Inside The Thoughts of A Man Who Recently Reunited With His Destiny

by Segun Oguntola

What theft! What sacrilege! What barbarity!

Their cultural imperialism was merely a stage in their destruction of our indigenous existence, in their destruction of our life. In time, innumerable people were stolen, hoarded and shackled like lambs and shipped across the sea to nourish the so-called New World.

And having been robbed of our spiritual essence, our indigenous civilization undermined, defeated, those of us left became demoralized. Our psyche maimed, we were no longer able to understand ourselves, and the new world in which we found ourselves.

With no indigenous worldview, Everything is up for grabs. Such a society becomes a jungle where anything goes, where only the strong survive, where fear, greed, corruption, tribalism, nepotism, cruelty, domination are prevalent, where the worst in human beings is cultivated, nourished, flourished and manifested in its people’s demeanor, eventually enabling an outsider to objectively, innocently, say of them: “That is who they are”; “That is how they are.” This is the society Gidaland has become.

If Gidaland’s jungle existence is not transformed another despotic leader will surely follow me as many are waiting for their turn to dominate her for their own emotional pleasure and material gain . . .

That is not surprising as a jungle society is most conducive to the creation and proliferation of jungle men. As a political leader, the jungle man embodies the worst in human beings. He is selfish, greedy, corrupt, insecure . . . He is averse to morality. He believes life is a struggle for existence; that only the strong survive. In his jungle, survival of the fittest mentality, the fittest man is the most powerful man, that is to say, the absolute ruler. His main preoccupation is self-preservation. Accordingly, although he is capable of moral choice, he must be amoral. Morality is not one of his codes of conduct. And because he is not moral, he is not civil. His interest is not to live in a civil society, or to foster one. He is content to exist in the jungle and is, therefore, compelled to ensure the preservation of the jungle. And that is most assured via sheer power. Unmitigated power is therefore, essential to him. He thrives on it because he must be able to assert himself; he must be able to realize his will and caprice. He cannot concern himself with the progress of his society. So, like the beast in the jungle, he obeys his appetite. Whim, will, selfishness, indulgence, cunningness, the use of force, absolute power are practical traits that define him and are indispensable to him. Tribalism, nepotism, bribery are useful means facilitating his endless quest, strengthening and fostering his jungle existence. He, the jungle man, should be understood akin to the non-philosophic man . . .

I totally agree with Òdodo’s idea that societies today are inhabited by two kinds of men: the philosophic and the non-philosophic. I also agree with him that the majority of men are of the non-philosophic kind. Here we find man living an unexamined life. Emulation has become his norm. He follows in others’ footsteps. To be like others, to win favorable public opinion informs and influences his conduct. He does not bother to think profoundly about his life. He does not bother to reflect on his conduct and the adverse effect it might have had, might be having, on his society. Anyone who so reflects, he believes, is an idealist, which he is not because he “knows” that “things are the way they are, and one must take life as such.” He lusts after power and prestige, and will do anything to gain it. But that is not so with the philosophic man . . .

Although the philosophic man is often in the minority, he is the true mover and shaker of events in the world. His philosophic nature makes him a perpetual thinker. He seeks Knowledge. He seeks to comprehend the world. He is the one conscious of possibilities others are unaware of; the one who see things others do not. He encourages others to partake of the philosophic life because he believes, rightly, it is important that all are knowledge seeking. A state of being that can be attained only by way of philosophy, which simply means keeping the Life of the Mind perpetually receptive and engaged in thought. His, to be sure, is the noblest of endeavors. (What endeavor is nobler than the pursuit of Knowledge?) He is perpetually in love with humanity, which for him is not an abstract idea but a living reality made of flesh and blood, in need of spiritual and material nourishment, and imbued with the capacity for endless possibilities, divine abilities. So, he seeks to elevate humanity to its divine height. He uses, among others, oration, literature, music, film to affect humanity so that the world might be justly, or more justly organized . . .

