The “Unknown Quantities”

The “Unknown Quantities”

Monday, March 22, 2021 10:51 am

Obafemi Awolowo

By ‘Remi Oyèyemí
A very good brother of mine had referred to  a group of Yorùbá freedom fighters as “unknown quantities.” Hear him:
“A communique purportedly released on behalf of Pan-Yoruba organizations (unnamed and unidentified) signed by an unelected and unknown quantity purporting to speak for the Yoruba. How do we expect our adversities to take us seriously?”
He signed his name to this quote, but let us leave his name out because this is not personal. But we could jointly take a tour of History of liberation struggles and try to examine his theory of “unelected and unknown quantity purporting to speak for Yorùbá.”
Without any doubt, his comments were veritably informed by inadequate knowledge of how struggles have always started, grew organically and metastasized into something big; something bigger than those who dreamt it and started it, something that became a seismic shift of and in history. The most interesting thing is that, almost if not all struggles have been started by “unelected and unknown quantities.”
It could also have stemmed from his hatred of the Oduduwa Nation as a concept, thereby grabbing at all straws to discredit the idea at any slightest opportunity. He seemed to have done this without deep thought and assessment of the kind of positions he was putting forth. He exuded alacrity to impress those who are antagonistic to the idea of Oòduà Nation. But he inadvertently, was not thinking of earning the respect of others who might not agree with him. The opportunity to respect his postulations against the birth of Oòduà Nation would have been savoured, had it been wrapped in the cocoon of facts and unassailable alternatives to the challenges facing the Yorùbá Nation.
Let us start from the home front. Who knew Obafemi Awolowo except his family members and friends before he became a colossus? Where was he elected before he created Egbé Omo Oduduwa? As a young man he was an active journalist, editing publications such as the Nigerian worker among others. He was largely self made. He was an  “unelected and unknown quantity.” He suffered the indignity from Chief (Dr.) Akinola Maja who believed that Awolowo was beneath him and would not let Awolowo into his living room. He always spoke to Obafemi Awolowo from his balcony of his house.

Kwame Nkrumah.

President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and his son Uhuru, future Kenyan President, 1965. Photo credit:

After twelve years abroad pursuing higher education, developing his political philosophy, and organizing with other diasporic pan-Africanists, the great Osagyefo, Kwameh Nkrumah returned to the then Gold Coast to begin his political career as an advocate of national independence. He formed the Convention People’s Party, which achieved rapid success through its unprecedented appeal to the common voter. Before then, he was an “unelected and unknown quantity.”
Born to Kikuyu farmers in the village of Nginda, Jomo Kamau Kenyatta was a Kenyan activist and politician who governed Kenya as its Prime Minister from 1963 to 1964 and then as its first President from 1964 to his death in 1978. He was the country’s first indigenous head of government and played a significant role in the transformation of Kenya into an independent republic. He was “unelected and unknown quantity” when he began his political trajectory.
Both his father and mother were teachers. His father was from Nyasaland, also known as Malawi and his mother was the first African woman to teach in colonial Zambia. They were both teachers among the Bemba ethnic group which is located in northern Zambia. He was the youngest of eight children. He was also a school teacher before he got involved in the liberation struggles for the independence of Zambia. The author of “Zambia Shall Be Free,” became the first President of Zambia. Kenneth Kaunda was an “unelected and unknown quantity” when he began.
Until he helped formed Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) in 1954, Julius Kambarage Mwalimu Nyerere was a teacher. One of 25 children of Chief of the Zanaki people, Burito Nyerere. His mother, Mugaya Nyang’ombe, was the fifth of twenty-two wives. His political trajectory started from nil and took him to the Presidency of Tanzania. He was an “unelected and unknown quantity.”
Ahmed Sekou Toure of Guinea was a “known quality”, his great grandfather Samori Toure (also spelt as Ture), having founded the Wassoulou Empire, an Islamic State in the present day Guinea that resisted French colonial rule in West Africa from 1882 until he was captured in 1898.  He was one of seven children born to Alpha and Aminata Touré, who were subsistence farmers. He was an aristocratic member of the Mandinka ethnic group. He was a “known quantity” but he was “unelected” when he began his resistance struggles.

Sekou Toure

Until he founded a trade union at a hospital in Abidjan, Dia Félix Houphouët-Boigny  was an “unknown quantity” except in his aristocratic circle in Yamoussoukro, which he brought on world map after building a $300 million basilica there. He was a medical aide.  He became the first president of Ivory Coast (1960 to 1993), serving for more than three decades until his death. He was an “unelected and unknown quantity” when he began.
Nelson Mandela joined African National Congress (ANC) in 1943. He joined others to create its Youth League in 1944. He rose to leadership of the organization through exertion of his on commitment, loyalty and intellect. He was an “unelected and unknown quantity” until he rose to the leadership of ANC and from there March to his destiny as the first of elected African to lead South Africa.

