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Awoism: Obafemi Awolowo Political Thought

Written by Tadese Faforiji

Chief Obafemi Awolowo was born in March 1909 he was a Nigerian nationalist and statesman who played a key role in Nigeria’s independence. According to Akin Omoboriowo postulated that the term ‘awoism’ is to study and to analyze Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s political ideas.

He made it known that the idea was difficult to study because he was one of the African most controversial philosopher’s statesmen and his thoughts are many-sided.

Chief Obafemi Awolowo

Notwithstanding, it’s possible to outline some themes of his political philosophy. Such themes include political concepts such as the organization of the civil society, constitution, Democracy, Federalism, socialism, theory of mental magnitude.  

The Organization of Civil Society

 The emergence of civil government according to Awolowo came from the mutual understanding among families. He also made it known that as time passes, ther3e will be competition among different families for the acquisition of means of livelihood, the propensity to greediness, envy and dispute among larger society which leads to violence, bloodshed and death.

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To him, if such state’s affairs continued and if members of various families were to survive, live in peace and enjoy the fruit of their labour, such strive needs to be eliminated in inter-family strives with their dangerous consequences.

This is to ensure mutual amity and welfare among themselves to protect individual liberty which they enjoy within the family unit, to properly effect joint residence against external enemy and for the purpose of more efficient production and exchange, two or more families had to come together to form a larger society.

This early society according to Awolowo was not well organized as our present society. All the present state institutions such as the police force, the armed force, the judiciary, civil service organized diplomacy, and foreign service were not there in the fully grown forms in which we now know them as but there were in their developed form.

Constitution

In Awolowo’s view, there are three factors combined to birth political stability and these themes are the types of constitution, the form of government and the types of power of political leaders in and outside the government. He further claimed suitability is the essence of a constitution.

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According to him, a unitary constitution will not work in a circumstance that warrants a federal constitution and the same is applicable to a federal constitution. Awolowo had analyzed almost all the constitutions in the world and found out there are three types of constitution namely, Federal, Unitary and Confederal.

And he was able to recommend principles that guide the usage of each constitution of any of the two types by any country. Such principles are:

Categorizations of Constitutional Types by Country

If a country is uni-lingual and uni-nation the constitution must be unitary. If a constitution is uni-lingual and bilingual or even multilingual and also constitute communities which over a period of years, have developed divergent cultures, the constitution must be Federal and the constituent state must be organized on a dual basis of language and nationality.

If a country is bi-lingual or multi-lingual must be Federal and the constituent states must be organized on a linguistic basis

It was through this chief Awolowo was able to recommend the Federal constitution as being ideal for Nigeria.

Democracy

According to Awolowo, since the beginning of documented history, mankind has tried a lot of various forms of government such as gerontocracy, autocracy, oligarchy, tyranny, technocracy, kakistocracy and democracy.

From available historical resources, it’s clear that the best form of government is democracy(citation?). According to him, its inherent characteristics that differentiate it from any other form of government is that it ensures the political power and sovereignty all belongs to the people of a state rather than too few and that it’s the entire people of the state who are entitled to exercise these power for their own benefit.

Socialism/ Social Democracy

The basis for the organization of civil society for meaningful realization of basic things of life is socialism. Chief Awolowo labelled his own brand of socialism as scientific socialism or social democracy.

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According to him, the concept of socialism is entirely different from communism and the Marxian concept of socialism. He rejects the Marxian article of faith that there can be no personal freeman in a socialist state. He therefore rejects and condemns the dictatorship of the proletariat which goal was Marxist socialism.

Awolowo’s socialism was termed evil the one-party system of government which is different to Marxist-Leninist socialism. According to chief Awolowo, “it must be proclaimed from housetop that democracy and one-party system are absolutely antithetic”.

On the other hand, according to Awolowo, while socialists of the Marxian persuasion do not believe in God either in Jesus Christ as a physical emanation of God or Mohammed as a chosen prophet of Allah, our own socialism believes in God.

