The need to inculcate our Nigerian/Afenmai tradition, culture and values in our children in diaspora.
Presented by: Chief (MRS) Winifred Nwaokolo
(Co-founder, Africa Strategic Advisory)
Venue: Afenmai world congress inc 9th annual convention (2016 Atlanta, USA)
I am going to start by giving glory to God for making it possible for us to live on this part of the world called the United States of America. It is a beautiful opportunity and we can never be more thankful. This Land of America, much as it is abundantly blessed, is full of a lot of factors which may tend to negate the efforts of Parents in their zeal to help our young children partake in the goodness of the land, without being scarred by the prevalent forces which cannot be easily wished away. The good news is that we are from Afenmai land. We have a culture, we have a tradition and we have values. We are going to employ these to chart our course toward success.
This discourse therefore, is going to examine the gift of our culture, tradition and values, how these traditional values shape our existence and we shall look at some important elements that exemplify these values. We shall go on to examine an appreciation of these elements and then, we will look into the need to inculcate them in our children , the next generation, so that toward the end of time, we can sit back and be comfortable, knowing that the baton is being passed down, with a hope that the generations to come will continue to be bound by, and benefit from it.
The preservation of our culture and values is the sole responsibility of every parent. It can not be over-emphasized, as culture is that unique factor which makes us who we are. It distinguishes us as a group of people. It shapes the way we execute the affairs of our lives; the way we talk, the way we think, react to events, our methods of dance, our disposition to relationships with other people, the food we eat, our fashion sense, our high appreciation of excellence. Our culture is all encompassing, and there is a dire need to preserve it.
Culture is passed down from generation to generation. The acquisition of our culture and values is a social process. The child just grows into the cultural heritage of his people. He imbibes it by observation. In our traditional setting, culture is not taught. It is caught. It is simply acquired. The child watches and observes and unconsciously, imbibes it. In our traditional society, a child is said to be a captive of his cultural and physical environment. He cannot run away from it.
We must be mindful at all times that the society we live in, will force its values on us, as regards what is deemed good, what is right and acceptable. Also, that which is seen as not so good, that which is wrong and that which is outright unacceptable to us as a group of people who have been nurtured with traditional protocol.
At this point in our lives as Afenmai people who live abroad, the major challenge we face up to on a regular basis, is the need to raise our children in this sophisticated world which offers lots of golden opportunities, without losing them to those ideals which hold sway in this society, but which ideals are detrimental to what we stand for, as Afenmai people. There now comes the need to uphold those tradition, culture and values of our people which has molded us into the dignified and successful people we are today. We do need to inculcate these values into our children as it is the very tool they need to take on the civilized world, partake in it and excel gloriously in every area of their endeavor. We need to put ourselves to work in this regard, reason being that if we neglect to do so, down the line unfortunately, we may end up with a lost generation.
We may need to lay some emphasis on certain areas of concern, so we do not end up in a state of acculturation, where we allow our values to succumb on contact, to a more advanced one. When this happens, we experience what is known as a ‘culture shock’. It tends to gear toward a ‘culture shift’ and if care is not taken, it leads to a ‘culture slumber’. The way we live presently, mimics the ‘culture shift’. It is good to know that we are a group of people who hold on dearly to our tradition and values. The question we are faced with is, are we making room for our children , the future generation, to come to terms with the need to hold dear to their hearts these values which make the Afenmai people stand out positively? The answer is obvious. We are all in this together, so we shall come together in unison and embark on a mission to re – align our young ones.
The Afenmai culture, values and tradition include some basic senses among which are;
Sense of Community: There is a saying in Afenmai land which goes, “He who has people is greater than he who has money”. The authentic Afenmai man is identified by his affiliation with his people. Let us make this known to our children so they do not live alienated lives from their own people , from whom they actually derive their identity. They need to identify with our people. It is good, it is right and it is necessary.