Although now and then the philosophic man triumphantly challenges the prevailing power of his society, his steadfast tendency for knowledge seeking and his non-conformist methods of knowing counters prevalent mores and attitudes. And because he is often in the minority and usually not in a position of power, therefore, defenseless against tyranny, he often falls prey to injustice. He is often intentionally charged and convicted of crimes and silenced so as to suppress his revolutionary fervor and thus neutralize its radiating influence on others. When the philosophic man is not murdered out-right, he is relentlessly harassed, jailed, ostracized, impoverished, goaded to lunacy. Those are some of the means of extinguishing his revolutionary fire of ideas; some of the means of undermining his message; some of the means of ending his wailing for personal and societal transformation, his wailing for Truth, Justice and Universal Love in the world. Philosophic man is concentrated energy, spawning a world of ideas. He cannot be annihilated. So, when he is murdered he lives on through his work. Accordingly, he is, rightly, called immortal.

The foregoing is my paraphrase (not without some plagiarism) of Òdodo’s idea that the philosophic and the non-philosophic are the two kinds of persons living today, which he cogently discussed in his appropriately famous essay: The Two Kinds of Persons. His ingenuity is revealed and immortalized in that essay. I appreciate the essay because it provides a profound yardstick to measure human beings. The essay enabled me to know of Òdodo as an intellectual worthy of the name before he became an international affairs journalist, the correspondent who covers my office for the Ecumenical Society. The essay intensely affected me. My self-transformation was roused and propelled by it.

I was a non-philosophic man, a jungle man. A critical understanding of Gidaland was not on my list of concerns. I usually did not reflect on trans-personal issues. When I did reflect, it was never out of societal concern as I was not concerned about the wellbeing of our people. It was always for personal reasons: to contrive the endless maneuverings needed to realize whatever objective I desired to achieve; to contrive ways of decreeing cunning political and harsh economic policies that are often forced on me by the lords of the world; to contrive ways of crushing dissidents, manufacturing or buying consent; to contrive ways of forever instilling fear . . .

That is not surprising because in a jungle country, political power, especially when it is absolute, allows the leader to have a merchant mentality. The non-philosophic, power drunk leader is most likely to think of his country as a for-profit entity. Accordingly, he is most likely to conduct it as one conducts a business. He is most likely to become averse to morality. Selfishness, cunningness, cruelty are his indispensable traits. He deems his country’s wealth a fruit-filled cake. He consumes most of it with those comprising the custodian of the status quo, whose interest and preservation is his duty to maintain, and shares the rest among those in his inner circle whose allegiance is necessary for the preservation of his domination. That the majority of his people are denied their share of the national cake is not a concern of his. This is the psychology of a non-philosophic man, the man with jungle mentality, the Darwinian man, the man I was before my transformation . . .

Why am I now writing this essay? Why am I now an earnest crusader for the transformation of Gidaland?

The answer is simple. I am free of the spell of Evil that has long demonized me. I have reconciled myself with my destiny as indicated in my name.

What specifically explains my self-transformation (which I like to call change of heart and character)?

These two reasons are major:
I conquered death, and self-preservation:
By this I mean I made peace with death, and, consequently, self-preservation. It really was not difficult to do. As Òdodo often tells me in our conversations, no one can negate death. So, one has no choice but to live. Life is precious. It is in life that we can experience the manifold pleasures and pains of being alive. Therefore, one ought to appreciate life and live fully, and, ought to promote that which makes life meaningful not only for oneself but for others as well. It is crucial one comprehends this and its many connotations. It means one ought to promote Truth, Justice, Freedom, Knowledge, Love, brotherly love . . . You see someone being abused you ought to do the best you can to stop it. You meet someone sad you ought to give them comfort to the best of your ability. You meet someone hungry and tired you ought to feed and give them rest to the best of your ability. You ought to promote love of Knowledge. You ought to strive to impart Knowledge on the ignorant . . . heaven is an ideal to be realized here on earth . . .

