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On sources of national power and development

Supo Shasore was among the pack that almost haunted Akinnwumi Ambode out of his ambition of becoming a Lagos State Governor. But in the end, as Achebe would say, Okonkwo, sorry, Ambode, threw the cat and beat them all. That was at their party’s gubernatorial primary.

Shasore, a lawyer, SAN and former Attorney-General of Lagos State, has now given up on old things. Apparently, he has weaned himself of the brief of begging for votes from any third ‘party in issue.’ He is now into the superior employment of creating and commanding words and ideas. In short, he has become an author. And if he is really great at it, that is, in creating new ideas, he would have joined the exclusive order of those who thus create new worlds. This fact is very important.

We were representing the Brace Institute Africa at the presentation of his book, A Platter Of Gold, on January 15, 2017. [Cheerily, we discovered it was not his first book]. During question time, we asked: Now that he has become an author, does he feel more powerful than when he was a politician?

And he gave pro-forma answer, that he considers both public service. We disagree slightly with him here. For us, creating, whether words or mathematical functions, is not in public service. It is the act of self-cultivation. To write is in the attempt to go scriptural and realise the promise: you are gods. Men write to become more human, proto-divine. The more fully human we are, the more godly we become.

The point really is not that Shasore’s answer was wrong. It was right, we suspect, but within the framework of our general [colonial] education. We have been wrongly educated that public service is higher than meditation, self-cultivation, which is false. In fact, our teachers, teacher don’t teach me nonsense, misdirect us that public service, whatever that means, is the highest form of expressing our humanity. Wrong. Our greatest humanity is expressed in man evolving towards divinity. And great manufacturing of ideas, delivered as writing, holds the key.

Anyway, Nigerian writers have always celebrated speaking truth to power. But, on a commissioned research, the Brace Institute made a stunning discovery. For the writer or whoever else to canvass speaking truth to power is to exhibit personal or group inferiority complex and a large cloud of unknowing. However, the matter is complex. It could be roughly synthesised into a simple riddle: of Caesar and Homer, of Obasanjo and Soyinka, say, who is greater? Our answer has been that the poet, even in his rags, is superior to Caesar in all his purple.

And for those who love our missives, the central idea of Caesar as a barbaric Homer has remained our leitmotif. In fact, in How Yoruba Fought and Lost the Biafra Nigeria Civil War, we wrote:

“For us, the real failings are those of our scholars, as unapparent as those are. There is always the attempt in their words ‘to speak truth to power.’ Speaking truth to power is petty … The real thing is speaking truth to oneself, and making logical sense. In the first place, the scholar, even in rags, is superior to Caesar. So, his main task is not to speak to his inferiors, but to elevate himself higher in soliloquies … and confessions to the gods. ‘Lord, I have sinned and come short of your glory’ is more important than to speak to Caesar or any emperor on how to prosper the state.’’

There are two concepts here: The poet is superior to Caesar; And those who hold superior power, that is, the poets [in whatever incarnation], should be in self-cultivation, not in propagandising others. Their first duty is to become superior beings both in personal and next group capacities and not to remove the speck in other people’s eyes.

Then, something interesting happened. ThisDay reports: “We are the power, we speak truth to ourselves.” Tinubu Criticises Monetary Policy, Says We’ve Got to Speak Truth to Ourselves. January 26, 2017.

And we loved the concept of former Governor of Lagos, Bola Tinubu, homing in on our ideas. [By the way, to the best of our knowledge, what has been canvassed is the idea of minions speaking truth to [superior] power. Superior power speaking truth to itself was pioneered by us several years ago. However, it is not impossible Tinubu arrived at the same ideas independent of us. And we are generous enough to grant that caveat. But, there is something that is called priority in the sciences. Simply put, the Brace Institute is the first, to the best of our knowledge, to have propagated the idea of power speaking truth to itself. Before we go a step further, we have to remind ourselves of Galileo who says correctly that every idea looks easy, commonplace, immediately it is invented, but the fact is that it is not.

