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Peace And Unity: A Challenge To The Youths

 

by Nick Abugu Esq. 1994

Lecture Delivered By Nick Abugu Esq. During The Formal Inauguration Of Olido Association Of Undergraduates And Graduates On 27th December, 1992.

(1) When I received the invitation of this association to deliver a lecture on its formal inauguration today, the first thing that came to my mind was that mistake had been made somewhere because I know and all who know me are aware that I am not a lecturer. I was still contemplating on the appropriate response when I started receiving several additional correspondence and delegations from your association. It was only then that I convinced myself that the invitation was indeed meant for me. Your president takes the credit for putting me aright. However, I still wonder why you asked a man who has, by the infinite Grace of God, since 15th October 1986 been a Solicitor and Advocate, to turn into a lecturer. I wheel safe to assume that you will not complain if I use this forum to practice a little advocacy while lecturing for voluntarily non fit injuria (any person who voluntarily and knowingly assumes a risk should not complain if he suffers any injury or loss or damage legally and actually flowing or reasonably expected to flow from such risk). The above notwithstanding, I find myself unable to resist telling you loud and clear that I feel immeasurably honoured to be considered fit and worthy for the assignment I am here to discharge today. Mr. President please accepts my gratitude on behalf of your association.

 

(2) Sometimes ago a friend in the course of conservation said that a diplomat has three functions: to speak French, to say nothing, and to tell lies. Accordingly, diplomacy means to say and do the nastiest things in the nicest ways. Hence when a dipomat says yes, he means perhaps: when he says perhaps, he means no; and when he says no, he is not a diplomat. I am not a diplomat but I find some of their ways attractive. The topic I have been called upon to deliver a lecture on looks, on the surface, harmless enough. But that is to an outsider who is ignorant of the story of Olido in the last 20 years or so. Everyone here knows I am not an outsider because I am involved like all Olido indigenes and friends. As such, I wonít be averse to employing, when the need arises, a little of the language of diplomacy.

 

(3) In law in Nigeria as at today 27th December 1992, there is no definition of youth. The criminal procedure law 1986 now applicable to Enugu State defines an infant as any person who has not attained the age of 7 years a child as any person who has not attained the age of 14 years, young person as a person who has the age of 14 years but has not attained the age of 17 years and an adult as a person who has attained the age of 17 years or over. The Longman Dictionary of contemporary English defines youth as the period of being young especially the period between being a child and being fully grown young men and women considered as a group. It is virtually impossible to say with precision who is a youth and who is not but I am sure all of us have a certain notion of what youth is in relation to contemporary Olido. Fortunately for us today, we are concerned not with classifying the people of Olido into youths and non-youths but with the role of youths in securing and advancing peace and unity in Olido. Of all the words or expressions connected with youth, the ones I find most inspiring for our immediate purposes are freshness, budding, burgeoning and blooming. I owe these to Betty Kirkpatrick the editor of the Authorised Rogetís the saurus of English words and phrases. These words clearly point to the proper role of the youths in our community.

 

(4) In examining the role of youths in the attainment of peace and unity, it is proper to start with the political organization of the village and the power structure therein. From time immemorial, the core power group in Olido has been the elders headed by the Onyishi. By this arrangement, the choice of political leaders was left to divine decision. If God preserved you long enough, you acquired some political power, which increased with age until you become the head.

 

There were and still are no elections secret or open ballot or mobs (modities open ballot system), no FEDECO or NEC. May be there were no rigging because only age determined the amount of political power one wielded. This description approximates what has recently come to be know, nothing remains the same forever. The only thing is that is permanent is change pure gerontocracy has been substantially diluted and today, non-elders have come to assume some measure of political significance. Before the Soviet empire, there was the British Empire that the Englishman assured us the sun would never set on. Today we have a one super power world- the U.S.A. is now the centre of the world but history shall definitely march on.

 

Before the civil war, the youths in an average Igbo community were restricted to passive roles such as errand running at the instance of the elders. The war came and changed it all. Change may come so slowly that we hardly notice it. Our own village has changed tremendously since the end of the civil war. Today we have the O.A.U.G. this is a marked improvement from 1965 when we were blessed with our first university graduate in the person of G.S. Ugwuanyi. Definitely there would have been no O.A.U.G. if we had failed to advance beyond 1965.

