Tuesday, 11 March 2014
Somebody once advised me to try and be like Reno Omokri, so I can also ‘make it’, instead of ‘making noise’ all the time – Pius Adesanmi
Professor Pius Adesanmi is arguably the most restless public intellectual in Nigeria today. He needs no introduction to millions of Nigerians that regularly visit leading web-based platforms like Nigeria Village Square, Sahara Reporters and Premium Times. Beyond those new media platforms, his essays on contemporary issues are also usually published in other less known blogs and sites, just as his satires are widely circulated via twitter and facebook. So, in today’s social media-driven Nigeria, it is highly unlikely that there are internet-savvy, politically conscious Nigerians that have not come across Adesanmi’s essay.
After two weeks of trying, Jarushub editor, Suraj Oyewale, was able to get hold of the Kogi-born, Canada-based professor. Enjoy the interview:
Jarushub: Let’s start from your background. Can you give me a brief insight into your growing up?
Ah – the background question! I don’t seem to be able to escape this question these days even if many of my popular essays are windows into my childhood and boyhood in Isanlu, Yagba East Local Government Area of Kogi state. Many of the essays in my book of creative non-fiction, You’re not a Country Africa, also tell my coming of age story.
My Dad, the late Alfred Dare Adesanmi, and my Mom, Lois Adesanmi, are both from Isanlu. That makes me a proud Yagba man and a privileged bearer of the intellectual flag of Okun people. I have described myself as belonging to the transitional generation which witnessed the collapse of Nigeria’s ethical foundation. We are now between forty and sixty-years-old.
During my formative years, Isanlu, like the rest of Okunland, was a bucolic world in which an unfinished modernity meshed seamlessly with a certain traditional world in retreat. Pre-prosperity Pentecostal versions of Christianity had an uneasy co-existence with colourful forms of traditional spirituality. I recall egungun (masquerade) and Ogun festivals. I recall oro and imole festivals. Although Christians and Moslems treated these traditional spiritualities with contempt and condescension, there was in fact a meeting point in terms of the ethos and regimes of morality which governed society and dictated the pedagogies with which children were raised.
My parents, for instance were staunch Roman Catholics. Indeed, it is safe to say that Dad and Mom were more Catholic than the Pope. I was, therefore, raised with a heavy Catholic hand. My parents have only three of us. I have two elder sisters, so I am the youngest child and the only son. But I do not recall growing up with less than a dozen cousins and nephews living with us at any given time. And we were all subject to the same strict moral and ethical codes dictated by my parents’ subscription to the codes of Christian parenting as well as traditional modes of shaping behavior. I am saying that for all the Catholicism, the omoluabi principles they instilled in us were informed by culture and tradition and fed by traditional spiritualities. One’s sense of taboo, of avoiding bad behaviour devolved as much from not wanting to offend particular gods and ancestors as it did from the Christian text.
Another thing about my background – you can guess this one – is books. My Dad and Mom were both educationists. They were secondary school principals in the missionary tradition of yore. In fact, Dad was a student in Dundee, Scotland, when the first wave of Catholic secondary schools were founded in Okunland – St Augustine’s College, St. Monica’s College, St. Barnabas’ College, all in Kabba; St Kizitos College, Isanlu, etc. The then Bishop of Lokoja Diocese, Bishop Auguste Delisle, from Québec, Canada, reached out to Catholic sons of Okunland overseas to come home and work in the newly established colleges. This was in the early 1960s.
There was also the desire on the part of these people to return home from the white man’s land and build their newly-independent country, Nigeria. My father was part of the generation that answered Bishop Delisle’s call in the 1960s. He returned home from Scotland and was appointed Principal of St Kizito’s College, Isanlu. At the time, a certain Reverend Father John Onaiyekan, who was ordained in 1969, was the parish priest of our local Catholic church in Isanlu and was also teaching at St. Kizito’s college.
