Editorial: Ise L’oogun Ise

The Late J.F. Odunjo of the Alawiye fame, captured the existential reality of the Yoruba in the epic poem “Ise l’oogun ise” which can be translated into the English language thus: “productivity as antidote to poverty”. The poem was  committed to memory by primary school pupils in the Western Region and even though it was lost at some point, valiant efforts are now being made for its revival in our schools and the society at large; the Egbe Omo Yoruba in North America, for example, ensured the poem was embossed on exercise books it recently distributed to primary school pupils.
Beyond these, however, is the question as to how a society, whose existential reality is expressed in the poem, can successfully live within a political reality which is its exact opposite. The full extent of the poem is realized through the ideas and philosophy that guided the pre and immediate post-independence Government of the Western Region anchored on an economic philosophy that saw “man” as the center of development hence was able to translate this philosophy into concrete policy actions that saw the incorporation of western education into the productive capacity and opportunities of the people of the Western Region, including but not limited to creating an educated workforce, progressive labor relations, development of the manufacturing capacity of the Region as well as continuous enablement of the local bourgeoisie, who also played no small part in the emergence of the Region’s progressive government. That was the period often referred to as the “Golden Era” of the Western Region.

Today, the opposite is the case. Nigeria being a consumption-driven entity is no longer news hence there is no need rehashing what is already obvious. The problem lies with the proposed solution to the problematic; the take-off being President Buhari’s  efforts at resolving the consumptive problematic via diversification of the economy without the prerequisite economic philosophy driving it, the fight against corruption and insecurity.

Nigeria’s problematic is the problematic of underdevelopment characterizing almost all of the colonized peoples of the world. The pre and post colonial State, created as a replacement for the colonized, was anchored on the negation of their social and political morality thereby ensuring their continuous underdevelopment. Thus, the economic philosophy guiding the post-colonial State has no input from the formerly colonized as they were not part of the configuration of the new State.
“ooduapathfinder” is more concerned with the lack of social morality of a people in the emergence of the State apparatus without which such a people become only onlookers in their own history. As passive onlookers, because of the absence of their social morality, the substance of development will be missing, which is why all of the economic reports and achievements  of the colonized countries always flow from the expectation of the economic philosophy of the colonial power which invariably inform on the type of State necessary for its continued dominance.

This was why the Bretton Woods Institutions, the IMF and the World Bank, were created “to build a framework for economic cooperation to avoid a repetition of the competitive devaluations that had contributed to the Great Depression of the 1930s, to ensure the stability of the international monetary system—the system of exchange rates and international payments that enables countries (and their citizens) to transact with each other, promote international monetary cooperation; facilitate the expansion and balanced growth of international trade; promote exchange stability; assist in the establishment of a multilateral system of payments; and make resources available (with adequate safeguards) to members experiencing balance of payments difficulties” etc.
From which it can be deduced that maintaining “stability of the international monetary system” requires the sustenance of an international productive process translating into preventing any course of economic action that may be seen as a threat to such stability. Such a threat can only be a result of a direct challenge to and change in international economic relations that currently enforces the permanent raw material producer status of the colonized. Measures are further introduced by “adequate safeguards” which, for Nigeria, was experienced as the Structural Adjustment Program that saw to the flight of the Peoples of Nigeria’s productive capacity, popularly known as the “brain drain”.

The road to this drain was laid by the reconfiguration of the Nigerian post-colonial State in 1975-76, which effectively neutralized “ise l’oogun ise” and this cannot be undone merely by memorization of the mantra; for such memorization outside the reality of its manifestation becomes just a mere intellectual exercise, appreciating the literary genius behind the poem but neglecting the people in whom it is embedded as an existential reality. Thus, when the post-colonial State has now run though its course of action by almost bankrupting her economy aided by its politics, those who are enamored of the poem, wishing and willing to re-commit it to our memory, must ask themselves whether the geopolitical reality that fuels its neutralization is capable of ensuring a successful re-commitment.

The ideas fueling the Nigerian post-colonial State is based on an alternative thought process already ensconced in retaining the political and economic status quo inimical to Yoruba economic prosperity such that when issues of economic diversification arise, the question as to which political paradigm it is meant to serve will arise just as those  diversification measures are restricted to the tweaking of an existing order, especially when the political foundation that gave rise to its necessity remain the same; not negated, the primary condition for development.

The political edifice upon which the Nigerian post-colonial state rest is antithetical to “ise l’oogun ise” in that all the arms of government are parasitic on the Nigerian State especially when the social morality of the peoples upon which the State imposes its authority play no part in the configuration of such a State. This is why, for example, the National Assembly will try to separate the Local government from the State taking its cue from the United States Bill of Rights  as if the Peoples upon which the so-called Local Government autonomy are meant to favor are on-lookers in their own future. That is the depth to which the Legislative arm has sunk in its attempt at neutralizing the Peoples of Nigeria and when the economy is diversified, it will continue to fuel the engine of this National Assembly by virtue of the Federal Government having the largest share of the revenue while the States and Local governments will continue to await  monthly allocations for their sustenance.

