There are no loud promotional activities or clicking of glasses here and there about it but the intellectual circles in which he circulates have taken note of the arrival of probably the newest PhD holder in Nigeria in the person of Dr. Sunday Adejo. Loud celebrations or not, obtaining a PhD is a big news anywhere, particularly if one has worked as hard as Adejo insists he has. His views are considered important on three grounds – a voice that speaks to the quality of recent PhD products in Nigeria, a testimonial for the awarding institution and the university where he teaches. All these are there in this interview with Intervention that the freshly minted Dr. Adejo gave.
People speak of PhD taking too long in Nigeria nowadays. How was your own experience?
In my own case, I was able to escape that. I would say that four and a half years is not too bad for the length of time spent to obtain a PhD in a public university in Nigeria of today. My luck was probably because my supervisor understood what it means. As long as I was hard working, he was there, becoming not just a supervisor but also a mentor. So, apart from the bureaucratic delays, I didn’t have to worry about supervisor’s attitude.
People also grumble about the quality of PhD!
Who am I to say that is not a major issue but at the Nigerian Defence Academy, (NDA) where I took my PhD, I can speak of a mechanism for quality control that is rigorous. You cannot but come out with your head high. Unlike in some other places, there are quite a number of checks that one passes through at the NDA. By the time you are defending the thesis, you are doing the fifth version of it because the defence is preceded by four different tastes of it, all aimed at purifying and adding value to your work.
You are suggesting that the NDA is immunized against some of the problems people are complaining about?
Not absolutely. They are not absolutely protected from all the problems. All the characters you would find in a typical public university, you would also come across there. But majority are dedicated and the Academy is standards compliant.
How different is the university from its owners? I mean the military has no such room for argument and contestation!
My argument there would be that there is a point of dichotomy between the university and its owners. The university is not run by the military but by the NUC, (National Universities Commission). And that is why majority are not military guys but certified academics. The difference you may find is that lecturers who work there may imbibe the military discipline.
So, what are your immediate plans?
My immediate plan is to pursue postdoctoral engagement, using that to translate my research experience into some concretes. So, postdoc is top of the priorities.
What is your observation on academic life today?
I am sure it is not controversial to say that it is not where it ought to be. The mentality we have, the leaders we have and many of the people in academics are not combining well. The government is not living up to its responsibility in budgetary terms. There is intrusion into academia by everyone rather than mentors and people who have passion for knowledge acquisition and knowledge dispensation. The education sector cannot be an all comer sector but for the very best. As things are, it is easy to count where any serious researches are going on because research in the environment of the university today is nearly impossible. So, you find people running to Ghana, Middle East, East Asia and the West even though we say we are the giant of Africa.
The other dimension is this question about whether the crisis of standard can be posed as a crisis of lack of quality teachers or lack of quality students, fundamentally speaking?
I would take a holistic angle to it
You teach Marxism here and Marxists insist on distinction between primary and secondary contradictions!
Yes but I see problems with manpower that is not qualitative enough and students that are also not qualitative enough. So, you can end up with a professor who cannot profess. And when you move down, you encounter students who might have very beautiful results from ‘miracle’ examination centres but whose academic work in the university belies that. Lecturers cannot perform miracles if there are such materials all over the place. That is made worse by what some school administrators are also complaining of, that the campuses have their own share of what is going on in the larger society such as cultism, drug, alcoholism and the distractions of the social media.
We assume that those who should listen to your analysis would do so. I am interested in asking you about the content dimension too. The discipline of Political Science, for example, is losing grounds to courses like Literature and Geography. Isn’t content also a problem?
Before now, there have been a lot of agitations, advocacy and social movements. So, there was activism and popular pressure on government. People were hearing names such as Soyinka, Bala Usman, Attahiru Jega. Right now, that is not there anymore. With that, there has been decline in visibility and quality of political scientists. Quest for political appointment has taken a toll on activism. So, decline of impact is real. It is not only at that level but also at the level of the National Association of Political Science Students, (NAPSS) which should have been the incubation centre for the student axis to the power of the discipline.
That’s an interesting angle to it but there is the subject matter crisis too. Geography, for example, is on the rise, especially social geography because it has so successfully liberated itself from orthodox notion of Geography as nature. Political Science has not been able to do that, especially in Nigeria.
