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Obituary: Ashikiwe Adione-Egom, the
Motor-Park Economist, 1942-2003

By Chuks Isiugo

Long before I met Ashikiwe Adione-Egom in 1987,  his name had
preceded him. I  first encountered him through the numerous
articles he wrote in The Guardian newspaper of Lagos in the
mid-1980s challenging the military-backed, IMF- and World Bank
inspired economic orthodoxies of the time, which later became
encapsulated as the Structural Adjustment Pogramme (SAP).
What they essentially said was that the market was supreme, and
the ultimate regulator. So everything - health, education,
infrastructure, the entire development process - had to be left to
the market to determine. And whatever the market decided was
God's will. Q.E.D.
It was a convenient argument for someone with a fat wallet. Even
more so when he was armed and had filled his pocket from the
public coffers, as was the case with the soldiers that then seized
power under the leadership of Ibrahim Babangida. The argument
was never won with logic but with the power of the gun and the
weight of the Western powers who wanted SAP to impoverish
Africa and continue the 500-year-long rape of the continent.
Adione-Egom was one of those (along with Adebayo Adedeji of
the UN Economic Commision for Africa) that railed against the
callous argument. Thus he styled himself the motor park
economist, who thought about the full ramifications of the harsh
measures on the disadvantaged, even the touts in the motor
parks.
And when eventually I met him, the circumstances were somewhat
dramatic and less than edifying. I had gone to The Guardian with
an old friend to visit a common friend who was working then in the
now defunct African Guardian magazine. At the reception we had  
found no one, and while we waited a staff member came along.
While we were asking from him the whereabouts of the object of
our visit, along came another man dressed in khaki shorts pulled
up to his belly, into which his shirt was tucked in. He wore socks
that stopped just before his knees and a pair of shoes. The only
thing missing was a helmet to complete to look of an old British
colonial officer.
It was Ashikiwe Adione-Egom. He glared at us while we made our
inquiry and interrupted.
"You guys should stop disturbing him, you didn't keep any
receptionist here," he said.
"But I'm not talking to you!" I shot back at him.
"Then go! Then go!" He said, flailing his arms as he walked away,
not waiting for my next response.
My friend and I looked at each other and the man we had been
talking to and we all burst into laughter.
"Don't mind Ashikiwe," the fellow we had been talking to said to
us. "He's a trouble maker."
That was my first encounter with his eccentricity. Years later,
when he had become familiar with my writing and sought me out,
we became great friends. I never reminded him of that first
encounter. It was not necessary and had been overtaken by
events. I was always amazed by how much I learned from every
conversation I had with him, no matter how short.
Adione-Egom's main preoccupation was how the global financial
system was rigged ab initio by being founded on the gold
standard, a derivative of the global trading system created from
the proceeds of the Atlantic slave trade. His argument was always
that Africa and the global south would never find economic
freedom unless they freed themselves from this system and
founded an alternative financial system.
He spoke with a deep knowledge, having studied economics at
Cambridge University and the best institutions of the the West
and excelled. But he was like a prophet not reckoned with in his
own country. He had the misfortune of being in Nigeria at a time of
the most brutish anti-intellectualism, during the reign of military
rulers from Muhammadu Buhari, Babangida and Sani Abacha,
who decided that those with the requisite knowledge to move
Nigeria (and Africa) forward were not needed since they were
bent on putting the country in reverse gear (apologies to Fela
Anikulapo-Kuti).
So any intellectual who was worth the name had to brain-drain to
other countries (often in the West), where their knowledge was
appreciated and eagerly deployed. The rest put their knowledge
to the service of the military in exchange for filthy lucre. Those
who did neither became sidelined. And that became the lot of
Adione-Egom. It was a difficult fate, devoid of material rewards.
But Adione-Egom bore that fate with dignity and never for once
stopped telling truth to power.
In the last decade or so, his writing took a decidedly Christian,
religious tone. His preferred name became Peter Alexander
Egom. But the substance remained the same. It became a variant
of the liberation theology pushed by Catholic priests in Latin
America in the 1970s. Unlike the prosperity preaching of the
Nigerian pentecostals that provides succour to the hearts of
thieves and looters of public property in government since the
1980s, which justifies wealth and luxury irrespective of the manner
of acquisition, Adione-Egom's economic theology was bottom-up.
He argued against the economic philosophy of might-is-right and
insisted that God's plan is that none of his children shall sit in the
sidewalk and beg bread (to borrow from Bob Marley). It is a simple
truth, so simple to be derided by those in power, but equally an
enduring truth that would survive their reign, even though
Adione-Egom is no more.