Wednesday, 18 December 2013
The Spirit Of Ikogosi By Niyi Osundare
Mo ki o, Ukogosi I greet you, Ikogosi
Olomi lilo woorowo Whose water is mildly warm
Bi orirun iyaleta Like the rays of the morning sun
Olomi titu ninninnin Whose water is cool
Bi amurefun isale amun Like the throat-soothing water of the waterpot
Omi ni mo te It is water I stepped
Ki mi si teranyin Before stepping on sand
Mo ki o o, Ukogosi I greet you, Ikogosi
Olokuta weere oke egbake Descendant of the pebbled hill
Okuta wewewe gun mi lose The pebbles prick my sole
Ee dun mi Without the slightest pain
I ire, ire nun batelese mii se Just playing with your sole, they said
Ito ko ho yaya lerun okuta Foaming spittle from the mouth of the rock
O di gbaragburu lisale odo Tumbling down like a waterfall
Omi ni mo te I stepped first on water
Ki mi si teranyin Before landing on the sand
Usi re ba Your fame lurks in every corner
Usi re ba Your fame spreads wide
Usi re ba ba ba Your fame spreads and spreads
Bii balabala eleu aramoda Like that of the butterfly with a wondrous coat
Omi to Water dripping to to
Omi ta Water dripping ta ta
Omi tototo Water dripping, dripping
Omi tatata Water dripping, dripping
Eji werewere ale Evening showers soft and gentle
Ojo warawaraouro Morning rain rapid in its coming
Omo olomi asunisuntin The spring which for ever flows
Omi ni mo te It is water I stepped first
Ki mi si te ranyin Before landing on sand.
* * *
‘Ikogosi Graduate Seminar School’. Sounds so new, doesn’t it? Not only new but also innovative, even giddily ambitious, with a hint of the magisterially presumptuous, the romantically futuristic. Afterall, we are not talking about the Harvard Graduate Summer School, or the Leeds Graduate Summer School, or the Cambridge Summer School, or the Bellagio Summer Resort. This ‘School’ is even taking place in a clime with no summer designation in its seasonal cycle. Thus, at work here is a trope of many leaps and approximations: nomenclatural, ideational, and cultural – all of which attest to the global reach of our project and its boundary-crossing capability.
Consider the very location of the ‘School’. Ikogosi. A place of near-Edenic serenity tucked away in the awesome flanks of Ekiti hills, made popular by the differing temperatures of its springs. Until recently, Ikogosi was nothing more than a promissory mantra in political campaigns and recurring decimal in the arithmetic of annual state budgets. Half-executed projects littered its landscape. Giant mosquitoes and dragon-like reptiles played host even in the most executive of its executive suites. Government after government extoled its potential as a tourist money garnerer, but fell tragically short of taking adequate care of the goose that was expected to lay the golden egg.
But as we look round today, a terrific difference arrests our gaze: gleaming access roads, enticing swimming pools, cozy chalets, capacious multi-purpose halls, spacious amphitheatre (with dramatic intimations of the famous Christ’s School Quadrangle), wood-terraced tour walks, etc. A world-class golf course is rearing to tee off into existence to the pastoral astonishment of a sleepy Ekiti terrain, etc. A world-class golf course is even teeing into existence much to the pastoral astonishment of a sleepy Ekiti terrain. There is every indication that Ikogosi is beckoning to the world; the tourist naira rain is about to fall. And it is this part of the scheme that calls for caution, for we need to take a hard look at the other side of the tourism coin. Care must be taken to ensure that this spectacularly unique wonder land does not atrophy into a mere joint for brief respite for the burnt-out business executive, bower of indolent bliss for the moneyed tourist, a Disneyland of sorts for the big-spending sight-seer. Those of us who have been to the Caribbean or can count on a reasonable familiarity with the City of New Orleans (where I currently work) can attest to the deficit quotient on that other side of the tourism coin that I mentioned above. Tourism pollutes, and blatant tourism pollutes blatantly. For the tourist usually leaves more than their money behind.. . . But Ikogosi has more pages to its book of wonder. It is a natural endowment not just a tourist bonanza; a tender habitation, not a mindless haunt; a deep spiritual haven, not a mere sybaritic asylum; a place to stand and stare, not just to hail and holler.
