The Negative Aspects Of Respect In African Culture

Posted: April 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

Abdulrazaq O Hamzat

Africa as a continent is blessed beyond measure by every standard,
both in terms of human capacity, natural resources and cultural
richness, but as the popular saying goes, everything in life has both
positive and negative effects, this I believe applies to the respect
in African culture.

Talking about the African Culture, there is no gain saying we are
endowed with the best form of cultural inheritance, beautiful
traditional ways of life and lovely interpersonal relationship which
is worthy of being proud of, and if properly understood and applied in
our daily lives, it could go a long way in helping us as people and
the motherland attain its rightful place in the comity of nations.

However, the African culture also have its negative effects, and one
of such effects I would like to dwell upon in this write up is
‘’respect for elders’’.

Respect they say is reciprocal, but to me, it may not be necessarily
so, provided the person you are respecting would not disrespect you in
return. Even if he or she would not respect you in case they are
elderly, at least, let there be no disrespect.

A Yoruba proverb in Nigeria says, omode ni ise, agba ni ise, ni a fi
da ile aye, which means that, both the young and old have roles in the
creation of the earth.

As a Yoruba person and indeed an African, unquestionable respect for
elders is a fundamental feature of our culture, which every child was
born, taught and grows up with.
Unquestionable respect for elders is already part of us as Africans
and so shall it be, but in my opinion, the culture has been over
abused by the Nigerian/African elders to commit evil and do injustice,
this explains the reason why Nigeria and indeed Africa remain
In a situation when an elderly person is doing things wrongly, things
that are destroying both the old and the young in the society, things
that are capable of destroying both the present and future
generations, the young is expected not to question that action even
though he or she would be affected in the consequences of the wrong
actions of the elder/leaders, if the young person tries to express his
displeasure with such wrong doing and offer advice, they are ignored
and tagged with unpleasant names.

Irrespective of how mannered and respectful a young person faulted the
wrong actions of the elder/leaders, such young person would always be
accused of rudeness, arrogance and disrespect. The substance of the
issue raised would be rubbished and personal ego would override,
forcing the young person to keep quiet and never contributing to any
issues of public interest ever again.

The result of such situation is the backwardness seen all over
Nigeria/ Africa, where the elders/leaders continuously do things
wrongly, while the youths are said to be too young to take part, or
when allowed to take part, are expected to just keep quite when things
are going wrong, or speak only when they are told to do so.

Any youth that acted outside this box are tagged with unpleasant names
and regarded as someone lacking respect and rude to elders, but I
believe this shouldn’t be so as it is against the ethics of equity and
fairness. It is against progress, justice and human right.
Having observed the situation over the years, I have resolved never to
keep quite in such situation anymore and I urge the entire African
youths to wake up from their slumber, especially when things are going
wrong, even if it means being called all sort of names and accused of
being rude, disrespectful and other names which i am certain does not
apply to us, we must speak up and ensure sanity is restored to our

The youths must do everything required to make Nigeria and indeed
Africa attain its rightful position among the comity of nations, even
if it means being rude, disrespectful and aggressive, we must enjoy
both old and young to do what is good and to avoid the wrong.
The consequences of keeping quite over the years is that, many
beautiful minds from Nigeria and Africa run abroad to a better
environment where they can actually be heard, a land said to be of no
respect for elders, yet working.

Many youths, even older people today in Nigeria/ Africa see going
abroad as a special blessing, something they dedicate a special prayer
session for in churches and mosques, when in reality, there is no any
special blessing abroad, except the blessing we take there ourselves.

So I ask, why would a land, where unquestionable respect for elders
hold no water be working, yet the land where unquestionable respect
for elders reign supreme would not?
I believe the difference is simple, over there, where people here run
to for security and greener pasture, issues are weighed over persons.
Irrespective of your age and position, when you are wrong, a younger
person can fault your position and both can agree with substance
without name calling or personal attack. The elders/leaders don’t feel
too old to be wrong; neither do they feel too knowledgeable to be
corrected by younger people. The old carefully consider the points of
the young and agree where necessary and In case there is mix up, or
issues of uncertainty, they go back to review their position to
identify the missing point and correct it.

However, It is such a regret that even though some people had gone
abroad, experienced the outcome of such inter relationship between the
old and the young which is a good and progressive atmosphere, they had
enjoy the benefit of the togetherness of both old and young abroad,
but they still come back home to suppress the voice of the young,
under the guise of age, calling them all sort of name for speaking out
on issues affecting their persons and nations.

It is worth to note that, I am not advocating disrespect to elders in
anyway, neither do I encourage rudeness or other negative ways of
approaching issues when relating with elderly people. In fact, I enjoy
youths to employ the best form of words in talking to them, be humble
and calm, respectful and mannered, but I believe the elders have a
major role to help the youth base issue on substance not persons.

When the elders continually do things wrongly and the youths had
employed all form of gentle approach so as not to sound disrespecting
and rude with no any changes, yet the actions of the elders continues
to have negative effect on our collective interest, young people that
want to put a stop to the wrong actions of the elders would therefore
have no other means than to speak out in whatever manner they deem fit
to stop the negativities.
It is worthy to also note that, the African culture placed the elderly
in a very strategic position of being the custodian of truth,
morality, manners, sincerity, guidance, good examples and more like a
deity worthy of a mini god. This explains why the culture mandated it
on every young person to always respect the elders no matter what, as
they have once been in the position of the youths, went through what
the youths are presently going through and are in the better position
to address the issues of concern, though, some issues require time and
serious effort, but unfortunately today, most African elders/leaders
have departed from their duties and the virtue such as truthfulness,
morality, manners, sincerity and good example which earned them the
right of unquestionable respect, they today symbolize more like a
destroyer rather than a builder of the society.

It is my believe that, after speaking in the best manners on several
occasions to make a leader or elder see reason why their action is not
good for the people with no changes, respecting someone destroying
your present and future becomes a crime against humanity and I can
actually say that, it is one of the most negative actions one can ever
Why should we speak with respect to someone destroying our future
Why should we employ the use of manners to voice out our displeasure
to someone intentionally stealing our resources with impunity without

Should we continue to say yes sir to people that had sold our
collective wealth to themselves and friends? Is it meaningful to
continue to listen to people who earn millions from our wealth, yet
refused to pay us some few thousands as salaries? I don’t think so.
If we continue in that manner, surely, their actions would always
continue till we are finally destroyed and perish. But I am not ready
to perish in silence by other people’s wrong actions, I can’t watch my
destruction and keep quiet, as far as I am concerned, the youths must
first take a step in the right direction, by acting to the actions of
the elders/leaders. React to them the way they react to us, treat them
the way they treat us, disrespect them the way they disrespect us,
show lack of manners the way they did to us, insult them the way they
insult us, abuse them the way they abuse us and finally making them
with their stolen wealth and age looks meaningless in the public.

When they visit your area, ignore them. When you meet them in public
place, tell them their crimes and if they come to your schools, read
their sins to them. Every were they go, let them be disappointed and
embarrassed of their own actions.

Only the worthy elders should be respected and the purposeful,
truthful and sincere leaders be honored. African must bury the culture
of respecting rogue and deceitful elders; we must avoid according
respect to insincere and untruthful leaders.

I thereby urge the African elders/leaders to improve their listening
hears, morality, sincerity and serve as a good example to avoid being
addressed in what they assume to be rude and disrespecting.

Abdulrazaq O Hamzat



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