My father brought home from Scotland a ‘bad’ habit I will call bibliophilia. My father read extremely widely. He was trained in history. In fact, when he returned home from Europe, he went on to do his Masters in History at the Ahmadu Bello University, where he was a student of the great Professor Abdullahi Smith. My formative years meant monthly trips with my father to University bookshops in Ilorin, Ife, and Ibadan to buy books for the family library. Can you imagine that? The man would earn his pay, jump into his car with his son, and take off to buy books. He collected books in every imaginable discipline: History, literature, geography, sociology, archeology, etc. He would tell me that he could tolerate anything but a mind that has not read books. He made me read. He made me acquire an unquenchable thirst for erudition.
That is how I came to acquire more erudition outside of institutional frameworks than what I read at school during my formative years. School was the easy part. My father’s library at home was where I did the heavy lifting under his supervision. Halfway through secondary school, I had finished abridged versions of most of Shakespeare and the Greek classics. I had exhausted virtually every novel in the African Writers Series because Dad had the complete collection at the time. I had read very widely in African precolonial and colonial history. Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Ovid, Virgil, etc, were not names I encountered in formal schooling. They were spirits I encountered in my father’s library at home, long before I had reached the level in literary studies when they became part of the curriculum. Dad subscribed to Time Magazine, Newsweek, and Reader’s Digest. Can you imagine that? We received those magazines weekly at the local post-office in Isanlu when I was growing up! They were part of my intellectual diet.
JARUSHUB: You are a multi-talented writer. I’m not a man of letters, but from the little I know of literature, I know you write poems and your collection, The Wayfarer and Other Poems, won the Association of Nigerian Authors’ Poetry Prize in 2001. Your book, You’re not a country, Africa, won the Penguin Prize for African Writing in 2010. Your essays are also usually satirical and you deploy Yoruba proverbs and wise cracks that make one want to read them over and over again. You are also a public intellectual, delivering lectures all over the world. How do you juggle all these?
Did you just describe me there? I don’t know this guy you are talking about o! Ok, my Dad is also the culprit here. If you look for my essay, “Pace Setters” online, you’ll see my description of Dad as the culprit who ruined my football “set” games with his intellectual terrorism. You know what it means to wait all evening for your own “set” (five-a-side soccer game) and be summoned in a patriarchal voice by your Dad to come and study. Dad was an absolute killjoy. He ruined my games. And he wasn’t just satisfied with allotting me novels, plays, poems, history books etc. I had to write essays about each book I read. He graded my work meticulously. I read and wrote and wrote and read. Dad graded and graded and graded.
The wide variety of texts he exposed me to and required me to write reactions to necessitated my learning to write in an eclectic format. But I realize that there also has to be talent. There has to be a certain gift you are born with. So, maybe Dad only honed what his genes had already guaranteed in me.
Today, my Muses are the terrorists who keep me awake all night. They are terrible spirits. I never can tell what they are going to make me write: a poem, satire, a personal essay, etc. They torment me until I deliver. After each inspired essay, I feel really drained and mentally exhausted, like a woman who just delivered a baby. The public intellectual part I already explained in a previous interview I granted the magazine, African Writing (http://www.african-writing.com/eleven/adesanmi.htm). The editor of the magazine says I suffer from what he calls the militant intellection complex. I agree with him.
I must however add that public intellection is a heavy burden and a terrible fate. It is no tea party. I did not choose to be one. Public intellection is a path that chose me. “Follow the paths that chose you”, my friend, Odia Ofeimun, screams in a poem. That is exactly what I am doing – following the path that chose me.
I agree that juggling all these things with a busy academic career is not easy. I still have to teach my undergraduate classes and graduate seminars full time. I still have to write and publish literary theory essays in refereed academic journals and edited books. I currently have a Banting post-doctoral fellow working with me in addition to supervising two doctoral candidates. I am active as an external examiner for Ph.D students from South Africa to the United States and Canada. And you will have noticed that I don’t repeat lectures. The keynote lecture I delivered at the University of Toronto this past February 15 is different from the one I delivered one week later at Penn State University. The keynote lecture I delivered last November at the annual convention of the Association of Nigerian Authors in Uyo is different from the SNG lecture I delivered two days later in Lagos.
