Dòbálè: The Thing About Lying Lizards- Pope Jay
“All Lizards lie on their belly, we don’t know which suffers a stomach ache”- Yoruba Proverb
In my school, there is a funny tradition, I do not know how and when it started but I can assure you that it has been around for a while. Before you can successfully address a crowd, you must prostrate before the crowd. The nomenclature of the unusual tradition is unsurprisingly the Yoruba translation of the act; “Dòbálè”. This tradition is so entrenched in the Obafemi Awolowo University that as a performing artiste or Public speaker, your chances of succeeding with the audience drops exponentially if you do not perform this act before a Great Ife Students gathering and in contrast, performing this act can greatly improve the your chances of winning the audience when rightly done.
You might probably think that there are some people that are exempted from our funny tradition and indeed, this is the truth. Certain people, especially in the higher political class, who have managed to gain some “mouth” for themselves can be exempted from this tradition. However, most of the other classes are not. Star musicians who have come to perform on the soil of the Obafemi Awolowo University have willingly undergone the sacred tradition and have of course enjoyed the benefits thereof. Burnaboy, Sean Tizzle, Orezi, Olamide… are some names that come to mind in recent times.
The irony that often arises in the practice of this tradition can be quite comical. The ‘Ìdòbálè” is a way by which the Yoruba show respect; especially from the younger to the elderly. And as much I am uncertain of the circumstances of the creation of the tradition, I want to believe that it was about wanting to show the audience some reverence, and what better way is there to do this than in the most cultural way possible. But then again, persons who try to use the “Dòbálè” are not always the most morally justified; a fact acknowledged in the proverb; “The Ìdòbálè is not a measure of character”. This explains why a musician, drunk to stupor, would come to tender his idobale before performing or why men in starched shirts who have come to make vague promises would annoyingly spend half the time being a “well-trained Yoruba boy”.
But then again, all lizards are lying, we just don't know which ones are actually lying...