Intervention is extremely delighted to learn that some of what it publishes end on the table of readers we could never have imagined were doing so. And not only end up on such tables but also attract ‘rejoinders’. This is what has happened in the case of the October 15th, 2021 piece “Is Dr. Ayu PDP’s Renaissance for Nigeria?” The piece in question has not only been read in such quarters but also attracted ‘rejoinders’ to which a rejoinder is considered necessary, partly because of the personages involved and partly because the point in that piece needs to be made again and again.
Ordinarily, Intervention does not reply its critics on whatever it has published. That is so because, by the principle of iterability, no piece of writing is consumed the way it is written but in the way the readers interpret them. The immensity of the diversity of readers in modern times means that any piece of writing at all is capable of a million different meanings reflecting that diversity. Writing a rejoinder which will also be read by that same diverse, different readership could thus be pointless as the intention behind every piece of writing has little or no role in how the piece is understood by readers. In other words, this is the age of the death of the author and the birth of the readers.
Although not one of those who got back to Intervention to say that we were either being too naïve or too optimistic about Dr. Iyorchia Ayu’s return to national limelight as National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP) mentioned this directly, it is still important to start with it. That is to say the article was not informed by any hidden agenda such as a secret desire for anything at all – appointment, money or contract from Dr. Ayu. Nobody connected with Intervention at the moment has any such craving to be Press Secretary or Personal Assistant at his or her mid-50s OR would be inclined to take even if such offers were made. Intervention and the people who work on it do need money but no one here would need to be opportunistic about it.
That dealt with, it is now possible to say that what was being celebrated about Dr. Ayu is not any hidden agenda but Dr. Ayu’s fulfillment of the epistemic requirement for leadership if Nigeria is to get out of arrested development any time soon. It is the same reason Intervention wished that Prof Tunde Adeniran became the National Chairman of the PDP few years back and it is the same reason Intervention is happy that Prof Charles Soludo is the in-coming governor of Anambra State. Should the ruling All Progressives Congress, (APC) chart this course, Intervention will also hail it.
It probably bears reminding those who might dismiss this standpoint as bookishness that the lack of the epistemic authority to rule is a fundamental dimension of the crisis in Nigeria. No one needs more than a day in Government in Nigeria to arrive at this conclusion. Since the status quo in Nigeria has exhausted itself, has absolutely nothing new to add but since the current balance of social forces is incapable of decentering it, the recruitment of or the emergence of a crew with epistemic authority and the agency typified by the Ayus of this world becomes very crucial. Luckily, the rank is rising in not just the emergence of Prof Charles Soludo as governor of Anambra State but also the observable coming together of the Pat Utomis, Attahiru Jegas, Bishop Mathew Kukas, Sanusi Lamido Sanusis and a host of such a layer of educated elements as players.
By educated elements, we do not mean education in just the certificate sense of it but political education. If Prof Soludo were to go for a neoliberal blueprint as governor of Anambra State, he would not be doing so because he doesn’t know the strategic calculus behind neoliberalism. That difference between him and many who have been governors, ministers and whatever in recent Nigerian politics is such an important difference in understanding the Nigerian crisis. Intervention would be shocked to hear Ayu, for example, articulating neoliberalism of any variant for Nigeria.
The second point about the piece on Ayu is the imperative of celebrating a National Chairman of the PDP who is someone with the discursive guts to tell any overbearing slackers in that party to ‘shut up’ or ‘sit down’ if it should become necessary to use such language at some point. The idea of overbearing players in a party as complex as the PDP should not be such a strange stuff but the degree of the decay in Nigeria today would warrant cutting down on obliging square pegs who found themselves in round holes.
The third point is to respond to the surprising element in the amnesia index of the citizenry in Nigeria. If Dr. Ayu who in the past three decades has fought two of Nigeria’s most established demi-gods is not to be critically celebrated, who then should? The way the dynamics have worked out would require Ayu seeking the inputs of even those he might have fought in the past but the point is that he fought such battles. And that pedigree ought to count in assessing his emergence and what it could be said to hint at.
