Spiritual Heritage and Human Behavior

Scientific Essay, 2012

18 Pages, Grade: 1.0




In this research, we shall look at how spiritual heritage affects human behavior. For the purpose of clarity and understanding, the presentation is divided into political, economic, social and religious behavior. Newspapers and weekly magazines are greatly used in this chapter not only because they are the reflection or the mirror of what is going on in the society ,but also because they report police investigations ,court proceedings and High and Supreme Courts’ judgments in Nigeria. Thus, the information in some reputable daily newspapers and weekly magazines are authentic and true reflection of the societal behavior. The researcher has also been careful in selecting his materials from newspapers and magazines that are serious minded and reputable.

Political Behavior

Politics is like a war in the Nigerian context, especially among the Yoruba. It is a battlefield for leadership positions and powers. In the old Oyo, the war-chief or the field marshal was known as Aare Ona Kakanfo. This chieftaincy was neither hereditary nor honorary, but was conferred by the Alaafin of Oyo on his best soldier, the most powerful one who had the record of winning several battles and was greatly influential among his subjects. According to the myth of the Aare Ona Kakanfo, the Kakanfo feared no foes or friends; he did not even fear the King who conferred the title on him. According to the initiation into this office, the occupant of the title would shave his head completely and there would be 201 incisions on his head, rubbed with concoction prepared with 201 viols on each of the incisions. This would make him not only bold and courageous to face any battle but also prone to warfare with the determination of winning the battle.[1]

In war, the Aare Ona Kakanfo must not lose any battle; he must either win or die in the battle. He must not come back with the news of defeat from the battle.

This practice is still in existence. The last two Aare Ona Kakanfo were Chief S. L. Akintola, the 13th Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland and the Premier of the old Western Region of Nigeria who died during the first military coup in Nigeria, on January 15, 1966. Chief S. L. Akintola had the opportunity of escaping for his life, but partly because of the myth that Aare Ona Kakanfo must either win or perish, he decided to die in the battle rather than run away for his life.

Chief M. K. O. Abiola, the 14th Aare Ona Kakanfo was the winner of the 1993 presidential election. He was incarcerated for 1,473 days after the annulment of the free and fair general election of June 12, 1993. He later died in the prison partly because of this myth.[2] In 1998, General Abubakar, the then Head of State appealed to Abiola to renounce his mandate and get his freedom. He even sent Kofi Anna, the then UN Secretary-General and Emeka Anyaoku, the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth to persuade him to drop his mandate but he refused. His refusal was guided by the myth that it is forbidden for Aare Ona Kakanfo to abandon any battle. Hence, Abiola could not renounce his political mandate but rather died on the battle field. From history, some of the Aare Ona Kakanfo who died on the battlefields were Aare Edun of Gbogun and Aare Kurunmi.[3]

The belief that Aare must either win or perish in the battle affected the behavior of most of the occupants of this chieftaincy. According to the poem of the Kakanfo:

Ohun meji lo ye Eso , Eso ja, O le ogun,

Eso ja, O ku si ogun. This means:

One of two things befits (Aare) an Eso. The Eso must fight

and conquer or the Eso must fight and perish in the war.[4]

Another spiritual heritage in relation to political behavior is seen in the myth of creation. Despite the fact that the Yoruba community is predominantly patriarchal, the myth gives role for women to take part in the political administration of the Yoruba community. According to the Yoruba creation myth, Olodumare gave the seventeen divinities political or administrative offices. Osun, the only female divinity was not excluded. Osun is the goddess of health and children. This creation myth has a great influence in the political system of the Yoruba. Every council of Yoruba chiefs includes a female chief called I yalode, who is the chief in charge of women’s affairs. She is also in charge of the market women. As women’s leader, she acts as the external affairs chief because she has power to reveal the secret of other surrounding nations.[5]

In the light of using women as political weapons of knowing the secret of other nations, let us examine the myth of Oluorogbo. The myth of Oluorogbo among the Yoruba of Ile-Ife reveals the important role of women in the society. Women are seen as very good instruments of achieving goals and revealing the secret of heroes or bringing down heroes. In this myth, Moremi was the wife of the king of Ile-Ife, the cradle of the Yoruba. This woman had only one son, called Oluorogbo. At a particular time in the history of Ile-Ife, Igbo people were always raiding Ile-Ife by wearing masks of palm fronds. Whenever Ife people saw them in masks, they would run away for their lives, because they thought that these masquerades were gods.

One day Moremi allowed herself to be captured just as to know the secret behind these masquerades. She was eventually captured and became the wife of the Igbo king. She stayed there for some time and eventually knew that the masquerades were ordinary human beings. She sneaked out and came back to Ile-Ife. However, before she left Ile-Ife for Igboland, she had made a vow to the goddess of the river Esinmirin that if she achieved the goal of her mission and came back in peace, she would offer to the goddess whatever first came to meet her on the way. Unfortunately, while coming back, it was her only son who first met her just like the daughter of Jephthah in the Bible.

