THE TOYIN FALOLA INTERVIEWS
A CONVERSATION WITH MOLEFI ASANTE, PART 1
Africans have a famous saying that “until the lion talks, every story will glorify the hunter.” This is a multifaceted maxim that more than sums up the nuances of this world. It defines how stories are told, and histories are recorded. Guided by this maxim, a careful analysis of seemingly historical facts will reveal that the so-called facts might have underlying truths in them; however, they are not the facts. Sadly, Africans, who are the proponents of the opening maxim, have been in the position of the marginalized lion for a long time. In what follows, I present how Asante has constructed the pyramid of his intellectual contributions. I could not have been able to compose this piece unless I fully understood his way of thinking.
To Molefi Asante, history has it that Africa is one of the earliest sources of civilization. From the Mesopotamians to the Egyptians, civilization was well-founded on the African continent, millennia before the Industrial Revolution of Europe. When the world was still young, and humans were hardly any other thing aside from hunters and gatherers, Africans, especially Egyptians, had advanced civilization. They had their system of writing in hieroglyphics. Some engineers and mathematicians made the construction of pyramids a scientific possibility, not to forget the medical professionals. Egypt had its system of government, one of the fundamental qualities of a civilized society. To Asante, this is where we must begin not just the history of Africa but of the world itself.
Histories are eroded, and people are forgotten, and so it was for the early African civilization. By the natural law of evolution and perhaps the mal-decisions of some of the empire’s leaders and decision-makers, the empire fell into oblivion. Power shifted hands, and Europe became the center of world civilization. If the story of the European civilization had ended there, perhaps Asante would not have emerged as a proponent of the “Out of Africa” thesis. However, the Europeans, in the natural order of things and as humans, became insatiable. After exploring and conquering their territory, they stretched their tentacles to other territories and exploited them. First, because to humans, superiority is defined by how many humans or human territories they have subdued. Second, because growth means the expansion and the attendant inability of available resources to meet the territory’s needs. So it was that the Europeans arrived in Africa, initially as curious explorers who wanted to get familiar with new territories and trade goods. The initially clear conception of meeting new people and exploring new worlds translated into a burning need to ravage, exploit, dominate, capture, and grow exponentially at the expense of others. There were the long and arduous years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and how they brought humans’ brute nature and inhumanity to the fore.
As if the dehumanization of the trans-Atlantic slave trade era was not enough, there came the infamous Berlin conference of 1884 to 1885 and the unscrupulous sharing of the African continent among European countries. The centuries of colonization in Africa severely impacted Africans’ sense of identity, consciousness, being, culture, traditions, and continued development. Beyond this, an almost unforgivable impact of colonization on Africa was the deliberate misrepresentation and presentation of Africa to the world. Early European observers in Africa presented the continent as a barbaric one. Essays upon essays were written to portray Africans as needy and hopeless, and people who would have gone into extinction but for the supposed intervention of the Europeans. Indeed, the West brought us the modern form of education. However, Africa would not have declined, so argued many Afrocentric scholars, if the Westerners had not come to the continent. Some argue that Africa would have been better off and way more developed than it currently is if the Europeans had not colonized the continent.
In yet another argument by another set of scholars, the westernized education of Africans is perhaps the only good thing that colonialism brought to Africa. Of course, this same westernized education has severely impacted African thought patterns, beliefs, and ways of life. The Europeans handpicked Africans whom they believed were outliers and gave them European scholarships. After being schooled in the West, these Africans returned home, and with their return came an awakening and an intellectual revolution. The education of these select Africans brought about a much-needed reawakening. African scholars received a jolt in their subconscious; they were awakened to the realities that faced the African continent and the African people, how the Europeans had exploited, marginalized, and misrepresented Africa. Questions started sprouting from all angles. Curious Africans started gaining access to those malicious and mal-informant books of purported history, and so began a counter intellectual attack. The likes of Aime Cesaire, Leopold Sedar Senghor, David Diop, Kenneth Dike, Herbert Macaulay, J. F. Ade-Ajayi, Julius Nyerere, Nelson Mandela, and Nnamdi Azikiwe took to arms. They deployed knowledge and the education they got–the same tool used to train them–to re-write African history and counter the malicious records made about Africa.
