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Challenging Militaristic Culture With the Indigenous African Ideas of Liberty

Feyisade Adeyemi, a Founder and Executive Director at the Chale Institute in Nigeria, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Ibadan, former lecturer at Elizade University, and Students For Liberty alumnus, has devoted his life to freeing the people of Africa from the ongoing impact of militaristic culture that has its origins in the past.

Growing up in Nigeria, Feyisade observed firsthand how the country, despite its transition to democracy, never truly became one. He witnessed former military leaders effectively assuming the role of “democratic” presidents while maintaining a de facto military rule in the country. What troubled him most was how easily ordinary people had come to accept a culture of power distance and how, as a result, they had normalized many limiting factors on their freedoms, making them a part of their everyday lives. 

Feyisade knew that the only way to effect a real change was to popularize the culture of liberty and sustain development in Africa through research and education. That, however, was not an easy task as historically, Nigeria has a strong socialist background, and people are not inclined to welcome the ideas of liberty that are often perceived as imposed by Western civilization. Therefore, he had to think creatively.

In 2018, Feyisade established the Chale Institute (TCHALEI), a nonprofit educational foundation, to promote a culture of liberty and achieve sustainable development in Africa. To engage people skeptical of ideas imported from other countries, he created the African Ideas of Liberty Course, which illustrates that the principles of liberty are native to Africa. The course utilizes various African cultural forms such as proverbs, folktales, oral traditions, and songs to instruct fundamental philosophical, economic, and legal concepts that are crucial for developing a modern Africa. It also provides access to a wealth of indigenous African knowledge that has been largely overlooked, despite it holding the solutions to many of the continent’s issues.

Through Feyisade’s efforts, over 2,000 students have had the opportunity to study the fundamental principles of classical liberalism from an African perspective. The African Ideas of Liberty Course has been so successful that the Chale Institute has recently introduced a new training course on opinion editorial writing, allowing students to put their knowledge into practice and express their ideas. 

Furthermore, the Chale Institute offers classes on policy research and social media advocacy. Recently, Feyisade and his team have started a podcast called Freedom in Africa Podcast, where they, along with their guests, talk about subjects such as women’s rights in Africa, individualism in African pop culture, economic development, press freedom, and more.

While serving as the academic director for Africa Students For Liberty from 2018 to 2020, Feyisade also initiated the first Reading Challenge in SFL Africa history as part of the training program for Local Coordinators. He proposed creating a book club that would meet twice a month to discuss pro-liberty literature. He developed a 12-month reading program and introduced competitions to encourage the participants to engage with the texts. The Reading Challenge proved to be a major success and has been emulated by many other countries around the world. It remains highly popular among Local Coordinators and students outside the organization who are interested in SFL events.

Feyisade is deeply thankful to SFL for all the experiences that have formed him into the person he is today. “I had always had a classical liberal approach to life, but I was not familiar with it as a concept or an ideological school of thought, nor was I aware of the organizations involved,” he said. “SFL helped me in my journey of self-discovery. It not only provided me with the relevant literature but also connected me with a large network of liberty-minded individuals who are also interested in making a change in their communities.”

Feyisade is extremely enthusiastic about his next project, an adult literary program. He plans to establish a literacy center as part of the Chale Institute that would concentrate on advancing literacy, especially in Nigeria, where 70 million adult citizens cannot read or write or lack the basic skills required for modern living.

Feyisade believes that literacy skills will aid Nigerians in navigating through life and also become active citizens who are capable of evaluating candidates they can vote for. Politicians will no longer be able to persuade people to vote for them based on tribal affiliation. An argument based on ethnic competition will not resonate with an educated population. This will aid in building a strong civil society free of militaristic politicians and ethnic conflicts.

Written by Anastasiia Rusanova



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