Touchstones Of Change – OMOLUWABI 2.0


Omoluwabi 2.0; By Adewale Ajadi; Bookcraft, 2012, 176pp. Review by Tade Ipadeola

To  begin where we are, Africans of the 21st century, currently contributing only about four per cent of all literature produced on the planet today, we do well to consider closely the book Omoluwabi 2.0 with the subtitle: A Code of Transformation in 21st Century Nigeria, by Mr Adewale Ajadi. It comes as the continent takes the curve of change in a race in which the likes of Mr Ajadi are our intellectual equivalents of Usain Bolt or Yohan Blake. There are many who will claim that this generation of Africans are running on a substance as yet unknown to science and they may be right! They are running on cultural software that has been available to Africans throughout the ages.

There are many words for the concept of time in many languages. My readings of Omoluwabi 2.0 evoked specifically the concept of ‘igba’ in Yoruba or ‘kairos’ in Greek as distinguished from ‘akoko’ in Yoruba or ‘chronos’ in Greek. The new book is clearly made for these times. The ideas in it are for those moments in time in which tables turn, destinies change, and values are reborn. They are made for times in which quality more than quantity become defining benchmarks.

We live in interesting times. I performed a little experiment with the book upon getting my copy off the press and if I may aggregate the responses I got just brandishing it all over the place for a whole week, it will be all of four words: ‘what is it about?’ In and of itself, that is a very encouraging sign, or ‘ami’, for it says that we have a generation that will not simply judge a book by its cover, who are curious and who care enough to positively steal a look at what their neighbour is reading in a restaurant, a mechanic’s shed, the church, the hospital waiting room and on the street. It matters what cultural software people are running on. Writers like Norman Lewis have written about how, within a generation, entire human populations in Indochina were transformed from the most practical of pacifists into the most implacable of warriors.

The book is laid out in 15 chapters encompassing everything from demographic policy (or lack thereof), history, cultural imagination, theory, genealogy, urban evolution, national aspiration, continental vision (or its absence), institutional frameworks, higher mathematics and linguistic forensics. All of these are contained in 176 pages, short enough to broach these weighty matters and just long enough to provide perspective. The approach is percipient. We now know, with greater certitude than at any other time in history, that the human mind is infinitely capable of learning, change and adaptation. It is what neuroscientists call neuronal plasticity, what the rest of us know as life.

Mankind has made significant philosophical progress into the 21st century. One of these is the final realization that human beings are quite capable of comprehending and acting upon universal reality. However, universality is usually first cognized in concretized, discrete and particular forms.

The implication is that we begin where we are, comprehending our portion of universal truth and acting on it. Steady contemplation and action is what opens the philosophical door into the light. The good news is that we are more than capable of these as a species; the idea of Omoluwabi is one proof of this truth. It has been with us from time immemorial. What the author of this new book has done is to re-present humanity with the idea of Omoluwabi and to suggest an iteration, an incarnation if you like, of that same idea for our consideration as fellow sojourners in the 21st century.

This choice of a 2.0, of the iterative, is most interesting. We live in a time that is apathetic to philosophy for the most part. Some will argue that it has always been like this. The oppressed submit themselves willingly to oppressors in exchange for food and oppression works through the oppressed. Implicit in nature and in change is the idea of compromise. What Omoluwabi 2.0 shows is how to make informed compromises.

To negotiate progress, one must take a fork in the path. The recursive or the iterative (both mathematically valid, both capable of providing solutions) encapsulated in the saying that ‘t’omode ba subu a wo ‘waju; ‘tagba ba subu, a wehin’, (when a child stumbles, (s)he looks ahead but an adult looks back) again, two approaches to solving problems, with different philosophical implications. The author is aware of both realities and aware also that ‘the world, like the whip, sometimes bends forward, sometimes backward’ (atori ‘laye). That ‘taa ba ‘radan, a maa foobe sebo’. (If we cannot find the bat, we sometimes sacrifice the microbat) And so on. It is my view though, that the author’s stamp of imprimatur appears more in favour of the iterative than the recursive. It is a time-stamp as much as it is imprimatur. It is not a rejection of the alternate approach to living a productive life on the planet. It is just a recognition of the age-old truth that ‘owo omode ko to pepe, t’agbalagba o wo ‘keregbe’. (Need demands old and young wisdom) It is therefore an inclusive vision, in the final analysis.

And then we can venture abroad, specifically to Ireland and California. In the year 1845, the country of Ireland experienced a most devastating famine in the wake of the potato crop failure of that year.  Between 1845 and 1847, the population of Ireland was reduced by two million people, approximately 25 per cent of the Irish population. The event became a defining moment in Irish history for all time. It is worth noting that neither the potato nor the blight that ruined it is native to Ireland. It is thought that the potato was discovered somewhere in Peru and the pathogen was traced to a location in Mexico. We find a similar moral in the story of California and the citrus plant. After the gold rush came and went, California focused on the citrus so much so that when a blight hit the trees, it destroyed the local economy. Again, neither the orange tree nor the pathogen is indigenous to California.