My friendship with Òdodo, his ideas and writings, and the world of ideas he introduced me to:

The philosophic fervor that had infused me upon reading Òdodo’s essay, The Two Kinds of Persons, intensified . . .

Consciously musing on one’s society and the world in general, and studying what eminent men of letters have taught and written about the human condition best appeases philosophic fervor. Philosophic fervor usually manifests in one’s desire for Knowledge, for a deeper understanding of one’s society, for a critical understanding of the affairs of this world, for self-transformation . . .

Having overcome my evil tendency, I detested myself for my deplorable deeds all these years as Gidaland’s despotic ruler. Guilt relentlessly tormented me. I eventually sought solace in Literature—undoubtedly Man’s most powerful Ally in His earnest pondering on Existence. And began to muse incessantly on Gidaland’s plight, on human existence..

Following a list Òdodo prepared for me, of the literature I have read so far I am most fascinated by that of Leo Tolstoy and Ben Okri. For someone who had not been concerned about Morality but who now sees its crucial importance to social organization, to human progress, the work of Tolstoy and Okri made me see the world in a different light, as it could be. As Òdodo often tells me in our conversations, I started thinking seriously and came to believe that heaven could exist right here on earth, that the realization of Universal Freedom here on earth is the ultimate goal.

Citing the moral crisis of his life, Tolstoy divided his life into four periods. The third and fourth periods perfectly describe mine. The third was an eighteen-year period from his marriage to his “spiritual birth”, during which he lived “a proper, honest” family life, “not yielding to vices castigated by public opinion” which characterized his second twenty years period “of vulgar licentiousness, of ambition-serving, vainglory and, chiefly, lust.” The fourth was a twenty-year period, in which he hoped to die, and from the vantage point of which he comprehended the significance of his life. He would alter nothing about his life, he said, except the “evil habits” he previously acquired.

As Tolstoy in his third and fourth periods, I am reborn in spirit, living a pious life, a life of vision for a just future for Gidaland, my main regret being my erstwhile evil deeds. I have mentally relinquished my despotic ways, my jungle mentality. My life is laid bare before me, its importance clear to me. I now know how I must live and what I must do henceforth. (My transformation is yet to manifest in concrete political action to transform Gidaland. But it soon will!).

Okri’s literature should be in the library of anyone who cares about the wellbeing of human beings. He engages in a passionate prayer for Truth, for Justice, for Knowledge, for Love, for brotherly love in the world, for human survival at this troubled juncture in human existence. His essay, While The World Sleeps speaks directly to my heart. I am like the character in that essay awoken from sleep as if by “Rilke’s armies of reality”, “woken by a nameless yearning, a feeling which if followed to its naked conclusion could change [his] life” […], but who “[…] avoided a self-confrontation”. Unlike the character, I wholeheartedly engaged in the necessary emotionally painful self-confrontation.

Lately, I often feel sad it took this long for my self-transformation to occur. Perhaps it was meant to be so. What is not at all sad is this: I am now truly alive for the first time in my life. The adage, an unexamined life is not worth living is one of the seemingly simple but profound thoughts there is. That I am a transformed man I cannot repeat enough. Devotion to the moral, to Truth, to Justice, to Knowledge, to Love, to brotherly love all these have become my sole concern at this point in my life. I feel I have redeemed my life now that I am exercising my newfound conscience. I feel light, as the gravity of my life up to now has been lifted off my being. I am enjoying a wellness of being, a lightning of the spirit. I feel good about myself. My spirit is enlivened. It is the first time in my life that I feel fulfilled. And, these days I am almost driven to lunacy when I think about the senseless executions, jailing and harassments that philosophic men have suffered under my leadership. So regretful I am now. Whereas we should celebrate and utilize the best of their ideas for the development of Gidaland, for the wellbeing of our people, we plot and wrongly convict them of crimes. We hang them, we shoot them, we poison them, we bomb them, we jail them . . . If only I had been and thought the way I do now, no doubt I would have ruled justly and strived to help Gidaland realize its God-given potentials. I would have labored to revolutionize its jungle existence, create a truly civil society where our people can endeavor to realize their God-given potential. So, my self-imposed task for the rest of my life is to steadfastly struggle to institute in Gidaland a society grounded on morality, justice and freedom for all our people, both in principle and practice. If need be, I will die struggling to realize it!

