The Toyin Falola Interviews is set to hold a conversation with distinguished panelists, on the 2023 Elections in Nigeria.
Sunday, April 16, 2023
5:00 PM Nigeria // 4:00 PM GMT // 11:00 AM Austin CST
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The Toyin Falola Interviews: A Conversation With Baba Elebuibon (1)
By Toyin Falola
There is a high number of intellectuals based outside of the University system. The Yoruba have produced many of them since the nineteenth century. Almost twenty-three years ago, I published a book, Yoruba Gurus: Indigenous Production of Knowledge in Africa, to reflect on a handful of them. Many do not use print media but stay within the boundaries of orality. The significance of their work is impressive.
As clearly demonstrated in Yoruba Gurus, the concepts around the ideas of intellectualism transcend the walls of universities. In fact, many of the known world changers in antiquities have emerged, not only within laboratories or the leaves of books but also some points of discoveries and depth of enlightenment gained from their continuous career and skill engagements. Hence, while the world respects academic scholars in discourses around sensitive issues, organic intellectuals who have climbed upward the ladders of authority give more practical insights into the arrays of discussions. This is the position High Chief Ifayemi Osundagbonu Elebuibon has occupied in the Nigerian and Yoruba metaphysical discourses and epistemologies.
High Chief Ifáyẹmí Ọ̀ṣúndàgbonù Elebuibon
The crust of African intellectualism was built from organic sources, and this made it difficult for the early missionaries and colonial explorers to understand the intellectual holdings of the continent and its people with diverse cultures. Really, African educational and academic systems that predated colonialism and European invasions can be appreciated, but some include technical knowledge and wisdom passed along professional lines. For instance, the concepts of theoretical physics may not be well understood if the bounds of that discipline are held strictly. However, old African knowledge of physics is seen in the experimental and professional developments. You might not be able to do something without being an outright performer of the same.
Hence, an African scientist is a professional in the area of science a modern scientist would have wanted to expand. For instance, you are better appreciated as a political scientist if you have not been within the folds of politics, and society would also help to draw you closer to the said profession. Medicine, for instance, flourished in Africa, and the development of much medical knowledge in Africa did not come from the galleries of stand-alone research, but trials and errors, as well as long years of discoveries and new cases, have brought about tweaks to medical practices. Hence, with the advancement in pedagogy, intellectualism, and scholarship, one must not be distracted by seemingly new methods but must grasp the travails and prevalence of organic intellectualism to fill in the gaps that could have been discovered in the scholarly cultural comparison.
Africa is a dynamic continent. Its greatness lies not only in the abundance of its landscape and resources but in the diverse cultures and traditions seen in its people at all times. The untapped potential of the large numbers that form the population makes it stand tall with strength, innovative abilities, creativity, and the unifying spirit of its people that transcends the borders of nations. An inspiration to those who understand this dynamic. The world has witnessed the greatness of the second-largest continent many times, from its savannahs to the rainforest and desert in the Sahel. The continent has greatly contributed to humanity distinctly.
The silent forces undisclosed to many that drive this progress and resilience seen today can only be attributed to the host of organic intellectuals that the continent harbors. This variant of intellectualism is such that no other part of the world seeks to compete with it. This is not to say that Africa maintains a monopoly of the phenomenon, but the intellectual and epistemological understanding of the continent is married to organic intellectuals and, in comparison to the preponderance in other cultures, it takes the front roll. Despite the shortfalls that marred the geometric sequence of growth, Africa still boasts of organic intellectualism that is deeply rooted in the local pearls of wisdom, cultures, beliefs, and local experiences of fellow Africans. It is an inclusive aspect of African existence that taps its resources from within. Making it easier to adopt, unlike formal education that’s embedded in premeditated syllabuses and curricula unknown to the majority.
Due to the large divergence, Africa is rich in culture and cultural elements. Even at that, the unity in diversity here is second to none. This explains why diverse experiences frequently have common grounds, passing the same message and value. Organic intellectualism is visible in every aspect of African existence. This has allowed the reengineering and rebalancing of the African knowledge systems and understanding to be easy as well as necessary. For instance, the practice of communal cohabiting and the promotion of extended family lifestyles is a result of the wisdom of organic practices. This wisdom to have family members of various age groups cohabit in large compounds is of numerous benefits. Apart from the practical purposes of shared responsibilities and resources, communal existence also fosters social benefits that allow younger relatives to tap from the wisdom of their elders through the transmission of values, cultural beliefs, skills, knowledge of medicine, religion, and interpersonal skills from the former to the latter. This bolsters interconnectivity amongst the family unit, where the knowledge acquired shapes individual interactions with others. A blissful experience from the far cry we have today, where formal institutions have taken the bulk of family time and lifestyles where modern kids now have issues relating to their heritages.