The regularity of these invited lectures means that they have to be written on the run, even as you see my weekly columns and as you follow my public instruction activism on Facebook. But I get by. I get by.
JARUSHUB: Who are your mentors in the literary world?
Three of my teachers at Titcombe College took a strong interest in my flair for writing, mentored, and encouraged me. I owe everything to Mr Funsho Medaiyedu, my English Literature teacher, Mr Tunde Iluromi, my French teacher, and Mr. Dele Dada, my history teacher. Apart from my teachers, all the writers I have read in the world’s great literary traditions are my mentors. If you are a writer, every piece of prose you read from the masters is like a subconscious blood transfusion. A writer’s blood is a confluence of many prose transfusions.
Apart from the masters of African prose, apart from the masters of black diasporic prose (we call that the Black Atlantic in literary theory), I look at the European tradition across times and climes and see mentors from Balzac to Flaubert, from Tolstoy to Dostoievski, from Dickens to Orwell. I look at the Americas and see mentors from Borges to Garcia Marquez, from Carlos Fuentes to Vargas Llosa, from Jorge Amado to Reinaldo Arenas. I look at the United States and Canada and see mentors from William Faulkner to John Dos Passos, from Ringuet to Margaret Atwood. Odia Ofeimun took a personal supervisory interest in my writing when I was in Ibadan in the early to mid-1990s. So did Professor Niyi Osundare who still picks up the phone regularly to check in on my writing.
Your contemporaries can also be your mentors. During my Ibadan years, I was surrounded by a pool of writers whose impact on my work is not negligible. Nothing today comes to close to the fraternity I enjoyed with Harry Garuba, Remi Raji, Nduka Otiono, Akin Adesokan, Toni Kan, Charles Ogu, Unoma Azuah, Omowumi Segun, Toyin Adewale-Gabriel, Promise Okekwe, Chiedu Ezeanah, Simeon Berete, Obi Nwakanma, EC Osondu, Maik Nwosu, Nehru Odeh, David Diai, Sola Olorunyomi and so many wonderful writers. Lola Shoneyin is like my Siamese twin in Nigerian letters. We have come a long way and we always encourage each other. Ogaga Ifowodo is ‘family’ and I draw inspiration from his work.
I draw mentorship from the work of Amatoritsero Ede, Victor Ehikhamenor, Afam Akeh, Nnorom Azuonye, Uche Nduka, and Obu Udeozo. Among the great Francophone African writers of my generation, Abdourahman Ali Waberi has been my brother and companion since we met in South Africa at the Time of the Writer in 1998. I am also close to the Cameroonian novelist, Patrice Nganang. Reading my work, the mentorship of D.O. Fagunwa and other master Yoruba prose stylists is unmistakable. My prose blood group is rich and chaotic. Too many writers have donated mentorship prose-blood for the transfusion that you encounter in my writing.
JARUSHUB: Now, let’s go to Nigerian politics: I have been a follower of your articles for some years now, and have always told people that care to listen that you and Sonala Olumhense are the most vocal, perhaps most radical, columnists and public intellectuals in Nigeria today. What motivates your political writings/criticisms?
First, as a public intellectual, I am a product of all the great “isms” of the global radical left – which you can already delineate from my description of my reading diet, starting from my father’s library when I was a kid. That training ingrained a keen appetite for fairness and justice in my psyche at a very early age. Wide reading and my subsequent ideological development only sharpened that incipient sense of radical social commitment.
I’ve been a student of French public intellectuals for several decades. From them, I learnt about the immense power of ideas. Emile Zola altered the course of French – and perhaps European society – with just one public letter, “J’Accuse (I accuse). And we know the impact of the generation of the “engaged” philosophers like Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Albert Camus as they shaped society with their cerebral power and opposed the colonial beast of the French state in Vietnam and Algeria.
