In Yoruba culture, Ori, literally meaning “head” refers to one’s spiritual intuition and destiny. It is the reflective spark of human consciousness embedded into the human essence, and therefore is often personified as an Orisha (god) in its own right. It is also believed that Ori be worshiped like Orisha. When things are not going right, Ori should be consulted. And to make things right Ori should be appeased. This is because whatever one becomes or whatever happens in one’s life is as destined by Ori.
In his journal , The Yoruba Concept of ori in relation to human destiny, Raymond Olutoyin Ogunade writes , “E. B. Idowu, the doyen of Yoruba Religion, has shown convincingly that Yoruba believe in ori. He examines the different elements that make human beings and argues that the most important element is ori. He contends that in the act of taking destiny, “it is the ori that comes into the world to fulfill a destiny.” Idowu believes that because of its pure origin, no ori is essentially bad. By this view, Idowu is also in agreement with the fact that no ori leaves heaven in a bad state. The Yoruba, therefore, believe in ori leaving heaven in a pure state”.
The Yoruba belief in ori is unwavering. Oriki, Ewi are some of the poetry that the Yorubas use to praise ori, Many artistes have also sang many songs to praise ori. In her song ‘Aseye’ Shola Allyson Olaniyi praised her ori so well and even pleaded thus “ori mi gbe mi de b’ire”. (My head please take me to a successful place)
The Yoruba believe the twins will not have the same destiny. We believe it’s possible for education to favor one twin’s ori and education may not to favor the other twin’s Ori. You will hear comments like, ori e o ni iyawo meji meaning your head doesn’t have two wives, or ori e o k’ore meaning your head doesn’t allow you too many friends. And so on so forth.
Using the Yoruba ‘Ori’ analogy we can also infer that as a country Nigeria’s head is different from others. And for Nigeria we can say, ori e o on’jale or ori e o nse jibiti, meaning Nigeria: your head doesn’t steal, your head doesn’t do crime.
The comments by President Buhari in London about some Nigerians spoiling the country’s image elicited different reactions from Nigerians. One of the popular line you hear during this brouhaha was that Nigerians are not the only one committing crimes and they are right. There are countries that commit more crime than Nigerians. So why are we always the most talked about? Is it the way proceeds of crime are brandished or that our “Ori’ is different than theirs? Perhaps it is our ori. Our ori doesn’t do crime.
I have three personal stories to tell. On my first day in class in Toronto in the winter of 2004, I stood in the lobby waiting for the instructor to arrive when a guy walked up to me. He is probably from one of our neighboring countries in West Africa but must have immigrated to Canada when he was younger, we exchanged pleasantries and asked me where I was from, I replied that I was from the largest black country in the world and asked him to guess, he guessed right on the second try. Then he laughed and said “and you are proud of that?” I replied yes and asked why not, he goes, don’t you know your people are thieves. I was furious and as a “JJC” just fresh from Naija I gave him the tongue lashing of his life.
Years later I went for my first job interview in the city of Calgary, it was a great company. While in Nigeria, I did my youth service with central bank of Nigeria Owerri and so it was still on my resume. When I got to the interview I was asked couple of questions and the next statement shocked me. The Controller turned to the Senior Accountant and said “we get a lot of fraudulent emails from this bank right”, the senior accountant nodded in agreement. I was shocked. I didn’t know what to say and I became defensive, defending Central bank and explaining to them that those emails do not actually emanate from the bank. I left the interview disappointed and thinking no way will I get the job. I was called on a weekend that I was the best for the job. According to them they called him on a weekend because they didn’t want me taking any other offer before Monday. I left that company with my head held high.
Couple of months later on the golf course, a Caucasian guy beckoned on me to join him on the golf cart, I agreed and joined him. I had barely sat down when he asked me where I was from, again I replied from the largest black country in the world. His first guess was South Africa, second was Sudan and his third guess was Nigeria when I said yes, he turned to me and said “you aren’t one of those guys that send me letters right? We both laughed and talked about it for a bit. According to him he strongly believes there are lots of good people in Nigeria.
Why am I staying all these? To let you know that as Nigerians our ori is different. Our head is not good for stealing. Our crime rubs off on all of us; it affects even those who didn’t commit any crime. If you are in diaspora you probably have witnessed how even our neighbors from African countries disparage us. They use all our negatives against us. When they are caught doing crime Nigerians don’t laugh at them, we don’t use it against them.
Our head is different from theirs; our head doesn’t like crime, our head only love success. It’s a good one with great destiny but one that doesn’t love crime. Here is what one caucasian man said to me some time ago “anytime I am at the airport and I see a black man walking majestically and confidently as if he owns the airport, only two things come to my mind. He is either a Nigerian or a black American”.
That’s the type of ori we have. An ori that can be well respected, An ori that’s very intelligent, an ori that leads. When you have this kind of ori and you color it with crime it’s bound to have negative outcome.
To get the best from our ori we need to eschew crime, abstain from all that tarnishes our ori. And for those who do not engage in any unwholesome behavior but keep friends who are into all sorts of crime, stop asking them how is the hustling. Tell them to disengage from it, tell them our ori is not good for crime.
When next you hear someone say Chinese, Russians or Mexicans do crime more than us and why is our name only mentioned your reply to them should be ori yato s’ori (One head is different from the other).