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Ojo Maduekwe and tragedy of the Nigerian intellectual

Putting it bluntly, I never liked the person of Chief Ojo Madekwe, no apologies here, I never liked the man’s politics nor views most of the time. I know we as Nigerians never like

to speak ill of the dead, we even eulogize devils and transmogrify them as angels of light. Thus, a known tribalist would be rebranded as a unifier and a looter of the treasury would be described as a very honest fellow!

However, with Maduekwe’s death, a number of Nigerians have come to eulogise the man. Honestly, I would really have had no troubles with these eulogies but for the fact that they came from notable Nigerians. These Nigerians presented Ojo as a reputable intellectual, an ideas man as well as one who never puckered his brows at criticism and  who would invite critics to joust with him. Honestly, I never discerned Ojo to be all these, perhaps I never got to know the man too well besides his statements and the visage I got of him whilst he served as bicycle sorry as Minister for Transport. 

The Ojo I knew was one who stood on the other side of the political divide, who stood by while his so called ideas were battered in his very presence. For example, where were Ojo’s intellectual ideas when the 2003 and 2007 elections were shamelessly rigged by his party, where he was one of its leaders? Where was Ojo’s bling-bling intellectualism when the duly elected Chairman and secretary of his political party were forced to resign at gun point because the duo disagreed with the sitting president then?   His intellectualism never saw light while the President Obasanjo sought a third term in office using humongous resources and abused state institutions with the attempt to muscle the opposition and legislators who were not yielding. Perhaps, he was like Nicodemus who preferred to espouse his intellectualism in secret!

Sadly, Maduekwe’s example is the tragedy of the Nigerian intellectual who sets ideas, supercilious ones, whilst professing standards but caves in at the slightest opposition  whilst propagating such. Call it opportunism you wouldn’t be far from the truth.

The Nigerian intellectual or our intellectual class has sadly surrendered its mandate as the conscience of our society giving up his conscientiousness for a mess of porridge. Surrendering this mandate is due partly to the general anti-intellectualism which is prevalent in Nigeria. Many see the intellectual as not being pragmatic, as being idealistic not at home with the realities of the day. They see the intellectual as a grammarian, more used to high sounding words than dealing with the situation practically.

But when being practical means turning society on its head, or the tail wagging the dog, then there is little wiggle room for the argument that the intellectual should not profess ideas for our society nor should they not insist on the sanctity of such ideas.

This problem, pithily stated: Suggests that the Nigerian intellectual should  limit themselves to analysis and actions that are ensconced safely within the norm. We are even at the edge as we now have a case where pseudo intellectuals consistently criticizing their intellectual colleagues for not being realistic

In present day Nigeria, the intellectual is ambushed on a daily basis that it is “realistic” to capitulate to the absurdities packaged as ideas. That the state of our nation is the best state it can be in not because it is but because some people prefer such states and wish its continuity to the detriment of the progress of the nation.

This was what the late Ojo Maduekwe exhibited as an intellectual, the tragedy of the Nigerian intellectual.

 Igboeli Arinze writes from Abuja

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