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Part 1: On humility, self-control, self-knowledge, self-respect, and self-restraint


K rni lde db-i k bni dl.
To see a person in the streets is not the same as going home with the person.
(To really know a person one must see the person where he/she lives.)

K rni sr fnni db-i k sr fnni k gb.
Having people to advise one is nothing like knowing how to take advice.
(Nobody can help anyone who will not help himself or herself.)

K w fn ni k gb; k sr fnni k gb; k br n lw r t k lhn ky ba l yni.
If one is spoken to one should listen; if one is advised one should heed the advice; one should seek direction from straggling wayfarers in order than one's life might be pleasant.
(It is wise to heed advice, and it is wise to seek direction from those who have greater experience than one does.)
Compare the preceding and the following entries.

K w fnni k gb; k sr fnni k gb; -w-gb, -gb-gb n fi igb dn bu omi mu.
If one is spoken to one should listen; if one is advised one should accept the advice; refusal to listen to speech and refusal to accept advice leads to using the calabash of deprivation as a drinking cup.
(Refusal to heed advise leads to deprivation.)
Compare the following two entries.

K w k gb l y m yn.
To heed advice is what best becomes a human being.
(One should heed advice.)
Compare the preceding two entries.

K w ogn, k w gbn, Ng f, ng gb laiwr fi pkun rn.
Whether one speaks twenty times or speaks thirty times, I do not like it, and I will not accept it is how the imbecile ends the discussion.
(The incorrigible person will never listen to reason.)

Kk k dbl fn Gbr, k rj k k.
Rather than prostrate oneself in homage or obeisance to a Hausa person, one should rather die.
(An expression of Yoruba superciliousness towards the Hausa.)

Kk k gb k, gb a k.
Rather than cry out, the ram will die.
(A grown man must know how to hide his pain.)

Kk k bb ran m n d b oko, onkluk a gb ti.
Rather than the father carrying the son's cutlass home from the farm, each will carry his own.
(People may withhold their respect from one, but one should not abet their insolence.) [60]
Compare Kk k knn e akp kn . . .

Kk k iga akn pad shn, a kn.
Rather than bend backwards, the crab's claws will break.
(Death is to be preferred to retreat.)

Kk k knn e akp kn, ld a m d e.
Rather than the lion serving as carrier for the leopard, each will hunt separately.
(One would rather leave a company that remain in it and be subordinate to those one considers inferior.)
Compare Kk k bb ran m n d b oko . . .

Kker lpl fi ga ju il l.
The toad is only slightly taller than the earth.
(Said of people who behave as though they are superior to others while they have little reason to believe so.)

K r m ara lr; k wf m ara nwf; k mlwb m ara lr lrun ba.
Let the slave know him/herself as a slave; let the pawn know him/herself as a pawn; let the well born person know him/herself as the child of God.
(Everybody should know himself/herself and his/her station in the scheme of things.)

K dw- baba k l di w m.
Responsibility does not devolve on the father only for him to say it is his son's duty.
(An elder must do his/her duty and not shove it on the youth.)

K ni fni ktkt lra ktkt -gn-fs-wl?
What is the point of bragging on account of an ass which when one rides on it one's feet drag on the ground?
(It is pointless to make too much of a virtually worthless thing.)

K ni apr w n s ongbjm?
What does a bald man want in the stall of the barber?
(One should stay out of places where one has no business.)
Compare K ni b m ign . . .

K ni Dr n k t s p ol- k un?
What did Dr own before he claimed he was robbed?
(Said of a person who could no nothing in the best of circumstances but blames his/her lack of success on certain eventualities.)
This is a variant of A m ohun t Dr . . .

K ni elw-e-gbgb t t s p j t?
What is it that the seller of gbgb leaves has to sell that she complains that the market is slow?
(Said of people who have fundamental problems but complain only of the symptoms.) [61]
This is a variant of A m ohun t elw-e-gbgb . . .

K ni b m ign d d- ondr?
What would take the vulture to the stall of the hair dresser?
(One should stay away from places where one has no business.)
Compare K ni apr w . . .

K ni y pn lr t fiu sn t sf p b a ti e ni in b wn?
What has the bachelor to feel superior about, such that while he is roasting yams he is whistling the song, What one does fills them with jealousy?
(Said of people who are arrogant even though they have no basis for pride.)

K ni ongb e t alwo l e?
What is the calabash owner doing that the china plate owner cannot do?
(Whatever one can accomplish, those better placed or better endowed than one can accomplish also.)

K ni or e t jk l e? jk ru r gba dnrn; or ta ti n ognlgba.
What can the head do that the shoulder cannot do? The shoulder carried a load and earned three hundred cowries; the head sold its own for two hundred and twenty cowries.
(If a person has more power and standing than one, one should not be foolish enough to think the person cannot accomplish what one has accomplished.)

K ni wn ti e md nlrin? Ewr j b.
What use do the people of Ilorin have for Ahmadu? Even goats are so named.
(Said to express the overabundance of some commodity being discussed.) [62]

Kjp la l; f la gb; gb t n tf a rj ra kjp.
Durable hand-woven cloth is the material for shiftless people; loom-woven cloth is the material for the elders; whichever elder cannot afford loom-woven cloth should strive for durable hand-woven cloth.
(If one cannot have the perfect thing, one should strive to have at least something.)

K r, k lw lw, w tutu nwj ontumpulu.
He does not buy, he has no money, yet he sits sulkily before the seller of bean fritters.
(Said of people reluctant to accept the fact that they cannot have what they wish.)

K s ni t dn m fi or ni.
There is no one pleased by one's success except one's head.
(Few people genuinely wish that one should succeed.)

K s mi lj j kn: ara l tn j.
Without-me-in-an-assembly-the-assembly-is-not-complete deceives only himself/herself.
(Whoever thinks he or she is indispensable is self-deceived.)

K s ohun t ng l e k j lrn.
There is nothing ango can do to enable itself to rage in a drought.
(One cannot transcend one's nature.) [63]

K-s-nl k jagun nu t.
He-was-not-at-home never fails to prove his valor with his mouth.
(Said of a person who vows that had he been around when something happened he would have performed wonders.)

K-tn-k-tn laj l omi.
Swiftly-consumed-swiftly-consumed is the way a dog laps up water.
(Said of people who attack good things with excessive greed.)


60. The proper thing is for the son to carry the cutlass for the father.  [Back to text]


61. Gbgb leaves are of little use to anyone. They are reputed to have magical powers, though.  [Back to text]


62. At the time Nigeria became independent in 1960 one of the most powerful politicians was Ahmadu Bello. The people of lrin did not care much for him, apparently, and one person there named his goat after him.  [Back to text]


63. Being the god of thunder, ng can rage only during the rainy season.  [Back to text]