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  • Published on: 21st September 2019
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- Health issues. To the Yoruba people, healthy well-being of humans does not merely connote the absence of ailments and diseases, but also encompasses the proper physical, mental and social functioning of humans. Ilera l'oro (Health is wealth), a common saying in Yoruba societies, is borne out of the realization and fact that without good health, productive functions and activities could hardly be carried out effectively . This is far beyond what other ethnic groups count as being healthy. Alafia ju oun gbogbo lo (Good health surpasses all other things), which connotes that without good health, man is weak and helpless. Man is occasionally faced with one adversary that negates or denies him of enjoying sound health. This adversary is known as 'disease' (a hindrance to wellness of any human being). Disease is interpreted in many ways to the Yoruba people. It goes beyond inability to move around or pains within the body, but absence of comfort and affluence (dis-ease), and/or inability to experience or enjoy peace in one's life on daily basis . Explicitly, any problem that a man faces is a 'dis-ease'. Yoruba has three aspects of tackling their health issues/challenges. These are: Diagnosis, Healing and Prevention. It is disheartening to note nowadays that this aspect of cultural heritage is neither known nor adopted by many Yoruba people. Diagnosis is the ability to identify illness or disorder in a person through physical examination, medical tests, or other procedures. It is the discovery of the nature of a disease. But Yoruba people believe in using herbs, natural observance, and divination to discover a disease (dis-ease) of any type. Once this is discovered, solution (ritual, sacrifice, herbal dosage, etc.) is recommended to avert it. Healing is the ability to bring an end to any discovered dis-ease. Yoruba believe that once an illness or disease is identified, traditional healing method (hydrotherapy, divination and herbal method) is adopted to terminate it. Prevention is the act of avoiding something from happening. In a simple form, a preventive method adopted by the people is how they measure their daily activities to avoid any form of dis-ease or illness in their lives.

- Rite of passage.  Rites are symbolic and powerful means of expressing both cultural and religious beliefs in any society. The Yoruba societies are filled with many ceremonial acts which mark important events in the life of their community in general or the individual members in the society . Thus, rites of passage are used to mark a transition from one state of life to another. Life follows particular circuit which is made up of important stages. These stages are ritualized and marked with various rites. They are:

i. Birth Rite. The blessings, fruitfulness or success of any marriage in Yorubaland are calculated in terms of number of children a couple has. Birth is therefore regarded as an important period in the life of Yoruba people. It is one of the means of ensuring the continuity of human race. The Yoruba, right from the time of conception of a woman through delivery, have cultural rites like exercise, posture (standing/sleeping), food, movement, limitations, mood, burying of the biblical cord, etc. that guides and guards the couple to avoid calamity for both the child and the mother. In addition, the futurity of the child is examined through divination to enable both the parents and the child to be cautious of its revelation.

ii. Puberty Rite. These are rites that are used to mark the end of childhood and beginning of adulthood, and acceptance into matured group in the society. It is one of the occasions in one's life when certain knowledge that cut across all aspects of human activities and adult life is vigorously given. It involves core procedures for teenagers, especially during the first menstrual period of a lady.

iii. Marriage Rite. In Yoruba cultural context, marriage rite is a social contract between a man, a woman and their extended families. Before marriage is finally contacted, many preliminary activities, which are the core cultural heritage of the people, ranging from inquiries, proposals, acceptance and official engagement or courtship and payment of bride price must have been completed. These cultural activities elongate and preserve the marriage, rather than mere ceremonial as we have it today.

iv. Death Rite. Yoruba see life as a continuum; death is therefore seen as a passage to the hereafter. Rite performed for the dead makes its transition from the physical existence to the invisible existence smooth and easy. Therefore the corpse is given special rites before it is buried. It is believed that the dead would perturb its relatives, and does not settle in the land of the dead if it is not given befitting burial rites.

- Taboo is a social or cultural prohibited act. In many African cultures generally and Yoruba specifically, people are not allowed to do everything the way they would want to do them. Certain actions and behaviours are prohibited. In such case, one does not exercise his freewill in performing such actions; thereby conform to the law of the land. Many taboos are associated with divinities, religious authorities, ancestors, trade and crafts, agriculture and many other relevant areas of life. And should there be any breach, the offender may face its consequence either physically, psychologically or spiritually before he will be cleansed through a ritual, although some of these taboos do not have any repercussion because they are meant to enhance moral acts. Of note, there are many taboos in Yorubaland, some are religiously inclined, while others with regard to social or moral etiquettes. Examples are: It is a taboo for a child to receive something with a left hand from an elder; It is a taboo to beat somebody with a broom or pestle; Whistling in the night is forbidden; It is a taboo for a child to beat his parents; etc. Individuals in Yorubaland are very conscious of the consequences of breaking taboos. Individuals and collective efforts are always made towards observing these taboos. A system of taboos and sanctions held in honour of the ancestors, divinities and spirits are used in Yoruba societies to enforce or maintain sanity/morality. Similarly too, taboo in Yoruba societies are evil deeds, such as robbery, murder, rape, sorcery, witchcraft, poisoning, suicide, sexual intercourse with animals, incest, etc. are forbidden and abominable. The people believed in the law of 'cause and effect' and the transference of punishment for an abomination or offense committed by a parent to his children or generation. These are therefore strictly adhered to. The consciousness and adherence of these ill actions had guaranteed peace, harmony, growth and development in the Yoruba societies.