So let us regard callers to this sacred place as guests and visitors, not as mere tourists. Guests who have a stake in the preservation of the beauty and sanctity of their place of interest; guests with profound respect for the physical and spiritual integrity of Ikogosi and its human population; guest free of the mindset of arrogant do-gooders who have come to save us with their tourist largesse; guests willing to make a home (no matter how temporary) of this wondrously serene place. These conditions are important because our attitude to and expectations from these guests have a way of influencing their own attitude to and expectations from us. In short, let us get Ikogosi to teach the world how to humanize the tourist space.
Ikogosi Warm Springs Resort. What an immeasurable delight to witness this dream unfolding, alluringly innocent: new walls glowing with fresh paint; roads alive with the piquant smell of fresh tar; neat, almost immaculate interior decorations and generous furnishing; uninterrupted power supply; covered trash cans in all the right places. This Eden, surrounded by overlooking mountains resplendent in their pristine rainforest glory. Breathtaking, absolutely wondrous. . . .And what three things does this Eden need to put a permanent stamp on its beauty? The answer: MAINTENANCE, MAINTENANCE, scrupulous, unrelenting MAINTENANCE. Ikogosi must not be allowed to become a victim of the typical Nigerian malaise of neglect and arrant desuetude. When I come here in two years time, in five years time, in fifty years time, I would like to see this place looking more beautiful, more alluring functional, than it is even now. For here we have a place to stand and stare, a place to dream and dare. . .
Only a Governor who dreams and dares could have conceived the kind of enterprise which brought us here today and lent Ikogosi’s sacred name to its provenance and historic significance. Only a leader capable of seeing through and beyond the thick fog of the philistinism and ignorance that have for long held Nigeria hostage to the incubus of darkness and underdevelopment. For, as far as I know, this is the first instance so far of this kind of ‘School’ anywhere in Nigeria (and my spirit tells me it is not going to be the last).A couple of top-class academics from the Diaspora have joined their equally eminent home-based counterparts to run a broad-based and intensive two-week programme of teaching and mentoring a select group of graduate students of Ekiti origin in an atmosphere characterized by robust intellectual and professional exchange and close encounters of the quickening, engaging kind. The curricular spread, very much like the faculty pool, is wide and all-embracing: liberal arts, social sciences, law, education, banking and finance, and that rallying ground and crucible of diverse disciplines – Africa Studies. When I learnt that this school is to be coordinated by Wale Adebanwi and Ebenezer Obadare, I knew the enterprise could not have been better served; for these scholars(the Two Musketeers)are solid exemplars of the kind of deep, polyvalent scholarship, purposive insight, and answerable intellectthat lend Academe anywhere in the world its mettle and method. I am not surprised at the caliber of scholars these two highly inspiring academics have been able to attract to Ikogosi, and I have no doubt that participants will have a lot to thank them for at the end of these deliberations.
Again, Ikogosi Graduate Summer School. That name and its resonance. Its local habitation and the boundless geography of its import. A wholesomely academic platform dedicated to the business of the book, the cultivation of the mind, the production and dissemination of knowledge, the embrace and celebration of Enlightenment. Ikogosi Graduate Summer School. In Ekiti, land of book worms, paradise of professors, refuge of the assiduous bibliophile who reads the book beyond its covers. Graduate Summer School in Ikogosi. Provided tuition-free and with every logistical enablement by the State Government. I have a strong feeling that we are getting back gradually, ineluctably, to where we were, to who we used to be, before the blackout. The Book seems to be on its way back, though the distance between it and our door is still littered with obstacles, and our long-sought reunion is still an act of tentative embrace.
For so many things have happened to us in the past decade or so that have rocked the very foundation of our being and threatened our age-long reputation as honourable, proud, and self-respecting people. The return of the strenuously sought democracy brought nothing but orchestrated chaos and anarchy to Ekitiland. Ballot boxes became mobile coffins for our assassinated franchise; vote rigging was characterized by a nightmarish excess that surpassed even the already criminal Nigerian limit. Fetid facts festered in overcrowded, mis-mandated, over-compromised election tribunals; reversible “Christian conscience” of Resident Electoral Officers suffered countless somersaults between Ado-Ekiti and Abuja; political thugs proliferated in the land like maggots in a decomposing body. We took a look at these murderous hirelings and their political bosses, and the difference we saw was like that between six and half-dozen. At one absolutely ridiculous juncture, Ekiti State had two contending “acting governors” staking their claim to the same straw crown at the same despicable time. And the Nigerian President who authored this bizarre drama concluded its humiliating enactment with the declaration of a state of emergency. Even within the ambit of Nigeria’s ‘nascent democracy’, Ekiti was stampeded into something close to a military dictatorship.
