The lessons of Ebi: Ancestral guidance for modern-day leadership
Kola Karim (Nigeria) is an African entrepreneur who has started, built and nurtured several businesses, most notably in the oil and gas space. He can be found on many lists of movers, shakers and influencers in Africa and he believes in harnessing our ancestry for the Africa we want for the future.
At the dawn of the fourteenth century there was what we must call, an empire—the Ife Empire. An empire held together not by the force of arms, but by the power of commerce, the belief in a common ancestry and the manifest oneness of cultural heritage. At the core of this, is what we Yorubas call the Ebi system. Ebi means family. At that time, the important thing was not the actual source or place of origin of the rulers of any given kingdom. Instead, what mattered most was the belief in the commonality of ancestry and sense of shared purpose.
Now, in these early decades of the 21st century, we are faced with a confluence of threats to our wellbeing that will require Africans to look back to this age of empires and embrace the wisdom of that time. We must channel this ancestral knowing, the spirit of commonality, and above all family. We must exalt leaders that embrace the principles of Ebi.
This is a leadership guided by principles rooted in what we have in common and is bound by the lofty ideals of serving our people. The opportunities and challenges of the 21st century—poverty, healthcare, education and so on - are best tackled when our leaders act with this common purpose, grounded in the belief that their actions are part of a universal network effect that can be transformative across the whole continent. It is no coincidence that some call the 21st century the age of networks. And what is a network but a modern-day manifestation of the ancient Yoruba ethos of Ebi?