ARO TRADITION: AN INSULT TO THE UNIVERSITY’S CIVILIZATION?

By Akinmoyeje Timileyin Precious

I had just finished writing my post-utme examinations. I was in an imbroglio of what to feel about the exam. Is it relief? I mean, the long days of ceaseless studying had finally ended, maybe I should worry instead? The exams weren’t as difficult as famed, but they were not as easy as I expected. Am I the only one in this situation?

The exit of smart looking people in well framed glasses from different exam Halls did not help matters. Each of them looked quite intelligent and confident, you know the typical look of “omo butter”.

Oh boy! How am I to compete with these people? They look like Albert Einstein to me. I thought to myself. The voice of two guys jolted me back to consciousness. These guys were older boys, bearded and probably same age as my elder brother.

“Omo, that thing na simple past question ohh.” One of them remarked

“As in, Na just pure cruise.” The other replied with almost the same enthusiasm.

At this point, I became totally helpless, flashes of questions that I could not answer came back to haunt me.  I slowly started to find my way back to the main gate.

From a distance, I spotted a hall of residence with a considerable crowd of boys, I could pick out some shrill voices, they all seem to be shouting and having fun. 

I continued my journey oblivious of what I am about to encounter.

“Hello maaaaaa, yes you! That aunty in Jean trousers.”  I was in Jean trousers but that guy couldn’t have been referring to me, could he?

I paused and I look back rather confused,

“You look like a fine olosho.” He said, and laughed rather mischievously.

Then came other voices, each hurling arrows of insults at me. At first, I was consumed in rage, I wanted to shout back to scream back at them, to tell them to get away. It all happened so suddenly

“We know you now.” This is your fifth time of writing this exam, you no fit enter.”

The rage in me gave way to hurt, almost reflexively, streams of hot tears flowed down my eyes, I was actually writing post utme for the third time, not the fifth!

I ran as fast as my legs could carry me straight for the gate. Isn’t this the school that prides itself in good character?  Isn’t a school supposed to be a civilized society?

Isn’t this school supposed to be the best in Nigeria?

The lofty dreams I had of a Utopian community had been shattered. Never am I attending this school of barbarians!  Never!

The advent of civilization has disruptively influenced the way of life of different groups of people. It has brought about a change in the general convention of conducts and ideologies of tribes, clans, countries and so on. Consequently, some traditional practices and cultural prominences have been carried away with the tide of modernization and have been overtime labelled as antediluvian, archaic, etcetera to show the irrelevance of their application in the modern world.

Owing to this, some integral parts of our cultural identity have been consigned to the oblivion of extinction. It is noteworthy however to mention that the light of civilization has illuminated the darkness of ignorance that has hovered over our country. It has afforded us the opportunity to abolish and work towards abolishing some traditional practices that are deleterious to humanity. For instance the killing of twins. However, some of these old and dangerous practices have still found crevices in the wall of our civilization, even among the very learned individuals. An example of one of these hoary traditions prominent in male halls of residence in the University of Ibadan is the ARO.

What exactly does it mean? Is it a tradition of cat-calling, body shaming, slander, verbal abuse and whatnots? Maybe it is a harmless tradition of throwing bants at other people? Well, there is definitely no consensus on the meaning of Aro. Various people have defined it based on different biases, biases shaped by their various experiences. It is however important to know that regardless of the meaning of the so-called tradition, it has in most times had negative psychological effects on the recipient-who in most cases are females. In most cases, it has been used as a means of perpetrating mischief under the guise of just catching cruise as it is often being euphemized.

The possibility of a minute fraction of people who just throw random inoffensive bants should not be ruled out, however the overall good or bad effect of actors and the action is a major deciding factor on the its relevance or irrelevance. With this in mind, the Aro tradition has outlived its relevance, if it had any in the first place. It has always transited from just harmless bants to abusive words. In no way is labelling a lady as Olohso (prostitute) pass as harmless, in no way does body shaming pass as harmless, don’t you think? Instances of situations where the recipients of Aro reply in defense to his or her detriment have been seen. Such typically incites some sort of anger in the perpetrators and has often lead to verbal abuse and street harassment in some cases.

Perhaps some of the psychological effects and legal dimensions should be considered to drive home the point. Victims of constant verbal abuse may have difficulty forming conclusions and making decisions, always accept that there is something wrong with them on a basic level, doubt their ability to communicate, experience self-doubt, low self-confidence, and lose self-esteem. Long term effects of these are anxiety, depression, drug abuse, anger issues and eventually in extreme cases suicide. These effects are in no way too extreme for “just Aro”, there are different people with different levels of sensitivities. You never can tell, can you?

Aside the psychological effects, legal boundaries are often breached in this archaic means of jest making. Instances of slanderous statements are very rampant. The Nigerian criminal code has punishments for street harassment, verbal abuse, and slander etcetera. Section 373 of the Nigerian criminal code does addresses the issue of defamation. However, Aro may in this case be considered too trivial for serious legal attention. On this note, it would considered a laudable step if the University of Ibadan includes make provisions for “Aro” specifically in her rules and regulations. Although the University has some rules against harassment, these rules do not specifically address Aro. If there are rules addressing the issue and these rules are enforced, they would go a long way in regulating the behavior of students.

Finally, the possibility of having indulged in this act due to the ignorance of the perpetrators cannot be entirely ruled out. The University management, Halls of residence, faculties and organizations in the University of Ibadan should sensitize students about uncivilized behaviors and the overall implication they have on social health and balance. Orientation programs provide very good platforms for implementing the above. Wouldn’t it betray the valour of Bello Hall, the greatness of Kuti hall, the leadership of Mellanby, the chivalry of Tedder Hall, the courage of Zik Hall and the intelligence of the Independence Hall, if their residents are portrayed as Barbarians? For the sake of peace and posterity, each arm of the school should work together in ensuring the extinction of this tradition.

Aluta Continua!

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