We Need A Constitution Based On Our Roots
Obadiah Oghoerore Alegbe
In 1959, we were living at Opebo house Latana Oshogbo, when my elder sister was ill; I walked alone through the lonely road to C.A.C. Primary school. My father was an Evangelist with The Apostolic Church. We later moved to another house at Oke Fia where my elder sister Grace died and I had to walk alone from Oke Fia to school especially if I left home late and the children at Police Barracks whose home I went to first had left. I remember walking alone on the long road in the misty morning through to the general Hospital en route to school. I knew the road alone without fear of my parents that anything could happen to me. No gbomogbomo carried me. In 1960, I changed to LA school near Oke Fia.
In 1961 my father was transferred to Imodi near Ijebu Ode. I attended St. Mathew School there and because of my high pass marks, the teacher made me the monitor of the class. The fact that I am Urhobo did not prevent the teacher from making me the monitor. I remember the various time I was first position in the weekly test, the teacher gave me more than ten guavas while others had only one. The tribe I belonged to did not affect my being rewarded. One day the teacher asked us to go to a farm after school, I was a stranger nevertheless, I walked into the jungle of Imodi alone deep into the bush in the land of Alagemo until I came to a river where I decided to go back because I did not know how to continue, I walked back alone to the village without seeing anyone and at the gate of the village I saw eegun masquerade surrounded by children while the eegun sang “samona, samana “ the children answered “Baba Mimo samona mi” which means “be my path finder, be my path finder, Holy Father be my path finder”. Today, I knew that The Holy Father was my path finder who turned me back from crossing the river. I was not kidnapped; I did not end in the house of a so-called pastor like that found of recent in Lagos trafficking children. It was unthinkable in 1961 that children could be trafficked.
In 1963, we moved to Erin-Oke after my father resigned for being paid to preach saying “free you were given and free shall you give”. He founded a church where he preached freely in Urhobo to the Urhobo and Isoko that did not understand Yoruba. My father was born of a noble blood, his father with one hundred wives made sure he was not hungered, for this reason he had not known how to farm. So he looked at us his three children and said to himself, I want my children to be educated, so he decided to go into farming to provide for his family, immediately he took that decision, my mother the greatest of all wives supporting him, Ijesha people offered him cocoa farm, and my mother was offered land to plant cassava, between Ijesha, Urhobo, Nupe and Igbo people living at Erin-Oke my father was taught how to handle cutlass and farm cocoa. Today, we all his children are educated and before my mother and he died, they boasted of a seventeen room house at Oreropke to which I only contributed a thousand dollars for the roof in 1991 when I saw that he was too old to continue to farm. The house still need some touch but it shows how economically independent minded our people are and supports my call that all we need is to give them tools to make their works easier. Ise ni ogungun ise is a Yoruba saying the work is the only remedy to misery. Work is the only remedy against armed robbery. Our politicians must understand through this story that we have well embedded in Nigeria the tradition and customs of the people with the necessary mentality for progress. Importation of political ideologies foreign to Africa is responsible for the suffering of Africans today. The sociology of the Ijesha Kingdom could form a very solid base for designing an Afro-centric constitution for our country with a Federal touch for a Federated Republic of Nigeria. Our African sociology has all we need in foreign and internal affairs. We may only bring in points from outside where we think that our tradition does not provide. The Ijesha example is a sample of every tribe in the whole of Africa. An African Union will only be possible if we base its constitution on African values.
At Erin-Oke, the Urhobo worked mostly producing palm-oil a reason for which they lived in the bush until Saturdays to spend Sundays in the village. Six year old Urhobo child would carry his book at 6:00 a.m. and walked over the mountains, crossing rivers to and from school everyday without fear of being kidnapped. The support that my father received from both natives and strangers at Erin-Oke shows that our people are a progressive people and what we need is leadership that are from within the people.
I will give you another example, in 1966, I went on bike to visit Ijebu Jesha Grammar School to look for letters, when coming back downhill, I lifted my both hands up and lost control of the bike and fell right on top of the bridge fainting few inches away from falling down, Ijesha women washing clothes in the river ran upwards emptying buckets of water over me until I came back to life. Our people reacted to save me not requiring my tribe nor religion. Our politicians of today must know that they have failed. Religious and tribal conflicts are a proof of the failure of our politicians.
