Ojo Maduekwe: Vision, opportunities and legacy – Part 3
MY experience with Papa Ojo as an enabler, nurturer of intellectual curiosity, opportunity finder and connector, was not exclusive to me. After the symposium I organized, he posted a book to one of the audience members that came to discuss with him. Even though I live in Toronto, I had heard about how Papa Ojo organised events for Nigerian youth and the community at large in Ottawa. In a Facebook post expressing shock about Papa Ojo’s death, my baby sister from another mother (Kika Otiono) shared how Papa Ojo encouraged her love for poetry and gave her a book.
My good friend, Titilope Sonuga is thankful to Papa Ojo for the opportunity she had to perform at the inauguration of President Buhari. He also attended the PhD graduation of a Nigerian student – Rita Orji at the University of Saskatchewan. Upon completing his role as High Commissioner, he joined the board of African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) with the goal of strengthening the organization’s capacity to enlist more African youth in Mathematics and Science research.
Beyond the technical side of him, Papa Ojo was just a lovely, energetic, intelligent and tireless man. He knew something about everything. I developed the kind of relationship I wish I had the chance to develop with my grandfathers. He was an enabler, encourager and just a good friend. If I were to count Nigeria’s gains from Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, Ojo Maduekwe is one of them. He was not only an outstanding representative of Nigeria in Canada but he brought the community together, nurtured the next generation in our different works of lives while inducting us with his passion and exemplary service into the world of public service and politics.
Given that Nigeria’s education system continues to fail in critically educating and preparing the next generation for transformative citizen participation across all works of life, the pricelessness of Papa Ojo’s steadfast commitment to enthusiastically bringing his experiences/victories/failures in politics and public service to the doorstep of youth comes to bare. For me, Papa Ojo was my political and history education pipeline.
Through our discussions about the difficult/controversial political choices he had to make, I started to reflect more on the intersection between the immediate social needs of citizens, political philosophy, human ideals, social constraints and personal convictions. Such conscious intersectional approach that is grounded in a clear people-centred philosophy to public service/governance is what is missing in Nigerian politics and is what Papa Ojo’s political experiences and reflections affirmed in me as obtainable in the polity.
However, like Papa Ojo noted at the symposium, the extent to which Nigeria can move to a more ideologically nuanced approach to politics and public service is dependent on a critical mass of like-minded youth going into politics. The missed opportunity to develop this critical mass of like-minded politically minded youth include my greatest regrets about Papa Ojo’s untimely passing. I looked forward to him living long enough to publish his memoir and institutionalizing his ideas/experiences for the next generation to learn.
As he will want and expect, we like-minded youth must now find each other en masse, critically learn from his legacy as well as other politicians and most importantly, be unwavering in our commitment to using our lives, passion, skill and intelligence to serve the public good. Papa Ojo, you will forever live on in my heart.
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.