hief Obafemi Awolowo was born on the 6th of March in 1909 while Ramoni Igbalode’s birth date is quoted as the 14th of June, 1988. In between these two birthdates something went terribly wrong in Nigeria and there are certain questions that need to be answered if we want to restore hope to the youth of our nation.
It is my fervent belief that divine providence arranged things in such a way that every single cultural nation within our federation has something significant to contribute towards our wellbeing and prosperity.
Nigeria is composed of several ethnic groups and at least 371 distinct tribes and if we ever were to fail it would be because we never learned to manage the strength in our diversity. It takes an entire community to raise a child in Africa where the ideal of the “common good” is elevated above the personal pursuit of pleasures yet our tribal identities were stigmatized for obvious reasons and its bonds weakened to deplete our heritage.
There is little doubt in my mind that Nigeria would have been at the forefront of global progress if we had developed progressive inter-tribal protocols to serve as the bonding glue of the federation and the merger of our ethnic strengths would have served us better than the ill-fitting foreign garments that we are sporting.
Using the leadership model and legacy of Obafemi Awolowo as a case in point it can be demonstrated that our nation would have prospered if we had not accepted the bitter rivalries and deep divisions that we continue to project.
Both Obafemi Awolowo and Ramoni Igbalode were produced by the “Yoruba” ethnic stock and neither of them had very rich parents. Their birthdates were separated by at least 79 years but the evidence available shows that both were exposed to the “omoluabi heritage” of the Yoruba stock by their parents.
To compound the challenges of his day, Obafemi Awolowo lost his father on the 8th of April 1920 to the small pox epidemic and life was no longer a bed of roses. Embracing the discipline, forthrightness, wisdom, fortitude and foresight that the Almighty God embedded into the “Omoluabi” programme, he invested his energies towards the betterment of life for his generation.
In the face of daunting adversities Awolowo held on to the Omoluabi maxim that a good name is worth its weight in gold. All the evidence we need can be culled from the letter he wrote to Chief Timothy Adeola Odutola on the 25th of March in 1943 for an interest free loan request of £1,400 to be repaid in full by 1955.
Awolowo was a man with an Omoluabi plan that could not be stopped. That he did not get that loan did not deter him as he finally travelled at age 38 to study Law in the United Kingdom leaving a wife and three children behind in Nigeria. The rest today is history and the legacy of wealth he created in the Western region can still be counted in billions of dollars.
Given time and space I could also track and prove the significant contributions made by men of his ilk from other ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. The heritage of Mallam Aminu Kano and his vision for the underprivileged is a good example of another wasted legacy that Nigeria could have improved and digitalized to bond our diversity.
The tragedy of this narrative is that the ravages of time have depleted instead of preserving these African resources. Ramoni Igbalode’s parents from Kwara State may not be very rich but they held onto their Omoluabi dignity while their ‘infamous’ son rejected the path of an Omoluabi to embrace fraud and the plastic life of vain persons.
If the direction that Ramoni Igbalode chose is representative of the majority in his generation both the Yoruba ethnic stock and the nation are in deep trouble. An old adage says that the presence of an elder in the market is the guarantee that a young inexperienced mother “backing” the suckling would not be permitted to endanger the health of her infant child.
The questions that the Yoruba ethnic nation and all others in the Nigerian federation need to answer are simple. Which role models have we permitted to influence the generations of Ramoni Igbalode to the detriment of our future? The second question is why our tribal histories are not being transmitted to the younger generations in a positive light towards unity?
The third enquiry is whether our ethnic and tribal treasuries have not been devastated and corrupted to the point of no return knowing that a people that are robbed of their history will accept any future? Seeing that our failure to mine the gold in our tribal strengths and ethnic diversities have kept us going in unprofitable circles.
My fourth question is whether there is any point in pursuing the vision of a common nation any further? Now, my last word is for the descendants of Obafemi Awolowo and his equivalents in all our tribal communities.
Every time I sight Obafemi Awolowo’s grandson, who is a full adult in his own right and is well accomplished, I assure him that there is nothing that he can do to offend us in any way because of our gratitude to God for Obafemi Awolowo.
My tone is now changing somewhat, because it is obvious that their grandfather did not have much to his name in 1943 when he wrote to request a loan from Chief Odutola. Now that the family has prospered, I consider it an affront that the Awolowo legacy is not yet in text books, leadership training modules and other teaching tools so that the generations of Ramoni Igbalode will be rendered without excuse.
Our refusal to honour such exemplars for the young citizens to learn from is definitely a sign of ingratitude. Wearing the Awo glasses and his rounded cap mean absolutely nothing if we cannot platform his architecture of thought for the future generations to draw inspiration and the same goes for the unsung heroes of all other ethnicities in Nigeria.
• Rev. Thompson, Omoluabi Strategic Thought Consultant, writes in from Lagos