him to a nearby kiosk and bought two bottles of Coca-Cola. He asked for permission to change his own bottle to Sprite. I saw that I was gradually getting a result; for him to ask for permission. I then suggested that we sat under a strangler fig tree (ǫdan) with widespread shade. Fortunately, there was a long bench and no occupants.

In those days Nigerians were hardworking. You scarcely would find any civil servant leaving his duty without permission, and with valid reasons. Then, civil servants had duties, not offices. Things were working and people were dutiful. I took permission from my Headmaster to go to the Headquarters and I was to see the Divisional Officer for Education to endorse my University of London General Certificate of Education (GCE) application form. I’d been to his office and learned he was out and wouldn’t be back for about three hours. I seized the opportunity to do a few things in the town.

I had all my documents in one plastic folder which my Headmaster had pleaded I should give him but which I promised that I would not give out until I had finished everything that had to do with the GCE documentation. I hope I would still get another one to buy during the holidays when I would travel to Ibadan. I’d got the folder at the Kingsway Stores.

He tried to bring up light topics through which he could assess me but I ignored them; otherwise, I might not achieve my aim.

“You are lucky this encounter is not in…( hometown).” I began. “I ’d have been more ruthless with you. I’d have done what would bring us to fall foul of the law and got us arrested and I’d have tipped the police to keep you behind the counter until Kabiyesi comes to bail you out. I’d have told Kabiyesi  everything so he won’t have responded to the police alert until late in the evening.”

“Come off it. Kabiyersi would leave me in police custody! Not on his life.”

“If I ask him to allow you to sleep the night there, he will oblige me.”

“Who are you?” he demanded.

“It’s not for you to ask.”

“Does Kabiyesi know you?”

“No.”

”What then gives you the confidence to stop me on the road for this interrogation?”

I knew that I was dragging it too long. So I used this opportunity to drum a good sermon into his ears.

“……. (Prince). I’ve seen you twice in ….(hometown) twice with this your kyphosis walk and wondered how you got it. I’ve read of it in books but never seen anybody with a pronounced kyphosis like yours. My cousin told me that you are a prince. I asked him if that’s how princes and princesses walk in our hometown. He told me that you are the first son and the only one that walks like that”

“Who’s your cousin? He asked.

“What has that got to do with our discussion here?” I snapped.

He made as if to leave but I warned him that he dared not walk away on me. Otherwise, I’d be forced to take an action that would be more severe if it were our hometown.

“…….(Prince).” I continued. “What I want to discuss with you is for your own good and I’ll want you to listen attentively. In ….(our hometown) there are three ruling houses. If your father transits today, you cannot be the Ǫba. There’s no way the other ruling houses will not have their candidates. The battle will be between the other two ruling houses. If you contest, you’ll only lose your money. Secondly, you failed your West African School Leaving Certificate Examination. Your father is well educated for his time. There’s no town that will install an illiterate as Ǫba. I know that some of your brothers will be educated and one or two of them will be interested even if yours is the only ruling house. …… (Prince). I’ll advise you to drop your princely pride and go back to school.

“Didn’t anybody tell you that you’d disfigured your posture by this arrogant walk? You’ve been living in the past. The pre-World War II years! That you are the Ǫba’s son is immaterial. You’ll soon become irrelevant; after your father’s transition. You’ve been out of school for two years and it didn’t occur to you that you should resit your WAEC!.”

I showed him my documents and that I was applying to sit for the GCE examinations so that I could qualify for university admission. In those days Teachers’ Grade II Certificate was not considered as a qualifying level of education for university admission.

He was very appreciative. He escorted me to DEO’s office and we parted from there. His walk thenceforth became normal.

I discussed the incidence with my cousin when I went to     (hometown) two weeks later. He’d not met him but had heard comments about the change in him. He’d become humble and scarce. He was no longer man-about-town.

Why the Story?

Let me link you up to the theme I really want to bring out here. It was in Part I at the university. What they call 200 Level now. Our General Studies (African History and Culture) lecturer declared that colonisation destroyed the fabric of civilisation in Africa. I refused to agree with him. He threatened that if it comes out in exams and I countered him I would fail the examination.

Truly, the question came in the sessional examination. I didn’t think twice. I tackled the question to my belief: Colonisation did Africa much good. I articulated my reasons. To my amazement, I had an A in that course.

