By Prof Hassan A. Saliu
In furtherance to my submission on the categorization of scholars made last year (2023), I want to add that another group exists and has gained recognition to the existent that its membership is growing by the day. I am, of course, referring to some academics who are already entrenched in some specialities in their disciplines but who have suddenly found fulfilment in other branches of knowledge though still within their main academic callings.
Some theories have been thrown up to explain why someone who is already emerging as a household name in his own academic area will abandon the path and move towards another academic engagement for fulfilment and literally starting afresh. One of these has to do with having seen the light; things that were not seen before have suddenly become clearer with the potential of querying the earlier held views. That is not to say the action itself is sacrilegious that should attract a heavy penalty. It is not.
I am on this occasion, only putting forward another group of scholars to add to my initial list. Some have come up with the catching-up thesis as being a factor; prospects and available opportunities that are capable of accelerating his march, leading to more recognition with whatever that can bring to him in his academic romance. Sheer conviction, without much prodding, can bring about the change of course in the academic history of a colleague. Most times, these new converts exhibit a certain level of impatience with anyone who seems not to be showing appreciation to their new areas; who do not therefore see things exactly the way the new converts see them.
I first met Professor Osisioma Nwolise at UI a long time ago in one of my frequent visits to the University. He retired as an academic staff of UI after putting in 38 years in the service of the University. This long undiluted stay in the capital of Oyo State has made him a kind of Oracle or a living historian on UI and the town itself. It is open to debate therefore, if his knowledge of UNN where he had obtained his first degree can ever be as deep as that, which he has about the premier University where his patience had been tested on some occasions but he never gave up. This paid-off in 2010 when he was pronounced a Professor at UI. He was initially in Ogbomosho in Oyo State for his mandatory one year of service as a corps member but was attracted to Ibadan where he found no reason to leave the town after securing employment at UI and even in the face of witnessing the sloppy side of academic life he had faced, which none of us is immune to. That romance with Ibadan lasted for many years that gave him the opportunity to explore the town and do a comparison between two University towns that he has been exposed to; Nsukka and Ibadan, the former being the school he attended for his first degree. Prof. Nwolise never looked back after his engagement in the Department of Political Science in 1982 until he attained the mandatory retirement age for Professors, which is 70 years in 2020.
He is now retired but not tired. The blood of activism and spiritualism is still flowing in him. A major transformation, however, took place in his academic career when he saw a new vision that made him to be an apostle of spiritualism. His interest in spiritualism is predicated on the assumption that the security of an individual cannot be said to be complete when it is being seen only in the physical sense. This consideration in the words of vintage Prof. Nwolise which he has expressed as follow: ”The security of a person or nation cannot be totally studied, understood, predicted or controlled by just looking at his physical security. It has to be both physical and spiritual” One can therefore see why he is never ashamed of professing his new knowledge at any fora. Borne out of his conviction,
Prof. Nwolise is ever quick to argue that, when he was on the other side, postulating about International Relations and security matters, he hadn’t seen the complete picture of the issues until he came in contact with the spiritual world. His gaze that time was strictly focused on the physical side, while both physical and spiritual elements define a man and the vicissitudes of life he faces. It was when this reality dawned him that he began to see the gaps in his initial submissions on peacekeeping, internal security management and others. One can sum up his experience that he made a U-turn in his academic engagement after becoming a pupil, learning under the feet of an all-knowing spiritual teacher with an elaborate and extensive curriculum on spirituality.
The question to ask is: Who was this teacher since the spiritual world is not an area one can venture into without being initiated. Prof. Nwolise is therefore the only person who can answer the question. No doubt, when he started the evangelism of infesting policy and academic environment(s) with spirituality defined in the flavour of the African traditional religion, many of our colleagues did not find the connection between his offerings of the past and new orientation robust and convincing. He was thus dismissed! Undeterred, he has even come harder with his academic sermons to the point that the rank of his followers is also increasing by the day.
There is no known environment that he has not carried his new mission and crusade to, including military establishments, which had initially frowned at his submissions but have been seen adjusting their philosophy and mellowing down the level of military resistance to his message on the existence of spiritual angle to military warfare. Most times, he has come harder on Science that has gained popularity among our colleagues though with a ‘rebellious’ band who are opposed to the scientific method of enquiry for a variety of other reasons. His failure to proof his points along the lines of verification and unassailable open facts is often used to discount his efforts in the new direction as lacking in substance or what some have uncharitably characterised as the voodoo line of academic knowledge. I do not think it is necessarily so.
Unrelenting, he is prone to argue that Science is severely limited by its tremendous belief in verification and provable facts as the fact of existence shows that not everything can be proven beyond any doubts. On this point, he has a co-traveller in Professor Ekekwe who has also been unsparing in his criticisms of our obsession with the scientific method of enquiry for its fundamental flaw of ignoring whatever it cannot explain which, in his view, may be substantial for an investigation. That’s where the parallel stop. Although he also talks about the spiritual element in giving a hard knock to Science as the fancied methodology in Political Science, he is not yet far gone in spirituality, especially the traditional African genre like Prof. Nwolise. In the view of the subject of this tribute therefore, there is spirituality in any human issue. This consideration informed two of his papers titled:
- ”Spiritual Security: A Case for Academic Research Focus on its Dimensions” published in 2013.