Africa gained independence between the mid and late 20th century. However, the fact remains that Africa is yet to be free from some problems plaguing it. Post-independence has seen the rise of historians and African scholars, people who have taken up battle with the ruining political ideology of Africa and the corrupt and destructive governance militating against the growth of the continent. The attention has shifted from debunking racist and condescending fausse history of Africa to battling destructive African leaders, unscrupulous policies, and a host of other problems facing the continent.
In the face of all these, the lions have not forgotten that the hunter is lurking and has not ceased to tell the story in a way that glorifies the hunter and maligns the lion. This move of the hunter is visible to us; it is all over the media. The malnourished children; war; seizure of power; hunger; crises; and how the media projects them. However, lions still look the hunter in the face and choose to tell their story and that of their species. Lions who have defied all odds to glorify what needs to be glorified about their history and current story. Of these lions, Molefi Asante stands tall.
Molefi Asante–the father of Afrocentrism. If Afrocentrism gained flesh, received the breath of life, and became human, then it would be to the credit of Molefi Asante. I doubt if I have ever met, discussed with, or studied a man who is as passionate and proud of Africa as Molefi Asante. Is it his dedication? Asante has dedicated his life, intellectual prowess, time, and resources to the study of Africa and Afrocentrism. He is living proof of the amazingness of Africa. We often hear and read people’s thoughts on Africa, of how beautiful and rich the continent is in culture and human resources. If this were true of Africa, then Africans should be proud of their continent, and their actions, discourses, exploits, and manner of engagement should reflect this pride.
There is a lamentable eroding in the cultures, beliefs, and values that were once dear to Africans and guided our inter-relationships. To what are we losing our core values as Africans? People who have lost their values would soon lose their identity, and then the abyss of oblivion will not be so far away. In an age where we are fast losing the values that bind us and guide us, there are lions like Molefi Asante, roaring and reminiscing, reminding us of our history, who we are, and whom our forefathers used to be. Of communalism, the Ubuntu spirit, of how only the unity of fingers guarantees one of a resounding fist thump on one’s chest. Molefi is an African vanguard. Molefi Asante is like the baobab, with long-stretching roots that reach Sudan in the North-East, Nigeria in the West, and Costa Rica through the blissfulness of marriage. Asante’s contributions to Africa through scholarly works can never be forgotten. He is a proud and respected son of the soil and one of the most respected prides of African lions.
This Sunday, September 19, 2021, we will be hosting Molefi Asante on another edition of the Toyin Falola Interviews. And this is something I rarely say–I am personally looking forward to this interview to see the eloquent Asante prove his Africanness once more. Please do join us too for a conversation with this eminent philosopher.
Sunday, September 19, 2021
5:00 PM Nigeria
4:00 PM GMT
11:00 AM Austin CST
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Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.
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Wanted: Nigerian Football Museum (2)
Let me let you enter my column today by way of revising a remark I made last Friday with reference to Daniel Okwudili. Daniel Okwudili was not a product of Amukpe Football Club of Sapele. He was a product of Warri Football Club in the early sixties. He was discovered in Warri from where he played for the Green Eagles as a right inside forward. He was a product of Hussey College, Warri. Much, much earlier he was a product of Sacred Heart, a Catholic Primary School in Warri where his football stretched out to Hussey College.
