You can ignore the exclamation mark (!) in the title of this post because it doesn’t add anything to this piece. It’s just there for emphasis.
The word Oga should be familiar to you if you have ever been to Nigeria, or if you’ve been watching Nollywood films for some time.
Oga is a Yoruba word, so you may regard this post as a short course in Yoruba language.
Oga means “master” or “the boss” or “the leader.”
An Oga is a top man or woman and this usually carries some form of power.
An Oga is a powerful person.
If I were to write this piece in Yoruba language, I would have inserted some marks (amin ori oro) on the word Oga to differentiate it from another Oga. This second Oga is the name of an animal called chameleon. But that’s not what I want to talk about here.
You can easily identify an Oga when you see one.
In an office setting, The Oga rides the best car, has the biggest office, and earns the largest salary. To his subordinates, he does the least of the work. They murmur in his absence, “This our Oga doesn’t do anything other than to dish out instructions. Yet he collects the fattest salary and enjoys more than everybody. Monkey dey work, baboon dey chop. It’s so unfair.”
That’s why he’s the Oga.
What the subordinates don’t realize is that their Oga works with his head, not necessarily with his hands.
When others are sleeping at night, the Oga is thinking of how to move the company forward.
When things go awry, the Oga is the first to go. His head is the first to roll, and his blood is the first to flow on the floor.
Yes, Oga na master, but being a master has its downside.
Go to a construction company. Every worker rides to a site in a truck, smelling and sweating profusely. But Oga rides in an air-conditioned car.
Every worker is wearing khaki uniform and a helmet. But Oga is in his suit.
The Oga in this case is most likely to be a white man; one Oyinbo man among several workers.
Instead of carrying a shovel, Oga carries a file.
Instead of digging the ground, Oga gives commands.
Workers are paid daily; Oga is paid monthly.
Workers are paid in cash; Oga’s bank account is loaded.
But let something go wrong with the hole dug, let the building foundation be faulty, let there be a structural defect; nobody will remember the worker who did not dig well, or the one that did not mix the sand properly. All eyes will be on the Oga, and he could spend the rest of his life in jail.
That’s the price of being an Oga.
Oga is feared and respected. That’s because he has the power to hire and fire.
In every group, in every community, in every house, in every country, there is an Oga.
The president is the Oga of a country.
The governor is the Oga of a state.
Criminals also have their own Oga. Go to the prisons to see how leadership works in practice.
Prisoners have their leader. That’s why it is said that Elewon l’Oga.
If you’re a new inmate, Oga Elewon can order your “seniors in prison” to beat you up. He can also command you to scratch his back throughout the night.
That’s Oga Elewon for you.
There are so many types of Ogas that space will not allow us to mention here.
A teacher is an Oga. His students respect him as their master.
A choirmaster is an Oga. That’s why he’s called Oga Akorin.
A company boss is Oga Ile-Ise.
And a young man in a higher institution is jokingly called Oga Ile-Iwe.
That’s quite different from Oga Akowe who is usually a graduate who returns to the village due to unemployment. He’s well known in the village compound for his spoken English and writing skills. When it’s time to write a letter to someone in Lagos or dial a telephone number on a handset, Oga Akowe is the one that everyone turns to.
Still on that Oga Ile-Iwe title, when a new wife enters into the family, she’s not allowed to call his husband’s junior brother by name even if she’s old enough to be his mother. Instead, she calls him “Oga Ile-Iwe” or “Brother.”
Hmm, I’m not sure if this practice still exists everywhere in Yorubaland.
I very much doubt.
Not with the Peperenpe ladies that we have as wives these days.
They themselves are Ogas.
Yes o, they are!
The husband, as the breadwinner, should be an Oga in his house. But things are changing in our modern world. Many wives are now Ogas in their husbands’ houses.
When Oga madam speaks, her husband must keep quiet. She commands in the house and controls her husband. If the husband is not careful, he may end up with a dirty slap.
The husband of an Oga wife or Oga madam is called Gbewudani husband. That’s the type of husband that must obey as commanded by the wife.
The word Gbewudani derives from the way Oga madam treats her husband when dressing or undressing.
Let’s assume she’s undressing.
As she removes her top, she hands it over to the husband to hold for her.
She removes her skirt and asks him to hold that too.
She goes ahead to remove her underwear and asks the man to hold as well.
When she finishes, she asks the husband to drop everything for her in the dirty clothes basket.
That’s why the man is called Gbewudani, which literally means “hold my clothes for me.”
If Oga madam is dressing for an outing, the Gbewudani husband does a similar thing. He holds the headgear, the iro, the buba, the necklace, the wristwatch, the makeup box, and the handbag; all in his two hands. His woman then starts to pick them from his hands one by one as she dresses up.
Chai, I reject Gbewudani role in Jesus Name.
Oga can also be a derogatory title.
When you fail to pay the correct fare to a bus conductor and he says to you “Oga, please pay my money in full or hell will let loose.” That’s a disparaging usage of Oga. The conductor is just about to mess you up for your poverty.
When you owe your landlord and he knocks at your door, “Oga, when exactly are you paying your rent?” That’s another embarrassing situation for one to be called an Oga.
When you give an instruction to your subordinate and he says to you in the presence of other subordinates, “Oga, go and sit down joor.” That’s a sign that your Oga title is weakening.
There is also Oga Ole or Oga Gbewiri.
When the leader of an armed robbery gang is caught, people jubilate and say, “Thank God, won ti mu Oga awon Ole.” That’s a bad title.
And its sister title of Oga Gbewiri is also bad.
Any boss that engages in corrupt practices is a pen robber. And pen robbers usually steal in billions. They are Oga awon Gbewiri – leaders of all robbers; looters of highest proportion.
It is good to be an Oga. But it is bad to be called an Oga for the wrong reasons.
What kind of Oga are you?