(Being the text of an address by Dame Taiwo Ajai-Lycett OON, fSONTA on Friday, November 19, 2021, at the 23rd Lagos Book & Art Festival, LABAF, where she was honoured as part of activities marking the year-long celebration of her 80th birthday (February 4, 2021) by the Committee for Relevant Art, CORA).
Abstract: In this essay written, 15 October 2012, and pertinent more so today, the author invites the Haanel (1919) concept of Septimal Law to unpack the eco-political state of Nigeria. In its direct terming of the country’s state of affairs as comatose, the paper nuances hope that nation can still (re)claim a manifestly progressive outlook.
I OFTEN sit reading Haanel’s (1919), ‘The master Key System’, contemplating the state of the Nigerian nation in relation to the Septimal Law. It is said that everything that lives has periods of birth, growth, fruitage, and decline. These periods are said by the sage, to be governed by the “Septimal Law”. Haanel (1919) maintains that the “Law of Sevens” governs the days of the week, the phases of the moon, the harmonies of sound, light, heat, electricity, magnetism, and atomic structure. This law commands the lives of individuals and of nations, and dominates the activities of the commercial world. I shall unpack this, below.
Life is growth, and growth is change, each seven-year period, it is said, takes us into a new cycle. The first seven years is the period of infancy. The next seven the period of childhood, representing the beginning of individual responsibility. The following seven years represents the period of adolescence. The fourth period marks the attainment of full growth. The fifth is the constructive period – when men begin to acquire property, possessions, a home and family. The next from 35 to 42, is a period of reactions and changes, and this in turn is followed by a period of reconstruction, adjustment and recuperation, so as to be ready for a new cycle of sevens, beginning with the fiftieth year. Shall I now deploy the above backdrop to the Nigerian situation?
We all know Nigeria is, ostensibly, 52, but quite honestly, I am at a loss to know to which period of growth to categorise her. What I do suspect is that she is somewhat comatose. Have you ever heard the term in psychology, “Paralysis by Analysis” (James 1819a, b)? This is what happens when you see an opportunity. You examine and analyse it. You establish that it is probably a good idea, and then instead of moving forward, you continue to micro-examine it, second-guess yourself, and rehearse everything that could go wrong. Meanwhile, by the time you are ready to finally take action, the opportunity is gone. Gone! Hello…! This is Nigeria! Recognise her? I am sure you do.
No one is more vocal, more argumentative, ‘analytical’ and ‘knowledgeable’ about our national condition as we are. We know the problems, but either lack the ability to find solutions or lack the will to apply them because of some perverse inertia, and lack of form. In order to grow into a nation, we must obtain what is necessary for our growth.
As citizens, we very often, “okay, I know…”. We occasionally get leaders who know what to do, and yet do not do it. They over-think it. They “starve to death” analysing. Those folks need a wakeup call, a compassionate kick in the rump to get them going. Why can they not learn from other world leaders, human and fallible, yes, but who are savvy enough to know they cannot please everybody, but know that once they bite the bullet, so to speak, and take action, they feel great?!
Giving what has been happening in our country lately, our own leaders have a chance to join this dynamic class and show some leadership, or a semblance of it. And about time, too. We would love to have them on board. The country has spent more than enough decades reviewing and fiddling with our body politic, that to my mind, it is time for action if the professional and political, investment in the careers of our leaders of thought are not to turn back at zero risk to all of us. A sense of commitment is called for in order to transform our life into a semblance of stability and sanity, and hopefully, build a feeling of confidence in our people. It is frightening to think that if they do not try doing something now, we will never know whether peace is possible in our time. What is the use of sweating and fretting? Be bold! The window of opportunity is still open though closing rapidly. Nigerian leaders, are you in or out? Can you, or can you not already feel the compassionate kick in your collective rump, in the cry of your fellow citizens?
Do you ever stay up late at night dreading the morning? How about looking at that pile of bills in the kitchen that clutter the counter and worrying about them? Not to mention the current state of political, economic, and social affairs going on in the country, and indeed, the world. Well, you are not alone. I find myself on my recliner-seat thinking about these things – and more importantly thinking about Nigeria and my fellow countrymen and women. Yes, you my friend. I think of you, my friend.
I am thinking about how these issues affect us and what we can do about them. Times are tough. Money is harder and harder to come by and if you do have a job or a business, chances are it is not doing as well as you would like; it is not paying what it used to. I mean after all, that is why you are interested in running your own outfit in the first place, right? You are looking for a way to make a decent living on your own or maybe even a tidy fortune – some cash to rebuild, because to be really honest for a second – it is the actions and habits that will get you to where you want to be today. Or with a little bit of luck things may be working out but just not as fast as you would like them. It is okay – you are not alone. You can change it. I am not going to lie and tell you it is going to be easy, push button, or overnight. Just like losing weight – the change does not happen overnight. It is like I remind myself constantly – I did not get fat overnight, so I do not expect to get skinny overnight either. Given my age, who wants skinny? All I need is an active lifestyle. My aim is just to get fit, firm, lithe and funky in order to live it. These things take time, energy, and focus on my part. You might have to step outside your comfort zone a little and chances are every once in a while, something will not go according to plan. It is okay, trust me, you are not alone. But it does not have to be complicated.
I pride myself on running and living a simple, uncomplicated and harmonious life. I have no desire for a high-octane, fake and stressful existence, or some other imitation of a good life. Above all, I want to work when I want, where I want, with who I want, and with as few “mouths” to feed as possible in the process. Nirvana, and its real reward, is in doing it my own way, and getting to have freedom, extra income, and travel as much as I’d like to. What about you? The last words of this piece belong to Harry Truman:
Nothing is more important in our national life than the welfare of our children (Harry S. Truman; unknown).
Haanel, C. 1919. The Master Key System. Unknown: Inland Printery.
James, W. 1891a. Principles of psychology I. London: Macmillan.
James, W. 1891b. Principles of psychology II. London: Macmillan.
*Dame Taiwo Ajai-Lycett, actress, journalist and culture activist is an Officer of the Order of the Niger, OON, and fellow of the Society of Nigerian Theatre Artists, FSONTA.