Saturday, 23rd September 2023

When last did you hear the word ‘Kajọla!’?

By Kole Omotoso
17 December 2017   |   3:26 am
All over the world commentators and ordinary conversation makers proclaim the lost of social and communal values. People lose the habit of elementary courtesies...

All over the world commentators and ordinary conversation makers proclaim the lost of social and communal values. People lose the habit of elementary courtesies such as acknowledging fellow humans when we meet, and saying ‘thank you’ when someone does us a favour. The critical question is really: How does this loss happen? Other additional questions might be: At what point in the life of a community does the loss take place? And why does it take place?

An additional question to ponder is: When does a community become a society?

To continue with communal terms of relating as indicated in the title of this piece: when last did you hear someone talk of a political-economic policy of “afenifere” – ‘not only to love someone but also wish good for the someone’? Could we rename our country, any country in the world “ajọwa” ‘our common wealth’?

Whatever else contributes to the loss of communal values, it is clear that the loss of mother tongue as an everyday expression of every aspect of life is a major contribution. In recent research, traditional communal games have been the inspiration for major advances in the sciences and in technology. How much did ‘bonsai’ inspire ‘nanotechnology’? How did ‘origami’ help to solve the problem of packaging information for interplanetary flights?

Such possibilities push us to think of the games and things peculiar to us. We begin to wonder if losing grip of our language is not leading to losing our values. So many examples come to mind in our everyday life like on the roads and in buildings where people crowd on stairways blocking the normal flow of going up and down.

How many minutes have you waited at a junction, to join the flow of traffic and nobody, no driver would stop to let you in? What about cars and vehicles parked anyhow anywhere anytime without much regard for the interest of other road users? Is it just a matter of being in a hurry and being impatient? Or losing the ability to ‘ro tẹlomiran mọ tiwa’ “include the interest of others with our own interest”?

People who place importance on public infrastructure would say that the less infrastructure a community shares, the less of a community it is. These people call attention to the fact that we do not share much water supply, we do not share much electricity and we do not share much of health facilities. Rather each household provides its own water, its own light, its own transportation, its own security. Where then is the communal feeling that would encourage “ajọwa” and “kajọla”? If nothing conjures the word why would the word continue to exist? Private materials become bigger and better as public materials become smaller and fewer.

Maybe all of these impatience and unwillingness to share confirms the Yoruba lines:

A nrin n’ilẹ
Inun b’ẹlẹṣin.
A njẹfọ sun
Inun b’ẹlẹja.
Which lines can translate as:
I dey waka footwagen
The man on horseback dey vex!
I chop soup with no meat
Man with plenty fish dey jealous me!

The Yoruba ayo game teaches number crunching. It also teaches selflessness. One central move in the game of ayo (which survives in the Caribbean as “Worry Game”) is the accumulation of an ‘odu’. This is a process of saving to be invested at a critical point in the game. No matter your dexterity in saving to create a devastating ‘odu’ that you can possibly conceivably take six pockets of gain, the rules of the game do not allow you to take all. Winner takes all does not exist in this game. The simple reason is that the game must continue. If you take all, your opponent will have nothing to play in order to continue to be part of the game. That is why the term “Ajodurun” (chop and finish) is a term of abuse in Yoruba. How many of our children growing up today know how to play ‘ayo’ along with its rules and regulations?

What about the game of ‘arin’? Does anyone in the world know what this game is about? If you do not know, what meaning does the Yoruba sentence “abija bi ẹni t’arin” (fights like the choreographed movement of arin) have for you? What amount of geometry and trigonometry have we failed to teach through the practice of arin game?

Come February 2018, the Ọba of Ajọwa in Akoko Division of Ondo State Kabiyesi Ọba Kayọde Olusa is publishing a book on how the city of Ajọwa came into being. A peculiar need at a historical point made a group of villages move together to form Ajọwa – We have come together. The choices made, the options followed, the policies favoured were all determined by the fact of the collective coming together. Is this an example of self-decided collectivisation in human history? Would the federal republic of Nigeria make more sense to us if we renamed it Ajọwa?

It is interesting to remember today that two political parties of the 1950s and 1960s had their names in both a local language and in English. There was the Jamiatu Mutenen Arewa, which in English became Northern People’s Congress and there was Ẹgbẹ Afẹnifẹre, which became Action Group in English. The ways and manners of the politics of the country forced these parties to seek alliances beyond their language boundaries. And of course, the military intervention changed the nature of political parties in the country from parties being a little to the right and a little to the left and none in the centre. None has managed to command a community of commitment as those two political parties did.

Kajọla is a wish. Kajọla is a dream. Kajọla is a prayer for collective inclusive prosperity. It is a communal wish that a group of people subsume their individual prospect for the prospect of the greater number of people. It is a collective dream that everyone will benefit in this coming together. It is the prayer of a community to go together hand in hand sharing and caring and putting something aside for their future and the future of their children. It is against everything that is happening in Nigeria today.

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