Culture and health: beneficial cultural practices in Nigeria

What are the beneficial cultural practices in Nigeria that we can showcase to the world to learn from and copy? Culture they say is the total way of life of a group of people. Our way of life is depicted in the food we eat, marriages, music, housing, family unit, occupation, religion, the way we greet, dress, naming, and even the way we bury our dead. Cultural/traditional practices in Nigeria or anywhere could be harmful or beneficial, it may affect our health either negatively or positively, it is dynamic (subject to changes or modifications) BUT it is not and can never be inferior to the cultures of other peoples (tribes, ethnic group, clan, or race).

I have dealt extensively on harmful traditional practices in Nigeria and how it affects our health and you will appreciate my work if you click on this page.

But the work will not be complete if I fail to also write on the beneficial cultural practices in Nigeria. Beneficial cultural or traditional practices are norms, behaviours, attitude, and beliefs that promote health or causes no harm.

No culture in the world is totally bad or totally good but it is the way we portray it that matters. The difference between ‘kpekere’ and ‘plantain chips’ is in the packaging. So why can’t we package the good aspects of the Nigerian culture and sell it to the world?

Nigeria is a country of 180 million (estimated to be 200million by NBS) peoples with over 300 ethnic groups that boast of diverse and distinct cultures. In these cultures are the beneficial practices that I want to talk about. So what are the beneficial cultural practices in Nigeria that are worth my mentions if I may ask again? Check below for these enviable/healthy practices.

1.Extended family system is one of the beneficial cultural practices in Nigeria

Raising and bringing up children is one of the most stressful job in life and trust me, the nuclear family alone cannot shoulder it. The extended family system being practised in Nigeria and in Africa has made child care less tasky as parents have access to the needed support and encouragement in bringing up a child. It is a family system where the father, mother, aunties, uncles, cousins, nieces, grandparents and even great-grand parents has a role to play in bringing up a child and providing support financially or otherwise. According to family experts, the extended family system helps build a strong, and healthy children, gives them a sense of belonging and identity including improving their self worth and esteem(the child can never be an orphan, she/he belongs to the ‘family’). Adult members in the extended family system may help in child care especially for working mothers and they young ones have an array of individuals to learn morals from in the family. Disputes are discussed during family meetings and resolved amicably by the elders. I am a product of the extended family, I was raised by my grandmother.

2.Adequate care for new mother and baby- ómúgwò

In Nigeria cultures, we do not joke with the health, happiness and feeding of our new mothers and babies. It is a ceremony we all look forward to. Money or no money, local delicacies are prepared for the mothers, visitors from different parts of the community troup to congratulate the families and pay homage to the babies with gifts, and special music is played to the listening pleasure of mother and baby. Infact the community takes over the bathing and nursing of baby from the mother until she is strong enough.

In Igboland, Southeastern Nigeria, there is a beneficial cultural practice called “òmugwò” we can all learn from and copy. In this tradition, the mother of the the lady that just delivered will leave her home for the home of her daugher in order to assist in nursing the new mother and her baby to full health. During the òmùgwò, the new mother is placed on a special period of rest, diet and encouraged to breastfeed. This practice improves the quality of milk given to the baby( helps it grow healthy) and the new mothers recover faster from them events of pregnancy and labour.

3. Nigerian delicacies are special

I don’t want to drag you into the Ghana-Nigeria jollof rice controversy( the fact is this: our jollof rice is the best) but have you tasted our other foods?  If you have not, I pity you(èyàà). You are missing out big time. Nigeria have over 10,000 delicacies that I cannot all mention here. Each tribe has up to 4-5 special delicacies you will enjoy. The Igbos boast of ofe oha, ofe akwu, ofe owerri, ofe okazi and ofe nsala, the yorubas enjoy ewedu, ewagoin, efo riro and amala, what about banga soup and starch from the urhobos or the omisagwe(groundnut soup) and omi ukpoka (corn soup) from the etsakos. I have not mentioned the delicacies of the binis, ijaws, itsekiris, hausas, Fulanis, idomas, akwa ibom(afam soup), ogonis, tivs, ebiras, nupes, wukaris, kanuris, igalas, and the esans.

The foods contain all the individual nutrients (balanced diet) required for healthy growth and development. Our foods contain less fats but have the necessary bulk that protect us from cancers especially the breast and colon cancer.

