I Hear You: Proverb of the Month

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Ehemwen wÿÿ iren te gua so ihuan, ren te vbe gua ku, sokpan ukpÿ iye-ÿkhÿkhÿ ÿre ÿ ma gie iren ku iku iren vbe avan.   (Edo, Nigeria )

Une blatte sait chanter et danser, mais c’est la poule qui l’empeche de le faire pendant la journee.  (French )

A cockroach knows how to sing and dance, but it is the hen who prevents it from performing its art during the day  ( English)

We are all born with different talents and abilities; often we are prevented from showing or making use of these qualities due to suppression and fear. We need to be encouraged and motivated in order to bring the best in us.   ( Meaning)



The above proverb is typical of the Edo speaking people of Nigeria. It is meant to emphasize the importance of justice, fairness and one`s ability.

No one has a single identity. Nor are certain qualities, talents or abilities exclusive made for any one single person or a group. These characteristics are not only freely given to different individuals; they are natural gifts to those individuals. Each one who possesses these gifts is expected to not only share them with others freely, they are meant to be equally used in such a way that they may benefit the whole society.

How does this apply to our society? Often, our human relationship is made of hens (leaders, dictators, power brokers) and cockroaches (poor, the masses). Definitely, being in a position of power or having the ability to exercise control or influence over others does not necessarily mean that those under you (cockroaches) lack the leadership qualities or abilities; they might have those gifts but their lack of power prevents them from exercising or showing their abilities. Likewise, leaders who give you the impression that they are irreplaceable are only sowing the dangerous seed of dictatorship because they are not born with power.

Just like cockroaches, the poor masses live in a precarious situation, facing many challenges in life. One of the biggest challenges facing the “cockroach“ is how to survive under the watchful dictatorial eyes of its enemy / master (hen, leader, power broker etc.), who is there to exploit the hazardous situation of the cockroach. Where does this lead the cockroach to? The cockroach is not itself. It is full of fears and these fears cannot bring the best in the cockroach. Logically, the social relationship between the cockroach and hen is a master / servant (dominant ““ subordinate) type. Rather than using its powerful position and resources to help cockroach and make its life better, the hen rather exploits the vulnerability of cockroach. That creates fear, which makes cockroach not to show real qualities. Even when cockroach is in a position to show its capabilities, it does so cautiously. Hence, rather than showing its qualities and talents in a day time when all can see, it prefers to do so at night for the sake of safety.

Looking at our various societies, many of us are living in fear. Fears of unknown. We have failed to show our talents ““ not because we don`t possess one – despite that as human beings, we are gifted with abundant beauty, incredible grace and dignity. We definitely do have potentials, but often, we are not given the opportunity to exhibit them. Worse still, fear of the unknown has made us to be cautious. What is the use of having so much money or being rich, yet we cannot go out for a peaceful dinner with family and friends due to fear, including that of night marauders like armed robbers? Why should a country or its citizens be regarded as “Free“, yet one is not allowed to express their opinion on how best to be governed? What is “freedom“ in a country if one cannot have a different view or be able to criticize a leader? If democracy is government of the people, by the people for the people, why have the “people“ become rather the cockroaches of the society? Yes, cockroaches, who have preferred to be active at night for fear of being killed.

Definitely, there are many cockroaches in Africa who can sing; indeed, there are many of them who have the abilities to perform. They need to be encouraged and not be discouraged. It is only by encouraging them that they can bring out the best in them. It is only by working together that we can achieve much and create a successful and progressive society. Isn`t it a good way to contribute to the advancement of our humanity? Definitely, a cockroach knows how to sing and dance, but it is the hen who prevents it from performing its art during the day.