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Rhythm of Thought

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Rhythm of Thought


A keynote speech delivered by Edmund Obilo at the Prof. Francis Egbokhare Oratory Contest on 28 November 2017 at the Art Theatre, University of Ibadan:

Our plains are not smooth
Our paths are crooked
Our farms are overgrown with weeds
Yet, we worry a little and conclude that that’s how we were born

Our kings live in affluence
Our warriors ride on horses
Their children fly on the wings of eagles
While our people eat from the rotten yams of the farm
Yet, we worry a little and conclude that that’s how we were born

Those who have the mandate to protect have become the thieves
Those who should distribute the bread have become the gluttons
And those who live with hunger have learned to mourn in silence
Yet, we worry a little and conclude that that’s how we were born

Our mountains have become lowlands
Our lowlands have become valleys
Our valleys have become the putrid marshland
From where snakes besiege our huts, paying us with their venom
Yet, we worry a little and conclude that that’s how we were born

Other lands have made their lowlands high
Other lands have made their mountains touch the stars,
Harvesting the sunshine,
Beaming the light on the paths of their peoples
Yet, in our darkness, we thank the gods for providing us candles
That will burn out before the cock crows at dawn
We worry a little and conclude that that’s how we were born

Our chief priests have consistently lied to us
Our kings seem to have outsmarted the oracle
And taken the people for a ride
It’s not our birth that darkens our bright future
It’s not the gods that are angry with us
My people,
We have come a long way, but we are far away
For too long, we have left our brains in our stomach
We must take our brains back to our heads
Take note;
A people who think of their stomach all the time,
Will have their heads covered with the debris of their future
Please, when the storm comes, no one should accuse me of keeping quiet when I saw the wind.

Chinua Achebe in the 1983 book “The Trouble with Nigeria” says 
"But the really interesting question is why were we drawn in the first place to concepts like “unity” and “faith” with their potentialities for looseness? Why did we not think, for example, of such concepts as “justice” and “honesty” which cannot be so easily directed to Undesirable end ? Justice never prompts the question: Justice for what? Neither does Honesty or Truth.
Is it possible that as a nation we instinctively chose to extol easy virtues which are amenable to the manipulation of hypocrites, rather than difficult ones which would have imposed the strain of seriousness upon us?
And was that one of the legacies of our Founding Fathers?"

Legacy in this sense means values.

Japan is a state with values of development anchored on profound cultural assumptions and ideals. Paramount to this cultural values is the concept of Honne in Japanese mythology, representing god as an embodiment of love and anger. 
Japanese as a matter of responsibility to the state are expected to express love in their dealings, failure of which attracts anger in the form of punishment.
The Japanese system is averse to individualistic and anti-social behaviours. It rewards abundantly empathy, consensus building and cooperation.

By this cultural norms, a Japanese fears being ostracized for behaviors outside positive examples. It’s that bad that ostracism has led to Japanese committing suicides for their inabilities to stand the shame that comes with punishment for being a deviant.
Japan is a shame society because it has a shame culture.  
A shame Society is one “in which the primary device for gaining control over children and maintaining social order is the inculcation of shame and the complementary threat of ostracism.”
It has been said that “no society can exist that does not manage and integrate anti-social behaviour”.

 Japanese Society is build on collective dependency. It mobilizes group solidarity from childhood 
in other to plant itself in a foundation of unity of purpose by recognizing that everyone has a role to play in national development. 
It’s compulsory for Japanese to work with one another in love and happiness.
By such, the people Learn the virtues of self control, emotional security and social identity. They learn to develop successful channels of communication, values needed for leadership and development.
Open competition and confrontation is avoided.

The value system of Japan is far more disposed to producing consensus and network builders as leaders than charismatic and ideological leaders. 
Japan’s cultural values propelled it to greatness.

Japan is an advanced nation. From the 19th century it has been a great power. It is the third biggest economy in the world in terms of GDP.
It’s exporting power is a definer of world trade. Being one of the most highly educated countries in the world, Japan has one of the most highly skilled work force in the world.
Japan has a population of more 126million peoples, having one of the lowest mortality rate in the world. It has the highest life expectancy in the world.

One of the beauties of the Japanese system is tied to the execution of the responsibility of the state to the people.

