A perspective insight into Igbo and Yoruba cultural mindsets.

Culled from contributions on a WhatsApp discussion group

This is a very long read.

This insight into the Igbo Cultural mindset was shared on @Balogun Olamilekan’s wall by Ike Chike, where sister Sola Salako Ajulo responded to his very beautiful insight.

The response of SSA is below here after that of Ike Chike. It is such a beautifully written piece by both of them and it is a conversation worth having. Communication is key in understanding cultures

What’s your take?


Ike Chike wrote:

  1. I am Igbo. I am proud of who we are. I love Nigeria. I love the best of her peoples and the many strengths. I love what she can be.

But dear compatriots, I will not apologise to anyone who thinks that my success is a threat.


  1. I am Igbo. Go to Onitsha. Go to Aba. Go to Alaba. Go to Kano and see wealthy men who brag with how many millionaires they had minted in the course of their lives more than how many millions they personally had. Millionaires who sold the same things o. Competing with their 3. former masters. Taking on more competitors who will create more competitors over and over. Does it destroy the master? No! This is a mastery over greed that is not found elsewhere in the entire world. I am Igbo. And I am fckn proud!
  2. My ancestors were the ones who in 1803 walked into the Pacific rather than be slaves. That legendary spirit is mine to claim.

Every Igbo man has a personal god, his Chi. My success is determined by how much I want it. Not by obstacles. Not by what people call impossible.

  1. Not by how rich or poor my father was. Not by avoiding danger. But by a simple agreement between me and my Chi.
    “Onye kwe, Chi ya ekwe”. If you believe, your personal god will validate it.

I am Igbo, I was raised this way.

  1. To create success and share it without begrudging our neighbours and our hosts. We will teach our host’s children our way of life if they would rise above their suspicions. We don’t mind a Yoruba or Hausa boy-boy or Edo. We only ask that the person be smart and dependable.
  2. We are not particular about kings or queens. We don’t want to be your king. We don’t do very well with them. Before the whiteman we barely had any kings. A child who came of age had the right to speak in a village meeting when it was his turn. No one could stop them.
  3. The community came together to build houses for each other. People who were struggling were supported and those who had lost children or had none were lent children for their farms. When my ancestors saw that education was good, 9. they contributed to send the village brightest to school. Even people whose own children were olodo happily contributed for other people’s children. You know why? We believed that a child belonged to everyone. I am Igbo. I will not apologise.
  4. In those days we had leaders who were chosen purely on what they could do. Nothing was hereditary. Even the chief priest was chosen by the spirits from kindred to kindred, without a set pattern.

Basically, we don’t want to rule in your land. We want to build wealth.

  1. Again we’re happy to share. We will build schools, hospitals, markets without a single prejudice. Everyone is welcome. And no, we don’t only go to already-made cities. We particularly love to do virgin lands and make decent towns out of them.
  2. I am sure there are many things for which you can be proud about your ancestors. I know a few, because I try to educate myself. I will celebrate them with you. Your art & culture – ancient & modern. The warrior spirit of your ancestors. Their industry. I celebrate them all.
  3. I dare suggest that if other Nigerian ethnicities who prefer political power understood Igbos, they would rule forever and Igbos wouldn’t mind. Any Igbo will tell you: Provide a level playing field, promote law and order and Igbo’s will largely ignore politics.
  4. Let me reiterate. We don’t do well with kings and queens. Respect is earned not inherited. That’s how we see it. We only hate injustice with a terrible passion. How do you think the boy-boy system is sustained? If you don’t “settle” your boy, or skimp on how much, 15. nobody will beat you, but you won’t be able to live down the shame. You will forever be known as the riffraff that doesn’t “settle” his boys. Just like that, your respect is gone. When a child who has “washed” his hands is chosen over you, your pariah status is sealed.
  5. You may resist and ask, “What about Igbo governors? How come they do Ndị Igbo dirty and get away with it?”
    The answer is simple. No one chose them. They’re imposed with guns every election cycle. They are vassals of Abuja.
  6. Free and fair elections and none of these clowns will smell that seat. If not for the guns, even a small child will walk up to them and tell them that they’re full of sh*t.

Ideally everyone can speak. From the drunk to the village mad man. You’re allowed to laugh at their 18. craziness but you’re not allowed to silence them.
“Mba nụ. Ị bụ Chi ya?” Are you his God?

They commune with the spirits. So once in a while they say things that save the community.

  1. I am Igbo and I am happy to emulate the best of you. If it is a thing of value we will adopt it and we expect that as we are willing to share, you will extend us the same hand. But even if you decided not to teach us, we only need to see it to learn.
  2. I know this is what gives you pause and whips up fears that we want to take over. Let me assure you that we wish to build a bigger market to accommodate all of us. Please let us try it our way. Our competition is not winner takes all. We share. We enrich. We make better.
  3. I am Igbo, my mantra is “O je mba enwe ilo”. The traveler mustn’t make enemies.

