HONORIFIC STYLES IN THE YORUBA TRADITIONAL INSTITUTION BY AZEEM SALAKO

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Honorific styles are appellations that are used to address and confer honor to high ranking, distinguished, and top public officials. As a note of order, they are instilled as part of the disciplines, rituals and social ethics in government parlance. Today, part of the privileges traditional rulers and their Royal chiefs enjoy are the honorific titles ascribed with their names. One may conclude this is another evidence of the ego boosting Africans are known with, arrogating powers with no historical and legal basis.

While the above criticism is not far from the truth, nonetheless, the import of the sobriquets such as; His Royal Highness, His Royal Majesty, His Imperial Majesty etc. which enjoys the thrust of this article are not only honorific titles with historical fact, in Yorubaland, they enjoy statutory relevance. The etymology of these honorific styles (His Royal Highness, His Royal Majesty, His Imperial Majesty) Vis a Vis their distinctiveness is foregrounded in the autochthonous African sociology and historiography.

They may seem to us as colonially made, while this is not in doubt, they were attempts made by the colonists to acknowledge, describe and situate the organization of Africa’s political system they observed. As known, political power in pre-colonial Africa is broadly decentralized into chiefdom, kingdom, and empire with each power characterized by hierarchies, functions, jurisdiction, and (extent of) subordination.

To date, except for the empires (whose insubordination has been reduced by the constitution resulting to losing its literary relevance) these creations still exist in their sizes, and enormity, and retains all their paraphernalia. Of fact, the definition of ‘highness and ‘majesty’ does not share the same meaning and significance, especially in Yoruba traditional parlance.

Take, for instance, Ota land is a foremost Awori kingdom, and its essential ruler, the Olota of Ota according to relevant laws enjoys the prescribed authority over the entire jurisdiction of OTA and its environment. Still, there are several chiefdoms inside Ota such as Atan, Owode, Sango, Iju, Ilogbo, Itele, Ijoko, Otun, Ijana, Eguishi, Oruba, and Osi among others with each having Royal heads but subordinates to Olota of Ota.

There are equally villages supervised by chiefs (Baale) who enjoy the honor of being referred to as “Aro Baale”. The expansion of these villages, motivated by politics in most cases, might elevate the Baales into becoming a (coronet) king. In cases like this, their honorific styles equally change to His Royal Highness. Similarly, traditional chiefs with established history, and legal statute, notably in Kingdoms, are revered with the honor of ’High Chief’ (Oloye Agba), while those who were conferred with inessential, small, and honorary chieftaincy titles enjoys the compliments of being addressed as Chiefs (Oloye).

Honorific styles holds a significant part in the organization of governments and it is a fundamental protocol observed to honor distinguished and high-ranking officials. Honorific styles is not peculiar to monarchy. There are appellations such as; His Excellency, Your Honor, Your Distinguished, Your Lordship, etc. in democracy across the world. Even in the smallest political unit (family), husbands are revered with ‘Olowo ori mi’ by their wives. I need to add that these honorific styles are not meant to be abused with misuse, recklessness, or embellishment. In essence, due diligence when using them especially in public functions should be exercised, otherwise, it can result in the breach of protocol, a query of insubordination, etc. that attracts some form of penalties. It is that significant.

Azeem Salako’s research interest is in Citizenship and Public Sphere in Africa. He can be reached through caso globe.edu@gmail.com

Honorific styles are appellations that are used to address and confer honor to high ranking, distinguished, and top public officials. As a note of order, they are instilled as part of the disciplines, rituals and social ethics in government parlance. Today, part of the privileges traditional rulers and their Royal chiefs enjoy are the honorific titles ascribed with their names. One may conclude this is another evidence of the ego boosting Africans are known with, arrogating powers with no historical and legal basis.

While the above criticism is not far from the truth, nonetheless, the import of the sobriquets such as; His Royal Highness, His Royal Majesty, His Imperial Majesty etc. which enjoys the thrust of this article are not only honorific titles with historical fact, in Yorubaland, they enjoy statutory relevance. The etymology of these honorific styles (His Royal Highness, His Royal Majesty, His Imperial Majesty) Vis a Vis their distinctiveness is foregrounded in the autochthonous African sociology and historiography.

They may seem to us as colonially made, while this is not in doubt, they were attempts made by the colonists to acknowledge, describe and situate the organization of Africa’s political system they observed. As known, political power in pre-colonial Africa is broadly decentralized into chiefdom, kingdom, and empire with each power characterized by hierarchies, functions, jurisdiction, and (extent of) subordination.

To date, except for the empires (whose insubordination has been reduced by the constitution resulting to losing its literary relevance) these creations still exist in their sizes, and enormity, and retains all their paraphernalia. Of fact, the definition of ‘highness and ‘majesty’ does not share the same meaning and significance, especially in Yoruba traditional parlance.

Take, for instance, Ota land is a foremost Awori kingdom, and its essential ruler, the Olota of Ota according to relevant laws enjoys the prescribed authority over the entire jurisdiction of OTA and its environment. Still, there are several chiefdoms inside Ota such as Atan, Owode, Sango, Iju, Ilogbo, Itele, Ijoko, Otun, Ijana, Eguishi, Oruba, and Osi among others with each having Royal heads but subordinates to Olota of Ota.

There are equally villages in Ota kingdom such as ; Eleidi, Ishaka, Mesan, Afobaje, etc. supervised by chiefs (Baale) who enjoy the honor of being referred to as “Aro Baale”. The expansion of some these villages, motivated by politics in most cases, might elevate the Baales into becoming a (coronet) king. In cases like this, their honorific styles equally change to His Royal Highness. Similarly, traditional chiefs in Ota Kingdom such as the Seriki, Balogun, Ekerin etc. with established history, and legal statute are revered with the honor of ’High Chief’ (Oloye Agba), while those who were conferred with inessential, and honorary chieftaincy titles such as Iyalode, Mayegun, Otunba, among others in Ota land enjoys the compliments of being addressed as Chiefs (Oloye).

Honorific styles holds a significant part in the organization of governments and it is a fundamental protocol observed to honor distinguished and high-ranking officials. Honorific styles is not peculiar to monarchy. There are appellations such as; His Excellency, Your Honor, Your Distinguished, Your Lordship, etc. in democracy across the world. Even in the smallest political unit (family), husbands are revered with ‘Olowo ori mi’ by their wives. I need to add that these honorific styles are not meant to be abused with misuse, recklessness, or embellishment. In essence, due diligence when using them especially in public functions should be exercised, otherwise, it can result in the breach of protocol, a query of insubordination, etc. that attracts some form of penalties. It is that significant.

Azeem Salako’s research interest is in Citizenship and Public Sphere in Africa. He can be reached through caso globe.edu@gmail.com

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