Adele Jinadu and Electoral Democracy: Knowledge Production and Praxis, By Prof Jibrin Ibrahim

For his 79th birthday, friends, colleagues, school mates and mentees of Professor Adele Jinadu convened a colloquium in Abuja on 30th November to celebrate his contributions to deepening democracy on the basis of knowledge and praxis of his discipline of political science. The crème de la crème of the community was there including Professors Okwudiba Nnoli, Tunde Adeniran, Attahiru Jega, Anthonia Simbine, Nuhu Yaqub, Kole Shettima and Saliu Hassan. Sam Oyovbaire and Bolaji Akinyemi sent messages of solidarity, while Ameze Guabadia spoke from her standpoint of a law professor and Professor Anthony Asiwaju spoke for historians. Okey Ibeanu and yours truly having the privilege of sharing the same birthday with Jinadu were also on the panel. General Ishola Williams and Dr. Bukar Usman represented Kings College old boys. A million thanks to Princess Hamman-Obels of the Electoral Hub for organizing the grand occasion.

In his message to the Colloquium, the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu drew attention to the massive contribution of Jinadu towards improving the culture of electoral administration in Nigeria from his days as a Commissioner in the Eme Awa-led National Electoral Commission (1987-1992), his chairmanship of the 2011 Registration and Election Review Committee of INEC and his current work as a board member of the INEC Electoral Institute and Chair of the Election Analysis Centre of the Centre for Democracy and Development.

Many of the participants spoke of Jinadu the man; who was described simply as a good and kind person who has respect for everybody he engages with. His legendry wit and his rather adult jokes makes him the fun and memorable element in every conversation. Professionally, he is the uncontested leading light in political theory while the deep respect the community of democracy advocates have for him is not unconnected with his ability to link political theory with forms of practical engagement that leads to consolidation of democracy. In my own comments for example, I drew attention to his contribution in identifying mandate protection by citizens as the key strategy for deepening democracy following the massive rigging of the 2003 elections. It is gratifying that today, the practice of citizen agency in mandate protection has become commonly understood and used throughout Nigeria.

Dear Reader, the rest of the column are excerpts from Professor Jinadu’s response to comments made in his honour at the Colloquium:

My own work in political theory converged with those of members of a radically progressive network of Afrocentric African and Africanist scholars, under the auspices of the African Association of Political Science, the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa  (CODESRIA) and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) between the mid-1970s and 1980s, who were influenced by or whose perspectives on African politics and the character of the African State bore strong affinities with the writings of Cabral, Fanon, Nkrumah, Nyerere, and Mondlane on the social responsibility of the African intellectual  to redefine inherited,  liberal and Marxist expatriate notions of democracy and development along  indigenized but social democratic lines to promote people-cantered human development in the African State.

The message and the symbolism of this Colloquium must be the imperative for our intellectuals, middle and professional classes and the civil society to reclaim and reinvent the democratic impulses that found expression in knowledge production about democracy and development by Afrocentric African and progressive expatriate Africanist scholars at various intellectual sites in Africa.

This imperative was remarkably exemplified, although from different intellectual lenses, in the intellectual work of  Ladipo Adamolekun, Samir Amin, Claude Ake, Bolaji Akinyemi, Emmanuel Hansen,  Archie Mafeje, Mahmood Mamdani, Thandika Mkandawire,  Dani Nabudere,  Okwudiba Nnoli, and Issa Shivji, and in the work of a younger but, lamentably, diminishing network of younger Nigerian scholars such as Adekeye Adebajo, Victor Adetula, Tade Aina, Shina Alli, Jibrin Ibrahim, Attahiru Jega, Bayo Ninalowo, and Bayo Olukoshi. 

It is an imperative and a reinvention that must urgently be pursued with intense vigour if we are to advance “the feasibility” of democracy and take bold action to unlock the heavy fetters placed on democracy and development by our political class, the country’s party system, and the frightening loss of direction in our pro-democracy civil society organizations.

There are worrisome signs, particularly within the civil society, of a growing vicious attempt to discredit the leadership of INEC in a manner to bring about the reversals of advances towards the routinization of electoral democracy in the country, made under Attahiru Jega and now under Mahmood Yakubu.    

Following upon this observation, I want to end on the following note:

It symbolizes our enduring hope in combining theory and praxis in navigating the tortuous knowledge production and praxis nexus skilfully, as mechanisms for nurturing and sustaining democracy and development in our country that Attahiru Jega is the chairman of this Colloquium. It was under his visionary but strategically proactive leadership that INEC was reinvented through internal administrative and financial reform and the deployment of technology to sanitize our electoral process. Anti-democracy forces in state and society are now poised and determined to roll the gains from that reinvention.

What needs emphasis, however, is the heavy intellectual capital invested in the reform, in the form of knowledge production and its applied policy utilization. We are lucky to have five of us here today who served on, or worked with the 2007/2008 Electoral Reform Committee, whose recommendations, in a fundamental sense, presaged some of the daring reform carried out by INEC under the leadership of Attahiru Jega and Mahmood Yakubu since 2015. These colleagues here with us at this Colloquium are Bolaji Akinyemi, Jibrin Ibrahim, and Attahiru Jega, as members, and Okey Ibeanu and me, as consultants to the Electoral Reform Committee.  

In a society, where intellectual work has been sacrificed on the altar of crass materialism and philistinism, and with it the commodization of the intellectual vocation, we must reaffirm our faith in and commit ourselves as an expression of our social responsibility to the transformative power of knowledge production as a force for electoral democracy and development in our country.

Pro-democracy stakeholders in state and society must devote, now more than ever, more proactive energy to resist on-going attempts by anti-democracy forces in state and society in and outside our country, to derail the electoral process by launching a coordinated attack on INEC.

It must be realized that INEC is not the enemy of democracy but those who are afraid of INEC’s daring attempt to routinize electoral integrity as the core of our country’s electoral process and electoral governance and whom we must expose for their diversionary tactics to shift attention from their undemocratic, unpatriotic agenda.    

In other words, all of us, the octogenarians and near octogenarians, and the under 70s,  the irrepressible “Young Turks” gathered here to celebrate the beauty of knowledge production as part of, and not separate from progressively-informed praxis, applied public policy must reject the incapacitation implied in “siddonlook” and embrace the following heroic uplifting message expressed through Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson in his poem of the same title.

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