Nelson Mandela

The late Gaddafi

Ahmed Ben Bella was the son of a farmer and small businessman; he had five brothers and two sisters. His oldest brother died from wounds received in the First World War, during which he fought for France; another brother died from illness and a third disappeared in France in 1940, during the mayhem of the Nazi victory. He was an “unelected and unknown quantity” before he joined the struggle to liberate his people and became the President of Algeria.
Moamar Gaddafi of Libya, Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein of Egypt, Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso, John Jerry Rawlings of Ghana and others of their ilk were all “unelected and unknown quantities” before they risked their lives for the liberation and freedom of their peoples.
Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov also known as Lenin was an “unelected and unknown quantity” until he masterminded one of the greatest revolutions in History, in Russia. His revolution led to the creation of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). His revolution did not just witness political seismism, it also attested to the birth of flurries of ideas about politics, sociology, economics, dictatorship and many other fields.
Sayyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini (known in the West as Ayatollah Khomeini) was born in Khomeyn, in what is now Iran’s Markazi Province. His father was murdered in 1903 when Khomeini was two years old. He began studying the Quran and Arabic from a young age and was assisted in his religious studies by his relatives, including his mother’s cousin and older brother. He was the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which saw the overthrow of the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and the end of the 2,500-year-old Persian monarchy. He was an “unelected and unknown quantity” when he started.
The rebellious barons who engineered the Magna Carta of June 15, 1215 drafted by Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, were largely “unknown” except to their localities. They were “unelected” either. But the Magna Carta they fought for has since then evolved and inspired several generations since then about the concept of freedom and liberty.
Napoleon Bonaparte did not even speak French until he was ten years old. He spoke Corsican as his mother tongue. Napoleon was routinely bullied by his peers for his accent, birthplace, short stature, mannerisms and inability to speak French quickly. Napoleon dominated European and global affairs for more than a decade while leading France against a series of coalitions in the wars that were named after him by Historians as “Napoleonic Wars.” He won most of these wars and the vast majority of his battles, building a large empire that ruled over continental Europe before its final collapse in 1815. One of the greatest commanders in history, his wars and campaigns are studied at military schools worldwide. He remains one of the most celebrated and controversial political figures in human history. He was an “unelected and unknown quantity” when he started. He invented the game of draught as a means of military strategy.
Between 1700 and 1789, the French population increased from 18 million to 26 million, leading to large numbers of unemployed, accompanied by sharp increases in food prices caused by years of bad harvests. Widespread social distress led to the “convocation” (please pay attention to the word “convocation” and not “election”) of the Estates General in May 1789, the first since 1614. In June, the Estates were converted into a National Assembly, which passed a series of radical measures, among them the abolition of feudalism, state control of the Catholic Church and extending the right to vote. The next three years were dominated by the struggle for political control, exacerbated by economic depression and social unrest. External powers like Austria, Britain and Prussia viewed the Revolution as a threat, leading to the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars in April 1792. Obviously, many, if not all of the movers and shakers of this change were “unelected and unknown quantities.”
We could go on and on, through the History of the United States, the South American countries, the Caribbean Nations and other European countries, Asian countries of China and India featuring great personalities who were “unelected and unknown quantities” when they chose to lead their people out of subjugation. Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi of India, Chairman Mao of China, Fidel and Raul Castro of Cuba, Salvador Guillermo Allende of Chile,  Che Guevara of Cuba and Argentina, Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine, Abraham Lincoln, Harry Truman of the United States, Jean-Claude “Papa Doc” Duvalier of Haiti, Maurice Bishop of Grenada and many more who chose to affect the destinies of their peoples were “unelected and unknown quantities” when they started.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru

Now in the current travails of the Yorùbá Nation, we have so many “unelected and unknown quantities” striving to free their peoples from the slavery of Nigeria, from the subjugation of the bloodthirsty Fulani marauders and their efforts to steal the ancestral Yorùbá lands. Those who are leading the charge for this historical roles are “unelected.” But it doesn’t mean that the critical mass has no confidence in them.
An ignorant doctorate degree holder bereft of the concept of struggle and arid of the idea of freedom and liberty, has chosen to ridicule them and describe these valiant people whose names I don’t have to list right now, and who are determined to free their people from slavery, subjugation and annihilation by a parlous and amorphous entity awadaistically called Nigeria, as “unelected and unknown quantities.”
The “elected and known quantitites” have attested to their own irrelevance. Their inactions in the face of existential threats to our people, and actions of treachery against the people of Yorùbá Nation are not unknown and the people are watching very closely. The people have found sincere leadership in the so-called “unelected and unknown quantities” and the majority have chosen to follow them.
I have written several times that the Freedom Bus would leave behind those who claim to be “leaders” but unable to lead. A great lesson that History has taught us is that every struggle organically produces its own leadership. I have characterized it as “The Common Sense Leadership.” When such organic leadership emerges as it is emerging, it would be suicidal to swim against its tide.
Few things should rile the minds of men that value knowledge and intellect. Some of those few things would include deodorization of philistinism and insipience, imperviousness to extant facts and realities, and malodorous mischief by those who claim to have “education” because of the chain of white man’s degrees at the back of their names. Matters that concern the freedom of man and his existential survival, matters of life and death, should not be dragged in the mud of discombobulated intellectualiity.
Like our parents used to ring in our ears when we were young, “Mé kà’wé, àmó mo ka ogbón inú mi.” Literally translated it would mean, “I didn’t attend white man’s school, but I have native intelligence, smartness and common sense.”
-Remi Oyeyemi, journalist and public affairs analyst writes from the United States

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