Sense of Good Human Relation: Life in the Nigerian community at large and the Afenmai community in particular, is centered on human interests and values, a mode of living evidently characterized by empathy, consideration and compassion for other people. The idea is for us to impress on our children the need to live well with others, to accept one another, so that in a time of need, they will not stand alone. We care about each other as a community. It is the very reason why we are strong as a group.
Sense of Excellence: The watchword of the African person in a civilized world is ‘excellence’. We strive hard to achieve it. We do not know how to settle for less. Hard work is given. It is not negotiable. It’s an African norm. We must drive this point home with our children, so we can be assured of a greater tomorrow for them. I am proud to acknowledge that a considerable number of Nigerian/Afenmai children are making waves in colleges across the country.
Sense of Hospitality: This is one major traditional value we hold dear. It is inherent in our character to share. It is cultural to offer food and drinks to a guest who visits your home. We need to inculcate this practice in our young ones, so we do not end up being treated like strangers by the same children we raised with our own hands.
Sense of Religion: Religion is an inseparable part of the entire culture of Afenmai people. It is practical. The actions of the people is a reflection of their faith. Social morality depends on how important we believe religion is. An attempt to undermine it, will lead to disastrous consequences.
Sense of Respect for Constituted Authority and Elders: In our Afenmai context, old age is sacred. It is treated with utmost respect. Older people are believed to be the teachers and directors of the young. Like the saying goes, “What an adult sees while sitting down, the child may never see even while on a a tree top”: The wisdom of a child is subject to the experience of an adult. The respect accorded the elders, has an effect of maintenance of custom and tradition. We must start by ensuring that our children respect their parents. If we are able to achieve that, it is easy to form a habit of respecting elders outside the home. This transcends to the mind set that respect for constituted authority, is a good practice. There is a need to impress on our children the fact that a Parent is a Parent, not a pal. The responsibility they feel toward a parent emanates from the level of respect they have for him. Children ought to be able to say words of greetings to a parent as a rule of thumb. The care of an aged parent by a person borne by him, is a traditional right, not a privilege. The care of an old parent in the Afenmai context, is situated within the family. It is so cherished and so organized that the need for nursing homes for an aged parent as it exists in the society we live in, will hardly arise. The idea of an old people’s home would be an abuse of the African sense of respect for old age.
Sense of Language and Proverbs: The language spoken by a group of people is a primary mode of identity. We have a big job to do in enforcing the embrace of our local language by our children. It is relatively tough to get young children born or raised in this country to speak our local languages. However, a parent owes a duty to the children to help get them acquainted with the language, by making a conscious effort to speak it with them as often as possible. Invariably, they will get familiar with it and they will not be ashamed of it. The ability to say or identify some common words in our language, will get them empowered. It gives a feeling of security, which is a very important element for self dignity.
It is of utmost importance that we speak to our children in parables. Parables are mind-boggling, and there is always a need to think deep into statements made in parables, so as to decode the meaning. This process leaves imprints on the mind of the young people. They ponder on them over the years , and later they become guiding principles which they apply to situations they find themselves in , along the path of life. This is basically in line with the religious injunction which says, “Teach a child the way he should go and when he grows up, he will not depart from it”.
One may be mindful of the fact that it is not altogether easy to actualize these enumerated values we desire in our young people. The good news though, is that any feat is attainable through hard work and diligence. Let us keep talking to our children. They may pretend they don’t hear you, or they are not listening, but the truth is, they do hear you. Never give up on your children. One day during the course of time, you will be pleasantly surprised to know that all those tiring times of talking, did pay off. Employ the 4 P’s of parenting; Patience, Persistence, Perseverance and most importantly, Prayers.
B. Davidson, The African Genius
Steve Biko, I write what I like, New York 1978
F.C. Okafor, Africa at Crossroads, New York 1974.
Ifemesia Chieka, Traditional Humane Living Among the Igbos, Enugu 1979.