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Osusu Owo

by Kazeem Olalekan

 

Disclaimer:

This is not a political blog. The views expressed in this piece are mine and mine alone. I have been clear from the start that ‘I don’t do politics’. It has nothing to do with my view of the political class – they have important roles to play – It is just me. It may have something to do with the concept of political suicide which I alluded to here. What I have to say in this piece might however, have political implications. I have no problem with that. As a citizen in a democratic country, I see it as my duty to express my viewpoint, so far as I take great care to make it a balanced one. I write this piece with a heavy heart. So bear with me. The purpose is not to influence you (you will make your own mind up in any case) but rather to explain why I feel the choices we face are so important and may have far reaching consequences.

 

Devolution max or Independence is the stark choice that faces the residence of Scotland in exactly one month from now. The referendum on the 18th of September is on whether Scotland should be an independent country (link). To get to the position we now call the United Kingdom, a lot of water has gone under the bridge. The history of these lands are littered with unity and disunity (link). It is of no use rehashing and feeling bitter about these events; rather it is a time to move forward together like the proverbial osusu owo. England had absorbed Wales and Cornwall by 1543 but it took a failed attempt in 1603 (link) and another attempt in 1707 (link) to finally get the ‘rogue’ nation on board! It is a shame that we use unhelpful and demeaning adjectives to describe those that will eventually become our staunch allies. It is this superiority complex (notably an English trait) that must be quashed if people are to work together going forward as equal stakeholders in a Commonwealth of nations. As an African, I carry my own ancestral scars – a remnant of the slave trade which led to the dehumanisation of my race (link). Whilst the British were active participants in this trade, they were also instrumental in ending it. Yes, I carry the scars but I am not bitter. I am sure our histories are a conflation of positive and negative experiences.

 

Analysis of this history reminds me of our stool (link). It is a mishmash of something old, something nicked, something borrowed, something built and something created. Something old because of the christian heritage. In that heritage, Jesus is at the centre. At times in our history, we lost sight of what it means to put Jesus at the centre. We viewed religion as an instrument of oppression and as a cover to engage in fruitless crusades. We even turned the cannons of war on ourselves in the Reformation (link), when we should have been true to the text of the Holy Book. The Catholics wants to kill the Protestants and vice versa: a relic of the past which still raises its ugly head even in today’s society. Something nicked because it is about conquest. The language is about conquering and pillaging not negotiation or trading. The Plantations in Ireland (link)  in 16th and 17th century were the confiscation of land by the English crown and the colonisation of this land with settlers from England and the Scottish Lowlands. Africa, and Nigeria – my country of birth – also has its own tales to tell. Nonetheless, the United Kingdom has been described as a nation of immigrants (link) and by borrowing the intellectual capital of these diverse immigrant people, it has been able to build a strong and prosperous nation. The result is this modern miracle that is the United Kingdom – A nation created on very strong principles that bring together different people with different heritages. The future of that nation is what is at risk in the forthcoming referendum. I will employ you to take this decision very seriously.

Reflecting on why I am now in a position where I feel a need to write this; two important events come to mind. The second of the two events, a conscious act (and a subject of great anguish), is (in my view) a reason why my path to this point has been so difficult. By the time I made the decision to act, I was already the subject of intense scrutiny, probably due to the first of the two events.  In March 2010,  I did something that was unprecedented and could have resulted in my spectacular downfall. However, the act was done in good faith. It is now clear to me that irrespective of one’s intentions, one has no control on how people will react to one’s action. In 2010, I perceived an ideological battle ensuing between two powerful protagonists. I was also clear that this was a silly and puerile battle which could be resolved another way. My subtle attempts to bring the protagonists to the table failed due, probably, to the underlying dogma which (I felt) does not allow any of the protagonists to want to back down. The Africans have a saying: “When two elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled”. The grass in this case, were my friends. Those friends who were so critical in my journey up until that point. I could have walked away but that would have been a betrayal of my God who has been so good to me thus far. I wasn’t about to be a bastard, so I acted. The reasoning behind my action was to equalise the ‘fighting field’ by providing critical information to one of the protagonists. It is a fight where there can be no winners and is, in effect, futile. Even elephants know that a fight where there can be no certain victory, is not worth engaging in. The fight was averted, and I saw this as a victory for my action but I inevitably became the focus of intense venom. I became the lightning rod! One elephant may have perceived my action to be heretic and the other lapped it up by probably manipulating the situation for its own advantage.

