The guy whose job at Intervention is to follow Facebook has reported that you are a day older today. And he was wondering if I had anything to write. He did not school under you in Bayero University, Kano, (BUK). He only knew this because Facebook also told him that I had written something about you a year or so ago. Don’t mind that Facebook. It has really conquered the world.
Anyway, it is healthy to assume that you are doing fine and to wish you ‘Happi B-day’. I thought that I could use this occasion to draw your attention to how great it is that you are successfully out of academia today.
It is probably unfair to do so. You have retired and you are just marginally involved in things academic. Second, it is unfair to other numerous resource persons who have contributed to the making of our BUK generation to let you alone appropriate the status of being the one to whom the perceived failures of the system might be reported. I only feel not guilty in doing so in you alone, out of the lot, being the one with claim to the title of the Philosopher-king. Philosophy being the only discipline that is everywhere at the same time makes it right to write to you.
There is still the other point in writing to you. This could as well be the last letter I might be writing to you as a fellow Nigerian. In my next letter, I might be writing from the Republic of Nok or Kush or whatever name we in the Middle Belt give to ourselves to you somewhere in the Republic of Tombi-Giwa or whatever name you people in Kano choose. Nigeria is discursively but actively being constructed into a violent implosion.
Some of the people involved and from all sides of the divides think they are only involved in brinkmanship when they deploy the language of the inevitability of disintegration of Nigeria. But such language can go beyond them in terms of meaning and consequences.
Already, Nigeria is still only hanging together because of the depth of crisscrossing integration that has taken place and whose unraveling is occurring in so slow a manner. So, people think the worst cannot happen. The truth, however, is that the worst can start to happen and absolutely no force would be able to bring it under control until this same Nigeria would have thoroughly embarrassed the black world beyond repair. The sentiments that have sedimented are more than adequate to sustain an ‘everywhere war’ implosion. Only someone who is shielded from such sentiments would challenge this contention.
The vehemence on Facebook; the violence of the national conversation; self-knitting for violent self-help of the average citizen – be s/he the next Okada/Keke NAPEP rider, the cultist, thug and sundry criminals; the successful take-over of many spaces and sites of social existence in the country today by such elements, including hamlets and the phenomenon of bandits that can penetrate any and everywhere are many more examples of the slow motion to something that could be catastrophic.
The most worrisome is the missing sense of urgency or alarm about all these, especially from the quarters where the alarms should have been most heard. Instead of such alarm ringing from such quarters, people have simply learnt the virtues of tact, diplomacy and finesse or the other language for escapism – maturity. So, we only read from civil society platforms, notable individuals and similar actors statements of condemnation after the fact of violence.
In the same way, governors find it more profitable rushing to a site of implosion than pressing on intelligence reports to prevent. Perhaps, it is politically more profitable to do so. Otherwise, anybody who has ever had anything to do with how Government Houses function would know that no implosion ever happens without some intelligence whiff about it. So, if we have governors strong on interpretation of intelligence, none of these implosions would occur. Ideally, it is not even governors but the Nigerian State that should be equal to this through intelligence too but that is simply not happening. The president who symbolises the state is himself perceived to be complicit in the crisis. Obviously convinced that some detractors are at work, he seems to have bought into a strategy of ‘let them do their worst’. So, what he does is to become the chief condemner after the fact of violence.
Anyway, let me get to the main point of this letter which is to apprise you of acada today. I consider myself qualified to do that because I have been here and there, at home and abroad as far as university matter is concerned. I have never really left the university space since February 1992 when I was ‘deported’ from the house I was a squatter settler in Lagos. The comrades occupying the house thought I was not being fair to myself and to the struggle by not going to the university. I was already a Lagos journalist, a comrade and, within the limits of what I knew, I didn’t think going to Kano where admission had been secured was worth it. Not at a time religious violence was the order of the day in that city. So, one of them who was later to become a Minister said, if it is Kano riots you are afraid of, go with the mind that you will be the only survivor of the worst of it before Nigeria would cease. I lost the argument. It is incredible that I have come to love academic orientation and now thinks that is where the struggle actually lies. So, this background is the source of my confidence.