Besides the issue of good conscience, man according to Thomas Hobbes is essentially selfish. He is moved to action not by his intellect or reason, but by his appetites, desires and passions. To a very large extent, the African man in leadership has proved Hobbes right. He focuses on self preservation. 
But, Europe and some other parts of the world have been able to find a balance in checking the appetites, dislikes and passions of those who govern. Nigeria is still far from it. 

By the reason of a social contract, which draws the line on the basic standard of governance, government is meant to serve the people. In the absence of this service, the people serve government. The governed that serves government is at the mercy of government. 
In the case of Nigeria, the result is state officials seeing state resources as treasures to be pilfered and ransacked for their own gain. The chain reaction is failing health and education sectors, weak infrastructure, pervasive poverty, excess crime and frustration.

Such conditions mentally debase the people, leaving them exposed to the machination of those that lead. The people become beggars at the table of leaders, who toss them around and dictate the destiny of the state.
This is the level; I mean the benign level of our government system. Under such a system, democracy cannot be said to be the government of the people. It becomes government ratified by the dominating centres of power at anytime.
We can pretend at the moment to call it democracy, while waiting for it to evolve.

The United States is a democracy!

From the early part of the 20th Century, the United States of America kept no one in doubt about its role in world affairs. 
The First World War (WW1) was the impetus it needed to redirect world politics through the Wilsonian plot that was eventually frustrated by her congress, which feared the temptation the situation in Europe offered against U.S. isolationism. 

It was only a matter of time before the country would break away from the cold isolationism that it imposed on itself. 
However, this isolationism mantra is tested by the United States diplomacy in the Western hemisphere and the far east even after Woodrow Wilson’s dream of a peaceful world guided by the collective security strength of the great powers was defeated in congress.

Foreign policy is a product of domestic aspirations and the U.S. role in the world has not proven to be a digression from this long held view. 
The dream and ultimate ambition of the U.S. are enshrined in the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776:

  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”.

“That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. 
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.”

The document is a peep into the foundation of U.S. foreign policy being practiced in the 21st century. 
Freedom was the main reason for the declaration of independence by U.S. nationalists who frowned at and resisted the arbitrary and absolute nature of the leadership of the British government over them. 

By stating that “whenever any form of government” acted against the common interest of the generality of the people, they reserve the right to remove the government, it meant that the early leaders of America were not insistent on democracy being the best form of government.   The exactness of the democratic thought of U.S. political elites was clearly stated in Abraham Lincoln’s 1863, Gettysburg Address that the United States of America “under God shall have a new freedom”, and that “government of the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”.  

This part of Lincoln’s speech has become the popular definition of democracy and represents the American dream. Armed with this notion, U.S. Foreign policy is pursued to express democratic tenets in all parts of the world. All American presidents make this a mantra and a task, sometimes not minding the repercussion. 

During the second inaugural address of George Bush in 2005, he reechoed this line of thought, stating that “we are led by events and common sense to one conclusion: the survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.”
Obama’s 2014 speech before the United Nations (UN) General Assembly re-affirms America’s democratic internationalism: “we will continue to promote democracy and human rights and open markets because we believe these practices achieves peace and prosperity.”

The phrases “human rights” and “open markets” accommodate the U.S. ambition in the world. The inalienable rights philosophy endorsed by the declaration explains the individualism content of U.S. policy practices limitedly at home and not necessarily abroad. Capitalism and democracy is about the person, the reason “it is individualism that informs them to place individual interest near social interest. Materialism governs the mode of their life”. The point being made is that “protection and promotion of the economic interest of the people, therefore, constitutes the foundations of American foreign policy”.
Such arguments offer insights into the market fundamentalism principle that the United States through its strategic and powerful diplomacy has directly and indirectly imposed on the world. 

One of the allegations leveled against the British colonialists by independence forces in the United States was “the cutting off our trade with all parts of the world; for imposing taxes on us without our consent.” 
This meant that outside politics, economic survival was a goal of the proponents of independence.

What do we learn from Japan and US?

