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“The man dies in him, who keeps silent in the face of tyranny.”
“Intellectuals….whose certificates betray a failure to discern that ‘partisanship’ is synonym for ‘propaganda’ as it is antonym for ‘objective reasoning”.
Seyi Olu Awofeso in his article “Foreigners Panic Over Nigeria.”
`Nothing is politically right which is morally wrong.’
– Daniel O’Connell.
“ ….there is need for the competence and character of public men to be subjected to severer and stricter scrutiny…”
Chief Obafemi Awolowo
It is a tradition in any virile nation, one of which I consider the Yoruba to be, to have the intelligentsia be alert to its duties of being the conscience of the society. The intelligentsia – that social, cultural, intellectual and economic elite- in such a virile Nation always have to be identified with robust integrity, invigorated aptitude, moral rectitude, dignity of principles and the social conscience. In a saner clime, which I think the Yoruba strive to be, members of intelligentsia are expected to be the vigilantes of our well being, the wardens of our political trajectory, the conscience of our economic development, guardians of our moral compass, and the projectors of our social evolutionary process. They are often associated with, but not limited to such characteristics as studiousness, deep intellect, assiduousness, diligence, determination, meticulousness, independence, courage and versatility.
Our contemporary political elite, the most recalcitrant, if not the most bogus, of all the classes in our society have always had a contentious but not necessarily adversarial working relationship with our intelligentsia. Hitherto, the intelligentsia is treated with utmost respect and deference by the political class and the critical mass of our people. In turn, the intelligentsia has always done their utmost to protect their own integrity and dignity in the way and manner they have related to them. Where applaud has been necessary, they offered it with restraint and circumspection. Where critique was the need, it has always been done constructively with the overall interest of the people as the guiding principle. The intelligentsia’s responsibility is first to the health and the well being of the society above all other considerations. But nowadays, things are different with the present political class and the contemporary intelligentsia.
Today, the political class in the Yoruba States which has become more chronically bogus and annoyingly undemocratic under the garb of “progressivism” that has kleptomania written all over it has managed to cripple the intelligentsia. The political class has the intelligentsia suborned, compromised and incapacitated. The intelligentsia is now loudly silent on the political inanities that are permeating the Yoruba political landscape. The intelligentsia seemed to have become conspicuous collaborators in the dismantling of integrity and dignity as an essential component of political leadership and governance in Yoruba States. The acquiescence of the intelligentsia to the present currents of pallid politics in Yoruba land is troubling. Yet, Wole Soyinka taught us that the man dies in him, who keeps silent in the face of tyranny!
In an interview I had with Professor Jacob F. Ade Ajayi while I was reporting for the Ibadan based Sketch Newspaper in the late 1980s, he had told me how General Yakubu Gowon pleaded with him to become the Vice- Chancellor of the University of Lagos. His refusal had him summoned to Dordan Barracks with some members of Supreme Military Council present. He was pleaded with and prevailed upon to accept the appointment because it was evident that he was the only one that the students had respect for and would be willing to listen to. He noted that the reason he refused the appointment in the first place was because he felt that the University Senate “should always have something to say” about such things. “The integrity of an intellectual in the relationship between town and gown has to be maintained by all means and at all times,” he had reiterated. He informed that the reason he eventually agreed to take up the appointment was because it was a crisis situation and he could help resolve the crisis.
Several years later, while I was corresponding for TheNews Magazine, I was part of a private audience invited by a cocoa merchant with an intellectual bent, Mr. Kayode Aserifa-Ola to Ile- Ife, to have a tete-a-tete with the retired General Joseph N. Garba, Nigeria’s former ambassador to the United Nations and External Affairs Minister. General Garba had lamented the “low” to which university intellectuals have come and how they have “cheapened” themselves and put themselves at the services of unworthy rulers who have contaminated and denigrated the society. Unwittingly corroborating the story told to me years earlier by Professor Ade Ajayi on the essence of the integrity of the intelligentsia, General Garba reminisced on how the soldiers in the Supreme Military Council used to live in awe of University professors whom they held in “highest esteem” because of what “they represent.” The “low” which General Garba was lamenting about at that point in time compared to what is presently subsisting, seemed to be a very high one.
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”
? John C. Maxwell
Today, what you perceive is a loud silence of the intelligentsia across Yoruba Nation. The pervasiveness of the silence projects a kind of conspiracy: a conspiracy to turn a blind eye to the shenanigans going on in the Yoruba States under the garb of “progressive politics.” The intelligentsia seems to have become purveyors of tokenism from the rulers to our people. It seemed that they are satisfied with the crumbs cascading from the table of this political class to the critical mass of our people. In some cases, the intelligentsia has become pathetic megaphones of half baked policies and programmes, justifying mismanagement as stellar feats at the altar of political correctness. All the systematic looting going on in some Yoruba States are being overlooked. It seems the attitude is “we prefer this set of looters to any other.”