 

At the beginning of this lecture, I referred to the story of Olido in the last 20 years or so. I did so on purpose because that period marked a watershed in our corporate existent and engendered a lot of internecine and fratricidal warfare in Olido. We are still living with the fallout of this warfare even if in a muted form. Nowadays, it is fashionable to blame president Babangida for any set back in Nigeria. That is the price of leadership. Every leader should be prepared to accept responsibility for any disorder in his domain. Pure gerontocracy has been diluted essentially by shortcoming in the leadership of the community. As a consequence of these shortcomings, the youth have more significant role to play in the affairs of the community.

 

The Whiteman gave us not only his religion, but his polities economics, education among others. All these have left permanent impression on us. The white man in his own country has no political office that is acquired automatically on reaching any age in relation to all the others in oneís community. Anyone who seeks political power must fight for it; it does not come with longevity. On account of this, he did not really succeed in streaming his own political organizational structure and the customary indigenous structure he encountered when he set foot on our land. After pacification, he managed to put in place a workable structure, which served him until 1960 when he took his union jack back to the Queen. However, while colonial rule was in vogue, the white man left intact our customary political arrangement which did not interfere with his work of keeping this part of the Empire safe and secure for HM.

 

At his exit, the new political elite adopted the same attitude until the events of 15th January, 1966. However, as more of our people acquired western education the level of political awareness increased. Until about 20 year ago, it was rare to contest the decision or opinion of the elders in the discharge of their duties as the custodians of political power. Today, the political landscape and configuration hardly resembles the situation about 20 years ago, I have taken some time to dwell on the evolution of the political power of the youths because if we do not know where we came from, nobody will believe us if we claim we know where we are going. Nobody can stop the march of history and those who forget history are bound to relieve it. I am from Olido and it can never be a source of pride or joy to me to see my village taking one step forward and two backwards. I also believe I am a youth with a stake in the unity, peace and progress of Olido. If we die in order of birth, I can still expect to have another period equal to the one I have already spent to prepare for my own 6 feet below. On this note I shall now proceed to make some contributions to the role of youths in the attainment of peace and unity.

 

Olido is a rural community. The economy is agrarian. The average youth who has not left the village to live elsewhere is thinking of how to do so. This attitude may change later but we will cross that bridge when we get to it. Kari Marx may not be popular today, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, but he said something we should not forget in a hurry. According to him, economics forms the structure or foundation on which the society is built. Some people call this economic determination. I subscribe to his view that law, politics, philosophy, religion are all functions of economics.

 

The dilution of pure gerontocracy is directly related to the failure of the political power group to satisfy the reasonable yearnings and aspirations of the led. The elders live and earn their livelihood in the village and some do so from the cradle to the grave without Olido for the purpose. The land provides direct sustenance to these people. They plant cash and food crops. They tap the palm trees for wine, which they sell at Ore Olido. They reap the proceeds from palm fruits, kola nuts, ujuru, and other cash crops. Their entire economy revolves round the land. This in turn affects their attitude in the discharge of their duties and exercise of their powers. It is natural. The first law of nature is self-preservation. Today, the youths cannot expect to survive and progress by following rigidly in the economic footsteps of the elders. The land is no longer enough and that means the youths must go outside Olido to earn a living. I am not saying that every youth must leave the village; it is just that it looks inevitable that the average youth may not find in the village enough resources to satisfy his economic needs. It is noticeable that a good number of us here earn their living outside Olido. This in turn affects our attitudes and values. In the course of earning a living outside the village, the average youth is sure to come in contact with people from different cultural backgrounds who will influence him. This influence contributes in shaping the youths, attitude to the affairs of the village.

 

It is this cross-cultural influence that fives the youths the greatest chance to meet the challenge of attaining, securing and enhancing peace and unity in Olido.

