Operation Àmọ̀tẹ́kùn has come to stay, but I’m most happy that it gives us ample opportunity to discuss the issue of what exactly do Yoruba refer to as Àmọ̀tẹ́kùn.
To this end, new crop of Yoruba linguists, majorly of Lagos extraction, have come with another obviously false claim that cheetah is Ìdágìrì. Their argument seems to rest on the claim that cheetah is the fastest animal on land, so by virtue of that, it is Ìdágìrì. They understand Ìdágìrì as being fast.
To this claim I have some quick response. First, Ìdágìrì is never a word for any animal in Yorùbá land. It simply means panicky commotion, pandemonium, convolution or any disturbance of peace due to fear inducing sudden attack.
Ìdágìrì is associated with large cat family like lion, leopard cheetah etc because they were the most ferocious animal that frequently attack villages in the past. So it became part of their praise poetry. A close word to Ìdágìrì and which is sometimes used in the same context is jìnnìjìnnì.
Ìdágìrì could as well be caused by python, crocodile and even hyenas because these animals frequently attack human villages and make away with their young. Remember Yoruba also say “À kò ta gìrì ni t’ejò.” Here, the panic cause by snake, “ta gìrì” is to individual and not as widespread as Ìdágìrì but notice they share the same root word “gìrì.” The fact is that predatory animals cause fear and commotion, especially in villages with small population.
In the praise poetry of the tripartite kingdoms of Olómù Apẹ̀rán, Ọlọ́rà and Onírèsé beautifully rendered by Ajóbíewé, part of the oríkì of Ọlọ́rà is “Ọmọ a p’ẹkùn pa jìnnìjìnnì.” Jìnnìjìnnì here refers to gripping fear experienced during leopards or lions attack on villages. Once the leopard or the predator is dead, the fear is gone. Jìnnìjìnnì here summons the same image of Ìdágìrì brought by the news of leopard or any of the big cat family venturing into villages. We should also remember that not until white men came with Dane guns, small villages were vulnerable to predatory animals.
I will respond to other arguments later.
But for now, jìnnìjìnnì jìnnìjìnnì ògìdán ò ní j’ọ́mọ ojo ó lè p’ẹkùn.