Decapitated Academia and a Diminished Nigeria -By Adagbo Onoja

As long as the world order rests on a system of nations, some nations will aggregate and project powers than some others. What explains this hierarchy of ordination and subordination? Answers used to include population, geography, military capability, natural resources profile and land mass. Today, that is ancient International Relations. Military capability is still the fulcrum and ultimate guarantor of state power but it is not superior to leadership, knowledge power and a manufacturing or a productive in that order. That’s the new International Relations.

Let’s take an example. In spite of her current socio-economic turbulence, the United States of America is still the greatest military power around. But its leadership of the post Cold War did not roar on the wings of its military capability but on its knowledge power.

Nothing can subtract from Francis Fukuyama’s brilliance but nobody can also deny that there is element of empire intellectualism in his ‘End of History’ as the paradigmatic edifice upon which George Bush’s “New World Order” erected.  And when it discovered that something missing from the Fukuyama edifice, Samuel Huntington entered the story. He took on Fukuyama in an essay titled, “The Errors of Endism”. Subsequently, there was a paradigm shift from endism to the “Clash of Civilisations”.

The point here is that, these two gentlemen, the US won the paradigmatic warfare as all subsequent framing of the post Cold War were either agreements or disagreements theirs. That is how a super power settled the paradigm tussle by deploying the intellectual authority of two of their best minds who though retained the scholar’s autonomy even while serving the system, consciously or otherwise.

This US example how we also started here in Nigeria. Remember the methodological and theoretical revolt at Ibadan against European ethnocentrism, culminating in the Ibadan School of History, to mention an example. Then bring in the ABU, Zaria School of History which added value to Ibadan’s in the radical, if not revolutionary, direction. The leaders of the Ibadan revolt and most of the big names in that generation in the Humanities complex were, few exceptions like Eskor Toyo and, later, Mahmud Moddibo Tukur, Festus Iyayi, etc, those referred to as bourgeois scholars. But even then, they all located their scholarship in the mission of the Nigerian State, deploying the academic’s toolkit to very patriotic ends.

By age and knowledge, I stand nowhere to produce any credible or exhaustive list of that generation from the late 1970s to early 1990s but their first sub-set would include, among others, S.G Ikoku, Kenneth Onwuka Dike, Ade Ajayi, Takena Tamuno, Bolanle Awe, Saburi Biobaku, Emmanuel Ayandele, Adiele Afigbo, Ojetunji Aboyade, Pius Okigbo, Sam Aluko, Chukwuka Okonjo, Eskor Toyo, Billy Dudley, Eyo Ndom, Nkenna Nzimiro, Anthony Asiwaju, Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe (and the whole lot from the arts), Mahdi Adamu, Akin Mabogunje, Obaro Ikime, Saad Abubakar, Okon Uya, Mahmud Tukur and Eme Awa whom I understand to be the grandfather of Nigerian Political Science.

Then the second sub-set would include the Peter Ekehs, Omafume Onoges, Claude Akes, Justin Tseayos, Fred Omus, Isawa Elaigwus, Bolaji Akinyemis, Ibrahim Tahirs, Ibrahim Gambaris, Ahmadu Jalingos, Kyari Tijanis, Bayo Adekanyes, Alex Gboyegas, Mahmud Moddibo Tukurs, Usmans, Okwudiba Nnolis, Oye Oyedirans, Adiele Junaidus, Alaba Ogunsanwo, Aaron Gana, Sam Oyovbaire, Okello Oculi, Alfred Opubor, Biodun Jeyifos, Jerry Ganas, Omo Omoruyis, Humphrey Nwosus, Nur Alkalis, Asisi Asobies, Munzali Jubrils. I take liberty to include on this list the following names even though they were not formally academics/did not remain in academia. They are Liman Ciroma, Adedeji, Alison Ayida, Patrick Dele Cole and Tunji Olagunju.

Then, suddenly, we started vandalizing ourselves, humiliating our own world class academics, making the disgraceful statement that they were teaching what they were not paid to teach.  Imagine a military commander entering a campus in the Western world to suggest that there were certain things academics there must teach and others they must not? You can say that for a military academy or a seminary because they have been set up for specific purposes but not a university even as the universe of knowledge is not a license for madness. At the end of the day, very many of our best and brightest sought ‘greener’ pastures outside our own shores.

Of course, there are still many scholars international competitiveness in the system, from the Tanimu Abubakars, Abubakar Siddiques, Paul Izas and Toure Kazah Toures in ABU, Zaria to Okey Ibeanus at UNN, Iyayis at , Alemikas, W. O Allis, Sam Egwus and Pam Shas at UNIJOS, Mohammed Barkindos at UNIABUJA, Sunday Ochoches at the Nigerian Defence Academy to the Sola Olorunyomis, Oka Obonos, Adigun Agbajes and Eghosa Osaghaes at the University of Ibadan, the Ayo Olukotuns and Ralph Akinfeles at Lead City University, Ibadan and then the Abubakar Momoh and Odion Akhaines at LASU, Ochinya Ojijis at Nassarawa State University, Sule Kanos and T. M Babas at UDU, Sokoto, Umar Pates and Abubakar Muazus at UNIMAID, Yakubu Ochefus at Kwararafa University and the Ibrahim Bello-Kanos, Ibrahim Muazams and Muazu Yusifs at BUK.  I take liberty to include Eddy Madunagu, Mathew Hassan Kukah and the late Stanley Macebuh on this list.

