Festina Lente: The Problem with my PhD Thesis.

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Moremi, a detective par excellence – 50,000 soldiers, 9,000 horsemen and some 37 elephants – Fabius Maximus ‘the delayer’ – The problem with my PhD Thesis.

Moremi Ajasoro was a heroic ancient queen of Ile-Ife – the cradle of the Yoruba (mostly in West Africa, Nigeria). Recent re-appraisal of legends convinced me that she deserves a bit more honor than she had been accorded. Which the new Ooni Oguwusi Ojaja II (Present King of Ile-Ife) aptly recognized, and lead him to build the tallest statue in Nigeria in her honor last year.

Moremi Statue (Credit: Ajibola Fasola)

Oozing with beauty and virtue, she had put all the citizens of Ile-Ife to shame – for one, while everyone else prayed to the ‘gods’ in the face of terror, she was the only person who could muster courage to take a meaningful action. However, my interest lie not in the mere act of action, but in the kind.

Legend has it that the igbo people (forest people, as they were called) terrorizes the Yorubas during the time of Moremi. Appearing as some sort of demi-gods, they absconded with whatever their hands could carry including women and children, with very, very limited challenge from the Yorubas.

I would imagine some brave men (i.e., alagbara ma meru) approaching the invaders, only to be left with broken noses, damaged ankles, bruised faces, and maybe some cracked skulls.

Moremi decided to take the slow path, that of a detective-cum-spy.  She gave herself up for arrest, and infiltrated the igbo people, and lured herself into the seat of power, thanks to her stunning beauty. She got married to the king of the Igbos, took her time to get accustomed to their traditions, and more importantly to the secrets of the powerful invaders. After due diligence, she escaped from the Igbos and liberated the people of Ife.

Moremi’s action doesn’t appear to me as an overnight duty, but one that necessitate excruciating patience. Moremi’s actions echo Emperor Augustus famous words:

“That which has been done well has been done quickly enough.”

Let’s proceed.

50,000 soldiers, 9,000 horsemen and some 37 elephants

Note: If you know nothing about the Punic wars, a war between America and Russia would be a fair approximation except that it was fought thousands of years ago with differing circumstances.

That will be our next junction.

From 264–146 BCE, the 3 staged Punic wars were fought between Catharge (Modern-day Tunisia) and the Roman Republic. Catharge was a standing empire, the big beast in western Mediterranean, that kind of thing (it controlled parts of North Africa and Spain, and some island in the Mediterranean); while Rome – at the time –  had its territories spreading like wild fire.

These wars made Rome the dominant power in the west for the next 7 centuries. And just to emphasize it was no beauty contest-kind of war, it was a BIG war.

The first Punic war ended with the Romans gaining the upper hand, as they took control of Sicily – a small island in the Mediterranean which primed the war; together with Sardinia and Corsica few years after. But the second Punic war was a different story – the Romans were beaten to smithereens. Thanks to a brutal general – Hannibal!

Hannibal travelled about a thousand miles to give the Romans a fight. He crossed the Alps with 50,000 soldiers, 9,000 horsemen and some 37 elephants under the worst weather condition possible on earth (Many died from severe cold and frost bites). However, his tactics worked excellent – a surprise package for the Romans.

(Photo Credit: Henri Motte)

But the main battle ground was in Cannae, where he faced more than 80,000 Roman soldiers with almost half that size. He won bigly. Up to 50,000 Romans were killed, with some historian putting the frequency of deaths at a hundred of Romans per minute.

The stratagem utilized by Hannibal at the battle of Cannae remain on the syllabus of military academies till this day.

He hanged around Italy for some 15 years after the victory.

Fabius Maximus ‘the delayer’

As you might know the Romans don’t lose wars, (until they finally got busted after the assassination of Commodus in 192CE)  all they lose is just a few battles here and there. The entire Punic War ended with the Romans victorious not by a standard ancient warfare battle, but largely through the brilliant insight of a Roman general who took over after Cannae debacle – Fabius Maximus.

Fabius avoided pitched battle with Hannibal, while  they burnt their crops as they retreated to other fortified towns –  subjecting Hannibal’s men to deadly livelihood; they engaged in guerrilla tactics, played the waiting games, and finally forcing Hannibal to jettison the campaign.

Quintus Ennius, a writer during the period of the Roman Republic wrote “unus homo nobis cunctando restituit rem” –

One man, by delaying, restored the state to us.

George Washington has been called the ‘American Fabian’ for the tactic he deployed doing the America war of Independence. Same applies to the British socialist organization, the Fabian Society.

The Problem with my PhD Thesis

I had a discussion with my Dad a little over a month ago which hinges on my PhD thesis. A PhD himself, and having spent close to 6 decades on the earth crust, he have some very valuable tips up his sleeves. He ended the conversation with an apothegm – Festina Lente and he urged me to look it up.

The aphorism emanates from Classical Greek, σπεῦδε βραδέως, while the latin translation, Festina Lente remains the popular one for obvious reasons. In English, it means “make haste slowly”.

And for the problem with my thesis, there is none.


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