It is a great privilege and honour to stand before this distinguished audience of young men and women, the old, the enlightened and the matured in spirit and vision as we engage in this bright morning about the nurturing and the cultivation of our young people in the dynamic spectacle of governance.
I congratulate our Zonal Chairman in the South West, Dr Eddy Olafeso and the various leadership appurtenances that gave fillip and support to this defining platform of rousing our people and strengthening our participatory necessity in the governance of the State.
This occasion, this gathering and its thematic largeness, is happening at a very significant moment in the history of our people.
Our people are now at a crucial crossroads. The horizon is unclear. The future is uncertain. The present appears bleak and undefinable.
The great historical strides of our forefathers are invariably eroded, stripped of the primacy and signification of old.
We must take positive actions to stem the tide.
Not too long ago, our founding fathers were the masters of their own destinies. They played a pride of place in the vast concourse of the Nigerian Union. From Medicine to Law, from the fields of architecture, the raucous fields of mercantilism, from the rigours of the market profession to the remote corpus of human endeavour – our founding fathers demonstrated a proficiency and a knowledgeable grasp of their endeavours that were far ahead of everybody else.
From the mythological men and women that sprang from Oduduwa to the great historical giants in Law, in Medicine, in the general firmament of learning, in the rich tumult of industry – we were the trail – blazers, the daring pioneers that broke the uncharted waters and opened the gateways of the hidden wilderness.
Along the line, the Yoruba produced heroes such as Orunmila, Oranmiyan, Olofin-Ajaiye, Lagelu, Obanta Owa Obokun, Lisabi Agbongbo-Akala, Ado-Keme, Samuel Ajayi Crowther, Samuel Johnson, Herbert Macaulay, Madam Tinubu, M. D. Da Rochas Egerton Shingle, James Beale Africanus, Nathaniel King, Obadiah Johnson, John Randle, Orishadipe Obasa, Akinsiku Leigh-Shodipe, Oguntola Sapara, Akinwande Savage, Curtis Crispin Adeniyi -Jones, Christopher Alexander Sapara Williams, Ali Oloko, Thomas Horatio Jackson, John Payne Jackson, O. R. Alade, Kitoyi Ajasa, Mobolaji Adeyemi Akinsemoyin, L. K. Doherty, Ore Green, Ayodeji Oyejola, P. J. C. Thomas, Samuel Herbert Pearse, Josiah Henryson Doherty, Taiwo Olowo, Ekundayo Phillips, Seidu Olowu, James George, C. J. George, W. A. Dawodu, Mabinuori Dawodu, C. O. Blaize, Andrew Wilkinson Thomas, Ogedengbe Macaulay, Barbington Macaulay, Efunsetan Aniwura, Aare Latoosa, Bashorun Ogunmola, Basorun Gaa, Alaafin Sango, Obafemi Awolowo, Bode Thomas, Samuel Ladoke Akintola, Adetokunbo Ademola, H. O. Davies, Akinola Maja, Adeyemo Alakija, Adekunle Ajasin, J. F. Odunjo, Saburi Biobaku, Adegoke Adelabu, Hubert Ogunde.
It is an endless list of great men and women of valour who traversed the cutting edge of history with vast productive energy and immense talents, paving the way for the succeeding generations to blossom and bloom as the leading lights of the Nigerian nation.
We were the best and the brightest in the good days of old because the great pioneers were predicated the paramount emblems of distinction, merit cooperation and the indivisibility of the Yoruba Union.
Yes, they had their own debates and even semblance of rancour. But they managed their disputes with maturity, with tempering restraints and civility.
Our founding fathers were largely steered by the greater good of the Yoruba nation. They knew that personal ambition must never eclipse the larger vision of our collective destiny. They knew that bitterness and envy must never be used to corrode the promptings of selflessness and sacrifice.
They knew that avarice, malice and deceit can never be appropriated as the building tools of our Omoluabi culture.
They knew that no society endures on selfish promptings of the moment. It is an arduous building block of focused service and dedication.
The Yoruba founding pioneers were indeed representative men and women who came from the furthest reaches of Ekiti, the fertile expanses of Ondoland, the streams and waters of Osun, the forests and thickets of Oyo and the mountainous ranges of the Atlantic shores.
They were merchants and philanthropists. They were scholars and law officers. They were mariners, architects, surveyors and teachers. In all, the Yoruba pioneers were great personages who held honour far above personal acquisitions. They were icons of truth and stability who treasured principled articulations far above the petty wanderings of equivocal actors who believe in nothing but the riches of the hour.
In the vast summative largeness of our founding fathers, in the total collective representation of those who defined the primordial values of the Yoruba nation, we behold the trenchant bond of patriots. We observe the purity of thought and perception. We see the stubborn pursuit of selflessness, the instinctive dedication to the higher ideals of the Yoruba identity.
Regrettably, we are far from that glorious age today. We have abandoned the values of our founding fathers. We have derailed from that primeval defining core of our cultural purities.
Today, we occupy an inevitable position in the Nigerian firmament because we are now too much self absorbed. We are too much hindered by parochial pursuits to the detriment of the greater Yoruba vision. We have dismantled the collective oneness which once gave us the cutting edge advantage in the past.
But all is not lost. We must return to the time -tested virtues of our founding fathers. We must return to the sacred dignities of old where personal ambitions were restrained by humility. We must return to the instinctive patriotic zeal that insists on sacrifice and selfless service. We must return to the good old days when hard work and perseverance were treasured over the lazy recourse to the easy ways.
