Wednesday, August 09, 2006

'Mo Lo' The answer to all existentialist questions

I cede to Simon the freshness of sight and the openness of mind to see Lagos from a vantage point that is both unusual and peculiar. We were both on the same flight into Lagos and we both experienced the descent into the airport as well as a desire to use the city lights as a symptom of the dynamics of the context we were descending into. His first response was there was no pattern to the lights they seemed disordered or close to chaotic. My initial response was to challenge and ask him to suspend judgment mostly out of knowledge that there is hidden order in everything. Perhaps most importantly I could hear Yaneer Bar-Yam's words ringing in my ears that chaos is a mathematical equation, it does not exist. Then we were both hit at the same time by the revealation that the lights were not random but were concentrations around certain sources They appeared in similar clusters across the city. What had happened was that our assumption that light would be distributed in a linear configuration of street grid blinded us to seeing the true pattern we needed to see and understand.

We had visited Lagos during the world cup and for me I had cringed at the underachievement of the African teams especially the persistent squandering of chances in the third of the pitch when they should be scoring. Their loss of composure was a pattern that was ably aided by blinkered refereeing and the jaundiced pronouncements of commentators. There we were again undermined by our indoctrination into inferiority and coerced by attempts to imitate our way into excellence. What was most telling was there was no longer an African team exhibiting the unique style of play that we associated with our disposition to dribble, entertain and stylishly deliver through our enjoyment of the artistry of the game. Yes, it is true that when this was not accompanied with a final product it looked naive and ignorant but all we needed was a dynamic equilibrum between entertainment and winning. Ghana would have beaten great Brazil by 6 goals. But as always we colluded with low expectation, slavery to western media hype, the loss of authenticity and we therefore failed to excel.

It was during the same visit that I engaged my brothers about the usual questions about our existence. Before leaving Milton Keynes, my egbon and mentor Lawson Oyedokun Oyekan and myself had one of our usual nightly session over one or maybe two, 7 year old, Havana club rum. In the end we came up with an hypothesis that if everyone understood the Mo Lo of their situation as well as self then we would resolve all life's challenges. Never mind that we also recognised that Mo Lo is actually a moving feast, a journey rather than a destination. It stands to reason that the day you actually full comprehend Mo lo is the day you die. For the uninitiated, Mo Lo (could not find the accents) is Yoruba for understanding or knowing of application or use. So if you do not really have an integral understanding of yourself how do you understand your purpose enough to Mo Lo. I have watched this hypothesis from football, to war , to organisational development, to marriage et al. It works, Mo Lo is the answer. Simply if you do not know how to use it, you lose it.

Commentators suggest that Israel has been preparing for the current war in Lebanon with Hezbollah for nearly 10 years, presenting to Think tanks and government officials in the US so they can get the green light. The IDF arguably the most effective and efficient fighting force in the world backed by tanks, airforce, missiles and the worlds only superpower. The same force that took only 6 days to fight all Arabic armies to a standstill is now fighting Hezbollah now for 29 days and no end in sight. It is Mo Lo, Hezbollah is within its authentic self, purpose and capacity. It is effective in its application. The same thing can be said of the war in Iraq or the world cup final in which France had all kinds of chances to put away Italy never mind Zidane's final capitulation to mind games . Use it or lose it. Singapore is a country without any resources, oil, diamonds et al. the only thing it has is its people guess what it has Mo Lo. It uses its diversity to innovate and positions its people for the best educationavailable using all for its unique competitive advantage and exploiting it to its benefit.

So my brother Kwabena and I sipping Mojitos as well as pissing off Oga Tunji in front of Lagos lagoon open up another front in this battle to disrupt conventional and complacent mentality. He submits that the reason that we have not found our Mo Lo in Nigeria even at the level of the unique value proposition of who we are is because the Nigerian elite are 'Relunctant Nigerians'. That was a ringing phrase which is one of his special skill, he coined the 'truimph of ego over logic'. We have been tracking down what that means since then. How do the elites manifest this disposition? He recently visited me on my home front and we defined the characteristics of the elite that make them reluctant Nigerians which are:

1) Denial: He calls it the illusion reality gap and I call it the lack of integral vision for example if we equitably allocated all of the Nigerian oil wealth we would still be one of the poorest countries in the world. The real source of wealth creation is in our capacity to make productive choices.

2) Cynicism: The celebration of our pessimism and complaints about the each other and our country has become a form of 'sophistication' a badge of honour. Seeing all trends in a reflex bad manner in a world of infinite possibility and explanationsa habit that we trumpet at every opprtunity.

3) Dysfuntion: Superficial simplicity of formal systems masking a complex and multilayered authenticity of our informal lives which we are 'educated' to despise and view with suspicion. In other words we are at odds with our athentic souls.

4) Emotive and personal reactiveness: We limit our analysis to the personal rather that seeing the broader system. We rarely see group to societal implication of any transaction.

5) Addiction to power and authority: We automatically exercise authority as a solution without exploring leadership and the service that it implies. The brutal exercise of power compensates for the insecurities that drive our desire for conspicous consumption. This even true in the Church.

6) Work avoidance: we regularly displace energy we should be using to transform our society in blaming someone else and having highly charged disagreements rather than making new choices.

7) Fear of failure: We are prisoners of the fear that we might never have been the Giants of Africa that we expect as our national birthright. So we will not try at all. We disdain the audacity of hope or any risk for innovation.

I started monitoring what this means going forward so lets me throw it out there for whoever comes visiting this blast of a blog. Imagine we are starting with a blank sheet of paper tell me:

what is Nigeria's productive value proposition or unique selling point to the world?

I watch many people talk and say Nigeris was an historical accident but so are many Nation states in the world. It is what it is what is the Mo Lo? I hear many hark for the simplicity of their ethnic nationalities and enclaves in a world that is interdependent so please explain why it is a country like Malaysia is productively evolving in spite of its diversity? I wretch when I hear my peers clamour for leadership when they are yet to produce institutions from their personal efforts but perpetuate their organisations as personal fiefdoms? So lets talk here what is the Mo Lo of Nigeria?

I had feedback that people do not comment because they feel their response must be well thought through. Come on blow some steam, express yourself, knock yourself out. All energy is welcome.