I agree with you that Dan may have either risked taking that proverb out of context or did not clarify his logic fully. [I wonder if what he had in mind was another saying or curse – “Uma i gba ne Edo” – which comes from a different historical context – or if he was just being provocative in general. He certainly does not mean to say that Edos have no history of rising in revolt against oppressive and exploitative leadership. It has been done before and can be done again.]
For proverbs to be understood their contextual meaning must be appreciated. There is depth to the observation that in the natural heirarchy of the animal kingdom, mice (or rats) have never come together to unite for the purpose of killing the Cat – their notorious predator. Thus one might note that no number of rats can scare a cat merely because they outnumber it. One might also note that the failure to unite to take on a Cat may reflect certain bio-sociological characteristics of rats that condemn them to eternal fear of Cats. Interestingly, there is a military theory (doctrine) that victory in war is more a function of social organization than weapons per se. Our elders have expressed their understanding of this doctrine in this proverb – in my view.
I see it as a profound recognition of the power of unity, organization and coordination, not a defeatist manifestation of fatalism. Therein lies the lesson for modern Edo society. Those who oppress us are of the same species – homo sapiens – not some different species in the animal kingdom. Hence my mild disagreement with Dan’s interpretation.
NB: I invite subscribers to comment on interpretational issues – particularly for more complex idioms and proverbs. Identical or similar proverbs written or said in other Edo-speaking or Nigerian dialects are welcome. Lets share wisdom.
Nowa and all, I believe Dan should have used the Edo proverb “Ore avbiere a mue no mwentin la”, intepreted in English “you parade the strong through the neighborhood of the weak and cowards”.
The current situation in Nigeria and Edo state in particular seems to buttress what Dan is saying. Only the wise will understand Dan’s proverb. As Edos will say “itan fi ma Edo, Edigue a kpe emwen ho ma”, intepreted again, “you talk to Edos in parables, but have to explain and finalize everything planinly to the shallow thinkers (Edigue in our own language). Bravo to you Dan, keep talking for I hear and understand you.