Sam Amadi Wrote:
This Man Was Arguably The Most Intelligent And Widely Read Nigerian Politician Of The Last Two Decades.
He was notably Nigeria’s Foreign Minister and Secretary of the ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), amongst other high profile positions.
Chief Ojo Maduekwe modeled the intellectuality of statecraft. How he managed to maintain political success as an intellectual in politics is a marvel. Before I became his friend and special adviser in foreign affair, I was one of his critics. Then one day, Nduka Onum, who was Chief of Staff to Senate President when I was Special Adviser, Research and Strategy, asked me to accompany him to Ojo Maduekwe’s residence in Maitama in the late evening. I refused and protested strongly that I did not want to meet Ojo. Nduka persuaded me or better put, forced me to go with him. When we got to Ojo’s house he was not at the sitting room, he was at dinner with someone who I latter became good friends with, Osita Chidoka. Osita had been Ojo’s close friend after being his PA. It helped that he married one of Ojo’s nieces. So, Nduka forced me again to go with him to the dinner room. Ojo was seated with Osita having dinner and chattering heartily. As soon we stepped in Ojo shouted ‘the genius’. I was shocked. I had never met Ojo before. Osita had spoken glowingly about me. So began a long friendship with Chief Ojo Maduekwe until his death.
if Ojo had any excess it was too much respect for intellect. Once you are intelligent and an ideas person, your sins are forgiven; you have become his friend and in spite of political or ideological difference, you become inseparable.
when I met Ojo I was Special Adviser to Ken Nnamani as Senate President. President Obasanjo and the PDP leadership did not like Ken. So, there was always some degree of disagreement between the two. But Ojo had so much regard for me that during the Third Term debacle he sought my advice on how he should manage the party. I advised him to focus on the morning after the collapse of the Third Term and conserve the PDP’s organizational capital. Ojo knew I was also advising Ken to remain impartial and resolute in defence of legislative due process, still he trusted my advice. I remember during the Ken-OBJ faceoff, especially after the general election of 2007, Ojo issued a damning press release to counter Ken who had spoken to the BBC against the shambolic election organized by OBJ’s INEC. By his statements Ken delegitimized the elections and Ojo was unsparing in his attack on behalf of OBJ-his principal. Ken called and joked whether I had read my friend in his usual eloquence. Ojo later called to inquire whether Ken was very angry with him. I told him that Ken laughed everything off. he was relieved. Ojo respected Ken’s integrity and principled leadership of the Senate and Ken so much liked Ojo because of his great intellect and endured his ‘bad’ politics.
This is not the right time and place to write about how I become Ojo’s assistant when he was appointed Foreign Affairs minister. But it is surprising that we pulled along together with our divergent ideological views and politics. I am better described as a progressive who valued freedom above order. Ojo was a conservative humanist who valued order as the most important virtue of a society. Ojo’s Presbyterian doctrines affected his political philosophy to the point that he believed that strong government was needed to deal with the crisis of sin. But I was not as different from Ojo as I may think. we had similar theologians as mentors, starting from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. We shared the same love of theology and philosophy and their application to politics. We also accepted Max Weber’s thesis on the vocation of politics and the need for a vocation for politics not a vocation of politics.
Ojo believed in a developmental state which must have monopoly of power and led by technical elites who have the capacity to build civilization. He believed that Africa’s failure was the lack of a civilizing empire that conquered the rest and civilized them. Once we were in Rome at the site of the coliseum, Ojo surveyed the debris of a great human edifice of brutality. He asked me “Sam, can human rights produce this sort of glorious monument? without slavery, can mankind create European wonders?”. Ojo’s point was that human rights could be a constraint. I agreed with me but countered that we need such progressive constraints.
Ojo went where the ideas led. He was also a victim of those ideas. His seemingly servitude to persons of power was a scandal to many. But it was not just about love of political office, which obviously he had. It was mainly because he believed in the overriding importance of government. Like William Golding in his The Lord of the Flies, he believed that without government even the most civilized will become savages. So, government is the most important value- good or bad government.
Ojo loved food, dancing and intellectual discussion. If he was alive today, in the days of COVID19, I am sure he, Osita and myself would be meeting frequently and eating black beans and chatting about all the philosophical issues around the pandemic. Yesterday was the memorial of his death. We miss his inspiring and enlightening (and sometime exasperating presence). He would have been shouting, ‘John, John Kalu, where is that native”. We miss a great Nigerian political-intellectual, a proud Igbo man and an iconic Ohafia man.