The St. Thomas More Catholic Chaplaincy of the University of Lagos hosted one of Nigeria’s foremost intellectuals, Chimamanda Adichie, at an event this month. In an engaging session, Adichie addressed issues ranging from the state of governance in the country to youth participation in politics.
A few takeaways from Adichie’s session:
- Young people in Nigeria do not really have role models for good governance, a fact which she said does not “excuse” the youth, but places an even greater responsibility on them to do more work and be better.
- On redefining morality: “I find that when Nigerians talk about morality, they are talking about ‘Oh, this girl wore a mini-skirt.’ Morality should not have anything to do with clothing, nobody should care. If you don’t like what somebody is wearing, look away. Let’s talk about morality in terms of honesty, kindness, compassion and truth telling.”
- On apathy and the need for organizing: “Politically, you young people have to tell the truth. There might be consequences for you. There are ways to do it – you can organize. There are many more young people than older so you have the advantage of numbers. But there is a lot of apathy; people are passive. You have so much going for you. You have youth, you have the space to be idealistic. You can believe in things that are good and higher and better for you.”
- On third party candidates in our politics: Adichie’s speech came a day before the governorship and state assembly polls. Young people, she said, need to arm themselves with information and be more politically active. “When people have talked of the third party candidates, often Nigerians tell you there is no point because those people don’t have the party machinery. But what young people can start doing today is to pay for the future. If today you vote for a person who you know would not win, but you want to make a point. In four years time, it means that person becomes more likely to have a say. Young people can do that.”
- On organizing by young people: “I can tell you today, if the young people across the state of Lagos organize, go into the community and talk to people and tell them that here is the day we are all going to come out and say something, I can bet you, the people in Bourdillon will suddenly come to you to try and get you on their side. So organizing and telling the truth are very important.”
- An Adichie speech is not complete without her advocacy for equality and inclusion of women. With the speech being delivered on the International Women’s Day, Adichie said: “I am standing here a self-proclaimed unapologetic feminist. Feminism is something we all should talk about. It is important we don’t misunderstand what it is. Often feminism is seen as an attack on men when in fact it is a question of justice. I think that we are called as Christians to stand up for justice.”
- The cultural argument against feminism does not stand under scrutiny: “People will say it is not our culture to which I say, ‘we make culture and we can remake culture.’ There are many things that we did culturally 50 years ago that we no longer do, and we no longer do them because as a society we come to think of culture as what advances us collectively. So if there is anything that we do culturally that pulls back any segment of our society then we need to stop doing it. It is the reason that Igbo culture stopped killing twins.”