Unspeakable evil was foisted on our state and it thrived with the full force of the ‘Federal Might’. The world watched in stupefying consternation. The Land of Rolling Hills sighed into sorry somnolence. Rivers shuddered in the valleys.
It was a difficult time to be an Ekiti person. The Fountain of Knowledge became the Hellhole of Horror, the butt of all manner of ribald jokes from newspaper cartoons to opinion columns, from tv ‘talkheads’ to radio commentators. A state whose affairs are normally so grossly under-reported as a result of its physical distance from Nigeria’s media orbit, started getting the kind of press it didn’t need. “Too much bukuru is a burden to the mind”; “Ekiti people read their book upside down”; “Too much petitioning kills the petitioner”. Etc. The cyberspace was abuzz with ridicule and painful humour. Cynicism traded barbs with philistinism: if this is what too much bukuru does to a people, maybe it’s better to live and die illiterate. How could a state widely known as the Paradise of Professors have spawned such bewildering grotesqueries?
Side by side with this political debacle went a drastic tumble of our value system. As political chieftains hopped to Abuja for fat contracts and desperate hustle for their own share of the ‘mainstream’ bonanza, the youth wing of their teeming supporters left school in droves to eke out a living from seedy streets and desperate lanes. Virtual child soldiers and area boys inducted so early into action on the political battlefield, they are trained for little besides ballot-box snatching and methodical elimination of their bosses’ political adversaries. Whoever still thinks the so-called Boko Harammenace is the preserve of the northern states needs a refresher course in sensitive demographics. The remnant stragglers of our own Boko Haram brigade still swarm in our motor parks and marketplaces, waiting for action.
Time-tested, life-affirming values were discarded like used tickets as otherwise able-bodied youth sought their fortune in the political bubble of bloody streets. The book lost its allure, knowledge its aura, enlightenment its sparkle. For the first horrible time, I heard Ekiti youth ask, as is the wont in other parts of Nigeria: ‘Na bukuru I go chop?’. The Fountain of Knowledge was muddied by political madness; its mountainous fountainhead was bulldozed by political bestiality. In tragically short order, Ekiti schools, even the best among them, joined the traditional ranks of Nigerian institutions that prided themselves on recording zero success in WAEC and NECO examinations. Our politicians responded to this illiterate situation in the most ill literate way by establishing more universities even when they knew that both the wherewithal and the rationale were lacking. Thus, even in Ekitiland, Iwe du un aripose/Aogo isukuru dun bi iparifo agba. (The book became an object so repulsive/ The school bell sounded like an empty barrel).
We have to put the tragedy of this recent past in proper perspective for us to appreciate the profoundly symbolic import of the Ikogosi Graduate Summer School, and even more important, its limitless resonance. For here we are, again, in Ekitiland, on a mission bound to the book, with candles held aloft against the darkness of ignorance, with knowledge as our quarry, wisdom as our goal, humanism as our mandate, the future as our destination. Here we are again in Ekitiland, doing what we know best:
Ekiti, a muu didu Ekiti, who put black spots
Ba ju un fifun On a white surface
Akowe kowura People who write the book into gold
Alara an gba ida People whose style others can only copy
Akowe kowura People who write the book into gold
Alara an gba i da People whose style others can only copy
But who is the author of our new book of change? To whose dream and drive do we owe the Ikogosi Initiative? Professor – oh, sorry, Governor – Kayode Fayemi (that must have been a salutary Freudian slip) surprised me not a bit with the birthing of this project. On the contrary, what left me amazed is the speed and sense with which he has achieved the feat. For, way back in July last year, in a convocation lecture deliberatively entitled ‘Repositioning Nigerian Universities within a Dynamic Global University System: Challenges and Prospects’, he had foreshadowed the nitty-gritty of the event whose commencement brought us together today:
We must also evolve a means by which we can use the talent and experience of Nigerian academics in the Diaspora to enhance our University system in every way – from teaching to postgraduate research supervision, and to even university administration, all in very innovative ways. The task is for those of us in government to work with the administrators of both public and private universities to evolve innovative ways of doing this. (Fayemi 112).
Fayemi’s confidence in the willingness and readiness of our Diaspora scholars to respond to this call is somewhat infectious:
There is . . . no reason why many of our scholars based in Europe and America and even elsewhere in Africa, cannot be made to teach in summer schools or teach specific summer classes in most of our universities when they come home every year – or when they are on sabbatical leave. We have some of the most accomplished academics and professionals from the biological sciences to engineering, from literature to sociology, who will be willing if a programme is put in place, to come home regularly o teach our students. Some of them might even be willing to do this free. (Fayemi 113).
