‘’The roundedness in roundtables are others inviting.’’
By Jimanze Ego-Alowes
WED, MAY 22 2019-theG&BJournal-Many writers have taken on the charitable work of advising the incoming governors on how to run their states. Well, that is the spirit of it. Democracy demands that citizens participate in the governances of their states. And that participation need not end with voting. Citizens must keep an eye on the proclivity of men of power to derail the common good, often as driven by their ego. Above all citizens must help the governors set the agenda. And when it is feasible, citizens must make technical contributions on how to drive the state into progress. No one man, least of all, the man of power, knows it all. But pretending he knows it all is the ever present danger of possessing public power.
Too often, the possessors of public power, the governors, presidents and even mayors, take it that they are a genus apart. They are not. And this is especially important for Emeka Ihedioha, the new man elected to run Imo. Ihedioha has beaten Rochas Okorocha and his connections, including the infamous in-laws, to clinch the seat. The fact of it is this. Okorocha is a poster boy of a guy who thinks he is specially gifted. In fact Okorocha takes it he is a genius.
Well, given Okorocha’s background or lack of it, especially in matters of knowhow and knowledge, one can empathize with him. A man, an Okorocha or whoever else, cannot give what he lacks. Someone asked, is that the story of Okorocha? And I advised we leave that to historians.
Anyway, here is the danger for Ihedioha. Those who helped Okorocha to consolidate the delusion that he is special being, are still around and about in Owerri. And Owerri here stands for the bureaucratic game makers, political fixers, and the so called traditional institutions, etc. It is these persons that Ihedioha needs to watch out for from day one.
And the best way to do this is to take Okorocha as a arch-model. That is as a definitive guide of what not to do and how not to do things. Perhaps it is indicated that a caricatured statue of Okorocha, perhaps donning a dunce’s cap, be made. In the China of Chairman Mao, such caricatures were routinely done, if only to help sanitize political morality.
Anyway, the signs are that Ihedioha is opening up. And this is against the backdrop of Okorocha’s infamous closing in. For instance where Okorocha ran Imo like only his family and connections mattered, Ihedioha is calling up an Imo-wide committee to help guide his strategy of governance. Though this should have been made earlier, pre-election, but it is better late than never.
The important point is that he is opening to ideas other than his. That is all governance comes to. Best practice administrations all over the world run and are run along those lines. And it starts with the humility of the greatest of leaders to come to grips with a simple fact. It is that no one man is created to be both leader and thinker. In other words, no man can be both Buddha and Caesar. If he tried, he ends up a Caligula, he ends up an Okorocha.
The Greeks term the greed to be Buddha and Caesar, hubris. For the Igbo the word is, eze onye agwalam. History shows that the rite or concept of hubris or eze onye agwalam, has never served any man well. Records are full of every single eze onye agwalam ending up ruining his own funeral. How? It is that at the hour of his death, eze onye agwalam begins to ask belatedly, where did I get it wrong. Can one in honesty not conjecture, that Okorocha is asking himself such questions?
To summarize, the best governors are those who like the legendary King Arthur govern from roundtables and not thrones. The roundedness in roundtables are others inviting. The forbiddingness of thrones, are others excluding. That is all I have to say for now.
The book is a kingdom of power
‘’Here is the point of it all. In the end Okonkwo threw the Agbalinze the cat.’’
Plus or minus, man has not invented any greater act than the book. So to do the book to do a book is the single greatest act of man. In fact it might be safe to say that the nations that have produced the finest books have been the dominant powers of the world. In other words, that America and the rest of the West rule the world, is not because they are white. They do because they have produced the most generative books.
But there is a caveat. Books are not just bounded papers bearing inscriptions. Books in the sense that they have historical or civilizational import are first and above all vehicles for ideas. So, if a book is not bearing and propagating new ideas, it is merely a book, that is in the nominal sense.
The fact of this is perhaps what makes CORA one of the greatest cultural institutions in Nigeria today. Cora or Committee for Relevant Art, is a nonprofit initiative. Its core mission is the propagation of ideas that are made in Nigerian, but are universal in import. Cora, is the idea of two of the greatest men of this age, Jahman Anikulapo and Toyin Akinosho.
Yes, you may never have heard of them, but that is the very point. Nietzsche, influential German theorist was just on point. He says: “It is the stillest words that bring on the storm. Thoughts that come on doves’ feet guide the world.”
For 22 long years these duo has walked noiselessly on dove’s feet pushing the frontiers of new thinking, new knowledge. And they do so by helping others bring their intellectual wares to the public square. They do so by stowing away in the backgrounds. What self-sacrificing humility?
And yours truly, costs was their guest at a book reading. It was so well put together that it will be the understand statement of the year to say that it went off famously. Faced with an overflowing audience I was lost for words. But even more interesting is that ”strangers”, book lovers like Kehinde Olafiranye, flew in from Port Harcourt just to jam ideas with us. And Barrister Tade Ipadeola, Ibadan based NLNG award winning poet, dared the terrible traffic and came in from Ibadan. He is threatening to invite me to give speeches at that great university town.
And the Lagos home team wouldn’t want to be disgraced at their own game. Led by one of the greatest men of our times, a philanthropist without compare, a business mogul when such epithets had meaning, scholar, publisher and thinker, Odunu eje Ogu of Abor, Alhaji Abdullazzi Ude was there for us. So also was the firebrand polemicist and former personal secretary to Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Odia Ofeimum. How dare I miss out on the head of my family meeting in Lagos? Okezie Ndubuisi came with his lovely wife, as did Fidel Anujuo, entrepreneur par excellence. And Mrs Ada Akapbio came both in her capacity and as a representative of her husband who was faraway in one of the South-South states. Of course Ogbueshi Charles Ike-Okoh, publisher and scholar flattered us with his presence. And don’t discount the power of Facebook. A good number came via our social media contacts. International book personality Olatoun Williams was there, so also were the Orjiakor brothers. And my cousin and ace banker, Ugo Motto, alongside Barrister Mike Allison-Ikwuagwu brought their traditional gaiety to the business of the day. Of course there is no way we can do justice listing all the names. All that came or couldn’t were just as important and we thank them.
And now the meat of the show. It was one book reading like no other. With professors, diplomats, Nollywood veterans, lawyers etc. in the faculty, we bubbled like the storms, intellectual storms. And the ride was so famously successful that many were asking for repeat sessions. That must be left open to the generosity of Cora. It cost a penny and more to fix these things. And these men have sacrificially done it for the good of Nigerian books and ideas ecosystem. I call on the rich and mighty to give them whatever helping hand, financially or otherwise that they can give.
A nation without a vibrant books and ideas industry and community is like a beached whale. It will soon lose breath and perish. So, all Cora is doing is to make sure that the Nigerian bookish whale is forever in the bluest of oceans. They need our help.
Here is the point of it all. In the end Okonkwo threw the Agbalinze the cat. Everybody, ok, nearly everybody, went home buying into our new idea. That was the real beauty. Nigeria is richer for it. Fidel Anujuo, perhaps puts it better. In his words, ”many thanks [Jimanze] for eliciting disruptive thinking through your works… that can provide solutions to our myriad of challenges in governance.”
Jimanze Ego-Alowes (PhD) is Author and public commentator