In 2018, our continent Africa is poorer. The continent is not poorer in a material sense. The people of our continent have made remarkable socio-economic progress over the past two decades. Sorrowfully, on April 25, 2018, a seminal voice went still, a scholar-practitioner and a champion for the emancipation of the African continent passed away. A deep void engulfed the people of Ogun State and Nigeria, and a profound sense of loss reverberated across our continent, including Namibia on the southwestern tip of Africa. We are poorer without Professor Adebayo Adedeji, an eternal optimist, an intellectual colossus, and a gift from the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the African continent. A frontline member of Ijebu-Ode, Nigeria, Professor Adedeji’s path of life started where it ended, in his beloved Nigeria. Many high profile International Civil Servants after retiring stay in America, UK, France, and other parts in the West - but not Adedeji. A Nigerian patriot and accomplished author, a chief adviser of the Awujale (Paramount Ruler of the Ijebus), it is not a coincidence the destiny of this exceptional son of the Ijebu-Ode Community was consummately Pan-African. Nigeria is ingrained in our memory as a leading and activist African country in the decolonisation of the African continent. In that vein, as Africans, we don’t only owe Nigeria and its resolute people our profound sense of gratitude for the role the country played in advocating the cause of Independence at a difficult time, but we are also grateful for the gift and immeasurable contributions of Professor Adedeji to the Pan-Africanist project. Professor Adedeji’s intensity at work, and intellectual finesse, in whatever role assigned to him, first Nigerian Professor of Public Administration at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), as Nigerian government minister, under- secretary-general at the UNECA, chairman of the senate of then newly established United Nations Institute for Namibia (UNIN) in Lusaka, Zambia, prepared him to postulate the landmarks for an economically integrated Africa. He invested vigor in an Africa where the African people would interact in a prosperous and borderless continent. Like all great men and women, he left an indelible mark on institutions and those he interacted with, in Africa and beyond. Administrator, scholar-practitioner and practitioner-scholar, depending on what is expected, Professor Adedeji navigated these plural worlds with distinction. Imbued with clarity of thought, and creative policy entrepreneurship, this eminent servant-leader conceptualised and implemented the infrastructure of regional integration in Africa. The Economic Community of West African States (1972), the Lagos Plan of Action (1980), the precursor to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, the Preferential Trade Area (1981), the African Alternative Framework to Structural Adjustment Programme (1989) all bear the imprint of our beloved intellectual giant and passionate Professor Adedeji. All these initiatives from an avant-garde leader, ahead of the times, were aimed at building bridges for an emancipated Africa. Without Professor Adedeji among us, Africa is unquestionably poorer. As the people of a continent charting a new course, that of economic emancipation through a bold program of action in Agenda 2063, we could have continued to benefit from his wisdom and intellectual leadership. To me, always in admiration of his pedigree as an author of books, scholar- practitioner par excellence, and impact spanning generations, the eminent Professor remains an elder brother, a gracious teacher and a mentor. Our paths crossed four decades ago, intense conversations followed when I was serving as the Director of the United Nations Institute for Namibia in Lusaka from 1975 to 1989, when he was chairman of the senate of the institute. Professor Adedeji was firm, but fair and always available to provide the necessary intellectual and administrative guidance to the work of the Institute, whose ambitious mission was to train cadres for a future civil service in an Independent Namibia. The commitment, passion and professionalism Professor Adedeji demonstrated in all endeavours advancing the cause of Namibia’s independence infused the Swapo leadership and colleagues at the Institute with a sense of urgency, and optimism that we will achieve our goal of independence. His close association with Swapo freedom fighters put him in harm’s way with the Apartheid South African regime. From that vantage point, he went beyond the call of duty. Professor Adedeji, a thoroughbred African patriot believed that our independence was inevitable, and his responsibility to play a role in the preparation of a professional corps for a future Namibian civil service was a charge he embraced with untold passion, imagination and commitment. With Independence in 1990, we knew that we could always call on the advise of our friend and Professor, keeping an open door for him, with frequent invitations to Namibia in his position as our Economic Advisor, to assist us in the task of governing and building a free nation. We cannot match the solidarity and generosity Professor Adedeji extended to us over four decades of rigorous interactions, with a country over a thousand miles away from his native Nigeria. In our modest ways, we have honored Professor Adedeji with a Diplomatic Passport as an honorary citizen of our country. In the book, Apology of Socrates, the Greek Philosopher Plato attempts a dialogue with, and about his mentor Socrates. The conversations and exchanges I have had with my mentor Adedeji were as illuminating, as those between Plato and Socrates, and I can write chapters about the intellectual journey of our itinerant Professor Adedeji. I am perplexed as to how the life of one man could have been so consequential and impactful on the trajectory of the African people. * Dr Hage Geingob is President of Namibia. He delivered these remarks on Wednesday in Windhoek during a memorial service in honour of Professor Adebayo Adedeji.
New Era Reporter
2018-06-29 09:54:00 11 months ago