Your Excellency, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, royal fathers, fellow masses; permit me to begin this presentation by quoting from William McNeil’s comments on the dedication page of the great book ‘THE RISE OF THE WEST‘ where he wrote, inter alia,

“ I seek to understand, and if I can, to justify the ways of man to man”.

Culture is second nature to man. Man is as much a product of nature as he is a by-product of culture. The sociological components of any given society represent her cultural identity, defines her economic and political direction which effectively determines society’s progress, stagnation or retrogression. Culture, I believe, is the sociological DNA of a given people sacredly natural to them.

Cultural anthropologists posit that the culture of a people is in tandem with their historical development and not necessarily inferior to any other culture. Your behavior suits your culture and nobody has a right to criticize your way of life just because it is different from his own culture. It is a bigger tragedy where a person is ashamed of his/her culture because he/she suffers from a complicated complex of inferiority to another culture. A loss of culture is a loss of identity which has the immutable potential to scuttle the natural course of socio-economic development.

Before the intrusion of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and the Arab Trans-Saharan slave trade before it , the Yoruba were on a steady social and economic progress predicated on a solid cultural base with innate political sophistication comparable to any advanced civilization of the same historical milieu. It was one culture – a people – destined for greatness.

Therefore, the thematic pre-occupation of this modest presentation is a brief historical excavation of the lost paradise of the Yoruba civilization and a critique of the unconscious subjugation of a self-propelling cultural force to the corrosive influence of an invading self-serving Western model. The result has been a West-cloned cultural caricature with a predictable value of socio-economic paralysis. This paper is an attempt to provoke a cultural rediscovery for the purpose of comprehensive development. But I take the liberty to limit myself to three areas viz; Agriculture, Manufacturing, and Trading.

Farming was the most economic essential of Yoruba agriculture and various African historians of note, including Murdock and Wrigley, have attested to its independent origin in West Africa. Not a single element of West African/Yoruba agriculture was borrowed from outside in periods preceding colonization.

As far back as 4,500 B.C. sedentary populations in Yorubaland have developed agricultural techniques which Murdock argued to be “a genuine invention, not a borrowing from another people“. Land, the most important factor of production, was plenteous in proportion to the population and for the most part lacked conscious or controlled economic value. It was, though, demarcated but not enclosed (Ogunremi, 1998). The second factor of production, Labour, comprised of household and slave labour and socially organized one.

From the 16th to 19th century an elite class of wealthy, large farm owners had emerged like Bashorun Oluyole of Ibadan, Madam Tinubu of Abeokuta, and Efunseitan Aniwura who was reputed to have more than two thousand slaves working on her farms. Huge plantations owned by military and commercial elites were flourishing from where large scale production of palm oil, cotton, kola nuts, cocoa and coffee, which were later additions, were produced for exports. Cultivation of cotton had been active in Egbaland from around 3,000 B.C. as well as the Savanna areas of Yorubaland. A major derivative of palm oil production was the native butter delicacy, Kete, which till date has no better companion in the eating of yam. Very unfortunately even that has been largely upstaged by fat or ‘synthetic’ butter harmful to health.

Stock farming was equally wide spread. Sheep , goats, rams, poultry and dogs (mostly for hunting) were owned in both subsistent and commercial quantities including cows and horses. In fact, Fulani Slaves were used for tending and milking cows from before the 19th century in Ibadan.

Hunting and fishing were subsidiary vocations but closely related to farming. Hunting, especially, gave the Yoruba a vast knowledge of the medicinal potency of leaves and roots. So, hunters also doubled as native doctors who were very effective and revered. That all-vital knowledge for human survival has vastly waned. The exemplary glory of the era of

“ Seleru Agbo, Ogbara Agbo, L’osun fi n wo omo re ki dokita o to o de “ is all but lost.

It will be unnecessary to go into details in a brief presentation as this. Suffice it to say that being a highly urbanized people, the Yoruba produced – both for local consumption and export – implements, cloths, wood works, pots, baskets and so many other utility utensils. Each Yoruba community developed its manufactures according to its needs and the natural endowments of its environment which determined the raw materials available. The famous Ife brass smithing and beads industry pre-dated the 13th and 14th centuries respectively. Even when many societies in Europe still considered bathing harmful, the Yoruba had been making Ose dudu from earlier than 10,000 BC with its multiple functions of washing, medicated and antiseptic utility
(Rodney, 1972).

The Yoruba also developed the technical know-how to, among other things, extract edible oil and sweet-aroma beauty cream from coconut (Adiagbon). One can only wonder if and where they still subsist today. Our market s and homes have now been flooded with European skin-lightening, cancer-bearing creams that quicken the ageing process, weaken our skins and destroy our natural African beauty including all manner of corrosive hair chemicals (a.k.a Relaxers) which are now making our women bald. Before age forty modern Yoruba women would have lost over 60% of their natural hair. What happened to the beautiful braiding styles – Shuku, Kolese, Ipako Elede, Patewo, Ojo ko P’eti, etc – that made our mothers the enviable beautiful African queens?