In the course of economic integration outside the village, the youths learn to realistic that there are certain fundamental rules of bilateral and multilateral relationships which must be observed religiously if the parties to the relationship must profit there from, of all these rules I consider the injunction be just as of primary importance. A relationship, no matter how strong, can hardly survive for long if there is no justice in it. Here I am not talking about justice according to law is a will-o-the wisp or that it is not a desirable end in itself. No, itís only that I do not want to give the impression that I have converted this forum into a law court. It is a reasonable assumption that each of us knows that fairness or popular justice is. Our sages advise us that before we do anything we should consider how we would react if somebody did the same thing to us.

 

Any Rotarian here must know about the 4-way test. The youths of Olido must strive at all times to do justice. I know that no man is infallible. (However I understand the pope is). Mistakes will be made but in order to avoid much damage, must be acknowledged honestly and unequivocally. To err is human to forgive divine. Our youths must learn and practice forgiveness. The great Zik of Africa, in a discussion with the late Sarduana of Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello, said let us forget our differences. The Sarduana replied differences. I think if we understand our differences, it will help us to live with each other harmoniously. We cannot go on retaliating against perceived and actual wrongs committed against us. An eye for and eye would ultimately leave all of us blind. The youths have a good chance to secure and enhance peace and unity in Olido because they can afford it more easily and cheaply than others.

 

During the early stages of the 2nd World War, the U.S.A. formally kept out of the war and entered the war only in 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour. Our youths should learn a lesson from that. It is not always safe to dorn the garb of a combatant very early in a fight when you have no direct stake in the outcome land can by your attitude even some time later play the role of peacemaker. The youths should resist the temptation to inherit other peopleís prejudices and quarrels. A lot of the problems and danger posed to peace and unity in Olido today is engendered by the failure to realize that if we go on practicing unrestrained revenge, we will soon come full circle. We must cultivate the habit of telling the truth always even if it may hurt us or our close relations and friends. Let us listen to the Bard of Von who admonished thus:

ďAnd this above all to thine ownself be true and it must follow as the night the day. Thou canít not then be false to any manĒ.

 

If we are true to ourselves, we will always know when we are knowingly and deliberately being unjust to our neighbour. The youths have so much at stake in the progress of the village that it would be class suicide for them to think that they can afford to lay and oppress without bringing down the roof on their own heads. Some events in the recent past occasionally make one wonder whether it is really true as the more things change the more they remain the same. It is very sad indeed. To it a case of terminal group amnesias?

I have been practicing law for 6 years now and as much I feel bold in reminding the youths that litigation can be a crushing burden on the parties. I once knew a case, which was filed in the court in 1976, 10 years before I was called to Bar. At a certain stage, the judge who took over the case swore to finish it in record time. Before he finished it, he was transferred to another judicial Division: In order to expedite the hearing, the Chief Judge permitted the case to follow the judge to the new Division. Shortly after the case continued there, the judge was appointed to the Court of Appeal and the case has to be transferred to the original division, to start afresh before a new judge.

 

Before a new judge arrived and started sitting in the old division where the case was originally filed, about 7 months had elapsed. Meanwhile the case file had not been retransferred to the original division. This was the situation as at about August 1993. Meanwhile the suffering of the litigants continue. But one should not blame a person for fighting against injustice. There can be no freedom without a readiness to resist oppression. There is a popular saying that people gets the kind of leaders they deserve. If the world is a dangerous place to live in, it is not because of those who do evil but those who see them do it but do nothing about it. Every youth must see it as a duty to contribute his quota to make peace and unity permanent features of life in Olido by eradicating injustice in all its forms.

 

The Rabbi of Zans used to tell this story about himself.

ďIn my youth when I was fired with the love of God, I thought I could convert the whole world to God. But soon I discovered that it would be quite enough to convert the people who lived in my town, but did not succeed. Then I realized that my programme was too ambitious, and I concentrated on the persons in my household. But I would not convert them either finally it dawned upon me: I must work upon myself, so that I may give true service to God. But I did not accomplish even thisĒ.

 

Start with yourself and I am sure you will accomplish what the rabbi failed to. But always remember, JUSTICE UNITES.

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