See how our world has ended! So now, who will carry on the mantle of your secular priesthood of ideas? Who will carry on with your conversations about the foundations of things—the collapse of the Westphalian State model, the debacle of Marxism, and the need for a Neo-marxist ideology ? How do we summon phenomenal energy like yours to sit at the drawing board agonizing that the things which are twisted now could be straightened? These and a thousand other questions flooded my mind as I held your hands and prayed to our God to spare your life as you lay in your last throes at Garki District Hospital. God Almighty took you home, as the chord of life was broken and you left that fateful day, the 6th day of October 2020.
It has been a privilege to share so much space and time with you for over six decades. We grew under the same moral ecologies as children of local Christian missionaries and teachers, and as political neophytes under the tutelage of the great J.S. Tarka, and Aper Aku. Tiv socialism and the UMBC Marxist agenda defined our existence.We were born in the struggle and struggle became your life.
Our education at the peacock citadel, the W.M.Bristow Secondary School, made no pretense of the fact: the American Missionaries were preparing us into post-colonial national and international leadership roles. Vos Estes Lux Mundi was emblazoned on our chests day and night declaring us the light of the world. And what a challenge that has been for all of us, to keep the light shining and never put it out and let darkness prevail.
And now that you left, your lights refused to extinguish. Your life as a powerful thinker, doer, patriot and nationalist, will not enter the grave. Your activism in movements, your toil, and thoughts will not lie in the grave. They will soar, just like the soul left your clay encasement. Your very words will provide more light for millions in the world who are reeling under different interlocking systems of oppressions.
They thought they knew you. They cringed that you were a maverick, but if they had looked deeply under your skin they would’ve found you primed from childhood to resist injustice. Your great grandfather Tor Abagye was a proud Tiv chief, who resisted British Imperialism. He paid the supreme prize fighting to free his people from an unjust arbitrary authority of the British. Your father Ahura Sen, Member of Parliament, who was our teacher was uncompromising in his demands for the re-structuring of Nigeria five decades before restructuring became a Nigerian swear-word. Then you took up the mantle. At an early age you rebelled against unjust authority and we became partners rejecting forceful enlistment into science and technology. You became the editor of the school Newspaper, the Bristow Outlook. You never looked back. You dared to be different, you chose to be a journalist, and made a career in the public service as one of the best public policy experts of our generation. You served at State, Federal and at the United Nation’s levels and evolved a world view all your own. You lived in your universe of Glocalization, having a global view point with local activism.
You chose the hard road, the less travelled road after acquiring the best in western education you refused to situate intellection in the West. You were rooted in Nigeria molding young minds to the Nigerian reality. You molded them in radical consciousness, to fight hegemonic culture of the criminal comprador bourgeoisie that has brought Nigeria to her despondent knees. To these students you died a hero. They will miss your tutelage. To the Nigerian left too you are hero gone too soon like Bala Usman, Omafume Onoge, and Festus Iyayi. Nobody understood my writings like you did since the days we chose our careers while yet in the cradle, at Bristow, when you chose journalism and I became playwright. We celebrate you as hero.
My friend Yima Sen, you were an inheritor of many struggles and liberation consciousness, from Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Marcus Garvey, W.E.B Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Angela Davis, Nelson Mandela, Che Guevara, Claude Ake, Chinweizu and Bala Usman. These were foundational to your maturation as Nationalist and Pan- Africanist. Your fierce intelligence wove into your strong Tiv cultural identity a capacity to wage wars against the predators of Nigeria. You devoted all your energies, efforts and abilities to serve the downtrodden. You built coalitions between different tribal groups, including those whom you differed from on many issues. From being a Middle Belt leader you became a fierce Northern leader who wanted a united Nigeria whose leadership will cede power and influence to the people and give them ability to pursue lives in meaningful ways.
You denied yourself personal comfort to become a beacon for a life of worthy causes. You stubbornly pursued your ideals and intellectual freedom. You channeled your anger at systemic injustice, ethnic politics, and religious bigotry. You stood alone and suffered the consequence of being a contrarian in the sea of spittle driven conformity. You suffered unjust deprivation and significant spite.
And now that you are not here we will miss your pedigree. We will miss your genius and geniality. We will miss your passion for sense of duty, your reticence and self-effacement, your anti-status deviance, your sense of decorum and your stand on the right thing to be done. Your life had a great patina of simplicity. It was refreshingly honest. You were the quintessential public intellectual who talked truth to power and featured a strong conscience in distressed classrooms. You cringed at the death of governance and the decay of democracy in Nigeria. You scoffed at cash and carry politicians, the national cerebral superstars, who sought to pocket your genius. You said that people who are only fixated on money always fail to make a difference. Amen to that!
And now that you have gone to heaven a new world is born on earth. The old order of power societies is giving way to knowledge societies. Your ideas will now find a conducive ecology to thrive. Your ideas will become the social order peering at us over the beckoning horizon. While here you often stood firm and alone. You watched in amazement Karl Marx’s argument that means of production define the classes turned on its head as classes are now defined by their means of consumption. Your beautiful life was dedicated to values that could not be realized by a commercial civilization which has brought on us irrationality, deception, confusion, anger and fear.
The world is ended but your work is not done. Thousands of questions remain to be answered, and thousands of miles need to be crossed, before we can call Nigeria a home for all, that you worked towards. Millions of lives need to be touched before we can be that country you fought for in your Campaign for Democracy, Women in Nigeria, Democratic Alternative, United Action For Democracy, Middle Belt Forum and Northern Elders: Civil Societies. I and my colleagues pledge in our grief that we shall continue to build the type of society you tirelessly tried to reconstruct through selflessness, sacrifice, collective leadership, humility, honesty, respect for others, truth and courage.
My brother and friend, John Yima Sen, the world will not be tired of listening to your words that we should love and respect one another if our leadership will be impactful and if we truly wish to build a nation hinged on diversity, equality and freedom. Thank you for verbalizing this leadership axiom that, “ Violence cannot provide a solution to our problems, and political leaders who do not have love do not have humanism.” My brother, friend, comrade and compatriot. The struggle for nation building will not die. It just began. Good-nite! Wangom Yima yav ken Bem.
–Prof. Hagher sent in this piece from Abuja