David Amusa, Port Harcourt
Professor Tanure Ojaide, a professor in North Carolina University at Charlotte, United States of America (USA) and a literary activist has enjoined the people of the Niger Delta to be optimistic for a better tomorrow and urged them to exercise restraint in the face of provocative challenges facing the region.
Speaking in an interview with newsmen shortly before the opening ceremony of the 3rd International Conference on ‘Tanure Ojaide: Life, Literature and Environment,’ held at the Elechi Amadi Faculty of Humanities auditorium, University of Port Harcourt, on Thursday, Ojaide said that such attitude was necessary because there are indications that there would be light at the end of the tunnel.
He stated that the level of awareness of the environment, technology and other social dynamics point to the fact that you cannot hold down a people for too long.
The professor said that the best approach to life was to believe that it will get better, and truly, he said, things are getting better.
He condemned the pessimistic perspective through which Nigerians look at things at all times and called for a change of attitude, pointing out that positive attitude helps in kick starting human progress.
Professor Ojaide, however, cautioned that positive attitude to life does not preclude a life of activism to challenge injustice.
He said that he believes in activism particularly using the literary approach, adding that those who hold down people must be challenged to make them uncomfortable.
He further said that except they are uncomfortable, they would not loosen their grip on their victims.
“What I am saying is that if you are being oppressed, exploited, dehumanized and you don’t resist; you don’t make the people oppressing you uncomfortable, they will never leave you alone. That is why I believe in activist philosophy. In Nigeria, we just keep quiet”.
Professor Ojaide frowned at the jumbo pay given to legislators in Nigeria not minding that a majority of Nigerians live below the poverty line.
“Look at the Senators and House members. They are earning so much money. People are crying,” he said, counseling that Nigerians must not tolerate such state of affairs or any other aspects of corruption much longer.
“As long as people don’t demonstrate, nothing will happen. But if they come out bold and protest for days in Abuja that nowhere in the world are people paid as much as that, not even in America, Japan, Germany, the richest economies, something will change. As long as we sit with this culture of silence, nothing will happen. We have to speak out to embarrass those people who are corrupt, tormenting and oppressing us”.
Speaking further, Professor Ojaide commended his colleagues in the academia for making out time to honour him, assuring that such celebration will have a ripple effect on the younger generation.
In his speech at the occasion, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt, Professor Ndowa E.S. Lale, who was represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academics, Professor Akeem Fawehinmi, said that the university recognized and honoured Professor Ojaide because of his outstanding contribution to literary arts and urged other scholars to emulate him.
He commended the faculty of humanities for winning the hosting right as well as successfully hosting the event.
Earlier in his own speech, the chairman of the occasion, Professor Union Edebiri (OFR), commended the turnout for the event, pointing out that it was due to the clout of Professor Ojaide who is a good man.
He said that he was impressed that scholars in the schools he taught heralded the occasion, particularly the University of Maiduguri, which was adequately represented.