The first feature worth reporting is how happy you should be that you have left by now. One thing with you is a culture of intimidating reading list. Your reading lists are always such that no student needs to add anything more. S/he wouldn’t find that extra, even in these days of the wonderland called the internet. It was one of the things for which you were admired by students. Well, sorry to tell you that that could fetch you scornful looks today on many campuses. The students would not read any of those stuff. In some campuses, the reason may have to do with the poor quality of grooming that does not equip the students with the theoretical and conceptual competences to make sense of books. In some other, the students have found the internet such a fertile ground from which to source answers to every imaginable questions. If they were making these raw materials suitable or appropriate to the questions they answer, then they could earn more marks for being imaginative. What I am talking about is wholesome lifting on a worrisome scale. Many universities are even acquiring plagiarism tracking technologies but, as Sociologists of crime would say, it is not fear of police that make people not to commit crime. It is system legitimacy that is at stake.
By system legitimacy crisis, I am not endorsing the profiling of the male lecturer as a harasser when the empirical details would show a much, much more complex situation playing out. I am also not endorsing the nonsense that every lecturer accept gift of shirts, shoes or wrist watches, thereby compromising the system. In many universities today, some of these features do not occur or are more transparently dealt with if they do. I am rather referring to the crisis of Philosophy of Social Sciences. It is not just surfacing from nowhere. It has always been there, including our time. I remember a discussion with the late Raufu Mustapha about the poverty of my overall grooming. And I blamed him for that because if he had taught Political Analysis when I tried to obtain a Masters Degree at ABU, Zaria, I would have been cured. Unfortunately, the year I got to Zaria was the year he left for Oxford. Dr. Yahya Hashim who was present at our discussion interjected to say I was unlikely to get the sort of grooming I was seeking.
It was only in 2013 when I met a researcher from a Norwegian university in Comrade John Odah’s office in Abuja that the idea came back that I could actually still get the grooming I was looking for. The outcome was the adventure to the UK. It was there I came face to face with the point Yahya Hasim was making because it is precisely that a layer of the (undergraduate) training has since gone off everywhere in the world and those who should get it were not getting that grooming anymore which prompted the American academic, Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, to write his global bestseller titled The Conduct of Inquiry in International Relations: Philosophy of Science and Its Implications for the Study of World Politics. First published in 2010, the book is now in its 2nd edition.
What is great about you is that you did give us hints about some of the things that book is talking about – the historical development of the contestations leading from Descartes to his empiricist brothers to Kant to Hegel/Marx through the Vienna Circle, Popper, Kuhn and the eventual hegemony of neopositivism and its correlation, co-variation and related stuff. That is, the epistemological issues in political analysis and without which our students will keep seeing knowledge acquisition as punishment, a boring thing and something to be avoided, particularly those in the Humanities Complex. It would be interesting to know where this is well taken care of today in a Department within the complex. Or where students know the philosophical foundation of the research traditions they are taught: questionnaire, quantitative survey and even the one almost everyone is doing nowadays: Focus Group Discussion. Without that, then it is possible that those like the Nigerian Government, the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and the academics outside the country asserting decline in quality of education are, uncritically, using the lens of the mid 1970s – mid 1990s to assess the students of the period since the 2001 to date.
Up to the mid 1980s, I think meta-theoretical grooming was taken seriously across the universities. Today, with the exception of the Department of English and Literary Studies, Linguistics and Theatre Arts, that is missing. And without it, students are no longer speaking ‘the jargon of authenticity’.
How do all these relate to you as a retiree? Well, it means that if you came back today, you might find no enthusiastic audience as before. The ‘philosopher trainees’ at CITAD’s programme on Philosophy might not be a good indicator because that audience does not in any way mirror a typical university in Nigeria today.
There is an aspect of the typical university today that warrants being isolated for the purpose of this letter. It is the age of some of the students. Some are just too young that you have to ask if they are okay without their mums or if they have friends on the campus. For the three or so years I have been on this, I have yet to find one who says he wants to go back to the parents. It shows the great desire for the status of being an undergraduate today. But is the system plucking those guys from their families and making small thinkers of them vis-à-vis an extra-ordinarily competitive world? Although you are out of the system now, you might still have a better answer than me.
It seems Nigeria has no choice than re-introducing the School of Basic/Preliminary Studies/GCE A’ Level into the progression or restructure the 4-year Degree programme to make the first year HSC/Basic/Preliminary Studies. The illusion of making Jambites adequate for university education through the General Studies courses has, by now, been shattered and conclusively so.
The letter is getting so long. May be some other times! Once again, Happi B-Day to You!
Yours Adagbo ONOJA