Anyway, this is not the first time we have experienced this much. We are the first to push the idea of coups as pure armed robbery, even if of the political kind. And our works dating decades old attest to this. However, Femi Falana, SAN, and Dr. Dele Sobowale, severally spoke of the concepts without attribution, unlike Prof. Bola Akinterinwa. We also conceded they may have, like Tinubu, hit on the ideas independently. However, in How and Why the Yoruba Lost… we canvassed: “So, we have to grant both Falana and Sobowale that what they said is theirs and so also the implications thereof. We can thus say that since Falana and Sobowale have said that coup-makers, including of course Nigerian coup-makers … are robbers, it follows that they are asking and wondering what Chief Awolowo, Professors Soyinka, Nwabueze, Aminu … were doing [in service to and] with armed robbers…. And we warn, this is a question wholly and completely attributed to and owned by Falana and Sobowale. We have no hand in it.’’

Our suspicion is that even if they happened upon the idea after our priority rights, they did or could not think it through. It is just as the idea of speaking truth to oneself. For us, it comes with tail and collateral fruitions, like: honest but not innocent, the past didn’t happen, acquiring flight energy while being stationary, etc. concepts. We cannot immediately vouchsafe if Tinubu has given the matter these levels of consequential thought. If Tinubu insists on originality, then the implications are thus his as with Falana and Sobowale.

Anyway, the greater idea is that these new ideas pioneered by the Brace Institute are taking their place under the African sun and beyond. While attribution is important as it is in the developed world, it is also cool we are coming to these new ideas at all. This is because it is in creating new ideas that we develop and not by our sweaty brows. The development ukase by Mother A’Endu holds firm. “By the sweat of our brows we shall bake and eat bread. For cake we must sweat our brains.”

In fact, that was the real import in the question we asked Shasore. All we meant and suspect he misunderstood is: has he now come to knowledge that the writer is superior to Caesar. That armed with a pen and blank papers, he is superior to any governor or president, to whichever Caesar, even if only before history? That is, is he now superior to whom he would have been if he were elected Governor?

Perhaps, we might as well tell this story. A group of journalists were being hosted by a governor in the South-East. Speaking, he said that he was scanning us to see if he could find a suitable candidate as his [additional?] press agent. Cool. The fact the governor didn’t know was that we had earlier metered all the sitting 36 governors, including him. And we could not find one worthy to hire as a PA or even copy secretary for a medium level work we had just scheduled in. Anyway we are also aware that it is heads that count and are counted, not offices. That is, empty heads can, as history attests, occupy great and mighty offices. However, it is worthy we repeat: Development is a function of grey matter, not governor’s offices or Caesar’s purple.

It is what radiates out of the scholars’ meditations that may be fractionally distilled to develop nations. The fact that the faculty, the academy is a ‘Platonic cave,’ that is threadbare, and Caesar’s offices and dresses are in purple, should not deceive the elect. Caesar remains a coarse Homer or Soyinka. Blaise Pascal, a French thinker, caught them out on this. The point he revealed was that princes and kings are often dressed as comedians or visitors from outer skies as to boost or dramatise the little powers they can have. For him, and correctly so, it is all in obtaining power amorally by forged pretence, aka 419. So let us never be fooled by drama or costumes, either of persons or offices. The real powers are not with those who beg for it in deceit like politicians, or steal and seize it like thugs and coup-maker armed robbers. The real powers are in and with those who create new powers, authors. This is what the West has acknowledged intuitively. All we are called to do is to crystalise what are trace elements in the West into solid granules for our accelerated development.

Perhaps the idea of the author as the superior of Caesar is as old as Democritus, but in imbedded or trace element forms. Robert M. Pirsig, a living American ‘Socrates’ remains at the trace element levels of acknowledgement of this solid fact. He writes: “Other people [read politicians] can talk about how to expand the destiny of mankind. I just want to talk about how to fix a motorcycle. I think that what I have to say has more lasting value.”

Anyway, history tells that the most developed countries are the countries that have produced or possessed the most count of profound new ideas, not longest factory or office hours. If we are to develop, our historical mandate is to precipitate [the trace elements of], not ingest Europe.

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1 Comment

  1. Iheanyi Ohiaeri 2nd February 2017 at 9:17 pm

    Incredible and succinct insights. The trouble with Nigeria is not leadership( I am sorry to be an apostate , Chinua Achebe) , but the dearth and death of ideas. There really are very few men and women of ideas; what we have are ideas charlatans “speaking truth to power”, while actually begging for jobs from their intellectual inferiors masquerading as leaders. Jimanze is really an intellectual gem.

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