Ayu will not sell Nigeria. Many a Nigerian leaders have sold Nigeria. And have done so very cheaply, almost at give-away price. Selling Nigeria is a major affliction of the Nigerian elite, from the political leaders to academics, editors, bureaucrats down to those Chief Obasanjo call ‘baby capitalists’. They sell Nigeria routinely in acting out their indoctrination that the country is not viable and is going to collapse eventually. It is not clear if these members of the elite have now been educated on the wrong headedness of such view in the aftermath of the message from the #EndSARS campaign.
There is no scientific formula by which anybody can predict tomorrow. No one in Intervention or anywhere can claim to know what Ayu would do or not do as National Chairman of PDP. Not even Ayu himself can say what he would do or would not do. What people do or fail to do are not determined apriori by them but are determined by a combination of a complex assemblage of actors and factors balancing themselves out. We need to carry along our projections as a guide but we also need to be aware that calculability is impossible and dangerous. As such, everyone else would be complicit in Ayu’s success or failure simply because Ayu cannot operate above the discursive conditions of his emergence. The discursive conditions of emergence were the grounds upon which his becoming the National Chairman at this point in time was justified by those who made it to happen. The right thing, contextually speaking, is for all of us to start problematizing those discursive conditions of his emergence towards reframing his tasks for him right away rather than sit there, thinking that, with his PhD, he should know what is to be done. Define for him what the priorities should be at this point. It is the articulation of such priorities that can transform quantity into quality, not the other way round.
Nigerian leaders who are still alive would not be happy to hear it said that Nigeria has not been governed but has, instead, been ruled, especially since the late 1970s when the shock absorber of the system – the civil service – was broken up and removed from the working of the system. But, all such leaders would agree that it is the absence of governmentality here that accounts for the chaos, the neighborhood tyranny to each other or the anarchical impulse of operatives of many state institutions we observe across Nigeria, for example. Those features prove that Nigerians have not had the benefit of the pastoral dimension of leadership and governance that people in a pre-industrial society should have gotten. According to Prof Akin Mabogunje in his famous treatise on the Nigerian society in a 1998 lecture at the disguised birth of the PDP in Lagos, Nigerians are still subjects of local potentates. And he is absolutely right. Otherwise, pastors, rich men and kingmakers would not exercise the type of hold they exercise on the rest of the citizenry. A leader as teacher of public values for this category of citizenry has eluded Nigeria for much of her history. We are posing the emergent generation of leaders as a critique of this reality on the strength of their epistemic authority.
Lastly, while it is true that the PDP hasn’t got such ideological coherence, it has never done without a party school. It will not be surprising that an Ayu as party chairman will be very interested in strengthening such a party school with particular reference to producing cadres to whom Nigeria can be entrusted without worrying about the outcome.
We conclude by reinforcing the argument that, in the age of discursive power, nothing can be more promising than the epistemic authority level of people in leadership positions at every level. It is not clear why Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State is not blazing a trail in articulation of theories, concepts, models and practices corresponding to his epistemic grooming at King’s College London. For whatever reasons that he is not doing that, his case does not challenge the claim here. In fact, Dr. Yusuf Bangura who knows Nigeria very well as a former lecturer at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and a product of the London School of Economics supported this point recently when he wondered about Soludo’s ability to combine scholarship, technocratic policy making and politics. Like Bangura, many out there will keep an eye on Soludo. This is also part of the epistemic thing, our only hope of repudiating this unspeakable embarrassment whereby the Nigerian elite not only failed to run a credible university system, for instance, but worsened it by trying to escape from their own collective incompetence in sending their own children to performing university systems built by their elite counterparts elsewhere.
The point is that, henceforth, Nigeria needs leaders who have a sense of shame! Or who when reminded of shame would appreciate what that means rather than interpret it as challenge to authority or lack of respect for elders!