Apero Planning Committee had taken note of the positively supportive relationship between the foundational Yoruba value of Omoluabi, its governance system, and the wellbeing of the people, especially the youth, during the Golden Era. The Committee also noted that the years of the locust destroyed the Omoluabi ethos which failed to serve as an effective pesticide against the invaders. With the destruction of values, good governance imploded, and the youths experienced the harmful consequence.
Apero 8 panelists were invited to x-ray the cause and course of this alarmingly destructive relationship that we have experienced since the invasion of the locusts. They did not disappoint. The chairman of the day, Oloye Alao Adedayo (aka Alaroye) lamented the loss of our values, culture, and norms as people now go into politics to amass wealth for self and family. For the founding fathers, however, the welfare of the people was their concern, and the result was a sync between government and the people.
Where there is selfish pursuit of wealth at the expense of peoples’ welfare, there can be no unity of purpose. Thus, the years of the locust witnessed a political leadership that is mortally disunited, with many seeing their political opponents as personal enemies to be eliminated. While Awolowo and his team mobilized the people for development, Yoruba politicians now play destructive politics to the detriment of the masses.
Professor Niyi Osundare, one of the leading African poets and a public intellectual par excellence, spoke on “The Decline in our Cultural Values and Norms and the Collapse of Omoluabi Ethos”. He zeroed in on the interface between culture and language on the one hand, and values, on the other. “What has happened to our culture and values?” he asked. “How is it that Yoruba, the most musical of all languages, is in retrogression?” Noting that Yoruba is a threatened language, he wondered why we are divesting the future of our children the language of their parents.
For Osundare, the visionary impulse is the ability to see the future before it happens, and Chief Awolowo was a visionary who saw the future of Yorubaland as one of education and planned for it even when his political opponents criticized him and tried to derail his plan. He then argued that the future of the Yoruba is still one that is rich in culture and went on to identify the important elements of Yoruba culture that must be harnessed to shape this future.
First on Osundare’s list is integrity, the quality of being true to oneself, walking the talk, and avoiding hypocrisy. Second is hard work, the foremost principle of Yoruba economic philosophy encapsulated in our childhood poem, Ise Loogun ise (hard work is the antidote against poverty). There is also equity, a sense of fairness, which condemns selfish greed; and tolerance and accommodation, which requires us to see the humanity in everyone. Others include, sympathy, the spirit of fellow-feeling and empathy, moderation, or balance, which avoids a gluttonous lifestyle; and plurality, the ability to see more than one side of an issue.
Osundare also identified generosity and gratefulness; complementarity, which recognizes the importance of every individual, age group, or gender in communal affairs; and of course, the norm of forbiddance represented by the “A kii” (“we don’t”; you shouldn’t”) principle. For him, the Yoruba science of being is based on this principle. It is what gives people a sense of shame, as we described its violators as shameless.
Osundare lamented that with more than 130 universities now, Nigerians are more illiterate than they were when there were only 4 higher institutions. He decried the situation where education has lost its values because students and parents feel that it has lost its usefulness because of high rate of unemployment. He also faulted an overemphasis on science and technology at the expense of the humanities appealing to the principle of complementarity.
Finally, Professor Osundare decried the unhelpful mindset of mothers discouraging the use of Yoruba language by their children as such children end up having a command of neither English nor Yoruba. He also condemned our “Owambe mentality” which leaves us little or no time for serious reflections on the future. In the face of a stultifying federal structure, Osundare asked that we rethink the future.
Mrs. Bamidele Ademola-Olateju is a veteran columnist with Premium Times, and currently serves Ondo State as Commission for Information and Strategy. Speaking on “YOUTHS: Endangered and in Urgent Need of Repositioning”, Mrs. Ademola-Olateju observed that the unspeakable is happening in Yorubaland. She referenced the EndSars protests which were high-jacked by hoodlums and cultists, which, for her, was just a small reflection of the dissatisfaction of the underclass with the system that appears to keep them in total bondage.
Unfortunately, as she observed, our youths don’t have adequate skills to make it in the current labor market. Her anecdotal report was personal. She had needed a painter for her house, when a Chinese painter showed up at her doorstep. Upon her inquiry about Nigerian painters, she got a depressing reply: The Chinese were better trained and better equipped. And the Chinese painter added, to her surprise: “Madam, Mo n so Yoruba daadaa” (Madam, I can speak fluent Yoruba). But what has happened to us as a people?
Mrs. Ademola-Olateju had an answer. For her, the destruction of rural-agrarian life with the migration to urban areas led to the disengagement of the youths from the economy. Abandoning school, many left for the cities to fend for themselves. Parents don’t know the whereabouts of their wards who end up as cultists and hoodlums. Parents are no longer in charge. Churches and mosques have a lot to do but the task is overwhelming and there is a limit to civic engagement.
Concretely, she advocated for the integration of the informal sector of the economy into the corporate sector. We must help our youth to become upwardly mobile, train orientation brigade, and make Omoluabi ethos the centerpiece of our developmental efforts. Echoing former Prime Mister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom, Mrs. Ademola-Olateju suggested that the nation should be tough on crime, but more importantly, it should be tougher on the causes of crime.
Dr. Lasisi Olagunju, the award-winning Monday Lines columnist with Nigerian Tribune, was not physically present but he sent a video presentation which focused on “The People and their Complicity in Bad Governance.” He noted that the duty of government is to protect the people and promote their welfare. When government shirks that responsibility, the people have a right to complain and seek change. But if the people are complicit in government’s neglect, and they collude with those making their lives unbearable, they have no basis for complaint.
For Dr. Olagunju, leadership must be held to account for its failings. But so must followership. He illustrated with the case of a parent who sought the help of a police friend to arrest and discipline a friend of his son who had cheated his son out of a joint Yahoo- Yahoo operation. Parents now encourage criminality in their children!
“How did we get here?” This question took Dr. Olagunju back to the source, which almost every speaker had referenced, namely, the “defederalization” of the country. For with that came the devaluation of values, young graduates without jobs looking up to adults without values! Therefore, in reassessing our values and advocating a return to the Omoluabi ethos, we must also insist on a return to the governance structure that supported our ethos.
In his contribution from the audience, Dr. Femi Folorunso brought up an existential crisis facing Yorubaland. With only 8.38% of the Nigerian land area, Yorubaland supports 20% of the Nigerian population. What will happen to this land area in the next 50 years? Can we practice agriculture without land? It’s food for thought.
Security is next on the Apero agenda, with Major General Henry Ayoola (rtd.), Major General Olu Kolade (rtd.), and Dr. Victor A. Taiwo as speakers, and Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) and Mr. Bukola Oreofe as Chairman and Moderator/Rapporteur respectively.
Saturday August 6, 2022
4:00 pm Lagos Time
Zoom ID: 87834935009