Omoluabi, Ubuntu: Kindred Spirit Going Universal

By Bola Bolawole

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The interest generated in “Ubuntu and Omoluabi: Kindred spirit or what?” published in this column on March 22, 2023, is yet to die down. That day’s column was actually devoted to my brother and friend, Prof. Babafemi Badejo’s chronicle of his first visit to Zimbabwe titled “Quick visit to Zimbabwe: My case for rekindling of the Ubuntu spirit in Africa” Badejo drew a parallel between Ubuntu as enunciated by Paul Kagame’s Rwanda and the Yoruba’s Omoluabi ethos, philosophy or way of life. In a world fast becoming individualistic or atomistic and losing every sense of communalism, Africans, propounding and spreading the concepts of Omoluabi and Ubuntu, have something to teach the world. And knowing full well that the “White” world is always quick to hijack anything good from Africa, appropriating it and alienating Africa from it, some African intellectuals are determined to see that this is not going to be the case with Omoluabi and Ubuntu. Africa and Africans must own this; and they must be the ones to propagate it as well. They must lead the way for others to follow.

So did a Nigerian intellectual and activist, Dr. Lola- Dare, President Chestrad Global, lead the way recently at an international meet to spread the gospel and solicit international support for something good that has come out of Africa.

Her report: “Speaking at the Game Changers summit in Westminster was a profound personal experience for me. During Ginger Communications Leader’s Voice Cohort 5 (LV5) journey, the fabulous women who travelled with me, as well as a stellar team of facilitators (Sarah Lloyd-Hughes, Robin Bayley, Helen Thompson-Whiteside and Nicky Moran) helped me transform my previously unformed ideas about the relationship between “me/I” (Power) and “we” (Community) into an unobstructed vision that connects to humanity (Purposeful Leadership). And to finally share my vision of Ubuntu with an incredible audience of game changing women in London’s Westminster was nothing short of magical.

Ubuntu is an African philosophy with deep roots in our collective humanity. Along with other age-long African concepts on community and leadership e.g., Omoluabi, it has many nuances and encompasses the interdependence of all humans on one another: we belong to each other and exist in relation to each other. The pursuit of “I” or “me” should not be in competition with the “we” and, conversely, the “we” cannot exist without an appreciation of the unique contribution, and power that each individual “I” makes. Ubuntu ‘I am because we are.’ More than ever before we need to embrace Ubuntu in our leadership journeys and embed it in our personal, community and organisational spaces. We collectively face a fragile future, but the world seems increasingly fractured and divided. We must now work together to overcome many of the challenges ahead. The time for Ubuntu is now.I listened with rapt attention to my sisters.

Each one envisioned Ubuntu in unique ways, reflecting their own purposeful leadership journey with newfound clarity. Jessica Roberts warned us that the green technologies we need rely on critical minerals which will be extracted from mines that we have not yet built, ‘It’s not magic, its mining.’ Helen Philpot argued that the technology which saved many of us from isolation during the pandemic can be no substitute for human interaction. We need to urgently re-connect and restore the “we” within our organisations and nations and across the world and we need strong ‘I’s to lead us there. We are a generation of game-changing superwomen but many of us are wrestling with self-doubt, plagued by imposter syndrome, and wondering if we can or if we should. Isn’t there someone else better qualified? So, is the self-love Wendy Gardner describing the antidote to our vulnerabilities? Yes! The Ubuntu principles embrace self-love, only powerful, assured “I” build strong “we.” i.e., communities and organizations. Each self-loving “I” thrives and blossoms with the support and affirmation of the wider community. I am because we are. Ubuntu in action!And the humanitarian and environmental crises we face are far from gender neutral. In many regions of the world, girls and women bear the responsibility for securing food, water, and fuel while gender inequalities still limit their access to education and other assets for human capital development.

Nicola Nicoll argued for girl’s education so that young women can realise the potential of their “I” and empower the “we,” so that any community can represent and protect us all. This is very real in many native contexts. Women have held homes, communities, and culture together in times of peace, war, and crises. Strong empowered girls and women are the custodians of Ubuntu and other African concepts of humanity.

