Saturday, September 19, 2015 12:38 pm
By Adagbo Onoja.
In the past two years, one has lived a life of very strict deadlines for submission of academic assignments in the UK university system. That can weigh down on anyone going to school at past the conventional age for that. Hence, the great relief that it all finally came to the end two weeks ago. It’s time to thank everyone who has assisted, including those who saw madness in one aspect of it or the other and wasted no time in distancing themselves. But by so doing, they were contributing immensely by not only raising the stakes for me but also providing much food for thought. The totality of that reflection is this homage to Jigawa in accordance with the Idoma concept of ochekawo akanu.
Michel Foucault, the French Philosopher of power as technology, issued the clarion call long time ago that discourse is the power to be seized. He didn’t mean power as a president, governor, senator and so on. He meant the power that comes from ownership of one’s own ‘story’, the world itself being a series of stories. I am still to be sure who, between Chinua Achebe and Michel Foucault, first postulated this idea about the world being a series of stories. Achebe’s idea of wisdom being like the goatskin bag of which everyone carries his/her own, the congregation of which configures the world and makes it hang together is surely of that kindred of thought. Anyway, I have always thought that Foucault was addressing me in a world of arbitrary extremes and inflexible over lordship at several social levels. No revolt intended.
Very unfortunately, something went disastrously wrong with my coup plots to seize the power of discourse. As far as I can see, the most formidable roadblock was the government directed experimentation with keeping the universities going in the face of every ASUU strike in which the most serious or the most senior academics almost always participated affected some of us in terms of intellectual processing. It was such that, although, the Department of Political Science in Bayero University, Kano where I obtained my first degree has remained a balanced and adequate department, some of us lost it in terms of that processing. We became the classic guinea pigs in the tussle between the Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU) and the IBB regime. It couldn’t have been otherwise as the lecturers who taught many of the foundational courses especially in critical political science were also the strike observing academics. This was not peculiar to BUK but the case throughout the university system in Nigeria in the mid 1990s and ever before. In my own case, this deficiency was probably not even noted by many because, as a journalist, the authority of my byline might have shielded me from scrutiny.
But I carried a baggage about which I was all too aware of. That flawed foundation came clear relative to the other members of the academic and political circles I always found myself and who had the advantage of much more qualitative university environment and education in Nigeria. Further academic engagements without first clearing the baggage only served to create more confusion. This deep awareness about this gap got the better part of me in 2010 to the point of auditing a graduate module being taught by Professor Ibrahim Bello Kano, one of the more audacious critical theorists around. That meant dashing to BUK from Dutse before 9 O’clock on the day it held weekly for an entire semester. Certainly, it helped but the missing foundational preparations meant that the gaps required a more settled engagement with academics to fill. The abrupt end of the Jigawa tour of duty in 2012 provided that moment. But the quietism needed for that battle required that it be done outside the country or it risked being undermined by one’s involving communal, professional and political commitments within the country. Hence, the flight to the UK after Australia’s rather complicated visa process contributed to aborting my taking up a University of Sydney offer.
It turned out that all the three different persons whose financial assistance eventually made it possible for me to travel out of the country are of Jigawa origin. And when this gap filling quest just had to go into a second UK Masters degree, the junior brother who provided the most reliable and consistent funding, without request for any explanations, without having to be begged, from the first to the last day is, you guessed right: from Jigawa.
In 1999, a Jigawa son whom everyone would guess right found me the most appointable media aide as a minister of the Federal Republic and, later, the governor of his state. The 10 years I worked in those capacities have been experientially and absolutely rewarding. Those whose canvass of life does not reckon with contradictions are still bellyaching about the subsequent rupture in that relationship, perhaps understandably so.
In 1986, a newspaper house no longer needed my services at the end of one of those re-organisations that follow change of batons. It was a Jigawa son who went to the then Concord Press of Nigeria to get himself employed and, thereafter, pressed the case for me to not only equally be employed but also posted to work with him. Concord Press granted his first request by employing me but declined the second request. The rule, he was told, was for all correspondents employed at my own level to work in their state of origin. That was how I found myself working, for the first and last time so far, in Benue State for four months before being transferred to Cross Rivers State.
Although it is not time to tell stories yet, there is no way I would not have to, publicly, pay homage to Jigawa at this point in time. Each of the Concord Press appointment, the opportunity to serve in government at both the centre and state level or the UK educational exposure was a personal turning point in its own right. Something must be wrong if I do not acknowledge this publicly now. This piece is, therefore, no more than reckoning with how, without anyone planning it, Jigawa has so successfully contested me with Benue State. At this point though, it is no longer the different individuals who could assist and did assist but Jigawa, their collective symbol. At the moment, I can only hope that, someday, I would be able to make even if a symbolic gesture to Jigawa State as Adagbo Onoja. As indicated above, doing so is what the Idoma concept of ochekawo akanu demands of me. May His Will be done!