Àkòdì: The Yorùbá Practice of the Religious Maxim of Total Acceptance
One of the many roles of religion in its essence is the call for total acceptance, hence peace within humanity. This call for total acceptance at the turn of the new millennium is very crucial in the face of crises, and conflict all around in the global village. The practice of total acceptance, wherever it could be found, could therefore serve as a model for the rest of humanity to borrow a leaf from. The practice of total acceptance of humanity, an ideal religious maxim, is found in at least the Àkòdì system of living among the Yorùbá. This work therefore recommends the positive values of Àkòdì as one of the roles that religion must perform within humanity in order to bring more peace to humanity. The context of the study is the Yorùbá culture and religion, while the intended scope of application is the global village. The methodology in use here is to look at different bits of the topic and draw conclusion that could be recommended to the global humanity.
Religious maxims are general truth, proverbs, rule of conduct, principles, (Foreman 1968 p.320), behaviours, norms and moral teachings, which are found in religions. The problem however at this stage is the word religion itself. Religion should not be used as a blanket word, which may not convey any precise meaning. It therefore becomes very necessary to define religion especially within this context.
Truth, justices, love and good works are some of the universal religious maxims that are subscribed to by most of the religions of the world. This work wants to focus on just an aspect of love – acceptance, from whatever possible list could be put out as religious maxims.
There are many operative words that depict one aspect of love or the other. Such include, care, forgiveness, tolerance, concern and acceptance. It is the view of this writer that the actual practical operative word for love is acceptance. This is why acceptance becomes the operative word in the attempt to find a role model for religion in the global village.
In other words, the role of religion is to provide acceptance for humanity. Religion must work relentlessly to remove the inhumanity of man to man under any guise; be it piety, playing god to another person or American visa lottery which is the modernised slavery without the option or possibility of reparation. It is this acceptance that is here claimed to have existed in Àkòdì long before the twenty-first century. It is the acceptance that the twenty-first century may unwillingly and unwittingly destroy if care is not taken. It is the call to the Àkòdì consciousness that is now to be explored.
Àkòdì in Yorùbá Community
Àkòdì is a Yorùbá word that depicts a people’s practical living of total acceptance. The word in itself does not seem to be much until the concept it stands for is adequately examined and exposed. This is therefore an attempt to show the concepts embedded within the Àkòdì system and to recommend the principle of total acceptance that is stands for as a necessary and possible in-road to world peace. In order to reveal the deep concept that Àkòdì contains the word is here discussed in stages. The first stage defines the word, exposes the architectural configuration and the physical structure of the Àkòdì. The second stage looks at the sociology of the people living in the Àkòdì. Here the composition of the people, their political setting, the economic setting, and the religious setting are examined. The third stage evaluates the Àkòdì crisis management principle and establishes the relationship between the survival of one and the survival of all. Stage four is the conclusion and it shows that survival stands for acceptance, for peace and for continuity.
B. Definition of Àkòdì
Àkòdì is a Yorùbá word that has etymological definition as well as a concept representation definition. Etymologically, Àkòdì is a combination of five alphabets – three vowels A, O, I, and two consonants K and D. the word Àkòdì could be broken into “Àkò” and “òdì”. Àkò means “hard” or “male” and òdì means wall or boundary. Odi could also mean “deaf” – a deaf person. Àkòdì as a combination of Àkò and òdì is possible and explainable in the sense that the coming together of o – o in Àkò -òdì to give o alone in Àkòdì is a contraction. The vowel contraction at the coming together of two vowels into one is a common phenomenon in Yorùbá language.
From the concept representation point of view, the meanings portrayed by Àkò and Odi are all contained in what Àkòdì stands for. The physical structure of Àkòdì and the architectural configuration of Àkòdì show that the concepts represented by the component words Àkò and Odi are well grounded in Àkòdì. The conceptual definition of Àkòdì is shown in the following to one degree or the other.