- ”The Spiritual Dimension of Human and National Security” published in 2012.
Gradually, concession is being granted to his perspective of life in some critical sectors that should know what he is talking about. For instance, in 2017, the 24 Nations Security Summit held at the Army Resource Centre in Abuja accepted his suggestion on the usefulness of strategic spiritual intelligence and incorporated it in its communique at the end of the summit. Additionally, with the ever-present high level insecurity facing Nigeria, the Nigerian Army has no choice than to pander to the issue of spirituality upon which some workshops have been organized and public announcements of prayer sessions are being made by it to defeat insecurity in the country.
The theatre of peacekeeping has also come under his spiritual lens. He has argued that due to multifarious dimensions that play out in crisis spots, reliance on the only military angle cannot be the point of salvation to, and resolution of insecurity. An injection of spirituality into the various efforts is what is required to find lasting solutions to African crisis areas.
Somehow, the global scene is beginning to see the wisdom in his sermon as considerable movement is being made in injecting the unorthodox method that Professor Nwolise has been calling for into global security management.
As a scholar, OBC Nwolise is ever tolerant but not on two issues that touch on his essence. He can literally throw punches on account of them given his level of commitment to the two emotional issues. One of these is the spirituality of every aspect of life. He would not mind even, if he is the lone voice promoting the perspective. The second issue is the place of the Southeast within the Nigerian federation. He strongly feels that justice has not been done to the people of the Southeast. He echoed the same sentiments in 2021 at the Ilorin conference when he was on the podium making a presentation as the Billy Dudley lecturer for that year.
Four years earlier, he was at the Uturu conference of Southeast NPSA in Abia State, together with Professor Okwudiba Nnoli. At this occasion too, he spoke on State , Security, Elections and Economy in which he referenced his concerns for the Southeast. The latter being a Marxist was slightly uncomfortable with the homily, which in his characteristic manner, he saw as an elite or appropriately, as a bourgeois framing of Nigeria’s problems in terms of control of the Nigerian space at the expense of the broader issues of production and equal access/distribution of national resources that confront the nation. All our members who were at the Calabar NPSA Conference of 2019 where he had spoken on the cost of not restructuring Nigeria would recall his critical views on the current make up of Nigeria. Notwithstanding his level of frustration with the country, he is harmless, not with his local fabrics that he proudly wears most of the times, reflective of the life of contentment he lives.
I hope my Marxist friends would pardon me when I say Prof. Nwolise exhibits some attributes of a Marxist in terms of his mode of dressing, not in thoughts and language. Seeing him sitting down with his handbag hanging around his neck, one may be tempted to conclude that he has come across a Marxist scholar. The man we fondly call the Oracle, who, in turn, calls me the Caliphate is, however, not a Marxist but a humanist. He is only found to share some traits with a typical Marxist. For instance, he can patronise ‘mai sai’ (tea seller) joint anywhere he can find one of them.
As he marks another year on earth, he is to be seen as a scholar who has trained a countless number of Political Scientists who, one is not too sure, if they have been converted as security experts with interest in spirituality. Nevertheless, he is still soldering on with his new academic love in giving spirituality to every political issue as a Political Scientist.
This tribute would be incomplete without me touching on his role in our Association. He had served as a Treasurer under the presidency of Professor John Ayoade and ex-officio in the NPSA executive led by Professor Shuiabu Ibrahim. I recall that when the issue of UNILORIN crisis was still raging, he was one of the elders that also included Professors Asobie, Dunmoye, Egwu, Sule-Kano and others plus the contesters: Profs. Ibrahim, Pam Sha and Saliu who tried to broker peace, especially on its implications for the NPSA. The meeting was convened to resolve the boiling issue of who was to succeed Prof. Sule-Kano as NPSA’s President. It was later resolved at the meeting that Keffi should have the Secretariat of the NPSA being the campus that hosted our conference that year in line with our tradition after which Ilorin should have it. The peace deal was in a way the path that brought calmness to our Association as everyone privy to it kept to its terms unlike what one sees among our politicians where promises are made and are instantly broken without bothering about the morality of the actions. The Oracle was equally on duty last year when he featured on our Platform to discuss security management in Nigeria. The NPSA executive members are indeed grateful to Professor Nwolise for all he has done for the NPSA.
On behalf of the exco of our Association, I congratulate him for adding one more year to his age. Happy birthday to him and wish him more good health and long life. He is indeed, a senior Political Scientist and the most consistent promoter of the spiritual angle to the study of our discipline.
The author is President of the NPSA and a UNILORIN political scientist