When we resumed the following session, I went to his office to inquire why I had an A. He replied that he couldn’t fault my points. He also was the son of a peasant and would never have got to where he was had African never been colonised. He told me he never looked at it in the light in which I looked at the issue.

If you are Yoruba can you remember the lives of Başǫrun Gaa and Ęfunşętan Aniwura? Do you know what it is to be installed as Chief Abǫbaku?

Neonaticide

Do you know that but for Christianity which came with colonialism, we would not have had the likes of The Right Rev (Col rtd) TE Ogbonyomi (rtd)? Somehow, maybe you too would not have existed except if your line is royal. It’s possible that royalty tussle would have eliminated your direct ancestors.

There are still vestiges of the horrible primitive tradition of neonaticide across the length and breadth of Africa. The Nation (2018) reported that the Gbajingala clan of Bassa Kuomo, Kulo, Gawu, Sabo, Guabe and Chibiri communities in Kuje Area Council still practice infanticice. Others are Gomani, Tekpese, Gurugi, Fuka, Lapa and Dogonruwa communities in Kwali Area Council, as well as Kaida and Kutara in Buari Area Council.

Twins, triplets, quadruplets and quintuplets are considered as evil children and are killed,  Also, such neonates and infants as those whose mothers die during or shortly after their birth are considered to possess dark powers that killed their mothers are culturally sentenced to death. Infants who are born with certain physical disabilities like cleft lips, deformed hands and legs, Down syndrome (possession of an additional genetic material which alters the course of development and causes such characteristics as low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease across the centre of the palm).

Any infant that grows an upper tooth first is considered unnecessary evil and it is also done away with. Orji (2018) further reported that in some of these communities the mothers of such babies are tagged as unclean for giving births to ‘forbidden beings’. Collison (2018) reported cases of intra-sex neonaticide in South Africa.

In Ethiopia, the Kara tribe carries out neonaticide on mingi birth (a child whose parents are not married. In the traditional Kara belief system this means she is cursed, unclean, full of sin, bringing malevolent spirits and bad luck to her family, village and tribe.). even in the case of traditionally married couples, permission must be sought from family elders before additional child. Otherwise, such a child is considered as mingi (Grant, 2012).

Healthcare delivery

An Anglican Communion priest had a small farm on his landlord’s farmland and adjoining his (landlord’s) farm. On a Saturday, he was to leave for the farm at about the same time as his landlord and he, thus, offered the landlord’s son a ride on his bicycle. Along the way, they fell down and the child had some bruises that bled. The landlord caught up with them, made some incantations and the bleeding stopped, the bruises also healed up instantly; leaving no scars.

Back home in the evening, the priest went to the landlord imploring him to teach him the technology. The landlord refused and specifically told him that he would teach only one of his sons; and that would be the one he loved most. He did not survive his son’s primary school years. The knowledge died with him.

The attitude remains with us till date.

Ritual Murders

Ritual killings cut across the whole of Africa (IHEU, 2010; IRBC, 2012) due to the fact that many people still believe that the use of charms and the performance of ritual sacrifice can fortify them spiritually, enhance their fortunes in business. Earn them victory in elections or protect them from harm, disease, poverty, accident, death or destruction.

Pre-colonial slavery in Africa

Enslavement in Africa resulted from war captives, as a form of collateral for loans or to take care of default in loan payback.  The captive is actually the ęru while the collateral is iwǫfa. While the iwǫfa has the opportunity to be free after payment of the loan, the slave can only be set free at the will of his master or find a way of escape. Very often slaves get integrated into the families. Matured slaves are married for by their masters but the offspring remain the property of the master as well. A lot of them have been integrated into the families among the Yoruba.

Ęru, in Africa enslavement, was usually on a small scale. Such slaves are well treated. We cannot ignore acts of wickedness on the part of some slave masters which, generally, is condemned by the community. The Yoruba has an adage that says “ǫna l’o jin, ęru ni baba” (his birthplace may be far, the slave was born of a father). Beautiful female slaves were, sometimes loved by young men in the family and sometimes permission sought to marry them. Women married into the family generally were not in favour of such marriages as the slave girl had been elevated to their level. The punishment usually meted out to such slaves was a restriction to the eating of some unpalatable foods in the first week following delivery. Such slaves, after knowing that the diet was assigned to them as a result of punishment usually turned it into a forced-practice through the proclamation of a cure (eewǫ) that for every delivery such diets should also be administered, otherwise some unpleasant consequences (to the child and/or its mother) would result.