In Fayemi’s thinking, this will be a way of turning the brain drain currently wracking the Nigerian education system into some kind of brain gain – a timely coping strategy in a world in which brain mobility is fast becoming a settled practice.Fayemi’s proposal may not be the cure-all pill for the dreadful plague afflicting our educational system, but it is, no doubt, a thoughtful stop-gap measure aimed at stanching that ‘massive hemorrhage’ highlighted by Adebanwi and Obadare in the flyer announcing the IGSS.
So, here we are my dear colleagues from home and the Diaspora. Here we are, my fellow students. We seem to have our work cut out for us, in a manner of speaking, a challenge to match the proficiency of our mission with the clarity of the vision of our host – and possibly surpass it. Purposive collegiality is the demand of our business; mutual exchange rules the currency of our trade. Constant, remorseless rigor, intense argumentation, delicate simplicity, challenging complexity, an interrogative temper which privileges the culture of inquiry over the culture of belief (Oladipo 2001); a positive radicalism which confronts baseless ‘Thou-shalt-not’s’ with thoughtfully articulated ‘Why-not’s?’; an ecumenical wisdom capable of separating nous from nonsense, eager to distill the poetry of science from the science of poetry.
In the horizontal philosophy that is bound to rule our deliberations, I envisage no hierarchy of expectations, no baggage of mentalities/prejudices. The scholars and resource persons from the Diaspora gathered here for this knowledge summit (for that is what our deliberation really is) are not the trendy, know-all, technology-saturated supermen and women from across the oceans privileged right to the thinnest stitch in their garment, graciously here to ‘give something back’. Nor are their Nigeria-based counterparts shop-worn stay-at-homes waiting for the civilizing mission from overseas. Knowledge and the business of the mind which is our preoccupation hardly ever travel along that one-directional, tragically predictabletrajectory. It is my ardent hope that this summit will be the type that makes it possible for both parties to also take something back through a deeper appreciation of the differential circumstances that rule and determine our respective knowledge-producing environments, with our students as the primary beneficiaries of our pedagogical practices while we, their teachers, end up learning something from their own learning process. For, on a wider plane, this symbiotic oscillation is one of the sustaining processes of the theory and practice of Diaspora: ideas and influences travel back and forth. The tree of exile needs the rain of home to water its roots; and in times of desperate stress and need the lifeline may come from the shade and fruit of that tree. (Those so inclined may wish to extend my agricultural metaphor to the pecuniary province of Western Union).. . .
Again, the Ikogosi Graduate Summer School. The inspiration which fathered this initiative cannot be separated from the spirit of the age or, if you like, the rumble in the region. It is no exaggeration or flattery to aver that the southwestern region of Nigeria is currently going through the kind of change that the country has not experienced since the outset of the present ‘democratic dispensation’ almost a decade and half ago. From Lagos to Ibadan, from Abeokuta to Osogbo, from Akure to Ado-Ekiti, a wave of urban renewal projects and welfarist programmes is transforming the region in a way only witnessed in the Awolowo years. All of a sudden, our cities are beginning to look uncharacteristically clean. Uniformed men and women are seen cleaning the streets and planting trees in the median of inter-urban highways. Urban landscapes are beaming with flowers, and visual poetry proclaims the beauty of our public spaces. Teachers and their students are being provided laptops and opon imo (Ifa must be fascinated at this technological appropriation of its divination tray). Most uncharacteristically in Nigeria, politics is beginning to look like the art of the positively possible. Some change is taking place, messy and problematic in many aspects, but promising, even astonishing in others. Since my arrival some four weeks ago, I have heard people say in southwest cities: things are happening that we never thought were possible. There is a certain sense of motion that is capable of powering up into a movement.
Governor Kayode Fayemi is both prophet and pundit of that movement and also one of its practical instantiators. A man of letters who has shortened the distance between the governor’s office and the classroom,he knows that no country can ever advance beyond the mental capacity of its people, and that education has no substitute as the sine qua nonfor human development and progress. It does make a difference when the governor of your state is the type that can ring you up in the United States on his way to deliver a lecture at Harvard; or when a couple of weeks later, he is counted among the dignitaries at the lecture of a brilliant friend at Oxford. It does make a difference when a state is governed by somebody who knows the virtues of Omoluabi and is well schooled in his Iwapele philosophy. It does make a difference when you have a leader who is capable of thinking and feeling. The age of the philosopher-king may have been over, but this country and this age are in dire need of the kind of scholar-administrator/leaderso prospectively typified by the Fayemi Ideal; the instance of leadership informed by answerable knowledgeability, and knowledgeability tempered and humanized by enlightened leadership. The instance of a leader who is not allergic to thinking; a thinker who is not afraid of leading.