 

Incidentally, before I handed my dossier in, I told a story – an illustrative story. The story I told happened many years ago as a school boy at Baptist Boys High School in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria. I will share that story with you and just to verify that it actually happened, I will provide the real name of the other people involved (I am sure they will not mind): An argument ensued between two of my colleagues in school one day (the year: 1986, 1987 or 1988). The colleagues were Adeniyi Adekanbi (famously known as Baba Ibadan) and Rasheed Adeneye (famously known as Ratio). They were determined to engage in a fight. I cannot be sure of what the cause was now but I remember this was an argument that must come to blows. For reason I cannot explain, I was excited by the prospect of watching a good fight. I was so excited, I even picked the time and place for this fight! I made it my duty throughout the day to remind them that the fight was on. I was not a middleman of peace but one that wanted war. At the appointed time after school, I gathered the protagonists together and headed for the appointed venue where blows will surely rain down. Unknown to me, those blows (from Baba Ibadan and Ratio) will eventually rain down on my head! They had colluded behind my back to teach me a lesson. It was a stark lesson and I resolved henceforth to be a peacemaker whenever I find myself in the middle. It was not for fear of being beaten (although it hurt), no! It was just that I could not believe I was excited with the prospect of my friends beating one another. I was ashamed of myself and it was not a feeling I particularly liked. So, about 24 years down the line, as I handed over the dossier to this lovely lady, I was clear in my mind why I was doing this: to avert an unnecessarily  futile battle.  This was in spite of the potential consequences on my professional career.

 

Effectively however, it doesn’t matter whether my aim was to stop a fight or to start one; the outcome for me – the man in the middle – is the same! I was the subject of profound beating both metaphorically and figuratively. Whilst I cried me a river, I was content in the knowledge that I will rather cry (or lament) doing the right thing than doing the wrong thing. This had been a conscious decision I made a long time ago in secondary school. In the end, my actions did not bring the house crashing down and I am here to tell the tale with a clear conscience. I am telling you this for no other reason than to illustrate that this journey has been all about reconciliation and unity of purpose (link) and it sits in stark contrast with the distinct possibility of breaking the Union (which is what will happen if Scotland vote to exit it). The Yoruba people have a proverb which says: Okookan lowo nyo meaning Broom sticks drop off one by one – (Huge problems usually build up gradually).

 

 

Now, I will tell you what the first most significant event was. If this journey has been about unity of purpose, then will it come as a surprise if I was to tell you that my first most significant event has its origin in Scotland?  In my memoir (link), I described an event that happened to me between July 21st and 24th 2008. I call it my seminal moment. Soon after that events, I believed that I was “the messier” of my profession. I felt Jesus-like! I probably could have walked on water but then again, I cannot swim!  I was on cloud 9 (link). The feeling lasted for about 4 weeks before reality started to set in (please read the book). That gave me just about enough time to do one of the boldest things I have ever done in my life! I wrote an open letter to the then Prime minister, Gordon Brown. Okay, I didn’t sign it with my name – I used my pseudonym, James Smythe – and I didn’t send it directly to the prime minister. I sent it to the BBC flagship Sunday show: Broadcasting House on the 10th of August 2008. It was an inspired piece which reflected my increasing anger and irritation at how Mr Brown was being treated in the press. Mr Brown was the first Prime Minister from a Scottish constituency since the Conservative Sir Alec Douglas-Home in 1964 but I get the feeling that he was being treated unfairly and I wanted to strengthen his resolve at a crucial time when it appeared that the economy was about to go belly up. I felt a great urge to get this message to him. So I wrote the following (link):

An open letter to the son of the Manse:

Gordon, or should I say Mr Brown, you don’t know me and I don’t know you but I have been asked to pass on a message to you. The message is simple: Be steadfast in whatever you believe is right. Do not sway from your core beliefs even if it costs you votes within your party or your prime ministerial duties.

Politics is a dirty game and you know that better than most. However, politics can be a way of making a true difference in people’s lives. The core beliefs I hold dear and my mind tells me that you do too, are: respect of self and others, having good work ethics and financial prudence. My God, Britain needs all these now more than ever. A lot of people’s lives are being impacted adversely but something miraculous is also happening in Britain of today.

Less of telephoning people at home to canvass their views but more of work on global poverty reduction, trades agreement efforts and adopting strategies that will put the ‘great’ back into Great Britain. For now at least, put politicking aside. Be firm on your team of advisers. Don’t suffer fools gladly.

So, get to work Mr Brown. Do what YOU think is right. Follow your faith. And let God be the judge of what happens next.

I cannot be sure of what happened next but this letter had a significant effect! I was tracked down (which wouldn’t have been difficult in this Big Brother age) and my digital record searched (covertly, I might add) leading to some decisions being made about me, without me in a closed room which led probably to me being placed in quarantine. The second of the two events made things worse for me (at least from the point of view of Big Brother) and all my entire activities, I feel, were subsequently monitored and led to my imprisonment, figuratively that is. Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey was right when he sang: “Ko so gbon to le da, ko si iwa tele wu, ko so na to le gba, to le fi te aye lorun ooo” (link). Even when one tries to do the right things, one is still treated like a pariah! I am not telling you this because I want your sympathy, no…I am telling you this because of the role Scotland has played in my narrative. The first person, I was moved to communicate with after my seminal moment was the first UK Scottish Prime minister in a long time.

