The chieftaincy title conferred on Chimamanda Adichie by the traditional ruler of her hometown, Abba, is significant because women are rarely given chieftaincy titles by traditional rulers in our society. The conferring of the revered chieftaincy title on her is, therefore, akin to an execution of a cultural revolution in her town.
But what is culture? Culture is defined as the totality of a people’s way of life. Our mode of dressing, religious beliefs, marriage ceremonies, funeral rites, music, proverbs, folklores, dances, artworks, and others are parts of culture. And it is broadly divided into two; material aspect of culture and the non-material aspect of culture.
While food, artworks, mode of dressing, and others make up the material aspect of culture, the non-material aspect of culture includes but is not limited to, songs, folklores, proverbs, religious beliefs, marriage rites, and others. Culture, which is the identity of a people, ought to be dynamic, and not static. That is why culture is said to be in a constant state of flux. So, progressive-minded people, who are living in a cultural milieu, ought to tweak some outlandish, outdated, and obnoxious cultural practices to suit modern trends. We should not be slaves to egregious and antediluvian cultural practices that rob us of our humanity and demean us as human beings.
If we keep on upholding bad cultural practices on the grounds that they are passed down to us by our ancestors, and if we feel that obliterating them will amount to committing sacrilegious acts, then we will remain trapped in a time warp. For example, in the time past, the killing of newborn twins was normative in Igbo land, the South-East region of the country. That detestable practice of killing twins was rooted in the religious superstition that newborns who were twins were portents of doom for their families. Then, the custodians of our culture stoutly resisted moves and efforts made by other people for the abolition of that cultural practice.
However, the white people who came to Nigeria for imperialistic reasons uprooted the inhuman cultural practice of killing newborn twins. Until then, our ancestors felt that twins, triplets, and quadruplets, who were born to people in our land were bringers and harbingers of evil happenings to their respective families. But are twin children truly the forerunner and bringer of evil happenings to their immediate families, as they believed, then? The answer to the above question is a categorical no. Contrary to the beliefs of our ancestors that twins brought ill luck to their parents, most children, who are twins, are the pride of their parents. Peter and Paul Okoye, who are ace musicians, offer us a good example of twin children who have excelled in their chosen musical career.
Peter and Paul used to have a musical group called P-Square. The twin brothers are renowned musicians, who sing soulfully and dance beautifully, treating us to lyrical songs and acrobatic dances. More so, the Aneke sisters, Chidimma and Chidiebere, who are renowned actresses, are twins, too. They have achieved renown through their acting prowess, which fascinates us to no end. There are other instances of twins who have pushed back the frontiers of their endeavours and careers.
But had we clung to the obnoxious cultural practice of killing twins, the Aneke twin sisters, and the P-Square musical duo would have died in their infancy, not to talk of them becoming musical superstars and ace actresses. So, as the killing of newborns who’re twins was abolished in Nigeria so shall we stamp out other cultural practices, which are obnoxious, inhuman, weird, wicked, and retrogressive. We should not forget that the bad aspects of our culture portray us as backward people and hinder our march to join the civilised world.
Regarding some of our egregious cultural practices which are in existence now, patriarchy readily comes to my mind. For example, in our traditional Igbo society, men and women are not considered equals. So marriage is not perceived as a partnership of equals in Nigeria. Here, women are seen, and not heard. Our African traditional culture and Christianity to which we proselytised give oxygen and leverage to the existence of patriarchy in Nigeria.
But nowadays, things are changing for the better for our women, culturally and otherwise. They are making their voices heard in many areas of human endeavours, being educated females. Nigerian women have broken the glass ceiling in diverse areas of human endeavours. Nowadays, we have female pilots, female vice-chancellors, and others in Nigeria. We have female lawmakers who can hold their own in the art and act of lawmaking. And have we forgotten that the Tolulope Arotile was the first female combat helicopter pilot in Nigeria? She died in 2020 at the age of 24.
And Nigerian female writers like Abimbola Adelakun, Nnedi Okoroafor, Akachi Adimora Ezigbo, Chimamanda, and others are reshaping our literary traditions and landscape through their qualitative, inspiring, and innovative creative works. They are using their art to fight for the obliteration of such bad cultural practices as inhuman widowhood rites, child marriages, female circumcision, and sexism. The aforementioned cultural practices harm and demean women.
Thankfully, today, Nigerian women have recorded tremendous success in bringing women problems to the front burner and addressing them. Those female champions of women rights, who assert that women rights are human rights, are being accorded honours in Nigeria and beyond. For example, the conferment of a chieftaincy title on Chimamanda by the traditional ruler of her hometown, Igwe L.N Ezeh, is the icing on the cake of feminists who want gender equality for women. The name of the chieftaincy title given to her is ‘Odeluwa Abba,’ which when translated to English means the writer of the world from Abba.
Chimamanda, a highly acclaimed global writer, said this about the award, “Custodians should honour men and women equally. I am the first woman in my town to be made a chief, and it makes me happy to know that more women will follow. Culture does not make people, people make culture. Cultures thrive when they reflect the people. Ours must be a culture that celebrates achievements, whether it comes from a man or woman.”
The conferment of the chieftaincy title on Chimamanda marks a significant milestone in the battle to dethrone patriarchy and achieve gender equality in our society. She is the first woman in her hometown, Abba, to be so honoured. And she believes that the conferment of the chieftaincy title, ‘Odeluwa Abba,’ on her will open the floodgates for the conferment of chieftaincy titles on other deserving women.
Our culture, no doubt, is undergoing positive transformation to reflect modern realities and transport us to the league of the civilised people of the world. Our abiding by obnoxious and retrogressive cultural practices demeans and portrays us as troglodytes, who are stuck in a time warp. So it is imperative for us to abide by Chimamanda’s timely and judicious admonition which states that “culture does not make people, people make culture.”
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