Regardless of your politics in the lead up to the 2015 general elections in Nigeria, you can agree there was near universal urgency to significantly challenge and ultimately not renew the presidency of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. The son of a fisherman who had no shoes needed to have the shoe dropped on him, but his party put him forward as its candidate meaning getting him out required scripting a new chapter in Nigeria’s democratic history.
Only an unprecedented contrivance could pull it off given the stiff toys and triple-misfire the major challenger had in his trunk.
Ifechukwude Osanedum “Chude” Jideonwo has etched his name in the records of Nigerian political history on his own terms. That Muhammadu Buhari would be considered, let to talk of being accepted by a circle beyond his ‘mandatory 12 million’, owed much to the machinations of the strongman of Lagos but also as much to the messaging and massaging driven by Statecraft Inc, the nation-building arm of Chude and co-founder Debola Williams’ RED Media.
Having been there, done it and got the t-shirt, Chude is signing off from that space to follow what he believes is his true duty to humanity: an apostolate of joy.
Predictably, the motivation for his career change has been ascribed to the failings of the presidency he finessed and foisted on Nigerians. The author of ‘Are We the Turning Point Generation’, it has been alleged, bears the principal blame for using his influential space in the media to paper over the obvious and persisting flaws of an unchanged military man of the ‘80s. “They have pocketed the millions from the campaign and are now telling us stories”.
But Chude, who turned thirty-three on Friday, has been mulling over Joy, Inc. for three years, basically dating back to before he flipped the Abuja establishment (yea, I acknowledge that sounds a bit much). It is a mission aiming at, if you permit, a new evangelization along the lines of proclaiming healing to the broken hearted, liberty to the captives and relief to the bound. After years in a personal wilderness of his own, coming out to fix thirsts is the goal.
“I was depressed over broken relationships” he writes in a recent piece “over unwanted weight, over business rejection, over being broke, over losing a pitch or a competition. I wrestled with inferiority and insecurity, even though I had no reason to. Just because the world wasn’t a safe space, wasn’t a warm place.”
You will find many, many persons dealing with a cocktail of these troubles, including this writer. But these are from a man who has got named on Forbes 30 Under 30, who is also the youngest journalist to interview a sitting president before making a crude candidate over to replace that president. He is the person who, for thirteen years, has used The Future Africa Awards, to hold up the most enterprising young people in Nigeria as evidence of a steady upward mobility in competencies like excellence and innovation among young Nigerians. What else could possibly be worth pursuing after all the benefits that come from these achievements?
Not only is he on a mission to find it, teaching and mainstreaming it to ensure everyone takes it as the preeminent desire drives him, with the same passion that made his leadership at RED Media relevant to the leadership of the world’s most populous black nation. And so Joy, Inc., running as a benefit corporation whose profits will all go to charities, will “equip people, communities, organizations and nations with the science-centered tools to build resilience, transcend adversity, solve problems and find joy.”
There is nothing to contend with in that value proposition. Solutions to suicide, depression, loneliness and all forms of mental health challenges will be more in demand with the progress of “i” technologies and the bogus reality of the social media age. Africa’s peculiar economic challenges add a survivalist dimension to existential crises which must be addressed but cannot be exhausted by responsible governance and people-centered fiscal planning alone. Everybody needs money but not everyone will be happy when they find it.
So how will Chude make the difference? “That I could really live my truth, and do whatever the hell my heart felt was right and nourishing, and… good” appears to be the blueprint. Searching into this throws up possibilities that are vivid from the way the platforms at RED are open to different forms of “truth”, defined by varying identities of confessors. At least one of those “truths”, relating to freedom to not have a hetero-sexual orientation, is an official non-sequitur punishable by the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and there have been contests by many who share same religious faith with him that such “truths” could not be further from the Truth. But it hasn’t stopped him from writing, speaking and encouraging campaigns aimed at emboldening the outlawed confessors to live their truths if it makes them happy and hurts no one.
And in direct response to the religious resistance to his promotion of such “truths”, his magnum opus, if you like, of December 14, 2017 was formed and derived from a conviction that he personally understands what Jesus would do, regardless of what Paul the Apostle has written in his letters or what three millenia of theological commentaries have prescribed to be solely appropriate and acceptable.
So that one sees the journey of Joy, Inc. as an exposition into truth as Chude sees it, with the backing of science. Hence, it will not be out of place that those embarking on the vital voyage of joy with him would have on their minds, the question directed to The Most Important Historical Figure ever to begin his life’s mission at thirty-three, whom Chude holds as the foundation for his beliefs:
“What is truth?”
Chude’s answer would make Joy, Inc. whatever it hopes to become.
By Alexander O. Onukwue | First published on 18th March 2018 on Facebook