At Ijebu Jesha, I had a farm in the bush with my cousin that I lived with who was a student of Ijebu jesha Grammar School; the farm had one hundred cocks and hens. I walked to that bush and back alone without being kidnapped.
Our country was a country of solidarity. You pass through other people’s farms without touching their crops. The better harvest of your neighbour did not cause envy but rather more efforts from you the following year. The first thing that the farmers imported to Kwara State was to make a fence because black people will steal their harvest. The Yoruba says “aitete mole, ole nmoloko”. For delaying in catching the thief, thief catches the owner. Yes! The President just said that only in Nigeria thieves sue, he must begin with one of his governors who imported thieves to mark suspicion on the noble natives of Kwara State. The governor should have educated those pariahs that Nigerians respect their neighbour’s farm and thus they do not need fence. The conduct of those pariahs made them to be kicked away from Zimbabwe; they will not stay long before being kicked away from Nigeria if they do not integrate. Nigerian human rights group should have them under magnifying glass.
Armed robbery can only be halted if every Nigerian participates in the economy with possibility to grow. This can only be achieved if we base our policy on our African traditional values. Under our values, a polygamist was a man who was respected because he worked more. He served more in-laws. He puts his ishan (muscle) at farm; he is a strong man who would tap more than one hundred palm trees a day. At feast he would cloth all his wives and pay hunters for bush pigs for every father in-law. When his in-laws need him even in the midnight, he would go running to answer the call. He washiped his in-laws. When his in-law is sick, he would bring him home and work hard to pay for the herbalist. Look at the polygamists of today in Africa, they are mostly irresponsible. We must go back to our roots with our moral code to build a society that is just.
All the travails and sufferings in Nigeria today are due partly to the fact that we have leaders that are not in touch with the people. A Minister that travels on convoys does not know the reality of life in Nigeria, that is why they are so desperate to keep their jobs that they bribe the police, the senate among others to protect them. A governor that travels around in convoy and lives with 24 hours electric generator does not know the reality that women die at childbirth in the villages at night because no light not even kerosene for lamp. In Argentina, most governors travel alone by commercial flight to Buenos Aires and most times take taxi from the local airport to the Senate or Presidency. We only see convoy of cars here during a visiting head of State or the presentation of Credential by a Foreign Ambassador.
Those elected to office must know that they are bound to serve the people and this can not be done in convoys. The Minister of Agriculture must put on short knickers and visit the farm at Erin-Oke to be informed about the farmers needs. It is wrong for Nigeria to appoint Professors who suppose to be in laboratory as Ministers, it is a waste. The Minister of health must be a Clinical Doctor that can touch a patient with small pox with his finger like any nurse. The Minister of Agriculture must be a man that has carried cocoa bags on his head like me as a child to be able to understand the needs of the farmers. The Oviri Project is based on my youth experience as a farmer and professional experience as an Engineer. The Minister of Industry must be someone who has to do with creativity of solutions and someone acquainted with the industries. The Minister of mines and power must be someone who can put on overall with head gear, thick boots who can go into our steel complex, talk with miners and even move near to the furnace. A professor can never do any of these. NEPA Director General must be someone who can go to the turbines to measure their stability and who can measure the voltage and set a waveform generator to see the quality of electric signal being transmitted out. Till today, Nigeria did not have a single Minister or Director General of NEPA that can guess the total electricity need of Nigeria.
The President has started his campaign against corruption, he must fire all those crooks in NEPA everyone form Assistance Manager up. No NEPA worker no matter his grade must enjoy electricity when the city is in darkness, it must be a crime punishable by imprisonment. Any Nigeria can take NEPA to court and the Area Manager must be respondent and if fined should pay it from his pocket or go to jail to work for the fine.
The Minister and all the workers of The Ministry of health must be banned from going for medical treatment outside Nigeria; they must make Nigerian Medical System functional to the common man and must be treated within the system.
The quota system as operated in Nigeria is an aberration. Basing Minister on State and tribe has made some people think it is their birthrights to be in a position. In fact zoning is anti-democratic. True democracy can never be achieved on zoning neither can it be by affirmative action, it must be by merit and the choice of the people in the ballot box.
I pray to God that our people be guided by Him in the next elections so that we shall have a government of the people from the people by the people to the people.
Obadiah Oghoerore Alegbe