The ordinariness of civilization by Pius Adesanmi

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Friday. Hectic week. I thought I’d be able to unwind today with a TGIF update. For where?

One day be one day, I will be able to bask in and enjoy the ordinariness of civilization. (An aside: if you are a Nigerian undergraduate, don’t go and start writing “one day be one day”. I have reached a certain stage in life where I can deliberately take a cutlass and put it on the throat of the English language when addressing a certain audience. Wait till you get there before wielding a cutlass, ok?)

I am in the middle of preparations for one of the major conferences of the Institute of African Studies. It is an annual conference that we jointly organize with the Group of African Ambassadors and High Commissioners in Ottawa. In its three years of existence, that conference has become arguably the biggest and the most high-profile Africa conference in Ottawa. Top scholars and thinkers, the creme of the African diplomatic community, Africa Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Directors, CEOs of organizations, Foundations, thinktanks, name it, they all attend.

Looking for a keynote speaker for this year’s edition, we settled on someone high up in the Canadian government. A random google search using keywords from the conference theme yielded a high-profile Member of Parliament who doubles as an Interparliamentary secretary to a Federal Minister and also serves on the board of Universities, etc.

MP, Interparliamentary secretary, and a profile which speaks directly to the theme of the conference! I went to website of the Canadian Parliament to look for her publicised email address. I sent an initial email to determine her possible interest in the conference.

Within hours, an aide responded. Yes, the Honorable MP and Interparliamnetary Secretary is interested. Could I send more details of the conference? I sent more details. More back and forth between me and the aide. What’s attendance size like? Audience composition? Mode and manner of presentation, etc.

Finally, after the initial conversation with aides, the big masquerade herself takes over. All is well. I shall attend. After confirmation, I receive an email from the Africa Desk of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Basically, they will be researching and preparing the speech of our keynote and wanted more details of my expectations to guide them.

I am not connected. I am just a bloody ordinary citizen of Canada organizing a conference. And I googled the email address of folks at this level of the architecture of governance and it has led to all this?

I wanted to start basking in the ordinariness of civilization. Then I remembered the 17th-century jungle and everything turned into ash in my mouth. My blood pressure and my heart palpitations have taken a hit. Another weekend of gnashing of teeth ahead.

Look at aides knowing that their function is to set up their Oga for maximum intellectual delivery at this conference. Look at aides researching the speech. Look at aides responding to email within hours. And look at the fact that all I needed to do was to just google up her email address!

I am supposed to be enjoying getting such a big catch for my conference in May but here am I wallowing in agony that these basic things, this ordinariness of civilization remains an elusive rocket science in the jungle.

One day be one day, the jungle will get tired of being jungle and start looking for a ticket on the train of civilization.

If you see me on May 18, smiling and basking beside my high-profile keynote speaker, know that my smiles are sitting on a foundation of anguish.

Professor Pius Adesanmi is the Director, Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Canada.




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