Mr. Amaju Pinnick may not know it now, but after all is said or written or recorded after his precious or not precious time, or tenure or period as chairman of the Nigeria Football Federation his wondrous legacy that will remain his wondrously permanent legacy is the football museum being canvased here and now. If he can do this, if he does this, if he establishes this museum we shall hail him to the high heavens of Nigerian football. And we shall do so by importing from Australia specially and meticulously well bred wonga-wongas to celebrate him and the historic institution. But the envisaged football museum is not to be seen as a mere wood lot or bush lot. It is envisaged as an institution of a great historical record of great success for our football project of sound intellectual merit. The staff to run and man it shall be the right caliber staff especially at the senior category or senior level to engage in adequate research of pure beauty to stand and watch over our football not as its police or sheriff but as its keeper and researcher of records. Sports writers and chroniclers, football essayists and academic football writers and chroniclers and academic and non-academic football anthropologists shall be engaged by the museum to go back into the deep past to straighten, straighten out and straighten up our football in all ramifications right from the deep past, I repeat, up to the present time. Mr. Amaju Pinnick should intellectualize our football.
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Who and who did this or that for Nigerian football and at what time, or at what period as players, official referees, ball boys/girls, as proprietors or proprietresses or as philanthropists, etc.? Can we get their pictures or murals or drawings or images as mementos to encourage present players and lovers of our football to be real football patriots of Nigerian football? Who were and are current heroes and heroines of Nigerian football? What historical and patriotic projections can be made for those who are rightly visible now and who definitely are not going to be visible tomorrow but whose legacies should (and must) be recorded and kept alive for posterity? These and several other issues I don’t wish to mention here now for strategic reasons and considerations should receive the beautiful and expansive attention of Mr. Amaju Pinnick and members of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) he leads. In fact, Mr. Amaju Pinnick and the Federal Minister of Sports, Mr. Sunday Dare, the equally youthful sports administrator, should sit down and rub minds over my modest proposal which should be in the capital heart of their respective football and sports hearts.
Now I should steer my readers to the foreign football port that inspired me to feel for Nigerian football as I have lovingly felt for it to the extent that I am hereby dreaming for it the need for Mr. Amaju Pinnick to erect a museum for it.
My reader from across the Atlantic Ocean (who pointed out my Daniel Okwudili error) drew my football heart and mind to a black football “trailblazer” who “helped transform how football was placed” in Scotland and in England. The name of this black “trailblazer” was Andrew Wilson. He was born in Guyana in the West Indies of a very wealthy Scottish father (who made hay in Guyana) and a black slave mother. He was bred to become an English gentleman and made his great or iconic mark as a highly famed footballer who captained Scotland and was widely acknowledged as a fabulously fabulous Scottish footballer that led Scotland as its football captain to demolish England 6-1 “on his debut in 1881.” Andrew Watson has gone into history as the “world’s first black international, but for more than a century the significance of his achievement went un-recognised” on account of racism. Research of three decades has rescued him from oblivion and obscurity. A significant and well underlined description of him and Pele, the black and world football pearl of pearls, goes thus: “There are murals of black footballers facing one another across an alleyway in Glasgow. One helped football as we know it, the other is Pele.” Watson’s biography is very, very rich in every respect, but I am primarily concerned here with his football exploits. In his second match against England (not long after the first) he led Scotland to beat England 5-1 convincingly. This second heavy defeat compelled the English Football Association to change England’s football approach thanks to Andrew Watson who “assumed the role of Scotch Professor and taught his English peers “the science” of a more dynamic passing style.” And here is the gem of gems:
“Pele was a genius footballer, but there are thousands of genius footballers whose influence dies with them the second they retire,” says Ged O’Brien, founder of the Scottish Football Museum.
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“You can look at any game of football being played anywhere in the world – by any person of any gender or ethnicity or culture and the ghost of Andrew Watson will be looking down on you because they are playing his game.
“Watson is the most influential black footballer of all time. There is nobody that comes close.”
Many persons may accept almost everything in this quotation with a pinch of salt. But one thing is clear: Andrew Watson is today a living subject brought to our fading football consciousness by the Scottish Football Museum. This remark should enter well and well the key of Mr. Amaju Pinnicks’s Nigerian football administration, impression and pleasure – meaning that positive thoughts about giving us Nigeria Football Museum should start raining forth in profusion from him.
