Ibadan Journal of Humanistic Studies

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Yorùbá Proverbs and Corruption: A Curious Convergence

Henri Oripeloye, Taiwo Araroba


Yorùbá worldview and their values are woven into proverbs which touch on all facets of the Yorùbá people's life such as economic, social, religious and political endeavours. Proverbs among the Yorùbá function in the promotion of cultural ethics to the extent that their positive values are non-negotiable. However, a literary re-evaluation of some Yorùbá proverbs has shown that there exist symbiotic relations between Yoruba proverbs and the concept of corruption. The aim of this paper is to analyse and discuss some selected Yorùbá proverbs in order to show how the usage of this significant Yorùbá speech act has been extended to support one of the most glaring evils in the Nigerian society. Through the application of cultural materialist theory, this study argues that proverbs have the tendency to deconstruct socio-cultural concepts since they can generate new meanings through the destabilization of existing reading to account for their complicity in corrupt acts. The study concludes that in proverbial usage, contextual shift has the capacity of disrupting conventional patterns of reasoning that result in meaning transfer which is enhanced by sheer and conscious manipulation of the semantic possibilities and situations by the speaker of the proverbs.

Keywords: proverbial sayings, corruption, symbiotic relations, socio- cultural contexts, cultural materialism.

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