By Adagbo Onoja
Only time can tell what the answer to the above poser might be but, in the context of the “Science Must Fall” campaign especially in South African universities and the rising flame of Constructivism as well as postcolonial theory, science as we know it now might be in trouble. Although this push has a longer history in South Africa, there is a Nigerian entry point that could overshadow anyone else’s.
At the last count, Prof Osisioma Basil Chinedu, (OBC) Nwolise, the University of Ibadan political scientist at the forefront of it all has published no less than 14 essays in his determined effort to bring what he calls Strategic Spiritual Intelligence into the formal orbit of scholarship. His campaign is an intellectualised version of what Chief Olusegun Obasanjo articulated in the 1970s about how Africa could deploy juju to dismantle Apartheid. The prevailing cultural and religious reflex of the Nigerian society laughed that to scorn. But the cultural and religious habit of thinking is shifting and rapidly too. The rejection of knowledge as ‘justified true belief’ in favour of the contingency of meaning is wrecking the scientific framework in favour of more esoteric things such as fortune telling, wizardry, astrology, witches and witchcraft, juju and so on. That is what Nwolise might be responding to although his efforts seem to be directed more by an Africanist self-understanding than any methodological tussle.
The hefty nature of references at the end of each of his publications suggest strongly he has been reading a lot of stuff. His 2012 Inaugural lecture has about 80 items, for instance. They are not all on esoteric sciences but nonetheless. What that means is that those who might be taking him on would have to do their homework properly. After all, aside from Obasanjo’s juju theory of how to dismantle Apartheid, Ama Ata Aidoo, the Ghanaian writer has said that, although she has never seen ghosts, she is afraid of ghosts. Added to the list is what the Johannesburg based Daily Maverick calls “South Africa’s Schools of Witchcraft and Wizardry” in its May 26th, 2014 online edition. The paper mentioned the Durban University of Technology as well as the University of Johannesburg.
Basically, Nwolise’s argument can be summed up in what he told this reporter last week at the University of Ibadan. The reporter understands him to be saying that strategic spiritual intelligence is a technology of power, deployable in more or less the same way as those who possess nuclear weapons do. So, his intervention is aimed at opening up inquiry in that domain towards what one might then call the weaponisation of juju or the making of the ‘black bomb’.
Implicit in the case for the emergence of a field, (or is it a discipline), with the likely name of Alternative Science, formalizing the study of juju, witchcraft, sorcery, magic, fortune telling, etc is the idea that with it, Africa would be on its way up. It is interesting that is the same argument the relentless South African female undergraduate of the University of Cape Town in the video below is pushing in her attack on science as signifier of European modernism.
Equally interesting is the Facebook skirmishes that has been reported on Nwolise’s work. The standpoint of Nwolise’s Facebook attackers is not that clear until one fully reads them. It would seem that the attackers have to do more work given claims such as “Witchcraft is no less valid than Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity”.
It would seem the time to proclaim or dismiss Nwolise is not now. His claims have not been tested. Many have not even read a single line of what he is saying, the qualifiers he is using. Though not a constructivist himself, he is, above all, protected by Constructivism. At the rate the constructivist meta-theory is moving, Nwolise’s argument might not be too far from triggering an epistemic fire with performative implications for an architecture of knowledge that welcomes Alternative Science with African originality. Even if that doesn’t happen on any revolutionary scale, something qualitative might, with potentials for the liberation of knowledge as a whole but particularly in terms of concepts, theories and research techniques grounded in African empiric. And then the bringing together such would occasion: Literature, Linguistics, Religious Studies, Cultural Studies, African Studies, History, Strategic Studies, Geography, International Relations, Sociology & Anthropology, African-American, Medicine, Economics, Technology and Political Science.
Nwolise might, in that sense, be the academic to watch because he might as well be triggering something new! Nobody knows what he might be triggering but he is carrying an intellectual pregnancy. Until the delivery, he is the potentially explosive scholar.