By Ikeddy ISIGUZO
JIMANZE Ego-Alowes was a private man who went public once he threw himself into the tiny Nigerian thinking turf with all the risk entailed.
His quietude reflected in his passing, so sudden that the shock is still ricocheting. He would not burden anyone with his pains. Close as I can claim to him, he never mentioned he was ill.
The only burdens he placed on friends were clarification of issues, validation of some details, in the punticilousness with which he approached his intellectual engagements. He usually prefaced his requests with apologies, in case his calls interrupted anything.
Grounded in times and tides, he questioned things, especially where they seemed erected as traditions. His works were his gifts to humanity, a challenge for us all to think, and think again. He never accepted the normal. Where he did, he would establish his doubts, maintaining that all answers were tentative. He proved them.
Born 62 years ago, Jimanze was proud of his roots, concerned about eclipsing Igbo traditions, and proffering solutions to retrieving the essences of a people who sometimes carry on as if all that is counted counts.
The ideas had universal applications as they affected peoples and purposes.
His books are intellectual feasts devoid of the academic traditions that have constricted knowledge to protocols and schools of knowledge. How can we break the frontiers of knowledge if the owners of the same knowledge erected traditions to asking ordinary questions about their dictum?
If he belonged to any school it was Ofo na Ogu. Ofo is the Igbo totem that epitomises authority, hardwork, justice, honesty, truth, and was the link between the living and the ancestors. His earlier organisation was Ofo Media.
Ofo for him was more than totemic. He intellectualised its essences to the relevance of Ndigbo to humanity. A people’s culture was central to their lives, he proved through the “upscaling”, as he called it, of traditional intellectualism that was alturistic.
His books in different manners dealt with these issues. His supervening of intellectual matters came devoid of arrogance.
Jimanze was humble, Spartan. Discipline ran through the acuity of his thoughts. He generously shared his ideas unafraid that they could be stolen.
He saw life as a marketplace of ideas hence he signed off most of his writings with Ahiazuwa, an Igbo expression that loosely translated is an invitation to competitive display of our goods (ideas) to contend for a space in the buyers’ (audiences’) choice.
Our duty as scholars, “is to produce new culture and new knowledge. It is not to consume extant knowledge, no matter how brilliantly,” Jimanze posits on page 15 of The University-Media Complex, As Nigeria’s Foremost Amusement Chain, his final work that he read at CORA’s 12th BookTrek 2019 at PAGE Bookstore, Lagos, on September 27.
The book queries African claims to intellectual prowess when the ideas were not productive or in most cases regurgitation of foreign thoughts that facilitate the erosion of African cultures and contributions to tackling humanity’s challenges.
Jimanze holds in Minorities as Competitive Overlords, that the South South benefitted from the contests among the big enthic groups – Igbo, Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba – by being seen as underdogs in the contentions for spaces in Nigeria. He illustrated his position with banking, where the big three were unlikely to trust their resources to the “opposition”, and comedy, where he said the South South’s dominance could have been aided by the fact that jokes from them against the big three would be more tolerated than any comedian from the big three “attacking” any of the big ones, unless his own people.
His other works include Corruption in Africa, Resolution through New Diagnosis; Economists as Assassins: The Nigerian Connection;; How and Why the Yorubas Fought and Lost the Biafran-Nigeria Civil War; How Intellectuals Underdeveloped Nigeria and Other Essays; Nigeria: The Unreported Genocide Against the Igbo.
Elder journalist Chief Tola Adeniyi in a tribute said, “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.”
Jimanze called himself a “lay historian” in his works that transverse cultures, economics, religions, politics, philosophy, science, technology. He sometimes delivered his ideas through poetry.
He was concerned with the distance these ideas could travel as Nduka Otiono, award-winning writer, Associate Professor of African Studies and English and Graduate Programme Coordinator at the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Canada, revealed in glowing tributes he paid “The Wise Man From The East”.
Did Jimanze know time was up when in a June 2020 mail he sought collaborations for his works? He thought his humble contributions were not getting adequate attention.
Adieu, Jimanze, your ideas will keep speaking for you. Fearlessly, you faithfully raised issues many never touched.
May the Almighty grant you rest.
Isiguzo is a major commentator on minor issues