LOUD WHISPERS: A Time to Reset

I thank the leadership of Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) Ekiti State chapter for their kind invitation to give this lecture. I am particularly pleased that I have been asked to talk about Reclaiming our Land, Restoring our Values: Beyond Slogans’. All over the country today, online and offline, there are conversations going on about the decline in our values as a nation. The summary of all these intense conversations is that we have become a people quite comfortable with compromising integrity, character, service, sacrifice and a good name. Virtually every institution that affects our lives has been compromised, leaving the poor and vulnerable at the mercy of the powerful, and those who are supposed to serve as protectors have become the worst predators.  We live in times when desperate people are making desperately poor choices, often due to circumstances beyond their control.

 

I met John Kayode Fayemi (JKF) in graduate school at University of Ife in 1986 and we got married three years later in London. The things that I found attractive about him all those years ago are the same things that make him an extra special person today. He has a relentless, often brutal, work ethic.  He has a mind that works like a clock, he is focused and disciplined, and his thirst for knowledge is insatiable. I knew, all those years ago, as I still do now, that people like him are very rare, and if given the opportunity, they make the most amazing leaders. I however learnt that it is not easy for people with a certain set of core values to get into leadership spaces. The first inkling I had that all was not well with our value system was in 2005 when JKF first made an appearance on the political scene in Ekiti State. His hefty CV had been printed in the form of a pamphlet by his proud handlers and circulated to opinion leaders in the State. One of them, a PhD holder, read through the CV carefully. After reading through, he said, ‘This sounds like a very impressive young man. However, why do you want to bring him to be Governor of Ekiti? He should go and run for President and leave us here. We will not be able to manipulate this one, he is too smart and has seen too much of the world. Why don’t you go and pick Chief XYZ, he is not that bright, we can work with him.’

In the aftermath of the June 2014 elections, a number of narratives emerged about the reasons why JKF lost, most of them tainted with distortions and outright lies. As Governor, JKF woke up at 6am and started his day at 7am, receiving people in the lodge before leaving for the office. At 12 midnight, I would place a call to him, which was the signal to start winding down. He would be back home at 1-2am in the morning and the cycle would repeat itself. Many times, if I had something important to talk about, I would write the points down and reel them off to him while he took his shower. This man was replaced by a system with a totally different set of values, grounded in deceit and demagoguery. In the soul searching that followed, it dawned on concerned people that it was not JKF who lost, it was our State that was the real loser and central to this was the evaporation of values.

Professor Niyi Osundare, the famous Poet and Public Intellectual, spoke extensively about the Ekiti experience in his JKF Inauguration Lecture on October 15th 2018, ‘Still, in defence of lasting values’. In his charge to the new Governor, Professor Osundare said, ‘You have an impoverished populace to empower; a swarm of jobless youths to engage; rundown education system to fix; the people’s psychological clock to reset’.

We all have to reset the clock together. There are plans to address this agenda through partnerships with schools, parents, religious leaders, traditional rulers, old and new media, popular culture practitioners, women’s networks, youth groups and other relevant stakeholders. Governor Fayemi is also planning to set up a Values Academy in Ekiti.

These are some ideas I have for us to think about:

  1. IT IS TIME FOR OMOLUWABI 2.0.

A good friend of mine, Wale Ajadi, a scholar, activist and development practitioner published a book in 2012 called ‘Omoluwabi 2.0: A code of transformation in 21st century Nigeria’. Wale’s analysis of the concept of Omoluwabi takes it out of the realm of a solitary, simplistic definition of the Yoruba Omoluwabi as a ‘gentleman/woman’ or ‘good person’ (Omoluwabi 1.0) and elevates it to the status of a full- fledged alternative African leadership paradigm.

An ‘Omoluwabi 2.0’ is someone who is able to make use of a range of tools which enable the individual to function at full capacity on all fronts – emotionally, spiritually, physically, mentally and professionally. Some of  the tools are as follows; a) Embrace Positive change (Olaju), b) Engage in Self-mastery (Oju Inu), c) Understand and teach Good Character (Iwalewa) and 4) Build and use Social Capital (Eniyan laso mi). An Omoluwabi 2.0 believes in a world in which women have a voice and presence and the rights of everyone matter. An Omoluwabi 2.0 is also a life-long learner and teacher. We cannot impart values we do not have or understand.

  1. WE NEED TO KNOW AND REMEMBER WHO WE ARE.

We have some of the oldest civilisations on the African continent, yet our languages are dying out. We don’t teach History any more. We are losing community and institutional memory. Most of our symbolic expressions have been hijacked or mediated by Christianity and Islam. For example, many Yoruba people now avoid the rich symbolism of weddings, funerals, festivals or naming ceremonies, because they are written off as fetish practices. We should never romanticize any harmful traditional practices in the new world we want to see, yet there are still many expressions of our culture that are positive but we have perfected the art of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

  1. WE HAVE TO BRIDGE THE INTER-GENERATIONAL GAP

One of the saddest things happening now is the crisis of confidence and mutual disrespect across generations. The older generation believe that young people are lazy, entitled, unimaginative and rude. The younger generation believe that the older generation has failed them and denied them a decent future. Not only do older people not care about creating opportunities for young people to learn and grow, they shamelessly take up positions which ought to go to young people. There are kernels of truth in these competing narratives. We need to have more inter-generational programs and dialogues, this will help minimize tensions and serve as learning spaces for old and young alike. The crisis of leadership, values and governance cannot be solved by one ‘camp’ alone.