Hannah Arendt in her 1970 book entitled “On Violence” gives an insight.
She views the use of force by political leaders to achieve their wish as violence. 
Power in her definition keeps the public space united while violence harms it. She argues that power belongs to the people.
She says that power emanates from the consent of the people and does not need violence for it to be legitimized.
In her work, the achievement of power takes the form of political institutions. She holds the view that “where genuine power is absent, violence may emerge to fill the gap. In this regard, the effectiveness of power is in the creation of an egalitarian society administered by a legitimate authority endorsed by community agreement.

Is this concept not best for Nigeria?

Why has it under-performed despite the huge natural and human resources it possesses?
Why is Nigeria scared of deep reforms that will strengthen the state?
Does Nigeria think science?
What are some of the draw backs?

Chinua Achebe in 1983 in the book “The Trouble with Nigeria”:

"Nigeria is not a great country. It is one of the mostly disorderly nations in the world. It is one of the most corrupt, insensitive, inefficient places under the sun. It is one of the most expensive countries and one of those that give least value for money. It is dirty, callous, noisy, ostentatious, dishonest and vulgar. In short, it is among the most unpleasant places on earth.
"It is a measure of self-delusion that we can talk about developing tourism in Nigeria. Only a masochist with an exuberant taste for self-violence will pick Nigeria for a holiday; only a character out of Tutuola seeking to know punishment and poverty at first hand! No, Nigeria may be a paradise for adventurers and pirates, but not tourists..."
"I also believe that, hopeless as she may seem today, Nigeria is not absolutely beyond redemption. Critical, yes, but not entirely hopeless. But every single day of continued neglect brings her ever closer to the brink of the abyss.
To pull her back and turn her around is clearly beyond the contrivance of a mediocre leadership".

Sober reflection matters in the understanding of the abilities of the state to triumph in the competition between the failures of the past and the planned failure of today. 
In a society riddled with low moral standard, the focus should be on recreating the mind to help establish a virile value system. Achieving this goes beyond politics. Those who lead, I mean true leaders must first be the change they crave. 
Their lives must be an example to those who follow.

In this journey to development I have come to realize that some birds don’t go on voyage, they
rather perch on trees and whistle, but we can no longer afford to perch and whistle, because the journey has just begun.
 In this journey to true democracy, it is clear that valleys and hills are no wild, they are places of beauty yet to be explored by the Nigerian state. It takes brilliance and sincerity to see through the obstacles and convert them to national gains. 
The seas and the things in them are not the country’s dilemma, they are the ingredients required to help us expedite action for development.

Our country is pregnant and we are responsible for the pregnancy. What the country carries in its womb might lead to the fathers denying the children that will come. 
Let’s open our eyes and observe those things that will blur our vision as we struggle to be a nation.
The harmattan wind is here and those who lite fire and go to bed will soon find their roofs on fire. 
They will run out naked in the frenzy that will follow.

There are no obstacles too big for a willing country to surmount, the reason political will is critical in the movement of a state from the lower rung to the advanced height. Linked to this is the importance of blueprints necessary for genuine development, but more important is the political will to do what is good for country. 
This can be referred to as the purity of intention. It ensures that the conscience of those in leadership positions are troubled by the decisions they make.

Moral standing gives identity to policy implementation. Where policy implementation is not guided by high moral standard, the blue prints for development become the worthless papers of the bin.

For a better tomorrow, Nigeria must look at the value system that encourages corruption, robbery and other violent crimes. The country must also critically appraise how the lust for wealth without work, has endangered the peaceful co-existent of the people.  It must ruminate on how trust has disappeared from many of our relationships.
This is the time for those who stand for goodness to rise to the pinnacles of the different spheres of national life. Their lives become examples for the people. 

The growth of our country is in our hands:
We can build good schools for our children. We can establish the best health care facilities for our people. We have the resources to ensure that no Nigerian is hungry,
We can build aero planes, those who do are not from the sun.
We can manufacture our brands of cars
We can construct bridges that will be among the best in the world
We are a great people limited by our flaws.

The time to fly is now!

The texture of the Nigerian state provides it a uniques place in a new world order.
It’s an amalgam of spirited clans refusing to use their identities as a framework for remaking the state.

Nigerian can send a manned craft to space in 20years.
Nigerian made and equipped war ships can begin to patrol the Gulf of Guinea in shows of peace and strength in 15years.
Our universities can be remade and repositioned in 10years that they will begin to compete intensely with Cambridge and Princeton.

The time to fly is now!

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