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Respect stays forever


In the days of our father, children would wake up at the shout of their parent’s voice, pray, arrange the house, the girls help out with the house chores; sweeping, warming the left-over meal, and also run off to the stream to fetch water.

Nigerians have long understood that strong families are the best defence against state intervention. It is the responsibility of couples to take care of each other, their children and also look after their elderly relatives, as it helps in reducing the burden on the country and public purse. The ability of a good parent to imbibe moral upbringing in their wards is the reward of all.

In this era of Indomie generations, children feel they have the right to decide what the best is for them. In the days of our fathers, it was royalty being in the midst of elders to listen to words of wisdom.

The norms and values left by our founding fathers are no longer with us, they are not with us, in the very words of the late Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule. In the days of our father, children would wake up at the shout of their parent’s voice, pray, arrange the house, the girls help out with the house chores; sweeping, warming the left-over meal, and also run off to the stream to fetch water. That respect was so rich that the words of the elders were gold. For it is said that “the elders of a community are the voice of God. This signifies that the advice of the elders to young men is very apt to be as unreal as a list of the hundred best books.”

Even people from the past have said a quote or two about kids of today: “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of the household…….(Socrates)”

In the Yoruba tribe, we have several cultural norms related to how you greet and address elders. Females kneel down to greet our parents and elders (aunties, uncles, parents, friends and so on). To greet much older people like grandparents, you are expected to fully bend your knees and have them touch the floor. With parents and other familiar people, it’s ok to curtsy with bended knee, although some might insist on the knees touching the floor. For men and boys, they are expected to prostrate, lie down flat on the floor to greet, but again bending at the waist is a smaller, acceptable gesture.

When responding to older people, the answer is normally, “Beeni ma or sir,” meaning “yes ma, or yes sir,” which is another way to show respect. When someone (a visitor) meets you eating, you invite them to eat. The typical response is, “No thank you,” but some people may actually join in. This also applies to when people come to visit you. You offer them food, not just drinks. And lastly, if kids are old enough (usually seven or eight) they are taught to help when they see an adult carrying something.

How do you teach your child what’s valuable to you in your culture? How do you let your child know which context belongs to which culture? On June 2013, the former president of Nigeria, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was unpleased with Nigerians as they had lost moral values especially the respect for elders. He started the National Christian Campaign on social transformation stating “Our priorities are misplaced. We have trained our children to insult elders, parent fight teachers who discipline their children and so we have been reproducing badly behaved children, who come under peer influence.

Respect for the elders is paramount in every society as it is through the elders, the young learn the way of life. The tales my mother told me about her childhood depicts a wealth of respect and love which differs from nowadays whereby we, youths do not think first before listening or even act. Computer has taken over the minds of individuals, Smartphone has become our elder, we greet it every morning before greeting our elders.

Those days, youths answer the calls of parents with ‘yes Sir! Or Yes Ma! And waste no time in responding to their calls, for it is a sign of respect. It was a privilege to be called by them but this modern age, we answer them with Yes Dad or Yes Mum, while the call was five minutes ago, we would still be found seated or doing whatever we were doing, acting like we were summoned. Its either a slap awaits us or another beck of call before we brought back to earth, grumpy we are for the day. We murmur inaudibly in order not to receive a shouting bout when being told to do something.

Respect for elders which used to be the cardinal principle of the society is now at the lowest ebb. It is known that you stand up to talk to someone older than you or in position in organisations. I am guilty of this act as I saw it as no big deal while talking to my boss; he immediately called me to order. We no longer stand while talking to our elders instead look at the person straight in the eyes and respond yes or no. Even at times shake heads when saying no or nod while saying yes like Agama lizards…

Sitting with our parents discussing about issues, we intend to talk like it’s our age mates we are communicating with, forgetting we sit with the wise ones, yes, it’s being said that age does not accompany wisdom, for ‘if a child shoots an arrow that reaches the top of a tall palm tree, then it must be that an elderly person carved the arrow for him,’ this shows that a society without elders is an unhealthy society. Why do we lack the basic sense of communication or maybe we need to visit the ant’s hills to see how they behave.

If the discussion intends to go in the way that does not please us, we intend to raise our voices like it is a competition, arguing like touts in garage till we get the answer or solution that gives us pleasure to the minds.

Punishments are not meted out on children anymore like before, when there is need to be disciplined. This has made children feel lenient and less productive. They no longer listen to instructions except when bribed with what they like which is never to be so, in the days of our fathers.

The days of Sirs/ Ma slowly run away so also is the respect. We should stand as one in making it known to Nigerians that respect stays forever as it would pass from generation to generation. All those in respect of Sirs/ Ma staying, say Aye! Those not in support of Sirs/Ma say nay! Ayes have it.

• Muoneke is a Mass Communication student of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, on Industrial Training attachment at The Guardian.

In this article:
Judith Muonekerespect
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