A Typical Edo Man
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By Evinma Ogie (Last update May 22, 2021)

"Tough”, “uncompromising”, “difficult”, “lion-heated” those are some of the known epithets of the Edo. Many have not even met him, but, to them, he is synonymous with ‘the city of blood”. Thus, he is at times misunderstood, and disliked, in advance of being met face to face.

I believe that we misunderstand most that which we do not know. The purpose of this talk therefore, is to lay the Edo man bare so that in the process, we may know him better.

The Edo is very conservative, to begin with. A sociology undergraduate of Edo origin in one of our universities did epitomise this fact some years ago when he declared:

After my graduation, I will return to the l6th century way of life those good old days. I am going to set up a harem; I have no hands in this 20th Century one-man-one-wife affair.

Be this as it may, the Edo is also a modern and progressive person. I may appear to be contradicting myself, but the two observations underscore the fact that the Edo is a fairly complex person. He love progress, but he is slow to accept change. However, when he gets convinced about the need for a new approach to his problems and way of life, he becomes an apostle of change and modernisation. Maybe one should not condemn his cautious approach to issues that are doubtful because after all, the unknown could be fraught with disappointment. I can as well hear an Edo reminding me of the precept, “Ose, ne ede ore o wan se ose ne ogbon”  (An old friend is more reliable than untested one.)

The Edo, therefore, is a progressive conservative, an experimenter seeking approaches to his problems. In this effort, he finds that precepts or proverbs of the type quoted above constitute for him the rudder of his ship of life. As matter of fact, most Edo receives better guidance, and learns much more, from several homely and oft-repeated proverbs than from any-religious teaching. Also, experience shown that they help in forming a Stirling character. Proverbs quoted below are  exemplary in moulding the character of youths, guiding them through life

  1. Ehi enaguudia oi we, ne ai gha fe. (The erstwhile servant can become the wealthy landlord of the future)

All that is necessary, indicates the precept, is for him to work very hard no matter how rough the beginning may be. It is another way of saying a young man, “develop a stout heart, and fear no difficulties, in order to achieve your aim in life”. It is a piece of advice that will stand a young person in good stead all his life.

  1.  Obo ovan, ore o  ze ovan, ne oi re emaoghede. ,ne oi re emaDghed,’ (Through hard work, one can ensure affluence for oneself)

While the first precept also enjoin hard work, this precept is aimed at the adult who may be given to laziness does not pay his taxes and generally, he is state liability, not an asset. In fact, it is such a citizen that steals from his neighbours. This precept, therefore, directs the citizen to apply himself, to refrain from stealing, and so to be honest.

  1.  Omo, ne egbe da oi ru evin xo (punishment awaits a wrong doer).
  1.  Ne o fiee xo, o gha va exuen. (Thoroughness is a trait that must be cultivated in every sphere of activity)
  1. A gha si, a i ma xe, oya ne o. (Nemesis catches up eventually with, the wrong doer).

One should ponder on these before engaging in wrong doing, and one should not engage in self deceit about the consequences missing the target.
These three precepts, therefore remind the citizen that cause has effect. He must be prepared always to bear the consequences of his premeditated actions and the only way to avoid punishment is to behave like a highly moral person with plenty of self respect.

  1.  Ai gu enorhiaegbe, rhia egbe, (Only good leadership can attract good followership)
  1. A gha lele adia, a ghi dia; a gha lele ago, a ghi  go  (If one copies the upright, one becomes upright; if one copies the crooked, one becomes croaked)

 

One might say that these two rules of conduct enjoin the citizen not to engage in corrupt practices just because other engages in them.

The real essence of Edo precepts comes to the fore more  vividly if it is remembered that in the old Edo society that gave rise to them, they were akin to modern legislation, only that their observance was not obligatory. Looked at from another angle, the precept were ‘survival laws’. In the race of life according to the Edo, if you heed these precepts, you will tend to survive; if you turn a deaf ear to them you may perish.

The Edo has found these precepts useful, and it is because he has given up himself to their guidance that he tends to be conservative. Where they may fail him is where they do not meet new challenges. It must be said to their credit, however, that they build into the Edo a sort of crap-detector organ that arms him to think for himself creatively. He is a casuist.

The mature Edo, who has yielded to the moulding influence of the traditional didactic proverbs, is generally cool, calm, deliberate, even—minded, and collected. He shows old age and respectability by the long pipe he smokes at leisure evenings. He tends to dispense justice with an even hand. On the whole, attempts to live by the old traditional precepts.
Because a typical Edo is conservative, he does not take kindly to the violation of his traditions, for he feels that he has his being in them. This is partly why he had td fight the British in 1897: The Oba could not forego the celebration of his annual Igue festival for any important British trade negotiation.

The paying of homage to Emotan’s statue by celebrants, and it is pleasant to watch how closely the  women’s okuku. (Very ancient Edo wig) and wrapper wound round the body breast-high resemble the Edo woman’s costume featured in the statue

On the whole, whatever picture one may try to print of the Edo, one impression remains indelible, namely, that he hails from a race of warlike great grandfather. The Edo is still warlike but he is no longer interested in territorial amalgamation, He is directing hi energy and experience in human affairs towards living well in the hope that his energy and experience in human affairs towards living well in the hope that his conquest in this direction will provide examples worth copying by others so, we see him working very hard till old age trying to earn his living in an honest way, never begging for favours or cheap advancement. He is striving to be constructive, and will hardly ever work against his side

The Edo is usually not gregarious person. He prefers to owe whatever he has to his good right hand, so that he can speak like a free man any-where and everywhere.

In the highest tradition of his warlike forefathers, the Edo must live fighting for humanity.

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