The myth of Oluorogbo also attributed power to women even in the midst of a patriarchal society. It reveals some impossible tasks for men but with women, they are possible. This implies that women could be used to know the secret of great men using their romantic and enticing nature accompanied with their beauty. Women are greatly feared in terms of bringing mighty men down.[6] Though men can overcome women with physical power, they mostly defeat men by non-physical means. The cult of witchcraft is associated with women in which they arrogate power to themselves. Hence, when women’s power is overwhelmed physically, women use mystical or romantic power to challenge injustice in the society. Experiences have shown that great people in the society fear women more than their male counterparts.[7]

Another political myth in Nigeria is seen in the era of Obasanjo. When Obasanjo was released from a prison and became the president of Nigeria on May 29, 1999, Christians were jubilating, especially the Pentecostals. They emphasized that the ‘Messiah’ of Nigeria had come. They saw him as the Joseph of the Bible whom God brought from the prison to the throne. Christians thought that they would have great influence on the government policy because they saw Obasanjo’s coming back to the throne as a divine ordination. Although, at the initial stage of his regime, injustice reduced a bit and the Church had some influences on him, however, the financial scandal of some of his cabinet members proved that he is not the ‘Messiah.’[8]

Economic Behavior

In Africa certain animals are forbidden to be killed by hunters. Among the Yoruba, especially the Alapa people in Ogbomoso of Oyo State. There is the belief that the descendants of Alapa family must not kill snakes if they want to prosper in life. According to the myth which forbids the Alapa from killing or eating snakes, the Alapas believe that their great ancestor was offended and turned into a snake. Thus, the family of Alapa sees snakes as totemic animals. Any member of this family eating or killing snake will not be economically successful and will be experiencing setback in his or her business. Hence, this family advice the younger ones to restrain from killing or eating snakes.[9]

The Yoruba like other Africans believe that the composition of the earth is beyond the physical; there are powers in the universe that one can use to enrich oneself. Thus, the success or failure of man does not only depend on human efforts but to a large extent on the spiritual forces. Howell contends that poverty or wellbeing of an African is linked to the spiritual world; poverty or wealth is also linked to malevolent or benevolent spirits. He declares: traditionally, sickness, suffering, morality, giving, possessions, wealth and wellbeing are attributed to a malevolent or benevolent spirit.’[10] In consonance with Howell, Senavoe notes that the level of poverty is very high in Africa and many Africans are looking for diverse ways of getting poverty behind them. She stresses that, as a result of the high level of poverty in Africa, the major emphasis of most of the African preachers today is on the ‘quest for personal gain, health, money and visas.’[11] As a result of the high level of poverty, some Africans develop means of getting over poverty by blood money. In some cases, people develop ‘white magic’ to get wealth. Some even go to church to get spiritual solution to their poverty.

Unlike the black magic that is harmful, the ‘white magic’ is for economic success, progress, prosperity, to undo curse and failure. The Yoruba name for economic magic is Awure. This white magic is considered good because it enriches and enhances wealth. Prophet Otegbayo affirmed that he performs the ritual of blessings ( ise aanu or ise ibukun) for his clients so as to get behind poverty. Traditionally, most of the rituals of wealth or blood money involve human blood and human parts, thus they are nothing but crime to the society. Enwerem opines that money-magic activities involve human beings are and largely shrouded in secrecy though they can be watched in home videos and read books.[12] Bujo said that as a result of money and power in Africa today, people kill human beings like snakes or removing weeds from farms.[13] Many people in Africa today because of poverty resort into primitive practice of making money. The editorial comment of The Punch of January 15, 2010 declares:

It is sad that people who lack the basic knowledge of

how to make money or create wealth still hang onto

the primitive belief that human body parts can

be used to summon gods or supernatural powers

to make things happen in the physical world.

In the absence of scientific knowledge, many believe

that wealth, power or fame can be achieved through

ritual sacrifices made with human body parts.[14]


[1] H. Abiola, ‘The Contemporary Politics and Its Impact on the Office of Aare Ona Kakanfo’, www.yoruba.org/.magazine/spring, 97.

[2] D. Agekameh, ‘June 12 and Abiola’s Travails’, Tell, July 20, 1998, 19.

[3] F. Anifalaye, ‘Lesson from a myth’, Xian. Information. 1 (1), 2006, 18.

[4] S. Johnson, The History of Yoruba s, 73.

[5] Oduyoye, Daughters of Anowa, 22-23.

[6] Abogunrin, ‘The Cosmic Significance of Jesus Christ in the African Context,’ 12-13.

[7] Oduyoye, Daughters of Anowa, 31.

[8] E. Obadare, ‘Pentecostal Presidency? The Lagos –Ibadan: Theocratic and the Muslim ‘Other’, R eview of African Political Economy, 110, 2006, 667.

[9] Interview with O. Anike, Ajangbadi, Lagos, March 20, 2007.

[10] A. M. Howell, ‘Anthropological Insight for Theological Engagement’, Journal of African Christian Thought 3(1), June 2000, 33.

[11] J. Senavoe, ‘Gospel and Culture in Luke-Acts: A Woman’s Meditation’, Journal of African Christian Though t 2 (2), 1993, 3.

[12] Enwerem, ‘Magic -Money and Ritual Killing in Contemporary Nigeria’, 196.

[13] B. Bujo , Christmas: God Becomes Man in Black Africa (Nairobi, 1995)32-33.

[14] The Punch Editorial,’ Ritual Killing: A Menace Overlooked’, The Punch, January 15, 2010, 14.

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Spiritual Heritage and Human Behavior
Bowen University
Religious Studies
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spiritual, heritage, human, behavior
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Blessing Adegoke (Author), 2012, Spiritual Heritage and Human Behavior, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/195334


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