25+ wise Nigerian sayings and quotes and their meaning explained

25+ wise Nigerian sayings and quotes and their meaning explained

Being a Nigerian comes with various benefits and connotes being able to code certain information in ways only the recipient(s) of such would understand. Often reduced to Nigerian sayings, these codes come in various forms, including anglicised traditional proverbs. They often dwell on any topic and can be multipurpose in their functions.

Nigerian sayings
Nigerian sayings and quotes and their meaning. Photo: unsplash.com, @luisakilani (modified by author)
Source: UGC

There are many funny sayings when you realise the Nigerian in you needs to jump out in certain situations. This is because, sometimes, it is the only difference between being taken seriously and being paid no attention to. If you are in the Nigerian environment and want to easily blend in with the rest of the populace, using the localised lingua might be the best way.

Nigerian sayings and their meanings

There are several famous Nigerian sayings, and although they focus on different societal topics, the purpose is often to pass across salient information in ways that simultaneously sound dire and funny. Below are a couple of such sayings with their meanings:

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1. What an older person sees while sitting, a child cannot see even if he climbs into a tree

This is one of the oldest traditional Nigerian proverbs, and it focuses on the subject of wisdom. Literarily, it implies that a youngster's knowledge, gathered through artificial means, including formal education, will never be the equivalent of the knowledge that an older person has gathered from experience.

As such, it promotes the wisdom of contacting or talking to an older person before making certain decisions.

2. The agama lizard nods in acknowledgement of its bravery when it does not die after falling off an iroko tree

This means that people should blow their trumpets or give themselves a treat for a job well done, even if no one will give it to them. After all, self-love is the greatest love.

3. All lizards crawl on their stomachs, making it hard to know which one suffers from stomach ache

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This one acknowledges that you cannot know the content of a person's heart, whether good or evil, by looking at their face. Everyone is going through so much, and it is what they share that you are allowed to see.

4. The child who says his father is unsuccessful is on the journey to finding out how easy it is to be successful

This is one of the most popular Nigerian sayings, which means that although it is easy to spot someone unsuccessful, the observer will find it challenging to be otherwise. This is a traditional way to curtail a poor man's child from becoming rude to his parents, especially the father.

nigerian sayings and meanings
Nigerian sayings focus on different societal topics. Photo: unsplash.com, @daiga_ellaby (modified by author)
Source: UGC

5. You cannot plant yam and expect a harvest of cassava

This roughly translates into reaping what one sows. A person who does good will be paid back in good kind, and a bad person will be paid back in the kind of his actions.

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6. A person with one good eye does not thank the Lord enough until they meet another person who is blind in both eyes

This phenomenon often stems from the contrast effect, where people tend to appreciate their situation more when exposed to a less favourable one. When faced with challenges or witnessing others in more difficult circumstances, individuals gain a perspective that fosters gratitude for what they possess. This emphasises the importance of recognising and cherishing even seemingly small blessings.

Nigerian sayings about love

Nigerians are enormously passionate about love; it does not focus only on romantic love but also borders on platonic and self-love. Below are a couple of Nigerian proverbs and what they mean:

7. One who marries a beautiful bride courts troubles

This Nigerian proverb suggests that choosing the most desirable partner or possessing enviable talents comes with challenges. In a literal sense, a man marrying the prettiest girl may face constant threats, potentially leading to jealousy and marital issues.

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In a broader context, it warns that those with remarkable gifts may attract problems and expectations, implying that such recognition can bring its own set of troubles.

8. You know who you love, but you can not know who loves you

This one speaks that humans only know themselves and not the other, no matter the outward show of affection from a second party. You may genuinely love someone and think they are your best friend, but all they think of you is a competition or a stepping stone to something better for themselves, without caring about what that does to you.

9. Both hands become clean when the right-hand washes the left and the left washes the right

This means that having genuinely helpful friends around is one way to attain a goal faster since everyone is helping themselves become a better version of themselves.

Nigerian sayings about love
Nigerian sayings about love. Photo: unsplash.com/@fadid000 (modified by author)
Source: UGC

10. Every kind of love is love, but self-love is supreme

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This one promotes individuals loving themselves and putting themselves first before anybody. The reason for this stems from the fact that a self-loathing person will most likely not love others and, as such, might become a menace to the entire society.

11. When only the kola nut is presented with love, it carries more value than might be associated with a whole pod of several kola nuts

In certain Nigerian cultures, when shared in a gathering, the kola nut indicates the spread of love among members of such an association. The saying, therefore, insinuates that a single kola nut shared among members, with genuine love, is worth more in value of unity than several kola nuts shared with fake love.

12. It is better to love one person than many because you might lose all if you fall out of love with them

This means that a person who invests all their attention and care into one person will feel less hurt when the relationship fails compared to someone who invests in several people simultaneously and falls out with all of them. In this case, less is more.

