In William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. On his way to the capitol where he would meet his death, some citizens of Rome were presenting Caesar with petitions. Artimidorus had a petition that would save Caesar from the danger ahead if only Caesar would stop and read it.
Artimidorus: O Caesar, read mine first; for mine’s a suit that touches Caesar near. Read it, great Caesar. Caesar: What touches us ourself shall be last served. Ignore the royal connotation of the word “us” and the statement translates thus, “what concerns me personally shall be dealt with last.” For Caesar, the common good must take precedence over personal interests. That attitude has been the common denominator in history, of men and women who loom large and have assumed in the hearts of people, even generations after they came, lived and departed, the hallowed and rarified circles of legends.What touches us ourself shall be last served. This is the fabulous form, the fascinating and fitting fashion of famous fellows, of folks who fully fathom that fortune favours the fearless. They foreclose the ferment, foment and fallacy of ferocious felons, and follow their fate with faith, and face the fury of Pharaoh with fervent fervour, with formidable fortitude, in their fight for collective freedom, and earn fantastic felicitations as the flagships of our foremost forebears.
What touches us ourself shall be last served. It is the propellant that produces the power, purpose, perception, pace, purity, poise, persistence, perseverance and passion in people who pursue positive popular principles for the populace, provoking, preserving, and providing the perfect pattern and path to progress.
What touches us ourself shall be last served. It is the mindset of men and women who look at the tragic eyes of the oppressed, the hungry, the destitute, the weak and weary and feel their conscience stirred. They stint their bodily wants and surrender their personal desires for the good of the needy, and so establish their credentials as angels of mercy. Like Mother Teresa. Like the young Canadian, Craig Kielburger, who at the age of twelve, felt the acutest discomfort on reading of the murder of a fellow twelve-year old in far away Pakistan where child labour was common. He mobilized his school mates to take action and formed an organization that has grown and spread to forty countries around the world and provided over one million children an opportunity to breathe again, away from factories and streets where they were subjected to inhuman conditions. Craig Kielburger is making a difference in the world. Now twenty- two years old, he is equipping himself for greater service to humanity, having proved that age is no barrier to lofty deeds. He affirms Mustapha Kamil that “it is not life to live in despair”.
What touches us ourself shall be last served. Alfred Diete-Spiff was appointed the governor of a newly created state at the age of twenty-four. It was a heavy responsibility on the shoulders of the young man entrusted with the task of administering several millions of people in the difficult terrain of the Niger Delta, during the Nigerian Civil War. He proved to be equal to the task and did his very best. And his best was enough, for in just a couple of years, he had, with the little resources at his disposal, transformed his domain, developed human resources, empowered so many people and left landmarks that stand as glittering, glorious, glowing testimony to his committed service. Spiff gave his youth to service, service of his people.
What touches us ourself shall be last served. Sir Ahmadu Bello was born into privilege, power and position as prince and heir to the throne, the Caliphate, founded by his great grandfather, Usman dan Fodio. But his assured future of prominence was not his priority. He wanted to help the common man and lead his people into the modern age and position them effectively to enjoy the benefits of independence; to equip them, empower them, to make their lives better and enable them contribute to the development of their country. Though the most powerful position, Prime Minister of Nigeria, was within his reach, indeed was his for the asking, he preferred to be head of government of his region so that he would be nearer to his people to guide them properly and complete the reforms he had initiated for the general good. He had access to the treasury but took nothing for himself. When he was killed during the 1966 coup, he was not wealthy, he was not found to have stolen from public funds. He was too modest for such self-gratification. He had dedicated himself to the service of his people, and that service required that he had a hold on power, a lever that unfortunately provoked the anger and displeasure of those who eventually killed him. But his illustrious career as a servant of his people was more than enough to grant him automatic admission into the exclusive club of great legends in history.What touches us ourself shall be last served. M.K.O. Abiola rose from poverty and obscurity to greatness. His poverty-stricken childhood placed him in a position to understand the indignities and malignancy of poverty. He himself experienced it. He had engaged poverty in a bitter battle and triumphed. Victorious and wealthy, he gave generously to those who were captives of poverty, to help them secure their freedom from the shackles and woes of the scourge. Later he saw the limitations of his enormous personal efforts and realized that selfless service through purposeful leadership in government would provide the most potent platform to eradicate poverty through the empowerment of the poor and the elimination of hunger. The people knew he could, and gave him their mandate. But vicious characters that benefited from the status quo saw in him a threat to their satanic hegemony and plotted, in Mark Anthony’s words, “the ruins of the noblest of men”. The man died. His death provoked “domestic fury and fierce civil strife” that cumbered all parts of the land. It was the fury of the common people, of plebs who would have been freed from the fangs and pangs of penury. Abiola staked his wealth, ease of life and privilege, to lead his people to the Promised Land. But he was denied, deprived and destroyed by Pharaoh’s men and machine. Thus prolonging the agony of the oppressed who would have to wait for another Messiah in the mould of Moses, with the supernatural power to plague the tyrants of Egypt to submission and compel freedom for the enslaved.