The dangers of monoculture are easy to see in agriculture. Imagination, the kind which the author of Omoluwabi 2.0 exercises enables us to see just how devastating a monologic engagement with paradigms can be in human culture. Mr Ajadi is the lone intrapreneur in a risk-averse global cultural economy. He does not shirk from exposing the callow logic of Hollywood in films like Blood Diamonds. His writing insists that exchange is the process of life and that Africa gave more and better to the world before the world gave to Africa. The author keeps us in mind of great Africans we are in danger of forgetting, people like Tajudeen Abdulraheem, General Khobe and L.t Colonel Francis Adekunle Fajuyi who, rather than give up his guest, the then Head of State General Aguiyi Ironsi, insisted that the power-seeking posse killed him first. These were men among men, bulls of the African herd.

It is easy to rhapsodize Omoluwabi 2.0. There is much to commend in this book; filial piety, explicative vigour of a most recondite form of metaphysics as well as its enduring testament to courage. There is sufficient material in Omoluwabi 2.0 to enable us know, as Africans, when we have found the right texture for the social fabric that we desire and which alone can place the continent and her people on the proper plane of regard in history. I very much doubt though, that rhapsodizing is what the author wants us to do.

AFRICA has not been short of exemplary texts about which we still speak. There are the Axioms of Kemet, the sympotic writings of Athenaios of Naukratis and the modern inimitable writings of Fanon. They have gone before to humanize us to a degree that foreign texts have not been able to do because deep always calls to deep. What the author of Omoluwabi 2.0 has set out to do is demonstrate how we can transform from indigenes to citizens, how, collectively, we can transform from polis to civis, how the hoi polloi can benefit from the hoi aristoi. We really do not have much of a choice anywhere on the continent. Political, juridical and economic indices have all been stretched to breaking point. The social index alone remains resilient but even that, especially that, requires innovation such as we have on offer in Omoluabi 2.0.

The book is like a smart drug. I read it and asked myself why we never proceeded to make chocolates if we mastered cocoa production so well without mechanization? Why, with thousands of civil engineers coming out our universities, we have not harvested rainwater sufficiently to reclaim the mega Chad; why, with abundant silicon in our sands and the finest thin-film physicists in the world, we have not harnessed the Sahara into the largest electricity source on the planet? Why have we failed so abysmally at moo lo? Why have we as Africans, not yet built shock resistant economies when we have coffee everywhere from Kenya to Ethiopia, Tantalite in the Kivu Valley, Oil from Angola to the Niger Delta and metal from platinum to iron ore? Most importantly, what has happened to the social consciousness that created Lagos and Ibadan? Why are these two, among the largest cities in the world, still without a metro system or even a plan for one? I thought of a thousand things and concluded without a doubt that this book has to be better than cocaine at making the mind run.

A REVIEW should be about praise as well as blame, however. The decision not to number the chapters make referencing difficult to say the least. In many places, the author follows the Omoluwabi principle in not laying out matters too explicitly, too literally. Verbum sapienti is a good axiom to follow at times but perhaps not at all times. This is one compelling reason why the author owes his audience another book in the not-too-distant future. In my considered opinion, the author pulled in his horse mid-flight and too soon in this book. How, as a critical concern, for example, are omens to be distinguished from aggregated patterns empirically processed? This is a distinction that Sun Tzu makes in The Art of War, for example. How is ‘ire’, blessings, to be distinguished from mere desired outcomes? No other place on the planet has as many shamans, pastors and imams who claim to deliver desired outcomes. It is booming business.

Similarly, the treatment of the crucial concept of Moo lo, the principle of utilization, is way too brief. Finally, while commending the author and the publisher for their industry, it is in order to observe that in the 21st century, it is not enough to have the print version of the book but also the electronic form as well. The last time I checked at Amazon, Omoluwabi 2.0 wasn’t there yet. This is a book that needs to travel like yesterday.

Coming back to where we are in conclusion, we underscore the timely elements of the birth of this book. We learn that Omoluwabi 2.0 is concomitantly position and disposition, occupation and pre-occupation, idea and praxis, here and now. It is as if ejiogbe itself is the governing spirit of text and context. I had the privilege of watching the ideas in this book gather like coral in the ocean-wide mind of the author. To what, then, shall we liken Omoluwabi 2.0? It is like a Global Positioning System where all there was before was a magnetic compass. It is like a sailor with a sextant on the seas where all there was before was the naked eye and stars in the skies. It is like song where all there was before were words. It is opportune without being in the least opportunist. But this places a certain demand on the beneficiaries: to be better educated, more aware and finer grained in spirit. It demands the quality of mind known as ‘laakaye’, understanding, from a much greater percentage of Africans than we have now.

I come to the close of my review in the heart of the marketplace. The story of Omoluwabi 2.0 to my mind is very much like the story of Apple. It never was a ‘big’ company like other personal computing firms. Until very recently, it had less than 4 percent of marketshare. Nevertheless, this company has emerged as the most influential brand of its kind on the world stage. The African story has been, like Ralph Ellison so lyrically put it in his immortal novel, The Invisible Man, invisible. Mr Ajadi is here to show us that it is also invincible, if we step up to the plate. The good news is, beyond patronising clichés, we can. YES WE CAN!

Source: The Guardian


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