We can no longer afford to be going in different directions. That will not get us anywhere. It will always result in confusion and chaos. It will always result in aimlessness and forfeiture. As we push and pull in different ways, we become weaker and invariably enfeebled without any relevance, without any cogent achievements.
Our elders speak the truth when they observe that “Osusu owo ko se se.” (It is impossible to break a bunch of broom). This is an eternal wisdom that we must always make use of. Together, we are strong, indivisible. But torn apart, we are vulnerable, susceptible to destruction.
Omode to sun mo agba ko kin te o. Let us be close to our elders. Let us be instructed in their wisdom. Let us learn from their experience and cultural guidance.
Let us defer to the ancient truth and enlightenment of our traditional rulers. They are our unfailing linkages to our ancestors. They are known to always cut across party lines without partisan bias. They must always guide and advise us without the prejudice of factional colouration. They rightly reside in that principled nobility of neutral power and majesty, far above the partisan stampede.
As we position ourselves for the 2019 general elections, we must be thoughtful and sincere about what we want for our people and how we want to enhance the collective fortunes of the Yoruba nation in the larger expanse of the Nigerian Union.
We cannot work alone. We must work across cultural lines. We must build bridges of friendship and cooperation across the vast Nigerian tribal crossroads in order to achieve the best for our people. We must negotiate with our first eleven. We must work together with those who share our vision of progress to enhance the leadership of our nation.
I want to use this opportunity to appeal to all the sectors of the Nigerian nation to please give fairness and peace a chance to strengthen our national oneness.
Finally, our people occupy a very competitive place in the Nigerian society when we work with one spirit, with one voice, with the purest of motives and with a selfless vision.
The Nigerian society is now highly merit oriented. It is no
longer a place for mediocres and charlatans. It is no longer a place for rabble – rousers and petty fortune seekers. We cannot push any interest from mere parochial considerations. If we want to progress, if we want to break the shackles of marginalization, we must push forward the best and the brightest among us.
We must promote hard work, perseverance and honesty. We must promote talent and good breeding. We must raise up our collective Omoluabi edifice. We must hold on to the principal defining values of the Yoruba: Iberu Olorun (the fear of God) Itele Ofin (the path of legality), Ife si enikeji (the love of fellow man).
This is the summative vision of the Yoruba identity. This is what gives us our unique badge of honour and integrity. This is who we are. This is the only way to succeed. This is the only way to remain relevant. This is what the new, succeeding generations must imbibe.
Our youths must learn tolerance, forbearance, humility, selflessness, sacrifice , commitment to truth, a total resolve to industry, hardwork and excellence.
This is my thematic preachment to everyone here today. The Yoruba people must return to our traditional First Principle :
Yoruba. A ki puro. A kin se etan. Ori otito ni a ma nduro si.
Before I end this message, let me address another very important issue, which is the ongoing national conversation on the clamour for generational shift of power from the elders to the youths. Renewal and change is the lifeblood of all enduring societies. Nothing is static. Permanent progression is inhere in the nurturing of new ideals and new vision.
Change is a natural phenomenon. But any change that will endure must follow a certain process for it to achieve a desirable outcome that is sustainable.
Let us not forget that politics and governance are like other sectors of life where you require a reasonable level of relevant knowledge, skill, period of tutelage or mentorship, experience and track record to attain a leadership position. No young lecturer, however brilliant, will say he is taking over as Vice Chancellor of a university without meeting certain requirements as related to the standards of a university. It is wrong to think that anybody can take over any political position if he is not adequately prepared for it.
I support the “Not too young to run law” recently assented to by President Muhammad Buhari. It is like what is referred to in the professional sectors as catching them young and training them for stardom. But let me warn that training and mentorship is indispensable.
Politics and governance in civilised societies have thrown up young leaders in recent times, such as President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of Austria. But the toga of youthful embrace must not encourage rascality, mediocrity and disrespect for elders. The young leaders in Europe rose through the system over a period of time and had distinguished themselves in previous political responsibilities entrusted upon them.
That is the way to go about it. What we need in this country is a deliberate and purposely built process of mentorship of the youths for responsibilities in politics and governance by our political parties. The youths must subject themselves to this process, patiently learning from the successes and failures, wisdom and mistakes of the experienced older political actors and functionaries.
A Yoruba adage says: “Omode ri ogun, o npe lefo” (A child sees a herb in the bush and calls it a vegetable for preparing soup because of the limitation of his knowledge). It is the elder who then explains that it is a herb for preparing a medication. The youths have a lot to learn from the elders in order to avoid the mistakes of the past and be able to take the nation to the next level.
Humility is a priceless virtue. We must remember that the youths of today will become the elders of tomorrow who will be expected to mentor the youths of tomorrow. It is natural that they too will demand respect from incoming generations.
In the journey of life, hard work, commitment to noble ideals and patience are important requirements for success in any endeavour. You must avoid the craze to cut corners or being used to do same. . The consequence is always disastrous. Being focused, trusting in God and patiently working out your vision will, eventually, get you the prize. “Igbin ko lapa, igbin ko lese, eso eso ni igbin gun igi.
Oduduwa a gbe wa o.
Chief Olabode Ibiyinka George
Atona Oodua of Yorubaland.
Osogbo, Tuesday, July 31, 2018.