WHEN THEY CALL YOU “OMOLUABI” IN YORUBALAND
WRITTEN BY JOHNSON OKÙNADÉ
Omoluabi (Omolúàbí) is a philosophical and cultural concept that’s native to the Yorùbá people. It’s used to describe a person of good and virtuous nature, it’s an indication that the individual is well mannered and cultured.
The omoluabi concept signifies courage, hard work, humility and respect. An omoluabi is a person of honour who believes in hard work, respects the rights of others, and gives to the community in deeds and in action. Above all, an omoluabi is a person of integrity.
The Yoruba descent is one that is not only rich in cultures, but the race is very meticulous about persons and their backgrounds. Hence, whenever anyone does anything in their society, most often, the comments made, good or bad, are passed on to the parents or the family descent of such people. It is discreetly believed, like the Biblical injunction. “no good tree will bring forth a bad fruit and no bad tree will bring forth a good fruit”, that whatever one does is a product and function of who borne them. After all, an Apple doesn’t fall far from its tree!
The Omoluabi concept is an adjectival Yoruba phrase, which has the words – “Omo + tí + Olú-ìwà + bí” as its components. Literally translated and taken separately, omomeans ‘child’, tí means ‘that or which’, Olú-ìwà means the chief or master of Ìwà (character), bí means ‘born’. When combined, Omoluabi translates as “the baby begotten by the chief of ìwà (character)”. Such a child is thought of as a paragon of excellence in character.
Prof Oluwole insisted that Omoluabi is: “Omo tí ó ní ìwà bi, Omo tí a kó, tí ó si gba èkó” which translates thus: “a person who behaves like a child that was properly nurtured and who behaves accordingly”
Some also argue that Omoluabimeans: “omo + tí + Olú(wa)+ bí”, literally meaning: “a child borne by God”.
An omoluabi demonstrates and exhibits the inherent virtue and value of Ìwàpèlé. Ìwàpèlé is ultimately the basis of moral conduct in Yorùbá culture and a core defining attribute of an omoluabi.
According to Deacon Àkànbí of Ògbómòsó, a scholar of YorùbáEducation; “In Yorubaland, a person referred to as Omoluabi must have the following features (àmúye): Òrò síso (Spoken Word), Ìteríba (Respect), Inú rere (Good will, Having a good mind towards others), Òtító (truth), Ìwà (Character, Habit), Akínkanjú (Bravery), Isé síse (Dedication to Hardworking)”.
- Òrò síso(Spoken word): The Yorùbá accord great respect for intelligent and expert use of language. The ability to use words smartly is believed to be one of the attributes of Omoluabi. In Yorubaland, the way you address people determines their response, hence the Yorùbá adage, “Òrò tútù obì ní mú jáde lápò, Òrò burúkú idà ní yo” (softly spoken words brings forth great and desired rewards, whilst harsh words provokes men and make issues worst).
- Ìteríba (Respect): An Omoluabiis not selective in who to respect. He respects everyone that comes his way whether rich or poor, old or small without any discrimination. An Omoluabi is not a proud person, he’s humble and respects everyone that comes his way. This attribute is also manifested in greeting people, one of the benchmarks of a proper Yorùbá man.
- Inú rere (Good will, Having a good mind towards others):In Yorubaland, the law of karma is paramount, what you reap you’ll sow. The adage: “Àsesílè ni àbòwábá, kò sí àsegbé, àsepamó ló wà” (there is nothing you do that doesn’t have consequences) is a reality. An Omoluabi is expected to be someone that understands this and put this into consideration in all his deeds.
- Òtító (Truth): This has to do with integrity. A supposed Omoluabi is trustworthy and can be relied on to do the right thing whether he’s being monitored or not. Omoluabi is not self-centred, but puts the interest of others into consideration. He’s straightforward and truthful in all he does.
- Ìwà (Character, Habit): let’s not forget that Omoluabi (Omo tí olú ìwà bí) translates as “the baby begotten by the chief of iwa (character)”. A Yorùbá adage says:“Èéfín nìwà rírú níí rú” (Bad habit puffs like smoke). Someone’s habit cannot be hidden, so for someone to be regarded to as Omoluabi, he must have good habits.
- Akínkanjú (Bravery): An Omoluabi is patriotic and fearless. He’s bold and not timid especially when it comes to doing the right thing. An Omoluabi cannot be easily bribed or seen oppressing people. He doesn’t look the other way when he sees people being oppressed.
- Isé síse (Hardwork): One imperative of Yorubas in the pursuit of commerce is that any such pursuit must be legitimate with norms of the society. It is on this note that an Omoluabi sweat and labour as necessary. Omoluabi doesn’t encourage cheating and unlaboured wealth. He works very hard to be wealthy. An Omolúàbí’swatchword is: “Isé ni Òògùn Ìsé”(Hardwork is the medicine (solution to) poverty.
Because of these gargantuan expectations, it is always hard to see somebody come out to call himself/herself, Omoluabi. And before a society would pronounce somebody as Omoluabi, such would have proven themselves beyond every reasonable doubts in diverse ways to many people.
An individual can be termed an “Omoluabi” irrespective of the religion the person adheres to. Consequently, some of the characteristics and traits of an omoluabi are considered virtues in many religions, for example, humility, truth and honesty.
Pa Odékanyin Adébìyí of Òyó town, a culture enthusiast and historian who also served Nigeria at the federal level in different capacities with the likes of Obafemi Awolowo, and Prof Wande Abimbola said:
When they call you “Omoluabi” in Yorubaland, it means
- To a christian, you are a saint.
- To a Muslim, you are Wali Allah.
- To Hindus, you are a “Sadhu”.
- To a Buddhist, you are enlightened.
- To a Confucianist, you are a gentleman.
- In Judaism, such a person is a “Tzadik”
- In Sikhism, you are a “Brahmgiani”
In conclusion, “Omoluabi” is more or less a rare title reserved only for those perceived to be totally above board in almost all ramifications. Other versions or variations of Omoluabi exist, such as “Olú-omo”, “Bíbííre” and so forth.
Mention should be made that the closest to Omoluabi among all its synonyms is Bíbííre. Literally, Bibiire means somebody with a noble birth; not necessarily from a rich or popular background, but the connotations, like Omoluabi, is somebody that is above board.
Written by Johnson Okùnadé
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
- Sèyí Àdìgún
- Deacon Àkànbí
- Pa Odékanyin Adébìyí
- Six Hundred Yorùbá Proverbs: An all-embracing Potpie by ‘Sayò Àlàgbé – (Pg 76)
- Omoluabi: Re-thinking the concept of virtue in Yoruba culture and moral system by Olusola Victor Olanipekun (Pg 3, 7 & 11)
- Aje: An early Yorùbá deity with no second fiddle (scripts of the Letter published in the Nigerian Tribune on Thursday, 2 May, 2019 Pg 9.) by Oba (Dr.) Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, JP. CFR, LLD, SAP, D.LLTS, DPA. The Alaafin of Oyo
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