A trained lawyer, writer, talk show host and co-founder of a popular media and communications company, Chude Jideonwo has gained a reputation as a believer in the potential of the youth which explains why, along with his team, they started The Future Africa Awards, a platform to celebrate the African youth and their achievement. In this interview he sheds light on his new book, ‘Are We The Turning Point Generation?’ and how he hopes to stir up the minds of readers with it… You ask a rhetorical question with the title of your latest book… personally, do you think ours is the turning point generation? I think we can and should be the turning point generation. We have a lot of people who are hoping on our generation. The only people who can decide whether or not to be the turning point generation is all of us insisting and demanding better government with integrity and all of that. But will we decide to fulfil that responsibility? That is the question… but this book tries to push people towards doing what is right and the urgency of it….
A chapter in the book raises fear about the youth following the footsteps of the older generation. Isn’t it ironic that you have a platform that rewards the youth, yet you don’t seem to trust them?…
It is not a fear; it is a pre-emptive because people have failed before. I don’t know if we will be or not but I do hope we turn out to be but like I always say, people need to be active citizens. If we are going to be, I can’t just sit down and continue hoping. It is a constant sustained process through books like this, activities, actions, protests, meetings, conferences. These are the things that will help us be that turning point generation I think we can be… so this book is one of those things needed.
What inspired your decision to write the book?…
I remember during one edition of the The Future Africa Awards, Chris Ihidero, a member of the Central Working Committee of the awards, told me he doesn’t see how we can change Nigeria without the government. Of which, the idea behind the awards is to try to change Nigeria despite the bad government. After this I reflected on it and realised people have done these things before me but haven’t transformed the country despite their passion. I decided I needed to spend some time and reflect the issues from end to end putting into perspective culture, government, society, religion. I’m trying to set an agenda, so to say.
You said it took you about three years to write the book. According to its synopsis, it examines the failure of leadership in Nigeria. Are you in anyway insinuating that the present government has performed woefully?…
Failure is not the word I will use and that is because whether we like it or not, the presidency is a legitimate one and unless the government is impeached or removed, we have to live with this government for a few years. Because of that, I cannot condemn the government in entirety because we must salvage whatever we can from the situation that we are in. However, that doesn’t stop me from specifically demanding better in areas I think the government has failed. I think it has failed incredibly in the area of the accountability in the oil sector, same for the handling of the terror Boko Haram and the abduction of the Chibok girls. There is no other way of saying it; it is a failure of government, mission and legitimacy as a government. I am reluctant to dismiss the government as a failure because then, how do we engage it to do the minimum things it can do like conducting free and fair elections and all. However, it has had many opportunities to inspire Nigeria and has failed in that aspect….
While expressing your opinion about the anti-gay law, you said you were ashamed to be a Nigerian. Do you not think such statements may have a negative effect on those who have credited you for your passion towards building a better Nigeria?…
First and foremost, I don’t like to talk about the gay bill anymore. I have to choose my battle but what I can do is support. At that point, I was ashamed to be Nigerian. Even now, I’m ashamed of my country’s response to a lot of things but I challenge anybody to term that to mean I’m not patriotic. When your country fails its citizens and discriminates against her citizens on basis of race, sex and anything that makes us human, it is something to be ashamed and I am of every single person in the National Assembly that approved the law that we should jail people simply because they don’t have sex the way I and somebody else do. Anytime my country does something to be ashamed of, I am confident enough in my love and pride for the country to say I am ashamed and until our country treats all citizens with equal respect, I will continue to demand better….
Have you got plans to be a part of any government?
I try to think beyond the shallow. If you pay attention to global politics, a lot of people have made statements that circumstances have forced them to change. So I have learnt not to say things definitely because I don’t know what the world is going to be like soon. However, I have rejected opportunities to join the government in the very close past. I have no interest now or in the nearest future to join the government at any level, not because I don’t think it is an honourable thing to do but because I think I have a different mission which is to use the media to galvanise this generation to act. That is why in all the media that we have, we don’t just report or editorialise, we get involved and are part of the movement. I believe the media is a very strong tool that can be used to effect change, because of that it is very difficult for me to leave it for something else that might limit my capacity, my voice or the calling I was sent to do….
How did your journey into media start?
This will be my fourteenth year in the media. I started in 2010 when I left the secondary school. I was presenting The Sunday Show with Levi Ajunoma. Even when I studied law, I always knew I was going to end up in the media although at first I had thought it to be nothing more but an interest. Over the years as I continued to work with Funmi Iyanda, it began to dawn on me the limitless power of the media to make change happen. Then in 2003, I realised, it might be why I came to the world….
How did you get into activism?
All through my life, two things have worried me: injustice and the rights of the powerless. I had never been involved in a protest in my life, so this came upon me suddenly. The first I organised was the Enough is Enough protest in 2010 and the only time I have felt as angry as I was then is now that I am so angry about the incompetence of the government in getting these girls back. Then, I thought, how dare the President of a country disappear for three months and that anger was what led me into activism. Before that time, I never thought I would have been involved which is why I don’t rule out possibilities completely. Over time, I have come to realise that the more I run away, the more I come back. Although I still don’t see myself as an activist, I am not reluctant to do anything that I need to do to solve any problem that I see….
Tell us about your relationship with your partner, Adebola Williams We met as friends on the set of Inside Out with Agatha in 2002. We sat down together and were discussing then we found out we had similar ideas, passion and vision. I remember at a point I needed help to organise a surprise birthday celebration for Funmi Iyanda, he and my other friends joined and it turned out a huge success. After that we realised we could create things beyond being friends and that was how we founded Red Strat which evolved into Red Media in 2011. Half of the things that I have done may not be so if we didn’t have this partnership existing. Every day that I see partnerships sink even though they are brothers; it occurs to me how lucky I am to be able to have a co-founder that I can rely on….
You are on the top of the list of Nigeria’s most eligible bachelors. Any plans to get married soon? Until my father passed on few years ago, he had a wonderful marriage with my mother, so I absolutely believe in the institution of marriage but I don’t know how ready I am because there is no thermometer. I am in a beautiful committed relationship and I hope and plan to get married before I am old….