In need of spiritual intellectuals

My African ancestors were deeply spiritual and deeply intellectual. They were too uncivilized to separate intellectual depth from spiritual depth. They did not have western education, and some of the deepest and wisest sayings are African, indicating outstanding intellects. They were wise enough not to limit themselves to intellectual wisdom. They understood that there was a reality outside of the natural human sphere, which our sound intellects could neither pierce nor function in unaided. Modern civilization may consider them primitive, barbaric and superstitious but they understood that there was an invisible reality from whence come good or evil. In their own way, they understood when their intellects fell short of the challenges they were facing and when to switch realms. They learnt to spiritualize the thorny individual and societal issues of their day without suspending the use of their minds. I am proud of my African heritage because being African is synonymous with soundness of mind and spirit. Any deviation from that is untruth.

Deep in our genes, we know that economic theories only go so far. Social development strategies only go so far. Logic has limits. We know from first principles that if the foundation is faulty, no structure can stand, no matter how strong it is. We know deep down that there is a reality outside of all that we see, hear or feel, that forms the foundation of healthy societies, families and individuals. Social, political, economic theories and strategies have their place. They work only when all is well in the invisible reality our ancestors were familiar with, which we have been “civilized” away from. Using intellectual strategies without addressing our spiritual foundation is like building a beautiful and solid structure without laying a good foundation. Even after a million years of trying, the building will still not stand, regardless of the quality of materials used. This is why it is deep folly to import economic theories that may have worked elsewhere and expect them to work in Nigeria, without considering the peculiarities of the Nigerian context.

A terrible aftermath of colonialism is the tendency to discard anything local and native to us including the good, in favor of everything foreign to us, including the bad. Our spirituality helped us to thrive and build kingdoms and vibrant societies that lasted thousands of years in the harsh African environment. We will have to go back to the spiritual in order to build the foundation of our beloved country. Spirituality does not have to be evil, involving sacrifices of humans and animals. The perplexities we all experience today have nothing to do with the impossibility of rebuilding our country and ridding it of corruption in its various forms. It has everything to do with neglecting our invisible reality, where there are no impossibilities including renewing Nigeria and creating a nation of honor and glory.

Before being accused of promoting Ifá, I would like to confess that I am not an Ifá priest. I have an MBA from McGill, a top business school and yes, a BSc from Obáfémi Awólówò University, Ile-Ife, incidentally the home of Ifá. I follow Christ. I study economics but I study history, I study wisdom, I study men and women from the dawn of time, I study the rise and fall of societies. I study truth.

The spiritual in this context is simply the realm  where thoughts are fashioned. We act the way we do because of our dominant thought patterns. Thoughts are not visible but they rule the world, they rule nations, they rule societies and they rule individuals. The spiritual shapes and creates new thought patterns while the intellectual functions within existing mindsets and ideologies. When a person changes their dominant thoughts, which most humans live and die without doing, they are functioning in the spiritual. In Yoruba language, repentance, a spiritual exercise, has a deeper and richer translation as one would expect from an African language, Ìrònúpìwàdà, which means changing one’s character by changing one’s thoughts.  Thought leaders are spiritual leaders whether they accept it or not.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Great men are those who have realized that the spiritual is greater than any material force, that thoughts rule the world.”

Nigeria is not a peculiar case when examined under the lenses of wisdom and truth. We are the way we are, we act the way we do because of how we think and until our thinking is corrected, there cannot be progress. There is a Nigerian mindset. Corruption in all its various forms is a mindset, that can be corrected but not without access to the realm where thoughts are set and reset and this is much more difficult to achieve than double digit GDP growth that propel us to the position of Africa’s largest economy. This realm is not intellectual or psychological. It is much deeper than getting people excited through motivational speaking. It is the realm our ancestors understood to be the controller of economies and societies.

We are in need of nation builders today, not just mere intellectuals but men and women regardless of social, political or economic status who can help reshape the Nigerian mindset. The prevailing tendency to sacrifice all (in religious, political, business and civil society) in the pursuit of status and material possession needs to be replaced en masse with the mindset that sacrifices all for compassion and contribution. “I pass my neighbor mentality” has to be replaced with “I love my neighbor” mentality. Without that, decadence will only increase as our population grows and our economy expands. Without that, expecting progress is like expecting oranges from a mango tree while continuing to nurture the mango tree. As the Yorubas say, “Ọmọ àjànàkú kìí ya ìrá, ọmọ tí ẹkùn bá bí ẹkùn ló máa jọ” which means the elephant cannot give birth to a horse and the tiger will always give birth to a tiger.

When our ancestors spoke in times of crises, they often spoke after strong spiritual consultations and deep thoughts, judging by history. Their words were not mere intellectual words but words capable of rearranging societal affairs, including thought patterns en masse. This is why Yorubas sometimes joke, “O f’ògùn s’enu sòrò ni?” In order words, is there a charm in your mouth that would make your words come to pass? We need spiritual intellectuals today. We need men and women as of old who combine deep spirituality with commanding intellects with or without modern education. We need people whose actions align with written and spoken words that move mountains and demolish mental fortresses of corruption. Nothing else will move us forward.

A very present help in trouble

Yesterday morning, I was awoken from sleep by a phone call from Busayo, my youngest brother saying my brother Tobi had just been abducted from his house by four armed men.

His life was in the balance.

In order for the day not to be turned into a day of mourning for his pregnant wife, his 2-year old daughter and the rest of us, something needed to happen, quickly.

Theoretical knowledge of God fails at such times. When confronted with the fragility of existence and life hangs in the balance, you need a very present help in trouble.

I was tempted to despair but we all chose to declare words of life, safety and deliverance. I asked that there be neither fear nor panic but confident declarations.

Ronke, myself, my parents, the whole family and close believers within and outside Nigeria swung into action, spiritually. Bunmi my sister, alerted the police. We made quick calls of faith, not fear among ourselves.

We invoked the blood of Jesus and employed praise, acknowledging the One fearful in praises, whose mercies endure forever. Tobi had also been invoking the blood amidst his captors.

In less than 2 hours after the abduction, I called Busayo, to say we should switch to praise, only to be told Tobi had just called! He was safe. He had to be. Victory celebration erupted in the house of Ilesanmi.

The details of the deliverance spelt divine intervention.

The abductors had taken him away in a new car, which got demobilized on the way and they told him they will kill him if the car does not start after the count of 5. Before they finished counting, stray policemen showed up! The armed robbers fled.

The police began to beat him up and handcuff him, thinking he was one of the robbers. Before they could “waste” him, another set of policemen which Bunmi had alerted, came to his rescue.

This is not my first time of proving God a very present help in trouble.

I want deliverance not only for my family but for my nation. A system that encourages indiscriminate wastage of life in pursuit of daily bread needs urgent attention.

I will be working actively in concert with others to turn around the destiny of Nigeria. Without necessarily raising our voices in the streets, we will replace the system that breeds robbers with one that encourages industry and service. In union with Christ, we will quietly Renew Nigeria.

Details will emerge soon…

If you are Nigerian, I hope you get involved – as this incident showed, spiritual, not physical presence, counts the most. If you are not Nigerian, please follow the progression of a nation from trouble to peace, with the help of the very present help in trouble.