But that promise is still unfolding, that ideal is still in the process of steady maturation. There is so much more to think, so much more to do, so much more to accomplish. And as usual, the devil is always in the detail, in the un-seeable, in the ostensibly intangible. For while the present effort in the rehabilitation of our physical infrastructure needs to be pursued with unstinting diligence and alacrity, an equal, even greater, effort must be invested in the rehabilitation of our value system ruined by so many years of military dictatorship and the cannibalistic brigandage of (un)civil politicians. Our people need to be convinced again that corruption is evil – that it is actually possible to get things done without having to offer or receive unhealthy gratification. They have to see through the practical demonstration of good governance that honesty is no stupidity, that moderation is no self-effacement. The monolith of Mammon erected in the Nigerian psyche has to be demolished: time there was when our people used to say
Eo fun ruru, Spectacular as money is
E toniyan It can never rival the human being
Mo gbose tigbagi I stubbed a toe
E yo wi ki mi okun It couldn’t express its sympathy
Wanted and urgently needed, those staple values for which Ekiti people have been known down the ages: hard work, diligence, tenacity, self-reliance, integrity, dependability, thrift, stubborn aversion to easy money and disdain for unearned wealth, an unquenchable love for knowledge and respect for laakaye, a deep passion for the book. Time to return to the appreciation and cultivation of the beauty of the simple, the straightforward, and the decent. And as the wheels of progress roll on, we must make sure that urban renewal does not trump the need for rural rehabilitation. So much done so far, so much more still waiting to be done. In the words of the immortal Bola Ige, we have (almost) left Egypt, but we have not yet got to the Promised Land (parenthesis mine).
Is my keynote already sounding like the Ikogosi Declaration? Just as well. For as I observed earlier on in this brief address, the Ikogosi Graduate Summer School looks very much to me likethe symbol of a much-needed, long-expected restoration and harbinger of further reformations. It is very much an idea whose gestation has taken a long, meditative period, and whose growth and maturation will depend largely on the continuous commitment of the Ekiti State government and the perennial resourcefulness of its visiting scholars and students. Needless to say, this noble initiative requires a stable and supportive socio-political atmosphere in which to thrive. It is too significant to be allowed to end up as a flash in the pan, too fundamental to end up as a victim of power-shifts and political vicissitude. It is the kind of dream that grows larger than the dreamer and should be allowed to outlive him.
So, for the next two weeks, let books abound. Let a thousand ideas contend. Let the teacher do some of the learning the learner some of the teaching. Let Platonic dialogues trade wisdom with Ifa’s gnomic profundities. Let the computer guru acknowledge their debt to the digital divination of Orunmila. Let theory thrive hand in hand with practical functionality. Let warm fact mix up with cold fiction in the true tradition of Ikogosi springs. From the blend let there emerge a tempered sensibility and equable intellectuality which direct our imagination as we train the trainers, commit our various talents and capabilities to the cultivation of the mind, and nudge our reluctant country inch after inch towards the enviable status of that ‘knowledge society’ which Olufemi Taiwo rhapsodizes so touchingly, so unforgettably, in his new (and achingly provocative) book. The Spirit of Ikogosi is on the ascent: the road lies before us like an open book. Arise and take control.
Thank you Governor Fayemi for your roadmap to Good Governance and Enlightenment. Thank you pointing the way to The Land of Honour.
Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen, for your kind attention.
June 3-15, 2013
Keynote Address by Prof Niyi Osundare at the first Ikogosi Graduate Summer School (IGSS), at the Warm Spring Resort, Ikogosi Ekiti, June 16-29.
Fayemi, K. 2012. Reclaiming the Trust: Reflections on Second Year in Office. Publisher not indicated. 2012.
Oladipo, S. 2001. ‘Knowledge and the African Renaissance’. Philopsphia Africana, Vol. 4, No.1, pp.61-67. .
Taiwo, O. 2011. Africa Must Be Modern: The Modern Imperative in Contemporary Africa. A Manifesto.Ibadan: Bookcraft, 2011.