The story in the conferment of a doctorate degree on him is not just the fact of that PhD. The story is the topic he researched, something many prospective PhD students would not touch with a pole, no matter how long it is. For his PhD, Ikechukwu Maxwell Ukandu approached the Department of Religion and Cultural Studies at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, (UNN) to explore the plausible implications of Boko Haram terrorism and Just War in Islam in Nigeria.
Boko Haram is not a topic for the faint hearted. But the universe called the university was keen to oblige him and so, he dug in.
After all the drudgery of researching for that level of certification, his moment came on December 9th, 2019. It was predictably a tense moment for him because the system was going to put him on a scale to determine not just his worthiness in learning as well as in character but also his subject matter mastery on an issue stretching across the disciplinary borders of religious identity, new security challenges and Ethics. In this case, it is not just Ethics but a theme in Ethics as Just War which has become extraordinarily controversial since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. To wrap all these into a meaningful conclusion must be tasking, methodologically and otherwise.
This is the basis of the humming of joy loud enough to be heard on both sides of the Niger from Dr. Ikechukwu Maxwell Ukandu because, at the end of the day, the Examiner was convinced he knew his onions on the matter.
The PhD is a tricky terrain everywhere in the world. It is trickier in Nigeria today. As such only certified authorities can speak on the quality of any thesis. But even then, leafing through Dr. Ukandu’s text, it is doubtful if the Examiner could have done anything differently than award the degree. In other words, there is an inviting grasp or clarity on the issues involved that must have excited the leading authority who examined him. And if we were in a nation where research and policy enjoy any conversation, there are areas of the thesis that might interest the Nigerian authorities.
Whether that happens or not, some NGOs and Veritas University, Abuja are already happy they have a Dr. Ukandu in their share of expertise.