4.We respect our elders in Nigeria

As the proverb go: “what an elder sees while sitting down, a child will never see even when ontop an iroko tree.”  In Nigeria, especially in Yoruba culture, respect for elders is sacrosanct. There is a form of caste system delineated by age in every Nigerian community. While the young ones are expected to respect persons older than them, run errands and participate in household chores, the role of the old is to protect and provide for younger and vulnerable members of the society. The old admonish and teach the young morals making them grow it responsible individuals. It is our trandition in Nigeria to call upon responsible elders to douse tensions especially during youth restiveness. A good example is the recent Niger Delta crisis caused by the bombings of  crude pipelines by the Avengers Militant Group in the creeks. The Pan Niger Delta Forum(a group of elders) was called upon by the federal government to help talk to the youths, they did and the bombings stopped almost immediately. This buttress the fact that we respect our elders and we listen to them. The elder in Nigeria is KING.

5.Pork

Most cultures in Nigeria especially the hausa-fulani tribe forbids pork and therefore do not it eat it. I know you may say it is of Islamic origin but what is religion without culture if i may ask? Most religions in the world today is about 90% culture-based. The culture of not eating pork by the hausa- fulani is a healthful cultural practice that has almost made tapeworm infestations (taeniasis) non- existent in northern Nigeria.

6. Nigerian culture frowns at divorce

One of the beneficial cultural practices in Nigeria is that we strongly frown at divorce and we(especially the women for the sake of the children) can do anything to keep our marriage. This traditional practice alone have healthy effects on the children’s psychosocial wellbeing and removes the psychological and emotional trauma that comes broken homes on the children, wife and the husband.

beneficial cultural practices in Nigeria
husband, wife and baby. We frown at divorce

7. We take care of our old

“The child is the father of the man.” Kudos to Nigerian women on this one, they are very proficient in taking care of the old and vulnerable members of the family. It among the beneficial cultural practices in Nigeria. We do not see our old as burden and do not dump them in old peoples home rather we nurture, respect, and take good care of them in an environment they are familiar with. This healthful cultural practice makes growing old worthwhile in Nigeria.

8. Prolonged /extended breastfeeding

In prolonged or extended breastfeeding baby is allowed access to breastmilk as long as she or he wanted. The benefits of this traditional practice to mother and baby are listed below:

  • Adequate nutrition for baby
  • Boost the immune system of babies
  • Protects baby against allergic diseases e.g asthma
  • It is cheap
  • Form of contraception for mothers
  • Reduces the risk of breast and endoetrial cancers in mothers
  • Boost brain development and
  • Bonding between mother and child
  • You can read more here

9.Male circumcision

It is one of the beneficial cultural practices in Nigeria. Please be aware that circumcision of the male child has been our culture and is not a product religion. Africans have always circumcised their male children even before the advent of christianity or islam. Male circumcision reduces the risk of genital warts and penile cancer. Removing the foreskin(the foreskin produces a liquid called smegma that houses human papilloma virus) of the penis reduces the risk of transmission of hpv (cause of warts and cervical cancer) to Nigerian women.

10. Our Music is the the best

Our genres of music sooths the mind and the body. Music plays am important role in the  way we, communicate, interact, celebrate and transmits historic events. Songs are part and parcel of our national life, it symbolises marriage, births, deaths, and political events. Our genres of music and musical stars are celebrated worldwide. We have the afrobeats, afrojuju, fuji, juju, afropop, afrohiphop, to name but a few.

beneficial cultural practices in Nigeria
Late Fela and his afrobeats.

We have musical stars and legends that have conquered the world with beautiful and conscious beats: Fela Kuti, Femi Kuti, King Sunny Ade, Sunny Okosun, Oliver d’ Coque, Oriental Brothers, Sir Waziri Oshoma, Bolivia Family, Sir Victor Uwaifo, Osayomore, Osadebey, Innocent Idibia, Victor Olaiya, Asa etc.

If you have not listened to our songs and beats, you are missing out of this beneficial music tradition.

Other beneficial cultural practices in Nigeria

  • We marry into into a family and not the individual
  • Our culture forbids adultery
  • We take good care of our visitors. The visitor is king in Nigerian tradition
  • It takes a village to raise a child in African culture
  • One of the Nigerian health beliefs and practices is sexual abstinence of couples after delivery. It is a natural family planning method allowing for better child spacing.
  • Our art and culture( art and culture from the Benin Kingdom)

CAVEAT: THIS ARTICLE IS BY NO MEANS COMPLETE, THERE ARE MANY BEAUTIFUL AND BENEFICIAL NIGERIAN CULTURE OUT THERE THAT I WILL PERSONALLY NOT KNOW UNLESS YOU TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS SECTION SO WE CAN PUBLISH IT TOGETHER.

PROMOTE AFRICA, PROMOTE NIGERIA.

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2 thoughts on “Culture and health: beneficial cultural practices in Nigeria

  1. wonderful article sir,
    I would like to ask for a more critical look on cultural practices that both promote and demote good health standards in nigeria

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