Though, this issue is a country – wide malaise, but it seemed to be more pronounced within the Yoruba Nation which has always been an example to others as pacesetters especially in matters of this nature. Barrister Seyi Olu Awofeso called attention to this in his recent article titled “Foreigners Panic Over Nigeria”, as follows:
“And much worse for Nigeria, the country’s intelligentsia have (sic) been wholly corralled into official thefts and are now nearly morally damaged by corruption to become not so much partisan as mentally befuddled. The effect is that no bright idea is thought up by Nigerian intellectuals and put on the table for retrieving the almost lost country.
“If everyone in Nigeria is either for APC or PDP who then is for Nigeria?” a foreign resident was recently quoted as asking the rump of intellectuals left in Nigeria, whose certificates betray a failure to discern that ‘partisanship’ is synonym for ‘propaganda’ as it is antonym for ‘objective reasoning”.
A striking cord in the above quote is the corralling of the intelligentsia “into official thefts.” What is out there about some of the big figures and names that are widely respected and perceived as the “fighters for justice” or “crusaders for human rights”, to say the least, is so disheartening and unbelievable. Most of them no longer have the “moral” right to criticize official corruption because they have also participated either directly or indirectly in it.
Evidently, the intelligentsia is “mentally befuddled” and that is why it is no longer able to recognize its roles and responsibilities to the society. It has surreptitiously partaken in the supper of filthy lucre and is unable to maintain its integrity. The intelligentsia has lent its dignity and clout to the marauders in government. The intelligentsia has become paralysed witnesses to the decadent social milieu and active partakers in the moral depravity pervading Yoruba States. Having been corralled into corruption, the intelligentsia has compromised the compass with which to checkmate the thieving political class. The most flagrant manifestation of mental perplexity of the intelligentsia has been its subtle and quiet legitimization of a political leader whose “primary school and high school” he claimed to have attended remained questionable. It has legitimized a political leader whose university education credentials largely remain a source of controversy while his public behaviours have left a lot to be desired.
The acquiescence of the most educated and distinguished class in our society to the leadership of a seemingly sophisticated political tout and thug, with crude acquisitive tendencies, challenging moral capability, pretentious democratic credentials, and as some have pointed out, “questionable mental acumen”, is the most bewildering of all. If it is morally wrong, it could not, should not and must not be politically right, so Daniel O’Connell posited and Chief Obafemi Awolowo reiterated in his seminal lecture on “Politics and Religion”, to students at the Adventist College of West Africa, Ilishan-Remo, on 27th January, 1961.
In the same lecture, instructively, Chief Awolowo also said the following:
“In private life, before we entrust our personal or business affairs to anyone, we take steps to inquire into his qualifications both as to competence and character. Such an inquiry as this is done in private, because what is at issue is a private concern. But the competence and character of politicians must of a necessity be examined in the full glare of public limelight Because what is at issue is the welfare of the community or nation. In the management of private affairs, a gross mistake would only affect the fortunes of one man or a family or a small group of persons. A serious error of judgement in the management of public affairs might adversely affect the lives and fortunes of millions of people.”
But unfortunately, our intelligentsia has refused to perform all this important function. Rather, it is glossing over it and providing coverage for and to political charlatanism refusing to subject “the competence and character” of the political elite of Yoruba States “to severe and stricter scrutiny.” Below is an edited version of a commentary by a concerned Yoruba citizen called Rogbodiyan:
“Support for un-accountable government is now the way and means by which the suborned Yoruba intellectuals (and the civil rights members amongst them) ride in new cars and build mansions from patronage received for silence in the face of open thefts of public treasuries by some Yoruba States’ governors.
The Yoruba people have watched to see if these lawyers, professors and doctorates in Yorubaland will turn a new leaf and stop telling lies. But the professors, the lawyers and the doctorates have pawned themselves for money as useless megaphones of the un-accountable leadership in Yorubaland. At this point, the people see Yoruba intellectuals as criminal accomplices who sold their over-educated souls to the devil; closed their intellectual eyes to evil, just to get free cars and lands from openly thievish governors.
“The only way to stop us from stealing is to stone us,” said APC Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers state at a public function. Yet the Yoruba intellectuals keep quiet, with bribes-stuffed mouths. Not in this generation will the Yoruba see their lawyers, professors and doctorates anymore as better than scum. That is what happens when hungry elders; some with Ph.D. degrees, mislead the Yoruba people who are sinking into poverty under massive thefts by their state governors, by saying to the impoverished masses that these governments in charge of the Yoruba states’ treasuries represent a ‘progressive party.’”
When will this conspiracy of silence by the Yoruba intelligentsia against the Oodua Nation come to an end? When will the intelligentsia repent their ways and once again raise the banner of integrity, honesty and dignity? When will the intelligentsia begin to call out crooked leaders? When will it resume its duty as the conscience of our society and the compass of our morality? How soon will it cease lending its clout to crooks who have hijacked the leadership of the Yoruba people? When will the intelligentsia condemn all criminals across all persuasions and not prefer some criminals over the others? When? It better be soon, because it should not be politically right, if it is morally wrong.
“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it.” – John F. Kennedy
Article written by ‘Remi Oyeyemi
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