The news of the death of Goke Omisore (‘Arole’) has left a lot of people who knew him, utterly devastated.
He never cut the figure of a man who was going to die, for he was so full of life. His was not life just for the sake of life – it was life for a purpose. That purpose, most recently, was to see the Yoruba race, and Nigeria at large, cut free of the physical and mental shackles that held them down, and rise to take their rightful place in the world.
His passion was infectious, and sometimes it even ran ahead of his ability to put his thoughts into words, so that syntax and structure came flying all over the place. He did not have all the answers, and he never made a claim to. What he had was such energy that enabled him to cultivate a diverse array of friends. He corralled together the ‘Voice Of Reason’, for the purpose of deploying all their accumulated knowledge and experience to right the course of human and social development in their homeland. They came early to the conclusion that it could no longer be business as usual, that the Yoruba, and others welded together in the Nigeria project, could not continue to do the same thing over and over, expecting different results, and that the story of nationhood could not simply continue to be an undignified and unfulfilling struggle by different peoples to outdo one another to control an overbearing and overweening ‘centre’. People had to look more to their own local resourcefulness and make it a basis of a new definition and practicalisation of nationhood. It became obvious that, in fact, that definition of nationhood was not ‘new’ at all, and that it was the basis on which the constituent units of the Nigeria project voluntarily gave up part of their independence originally to become a federation. An arrangement that allowed one part of the country, in Ibadan, to institute free education and to build the first television station in Africa, not through ‘Federal might’, but through its local enterprise and leadership vision, was a true federalism that has unfortunately been eroded to the point of virtual extinction by the ‘Unitary’ experience of the past half century. To use the evidence of the recent past to advance the argument from the opposite pole, the masses in those parts of the nation that have been most ‘successful’ in ‘controlling’ ‘Federal might’ have today, by and large, the lowest scores on the Human Development Index. Nobody, but nobody, has been served by ‘federal might’ in the way it is being practised in Nigeria.
The conviction crystallised that a Restructuring of the polity in terms of reverting both the responsibility and resources for development back to the federating units, as close as possible to how they were originally conceived, was the way to go. ‘Restructuring’ became a rallying call for the VOR. It has gone as far as publishing a draft constitution to drive the discussion and provide a detailed picture of to what a restructured nation would look life.
Much of this, of course, was driven by the restless energy of Arole. From meetings sponsored out of pocket, to frantic midnight telephone calls, to WhatsApp discussions that would go on into the small hours – it was as though he was infused with a greater sense of urgency with every passing day.
And so, to you, Arole…
Your project is still a work in progress, dear Arole. But everybody of every political complexion is talking ‘Restructuring’ now, and that is a start. The next stage is to fashion out how to hold people to their words, and how to help society to fashion out a safe passage from where they are to where they want to go. Such a road map covering all areas of life is necessary so that everyone may overcome the fear and mistrust that hold them back, and see that the value the future holds for them.
Why did you take it so PERSONALLY, Arole?
I guess many who knew you can answer that off the cuff.
A true patriot feels his society in his bones. You were – no, I am loath to talk about you in the past tense – you ARE a true patriot. To Yorubaland. To Nigeria.
VOR, and the many you have touched, will go on. Without a shred of doubt our land shall be great and our people fulfilled – someday, despite their present travails. Perhaps it will happen sooner than you ever dared to think.
I pray that God stand with your family, and see them through the agony of your loss.
So – good night, Arole. God speed.