Everything I have written about Gidaland regarding its jungle existence, and how we, its political leaders, treat it as a for-profit entity; how we unjustly persecute and silence our philosophic men, is not limited to Gidaland. You must comprehend that Gidaland is a prototype of all of African countries; a particular case that accurately depicts the woeful situation of Africa today. No wonder we, political leaders in Africa, live lavishly while the majority of our people languish in poverty. No wonder many of our people have emigrated, scattered all over the world, human seeds seeking fertile lands, while those who remain are starved body and spirit. Our inculcation of fear has systematically undermined their spirit. (But that will soon change!) They have resorted to using churches and mosques as spiritual refuge from their miserable daily lives . . . As I have in disguise done many times, wander our streets, go to our marketplaces, you will see them, our people. Their lackluster eyes looking about nervously, staring into space, their cheeks sunken; cheekbones overly emphasized. Fear and hunger have achieved what we want of them: to be politically irrelevant masses. Too weak to agitate for social change, too weak to think deeply and lacking vision, totally preoccupied with eking out their meager living, perpetually improvising to make up for all sorts of deficiencies in their material needs, they have become dormant, virtually non-existing members of our society. They have become wasted human resources, potential harbinger of our society’s transformation whose energy is being sapped. What devilish objective intellectual, material and spiritual deprivation cannot achieve. What devilish objective the inculcation of fear cannot achieve? Such devilish injustice . . . You should see me now, fuming with such heated rage not even cognac can placate . . .

Ah! . . .enough said.

In this essay I have discussed the agonizing human condition in Gidaland, a prototype of all of African countries. I have argued that intellectuals all over the world—betraying their misguided, simplistic understanding of world affairs—have grossly misunderstood its cause. Their simplistic interpretation of Gidaland’s plight, of Africa’s plight, has resulted in their espousing erroneous recommendations and policies for transforming it. I have, therefore, argued for a mature understanding of it, which should be a philosophical one, as that would most enable a comprehension of it. That is what I have attempted in this essay. It is my hope it will spur further thought and critical debates.

If when you finish reading this essay you deem it nonsensical, naïve, abstract or idealistic, that would reveal a lack of knowledge of human beings and their existence, an inability to think about human beings in a fundamental way. The questions I would then ask of you are these: What essentially is a human being? How essentially is a society created? What makes a society endure? If you thoroughly engage these fundamental questions, you will begin to appreciate the basis of my thought, the central idea pulsing in this essay.

I would like to conclude with this statement:
I say this to thinking persons all over the world: the age of innocence, ignorance and apathy is over. You must strive to expose the lies of History. The time has long been overdue you realize Gidaland today, Africa today, is a jungle brought into being by her historical experience: the agonizing drama of her existence since she was “discovered” by the outside world. I appeal to you all to be profound in your thinking; to be mindful of not letting your God-given ability for reasoning be influenced by conventional thoughts; to not give credence to popular thoughts and modes of thinking; to be brave and leave no stone unturned as you labor to uncover the deeply hidden truth about Existence. I appeal to you all to not be conventional thinkers whose thoughts are hastily baked and charmingly served on the plate of conventional popular opinions.