I must end this second division of my subject – before my conclusion – with what the Scottish Football Museum’s historians, researchers and academics also further brought to light about Andrew Watson: “During his life-time, Watson’s influence was felt across the game. He was a captain, a national cup winner, an administrator, investor and match official, each achievement and contribution made as the first black man to do so. Is Mr. Amaju Pinnick hearing me? Is Mr. Amaju Pinnick listening to this columnist? If he is not blocking his ears (and eyes), he should read well my lips: Don’t be satisfied with the pleasurable feeling of entering Nigerian football books as the first Itsekiri-Nigerian to be the chairman of our NFF and to be Nigeria’s representative in FIFA. He must make a mark that is a mark that is a legacy of legacies.
To be continued.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
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Haba, Oga Ichabod, Were You Actually Called?
Grace Ego Omoni
The world is changing rapidly in all facets of life…technology, science, education, fashion, money-making and of course our religion including absurd activities of many church leaders, I mean the so- called “men of God.” Stories surrounding the “self-anointed men of God” are so incredible that one is left but to ask whether they were really called by the Lord who instituted the church or it was a self-induced call.
Career choice in guidance and counselling in the school system is based on the use of psychological tests, one of which is the Vocational Interest Inventory by Prof C.G.M Bakare. Unfortunately, many schools know little or nothing about this all-important tool which assists students to choose a career based on their area of interest, ability and capability. So many people find themselves in professions not actually meant for them but are there just to make two ends meet. Of all the professions most bastardized, is the pastoral ministry where we find every dick and harry calling and parading themselves as “men of God” whereas the anointing is very, very far away from them.
They are of different shades: the trained but not carrying grace, the charlatans, the self-appointed church leader, the illiterate pastor, the morally bankrupt church leader, the false prophets/prophetesses and the general overseer church leader( which I have labelled: one-man company) and a host of others. My problem is that many of these so-called “men of God” do not realise that church leadership is dependant on God’s power and call and not just a feeling or a desire. It is a decision taken which entails relying on God based on what He has revealed about Himself through His nature and the Scripture.
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Unfortunately, some of these “men of God” who are supposed to influence society positively in their biblical teachings and moral behaviours are the ones perpetrating corruption and immorality unabated in their environment. Unhealthy toxic culture has crept into the church and it is being spread sporadically by this calibre of Christians popularly applauded as “men of God.” Hence my question: Haba, Mr. Ichabod, were you actually called or you see this noble profession as your last resort after failing to secure a job in the secular world? Why have you decided to make the glory of God to depart from the church? This article is meant to help us reposition and redefine the influence and the role of church leaders in our society and not in any way to bring her to disrepute.
Thus, we shall be looking at this discussion under the following sub-topics:
1) The characteristics of the ideal church leader or pastor.
2)Levels of immorality among pastors.
3)Factors facilitating immorality among pastors.
4)Consequences of these practices on the society.
As earlier observed, this article is not to play down Christianity but it is with a view to repositioning the integrity of the church and for society to realise that the office of the pastor is sacred, noble, ordained by God, a model worthy of emulation and thus must be held in high esteem.
Characteristics of an ideal pastor or man of God or church leader:
According to 1Cor 2: 14, “the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned.” Thus a real man of God is spiritually inclined, anointed and called by God Himself. He is able to discern spiritual things; listens and hears from God. He is one who can give a defined testimony of his or her call into the ministry. Such a one must have undergone proper training in a bible school, a theological seminary or college. There must be evidence of this training; he or she must show evidence of being qualified to pastor the church by his or her character. That is he must possess a licence which gives him the authority to minister under laid down principles, beliefs and practices of the denomination he belongs to. This licence acts as checks and balances to him in his role as a church pastor. The implication is that such a licence can be withdrawn from a pastor who fails to live up to expectations as outlined in the ethics, beliefs and practices of the church.