Furthermore, when the Executive pursues its anti-corruption fight, it restricts itself to manipulating existing legalities founded and operating upon a foundation inimical to “ise l’oogun ise” in that it already sees the post-colonial State as a given and any corrective measure must flow within those given parameters. Yet, “ise l’oogun ise”, by definition, already captures probity and transparency in both personal and public lives wherein corruption, by whatever definition, is already an unwanted phenomenon upon which all kinds of legalism can be built.

The social morality embedded in “ise l’oogun ise” is thus absent in the configuration and operation of this legalist approach such that the operation of the anti-corruption fight, devoid of this social and political morality, is doomed to fail. This is why Nigeria always resort to the “personal” in any of its endeavor, substituting the individual for the society because none of the social morality is embedded in the foundational Constitutional make up of the post-colonial State because none of the Peoples are part of that foundation.

Security is simply the defense of the community, regardless of how such a community is defined. Nigeria’s military is a colonial formation, aimed at subjugating the Peoples of Nigeria into its own form of State that will not subvert international economics founded on the principles driving the colonial economy. While “ise l’oogun ise”, at some point in the narrative, reflects on individual responsibility, it also imposes a responsibility on the society, as an aggregate of these individuals especially when it enjoins the individual not to become so dependent on another lest it becomes an exercise in laziness.

The social morality embedded in this portion mandates the society at large also not to be so dependent which is exactly what the Nigerian Post-colonial State is. These three facets of President Buhari’s administration’s response to Nigeria’s state of underdevelopment reinforces the operating system of the post-colonial State , based on dependence characterized as  allocation with parts of the system so dependent on the center that even basic forms of its own security is not within its ambit but had to rely on the post-colonial State for its operations thus strengthening the dependency syndrome, abhorrent to the “Ise L’oogun ise” maxim.

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  • Charlie

    Easy on the big words, you know most of us are no PHD holders. The problem is easier to explain. We have a society where there are millions of able bodied young people willing to work, and the country has so much work to do, but we rather hire Chinese, Germans and other foreigner to do the job for 10 time it would cost to use our people. If that’s not lunacy, please help me to find an appropriate word from your reserve of big words to describe the phenomenon. it is only in Africa that you see children learning under trees, while their parents and society are waiting for the government to build classrooms for them . Inturn, the government is waiting for foreign donors to provide funds. We all know that every living organism that needs shelter to survive are endowed with the ability and materials to construct such structures. It seems that we Nigerians are the only creatures that have forgotten how to work together for common goods.

  • So why is it that “we rather hire Chinese, Germans and other foreigner to do the job 10 time(s) it would cost to use our people”? Is this not proof of what the article says is wrong with Nigeria?

  • Charlie

    I don’t disagree with the premise of the article, I was just having some fun. On a serious note, what I disagree with is that “the Bretton Woods institutions” are to blame for our problems. To start with, if we have not driven our economy into a ditch, the IMF cannot force its prescriptions on us if we don’t go to them for help. It is because of the same flawed reasoning that makes our leaders hire Chinese rather than providing livelihood for their unemployed youths is why we have not found a way of beating the IMF at it game, like other nations have done successfully. The problem is even worse with us Yoruba people, we continue to play by the rules in a rigged game. A case is in point, was when Asiwaju wisely invested in power generation for Lagos State and was shot down by the Federal government without any serious fightback by the SW governors, while the North was busy scheming to implement Sharia law with creation of it own police force (the Hisba) without any opposition from the Federal government.

    • Did we really drive “our economy into a ditch”? Remember that the IMF was an instrument of of global stabilization of economies which cannot occur outside political control. Thus, when the marketing boards were scrapped, it was because the political reality of the time allowed it–that is, the military regime which was also antithetical to the needs of the country itself. So, the IMF intervenes regardless of whether the economy is run into a ditch or not. A country goes to the IMF “for help” only because its political economy is tied to the IMF, as most if not all of the post-colonial countries are; which is the point being made. “Ise L’oogun Ise” counters the IMF as an economic philosophy and will naturally inform on the structure of the State. As for Asiwaju and the SW Governors, you also remember that the PDP was using all sorts of illegalities to impose itself on the SW at the time, with Asiwaju the only hold-out, so other imposed PDP Governors could only play their masters’ tune. Which again is why the Structure of the State becomes important and “Ise L’oogun Ise” comes into play. It is all encompassing.

    • Peace

      The North continue their nonsense because when you look at the so call “Nigeria”, who is in charge? who is controlling the affairs of Nigeria? is it not the Northerners? This is one of the reason why I think each Nation in Nigeria should move-on i.e Let Yoruba, Hausa, and Igbo Nations be! Until we separate, we will not appreciate each others. What is the purpose of the Federal Government in Nigeria when the useless Boko Haram continue to kill and inflict injuries on the people?

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