Monday, July 25, 2016

'Bamofin' and other such False Titles' By Adesina Ogunlana

The story is all too familiar in Yoruba land, a legal practitioner makes good and the next thing is the supposed chieftaincy title of 'Bamofin,' shortened form of Baba awon Amofin. Conferred on the fella by a traditional ruler.

Literally translated into English Baba awon Amofin means 'Father of lawyers' but more aptly it translates to 'chief' lawyer. The title is an ape of a certain original in traditional setting, to wit Balogun or Babalogun 'Father-at-the-War-Front' or 'Chief Warrior.'

The intrusion and intervention of the British Colonialists in the lives and affairs of Nigeria over two hundred years ago has drastically altered the traditional setting of the people, hence the 'Bamofin' of the land; the wife becoming the ‘Yeye Bamofin’ - the ‘dutiful wife,' the pillar behind her husband's success notwithstanding having nothing to do with the legal profession.

Now let's examine the Bamofin title - how valid or sensible or justifiable is same? The recipient of the title a supposed traditional title, is not trained in any way in the native laws and customs of the people of the relevant kingdom neither is he a specialist in regard. In fact law, as a profession never existed in pre-colonial Yoruba-land. Thus the post-colonial Yoruba lawyer is only trained in the practice and procedure of traditional rulers.

Another peculiarity of our traditional rulers is awarding titles to certain professionals like lawyers, accountants, surveyors, medical doctors etc. The preferred members for consideration for title awards are usually those professional who are either ‘bucks up’ or cronies of the occupiers of the attenuated monarchies. Thus the personal physician of a kabiyesi can be installed the Baasegun of the paper ‘kingdom” while the legal practitioner who waged and won court room battles for the Ori-Ade (the crowned head) whether by hook or by crook becomes the Baa Amofin.

Clearly then the legal profession in Nigeria is not part of the traditional values, culture and history of the people that an occupant of a native chieftaincy is expected and required to secure, protect and promote; ditto modern professions like medicine, baking, surveying, accountancy, etc.

Thus when a traditional ruler purports to give out titles in respect of matters outside of his portfolio, he lacks the locus to so act and any such title dished out is void ab abinitio and is really of no consequences whatsoever.

Actually both the givers and recipients of bogus titles like BAMOFIN are guilty of not only deep ignorance or thoughtless absurdity but are also victims of 'colonial mentality.'

The recipient, a legal practitioner trained in the English way and now donning a traditional title on account of his alleged proficiency in the Queen’s land  law and procedure can only be likened to a fellow who decides to put on an agbada and abeti aja cap after dressing up in a three piece suit.
Mad, won’t you say?

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