By Chuddy Oduenyi
Home is the hunter, home away from the arresting aroma of the flora and fauna of the forest; home from the thorns and vicissitudes of our forest suffused earth. And rest be upon the hunter who has hunted well even if for a short spell. So it was with Jimanze Ego-Alowes, who was born on December 2, 1958, and passed on to eternity on December 25 (Christmas Day), 2020. His mortal remains will be interred today, Thursday, January 14, 2021, in his hometown, Nkwerre, in Imo State.
Genteel in demeanour, bespectacled and ramrod straight, Jimanze Ego-Alowes was outstandingly cerebral. A profound thinker, inimitable journalist and versatile scholar, he had a passion for new knowledge and human development. His areas of interest were history, economics, philosophy, sociology and strategy. At the last count, he had to his name eight books and numerous articles. These include two of his earliest works: “Nigeria, Quote and Unquote,” and the very polemical “Nigeria A History in Denial; A Future In Ruins,”
To many perceptive readers, his magnum opus is “How Intellectuals Undeveloped Nigeria And Other Essays,” Other notable works of his include “Economists As Assassins: The Nigerian Connection” and “Genius Is Not An Economic Good.” However, he seemed to have preferred “Minorities As Competitive Overlords” and his last book, “The University-Media Complex As Nigeria’s Foremost Amusement Chain,” published in 2018, both of which are truly groundbreaking.
Uncannily Jimanze’s intellectual quest closely approximated to that of Diogenes, the Greek philosopher who, armed with a lamp, in broad daylight, plodded the streets of Athens looking for an honest man. Jimanze’s honest man, which he found, was knowledge with which to transform society for the better. Like Diogenes, he was focused on the twin issues of the truth and the ideal. Unlike Diogenes, he was neither cynical nor ascetic. He belonged to groups like the League of Nigerian Columnists that were focused on restoring our lost humanity. His weekly column in the Daily Sun, titled “Turf Game,” commanded a following that was simply overwhelming both in number and quality. His coterie of friends were those for whom intellectualism was a fond sport.
Understandably, he lived the life of a dyed-in-the-wool scholar. He was enigmatic and lived a somewhat didactic life that was partly bohemian and largely puritanical. An alumnus of University of Nigeria, Nsukka, he later underwent further training and acquired additional certifications. Prior to his becoming the publisher of The Stone Press that had the refrain “From the Bookshelf of the Wise,” he was co-founder and pioneer chief executive officer of Ofo Media Limited, a marketing communications firm, which owing to his assiduity and creativity, became a force to be reckoned with. He was also a founding director of The Brace institute, a Lagos-based think-tank and the founder of Minority Rights Defence Initiative (MRDI).
Although studious, stoic, severe in mien yet self-effacing, Jimanze had a philosophical bent that belied his religiosity. At a point in his life, he was an adherent of David’s Christian Centre, a Lagos-based Pentecostal Church, but often made the Catholic Church trademark sign of the cross as a constant plea for divine protection.
His demise gives meaning to the words of John Donne “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind and, therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”
He was an asset whose upbringing and overall conduct gave practical expression to Daniel Webster’s contention that “If we work marble, it will perish; if we work upon brass, time will efface it; if we rear temples, they will crumble into dust; but if we work upon immortal minds and instill in them just principles, we are then engraving that upon tablets which no time can efface, but will brighten to all eternity.”
The eventful odyssey of Jimanze Ego-Alowes, as gleaned from the tributes and outpouring of emotions that greeted his demise, underscores the truism implicit in Longfellow’s assertion that “lives of great men all remind us we can make our lives sublime and, departing, leave behind our footprints in the sands of time.”
Unexpected and painful as his death was, it, in an uncanny way, helped to accentuate John Donne’s castigation of death in the holy sonnets thus: “Death be not proud, though some have called you dreadful and mighty, for thou are not so and those thou thinks’t thou dost overthrow die not. Poor death. Nor yet canst thou kill me. Thou are slave to fate, chance, kings and desperate men. And in poison, sickness and war dwell thou, and poppy and charms, can make us sleep as well, or better still than thine stroke. Why swell’s thou then? One short sleep past, we wake eternally, and death shall be no more. Death, thou shall die.”
As we mourn the passage of this distinguished writer and author whose life best exemplifies Dag Hammarskjold’s assertion that “what you have to attempt: to be yourself. What you have to pray for: to become a mirror in which, according to the degree of purity of heart you have attained, the greatest of life will be reflected”, we are enjoined by Desiderata to say, “with a heart of courage bear the sudden loss.”
The Holy Writh implores us to “in all things give thanks to God,” while Rudyard Kipling admonished us to “meet with triumph and disaster; and treat those two imposters just the same.” Being all too human, our pain at such a great loss should further be mitigated by the blessed assurance of the Holy Writh in the Beatitudes that “blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.”
Assuredly, Jimanze Ego-Alowes, given his eventful sojourn on earth, ran a good race and kept the faith. His life further accentuated the great Maya Angelou’s contention that “A great soul serves everyone all the time; a great soul never dies, it brings us together again and again.”
In Jimanze’s death rings true Paulo Coelho’s assertion that “Never! We never lose our loved ones, they accompany us; they don’t disappear from our lives. We are merely in different rooms.” Indeed, his earthly departure is but a mere change of room; however, in this instance, a change from our world of many worries to the eternal bliss of heaven.
The immortal W.G. Tomer had his ilk in mind when he prayed most fervently, “God be with you till we meet again…” And all of us whom he left to mourn his demise pray in unison: “may flights of Angels sing thee to thine rest.”
•Oduenyi, CEO, Compact Communications Ltd, is an adjunct faculty, School of
Media and Communication, Pan Atlantic University, Lagos