The family has always been a school, and the passing of the encoded knowledge within the family ethos and subscribed trades grow different individuals to drive out reasonable examples for discourses on organic intellectualism. Ifa priesthood, blacksmiths, agricultural science, and other sciences that, today, need to be learned in lumped-up years of continuous assessments and laboratory experiments are informally injected into the social bloodstream of every African child.
Ifa and the practices around it have posed challenges difficult to understand for those who try to view it from the lenses of modern science or objective texts of social or scientific formula. This is because, it is both science, philosophy, history, metaphysics, and other systems embedded in one. Its complexity and influence on the ideological subscriptions of Africans have made it difficult to discard. It has proven to be a knowledge system that is not taught in schools but by professionals who have learned the wisdom of divinity, especially from the cultural hands-downs of families have shown the science and logic in it. Like the error the early modern intellectuals ran into, it would be easy to discard the practices because of their non-conformity with the test of modern and global science, but approaches to organic intellectuals that have both scientific and mythical understanding of the Ifa science and research has been able to explore the unexhausted particularities of its relevance.
From the above, one would see how African wisdom has rested much on organic intellectuals, but the question now is, how has Africa fared in contemporary knowledge distribution? As posited earlier, organic intellectualism is not geographically limited or time-bound; it is a phenomenon that grows and expands with age, space, time, and profession. Every profession has organic intellectuals and their relevance will always be appreciated than many of the scholars in the academia. African concepts of organic intellectualism and intellectuals persist today, and the social systems, as seen everywhere, grow.
The relevance of African organic intellectualism impacts the immediate environment. The fields of agriculture and healthcare are two ways in which African wisdom and knowledge have been impacted. Through many generations, African farmers have been able to combat problems of food scarcity through the adoption of agroforestry. A system that allows the co-cultivation of food crops, trees, and even animals on land. This practice is very popular in Africa, especially in the semi-arid areas of West Africa. This approach allows for the conservation of resources, diversifying crop yields, and enhancing food security. The interesting aspect of it all is the wisdom displayed by these farmers to draw from local knowledge in adapting to the specific needs and conditions of the community. The health industry has also fared well through local knowledge. The adoption of local healing methods, herbs, and roots to care for the sick birthed health services that meet the specific needs of the community. This has further reduced the hardships in accessing good healthcare, as most healing materials can be accessed easily. The various practices are still evident in the local societies, but the influx of modern technologies and techniques without looking for inward approaches towards solutions is exhumed by these organic intellectuals.
One other modern dynamic is the fact that many of the African organic intellectuals do not form the folds of high-level scholarships; they do not have doctoral degrees and some have not been able to even get any degrees. This has thwarted their possibilities of climbing the needed social ladder of influence that would make their opinions count. Going through a huge part of Northern Nigeria, one would see different ways by which agriculture is being practiced, and several of the locals have acquired real knowledge that could form global agricultural changes. This is applicable to other sectors of African societies, and the country is not making efforts to expand the gems of knowledge these people hold.
Where local content and raw professionalism meet opportunity, society tends to enjoy top-notch knowledge without reserves. This brings about the Toyin Falola Interviews’ attempt to use public history to narrate African knowledge from raw organic intellectualism. Many African cultures have been explained from the vantage points of books, documentaries, and research that has gone through global methodologies, but there is a need to take a pause and call in major partakers of the phenomenon to understand the real state of things. In this effort, the series has invited High Chief Ifayemi Osundagbonu, Elebuibon, to move discourses about African metaphysics forward.
Elebuibon has been able to distinguish himself as one of the resource points in African metaphysics and epistemologies and has married practices with need. As a priest, author, poet, linguist, and even an artist, he has been able to make remarkable attempts at creating African consciousness. Elebuibon’s films and plays have been met with accolades as one of the closest links to originality and raw African knowledge. He exudes knowledge as it is or should be and not merely knowledge as observed which kills history. This has informed the decision of the Toyin Falola Interviews to invite him to discuss Ifa and Yoruba Metaphysics on December 3rd, 2023.
Please join us for a conversation with the world-famous Ifa priest, writer, poet, author, and linguist, High Chief Ifáyẹmí Ọ̀ṣúndàgbonù Elebuibon.
Sunday, December 3, 2023
5:00 PM Nigeria
10:00 AM Austin CST
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Toyin Falola Interviews To Hold Panel Discussion On African Literature And The Digital World
The Toyin Falola Interviews is set to hold a Panel Discussion on African Literature and the Digital World in collaboration with Pan-African Writers Association (PAWA).
The event to be led by distinguished panelists for a panel discussion on African Literature and the Digital World is in commemoration of International African Writers Day.
