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Ojo Maduekwe: Vision, opportunities and legacy – Part 2

By Chizoba Imoka
18 July 2016   |   3:30 am
While acknowledging that Nigerian politics has rightfully been seen as unethical and many politicians bandied as corrupt, he still insisted that no one will change Nigeria except the youth ...


Continued from Friday

While acknowledging that Nigerian politics has rightfully been seen as unethical and many politicians bandied as corrupt, he still insisted that no one will change Nigeria except the youth who constitute the majority and politics remains the most effective platform to create society wide changes. He conceded that more needs to be done to consciously recruit and involve youth in politics.The kind of recruitment Papa Ojo envisioned was to build a critical mass of engaged citizens and citizen representatives: “We need to build a critical mass of people who see politics as a vocation for doing good; for doing right. Once that critical mass starts to expand, you are going to see the true destiny of Nigeria rise to the fore. So what can we do and I am asking you all. What can we do to encourage the likes of Chizoba into politics?”

The desire to get people like me who are passionate about social justice and system wide change into politics became the crux of the fond relationship I later developed with Papa Ojo. After this event, he invited me and the event co-organizers for drinks. At our meet up, I passionately quizzed him about his role in PDP and how PDP and previous ruling elites like himself ought to have setup the education pipeline through which students are trained to become excited about politics! Bluntly, I told him I wanted PDP to lose the elections, not because I was an APC devotee but because of the erosion of ethics and common sense that GEJ’s government was facilitating

Despite my attacks on PDP, critique of the ruling class that I clearly established that he was a part of and the obvious age difference between both of us, the High Commissioner wasn’t defensive, patronizing or condescending. While holding his ground for PDP, he treated me like an equal and held up an intellectually mature discussion backed with history, facts and anecdotes. I was impressed. He challenged me to go into politics and once again, argued that politics is the most effective platform to bring about system wide change. He said that youth like me that complain must move beyond complaining and try to go in and shape the system. In addition, youth should not wait for sitting politicians to hand over power to them simply because they are youth. It will never happen. He argued that youth must walk through the system and go claim power for the social change they envision. A few months later, to my surprise, the High Commissioner and his wife organized a well- attended (by much older community members and officials from the High commission) elaborate dinner at his home -the Nigerian House in Ottawa to honor and encourage me for my public service at the U of T and in Nigeria through Unveiling Africa.

My subsequent interactions with Papa Ojo revolved around him sharing his experiences, compromises and contradictions in politics. His explicit mission was to recruit me into public service and politics! However, he wanted me to ground myself in my philosophical beliefs and find a personal entry point into politics that will not involve me giving up on the ideals that sustains my passion in civil society. As a result, I shared my dreams about contributing to the decolonisation of Africa’s education system and using Africa’s education (starting from Nigeria) to develop the next generation of African leaders who can help bring about a culturally relevant democracy, inclusive and self-reliant continent. He encouraged me to pursue the dream of setting up an outstanding Teachers College/K-12 School that could become a model for public policy. To assure me that all my dreams will be achieved and that my kind exists in politics, he connected me to like-minded Nigerian politicians who had developed an advocacy and citizen action profile.

As a mentor, Papa Ojo was always looking out for me and my interests. After the inauguration of a cultural centre that he attended in Anambra State, he sent an email describing the event and informing me of the potential allies I had for my projects: “What came across from this awesome family donation of a three-storey human development centre to Obosi is the possibility of an authentic Igbo Renaissance by new generation Igbos who are not apologetic of their Igbo-ness but see a Nigeria in great need of a non – chauvinistic Igbo tonic… Just to let you know you have potential allies in your bold projects for our people and for God to continue to bless you.”

Before Papa Ojo left Canada as the High Commissioner, he handed me over to members of this network as his daughter. One of the people he connected me to was his high school teacher who was in Nigeria during the Biafran war. He played a very active role in mobilizing Canadian support for Biafra. He had numerous artifacts that were of interest to me. Upon completing my PhD in 2018, I was looking forward to working with Papa Ojo to publish a book in 2020 (50th anniversary of the beginning of the war) about the Biafran war and Canada’s involvement. Amidst these big dreams for me, Papa Ojo kept me in line and insisted that the completion of my PhD remains the most important thing at the moment. In response to one of my emails expressing excitement about the cultural centre and eagerness to connect with the founder, he affirmed my excitement but said:“Don’t get distracted: get your PhD first! The world is there for you to conquer!”

To be continued
Chizoba Imoka, a doctoral student at University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, is the Founder/CEO of Unveiling Africa and a Member of the Global Agenda Council on Civic Participation, World Economic Forum.