And I say this to leaders all over the world—whether military or civilian; whether out-rightly despotic or under the guise of “democracy”: We are deluding ourselves if we think our domination of Man’s life is cemented. The resiliency that characterizes the human spirit will frustrate our demonic ambition; its elasticity is infinitely extendable and will triumph in the end. Tomorrow is always to come. And with the coming of tomorrow comes hope. Man is mortal; Hope is not.

And I say this to leaders in Africa specifically: Enough! Enough! Enough! It is time we dissent. We know Africa is on the violent stage of History, on which is unfolding a bloody drama of Existence. We know we are principal actors in its continuation. We must bravely struggle to stop it. Yes, it is a daunting task but we must bravely confront it. We must effect Africa’s emancipation, progress and glory.

After much deliberation, this is what I know: The Salvational work will have to start in thought on Existence, leading to this knowledge:

A people is the indigenous Story it tells itself about Existence; its indigenous worldview is that Story.

A people’s indigenous worldview is a psychological armor enabling it to engage Existence.

A people’s indigenous worldview is the cultural wellspring out of which it derives, and which informs, influences and orders, its way of life.

A people’s indigenous worldview and way of life is to it what the root is to the tree: a lifeline. Africans became a tree without its root when their indigenous worldviews and ways of life were supplanted. We all know what happens to a tree sapped of nutrients from its root.

When a people’s indigenous worldview is supplanted what ultimately results is that its indigenous way of life (Everything) falls apart, its society becomes a jungle.

The sure way out of the jungle is to first comprehend it is a jungle, then strive to comprehend how and why it came into being, and comprehend a new worldview is needed, but be mindful that the new worldview must necessarily take into account the old worldview, and make meaningful the ongoing suffering of the majority of our people.

Our philosophic persons—poets, novelists, essayist, playwrights, musicians, painters, sculptors—are, collectively, our Storytellers, our “Mythmakers”, our Keepers of the Flame warming our hearts, reminding us of what must not be forgotten: Justice, Freedom, Character, Equality, Togetherness, Unity, Progress, Knowledge, Love, brotherly love . . . They are indispensable to the Cultural Rebirth we so crucially need, which is what I have referred to as the Salvational work needed. It is they who are most receptive to Thought, which they strive, often under daunting circumstances, to convey to us in their work.

We have long been looking elsewhere, running helter-skelter seeking salvation from our problems. I assure you we need not do this because the Salvation we seek elsewhere is right here at home. (I recall this Yorùbá proverb: Ohun tí à nwá ní Sókótó wà ní àpò sòkòtò —What we are seeking in a far away land is all along in our pockets.) It is not surprising we are looking elsewhere for Salvation. As Okri writes in his essay, Redreaming The World:

“The oppressed […] often think of their victors as their standard of aspiration. Lack of historical confidence leads them into this bifurcation of thinking. They have not as a people learnt how to snatch historical confidence from the most unlikely places, from the fact that they are still here on this planet, inhabiting some sort of space, that they often survived slavery and all manner of outrages, drought, famine, dictatorships, bad governments, bitter wars, mass imprisonments and other permutations of human viciousness […].”

We must comprehend our Salvation is right here at home. Yes, the Salvational work is a daunting task. But undertake it we must! We must be brave, and strive to achieve it. And to be surely prepared for it we need to realize this is requisite: we ourselves, each and every one of us, need to effect self-transformation, a spiritual rebirth. Without such a rebirth we will remain deaf to the Message of our philosophic persons; we will remain oblivious to our role in perpetuating our jungle existence, the devilish role we play in allowing others to divide, conquer and rule us and use us to dominate our people, our resources; we will continue to lack vision. Without vision there is no true emancipation and progress. I pray we not perish for lack of vision. That I achieve such a rebirth is testament that all can do it too.

Viva philosophic persons everywhere!

Viva Hope!

Viva Africa!

I rest my case. And I thank you so much for reading my thoughts.

General Jéjélayé

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1 comment

akintonde July 25, 2006 - 7:13 pm

the article speaks directly to some issues in my life.


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