The session is billed for November 12, 2023 at 5 PM Nigeria // 4 PM Ghana // 10 AM Austin.
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Benin Enterprise Park To Attract Major Investment, Boost Edo State Economy, Says Osayande
By Andy Okungbowa
Mr. Ikponmwonsa Edward Osayande (CPA, ACA, MBA), is the Managing Director of Benin Enterprise Park Limited (BEPL). He spoke on the mandate by Governor Godwin Obaseki, to build an industrial park designed to boost the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the Edo State, provide opportunities for training and employment, and to enable efficient, effective, responsive and innovative utilisation of the natural and geographic endowments of the State.
What gave birth to Benin Enterprise Park Limited (BEPL)?
I have been with Mr. Governor since 2017. As a matter of fact, the Benin Enterprise Park Limited (BEPL), which was initially the Benin Industrial Park (BIP), was one of the first projects he assigned to me.
Mr. Governor had a vision which was thoroughly researched and ultimately converted to a strategic document, which gave birth to the Six Thematic Pillars that have guided the deliberate reform that is the MEGA (Make Edo Great Again) Agenda. I have the privilege to be involved in the economic reform and infrastructural development pillars by virtue of my mandate.
The Benin Enterprise Park project came up as a result of the need to create commerce, improve commerce, increase commerce, increase trading, increase businesses, create a system, and a situation where businesses come into Edo State and set up seamlessly.
Our first Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was with Mahindra Engineering Group, they came in and spent about six months with us here, chose the location for the park, which most people do not realise is equidistant from all over the State, including Delta State, thus taking advantage of our geographical location for intra- and inter-state commerce.
We also chose the location because of the raw materials readily available in the State to support the 14 sectors identified in our Master Plan, which I must say is a dynamic document.
What informed the choice of these 14 sectors as starters for the park?
The criteria for choosing those 14 sectors have to do with the amount of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) potential for the State, the amount of jobs that they will create for the State, and also the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for that area of the State that will benefit the local communities.
Which part of the State is BEPL located?
The location for the Benin Enterprise Park is in Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area of the State, about a 10-minute drive from the by-pass. It is 997.71 hectares of land and we have decided to develop it modularly.
How was this enterprise park set up to function?
The initial thought process was to do a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement. We explored that possibility, and then we had the interest rate issues. As a foreign direct investor, when you go into any economy, any country, or anywhere you want to invest your money, there must be an exit strategy.
Now, it is a problem if you don’t know how you are going to repatriate your investment and profits at the end, or you are not sure how that is going to happen. You now have a situation where you are reluctant to come in there.
The major issue we had with Nigeria at that time was that we did not have an exchange rate that you could rely on or use to hedge. There was the black market, there were so many different values until we came up with this single-digit exchange rate system now, which is in its infancy.
Secondly, COVID-19 came about, and then elections. Nobody goes into a new environment during elections because of the uncertainty.
Has that focus, in terms of leveraging PPP, changed now?
Yes. This is so as Mr. Governor has decided that we should go in a different direction.
We should take some part of that land and then we as government provide the horizontal infrastructure such that businesses will now come in there and set up. Therefore, once we start having those first mover advantages, the anchor tenants coming, it will be easier to now market to other people to come in.
Lagos is congested, and Onitsha is congested. The cost of doing business there is very high. If we can provide electricity, water, security, gas, over which we are already in talks with the different providers, then we can have a situation where we now bring in small to medium-scale businesses, low polluting because it’s a community, to come in and then take parcels of land, that part of the policy is being developed also, and then we start to do business.
To what extent have you gone with this new plan and what is the prospect of getting businesses to buy into it?
The idea is to get them in as quickly as possible. We have two major anchor tenants coming in already that we’re working with right now. So, we’re trying to get it from greenfield to brownfield as quickly as possible.
What is the level of the ease of doing business in Edo with reference to Benin Enterprise Park Limited remix?
The ease of doing business has an office already and it’s a committee. It’s actually the third, I believe, major committee in government after the EXCO and the Security Committee. It is a committee made up mostly of commissioners and a few of us and the Secretary is the Managing Director of ESIPO, the Edo State Investment Promotion Office.
So, there’s already a consistent effort to create a compendium of what we call tax incentives and other federal government initiatives that can be applicable to the State and even others, that the States will generate on their own, like when we give waivers to farmland owners not to pay land rent or moratorium for two or three years.
Those are things that will help bring them in quicker, because when they look at their costs to come in to do business here, as opposed to somewhere else, it is lower for them here. Therefore, they will come here naturally.
The Benin Enterprise Park project is in phases as we understand. What phase are you now and what are the elements contained therein?
What we are working on now is our phase One, which is probably about 250 hectares right now, it might change if we get more people interested, or when we get more people interested. It is where we want to now provide those infrastructure I was talking about, so that they can now come in.
