Farewell, Jimanze Ego-Alowes, A.K.A. ‘wiseman from the East’ (1958-2020)
And Jimanze Ego-Alowes died from liver cancer at 62 before we could hatch his next-level proposal. A prolific author, he described himself on his Twitter handle as a “journalist, poet and writer with a passion for new knowledge and human development.” He was the founding Director of The Brace Institute, a Lagos-based think tank; and founder of a fledgling civil society advocacy group, Minority Rights Defense Initiative, MRDI; and Publisher of The Stone Press Ltd., with which he reissued his remarkable 2006 book, How Intellectuals Underdeveloped Nigeria and Other Essays, originally published by the University of Michigan Press.
As part of a recent research for an article, I found an intriguingly titled work by my friend, publisher, philosopher, and prolific writer and scholar, Dr. Jimanze Ego-Alowes. I contacted him to arrange how I could buy a copy of the book, The University-Media Complex. Afterwards, my dependable research assistant in Nigeria, Ifesinachi Nwadike, promptly bought it for me. But beyond obtaining a copy of the book, I was not prepared for the mail that would follow. Typically, I would not share this mail. But I am doing so because it highlights not just the ephemerality of life and how Death robs us of some of our finest, but also how much the living may owe the departed to help fulfill their unfinished work as best we can. An audacious and original thinker and public intellectual par excellence, Jimanze wished that his “humble missives” be given “more exposure than they can get in Nigeria.” By this post, I am hoping that I can be connected to the executors of his estate by whoever has their contact. I also wanted to draw attention to the depth of his work from his personal voice. Here is the mail:
Nice to read from you. It gladdens our heart to hear you wish to read our University Media Complex….
Actually, I have done about 7 books. Four or five of those are considered to be ground-breaking. And this is particularly so for Minorities as Competitive Overlords and the University Media Complex. What is interesting is that these two books are powered by the African concept of ofo na ogu. All we did was to scale it up and apply its inherent logic expressively.
Even more interesting is that the concept as I further developed it may be applied several in many departments and areas of human endeavours. In a sense then though the University Media Complex is about politics, it is actually from the same stock of insight as Minorities as Competitive Overlords which is ostensibly about economics. It was in Minorities that I first introduced the scaled-up idea of ọfọ na ogu. The point is that the same insights can be applied in several many areas and disciplines, including literature and African cooperation. These two I believe is your area of specialization.
My humble suspicion is that these my humble missives need more exposure than they can get in Nigeria. Of course, they say in times of war you consult the warriors. Nduka that is why I am writing you. Are there things that can be done to push the novel ideas in these books across Canada and the rest of the West? Would you be in a position to help do so?
Additionally, we could collaborate in works that are informed by ofo na ogu as scaled up and developed.
I am enclosing links of a two-part essay I did in The Guardian Literary Series. You may find it interesting, if you have not read it already. Remain in His Grace.
Jimanze sent this mail to me in June, at the peak of the first wave of the Coronavirus pandemic. I replied with excitement and a promise that we would work together to advance and realize his dream. Six months later, he passed on in the same week as we lost Dr. Jerry Agada, a notable writer and “educationist” as we say in Nigeria, and Chico Ejiro, one of Nollywood’s most prolific filmmakers also known as “Mr. Prolific.”
Jimanze’s demise indeed calls attention to the necessity of showing some love to family members or friends that one has not heard from or of for a while. For just seven weeks earlier, some Facebook fand and friends of our departed compatriot had became worried about his absence from the commentariat and began to ask questions. Apparently, his health condition had slowed down his intellectual productivity.
One of his fans, Chijioke Egbo, actually posted on his FB Timeline: “I have not seen any post from you for a long time now. Hope Facebook has not separated you and I. I also hope it’s well with you.” And when Jimanze posted again on November 12, my friend, former flatmate, and fiery writer whom I nicknamed The Spirit, Dr. Ike Okonta, wrote: “Dr Jimanze Ego-Alowes welcome back! Your long absence from this forum was like an endless night… Missing you sorely,” I knew Jimanze was back on the beat. Coincidentally, it was The Spirit who introduced Jimanze to me in the early 1990s when living in Lagos was like living on a war front, as Achebe would say.
No one knew that the final call was imminent! The crashing incidence of deaths this season and the demise of Jimanze (and other wayfarers on this transient plane) proves yet again that in the end, we are all stories! Do go gentle into that good night, Wiseman from the East, a.k.a. “Ahiazuwa,” a philosophical Igbo expression about the world as a marketplace with which he signed off his column in The Sun newspaper. We will continue to treasure your bold and provocative works which include the seven books you cited in the above email to me, as well as your scores of op-ed articles on political economy, spirituality, and philosophy. Your death is one other death too many in this growing funereal orchard. Rest in power, Jimanze. Our consolation however is that your bold works will endure and travel beyond the shores of your dear homeland as you wished in the last email you sent to me.
Fortunately, as Iheanyi Ohiaeri, a close friend of Jimanze’s, informs me, some of his friends and collaborators “are in touch with the executors of his estate.” The plan is to “produce a compendium of all his works, especially his “Turf Game” column renderings in The Sun newspapers, for a fitting biography.” Ohiaeri concludes that Jimanze was “indeed a great mind, an intellectual oasis in the knowledge desert that is present-day Nigeria.”
Veteran journalist Chief Tola Adeniyi reinforces Jimanze’s intellectual stature in a short tribute: “A great genius has passed. Underreported, under-appreciated, under-utilised, uncelebrated, yet, Jimanze will be adjudged one of the greatest African intellectuals of the 21st century. A profound philosopher of uncommon depth, Jimanze was bold, forthright and stubbornly unapologetic about his convictions. Great minds live forever, so shall your noble soul.”
His funeral has been fixed for January 14 in Nkwerre, Imo State, while we continue to ponder how life spins on its head in this season of fatalities and funerals. May his soul rest in power.
* Otiono is an award-winning writer, Associate Professor of African Studies and English and Graduate Program Coordinator at the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Canada