The original intention for putting a call through to him was to question his daily practice of dispatching religious texts through his WhatsApp. It is not that the religious text messages are unacceptable. Rather, it is the spectacle of such messages emanating from an academic with unapologetic Socialist commitment. Isn’t it the case that the Socialist ontology is a complete critique of the religious ontology? It was a furious call!
But the voice at the other end was decoding the caller, determined to disarm him and tell his story. And that was what happened. His multiple experiences came handy. What might one expect from someone who is currently the Head of the Department of Political Science at the University of Jos? It is though not a privileged member of the first generation of Nigerian universities, it is still the senior of the rest of the second generation universities, except the University of Benin, having started as a campus of the University of Ibadan much earlier. He has been a journalist for much of his life. And he was a politician, a key crisis manager for a complicated stalwart as the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
Chief Awolowo personally picked and made him the handler of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria, (UPN) for the Middle Belt in the Second Republic. It was Chief Awolowo who took him to the Tribune newspapers. That made his colleagues at the Tribune to assume that it was only a matter of time before he became the boss in the newspaper, attracting for him the ill-treatment that comes along with such speculation. It was worsened by his closeness with the late Chief J C Obande, one of the two ministers from Idomaland in the First Republic, a closeness which made Adeyi’s colleagues to think he is an Idoma man from Benue State when, in fact, he is Yoruba. So, they ended up making derogatory remarks against him, all of which he was hearing.
Whom have we been talking about? We have been talking about Dr. Major Adeyi whom we already know. Intervention’s telephone call to him and subsequent conversation took place about two weeks ago.
Back to the beginning! Why are you a socialist and an evangelist at the same time? His story on this is as fascinating as it is intriguing. There was a time he was sick. The doctors took a very good look at him and concluded that, at best, he had only a few months to go back to his creator. And they told him so. However, instead of writing his will or crying all over the place, he embarked on a prayer blitzkrieg. He prayed and prayed and prayed. And, to the extent that he is still alive and active today, we can say that God responded and gave him back his life. This happened about a decade ago. The outcome is that he is still with us in this world. Whatever was the ailment lost its verve and disappeared.
His own analogy is thus that religion and socialism are not antagonistic of each other and that socialists who believe that they are contradictory have a lot of reading of the classics of Marxian Philosophy to do. That is a very controversial contention because the modernist imagination did not plan to have a place for religion in their philosophy. Although it was the monarchy or the ancien regime in Europe the radical liberals – Voltaire, Thomas Paine, John Locke and all of them – were after, denying them legitimacy by challenging their claim of the ‘divine right of kings’. But the kernel of their philosophizing that the only acceptable proof of anything in the social world must be that which could be seen or touched or smelled amounted to an attack on religion. So, even if Marx did not specifically rail against religion, Socialism would still be held as complicit in anti-religious ontology since the entire Marxist Philosophy is erected on the modernist imagination.
It is only constructivist thinkers who have solved the problem of religion and socialism because, as far as they are concerned, it is whatever people believe to be the case that constitutes their reality. People do not, therefore, have to worry about justifying their being religious as far as constructivists are concerned. But Major Adeyi is not a constructivist. Rather, he is a Marxist and, therefore, a rationalist although Marxism is not an ordinary rationalist thinking. But that is not to say it escapes the methodological baggage of modernist thinking and rationalism. So, Major Adeyi should be the person to be studied by those keener on investigating the nexus between Marxian socialism and religion in the African context. If an Awolowo were alive, it would be certain he would provide the funding for the research. Without Awo now, who does that?
But the socialism – religion binary is not the only puzzle you come across when you talk to this political scientist. In fact, he is a bundle of the sort of puzzles graduate students in the social sciences cannot tire in trying to unpack. He is thus an uncommon academic in a Department of Political Science in a Nigerian university in his combination of journalism, politics, religion and academe.
It wasn’t such a long conversation but he managed to say many things, much of which have escaped memory except if some of them comes back and we would then update the story. But there can be no forgetting the advice he gave to Intervention. Unfortunately, it won’t be disclosed here beyond that his advice is a classic restatement of Achebe’s Eneke the bird theory of coping with smart Alecs. The bird in Achebe’s authorial voice says that since men have learnt how to shoot without missing, it has also learnt to fly without perching. It was a nice conversation with the senior political scientist.
Some people might take Major Adeyi’s story as a case study of the demonstration of God saying that if our ways are right, He has the power to restore the days the locusts ate and destroyed. In this case, God could be said to have stopped the destroyers in their track. If his story inspires people to review their ontological cum epistemological standpoints, good and fine!