You cannot go and sell an idea to somebody and when they get there, you are just looking at a fallow or bushy area. They have to see activity going on, they have to see bulldozers, payloaders, drainages, and offices being built, so that they will know that they are coming in here just to come and plug in and play.
Just like how you develop suburbs abroad – you go in there, you check, you have all the survey plans done, you have your C of O process because if you come in, you bring me a proposal, and I give you my due diligence checklist. You bring me all the documents that are on the checklist then we go through a process because I need to see your design layout to know exactly how much land you need.
The method by which we allocate the land has to be systemic and deliberate until we get there, because by the time we get to Phase Two, whoever came in Phase One would have come in, probably at a cheaper or lower rate. Now there is competition, we have to respond to the market. So, we have to manage all these things because the ultimate plan is for the Benin Enterprise Park Limited to be a sustaining company of government where the government at the end of the day, will have oversight over it continuously, and will also get revenue from it going to its Internally General Revenue (IGR) coffers.
Does that mean the level we are in now is creating the base work and laying the foundation for its eventual take off?
We have two anchor tenants coming in, we are preparing for them, and once they come in we would now be able to market more effectively.
You see, comparative advantage states that you must be efficient, effective, and responsive to your customers, which are all our tenants, and also be innovative. So, we are putting all those things in place, to say okay, what are we going to get from this process now, what is within our reach in the next two or three years? What do we need to capitalise on right now? And then remember, we also have certain components; like for example; the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA), we have to get approval from the federal government too.
So, those things that are not under our purview, we have to use extra effort and means to get them done quickly so that we can get all these, because I want a situation where; when you apply to come into the park, I can tell you that in 30 or 45 days, you are either breaking ground or at least you have gotten everything you need from the Edo State Government.
Any targeted time then for the two anchor tenants to mobilise to site yet?
None yet but we are anxious and eager for them to come in and start as quickly as possible. Some might even take 18 months to financial closure. We are aware of all that, but as long as the process has started, we have got to a point where your diligence and ours are on point, are at par, then we would know that, okay, yes; this one: see where you are, we have demarcated, it’s just for you to come in.
Sustainability is key to this project, given that this present administration just have about one year to end its tenure, what are you closing with in terms of this innovative and gigantic project?
I was at the last government retreat in Lagos, and the theme was Obaseki Finishing Strong. It was clear to everybody there from Mr. Governor’s speech that, what we have achieved so far will not make any difference or any sense if we don’t finish strong. What we have that is left for us to do with the time that we have, we must do the best we can to get to a point where it’s irreversible.
Let me give you an example. This tag of MoU government, MoU government, is funny because a lot of people don’t realise or have started to realise that a Memorandum of Understanding is more or less a gentleman’s agreement between two people or entities that want to do business (it is usually time-bound).
The idea is for you and I to put our responsibilities, what we are responsible for on the table, such that we have a clear understanding of what is required from me, and what is required from you.
So, what that does is, irrespective of which government or whoever takes over, some of these projects domiciled in the private sector will continue to grow. They will not have that much interference from the government anymore. The government is not even supposed to be in business in the first place, but needs to focus on certain sectors that actually help the economy to grow, then at some point, they will even step back.
What are the benefits to the communities where this project is domiciled?
We would probably have a policy document that requires most of the tenants to have some sort of pledge or contribution to the CSR for the communities.
The communities are going to benefit from employment, they are going to benefit from training. We have always had the community people, the community representatives from the grassroots to the leaders of the communities involved in the process.
We are not going to the communities and telling them this is what we want to do for you. If I go to Iyanomo for example, I am not going to tell them that company A wants to come and build a hospital when I know their problem is water.
So that is the type of interaction that will continue to take place, and then the young people in the area too will be empowered. You can’t come and take and then exit, you are going to take what you need to take to exit, but you must leave a lot in the community.
Looking at where this government is coming from when it took over power in 2016, how would you assess its performance over time?
I have to commend Governor Godwin Obaseki for his steadfastness and doggedness. He is one man, but he is handling so much in doing all of these for the State.
You see, when you look at all the thematic pillars that we have, the six that we identified, I mentioned two that I was actually involved in, but you have to think about education, health, and how he prioritises all these things and gets most of these things done.
Our TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) programme is running very well, as well as EdoBEST, and EdoJobs. We have a lot of things going on. We have the new town development, which is another company, just like the Benin Enterprise Park, but that one is for residential, it is also ongoing.
So, we have a lot of initiatives that we have started, that have kicked off and have benefited a lot of people, but we are not telling our story as quickly as we should.
Going forward, some of these things need to be documented such that whoever comes later will realise that His Excellency, Mr. Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, will always stand on the right side of history.
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