As Beth Wright reminds us, we can be the change. We can show up in our individual vulnerability to build our collective power; and from Kate Barker, I learned that the workplace and communities need to walk the talk of life balance as we seek accelerated corporate and economic growth in these challenging and uncertain times. The reaction of participants in Westminster on the day was overwhelmingly positive and clearly resonated with the audience.

Ubuntu connects! Ubuntu is universal!!I participated in the Game Changers Summit in the full power of Ubuntu, supported by country (Mrs. Bolanle Isola, wife of the Nigerian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom), family (Remi Olajoyegbe), mentors (Florence Ajimobi, Oluremi Olowu), friends (Kafilat Araoye), mentees (Temidayo Aromire) and other members (Oluwayemisi Jenkins, Mary Akangbe) of the rapidly-growing network of Bold Pathfinding Women of Africa (BPaWA). Many more would have been with us (Mosun Belp-Olusoga, Zainab Shinkafi-Bagudu, Vicky Okine, Rachel Frith, Banke Dada, Bose Omisore). They, and so many others, wait for our feedback and nuggets of wisdom across many cities and communities in Africa, all eager to connect with our sisters in the north, whom we are pleased to welcome into the strength of Ubuntu.

So, what does Ubuntu (along with other African concepts of humanity) bring to us, our communities, and organizations? How shall we mobilize and cross pollinate the wisdom that we shared, for the benefit of more?

The Summit was an exciting beginning, connecting each powerful ‘I’ to the collective strength that held everyone spellbound all day in the historic Church Hall at Westminster! We affirm a shared vision to make the principles of Ubuntu and other age-long African principles of humanity and purposeful leadership universal!

Several initiatives have emerged from this transformative journey with the intention of making Ubuntu universal. These include an Ubuntu Connections Platform and the UbuntuPlus coaching, mentoring and leadership development training programmes.

Alongside with close partners within the UK Game Changers network, Ginger Communications, I Am Remi Limited Coaching and Network, our initial Q4 2023 reconnaissance trip to Nigeria will allow our respective communities to come together, share perspective and develop dialogue that bolsters or Ubuntu connections platform and the UbuntuPlus coaching.

Together, we bring Ubuntu to the world, renewing our narrative of wisdom in unique ways that connect power, strength, and purposeful leadership for the future”.It could not have been better said!

A world fast losing its bearing must retreat from the edge of the precipice and save itself by heeding the warning call from Africa.

Has the South-west regressed so badly education-wise?

When Comrade Femi Falana, SAN, first drew my attention to the story credited to the Registrar, Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria, Prof. Josiah Ajiboye, to wit, that 70% of teachers in South-west Nigeria are unqualified, I could not believe it.

I had to read the story over and over again. The report as published by a national daily ran thus: “When we conducted our survey, we observed that 70 per cent of teachers in the Southwest are not qualified. A large number of teachers in private schools in Nigeria today are also not qualified,’’ Ajiboye said.

He spoke at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the TRCN and INSTILL Education, a South Africa-based educational organisation.

“Unqualified teachers are not only cheating pupils and students; they are (also) cheating the education system in its entirety. They are not registered with the TRCN because the unqualified teachers lack the prerequisites to be registered by the council. That is to tell you there is a big gap, hence they cannot be called teachers, but cheaters,’’ he stressed.

Ajiboye said also that the number of unqualified teachers in the Southwest showed a contradiction to several speculations about private school teachers. He added that a large number of teachers in Nigeria had never been exposed to training and had been using out-dated equipment for illustrations.

“There is a difference between teachers and cheaters. If you are not a teacher, you must be a cheater…

A large number of the teachers have never been exposed to a single training programme since they were employed, thereby making them do the same thing the same way. The teachers need to be exposed to new ways of doing things and that’s what INSTILL is coming with. They are experts in new technologies and will help in the areas of capacity-building for our teachers,’’ he stressed.

Can this be one of the reasons why the South-west is hardly mentioned as leaders in WAEC, JAMB and other examinations these days? What are the leaders of the region doing about this sorry state of affairs?

Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.

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