 

Sunderland has been a recurring theme in my narrative. In 1992, I started my pharmacy degree in Sunderland. I was not to know the roller coaster journey that was going to be. When I arrived in Sunderland in 1992, I struck a good friendship with another student, Mr Akanimoh Mark who was studying economics and lived in the same apartment block. He will later become my best friend in University. We did everything together. I was just going through my old albums and came across the picture below which I took with Mark in the Winter of 1992. That was my first life experience of snow and I was so enthralled that I took the camera out to capture the event.

IMG_1333

You only have to look at that picture more closely to see the story it is telling. Here is another picture that tells a million stories (along with one I posted earlier). Let me now try and unpack the story. Akanimoh Mark, like myself, was born in Nigeria. Whilst I belong to the Yoruba tribal grouping from Ogun State, he is an Ibibio from Akwa Ibom State. The pivotal role played by the Yorubas and the Ibibios in bringing the worst passage of events in Nigeria’s history to an end is well documented (1, 2). The Nigerian Civil war, also known as the Biafran war (link), took place between 1967 and 1970 and was an ethnic and political conflict that claimed over 1 million, mostly innocent lives. It happened because a disaffected tribe decided that their best interests are served by breaking away from Nigeria and forming a new nation: The Republic of Biafra. And most of the Nigeria’s oil are from that part of the country. Does this have any familiar connotations? I am by no means suggesting that independence of Scotland might lead to war; we are way too civilised and sophisticated for that! Let me assure you however, that the stability we cherish so much right now is very fragile. You only have to look at what is happening in the middle east and modern day Iraq and the rise of ISIS to understand that we need to be setting better examples of unity and cooperation. The breakup of the UK will give succour to those in places like Nigeria, who want different groups to go their separate ways. Instability will be the inevitable consequence. You think things are bad, it could get worse! The decision you make in Scotland could have reverberations around the world and you need to choose carefully. Maybe I am selfish: My only wish is that my family here in the UK and my family in Nigeria will have the opportunity to flourish in a stable well run democracy. It is not too much to hope for, or is it?

 

Look again at that picture. We were stood by a sign that said: Edinburgh building, where Edinburgh is the Scottish seat of political power. Now for the Coup de grâce: Do you know that I now live and settled in England with my young family and Akanimoh Mark now lives and is settled in Scotland with his young family? A coincidence, this is not!

 

CHEMistry is the study of the composition, structure, properties and change of matter (link) and it has its origin in Alchemy, a recognized protoscience that contributed to the development of modern chemistry and medicine (link). It should come as no surprise then that I am a pharmacist by profession. The point here is that this journey has been meaningful and occurred at the intersection of modern science and include Hermetic principles and practices related to mythology, magic, religion, and spirituality. The question I ask myself and I feel you should ask yourself is this: What does this mean? Is the lesson from this journey a narrative that encourages dis-unity or one that invites us to learn from previous mistakes and move forward together, united in purpose? We cannot change the past and we cannot carry the albatrosses of the past around our necks (link). We can however, define our future as a commonwealth of equals brought together for a common purpose. We probably need to restate that common purpose in a modern day magna carta.  I don’t have a vote in the Scottish referendum, but I am without any doubt about how I will vote if I had.

 

Eventually a decision will be reached and we will all have to live with the consequences of that decision. I have never feared what that might or might not look like. I move forward in an assured way: in the knowledge and comfort that God’s will is bound to prevail. At times like this, I remember one of the favourite artists of my childhood: King Sunny Ade: “Mo gbe kini Ohun De

 

King Sunny Ade: “Mo gbe kini Ohun De

“Ina ti jo do ri koko,
Edumare o ni je’oko wa o danu
a ma ti do ju agbami”

“Oluwa ni gbe ni ga…”

“Eye to ba faya we’gun, eyin aro lo ma sun….”

“Awon to’n bawa s’ote….”

“I wo ti’won aparo, bi ka fi da’la…”

“Eni to’nso ti o fi t’oluwa si…”

“Ko se’gba ologbo lowo ekute…laye n bi ko….”

“Iwo ni t’owo, a ki f’igi owo dana,
ebe ni mo be’yin to laye,
eda kun e f’owo mi wo mi,
ema se na mi lore…”

“Nibo ni o yan si….baba olorule kan to so’mo e lade yan….”

“Alade o to aso lowo won….shahangele
Ishola o to ro ewu wo lowo won o….shahangele,
Bi won logun eru, Alade o ni wo be…shahangele,
Bi won ni iwofa ogbon, Ishola loko iya won….shahangele….”

I feel Iforg Limited has just reached its natural end as a limited liability company! Once all financial liabilities are resolved, the company will be transformed into a healthcare charity.

 

Many thanks for taking the time to read this.

 

Kazeem Olalekan

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