Blame the headline on the Sec 26 (the 2004 set of participants at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, (NIPSS). But for them, the unwritten law is that Comrade John Odah can no longer be featured in Intervention without paying cash. Every year in recent time, something will happen or be said that would warrant a piece on him at his birthday. So, he has ended up being over-featured. What is wrong with him being over-featured is that Intervention has not been set up to account for those who count. It has been set up to account for those who are peripheralized, marginalised and discounted, in class, gender, ethnic, linguistic, regional/locational and hemispheric terms. A former General Secretary of Africa’s number One national labour centre who was also standing shoulder to shoulder on the platform with the Nelson Mandelas of this world does not fit into the underclass, notwithstanding Intervention’s complete endorsement of relationality.
Relationality in this case would mean that no one can understand the underclass without a good grasp of the power elite just as no one can understand women, for example, if there are no men. Every reality is a product of its ‘constitutive outside’. To that extent but only to that extent is it so unfortunate that we watch some experts make absolutist claims on identity and identity groups, with disturbing implications for better inter-group relations in the country. We all probably need to revisit our basic epistemology quickly before we, consciously or otherwise, unmake this troubled but still beautiful country. That’s however a matter for another day.
Anyway, the NIPSS alumni context is the context in which it is ‘John Odah Again?’. The alumni is simply irresistible in its wagers on Comrade John, calling him “a very solid pillar of the Abuja Chapter, a labour leader and freedom fighter, past National Secretary General of the alumni (2007-2009)” and “a really complete gentleman! Very distinguished”. There are many more but this is the section one of them graciously allowed Intervention to see.
It didn’t seem to this reporter that Odah’s alumni colleagues ever heard that this is the same John whose name in the secondary school was ‘John Trouble’. Of course, exposure, responsibility and age have tempered him and he is truly remarkable in suavity and always insisting on adding a plea for the devil. He is not a retired General but that is probably one feature he shares with General Babangida: playing the devil’s advocate somehow. At least, that is one of the things we are told about the General.
Since it takes a polished collective – the alumni in this case – to recognise one of theirs as a superbrat in suavity – that is Comrade John Odah – it is then safe to conclude that the NIPSS alumni is a space of gentlemen and women members (we must add the women to avert the ‘third world’ war breaking out against gender insensitivity). But for the crisis enveloping Nigeria, it ought to be nothing of a “discovery” to find that alumni of NIPSS constitute a space of reflexive and urbane actors. Those are the qualities additional to technical proficiency that makes the intellectuals and practitioners of statecraft – the very type of people with the training and orientation in the alumni – to be the source of the qualitative frameworks and practices upon which stability of the social order rests everywhere else in the world. Among such capabilities are framing the problems, coming up with game changing formulae or models, enacting reconciliation that was hitherto thought impossible and so on. In that sense, there is something beyond Comrade John, beyond the alumni and even beyond Nigeria in the Abuja Chapter’s framing of John Odah at this birthday of his, given the reality of global entanglement today – everything else is connected to something else.
It is still morning yet on creation day!