Comparing the nationalist generation with the present ruling circles
Invited Paper presented on January 15, 2010 at the Ogbomoso Stakeholders’ Forum Lecture in Remembrance of the Assassination of Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola on January 15, 1966.
My thesis is that we must examine the milieu in which the current ruling circles of Nigeria was forged in order to understand the source of generalised decay which our country suffered in the lest thirty years or so and which had so definitively terminated all the promises if independence. As the Yoruba put it: “P?l?b? idi awodi l’ aa wo k’ a to mo ?r? agogo”—If you do not know what a gong should look like, observe the tail of the black kite!
I will like to observe that in spite of the disarray among the nationalists in the mid forties, the promise of nationalist ethos propelled our country towards independence in 1960. This ethos and the pressures from the youth and the labour movement forced some of the promises of independence to be delivered in the late 1950s and 1960s. Because of the increases in oil revenue and in spite of military dictatorship and beginnings of the rule of buccaneers since the assassination of Murtala Mohammed, Nigerians were still able to savour the fruits of independence.
What has happened in the last three decades dominated by military dictatorship and especially its civilianised variety in the last one decade had been the almost complete obliteration of the promises of independence. This situation is supervised by imperialism, its organisations (IMF, World Bank, WTO) and its masquerade programs (NEPAD, NEEDS, Vision 2010, Vision 20:2020 etc.) expressed in policies such as SAP, deregulation, privatisation, down-sizing of public service, withdrawal of basic social services, etc.
In the process led fundamentally (and by force) by the armed wing of the Nigerian ruling class, the psychology and carriage of conquerors and onisunmami has become cloned at different tiers of government (local, state and national), in our universities, in the civil service, among our alleged royal fathers and even in places of worship. These postures are required for massive accumulation of private wealth which comes largely from public coffers. We can see this display in the special areas where the ruling circles corners for themselves in our towns and cities. And we can easily compare these restricted opulence with the decay of our urban centres, bad roads, withdrawal of basic facilities like transport, drinking water and even clean air to breathe!
In the preoccupation of the ruling circles for primitive private accumulation, Nigeria cannot be defended by the ruling elite hence the overarching influence of the World Bank and IMF everywhere. More importantly, two wars have emerged—intra-class within the circle and inter-class war between the circle and the masses. This is why peaceful electoral processes and changes are not possible. Many of the so-called traditional rulers have also become accomplices in these crimes. Since accumulation by the rulers leave so little for ministering to the basic needs of masses, the latter cannot be the social base of their alleged elected representatives. This is why elections have become a farce and there is so much ballyhoo about Electoral Reforms! But there used to be elections properly speaking. Opposition parties used to defeat governing parties. In the 1954 Federal Election NCNC (the opposition party led by Adegoke Adelabu) won more seats (into the House of Representatives) in Western Region than the governing AG. When I was a young man in this our Ogbomoso, there was an opposition bench of councillors led by my brother (Banji Sobaloju Olorode) in the Ogbomoso Local Government Council chairmaned by Victor Ladipo Lajide—a great Ogbomoso patriot of blessed memory. There were legitimate “majorities”, not majorities by robbery”. Can any local government in Oyo state today be said to have resulted from a democratic process?
What is to be done?
We cannot preach to people about how to be a leader. In any case one cannot be a leader unless one has the humility to follow; to follow examples. A leader has then to be exemplary. He must make available all his mental resources to the movement. He/she must reproduce himself so that the organisation can carry on and thrive without him or her!
Leaders are best cloned inside organisations and movements as we have observed in the evolution of the Nigeria’s nationalist movement. This is because building an organisation builds and tests our capacity for courage, solidarity, commitment to the collective, empathy and faith in policies collectively articulated. Good leaders grow or emerge from the ranks of organisations, not people who suddenly corner large sums of money and then impose themselves or their communities or impose their limited liability campaign organisations on their parties which are themselves trading associations.
In our particular situation of deep social and moral crisis, leaders need courage to confront established but rotten paradigms, courage to show solidarity with beleaguered associates and colleagues. I read in Irawo Owuro (1991: p. 17 — How SLA was buried), the act of courage shown by Prince Oladunni Olaoye in going to Ibadan to, with Agboola Ajao, convey Ladoke Akintola’s body to Ogbomoso for burial when other associates of SLA were hiding! I also read of the legendary courage of Rev. J.O. Adediran in speaking the truth to power.
A leader is a seeker of knowledge and truth. He must develop his intellectual power. She/he must question everything. A leader must be patient with alternative, even hostile, views. She/he must read everything that comes his way about his community, his country and the entire world as it unfolds.
A leader must be passionately committed to the cause of ordinary people. He/she must be immersed in their struggles, their culture, their aspirations, the language they speak, their vision of a better world! In doing this a leader must be a servant; he must be modest in his personal aspirations, how and where he lives, even how he/she dresses!
A leader must have faith in the people and their capacity to articulate their own interests, defend those interests and change their own situation for the better. Good leadership is incompatible with personality cult and vain glory, with huge bill boards all over the place proclaiming all sorts of dubious achievements or totally personalising government and collective state achievements as that of the leader. The omo-aije’beri ways most State Governors and LG Chairmen propagandise their worth and seek to imprint their personality cults on public consciousness is a case in point. A particularly obscene element of this personality-cult culture is the case of Governor’s and LG Chairmen’s wives, who, without any official or elective business with the public, people who are really “nobodies”, simply impose themselves on the public and on public treasury!
As we said above the contraries of what we considered as desirable above are the products of today’s particular political economy—the neo-liberal economy in the periphery of the moribund centres of neo-liberalism. Only the alternative vision of society can produce the kind of desirable leaders we have characterised. That vision will be pivoted on three central commitments (Olorode, 2008: p. 40) of the new political movement that have to be built by our people:
We can begin to give effect to that vision here and now in Ogbomoso.
Bibliography and literature cited
- Adelowo, Ayo. 2000. Ogbomoso: The Journey so Far. Ayo Adelowo. Ogbomoso.
- Ajasin, M.A. 2003, Ajasin: Memoirs and Memories. Ajasin Foundation, Lagos
- Arifalo, S.O. 2001. Egbe Omo Oduduwa: A study in Ethnic and Cultural Nationalism. Stebak Books and Publishers, Akure.
- Ayandele, E.A. 1974. The Educated Elite in the Nigerian Society. University of Ibadan Press. Ibadan.
- Batra, R. 1987. The Great Depression of 1990. Venus Books. New York.
- Falola, Toyin. 2009. From Basorun Oluloye to Hon. Adegoke Adelabu: Ibadan Warrior Traditions and the Anatomy of Success. Ibadan Foundation, Ibadan
- Faulyi, K. 1998. Yorubaland in the Era of Revolutionary change. In: Ogunremi, Deji & Biodun Adeidiran (Eds.). Culture and Society in Yorubaland. Rex Charles & Connel. Ibadan pp.27-38.
- Johnson, S. 1921. History of the Yorubas. CSS Bookshops, Lagos.
- Ogunremi, Deji & Biodun Adediran (Eds.) 1998. op cit.
- Olorode, O. 2008. Nigeria and the Global Crisis: Intellectual Commitment and the Socialist Collective. The Book Project. Ile-Ife.
- Oyerinde, N.D. 1934. Iwe Itan Ogbmoso. 1992 Edition printed by Peak Precise General Enterprises.