It has been one year since Ayo Odebisi went on a another kind of going abroad trip. When I heard and looked at his photo, I saw more the love and friendship we had and spontaneously I tried to reach out to him, I named him “Jimmy”. All the people I love I give pet names, Paramole’s has been the only posthumous instance. In the eulogy “I Will not Mourn for Ayo Odebisi (Paramole)” I wrote what many have said encapsulated his life and what he represented on one page. I will not repeat such here. What I valued most about Odebisi was his perspicacious construction of eudaimonia in the image of the 4-7 Creed, the Creed of the Pyrates. His approach to creating the better society could never have been more sincere or practical but it somehow remains on the lofty side to many, apparently.
I will now share the interesting lessons I learnt from Odebisi in his quest to attain a better society with the cooperation of brothers and others, who cared to participate. Please feel free to evaluate them as I present them.
Develop a pure conscience. Odebisi contended that this is essential to contributing to the creation and maintenance of a better society. It sounds like stuff of Yoga, holy tracts, New Age idealism or ancient wisdom. However, when I asked how one could achieve such, his answer was very simply, “expending vigorous energy in doing good”. It had a touch of universality to it. He furthered, many have countless moral dilemmas as to whether to do good or do bad things in order to achieve their immediate and long term goals in life. They also have moral dilemmas about doing good for neighbours and the wider society or not to. He also distinguished between doing good and having a nice but weak nature, there should be ready justice in support of doing good. Vigorous energy in doing good without expediency in mind, reliably helps resolve such dilemmas and creates a consistent perspective for self-reflection, people can then understand their failings and follies and improve upon them. Inexplicably, he took strengths for granted. Paramole strove to attain freedom from wrongdoing, how else could one acquire the wherewithal to establish and further a just society. He affirmed this made him a Pyrate.
The person who effects change in society becomes a leader. This I already knew this but Odebisi’s fresh touch to it was “be ready to be unsung”. Leading does not mean being the front man, it is the practice of tending to significant affairs with a full sense of responsibility. He contended that one big limitation to fostering a better society is the quest for fame, notoriety, honours and money for effecting necessary change. To attain the better society, change is compulsory but how many care to do it by example or for its own sake? Creating a better society with someone else’s money, time and skills or with high office is very fashionable in Nigeria or elsewhere. Most want someone else or the state to bear their costs and risks but with success they then seek to keep the benefits and rewards all to themselves. Many of the major positive changes in Nigeria are credited to political leaders who were neither engineers nor technology managers, medical doctors nor health managers, educationists nor education mangers etc. Those who really came up with the ideas and did the work behind such successes remain unsung and sometimes punished for doing too good a job. Being unsung is what being a Pyrate is really about and it explains the 4-7 Creed effortlessly. He asks, “why should a Pyrate seek visible rewards for fighting the ills of society or practising the 4-7 Creed?” Why should anyone who accepts the responsibility?
Do your best in all relationships. Odebisi was very charismatic, well-connected, influential and generous. His personality was saturated with an ambience of possibility and opportunity. He never had a shortage of “friends”. I thus asked him how he was able to cope with the fake, dishonest, exploitative and cunning folk who attached themselves to him cloaked as genuine associates. His answer was again very simple, “become proficient in meeting the needs of others without neglecting your own. People who thrive on expediency will always abandon you when their needs are sated or they have failed to use you the way they intended. They come and go as they need to. The proficiency you acquire in working with them is your enlightenment. Multiple proficiencies you acquire through interactions make you more competent in contributing to attainment of the better society.” I put it another way “increase others without decreasing one’s self”. Such is the very foundation and enablement of sustainable brotherhood and civilisation.
There is no doubt these lessons have had an immeasurable impact on my life and struggles for well over a decade now. Others will tell you of similar or even different lessons they learnt from Odebisi; the man was certainly a sage and had much to teach people. Ultimately, the greatest lesson Odebisi taught anyone or everyone who cared to listen was “practice what you preach without exception” and he did so mainly leading by example. We should remember Paramole’s concept of flourishing life is not all about serious thought and steadfast practices, it also includes joy, happiness, laughter and fun. The dividends of a better society is a better life for all.
Now, I do not see Odebisi as some historical artefact in the lives of many and mine, he lives on through the indelible richness of interactions with countless people who cherished him and in the memory of his example. I seem to remember him when I encounter incredible challenges and his memory still helps out.