When your mind has been shaped by this kind of radical interventionist tradition at the level of ideas, a society like Nigeria becomes increasingly offensive. Nigeria offends me profoundly and fundamentally in terms of our sorry postcolonial history and trajectory. Nigeria offends me because she is unfair and unjust. Nigeria offends me because she offers the bizarre situation in which less than 200, 000 buffoons in the political élite have ensured that about 160 million people may never arrive in the 21st century in my lifetime. Travel sharpens the pain and the awareness. Forget about Europe. Forget about North America. The tragedy, the disappointment that is Nigeria is flung in your face when you travel as extensively in Africa as I do.
Let me tell you, as an undergraduate student of French, I spent a year abroad in Togo. Togo was my first ever experience of spending a whole year on earth without electricity blinking even for one second. And to think that more than 20 years after this experience in Togo, some pro-establishment idiots still go about on social media asking Nigerians to be thankful whenever they enjoy maybe one week of uninterrupted electricity! We are being asked to be grateful for less than what the Togolese enjoyed 20 years ago! This sort of unacceptable situation nourishes my career as a public intellectual and a radical columnist.
Living in the diaspora should make any Nigerian of good conscience as restless as I am. It should instill the desire in us not to cut Nigeria any slack, not to tolerate the merchants of mischief and illusion who sell mediocrity to our people, claiming that Rome was not built in a day. Like my friend, Yomi Okusanya, always says, it is criminal to live abroad and justify or rationalize the tragedy that is Nigeria.
My responsibility is to refuse to accept any excuses for why Nigerians cannot ride in the kinds of trains that Canadians use today. I cannot ride in jet-age trains here and be happy and content that my people in Nigeria are riding in poorly refurbished World War locomotives doing Lagos to Kano in 36 hours and are being asked to be grateful for that privilege in the 21st century. To reject this sort of insult on behalf of the Nigerian people is what motivates my public intellectual work.
JARUSHUB: As a government critic, will you ever commend a government if they do something commendable? Or is it just about looking at the lowpoints of government alone?
Of course. I actually have a history of commending government officials when they perform well and credibly. Long before people began to pay serious attention to Babatunde Raji Fashola, I wrote an essay, “Babatunde Fashola, the Loner of Sodom”. Google it and see what I had to say about the man. People forget that and brandish my criticism of Fashola’s purchase of Toronto junk trains as evidence that I don’t commend government officials when they perform.
You are familiar with my positive writings about our friend, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, even when it became dangerous for my reputation as the man progressively became enamoured of curious actions and reckless talk sure to guarantee him negative press. I am very fond of SLS but I reserve the right to use my koboko publicly on him in my columns whenever he veers off reason and logic. Look at all the rubbish he was doing last year in the name of corporate social responsibility. Although he explained things to me in an email, I did not buy his yeye argument. He went about doing Father Christmas in Kano and in some Universities, doling out money and sending all the wrong symbolic signals. In Nigeria’s environment of overwhelming fiscal brigandage, the CBN governor ought to be a symbol of fiscal moderation and responsibility. When credible people like SLS begin to spend money like a drunken sailor, charlatans like Godswill Akpabio will take their cue. That’s why I was very vocal in criticizing SLS in social media at the time.
In addition, you do know my overall favourable opinion of Nasir El Rufai because of his work in Abuja, despite the considerable criticism he attracts. You also must not forget that my intervention in how Nigeria is run is not always public. At my level – I hope I am not being immodest – I have access to very high levels in Nigeria indeed. I have access to numerous political ‘ogas at the top’. It comes with the territory of public intellection. My experience with Nigerian officials is that they listen and respect you a lot once they know that you are real and you are offering your viewpoint selflessly and out of patriotic zeal. They only disrespect those running after them for kola, contracts, and appointments. Once they know you are above that level and you have followership, they are in fact grateful when you call them to offer advice.
Therefore, my praxis is a combination of using my weekly column as a koboko and active intervention via telephone advocacy. I do telephone intervention if I believe that picking up the phone and sharing positive ideas with a government official might be more effective than writing a column. With regard to acknowledging their tentative and often pyrrhic positive steps, I just don’t like to do it under duress or in response to some yeye pressure by pro-establishment noisemakers who go about browbeating people for “balanced or constructive criticism”, their euphemism for praise singing.