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13. Pretend you are dead, and you will see who loves you

This suggests that people are more likely to have flamboyant eulogies strung about them when they are dead than when they are alive. People prefer to give flowers to the dead man.

Nigerian sayings about strength

Strength is a quality emasculated in Nigerian society. Still, it is also a virtue expected in women because it foretells determination to achieve one's goals. Below are Nigerian sayings and meanings on the subject of strength:

14. Charms do not perform miracles on the shelf; they do for those who are brave

This means that without bravery and courage, a person's dependence on charm will not likely be tested because a weak man will typically not be found in situations warranting the use of such.

15. Courage is the father of success

This saying assumes that anyone brave enough to take risks will most likely encounter success on one of such risky adventures.

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16. The weak warrior wearing sandals overcomes the brave with a thorn in his foot

Here, it is shown that a brave man can have an Achilles' heel that can be exploited by someone or situations that they would have defeated on a good day. As such, the strong man is advised to focus less on his strength.

nigerian sayings about strength
Nigerian saying about strength. Photo: unsplash.com, @tjump (modified by author)
Source: UGC

17. The spirit that keeps one going when one has no choice of what else to do must not be mistaken for valour

This means that courage or bravery should not be taken as something a man intentionally puts out every time; sometimes, it results from having nothing else to do.

18. The thrower of stones throws away the strength of his arm

This suggests that people should stop themselves from hurting others. The reason is that, in doing so, they reserve their energy for more productive solutions or countermeasures.

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19. Man is like palm wine: when young, sweet but without strength; in old age, solid but harsh

This one tells of man's dynamic nature regarding his outlook towards life. People have their strengths but different qualities at different stages of their lives.

20. Hurrying and worrying is not the same as strength

Doing nothing but worrying or hurrying to do something to avoid appearing idle should not be mistaken for strength. Often, calculated actions, although delayed, may yield better results.

21. A short man can only be able to hang his bag to that point that their hands can reach

This Nigerian adage connotes that you can only enjoy the life you desire through hard work. Whatever life you dream of is possible if you can pay the price through hard work, so stop living a fairy tale life.

22. You can not tell when a chicken sweats because of their feathers

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According to this saying, it is hard to tell who an individual is until you get closer to them and know them more intimately. Pretenders are everywhere, but you can tell who a person truly is through close monitoring.

Nigerian pidgin sayings

The Nigerian pidgin is a local lingua in various parts of the country. Sometimes, knowing how to speak the language might be the only way to get by in particular environments. Some famous sayings that help you look like you are part of the bubbly pidgin-speaking community, especially the youth, include:

23. One day, breeze go blow, and fowl yansh go open

This means that no matter how long a lie exists, the truth will always come out at the end of the day.

24. Jollof rice wey dey for the bottom of pot today go dey for the top of cooler tomorrow

This foretells the importance of maintaining hope and motivation in navigating life's complexities. Regardless of challenges, the belief in a better tomorrow propels individuals forward, showcasing the resilient nature of the human spirit.

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25. Follow who sabi road

This is a saying that urges a person to learn how to do things from a more successful person. It is like asking someone to get a mentor.

Nigerian sayings
Nigerian pidgin saying. Photo: unsplash.com, @areksan (modified by author)
Source: UGC

26. I go enter you anyhow if you reason me one kind

This is usually used by someone who feels insulted by how someone has addressed them. Such a person often threatens to retaliate similarly or even more derogatorily.

27. Monkey no fine but him mama like am

This means that irrespective of what a person does, the love their mother has for them is unconditional.

There are famous sayings associated with Nigerians but in a negative light. It is also one of the funny sayings when you realise the Nigerian prince is not sending your money back. This is usually associated with fraudsters who steal using the account of a foreigner who falls victim to their promise of plenty of money.

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Nigerian sayings are inexhaustible, and more of them continue to surface. This takes inspiration from traditional folklore and wise sayings passed down from generation to generation.

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As published on Briefly, Africa is one of the continents richly endowed in culture. The continent believes in instilling knowledge through wise sayings and proverbs.

Regardless of the origin of a saying, one can get the intended meaning of the saying. Zulu proverbs and quotes carry equal weight to the rest of African quotes.

Source: Briefly News

Authors:
Favour Adeaga avatar

Favour Adeaga (Lifestyle writer) Dr. Favour Adeaga is an author, speaker, and coach. He graduated with a degree in Mass Communication from The Polytechnic, Ibadan, Nigeria. He did his internship at The Nation Newspaper and taught diploma students in Newspaper and Magazine courses at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi. He has curated the facts and life hacks category since 2018. Dr Favour is the author of several books available on Amazon. He currently lives in Nigeria. Email: favouradeaga@gmail.com

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