Ooni’s lesson of catching them young


Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi

UNLIKE what is going on in the slow business of forming the Federal Executive Council so far characterized by a preponderance of the older generation and the have-been, the kingmakers at Ile-Ife, Osun state, offered some lessons on how not to catch them old. For President Muhammadu Buhari who appears not to believe that the young shall grow, this must be a time to learn from both the Ooni-elect and the Ife chiefs who have said nay to palace gerontocracy.

At 40, Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi comes in as a pulsating challenge to prevalent political notions of old age and experience as exclusive prerequisites for salutary performance in office or industry. To be sure, these “virtues” count. But they are not final or absolute. We must only reckon with them as some of the skills required in a successful team. The issue of governing or organizing society isn’t all about the age of a sage. It is also greatly about energizing an enterprise which only the radiance and bubble of young age can do. Both are required for balance or equilibrium.

When Ogunwusi’s predecessor Oba Okunade Sijuwade was brought in in 1980 as the 50th Ooni at 50, pundits said it was not too prudent, given the dominance of the political climate by the men and women who held sway in the 50s and 60s.

Sijuwade wasn’t quite a ‘kindred spirit’. But he had vast business links that accommodated politicians and the government machinery for patronage. He was therefore accepted as one of them. This explains why in his 35 year rule that witnessed the rise and fall of several civilian and military governments, Sijuwade’s industrial clusters across the country never shrank. They maintained a dynamic expansion, the same way the monarch sustained seamless relationships with influential traditional rulers in the far north and east of the Niger before his death at 85 in 2015.

The incoming Ogunwusi hasn’t followed a similar trajectory. Unlike the old ones who would stop developing once in the palace, Ogunwusi would grow in the saddle; he would age with experience in “office”. He would ride on a horse with two lives: one slow and observing; the other jetting with speed and gathering momentum. Ogunwusi has spoken of a transcendental future, an age that he says should be the next level for the Yoruba race and for the youth of Nigeria. He is breaking out of the cocoon of palace mentality. He has taken Ile-Ife as the station to launch a global vision. Age is on his side to midwife his goals.

Let us stop the present from aborting our future prosperity. An English philosopher Francis Bacon (1561-1626) put this role of the youth in society this way: “Young men (and women) are fitter to invent than to judge, fitter for execution than for counsel and fitter for new projects than for settled business.”
• Ojewale is a writer and journalist at Ota, Ogun State

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