Some would even want to impose a quota on you. They go about saying write positive things, as if you must invent good news when it does not exist. I don’t tolerate that nonsense at all. Government officials have a surfeit of praise singers anyway. They are “ogas at the top” and everybody praises them. They swim in unmerited praise. What they lack in sufficient numbers are people who talk unvarnished sense to them. My critical voice is very important to me. It shall not join the ranks of praise singers.
JARUSHUB: With the experience with Reuben Abati, and maybe Segun Adeniyi, Nigerians have become quite skeptical about fiery public commentators. Will you ever consider accepting a spokesmanship appointment with a Nigerian government if offered? Or any appointive office with government?
Ha ha ha, et tu, Suraj! This is a question friends and foes, admirers and adversaries alike have thrown at me over the years in my various spheres of public engagement. These days, it is not uncommon for me to receive close to a hundred messages per day in my Facebook inbox and nearly half of those messages would come from Nigerians all over the world literally pleading with me not to betray them because they have been betrayed by too many activist public intellectuals in whom they invested a lot of hope, only to see such fellows end up as carrion eaters from the master’s table.
Reuben Abati’s tragic choice has been elevated into something of a national injury in the Nigerian psyche. Nigerians have taken his treachery personal and he may never recover from this disaster. His degrees, his brilliance, didn’t prevent him from underestimating the credibility and symbolic capital he had built with the Nigerian people and everything has come crashing.
Segun Adeniyi is my friend – no, make that my brother, he is my brother – and he too made a judgment call I vehemently disagree with, hence the biting satirical war I waged against him throughout the time he spent with the oppressor. Today, he too is still managing the consequences of his problematic decision. Unlike Abati, I at least can claim to understand the rationalizations that went through Segun’s mind as he went in. Segun will not be the first credible and progressive intellectual to fall prey to such rosy rationalizations. He will not be the last.
Nigeria provides such intractable challenges that fighting the system from the outside, year in year out, and not seeing any tangible results could lead the activist, the progressive, the public intellectual, into the attractive fallacy of the individual catalyst of change from within. You get tired of being Cassandra. Cassandra is that lady in Greek mythology who was given the gift of vision and prophecy but cursed that nobody would believe her. Cassandra can see the future of society and prophecy about it but she is condemned to scream herself hoarse without a single soul believing her. That is the position of the Nigerian progressive activist versus power in Nigeria. We are Cassandra. Power never believes what we see and scream about our the future of Nigeria. After years of being Cassandra and not being believed, your mind begins to tell you that, perhaps, you could go in and engineer change from within in little installments.
I have seen intellectuals and activists go in based on this rationalization. They are going to be the miracle worker from within. They are going to wield the magic wand from within. But we are familiar with the consistent and unchanging denouement of this scenario. Where they survive, they come out with a badly damaged reputation and a severely undermined public image, having made zero impact on the culture of corruption and cronyism they went in to change.
Now, what do the Cassandra intellectual figures who embrace government appointments to become miracle workers from within and my readers in the public sphere – including you, Suraj – who are uneasy, predicting that it is only a question of time before I “join them” by accepting a political appointment; what do you all have in common? Well, your position is informed by a certain perverse idea of service in our national consciousness. This is also tied to a broader perverse notion of “making it” that came with the military.
For my father’s generation, “service to Nigeria”, was whatever you were called upon to do in your station in life. My father was a college principal his entire life. For him, he was serving and that opportunity to serve Nigeria by moulding her children meant “he had arrived”. He had “made it”. Somewhere along the line, our values were perverted. To serve, to make it, became synonymous with “eating” after a political appointment. So, when people ask me if I would be willing to serve Nigeria if called upon, I retort: but I have been called into the service of Nigeria by my intellectual gifts and talent.