B1 Physical Structure of Àkòdì
The physical structure of Àkòdì is a building of a special type. Like most buildings (if not all buildings), it is made of natural objects. The walls are often built from moulded earth and the roof is often of thatch leaves or, recently, pans with woods as rafter. All the materials are hard and in a sense could be regarded as “Àkò nkan”- translated “Hard materials”. There is the view that “A kì í fi nkan yepere k’ólé; Ohun tí ó le ni a fi n kó ilé”. Translated:- People do not use soft or cheap things in building. Rather people use hard, tough and lasting things – objects in building. Thus Àkòdì as a building must be tough, and sturdy as to be able to stand the strain of weather and the test of time.
B2 Architectural Configuration or Àkòdì
A Study of the ground plan drawing of the Àkòdì shows the first concept of oneness. The Àkòdì is usually a large concentric rectangular setting as shown in the diagram. At the corner is the head of the setting and the apartment is called “Káà Baálé”, translated “The court of the head Father”:
Ground plan of an Àkòdì
There is usually another smaller court called “Káà Baálé kékeré,” translated as the “Court of the second in command” or “of the small father”. There is usually a main door as entrance and smaller back door passage in the compound. There is always a veranda-passage that runs round the inner side of the rectangle. The open court is for evening social gatherings especially by age groups. The children are usually in a corner having moonlight plays and stories, while the women are busy with usual domestic core. The young men are often relaxing over palm wine while the elders are usually busy with issues and decisions affecting the Àkòdì as a whole.
The configuration of the Àkòdì is usually on a flat terrain that allows the compound to be assessable to all. Expansion of the compound is always made in such a way as to keep the rectangular shape of the Àkòdì. Modern or Western patterns of buildings – be it flats, face to face or condominium are very different from the unique, simple, yet fully functionally comprehensive structure called Àkòdì. Of more particular highlight is the composition of people in the Àkòdì however.
B3 Composition of People in the Àkòdì.
One Àkòdì normally occupies all the members in a family clan. The good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, the lazy, the hard working, the super lazy drone and the workaholic all live together in the same Àkòdì. Even the mad – insane, lunatic–person is accommodated in the Àkòdì. This possibly explains the existence of the saying in Yorùbá: “T’orí wèrè ìta ni a se ní wèrè ilé”, translated, “It is because of the mad man (or bad man) outside that you keep or have mad man (bad man) inside”
Thus in the Àkòdì all kinds of people are fully accommodated, known, noted and accepted for what ever the individual is and encouraged to fulfil his/herself as best in the common interest of all within the Àkòdì. The lazy man, while often rebuked is still accommodated in the Àkòdì. The saying “?gbón inú olè ni olè nje”, translated “It is the cleverness or cunningness of the lazy man that he is eating – living on” shows the level of acceptance or at the least toleration given to even the lazy person. The only person that is not tolerated in the Àkòdì is the thief. Stealing is abhorred within the Àkòdì. Within children, pilfering is punished and discouraged in many ways. By the time a young person becomes a full professional thief such a person is either killed or exiled from the Àkòdì for life.
In the Àkòdì, the aged, the just born babe and all in the different grades and levels of life live together. The organisation is such that there is a family clan head – usually a man, and all men in the Àkòdì are responsible to him. There is equally a head mother – an old woman to whom all the women are responsible. Duties like filling the water-pot in the quadrangle with water is the responsibility of the young women and girls in the Àkòdì under the monitoring of the head woman.
Within the Àkòdì there are all sorts of family relationships that include father, mother, children, uncles, cousins, half brothers, half sisters and such like. All the relationships in the male domain could be summed up as “Ègbón” or “Àbúrò” meaning “Senior brother” or “Junior brother” as the whole clan is regarded as just a family.
In essence, the composition within the Àkòdì is based on acceptance by all for all, as well as of the individual by the individual. Even when strangers have to live in the Àkòdì, such persons are integrated and accepted into the Àkòdì by the one and by the all. Apart from the composition of the people in the Àkòdì the economic and religious setting within the Àkòdì equally point to the philosophy of acceptance as the principle of survival of all.
B4 Economic and Religious Setting within the Àkòdì
The economic principle of the ancient Àkòdì is based on practical survival principles. Selfishness is abhorred while hard work is encouraged, praised and recommended. Economic interests include full gainful employment, mainly farming. This is supplemented by the clan’s needs hence jobs like “Àgbède” - the smith, “Àyàn” the drummers, “?jà” market and such like are in the Àkòdì. Ostentatious life styles are not common in the Àkòdì as the survival of all is the survival of the individual.
