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A toast to Comrade Madunagu at 75

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Edwin Ikechukwu Madunagu

Turning seventy-five is more than coming of age. Eddie, as he is fondly called by friends and comrades deserves to be celebrated not only for the blessings of longevity in this age and time that the average lifespan in Nigeria hovers between 50 and 60 years, but for his continued service to humanity and country. Of course, one cannot wish away his steadfast romance with Marxist ideology over the years. We salute his courage as he continues to defend the cause he so believes to the best of his ability even when everyone else took a contrary view. He remained tall like colossus in his dialectical rigour and revolutionary fervour about Marxism.

It is only appropriate to say that Comrade Madunagu has lived the past five decades or more for the masses. This is a measure of his distinction as a Comrade with a difference and as a Marxist apostle that he flocked people, mainly the masses (young people) around him. Despite his position, he remained humble with an unprepossessing character. At every turn and whatever he could assist, he helped young people in discovering themselves irrespective of your tribe, religion or ethnic background.

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Born on May 15, 1946 in Okitipupa in present day Ondo state, Edwin Ikechukwu Madunagu is the youngest of three male children of his parents. His formal education started in 1952 and saw him traverse five primary schools; he owes the younger generation an explanation for this as we look forward to his memoir. He however, started his secondary education at Okongwu Memorial Grammar School, Nnewi in Anambra state and Obokun High school, Ilesha which he completed in 1964. He was a teacher of note, having worked as a senior mathematics teacher at Olivet Baptist High school in Oyo state upon graduation from the University of Ibadan in 1970. He later left for the University of Lagos in 1971 to pursue a post-graduate research programme in Mathematics, majorly in Differential equations and functions of a complex variable. His place in the classroom as a lecturer would have been quite enriching and beneficial for both the students and country, but for the frequent truncation of that enthusiasm to teach by the military governments at that time, five months after his appointment as a lecturer in the Mathematics department, University of Lagos, in 1974 he was detained by General Yakubu Gowon administration for his struggle against his dictatorship.

After his release, he managed to lecture until sometime in June of 1976 before he resigned from the University of Lagos. At the heat of all these struggles is the desire to marry his heart-throb Benedicta Michael Afangide whom he met at the University of Lagos in 1973. His desire to go back to the classroom as a lecturer in August 1977 shows his commitment and passion for teaching as he joined the University of Calabar to continue the struggle in liberating young minds by impacting knowledge and contributing his quota in nation building. Again, Comrade Madunagu suffered yet another military government’s dictatorship and incursion into his first love, teaching. Comrade Madunagu and wife were among the 12 Nigerian University teachers and administrators that were dismissed by General Olusegun Obasanjo government, over the popular struggle against the arbitrariness and insensitivity of the Obasanjo regime.

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The above experiences can be seen as a tragedy and the reason behind the gradual deterioration of tertiary education and the inert development of the country. No doubt, it is yet another instance why brain drain occurs regularly in our Ivory Towers. It is indeed, very sad. That, at least, is the reason behind Comrade Madunagu new found romance in journalism as he resigned from the University of Calabar in 1983 and went into full-time journalism at The Guardian. How time flies, Comrade Madunagu spent a decade between 1985 and 1994 as a member of The Guardian Editorial Board, served briefly as the Editorial Page Editor of the newspaper and ran a weekly Thursday column. In his column, he proved to be a sharp student of society and a concerned citizen. He remained very thoughtful, analytical and entertaining as he tries to carry the readers, especially the younger generation along. No doubt, the strength he lay in his breadth and Marxism at the centre of his writings is very profound.

Beyond the classroom as a teacher and journalism as a writer, Comrade Madunagu is devoted to humanitarian service and thus very generous. He remained deeply committed to the Socialist Marxist welfarism which preached the doctrine of Marxism. He once wrote that, “Every passing day convinces me, ever more strongly of the correctness of the Marxist view of reality including the simple thesis that consciousness is determined by being, that a human being must first eat before he or she can think of politics or the arts,…that human history, by and large has been the history of struggles, between the oppressor and the oppressed, a struggle that cannot end until the abolition of oppression and exploitation…”

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His weekly column in The Guardian exposed him far and wide, earning him a deserved reputation as a Marxist, an unrepentant one for that matter. However, he rarely travelled outside the shores of the country. He once shared his boring experience after just 5 days in the United States of America, he returned to Nigeria with a visa that many a Nigerian would have chosen to detain themselves in search of the American dream in God’s own country. In the sphere of solidarity and humanism, Comrade Madunagu is deeply concerned with the freedom of masses from oppression and abuse. Hence he remained committed to what Karl Marx called the categorical imperative, which is, “the struggle to overcome all circumstances in which the human being is humiliated, enslaved, abandoned and despised.”

This writer and many who have crossed his path chose to follow his footsteps in defence of the masses through a piece of advice that he came upon in 1991. It went like this, “If you see an injustice being done, you must try to stop it, if you do not have the power to stop it, then speak against it, if you cannot even do that, then at least show your anger or displeasure”. In his three-score, a decade and five years on earth, Comrade Edwin Ikechukwu Madunagu’s life is quite remarkable as it embodies dignity and gentleness irrespective of his revolutionary fervour. He continues to view the human society in the eye of a Marxist Communist who believes in the abolition of private property in the means of production. It is important to note that, Comrade Madunagu never lost his head to the temptation of money or public office. As a distinguished citizen (Marxist) and an intellectual, Comrade Eddie’s life draws lessons about value of principle and commitment to a cause. We salute you Daddy and wish you a happy birthday and many more blissful years.

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