- Festivals. African indigenous religion is full of programmes (series of performances and cultural events), usually held at regular intervals, often known as festival. Festivals are special periods of worship which are esteemed by the Yoruba. If there is anything like public holidays in the Yoruba societies, festivals deserve and served such purposes. They are festive periods when people gather together to honour and thank their gods, divinities and ancestors. Most of them are annually observed, but some can be biannual. Some are used to commemorate significant events in the life of the community, while others are used to mark the beginning or the end of important seasons or year. Although, festival is religiously inclined, it is seen as part of culture, which marks one phase of circle from another. For example, the beginning of planting season and harvest season are marked with special festival. The Yoruba have special festivals and very significant to them. Among the popular ones are Ogun, Egungun, Oro, Agemo, Osun-Osogbo, Ojude-Oba festivals. Aside merriment, people pray and mark it with one good thing or the other.

- Intellectual skills/Vocational training. Every family in Yorubaland has a particular occupation, profession or trade they are known with. This work or occupation is first of all a must for children of such family in addition to any other vocation they (may) decide to do. This culture of family vocation helps children to be versatile as they grow. Beside this, children were enrolled to learn vocations in line with their interest as detected by elders in the family as they grow, which they depend wholly on for their daily living. This has helped to boom the economy of the Yoruba people.

- Communal responsibility. This is a culture of the Yoruba people that unite them together, and assisted them in building lives and the entire community. It deals with collective and individual's obligation in the family and the entire community that gears towards achieving the common goal. The people, especially elders, take it upon themselves to instil cultural values and discipline on individuals (especially the youngsters) in the society. Enikan ni bi'mo, igba eniyan ni nwo (it is one person that gives birth, but several people care for the child) spell out how the people collectively raise children in an ethical matter. Also, people voluntarily put it upon themselves to see to the wellbeing of others in terms of security, polity, economy, development, etc.

It is disheartening, heartbroken, and inexplicable that the unique and cherished cultural values handed over by the Yoruba forbearers are vanishing from the society today. Unfortunately, the present generation hardly know that these cultural values neither existed nor practiced. This is inevitable as acculturation, which civilization brought through formal education; indoctrination through foreign religions; abuses of modern and sophisticated machines/devices; among others have wrecked the Yoruba cultural heritage. As good as civilization brought to the land through formal education is, its negative impacts have overshadowed Yoruba indigenous cultural values . Undoubtedly, this has affected (still affecting) as people die very young due to modern ways of handling their health issues; catastrophes hither and thither attributable to improper observance of rites, infringement of taboos, and abandonment of identity; suffering due to lack of vocational training and/or intellectual skills; nudity in the streets as a result of indecent dressing; menaces and vices in the society because the family and individuals in the society have failed in their responsibility to restore and maintain cultural heritages handed over to them.

Way Forward: Rediscovering the Role of the Family

It is realistic and evidence that Yoruba have a unique family structure that is community-based, which form the grassroots administrative structure that other tiers within the society are built. Two family levels are common among the Yoruba people, which are the immediate or nuclear family level, and the kinship or extended family level. However, these two levels emphasize both blood and marital relationships. Typical traditional Yoruba families are customarily patrilineal and patrilocal in nature . This has made it easy for the whole family members to oversee what individuals (especially the young ones) are doing. Ile lati k'eso r'ode (charity begins at home) was the watchword of each family in discharging their 'ascribed' and 'obligation' roles effectively and efficiently towards preservation and continuity of the cultural values in the family and the community.

Disappointedly, reverse is the case in Yoruba community today, as family structure has totally changed from what it used to be, and thereby brought shame and lamentation to the Yoruba nation through its nonchalant and lackadaisical attitudes towards restoration and preservation of Yoruba cultural heritages. Consequently, these cultural heritages seem not to have existed at all, thus, bring Yoruba potent values that always call for peace and global recognition to comatose state. From the foregoing for restoration, what is the way forward?

