If Chinua Achebe were representing Ozibo Ekele’s feat in obtaining a First Class in History at the University of Ibadan recently, it would certainly be as a modern day case of the ‘solid personal achievement’ by which Okonkwo signposted himself as a phenomenon and factor in the politics of Umofia in Things Fall Apart. No matter what the situation might be, obtaining a First Class grade in History is a ‘solid personal achievement’. It speaks to striving for merit. That is what 23 year old Ozibo Ekele has done at the University of Ibadan.
Intervention looks forward to seeing Mr Ekele secure and expand his space in the world of academia. At just 23, he has a very large space that the ‘solid personal achievement’ in obtaining a First Class in History guarantees him. It is assumed that, warts and all, Ekele would get offers of teaching appointments, scholarships and similar openings to be able to drink deeper from History. No time, it may be argued, can be more interesting than now to study History, what with all the hitherto settled ideas, concepts and theories being re-opened for further interrogation and re-making.
The phenomenon of very high number of First Class grade in undergraduate programmes in Nigeria is already the subject of an on-going debate. The interrogation of the phenomenon would continue because a First Class grade in any discipline is a high stake affair generally. It is more so when it is in disciplines where the sort of argument that can sustain that grade is assumed to be beyond what the typical Nigerian university today can give in terms of the quietism of the campus, the staff-student ratio, the number of professors on the ground in a typical department and the library.
By awarding a First Class grade to a History undergraduate, the University of Ibadan was adding its own dimension to that. Conscious of the debate it is bound to generate, the Vice-Chancellor has assured everyone that the ‘genius’ merited it. “We warmly congratulate Ozibo Ekele, who is graduating with a Cumulative Grade Point Average of 7.0” was what Prof Idowu Olayinka told newsmen thereto. It is an interesting intervention, more of the reasons Ekele’s feat and the debate around it would go across the academic world, linking it to the theme of ‘spaces of flow’ that is argued to define the networked society or globalisation, if you like.
Paul Purrit is a 78 year old retiree of the Canadian Labour Congress, (CLC). He is not complaining, meaning that he is enjoying his retirement in Ottawa. But as a theorist and practitioner of proletarian internationalism that underpins trade union activism, he has made friends across the globe. Three of them who found themselves in Lome, Togo on November 17th, 2017 decided to construct a portrait of Puritt by way of a placard entitled “Paul’s West African Fan Club” which they sent to him as a solidarity practice.
Back in Ottawa, Puritt put the solidarity portrait on display and in which we can see (L-R) Cde John Odah, the Executive Secretary of the Organisation of Trade Unions of West Africa (OTUWA); Cde Steve Faulkner, the multiple South African labour activist and Kwasi Adu-Amankwah of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) – Africa.
What a totally networked world that makes it difficult to continue to argue against the concept of deterritorialisation: the idea that the relationship of culture or roots to place has given way to relationship between space and identity. The argument is that place has been eliminated and space is what matters. And the space is one of flows, interconnectedness and diversity. It won’t take long before someone proclaims the death of identity.
From Lome-Ottawa to Maiduguri-Dubai. Here, it is a more nuclear thing but as we shall soon see, globality stalks it. In academic gown is Abdullahi (Adnan) Bashir who graduated in Information and Communication Technology on November 16th, 2017 from the Skyline University College, Sharja in Dubai. With her is Prof Hauwa Biu of the University of Maiduguri, the mother. Prof Hauwa Biu was a key activist of the now dead Women in Nigeria, (WIN), the radical alternative to the now seriously limping National Council of Women Societies, (NCWS). To that extent, this image is a family affair.
But then, Abdullahi graduated with classmates from many other cultures across the world. This picture is thus equally a story of the evolving multicultural order. When we consider the number of Nigerians studying, interacting, with some getting married, etc across the world, then it is worth thinking ahead about what identity would be like very soon.
In this regard, the very interesting story of a Nigerian journalist now turned American academic comes to mind. He is married to a woman with West European and Iranian ancestry but who is also an American citizen. Meanwhile, his children who are American citizens disturb him about the place called Umofia about which they read in Achebe’s novels. Well, they were brought home to Eastern Nigeria eventually to satisfy their curiosity. The question is ‘who are these children’ by current identity categorizations? Yes, they are Nigerians and are very conscious of fatherland and were here four years ago. But they would also have to go to Iran someday, meet maternal relations and interact. And they have to go to Europe someday too, where they might even contest in elections and win. And they are also American citizens by birth. And they are Nigerians.
Welcome to the steadily rising world of multi-layered and even deterritorialised individuals!
*An earlier version of this material was withdrawn because the checker found the paragraph flow horrible. Apologies please – Editor