Conclusion

Many writers have accused colonialism of stripping Africa’s people of the dignity of building their nations on their own indigenous values, institutions, and heritage. This write up has not totally condemned the African culture. The reader should understand that we are trying in this programme to fashion out our path to rapid economic development.

There was a time when Nigeria wanted to create a situation that would halt the education pace of the south while accelerating that of the north so that they can be at par. It led to the creation of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board. Nigeria learned to its chagrin that it was a fruitless exercise. The northern states later observed that the individual state government had to establish programmes that would improve the educational pattern as it deemed fit.

There were three separate missions from Europe to Africa: the trade mission; the expedition missions which eventually led to occupation and gradually disintegrated to colonisation and governance; and evangelisation. South Africa is one country where occupation did not disintegrate into colonisation and governance. The expedition and trade missions worked hand in hand but the evangelisation mission depended only on sponsorship from concerned Christians in their home countries and brought education along with the gospel.

There is also the claim that modern African state is the product of Europe, not Africa. It should be recognised that Europe states are also the products of amalgamation and disintegrations. There is no nation that is completely homogenous in ethnicity.

Modern African state is actually the product of degeneration resulting from our own selfish knowledge-hiding nature that makes us keep knowledge hidden in our skulls; not documented for widespread use.

Next: We would look at the Impact of Population Growth on the Economic Development of Developing Countries: Nigeria as Case Study

 

Note:

This article is presented with the view of raising concern for the development of the “developing countries”, not to condemn any government but to create awareness and fashion out concrete paths towards development. While African nations will be the focus, examples will be drawn from other regions. It is hoped that peoples from other nations will contribute positively to the programme of fashioning out the path of development.

There is a Yoruba adage that says “Eepa npa ara ę o ni oun npa’ja, t’aja ba ku n’ibo ni eepa yio wa?” meaning “The dog worm is carrying out its extermination; believing that it is killing the dog, where will be its habitation at the demise of the dog?”

This applies to African (and their likes) leaders who are busy carting away the resources of Africa into foreign lands to keep for their children. The Lord who created us said “So shall my word ‘If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep. (Ex 22:1,KJV)’ be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isa 55:11, KJV). To those who assume that the grace has covered their iniquities “And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold” (Luke 19:8, KJV) to which Jesus replied “This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:9-10, KJV).

Kindly make positive contributions that will lead to development within your country and that will benefit the generality of the populace; not emotional contribution, if any view contradicts your own personal view. There is no one that is 100% right.

 

References

Collison, C (2018). Intersex babies killed at birth because ‘they’re bad omens’ posted on 24 Jan 2018 Accessed 10 Oct 2018. https://mg.co.za/article/2018-01-24-00-intersex-babies-killed-at-birth-because-theyre-bad-omens.

Egede, D (2018). DEAD ON ARRIVAL: Inside Abuja communities where twins are still being killed at birth. Posted January 21, 2018. Accessed 09 Oct 2018. http://thenationonlineng.net/dead-arrival-inside-abuja-communities-twins-still-killed-birth/

Grant, R (2012). Saving the condemned children of Ethiopia Richard 7:00AM BST 14 Apr 2012. Accessed 10 Oct 2018. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/ethiopia/9189136/Saving-the-condemned-children-of-Ethiopia.html

IHEU (2010). Ritual killing and human sacrifice in Africa. Intrnationl Humanist and Ethical Union. Accessed 10 Oct 2018. https://iheu.org/ritual-killing-and-human-sacrifice-africa/

IRBC (2012). Nigeria: Prevalence of ritual murder and human sacrifice; police and state response (2009-2012), 20 November 2012, NGA104218.E, Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada Accessed 10 October 2018 http://www.refworld.org/docid/50c84a6d2.html

Orji , S (2018) ‘They ensure each twin baby dies’: the secret killings in central Nigeria. Posted on Fri 19 Jan 2018 Accessed 10 Oct 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/working-in-development/2018/jan/19/twin-baby-dies-secret-killings-nigeria-remote-communities

SR (2018). Exposed: Abuja Village where Newborn Twins are Hanged to Death ‘because They are Evil’ MAY 22, 2018. Accessed 10 Oct 2018. http://saharareporters.com/2018/05/22/exposed-abuja-village-where-newborn-twins-are-hanged-death-because-they-are-evil%e2%80%99

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