BKANMI ADEMILUYI argues in an article first published in the website Obirikiti (circle) that a guiding principle which was so transformative should not become a vacuous shibboleth or electioneering slogan.
It is rather unfortunate that the administrative intervention of Chief Obafemi Awolowo or has it has come to be referred to – “Awoism” has become a vacuous electioneering slogan rather than a coherent political philosophy. It will be of use if Awoism can be codified as well as modernised in the way that the British politician RHS Crossman did with the work of the philosopher of ancient Greece Plato, in his seminal work “Plato Today “. Crossman reintroduced Plato to a new generation and made him relevant to the modern world.
“Awoism “ is clearly problematic today and for an obvious reason. Awolowo was a social democrat, who was very deeply shaped by the progressive current of the nineteen – forties very much like the other African nationalists of that era. In his own case as the leader of government business and later premier of the western region he used the opportunity to merge theory with practice.
Apart from the Osun State governor Rauf Aregbesola none of the so called Awoists has actually in thought and deed really held up the banner of Awoism as a political philosophy rooted in social democracy. Awoism should have enjoyed a renaissance during the debates on the Structural Adjustment Program [SAP], sadly, this historic opportunity was missed and it did not. The Awoists gave no response at all, let alone even a tepid one. The fight against SAP was relinquished to other forces.
The price paid has been devastating on the political economy of the Southwest. With SAP came the reversal of critical gains made in education and access to healthcare. The de-industrialisation in the region was pronounced. The great industrial estates built on the framework of a harsh taxation regime in the region became the abode of “places of worship “. The whole point which was to use the industrial estates as the trajectories for industrial development, backward integration, employment generation and sustainable development is gone. Equally painful is that the development finance companies have been dismantled due to the “Soludo reforms “. This is catastrophic, for the region needs long term development finance. Awolowo himself was acutely aware of the painfully obvious stultification of the development process of the Anglo -Saxon banking model with its debilitating short termism. This model clearly could not provide the long term financing so vitally needed to evolve a self sustaining economic base.
For this reason, Awolowo created the Cooperative Bank in 1953. The Cooperative Bank was key in creating a lower middle class, a strata that used to be known as a petite- bourgeoisie. It gave the Yoruba a head start in the distributive trade, small scale and light industries. For the higher end more capital intensive ventures, Awolowo created The Western Nigeria Finance Corporation, The Western Nigeria Development Corporation etc. If the Malaysian visiting delegations were astonished that Yoruba’s owned Breweries, heavy industries and food processing plants in the late fifties and the early sixties, it is due to the efficacy of the development finance institutions. We have to recreate all of this again. For the issue of the structure, the efficacy of capital as well as its deployment remains a critical issue in the quest for sustainable development,. Yes we can!
A new form of Awoism, will, like Awolowo did, look at options such as the German “social market” economic model founded on tripartite cooperation between government, business and trade unions. This is the basis for Germany being the strongest industrial economy in Europe. In addition, it is in tune with our using consensus building rather than adversarial means. Also of interest should be the Dutch farmers’ cooperative formula. Today the Netherlands has just 200,000 farmers organized in cooperatives exporting $110 billion worth of agro industrials a year. This again fits in with our cultural affinity. We must examine the models that fascinated Awolowo and which he adapted for positive development. Fundamentally, the emphasis on human capital development, as well as the emphasis on Social Capital as the most enduring form of developmental capital must be reignited.
The people of the southwest have been played a bad card. As the struggle for the reenactment of a real federal state intensifies, Awoism as a political philosophy must be brought back. Not as vacuous sloganeering but as a tool to achieving sustainable development based on real capital formation which is fundamentally necessary to achieve a fairer and more just society as well as “ life more abundant”. Awoism must be the framework for a system of social and economic relationships which is for the benefit of the overwhelming majority and not as his prevalent today, for a few.