The religious setting in the Àkòdì is totally absorbed in the entire activity of the Àkòdì. As rightly put by Idowu about the Yorùbá –“ In all things, they are religious. Religion forms the foundation and the all-governing principle of life for them.” (Idowu, 1975 P. 5). Thus in the Àkòdì religion penetrates all of the people’s live – economic or otherwise.
There are periodic religious festive celebrations like “?dún Ìj?su” – new yam eating festival, “Ìkórè” – harvest, and such others. There are also local prescribed religious celebrations or sacrifice given to individuals often by the Baba awo – the Chief priest. All such festivals and celebrations are done in the spirit of survival for the all and the one in the Àkòdì. This then leads to the need to evaluate the Àkòdì crisis management principle and hence establish the survival of all as the survival of one.
C Evaluation of Àkòdì crisis management principles
The Àkòdì has its crisis. The crises include defending the clan against outside aggressions as well as solving internal misunderstandings and problems. The main management principle used in the Àkòdì is that of acceptance, there by, making maximum use of the one and the all. The Àkòdì depends on every one in the system to contribute his/her best to the survival of the system. The Àkòdì accepts the best of each person. The single water pot illustrates in very clear terms that “we either all survive together or we all die together”. In the days of old, the identity of the one was the identity of the Àkòdì and clan. What one has is what all have. Individual possessiveness was not the practice. This was properly illustrated in the days of the re-diffusion. Only one was in the Àkòdì, and the one was put in the open square under the tree. No one stole it. Crisis of information, up-dating, projection and decision in direction, were all solved collectively – often by the elders.
The principles thus called into play include:
(i) Knowing that the survival of all is the survival of the one
(ii) Knowing that if the Àkòdì or community does not survive no individual in the Àkòdì or community will survive
(iii) Acceptance is the clue to solving all problems in the Àkòdì.
This is illustrated in the saying “Baba tí kò b’ínú ni omo rè npò” meaning “It is the father that is not angry that has many children” – in other words, it is the father that is tolerant, that accepts all that has a large Àkòdì. In this sense many children or large Àkòdì implies strength, confidence and unity. These are the crisis management principles involved in the life of the Àkòdì.
D Conclusion of the Àkòdì in Yorùbá Community:
It can now be said that Àkòdì is a comprehensive concept that illustrates acceptance as the main survival strategy. It is the acceptance that generates peace. It also guarantees continuity of the community.
The import of this paper is that in all religions there are maxims. The maxims must have included love in one form or the other hence acceptance, which has been shown as the main operative word for love. The Yorùbá have demonstrated the acceptance in practical terms in what is called Àkòdì.
The western consciousness that every individual can live alone, thereby struggling to possess the whole world until he dies in egocentric futility is not with the Àkòdì concepts. The dehumanising economic mirage that one should buy television for every room rather than make the children accept themselves and share a television is a full negation of the Àkòdì concept. The Yorùbá have demonstrated the theory of acceptance in the Àkòdì. It is for the man of the global village to learn and apply the concept of acceptance as best for the improvement of humanity in all aspects of life.
Cited Works on ÀkòdìAwolalu, J.O.(1979) Yorùbá Beliefs and Sacrificial Rites, Longman, London,
Berry, C. G. Religions of the World, Barnes and Noble Inc. N. Y. 1964.
Foreman, J. B. (Ed.), New Gem Dictionary, Collins, London and Glasgow 1968.
Gove, P. B. (Ed.), Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, of the English Language, Unabridged, G & C Merriam Company, Springfield, U.S.A. 1971.
Idowu, B. African Traditional Religion: A Definition, SCM Press Ltd., London, 1976.
Popoola A & Co (Ed.) Ondo State in Perspective, Ondo State Government, 1996. P110-117 Text of a lecture delivered at Cultural Centre Akure on 24th January 1996. by Jemiriye, T. F. Religions and Development of Ondo State. p.2.
For a list of other Dr. Jemiriye's Publication resources,click on this link:Publications