I expect that you will not understand me. But I believe that this is not your burden. So I learn your ways. Teach my children your language. Learn your customs and obey your laws.

  1. Stop trying to crush my spirit. You will fail. My spirit is my gift to Nigeria. It is rare in all the earth. I don’t know how NOT to compete. I can’t accept to be less than. I can’t be enslaved.

Because I am Igbo & all I have to do is to believe and my Chi will validate it.

Just read and make your judgement. Stay blessed.

SSA Response

Ike Chike beautiful piece. Admirable.

  1. The points of difference as I see it is, just as you are proud of your heritage and spirit, other ethnic groups also are proud of theirs. As you seek for others to understand you, you also need to understand others.
  2. Compromise is the only way to live together. Everyone is not raised like you and we all grew up with different cultures and values. Attempting to force our values or orientation on each other would be resisted. Lack of understanding of our different cultures breed suspicion.
  3. None of our cultural values is superior to other people’s. The attitude of superiority is condescending and abrasive. I think the resistance to this is what all sides are calling hate, bigotry, tribalism etc against each other
  4. For instance, the Yoruba ethos of Omoluabi has great respect for elders. What you see as subjugation is a sign of maturity in Yoruba land. It is our culture to respect every one, especially elders. Respect is synonymous with character in Yoruba culture.
  5. We are a culture of kings and queens. Our socioeconomic and political system always has a leader to guide and direct the affairs of the community. An elder is a leader by default. We listen to elders’ counsel, guidance and instruction. ( ilu kii wa lai ni Olori) a town cannot exist without a head.
  6. Rebellion against authority is only the last resort in our culture. It is not our default position. And even in that mode, when an elder speaks, we listen.
  7. In our kingship political structure, we are democratic. The king always has a council that includes the head of the women, (Iyalode) the head of the youth (Olori odo) the head of the market ( Iyaloja or Babaloja) the kings advisers ( Otun, Osi) Bashorun, Balogun (Head of the Warriors) etc. Every sector is represented at the table on governance issues.
    But in this system, the word of the king is law! Oba ba lori ohun Gbogbo ( the king rules and reigns over ALL things)
  8. Submission to leadership that your culture sees as subjugation is seen as wisdom and strength of character in our culture. We are not lords unto ourselves. A child must revere his parents and all the elders in his sphere of influence. A worker must revere his seniors and bosses, market women revere the Iyaloja, the youth respect the Olori Odo… it’s a cascade of respect and reverence in a functional Yoruba society! This is who we are!
  9. Like the English, our kings and leaders are the custodian of our identity. We revere them so it’s an affront to us when our leaders are disrespected.
    You offend the average Yoruba person when you denigrate his leaders. Our Kings are the poster child of our culture and prosperity. That’s why the King’s palace and train is usually the most beautiful structure in every Yoruba community! We are proud of our monarchical/leadership emblems. If you want to be at peace with us, respect our elders and monarchs too!!
  10. Yorubas are not aggressive or competitive by nature. We live and let live. We believe everyone has a path chosen by their Eleda (Creator) which they must walk. We believe in the concept of destiny (ayanmo) and trust our heads (Ori) to lead us in the path of destiny. There is no conflict as everyone’s path is unique to them so what is there to compete about?

See why your competitive spirit is seen as aggression and a threat by the Yoruba people? We don’t have a reference for such in our upbringing. We are socialized to work at improving ourselves only, not to compete to be better than others. Sometimes, inordinate competition is seen as Ilara (envy) or an attempt to pull down others or to dominate them.
We don’t compete.

  1. We are not driven by success at all costs. We don’t understand cheating or exploiting others just to succeed. It’s not in our ethos. Yahoo Yahoo is acquired values in our young generation. It’s a result of the breakdown of our culture.
    We are driven by doing good and being fair to others. Success that is an outcome of fairness and honest work is the ultimate goal. We abhor cheating, ingratitude (aimoore) and selfishness (imo ti ara enikan) Sharing is caring to the Yoruba people.
  2. Oppression is anathema to us. We are a culture that welcomes strangers and are bound by our values to treat strangers like ourselves. We believe that God will avenge every ill treatment of strangers, the poor or the weak and vulnerable. Hence we open our doors and hearts to all.
  3. Yorubas are not brash or abrasive. We are careful with words and only get caustic when others become abrasive. Words are weighty and we are raised not to be provocative with words. However, we do not shy away from a fight, verbal or otherwise, though we rarely start one!

I could go on, but I am sure others will contribute the things I haven’t covered. Hope this gives an insight into the Yoruba mindset just as your write up gives an insight into the Igbo culture.

Hope we can humble ourselves to try to understand our differences and work at respecting each other so the conflicts can be minimized.


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