Conservative protesters at occupy Nigeria 2012 protesting against the removal of oil subsidy
2012- Protesters demonstrates against subsidy removal by President Jonathan at Oba Ovoramen square, Benin-city. Source: CNN iReport

Conservatism is resistance to change due to preference for stability and continuity. The conservative believes in the value of history and favors traditional institutions over the abstract or ideal, as it is represented in liberalism and socialismGradualism, which is the milder form of conservatism, rather than resist change, disapprove of revolution, believing it to bear the risk of compromising the ordered structure of the society.

Religious conservatism seeks to preserve select religious ideologies, either by example or by law as in the case of Isaac Oluwole and the fiery James Johnson, who in 1905, led a delegation to Governor Egerton in protest for the disregard of Sunday by the European inhabitants of Lagos. In Onitsha of 1864, a man called Odesoruelu, meaning, “restorer of primitive style,” sought to rewind his native land even further. Odesoruelu campaigned against presence of the white man, which he believed brought about the rise in the price of food. With the smallpox epidemic of that year giving credibility to his ideas, he soon gained followers who carried his message to small towns within ten mile radius to Onitsha. Social conservatism, which involves the adaptation of norms handed down from the past, may have played a role in the criminalization of homosexuality in the “extraordinary order of the day” proclaimed by the leader of Nigeria’s 15 January 1966 coup.

Conservatism is often treated as an ideology, reason being its etymological origin in Britain and the philosophical construct of Edmund Burke, its post-medieval propagator who opposed the French Revolution of 1789 that violently transited the nation from monarchy to a republic. Non-ideological conservatism is often encountered in Nigerian history, such as the sporadic resistances that greeted Awujale Adesanya’s efforts at rebranding the Ijebu administration. Two attempts had been made at the modernist monarch’s life barely three years into his reign that began in 1933. As it is been cynically put by an author, the Nigerian elite group and leaders have been a protégé privileged class who will demure in any experiment with exotic philosophies like communism as was then practiced in East Europe. By this, the author implies that the conservative outlook of the Nigerian ruling class during the Cold War had no ideological background.

When in 1918 paper currency was introduced in reaction to the world-wide shortage of silver, food prices were inflated what was sold for three pence with silver became a shilling or two with the paper currency-all because of the people’s disdain of the new legal money. Farmers became very unwilling to sell their produce until there were threats of starvation in Abeokuta. To arrest the situation, caused by these illiterate people’s conservatism, another currency in the shape of nickel metal had to be introduced. Even though the privatization agenda of President Obasanjo wasn’t met with serious ideological resistance, Femi Kayode and Ayo Odusola in a paper on reforms, informs that “Government officials saw privatization as reducing their empire, hence resisted the programmes tacitly or overtly. The labour unions and their members went against it because of the associated job risks and income losses. Several industrial actions came as a result of this. Commercialisation of the public universities led to students unrest and closure of most universities in the country.”

Obey & KSA were conservative in most of their social adjudication. The former sang about his right to be polygamous and the lack of same for a woman. Photo:
Obey & KSA were conservative in most of their social adjudication. The former boasted in song about his right to be polygamous and lack of same for a woman. Photo: NNP

Conservatism in social relations has in successive generations been spearheaded by popular Yoruba musicians, such as King Sunny Ade and Ebenezer Obey. As stated by Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi of the University of Birmingham, issues such as male/female relationships, marriage, polygamy, and kinship serve not only to convey the musicians’ personal views on such matters, but also to remind their audiences of their commitment to maintaining a status quo of social relations.

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer