FEATURE: Aregbesola, Awoist And Awoism

Who is an Awoist? Perhaps we should first attempt a definition of Awoism before we know who an Awoist truly is. Awoism is the totality of the doctrines of Chief Obafemi Awolowo in thought, words and deeds. The philosophical foundation of Awoism is the doctrine of mental magnitude. This doctrine has its root in Plato’s philosophy: epistemology and metaphysics, and especially his philosophy of mind, otherwise known as mind-body dualism. For Plato, the body should be made subservient to the mind because the latter is superior to the former.
While the mind is the seat of knowledge and intellect, the body is the seat of appetite or desire. Because Awo sees man as an instrument of change – social, economic, scientific and technological – man must undergo a training of the mind through education. Although the body is subordinate to the mind, it must be taken care of through medicare. Hence, education and healthcare are essential parts of his cardinal principles. Both of them go together, but with the mind as superior to the body.

For Awo, man should be ruled by reason (mind) instead of appetite or desire (body). A man ruled by his appetite or desire would normally engage in corrupt practices and other vices that are occasioned by human appetite or desire that can only be curtailed by the mind or the intellect. Awo listed many of these “negative emotions” as graft, embezzlement, greed, gangsterism, etc. as “obtaining in Nigeria, my land of birth”. That is why, in his discussion on the Regime of Mental Magnitude, Awo comes out with a statement of a mortification of the highest order. He writes: “In plain language, the regime of mental magnitude is cultivated when we are sexually continent, abstemious in food, abstain from alcoholic beverage and tobacco, and completely vanquish the emotion of greed and fear.” In essence, the cultivation of the regime of mental magnitude is part of Awoism which an Awoist must possess.

On my part, I have always maintained that this requirement of Awolowo is very hard to come by for, as I see it, there are only three people who fulfilled this stoic requirement in a fell-swoop. They are Plato, Mahatma Ghandi and Awolowo himself. I do not know of any person who can be called an Awoist in this stoic sense. If we take this as Awoist in the strong sense, we can at least find an approximation to an Awoist in the weaker sense. This is precisely where Rauf Aregbesola comes in as a man whom the cap fits naturally. Of course, there may be others, but they are likely to be those whose heads had been carved to fit an ideal cap, which is not natural. I believe it is generally known that Aregbe is sexually continent, abstemious in food, abstaining from alcoholic beverage and tobacco, and may be said to vanquish, if not completely, the emotion of greed and fear. I, like many other admirers of Awo, cannot claim to have passed this stoic test to be called an Awoist in the true sense of the word.

That Aregbesola has passed this Awoist test with high grade is by no means a mean feat that puts him nearer to Plato, Mahatma Ghandi and Awolowo than many of us in this regard. I think I should disarm any criticism by making it clear that my assessment was based on empirical evidence that is open to everybody to verify. Congratulations, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, for it has been confirmed that you actually were sexually continent even before your marriage till today, and you neither smoke nor drink alcohol like the famous Gulder which many of us patronise. These certainly are notable areas where many of us who want to be called Awoists, including the present writer, have not made it, as “Baba Kekere” has done, most creditably.

Merely wearing a cap which looks like the one Awo used to wear, or his spectacles (both in imitation of his mentor, Mahatma Ghandi), does not make one an Awoist or a Ghandist. We are not even sure whether to also call it Ghandi or Nehru cap or both! By my reckoning, Awolowo had put away the cap called “Awo cap” after his death. Notice that he did not start wearing that cap as a leader of the Action Group or the Premier of Western Region. Along the way, he fell in love with Mahatma Ghandi’s style of dressing and found the cap easy to fix on his head without necessarily looking at the mirror. It was also part of Ghandi’s simplicity, like the spectacles. In my dream which led me to do his wish by serialising my last conversation with him in The Nation newspapers, and later published by Evans Brothers (Nigeria Publishers) Ltd in 2010, I saw Awolowo not wearing the Awo cap but a conventional, multicoloured Yoruba cap over an immaculate white agbada. Neither did he put on the simple Ghandi-like spectacles he used to wear when he was alive. Aregbe neither wears an Awo cap nor Awo spectacles which have nothing to do with the human nature. He simply embraced the spirit and doctrine of Awoism to the letter without the extraneous cap or spectacles.

On the issue of self discipline, Awolowo had this much to say. “Men of affairs and wisdom everywhere are unanimous in the view that only those who are masters of themselves become masters of others. Indeed Aristotle has said it, with the authority of one of the greatest and wisest men that ever lived. ‘Let him that would move the world first move himself’”. The fact of the case is that, for any person to be able to discipline others, he himself must first be self-disciplined. All the corruption going on in the country, especially at the national level, is a product of a violation of Awolowo’s idea of discipline. A leader is not likely to be at a vantage position to discipline his lieutenants on charges of corruption if he is corrupt himself. In this case, Awolowo has sold the idea of self-discipline to our leaders if they must not be afraid to discipline corrupt officials under them unless, of course, they are themselves corrupt, in which case corruption will continue to spread and flourish in the absence of self disciplined leaders. A report has it that, from his ascetic way of life, Aregbesola is difficult to convince when it comes to free spending or corrupt tendency. What he does not do you just can’t do it, and this has led to accountability and transparency in his government about which his lieutenants are happy because they are not greedy and so are ready to make some sacrifice for an Omoluwabi in an Omoluwabi state. Self-discipline is the magic by which Aregbe functions as executive governor of his state.

Awolowo has said about God and Religion: “The touchtone of what is good, be it thought, or word or action, is LOVE. We are to love our neighbours as ourselves. Anything therefore-any thought or word or action-which falls short of LOVE is evil, and holds within itself the germ of its own eventual and inevitable destruction.” Awolowo’s idea of “spiritual depth” involves the notion of God from whom love ultimately flows. Since he has argued that man is made in the image of God, so must our love satisfy that of the Biblical injunction, “Love your neighbour as thyself”, or the Golden rule, “Do unto others as you wish them do unto you”. It was therefore not a surprise that Awo was the first politician to establish a Muslim Pilgrims’ Welfare Board in Nigeria, although he was a Christian. Awo’s action was a good example of religious tolerance. Thus we see Aregbesola’s position on religion in the State of Osun as a follow-up to Awo’s stand on religious tolerance where Christians and Muslims would live together in peace and harmony under the religious injunction “Love thy neighbour as thyself”.

On education, Awolowo writes: “The cardinal aim of education is not, as is popularly but narrowly conceived, to teach a man to read and write, to acquire a profession, to master a vocation, or to be versed in the liberal arts. All these are only means to the end of education which is to help a man to live a full, happy and triumphant life.” Now, people have talked about Aregbesola’s revolution and re-organisation in Osun’s educational system. One of the most recent is the introduction of Opon imo and what, in the like of the American philosopher of education, John Dewey, we may call education “learning by doing” – all of which is to help people to acquire theoretical and practical knowledge in order to live fulfilled, happy and triumphant lives. I am aware that Aregbesola is contemplating a proclamation about technological revolution in Osun, in the manner of the wisdom and foresight of the Emperor of Japan in 1870 in a proclamation and oath taken by him which said that knowledge must be sought and acquired “from any source with all means at our disposal”, an oath that led to Japan’s technological revolution in the areas of automobile and electronic technologies now far ahead those of USA and Germany. Hence, Aregbe’s philosophy of education as learning by doing, and acquisition of high technologies by any means as well as by scientific intelligence are worthy of praise.

Awolowo was seen as a workaholic politician and statesman. This was demonstrated in one of his writings: “I have never regarded myself as having a monopoly of wisdom. The trouble is that when most people in public life and in the position of leadership and rulership are spending whole days and nights in clubs or in the company of men of shady character and women of easy virtue I, like a few others, am always at my post working hard at the country’s problems and trying to find solutions to them. ONLY THE DEEP CAN CALL TO THE DEEP”. Those close to Aregbesola know him well as a man not given to night clubs or found in the company of “women of easy virtues”, but always in his office, days and nights, trying to find solutions to the problems of his state. His appointees find it tough to cope with his work habit, stretching from morning to about 3 a.m the following day. One does not know where he got his energy from to serve his state ferociously as he does. The interesting thing is that he seems to be enjoying it all.

Surely, if there is any politician who may be seen as an Awo incarnate in his Philosophy, Ideology and art of Good Governance, it is Aregbesola whose First Lady is hardly visible. Grown and properly brought up in the politics of the Action Group in those days by a father who was one of the greatest disciples of Awo in Ikare in Akokoland, Aregbesola did not disappoint his father who must be very proud of him wherever he is now. Rather, he surpassed his father in love and passion for the immortal Awo who was a mentor to both father and son. He has even taken a step further by immortalising his mentor and that of his father by founding the Awolowo Centre for Philosophy, Ideology and Good Governance in his (Awo’s) image, and most certainly for posterity.

I cannot end this piece without mentioning the recent commendation on Aregbesola for “sterling performance” from a powerful source – the Sultan of Sokoto – who said, “Aregbesola has been performing commendably well in the past three years”. The Sultan who said he had visited Osun four times said he was elated by what he saw on ground, expressing his willingness to visit the state again. He told members of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum who paid him a courtesy visit in his palace, “My brother, Rauf Aregbesola, is here with all of you. I was in Osogbo, his state capital, sometime this year. I think I have visited his state four times and I am willing to visit again. There is no doubt he is doing wonderfully well” (The Nation, Sunday, Nov 17, 2013, p.9). I hope the spirit of Awolowo and Awoism, otherwise known as Democratic Socialism, may long endure in the State of Osun even after Aregbesola might have left the scene.

Congratulations, on the third year of your meritorious administration in the Omoluwabi State.

– Makinde, a Professor of Philosophy, is the DG/CEO, Awolowo Centre for Philosophy, Ideology and Good Governance, Osogbo