Today, I offer the third in my series on Okeho history as the community celebrates the centenary of its return to its origin in 1917 with the launching of my book, Okeho in History, on Saturday, October 28, 2017 in Okeho.
Taking a cue from the Centenary Committee, the concluding chapter of Okeho in History is titled “Taking Okeho to Greater Heights”. It reviews the political, economic, educational, religious and social institutions of Okeho and offers suggestions on how to move Okeho to greater heights.
Regrettably, Okeho has not been well-served by partisan politics. With intense competition, party activists throw everything into the ring and opposing sides often fail to take time to understand the points of view of their opponents. Gradually, positions were entrenched and loyalty to personalities became acceptable substitutes for loyalty to causes and ideologies in healthy competition for the development of the community.
Unfortunately, the community has been the victim of politics of personalities. As the bickering goes on between political opponents, other communities take advantage of the crisis to attract development projects, including higher educational institutions. Thus, despite the loyal support of Okeho party leaders to succeeding governments of different political parties since 1954, none of those governments or the parties they represent has given Okeho its due in terms of development projects.
Okeho is among a handful of major towns in Oke-Ogun without a pipe-borne water supply. And while other towns can boast of one or more institutions of higher education, as of 2017, Okeho has none to point to other than a campus of the Oyo State College of Health Science and Technology which was approved in 2016.
Now, there must be a laser beam focus on a development agenda with traditional political institutions, politicians, and community development organizations working together in a non-partisan fashion on behalf of the community. Above all, politics and governance must focus on its original ideal, which is the good of the community.
In Okeho, we have been fortunate that our religious differences have not conflicted with the original purpose of religion as a controller of our inner impulses. Both major religions have focused on helping us being good human beings and good communal citizens. Therefore, it has been possible for Muslims, Christians and traditional believers to work together in the various social organizations. What politics has unfortunately tried to put asunder, religion has been able to put together. Indeed, the various religious organizations have done more for Okeho educational development than the various political parties.
The purpose of traditional education is to prepare the young for their responsibilities as useful members of the community. For a significant part of our communities across Yorubaland, this is still an operative educational objective. It includes bringing the educated up to their responsibilities to themselves, to their families, and to the larger community of which they are an integral part. This traditional view of education is still relevant in an age of individualism that threatens the survival and prosperity of the community.
For Okeho, it worked very effectively and, despite the emergence of individualistic ethos, those Western educated individuals who had the advantage of growing up in the era when tradition still held sway, have been able to internalize its norms and to see their education as an opportunity for community service. It is evident in the way that they have made themselves available for the development activities of the community.
The challenge for our modern educational institutions and their personnel is to advance the traditional purpose of education as an integral aspect of their mission. The youths of today are going to be adults or leaders of tomorrow. The question that we must ask of our education system is “how is it preparing the youth for the responsibility that they must shoulder?”
First, effective teaching and learning is a must. Our pioneer teachers set the standard which must be advanced. The early years of schooling prepare children for later years and determine their success or failure. Therefore, to take Okeho to the next level, teachers at every level must be diligent and competent.
Second, compassionate mentoring of youths is crucial to making them succeed in life. In the early years of modern education, teachers were like second parents. They modelled good behavior and students knew that they can rely on their teachers for their direction in life. This model needs to be reactivated in our community schools. Excessive interest in material acquisition should not stand in the way of role-modeling.
Third, parents trusted and worked with teachers in the early years of modern education and the cooperation paid high dividends. The ethos of omoluabi is the essence of Yoruba morality and it is a product of parent-teacher and school-family collaboration. That model must be our guide as we crave greater heights for Okeho.
From subsistence farming to trading and transportation, from weaving to tailoring, from logging to carpentry, from pottery to bricklaying, Okeho indigenes have engaged in assorted economic activities in the last hundred plus years. And they still keep keepin’ on. Now, the economy is widely diversified and will continue to be so in the foreseeable future.
Fortunately, the groundwork for the take-off of this economy has been laid in the embrace of cooperatives in the last five decades. This new emphasis is based on the understanding that one hand is inadequate to carry the heavy load of our economic future. We must now combine our strength in business and processing ventures.
With the government’s renewed focus on agriculture, and with the advantage of location that Okeho has in this area, it is essential for Okeho indigenes to set up joint ventures to further their economic interests. With a large area of gorgeous scenery and attractive landscape, Okeho also offers a great opportunity for tourism. In this area, however, individual ventures are rarely profitable. Therefore, we must learn to combine forces to take advantage of the potentials of the industry.
My discussion of each of the foregoing—governance, religion, education, and the economy—is with an understanding of their significance as a powerful means to the goal of community health and advancement. While each of them is necessary for this purpose, we must not think that it is by itself sufficient.
Therefore, for the advancement of the community and the health of its members, we must ensure that our focus is on the effective combination of all. We have seen, for instance, that when individuals have good education, they tend to use it for the advancement of the community. With those who are fortunate lending a hand to the less endowed, the social life of the community is enriched.
The road to a successful focus on community interests is paved with the arduous efforts of community leaders and social organizations. This was the rationale for age-group associations in the beginning. That rationale still exists today, perhaps more than it used to be. Traditional institutions must lead the effort to put the interest of Okeho above personal interests. They will succeed in this endeavor when members of the community see that they dispense justice with fairness and they attend to the complaints of members with compassion and empathy.
I do not intend to belittle the advances that the community has collectively made in the matter of inter-personal solidarity and empathy. Every adult of today grew up in a loving community where even distant relations and strangers make personal contributions to their education and general well-being.
Okeho must continue in the tradition of generosity and welcoming spirit to all, natives and foreigners alike. We need others as they need us to make the world a habitable and better place for all people. But charity begins at home as the old saying instructs us.
We must make Okeho what we want it to be by investing our intellectual, moral, spiritual, and material resources in its development and progress. Then, as the many became one more than a century ago, we can all effectively and successfully move our beloved Okeho to greater heights politically, educationally, economically, socially, and spiritually.
Professor Segun Gbadegesin
Culled from The Nation newspaper