A big academic fish seems to have re-entered the young but determined intellectual ocean called Veritas University, Abuja. There has been no official announcement to that effect yet but Intervention has sighted Prof Kwanashie on the campus. Intervention also learnt authoritatively that Prof Kwanashie is now back in the Economics Department of the university he is the immediate past Vice-Chancellor of. It remains unclear at press time what the nature of the engagement is in terms of whether his is a transit type, Visiting Professor or whatever in that category.
Irrespective of whatever the arrangement is, his return means that a very young Department of Economics has such a big name in that discipline among its resource persons. There might be nothing new in such coming back to base but there is everything spectacular about it for a university which has been in the news for pulling established names in scholarship into its fold. Its Humanities Complex, for example, can be said to be relatively star studded, especially with recent arrivals in the Department of English, Theology, Political Science and now Economics. There are two other former Vice-Chancellors serving either as Director or Dean in the Sciences Complex.
Prof Kwanashie is not a big name because he was a Vice-Chancellor. He is a big name on issues that are at the heart of the academic world. One is his First Class grade in Economics from the Ahmadu Bello University in those glorious days of that citadel. Two, he got his graduate training in two of today’s global front rank universities: Northwestern University in the USA and McGill University in Canada. McGill University, the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto lead the pack in Canadian university system in terms of thoroughness of training and global agenda setting research.
Kwanashie has also been in the policy mill as a presidential adviser before he cut his teeth in administration as Vice-Chancellor of a new university – Veritas University to where he is back now as a resource person. Again, that is not really new because the University of Ibadan, (UI) and Bayero University, Kano, (BUK) have set nearly unbeatable track in that regard. As at today, BUK has no less than three former Vice-Chancellors back in its fold although it is doubtful if one of them – Prof Dandatti Abdulkadir – can still do much now but he is there in addition to Prof Attahiru Jega and one other former Vice-Chancellor. Prof Takena Tamuno, a former Vice-Chancellor of the UI remained connected to the university almost till his death. What must have been his last publications – three of them at a go – were presented to the public at the University of Ibadan in 2012 before his death three years thereafter. He was VC of UI at a time that meant he could also have been the VC of the University College London, (UCL) because the two were at par and belonged to one university – the University of London, (UoL).
What is new and strategic in Kwanashie’s come-back case is how it is happening at a time of gross inadequacy of academics with the theoretical, conceptual and experiential advantage gathered from better days in better established universities way back, age, exposure and maturity. He and his types wherever they go back to would be particularly helpful in the production of PhD students, serving in place of dysfunctional quality control mechanism. This is with particular reference to methodology which is always the graveyard of the research enterprise, requiring the kind of judgment that are not of everyday stuff, especially now that methodology is almost upside down of what used to be the case.
Above all, it is only academics of that layer who can domesticate some of the disciplines such that the course unit on Diplomacy in the undergraduate programme, for example, would encompass details of diplomatic activities between the old Benin Empire and the Portuguese in the 15th Century or what transpired between Kanem Bornu Empire and the Ottoman Empire which shared borders and shared the same year of revolts of Islamic nature in 1804 and what inferences can be drawn from that as far as safeguarding collective future of Nigeria is concerned.
At the moment, training in International Relations across Nigerian universities are largely no more than stories of European activities in the world. In fact, in the debate ignited by Harvard Professor Stanley Hoffmann in a 1977 essay and to which discipline mandarins such as Steve Smith and Ole Weaver have contributed, International Relations is called an American social science. That reality has nothing to do with indigenous diplomacy not being good fit to be academically engaged with but simply because those activities are not part of the consciousness of the rule writers in academia, even with the rise of the de-colonial phenomenon in global academia.
What remains to be understood is how it happens that Veritas University is able to assemble this category of resource persons. Could it be the reach out efforts of the incumbent Vice-Chancellor or the inviting image of the Catholic ownership of the university or the Abuja attraction or even a combination of all of these? For, at this rate, it might not be that surprising to see Prof David Ker, Kwanashie’s predecessor as the next returnee.
Veritas University’s luck might be the collective wisdom of those pioneer VCs who came from the rich background of a place such as Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria of yester years and were able to moderate the interface between the academic and the moral agenda of a peculiar university. By the time the owners found a priest Vice-Chancellor, he too turned out to be no stranger to academic protocols, having experienced a world class South African university and professional academic life in a first generation Nigerian university. In that case, care in the selection of VCs accounts for the climb so far. Only time will tell how this is sustained.
It was thought that, given the crisis of quality due partly to inadequate resource persons, the Federal and state governments would tap into the country’s reservoir of senior academics who left the university either as retirees or out of disenchantment, to return under new rules of engagement. That way, the system would stabilise up to a point. What the Federal and state governments have been either unwilling or unable to do is what some private university authorities appear to be doing with considerable success.