The world is not static. It keeps evolving. For Political Science to be relevant, it must evolve. Disciplines like Literature and Geography you mentioned are adjusting. Before now, remote sensing and space management were not as central to Geography. They have become pivotal. Adjusting to trends makes a discipline to remain in shape. There must be problem in Political Science. You still see people teaching what Dudley Seers said many years ago in Political Science from notebooks preserved over 30, 40 years ago. So, Political Science needs restructuring.
Having advocated restructuring for Political Science, do you also do so for Nigeria? It is a big issue now.
Of course yes. I think it is very important. The current fad is the African Free Trade Area issue. That is restructuring. There has been endemic agitation for restructuring, agitation for remaking our federalism, for fiscal federalism. Although the concept of restructuring is ambiguous, resource control is a key part of it. I support that rather than having states that are spending money that they didn’t generate.
The contrary view is Nigeria is naturally balanced – no section can go it alone and that the campaign for restructuring is more about the tussle between regional elite rather than what you are saying. The fear is that restructuring in that context could mean disintegration eventually given the kind of elite we have. After all, Nigeria doesn’t belong to the regional elites alone because there are others.
As much as that is correct, it doesn’t eradicate the internal contradictions leading to the political conflicts we are seeing. Such conflicts tend to show that the natural balance has become unbalanced. Yes, that is a very patriotic argument and there is really nothing to disagree with there. There is a political economy dimension to federalism which we cannot isolate. But whether naturally balanced, nature has made distribution of resources unbalanced. So, there is need to practice federalism well. Otherwise, it will be seen as an attempt by a group to be connected to the umbilical cord. If you address the question of what people are erroneously calling ‘true’ federalism, many states in Nigeria today would not exist.
Many states shouting it now would, without knowing it, cease to exist but the regional elite tussle has obscured that at the moment as well as the real fear in radical circles. That is the perception that the Nigerian elite are too divided to have a historical sense of mission and that such makes undefined restructuring risky.
That is a very important observation. There is a uniformity in the character of the elite in Nigeria. They are birds of the same feather. But that doesn’t mean the crisis will come to an end just like that. So, we have a challenge.
What do you see the local/global balance bringing to the table on all these?
It all goes to show how Political Science is losing relevance as far as conscientising the people on the dynamics of the local – global interface. If that were happening, then we can haphazard a guess how it would work out. As at today, there is no conscientisation on the strategies sustaining dependency and neocolonialism. Those who lighted our path before seem to have become victims of what they once fought. But there is imperialism and it is permeating with the speed of light. We are hardly producing any of the things we consume. The political class has become tools. So, I agree with you that the fate of the country cannot be handed over to that class. Do we have industries in Nigeria? Do we have construction giants that can compete?
Your examples will take us to an essay that was making a serious distinction between North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. It is a very uncomfortable one but when you go to Algeria or Egypt, you see the point the author is making. Egypt has a national construction company that can compete. It doesn’t mean there are no foreign contractors there totally. All students of global energy politics know how far Algeria attained in nationalist management of oil resources including piping gas to Europe.
I think we are nowhere in these matters. And that is where I return to the point I was making earlier about our weak educational system. Here are several professors of Engineering who are theoretically loaded but yet, we have no electricity or water or transport system. Our environment of education is not there. I am ready to bet that if Indonesia or Egypt are up in certain things, you must look at their educational system. Ours is something close to what we say about how one cannot give what one doesn’t have.
Let us touch Veritas, this university briefly. It is a new university and the Department of Politics is equally a very young one. How do you see it in the context of our discussion so far?
Veritas University, Abuja is a new university, barely 10 years but a lot have been put in place. It might be benefitting from the Catholic legacy in university education. You can say the Catholics do it better than anyone else when it comes to the university idea in world history. After three Vice-Chancellors, there is a new one. Something seems to be shaping up positively for the university with his coming. As for the Department, it is also very young because it cannot be older than the university. I would say a lot have been put in place too but a lot more needs to be done as far as enhancing visibility through quality of academic papers and journals. The university aspires to be a star but the star is yet to be seen. But it has to be like the star that directed the three wise men to where Jesus was.