Needless saying my listing is not exhaustive. Not only is it restricted to the humanities complex, it is also mainly those I can recall immediately as I write. There are many brilliant minds out there even as hopeless and depressing as the overall university situation is. The question, however, is how many of even the few I can remember and mention immediately above are in the services of the Nigerian State as academics?

Of course, Eghosa Osaghae is still solidly in academia, hopefully returning to Ibadan after a two term Vice-Chancellorship of Igbinedion University, Okada but that is no longer the case with Professors Sam Egwu and Okey Ibeanu. Osaghae, Egwu and Ibeanu constitute the troika who took over from Okwudiba Nnoli as leading authorities on ethnicity and ethnic conflicts. It is an unscientific mindset but not a terrible thing to say that whatever they don’t know on the various dimensions of that subject is not worth knowing.

But where is Egwu now? He has been grabbed by the system. Ibeanu too though with some roots in INEC. Rotimi Suberu, Jibrin Ibrahim and Raufu Mustapha who should bring up this list are either scholars outside Nigeria or lost to international NGOs. It must be stated though that Ibrahim and Mustapha did not leave ABU, Zaria of their own will but under circumstances that are part of the crisis of university education in Nigeria. In a country where academics rarely return to the campus after extra-campus engagements, the outcome of all outward movements is predictable.

Ibrahim Bello Kano will not leave Bayero University, Kano only because of a personal disposition. Otherwise, any university anywhere in the world would gladly open its doors to his extraordinary mastery of the domain of Literature. It is such that between him and Tanimu Abubakar, his supervisor, no one can say who the master is now. Their case is similar to asking who, between Eghosa Osaghae and Peter Ekeh, his supervisor, is now a remarkable Political Scientist, whether in terms of inter-textual integrity or number of publications. There is also Professor Olawale Albert and his Peace Studies team at Ibadan, particularly their interesting experimentation with trans-disciplinarity.

But these beacons in the system are not only too few, they also stand no chance of reproducing themselves within the context of existing universities. I asked Osaghae recently if he could say that he has reproduced himself. I am not sure how he answered the question now. I would certainly have remembered if his reply a categorical yes. His answer could not have been yes because it is difficult, if not impossible, for any academic to reproduce himself within the university environment in Nigeria of today. The reason is simple. In a rentier state like Nigeria, what matters most is mastering the grand strategies and the tactics with which one can ease his or herself into the circuits that control oil rents, (the government and transnational oil companies mainly). In a context in which who you know is more important than what you know, knowledge is the first casualty. The students are very conscious of this. Hence their disdain for knowledge because they know they will never need knowledge, hard work, merit or talent to succeed in life. So, the academic labours in vain.

The second snag is the complete reversal of the fact that, in spite of the tension between the Nigerian State and the early academics, they worked together substantially. The climax of this was when IBB arrived on the scene and harvested over a dozen intellectuals viz Eme Awa and later Humphrey Nwosu and Okon Uya, (election management), Akinyemi, (foreign policy), Isawa Elaigwu, (federalism), Nkenna Nzimiro, (industrial relations), Oyovbaire, (information management), Jerry Gana, (mass mobilisation) and many more. Before IBB, there was the late Shehu Yar’Adua in the practice of erecting power on in-house intellectuals. The twosome knew one thing or two about the meaning of power. Today, only very few politicians have that facility or the inclination.

In contrast to that tradition of antagonistic co-operation between the state and the academics, there is now a state of permanent gulf between the two. With the godfathers, fixers and enforcers, who needs to clothe power again with paradigmatic sorties? Power is now sweeter if it is exercised most violently or crudely and nakedly. And once that is the case, the academy suffers because it translates to a state totally disinterested in especially the academics and functional universities.

The other side of this same point is the closed nature of Nigerian universities. It is difficult to imagine that the University of Abuja would not seek out a Jibrin Ibrahim, an Okello Oculi, a Sam Egwu, a Yakubu Aliyu, our very bests in terms of rounded training and the spirit of academia and all of whom they know to be in Abuja. Above all, the platforms for networking are missing in action. We don’t have anything like the Nigerian Political Science Association worth the name anymore. Or the Sociological/Anthropological, Geographical or Economics etc associations. They can’t be there and nobody hears them. Yet, these are the platforms from where scholars fulfil the requirement of shouting instead of murmuring.

The theoretical deficit of current university education is the third worrisome dimension. Nigeria had an excellent tradition of challenging received paradigms and methods which all sub-sets of the first generation successfully sustained. Apart from that, scholarship for its sake was contested. The radicals among them, in particular, essentialized anti-imperialism as the cornerstone of scholarship.

This was the ABU School of History mentioned earlier on. All these were products of deep theoretical grounding. Then came the World Bank and their distaste for theoretically charged courses. In alliance with the Nigerian government through the NUC, they so adjusted the courses in a way that hit particularly at the theory component, imposing a deadening uniformity in course units for all the universities, from the first to the final year. It is a template too global to serve any purpose because they merely copied the template, unmindful of the historicity of the courses in those societies which produced the copied templates. One of the outcomes is graduates without theoretical grooming. But of what use is a graduate without that ability? What’s the point in going to the university then? From which pool would academia reproduce itself?

This is why Nigeria matches on without a knowledge industry. Predictably, it matches on a diminished Nigeria, totally dysfunctional manner, completely dependent on templates copied from others after having lost of competitiveness in ALL areas of life. It is an irony too complex to unravel, Nigeria being that country most equipped by God to talk of a manifest destiny in the Black world.

No tags for this post.