THE PROSTRATION OF A YORUBA MAN – AN HONOR OR A WORSHIP

It happened on that faithful evening that Akin my old-time friend as far back as the ’90s came down to Oyo, Ibadan to be precise. It has been a long time since we met, being that He has been away for a good number of years outside the country. He came down to Lagos for an important event and then decided to browse in and say hi to his old-time friend before zooming off to the states the next day.
“Ekaso sir”- my friend, Akingbade said Prostrating flat, like I mean flat on the floor on meeting this young, averaged height man not minding he was putting on a white Agbada while we strolled around my area.

“This kind of respect too much oo” I said to myself while I simply bowed.

Do you know why I did so? I would tell you.

To me, Akin is much older than this person in question judging from the looks.
I sure believe in respect; I believe in honour but not to the point of prostrating before a young man that he is much older than. Or is there any other thing attached to this greeting pattern of the Yorubas? Is this not a form of Human Worship?

Then Akingbade smiled and started his explanations. He opened his lecture thus:

“According to Wikipedia, the greeting of a younger male family and community members especially elders by assuming a position called “idoba’le” is a known and recognized norm in the Yoruba Culture. The traditional, full Yoruba prostration involves the prostrator lying down almost prone with his feet extended behind his torso while the rest of his weight is propped up on both hands. This traditional form is being replaced by a more informal bow and touching of the fingertips to the floor in front of an elder with one hand while bending slightly at the knee. The female form of the greeting is the “ikun’le”, a form of kneeling in which the younger party bows to one or both knees in front of an elder, relative or community member. Both gestures are widely practised; to not perform them would be considered ill-mannered”

Prostration has been in practice in Yorubaland as a form of greeting and sign of respect for the elderly ones before the arrival of any foreign religion. In a traditional wedding ceremony, it is overwhelmingly interesting to see a group of friends of the bridegroom observing prostration in front of the bride’s families as a sign of request for their daughter. Due to social exposure and of course, no one expects you to fall flat on the public road or a dirty ground whenever you meet an elderly Yoruba person, that is why half-way prostration by men and half-way kneeling by women is now most common among the Yorubas, which they find easy to do whenever and wherever you meet them.

Today, prostration/bowing has been tagged as an act of worship by some religiously misguided Yorubas. According to their foreign religious belief, prostration is only meant to worship God and no other person deserves it, but that is according to Jewish and Arabic religious faith, according to Yoruba culture, it is an act of greeting to show respect for the elders while women kneel. If prostration means to worship in Yorubaland, it then means female should as well prostrate like their male counterparts while greeting the elders.

”Elders” he continued “in this sense does not really mean the greyed, once the person is older, you may prostrate as a sign of greeting. Bowing down is also found in many cultures as signs of greetings around the world up till this present time, especially in the Asian countries. In Japan, people bow as a sign of greetings, not only to the elders but to anybody of any age. Likewise, in China, they bow for the elders, even, the more the bow, the older the person you are greeting. Then I asked, “What then should we call this one that played out a few minutes ago or is the person in question also older than you too?”

Then Akin said, “what then shall we say of the 85-year-old Obasanjo who prostrated flat before the Ooni of Ife who may be in his 30’s?”

I was dumbfounded, but then I said,” Should it be that Obasanjo is paying honour to the seat of his ancestors not the Ooni in person?” Yes, you got that right that is what I just did the man is a high chief of the land. Besides a Yoruba adage says, “Ka dọbale fun arara, iyen o ni ka ma ga” meaning “prostrating for a dwarf does not stop one from rising up again.”. I still reminisce over that but then cared to ask you reading this now, “What’s your take on this?” or should we just agree with Akingbade?


Ifeanyichukwu Chukwu Emeka Ezenwanne

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