For restoration (and then preservation) to take place, the families in Yoruba communities have to be conscious of the present state of Yoruba cultural heritage, and compare it to how it was in the antiquity. First and foremost, the family is expected to wake up to its responsibility, by teaching of morals based on the standard in the Yorubaland, and enforce strict observance of the cultural values of the land on their children. More so, family should appreciate the Yoruba native creativity, inventions and language, thereby making it their number one choice without foreclosing knowledge from other climes. People in authority or leadership positions, who emerge from one family to that post/position, are expected put the youngsters in the centre of their policies. This means that government should inculcate these cherished cultural values into the curriculum for teachers and instructors to pass it across to their students. In addition, listed below are the way-forward to enthroning cultural values among the youths in the contemporary society. These have been ways of preserving the cultural heritage of the people but are missing today. They are:

Legends and Biographies: Mythologies, folktales and biographies are veritable goldmines for youths to keep them abreast of Yoruba cultural values. They are prehistoric cultural attempt at answering the most perplexing questions posed by the supernatural and natural phenomena. They are also vehicles for conveying a certain fact about human's experience in his encounter with the created order and with regard to man's relation to the super sensible world. Biographies and Legends ' myths, fables, tales, memoir, life history, folklores or stories ' are naturally clothed with experience and past events, which serve as means of revisiting the past, unwrapping knowledge, and keeping them in the memory as well as handling them down from generation to generation. There used to be gathering of youngsters with elders in the evening (almost on daily basis) to listen to witty sayings (tales, stories, folktales, etc.) to learn and acquire various knowledge.

Song, Dance and Drama: Yoruba songs are loaded with meaning and knowledge. These songs (lyrics, ballads, etc.) reveal stories of the past, present, hope and fear of the future. The people also use songs to warn, hail insults, encourage, entertain, eulogize, etc. Songs are meaningful, they express feeling of joy or sorrows or thanks. It also enhances emotional and physical participation in an act of worship which sometimes results to ecstatic experience and ring of men ages from the divinities. Songs can be seen as a vehicle for conveying certain sentiments or truths. Besides, through songs, certain information about Yoruba cultures were made known. Dance and drama are exciting, tense, and gripping events and actions in a real-life situation that impact people through its styles and actions.

Witty Saying: This is another rich area where moral are instilled in the Yoruba societies. It is a repository of indigenous wisdom, values and feelings. Witty sayings ' proverbs, riddles or idioms ' are coined with past experience or events of the Yoruba people. It is the oldest and authentic forms of cultural practices of the Yoruba people. It is easy to remember, hit the point in a few words and through it reinstates sanity in a situation. Witty sayings are also used to settle quarrels, warn people against bad conducts, encourage and praise people among others.

Names: Aside the fact that names are means of identifying people or places everywhere in the world, they are also loaded with meanings. There are various facts that are hidden on the cultural heritage of the Yoruba people, which names (in most cases) give details or a clue. It is customary to incorporate God/deity's name into people's name in Yorubaland. This is an expression of worship where the attributes of God are known. Thus names become life-long testimonies of particular concepts of God/deity which people want to express and when so used, the concepts are immortalized, made concrete and externalized. 'Olorunfunmi', meaning 'God gives me' expresses the providence of God among the people. Others are Ifagbemi, Awoyemi, Babatunde, Iyabo, Kolawole, Ogunbayo, etc.

Books: This documented imaginary records, past events, hidden ideas, repository of knowledge, among others. Scholars have made rigorous efforts to work on Yoruba people, their culture and religion. They have revealed, to an extent, past historical events through their research, which can serve as reasonable guides to both young and old; young scholars and readers. These books are helpful because they expose historic events, defined cultural values and heroes of the Yoruba people.

It is obvious that the above are missing today in most Yoruba communities, which could have helped in restoring the lost Yoruba cultural heritages. Cultural relevance of some of them have been replaced or totally lost where they are practiced. Advancement in technological devices that should have contributed to preservation of the Yoruba cultural heritages has become a woe because the family has failed in its responsibilities in the home and the entire community. The family among other agents of socialisation in the community is expected to facilitate the return of these cultural heritages, encourage, guide and guard youngsters in selected programmes on radio and television programmes, art performances, and seminars that can enhance their knowledge on these values. The family is very important because it forms or involve in all other agents of socialisation in the society.


From the foregoing, it has been established that moral decadence, a cankerworm that has dealt a deadly blow on the ethical psyche of the Yoruba cultural values, cannot be dealt with without the rigorous effort from and/or of the family. In the past, instant and measured punishment serves as basis for enforcing deterrence to offenders or anyone that act contrary to the culture of the land, which was conceived in two ways: any offender caught is punished based on the weight of his/her crime; while nemesis is the second measure of punishment to offenders . Thus, these measures made the people to be distinct as a peculiar people. They live in a peaceful environment of collective responsibility, where love, harmony and trust were present as a result of deep understanding and practice of cultural values, to the extent of people leaving their goods in the open and no one dare steal or cheat them. It is guaranteed that Yoruba nation will be far better than the present time if their lost cultural heritages are restored and practiced, and serve as a means of solution to the problem of corruption, selfishness, recession and unfaithfulness in economy, politics, leadership, among others through industry, honesty, compassion, integrity, etc. embedded in Yoruba culture.

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