He further stated that socialism and all the agreed religions, whether Christianity, Islam, Buddhism etc have the same objectives. The type of socialism Awolowo advocates for insists on the regulation of consumption, abolitions of freedom of individual enterprise and private property and control of the means of production.

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He also claimed that this brand of socialism is meant to be attacked by those who regard themselves as Marxists who take their bearing from Moscow and Peking. But such people have failed to recognize that the historical evolution of socialist states in Eastern Europe will not necessarily repeat elsewhere.

Evolution of Socialism in Africa

Therefore in Africa, the evolution of socialism should take a democratic process and the state control of property and means of production should be bought about by the laws enacted by the people elected to the parliament.

The purpose of socialism according to Awolowo is to nurture social justice and equality and a state of affairs in which the sources provided by nature belong to all the citizens equally.

In this system, every person enjoys the fruits of his labour, employment is eliminated, education and public health are free labour is rewarded.

Mental Magnitude

In his search for a supreme value of human existence in social and political organizations, Awolowo developed a theory known as ‘Mental Magnitude’. The doctrine of mental magnitude is essentially Platonic with a Stoic and Cartesian flavour.

It states a tripartite division of man with physical, psychical and divine attributes. It makes a case for a conscious effort to reach that “state and stage” wherein all the three levels of attributes may be jointly employed by homo- sapiens to master fate and destiny, and thereby live a happy, healthy, prosperous and full life a triumphant life.

Mental magnitude is a philosophical doctrine that derives from a theory of mind and body, with an assertion that mental is superior to physical element of a person, and should take control over the emotions, desires, doctrine and actions.

Awolowo believes that socialism, like democracy, is an attribute of mind, irrespective of whether we talk of the European mind or the African mind. This is to say that it is a social attitude, imposed, as it were, by the rational mind in general, at all times and everywhere.

Society and Reason

Since man is a ‘political’ or ‘gregarious’ animal, one of the human instincts is social. Since the individual person is an agent of social, political, economic and scientific changes, the overall achievement of society depends on the achievements of its citizens, individually and collectively.

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Mental magnitude is, then the goal every individual in society must aspire, due to the fact that it is a way of combating human instincts, appetites and desires.

It leads to a profound metaphysical analysis of man and shows the superiority of mind over body, appetite or desire. Like Plato in Republic, Awolowo believes that the body or appetite must be governed by the soul or mind and it takes it to be an ‘immutable law’ that soul commands while the body obey. For Awolowo and Plato to obey, the reason should govern the appetite or emotion.

But when reason is dethroned for appetite or emotion, mediocrity, desire or negative emotion, the inevitable result is the corruption of the mind which in terms results in all sorts of evil like greed, bribery, nepotism, abuse and misuse of power cheating, embezzlement, smuggling, violence of the laws of the land, violence and gangsterism in all of which are flourishing phenomenal land of birth.

Any society, or system of government, in whatever country, has one purpose: the evolvement of egalitarian society by which true meaning is given to human existence, individually or collectively.

Therefore, for the purpose of effective governance, a just egalitarian society those who aspire to leadership in any society must be those who are ruled by reason rather than appetite.

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They must be mentally equipped, for leadership positions without a sound and disciplined mind cannot pilot the ship of state to success. This is to say that, for a leader to make a success of his difficult assignment of governing a state ‘he should possess comprehension, mental magnitude and spiritual depth.

Thus, a leader who possesses mental magnitude and spiritual depth is a leader who is always in control of himself. At a stage, his doctrine of mental magnitude is imbued with a typical stoic conception of life. In other to be master of himself and be himself self-disciplined.

Cr: OladeindeA. Paul, a student of the Department of History and International Studies, Adekunle Ajasin Univerity, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State, Nigeria.

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About the author

Tadese Faforiji

I am Tadese Faforiji, a history student of the prestigious Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State- 21st-century University, properly called. I am a blogger and an avid writer.

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