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10 most popular Nigerian proverbs across three major ethnic groups

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By Ene Onoja

Nothing defines a culture as distinctly as its language, and the element of language that best encapsulates a society’s values and beliefs is its proverbs. 

Here are 10 most popular proverbs across the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria.


• . Ile oba t’o jo, ewa lo busi

Translation: When a king’s palace burns down, the re-built palace is more beautiful.

Meaning: Necessity is the mother of invention, creativity is often achieved after overcoming many difficulties.

• Gbogbo alangba lo d’anu dele, a ko mo eyi t’inu nrun

Translation: All lizards lie flat on their stomach and it is difficult to determine which has a stomach ache

Meaning: Everyone looks the same on the outside but everyone has problems that are invisible to outsiders.

. Ile la ti n ko eso re ode

Translation: Charity begins at Home

Meaning: A man cannot give what he does not have good or bad behavior is a reflection of one’s background.


.Hapu ihe e dere na moto banye moto
Translation: Forget what is written on the vehicle’s body and enter the vehicle.

Meaning: Taking action is a priority over having details or previous knowledge.

Onye m ga-egbuli m ga rio chineke ka o nyere m aka?
Translation: Regarding the person that I can defeat easily, do I still need to beg God for assistance?

Meaning: The battles that can be easily overcome do not require additional effort OR some things can be achieved faster even without external assistance.

Ogbacha oso a gwuo mile
Translation: After the race, the miles or distance covered is calculated.

Meaning: Being reflective after a difficult task.


A yi, a gamma, ta fi takamma, gobe a koma.
Translation: To do, to finish, is better than don’t care, come back to-morrow.

Meaning: Never put off till to-morrow what you can do to-day.

Hakki da ka rena shi kan soni maka ido.
Translation: The grass which you disregard will injure your eye.

Meaning: No man or thing is too insignificant to be altogether disregarded.

Rua ba su yami banza.
Translation: Water does not get bitter without a cause.

Meaning There is reason for everything.

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