Iya Oyo mumbled a growl to the greeting, when a neighbor said, “A kò ní rí alákǒbá o.” It means “May we not be the victim of a saboteur,”

I said, “Iya Oyo, you did not say Àṣȩ” to that man’s prayer.”

“True, I said nothing,” Iya Oyo agreed. “Some prayers are difficult to say Ạ̀ṣẹ (amen) to.”

“Why?” I asked. “What sort of prayers are difficult to say àṣẹ (amen) to?”

Prayers such as “A kò ní rí alákǒbá: (May we not be sabotaged.) A kò ní rí wàhálà. (May we not face frustrations). A kò ní rí ìjàm̀bá (May we not face dangerous circumstances). Any prayer that starts with A kò ní rí…(May we not face…) I don’t like.”

That was when her logic became clear to me. When “A kò ní rí” is transliterated, it means “May we not see….” In other words, when you make a direct transliteration of A kò ní rí alákǒba,́

it means “May you not see your saboteur.”

Iya Oyo saw that I got her logic and she smiled. “I would rather see my enemy so I could avoid them or deal with them decisively. The correct prayer should be, “Alákǒbá kò ní rí mi, meaning ‘May my saboteur not see me,’ and not May I not see my saboteur. Jàm̀bá kò ní rí mi (meaning ‘Danger will not see me,’ Wàhálà ko ní rí mi, ‘Frustrations should not see me.’ What sort of prayer wishes me to be blind to these hazards?”

I started laughing.

“My prayer to you?” Iya Oyo asked. “Alákǒbá kò ní rí wa: may the saboteurs not see us. Jàm̀bá kò ní rí wa: may danger not see us. Wàhálà ko ní rí wa: may frustrations not see us. It is not the other way around. You don’t agree with me?”

“I totally agree, Iya Oyo,” I said.


The photo shows me with a painting I sold recently.

May poverty (ìṣẹ́) and hunger (ebi) not see any of us.

In these delicate days, may no cataclysm see any of us.

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