Trading was an essential segment of Yoruba economic activities. It was basically a market- based economy with a well-organized market network system across the whole of Yorubaland. I must emphasize that trading was not limited to market places alone as there were leagues of long-distance traders who specialized in merchandising only non-perishable and expensive goods like soap, cloths and animals. The larger and popular markets where many local and long-distance traders converged were located in Ibadan, Akure, Ikoyi , Owo, Ilesa , Egosi, Ondo, Apomu, Iloring, Badagry, et cetera. They were referred to as Parakoyi

The combined effects of the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade, colonization and neo-colonization have done incalculable damage to the social and economic fortunes of the Yoruba nation. We have virtually lost our originality and ingenuity to the vagaries of neo-imperialist aggravated socio-cultural and economic-cum-psychological warfare that has stolen our hearts from our chests and our brains from our skulls. Essentially,
the Yoruba Youth has become a willing but unconscious slave of negative Westernism in the form at socio-cultural suicide that makes him far less appreciative, even abhorrent, of his beautiful heritage. I believe that a loss of culture – or a partial loss of it – is equivalent to a loss of language. When a people lose their culture, they lose their identity and thereby become nonentities. If they lose their language they lose their voice, thereby becoming non-existent.

In many of our schools and homes today it is a crime for our children to speak their mother tongue because, to our modern confused social psychology, it projects a picture of illiteracy and sub-urbanite crudity. The biggest illiterate in the world is the one deficient in the knowledge of his culture and language. It is an arrogance misplaced. It gladdens my heart nowadays to view Osun Television making impressive efforts to
re-awaken our cultural consciousness by bringing back our long-abandoned Yoruba ere ale lyrics.

Imperialist onslaughts ensured that the massive importation of European manufactured goods such as textiles, metal and ceramic utensils, soap, cutlasses, axes, spirit, and many other items especially in the 19th century had a debilitating effect on the technological development of the Yoruba. The European merchants and, later on, the colonial administrators deliberately intended the Africans to be producers of raw materials and buyers of their finished goods. No effort was made to, at least, process the raw materials to any stage before export. The Europeans dictated the prices for both products – the raw materials and the manufactured goods. In consequence, the Yoruba abandoned their textiles, pots, beads, baskets and the techniques for smelting iron, making salt and making pots. The argument is that had there been no alternatives, the Yoruba, among others, would have been forced to improve on their technology in order to reduce the production costs and produce on a large scale to meet people’s demand. That productions of the products continued at all must be due to the confidence the people had in their home-made products, inability to purchase the European-made ones or even non-availability of the manufactured ones and the durability of the locally-made utensils(Ogunremi, 1998).

However, the biggest culprit is official corruption committed by military and civilian politicians who have captured state power to loot public treasury and thereby stifle meaningful development of society. In rediscovering our past glory the government at all levels have a central role to play. But it would take an incorruptible, patriotic, educated, ideologically-entrenched, creative and intellectually-versatile leader with unidirectional pragmatic agenda to pull this off.

It is a shame today to see 90% of our graduates and youths only search for white collar ‘jobs’ and government hand-outs that are becoming so difficult to find without the help of political patronage. Many of us have abandoned the traditional lucrative vocations of our parents like cloth making, farming, drum making, black-smithing, gold-smithing, trading, entertaining e.t.c which made them economically and financially self-dependent. The Yoruba by nature and culture are not beggars or hangers-on.

Education does not make your culture or language inferior. It is a mark of compound ignorance and a miseducated mind to lose the knowledge of your cultural language simply because you have been to school . Integrating culture into modernity is really not the challenge here, but deciding how much of sanity is in modernity.

Water Rodney wrote in “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’ that

“An even bigger problem is that the people of Africa and other parts of the colonized world have gone through a cultural and psychological crisis and have accepted … the European version of things.”

Recently the Western world descended on Nigeria with emotional fury when anti-gay legislations were made by our National Assembly. These laws are in tandem with African Culture and human nature as created by the Supreme God. Every export from Africa to the West takes away our richness. Every import from there brings in the toxic wastes of modern/Western ‘civilization’. Recently the American congress not only passed a law allowing American military men to be openly gay but also the one that allows Americans to have sex with animals! Can you beat that?

So, in the attempts to integrate culture and modernity, a comprehensive sociological sifting with a view to eliminating negative potentials is critically incumbent.

Integrating MUST not mean disintegrating those fundamental progressive bases of our rich past.

The Late Abami Eda, Fela Anikulapo Kuti said:

“According to the estimation of African riches, every African is supposed to be free from poverty. Why are we so poor? It is time to investigate”

Thank you for your kind attention.

Comrade Mark Adesina Adebayo is a committed human rights activist, researcher, creative writer, capacity builder and motivational speaker. He is the Secretary of Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL); CEO, SpeechVoltage Motivations; President, The Common Man’s Movement of Nigeria; Secretary-General, Activists’ Coalition Against Bad Governance and Executive Director, Center For Political Education. He was one of the Lead Instructors for the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (OYES) of the Osun State Government and has been a resource person at several workshops and seminars. He has published five titles on the political developments in Nigeria. He started writing in 1984. E-mail: Tel: 08064205487, 08033431012, 08055761194