What touches us ourself shall be last served. K. O. Mbadiwe began life with great promise and purpose. He acquired education and used it to fight for the liberation of his people from colonial rule. In his days as a student in the United States in the 1940s, he initiated moves to bring about liberty, freedom and fraternity. He founded the Africa House and produced the film, Greater Tomorrow, articulating the philosophical foundation, principles and methodology for the birth and girth of his nation and race. Soon, he returned home to join the efforts to secure independence. On arrival, he met a fractious nationalist movement and moved to unite them against the common enemy, the colonialists. Shortly before independence, Mbadiwe again saw the need for unity and inclusive politics. He led the way by surrendering personal glory to collective good. Though a top contender for the post of Nigeria’s first Prime Minister, Mbadiwe supported another “so that we can speak with one voice”. His politics was played with vivacity and vitality, with colour, glamour and flamboyance. He was truly the “lamb which voluntarily chose to be sacrificed for Nigeria unity”. But many wondered whether in his self-immolation he did not inadvertently surrender his people to mass crucifixion. However, his emollient stance on issues saved his nation many troubles.
What touches us ourself shall be last served. Mrs. Elizabeth Abimbola Awoliyi chose to be different. In an age when women were content with their roles as wives, mothers, farmers and cleaners, she led the way and set the pace, becoming the first woman medical doctor in Nigeria and, indeed, in the whole of West Africa. Mrs. Awoliyi went the extra mile so that she could contribute to society by helping to provide better health for all. She also established a farm to feed the people, realizing that hunger was the precursor of ill-health and death. Mrs. Awoliyi denied herself so much to serve society. And she was a good leader too.
What touches us ourself shall be last served. Tim Nwokoro saw the benefits of education as a child. He worked hard and acquired it. Then he decided to be a teacher, to help spread education, to liberate the ignorant. He taught and guided his students properly. Today his students are great men and women, serving society in different professions and making their mark. Tim Nwokoro continues to teach, though retired and almost eighty years old. He continues to serve humanity. He is the paramount traditional ruler of his people and has trained his children to be great assets to society. Tim Nwokoro has given and continues to give selfless service.
What touches us ourself shall be last served. E.M.C. Anyankah was a self-made man. After primary and teachers training education, he chose a career for himself. He gained employment in a mining company. Realizing that further education would help him and others to be better citizens and contribute to society, he enrolled for further studies by distant learning while his mates partied and made merry. Eventually he earned higher qualifications and was sought after by high profile companies. He later retired voluntarily and invested in agriculture, to feed his people. His community, in recognition and appreciation of his services, elected him their paramount traditional ruler. It was in leadership that he shone best as he successfully led his people from backwardness to modernity and development, establishing institutions that accelerated the transformation of his community. He left great legacies. Anyankah put others first and subjected his personal interest to collective good. These are people who have made and continue to make remarkable contributions to humanity in the realization that life is not what you take from it but what you give to enable others live better. They are unlike those with blinkered outlook, those guided by selfishness and uncharitableness of spirit. They are unlike opportunists with blunted minds and sterility of thought, predators who take advantage of changes and chances of historical fortunes. They are unlike men and women who bask in the glory of their monuments of waste, unlike kill- joys and spoil-sports who live at the expense of the weak, and like vultures feed fat from the expired hopes, mistakes and misfortunes of the poor, the helpless, and leave in the shadows of their talons, devastation, destruction, destitution, desperation, deprivation, dejection and death. Societies are made or unmade by the balance of two forces: those who believe, like Caesar, that “what touches us ourself shall be last served”, and those who unlike Caesar have the mindset of “what touches us ourself shall be first served.” Nations are made up of individuals. National philosophy is the aggregate of the philosophy of the individuals that constitute its citizenry, just as national success is the sum of the successes of its individual citizens. And so nations must strive to teach their citizens to place “the rest” above “self”, and be prepared to recognize, honour and reward those who do. Like the men and woman we feature in this edition; people who have attained iconic status. They are harbingers of the inner potentials of beautiful humanity.
What touches us ourself must be last served .So that society may avoid the perilous path to perdition and ride the road to redemption. …Read More