I am already serving. I have spent several years now in public pedagogy and conscientization. That is service to Nigeria. There is of course also the tragic sense in that question about whether I would accept to “join the government”. There is the pre-supposition that I am somehow yet to make it and I am only waiting for my turn. This is a reflection of the psychological damage that has been done to our people.
At the risk of being immodest, I am on top of my game in the world of scholarship and ideas. I have won the ANA Poetry Prize and the Penguin Prize for African Writing. I am a sought-after speaker by Universities across the world. Yet, somehow, within our modes of valuation in Nigeria, I am yet to “make it”. Somebody even advised me once to try and be like Reno Omokri, a young man who has “made it”, instead of making noise all the time. In his estimation, a University don in Canada who has won an international literary prize can’t be deemed to have “made it” unless he becomes a political jobber in Nigeria. Suraj, I am not just a political crusader. I am a social crusader and part of my brief is the struggle to repair the psychological damage to our people.
Part of my praxis is to teach our people that entry into the corridors of power, “joining government”, is not the only way to serve Nigeria, not the only way to make it. That is why I recently used the example of Joe Okei-Odumakin as an opportunity to teach our youth that there are other philosophies of “making it” beyond what has been taught them by our perfidious political elite. We need to teach our people what that line, “the labour of our heroes past”, means. The “labour” referenced in our national anthem is not political prostitution in the corridors of power. That “labour” was carried out in every sphere of life by dedicated Nigerians – farmers, teachers, traders, market women, mechanics, vulcanizers, etc.
That labour gave us the groundnut pyramids of Kano, the cocoa plantations of the west, the food basket that are Benue state and the Middle Belt. That labour gave us the industrial resourcefulness of the east whose products we ignorantly looked down upon as “Ibo Made”. That labour gave us the civil service of my father’s generation, not the irredeemably corrupt and comatose thing we call civil service today. That was how to serve Nigeria in those days. That was how to “make it.”
So, to answer your question, I will not be “joining government”. I am not interested. Public pedagogy of the sort that I am doing is a higher, nobler calling than prostitution in government. There is nothing more satisfying than the privilege of being able to participate in public instruction, being able to be part of this vital struggle for Nigeria’s ethical rebirth. I believe that, down the road, we shall produce generations of Nigerians with loftier ideas of making it and serving the Fatherland beyond government jobbing. I want to look back, satisfied that I elected to play the role of public instructor as we worked on the consciousness of a generation of civic-minded born again Nigerians. I am talking about being born again in civics o.
JARUSHUB: What motivates the KickOut Siddon Look 2015 movement? Is the struggle going to be limited to the Social media, or it will be taken to the streets? Given that the bulk of Nigerian voters are hardly literate or hardly care about what goes on in the cyberspace, how does KOSiL 2015 intend to carry along this critical mass?
Well, since I have no Oga at the top, I don’t have to give you a temporary www.dasall website for KickOut Siddon Look. I can give you our website straightaway and you and your readers can find answers to your questions there: www.kickoutsiddonlook.org. The ethical collapse that I spoke about in response to your earlier question about my willingness to serve in government stems from a broad range of factors, chief among which are the collapse of civics and the political disempowerment of our people.
I am not even talking about disempowerment under the military. I am talking about the democratization of disempowerment (apologies to the late Claude Ake) in Nigeria since we embraced the current charade in 1999. The only tangible dividend of democracy has been the broadening and all-inclusive nature of political disempowerment. The corrupt political class seems to be telling our people that everybody is equally entitled to the political disempowerment they dish out.
This disempowerment starts with zero representation of the masses in all the processes leading to the selection and election of their political representatives. What we have is a top-down democracy of scurrilous party leaders, chieftains, stakeholders, and elder statesmen. It’s a very rude and arrogant process. These characters, at Federal, state, and ward levels, just do their thing and pass down instructions to the people. When they have made their decisions and anointed their candidates, they bus our people down to go and “vote”. They give them okada motorcycles, ankara, and bags of rice. They give them money to sew the ankara.
