WHEN “RUHONMOBHOR” BECOMES A CURSE IN ESAN DIALECT: REVISITING RESPECT AS A VIRTUE IN ESANLAND, Nigeria – Prof. Matthew Izibili.

“Imuekpen” (being respectful) is an approved community virtue in most African societies with Esan people inclusive. The name may differ from one cultural milieu to the other. However, such observable difference(s) may not be of a kind strictly speaking, but only of a degree. One that is considered respectful is called Omuekpen. Besides, there’s a touch of ‘Oghoadena’ (respect begets respect) in the whole arrangement. Ok?

Esan Cultural Troop
Esan Cultural troop on display

In Esan, to be respectful, irrespective of the age difference between the persons involved, is taken with every seriousness. For example, in exchange of pleasantries, a young person is regarded as disrespectful if he/she out of excitement, perhaps, stretches his/ her hands to an older person to shake hands. It is the duty of the older person to stretch his hands to you in love and the younger accepts same respectfully with both hands. Did you get that? This is an outright deviation from the Western world practice. Another is the case of requesting an older person to help you pick up an item and you quickly add, I didn’t send you message oooo. Hahahaha… ‘Omon no Omuekpen’.

Meanwhile, I want us to remember that any child that could assist the mother in the kitchen proudly (foolishly though), announced to his mates that his/her father can pound yam very smoothly, have lost regards/ respect for such a father. Differently put, once a man’s children are of age of going to the farm and fetch tubbers of yam from the barn, the father no longer carry basket all by himself. It is demeaning; the height of disrespect! Whatsoever a man sows, the same he will reap… Is this a curse? What is a curse, if I may ask?

Esan Traditional Atire

Granted that out of anger or frustration, some statements or comments are made with the aim of the targeted hearer to be pained both emotionally or physically. Such statements can debase or dehumanize the hearer. The user of such offensive words or statements usually does so as a means of ventilating anger or due to an emotional outburst, etc. Note that it is not always the case that until one says, ” You are mad”, Stupid, etc that one has placed a curse or used an abusive word(s). All acts that are capable of treating another as invalid, not human, all born out of “ego massaging” is considered disrespectful. Please, be careful of people that take pleasure in saying, “Over my dead body” or “to hell with you”, etc… Simply respond thus, you may go to hell alone, I will not go with you; I reject your invitation. How about that?

Esan People Traditional Atire

To be added, being respectful, is not and ought not to be age dependent. For instance, I have heard some elders complain about a younger relation’s purported refusal to greet when their paths crossed. This is an unfortunate feeling of entitlement, by an elder. It is a possibility but may not be intentional. In such a situation, the elder can as well initiate the exchange of pleasantries like drawing the attention of the younger one who could be a son, daughter, sister, brother, etc… A simple but inviting question like, my dear, how are you? This could bring about the expected greetings. Don’t forget that in Esan, we don’t simply greet and walk away. But, a lot of other inquiries are made for which answers are immediately required. Am I lying? Even in communities where water is a major challenge, you will still be asked, have you bathed? A trial will sure convince you.

Now, the case of “Ruhonmonbhor” and when it becomes a curse: This statement attract its meaning depending on the context in which it is used. If it is said in anger to a perceived enemy, it is a serious curse simply calling for the termination of the life of the opponent. Then, you hear something like: “Uruhonmobhor” (you will loose your head) on the brewing matter.

It is not the same when a son who accompanied his father in search of staking sticks for yam, use the same word. All village boys reading this relaxation reflection should try and play back the tapes of yesteryears in your small heads. Having gathered some strong sticks and tied them into a bundle, the father will request the son to help him lift the bundle up to his head. Then the son will ask the father, “Ruhonmobhor”, that is, put your head on the appropriate place as he gives supportive hands. Hahahaha, in some parts of Esan till date, like Ekpoma, you will hear statement like it is during yam staking that a son could (unintentionally) curse the father, and the father will not feel offended. Thou must not curse your father/parents oooooo.

Esan Cultural troop on display

Respect, love and treat your parents and all that are of your parents age and even those that are younger. By so doing, you are prolonging your life.

Elders must not be disrespected and elders on their own needed to be elderly enough to know that they are elders not only in age but in conduct/ behaviour too. After all, the heads of an elder forbids a knock, exactly as the young ones do not deserve same because they are fragile.

Therefore, what is good for the Goose is also good for the Gander.

It’s worthy to note that, the ancestral homes of the Esan people are located in the Edo Central Senatorial District of Edo State, Nigeria, West Africa.

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