  1. WE SHOULD BE SELFLESS AND SELF-FULL

We cannot build healthy communities if we are not willing to serve selflessly and sacrifice when necessary. However, we also need to appreciate the value of caring for ourselves. We have to start recognizing self-care as a core value. Due to the immense pressures that abound around us, and our refusal to take care of ourselves the same way we take care of our material possessions such as our cars and homes, we place our lives at risk. There are so many sudden deaths around us. As if that is not enough, should something happen to us or people we know, there must be someone else to blame. We need to make a distinction between being selfless and self-full.

As I close, I would like to add one more comment about HE Dr. Kayode Fayemi as a leader at this moment in Ekiti’s History. A very important aspect of affirming the social contract between a leader and his/her people is the issue of trust.  Without trust a leader finds himself/herself hamstrung and the people are cast adrift. Dr. Kayode Fayemi is passionate about his people and he will do his best to serve them as he has done before. The trust that Ekiti people placed in him when he set out to help reclaim our land is not misplaced. Together, we will all work hard to restore our lost values.

I would like to thank NUJ once again for inviting me to address this conference. I wish you the very best in all your endeavours.

 

This is an abridged version of a lecture ‘Reclaiming our Land, Restoring our Values: Beyond Slogans’, delivered at the NUJ Ekiti Chapter Press Week, December 14th 2018, Ado-Ekiti.

 

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She is currently the 1st Lady of Ekiti State. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com

 

 

 

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16 Responses to LOUD WHISPERS: A Time to Reset

  1. Olakunle Olajide December 17, 2018 at 8:48 am

    This couldn’t have been said any better. The time to reset is truly here. I believe we can get it right with all that have been pinpointed in this piece. I hope we are able to make this difference.

    Reply
  2. Victor Udoh December 17, 2018 at 1:37 pm

    May we always remember these things when the need arises. May we never be just readers. I pray we act what we read so that the society can be a sane place. Thank you ma, happy new week

    Reply
  3. Latoya Philps December 17, 2018 at 1:46 pm

    I saw a video of you talking about this land is ours. As i watched that video, i got chills allover me. Well done mama.

    Reply
  4. chiamaka December 17, 2018 at 4:34 pm

    Brilliant topics. Sometimes I wonder where good values have disappeared to? I wonder what happened to the times when we valued all these things, the only thing we value now is money and nothing more. May God help us and I hope we start working on this as a people. You are indeed a blessing to this generation ma.

    Reply
  5. shina dideolu December 17, 2018 at 4:36 pm

    God bless you for being a strong pillar. You are indeed a virtuous woman and I am sure this tenure will be wonderful for the people of Ekiti state.

    Reply
  6. Aderibigbe Olajumoke December 18, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    We really need to remember who we are. We lost touch with our culture, lost touch with who we are. We would see kids who cannot even communicate well in their mother tongues, parents who would say they don’t want their kids speaking so that they can speak good english. We have totally forgotten who we are and we must go back to our root.

    Reply
  7. Lious Lious December 18, 2018 at 12:14 pm

    what a wake up call for everyone of us.

    Reply
  8. George December 18, 2018 at 3:36 pm

    We really need to revisit values.

    Reply
  9. Thompson Janet December 19, 2018 at 8:58 am

    These points are amazing points and I am happy that you addressed the press men because they need to help campaign with these points. The press have a lot to do in showcasing our values.

    Reply
  10. Femi Oyetunde December 19, 2018 at 9:19 am

    We should be selfless and self-full. I was hoping this story was going to be about your giant strides but instead, you decided to speak about the values of your husband. You are indeed a woman of virtue, a selfless woman.

    Reply
  11. DSEED December 19, 2018 at 10:57 am

    Well said. God help us to trace back our core values and ensure to live by it.

    Reply
  12. Femi Diipo December 19, 2018 at 11:17 am

    Wonderful and impeccable speech. As a man born and bred in Ekiti, I am filled with so much joy knowing we are in excellent hands. I believe there’s alot to be done but our state will be great again

    Reply
  13. Aderibigbe Olajumoke December 20, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    idera ti de fun wa. I am glad that again we have a sane man on that seat. Again, our women can be see as refined and calculated. Thank you for the gift of your life to our generation.

    Reply
  14. Olumola Gift December 20, 2018 at 3:18 pm

    I can imagine how the faces of the audience will lit up. How they will be very happy to hear those words that would drive them to be better people. Well done mama. Please, don’t forget our Above Whispers hangout o.

    Reply
  15. Dom Dom December 21, 2018 at 7:25 pm

    I imagine been part of the audience getting these wonderful tips directly from you. You’re such an incredible leader and orator ma’am

    Reply
  16. Eric Onuoha December 26, 2018 at 11:01 am

    Lots of lessons to learn. We need to get our priorities right and establish values that will move us in the right direction

    Reply

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