At the end of the process, people who have had no hand whatsoever in choosing their political representatives will go about dancing and singing “winner ooo winner” all the way to the home of one useless party chieftain or godfather who will make a speech and serve them rice and amala and ewedu. Nothing illustrates the arrogance of the ruling elite and the disempowerment of our people than the recent chest-beating confession of political rigging by the Godswill Apkabio, the drunken fisherman sailor spendthrift who is ruining the treasury of Akwa Ibom state. The people voted for someone and you go on live TV to brag that you erased the winner’s name with your own hand. It is this attitude, this acceptance and normalization of political disempowerment by our people, that we seek to erase in KickOut Siddon Look, starting with the 2015 elections, but we are also looking far beyond 2015.
KOSiL is a grassroots political movement that will combine all kinds of strategies to conscientize our people. We certainly aren’t going to limit things to social media. Our ultimate aim – we are ambitious – is to have cells in every local government area of Nigeria. It’s a lot of work but all you need to see that it can be done is to examine the mileage already covered by our founding nucleus which comprises people armed only with their patriotism and total commitment to the Nigerian people. I am speaking of Modupe Debbie Ariyo, Safiya Musa, Tunji Ariyomo, Soni Akoji, Kingsley Ewetuya, Ndubuisi Victor Ogwuda, Anodavinci Ebirim, Yommi Oni, Tunde Fagbenle, Okey Ndibe, and yours truly. These are the people who have been able to convince all the wonderful Nigerians who have signed up already and are now footsoldiering for the cause. Watch out, Nigerians, KOSiL is coming to your doorstep in your village soon!
JARUSHUB: Nigeria has had the misfortune of bad leaders for long and it doesn’t look like things are getting better. Of all the names being thrown around now, who do you consider the most fit for the highest office in the land in 2015?
Suraj, you know my position about this. Things have been perverted for so long that there are no good actors in our political terrain now. The choice, as I always say, is not between good and bad presidential materials but between bad and less bad presidential materials. All the names being thrown around for now range from bad to less bad via slightly less bad. At KOSiL, we believe that Nigerians can and should come together to move beyond this paradigm. 160 million Nigerians should be able to identify credible people and work to have them represent us. Where KOSiL eventually decides to go about 2015, there will I also go!
JARUSHUB: What is your reaction to the state pardon recently granted to Mr. Alamieyeseigha?
My brother, why waste time talking about Goodluck Jonathan and his role model, Mr. Alamieyeseigha? The least said about these two terrible examples for our youth, the better. I’ll pass.
JARUSHUB: Our blog, Jarushub, recently did an article listing natural brilliance, dream, competition, calculation, optimism, environment, course, taking off early, knowing one’s and one’s teacher’s style, as the key to academic success, at least at undergraduate level . As a First Class graduate yourself, do you agree with our list?
There are two things missing from your list: hard work and good role models. Nigeria was awash with credible role models when I was an undergraduate. Yes, I worked hard to make a First Class Honours but wanting to grow up to be like the role models I looked up to was also a key ingredient of my success at the time.
That is why we cannot be talking too much and too loudly about Goodluck Jonathan and his own role model, lest our youth begin to believe that finding a way to loot, and becoming influential enough to be pardoned if you are caught, are worthier goals in life than aspiring to make a First Class Honours in a society where there aren’t even jobs for them.
JARUSHUB: On a lighter note, trying to reach you yesterday, you said you were in the gym. So, when you are not writing or teaching, what do you do to relax?
Ah, I don’t joke with Ebenezer Obey’s philosophy o! “Omo ti on sise dede, o ye ko l’asiko igbadun, igba ti o fi j’aiye” (a child that works very hard is also entitled to moments of pleasure and enjoyment). I party hard o. I am funky professor. And, no matter where I am in the international lecture circuit, I try to put in at least one hour of gym work out every day. I love to pump iron in the gym. My childhood friend, Temitope Oni, one of Nigeria’s most successful medical doctors in South Africa, is envious of the six-pack belly I am working very hard to develop. I go to the gym to show him how we do it!
Thank you for your time, Prof.