The scripture also identifies the many qualities of a pastor. He must be blameless, husband of one wife with disciplined children and able to rule his house. He must not be a drunk nor a brawler. He must not be covetous. He must be of very good moral behaviour, accommodating, not greedy or boastful or proud. The pastor is patient, not given to wine, hospitable, vigilant, full of wisdom from above and not sexually immoral or weak. He is not given to telling lies, not quarrelsome or one who exhibits uncontrollable anger. He is disciplined, , a lover of peace, sober and is judicious with his speech and not greedy for riches or women. He must be able to teach the word in truth and in spirit and must be able to influence the church and the society positively.
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Levels of unethical and immoral behaviour among pastors.
The church is supposed to be the core institution where morality is taught and a campaign against immorality ought to be mostly carried out. Morality relates to the act of being right or wrong. It pertains to the principles concerning good or bad behaviour in which man is supposed to act; whereas, immorality connotes unethical practices not acceptable by the society. It pertains to all forms of absurd abominable corrupt and evil acts by individuals. It is pathetic to observe that immorality among Christian leaders/ pastors is going on at an alarming rate.
The level of immorality among “men of God” is rampant and high and causing embarrassment to the church. It has negatively affected the society. It has brought serious shame, disgrace and mockery to Christendom as well as lawlessness/disorderliness to the larger society. It is an irony that men of God who are supposed to be role models to the secular world are actually the shameless vanguards and perpetrators of immorality. The integrity of the church is now at stake making the glory of God to depart( Ichabod).
Stories of pastors engaging in all manner of unethical practices, corruption and immorality abound. They range from frauds, deceptions, intimidation, false teachings and prophecies, heterosexual and homosexual acts ( gay/lesbianism relationships), sex abuse, adultery, fornication, violent conducts, vandalism, covetousness, pride and power intoxication to misappropriation of church funds, acts of schism, cheating, swindling of funds, fighting, lying, ostentatious lifestyles and bullying. Here are some scenarios as reported in the media, by friends and those personally witnessed. It was reported recently in the media of a pastor caught in an adulterous act with a member’s wife and he shamelessly asserted that God told him to do so. Does God have a double standard?
The 10th commandment says that we should not covet a neighbour’s wife but this pastor claimed that God told him to sleep with his member’s wife right inside the church office! Haba! Some weeks back, a pastor was made to pay the dowry and perform all the marriage and funeral rites of a dead woman who had an abortion for him. It was reported that he forced the lady to go for an abortion because it was shameful to hear that he put a girl in the family way out of wedlock. Just a few days ago, a friend narrated how a pastor resold plots of land he had already sold years past to new buyers just recently and lavished the proceeds on women leaving the mother, the real owner of the land homeless and the immediate family in total penury.
Presently, he is roaming about with nothing because the church has relieved him of his appointment. Yet another story of our so-called “men of God.” Some years ago, a pastor fought his members in the church with only his pants on in the presence of onlookers and without remorse. He was already at loggerheads with the church, so he refused to release the musical instrument for the members to use. What a shameful act! What a world! Recently, a group of people witnessed an ugly situation of money swindling by a pastor right inside the church and people could not talk and arrogantly carted the money away.
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A story was also told of a pastor who engaged in administering drugs and giving medical treatment to people in a village in the Niger Delta Region. He was neither a trained nurse nor a doctor or a pharmacist. This very pastor was also involved in a sexual relationship with a widow in the church. This last but not the least story is an eye-witness account. During an executive zonal meeting of a denomination, this pastor exhibited very terrible anger and boasted to members of how three of our members died because he was challenged. He confiscated the property of the church he was pastoring under his care, carried away the church notice board, sold the church land, resisted arrest and attempted fighting the police when he was to be arrested.
Dear reader, what will you call this kind of pastor… a murderer, or a sorcerer or a cultist or a thug? I can go on and on to cite examples. Some are ritualists, cultists, serial killers, rapists, dupes and thieves. I am led to ask, is it compulsory to be a “man of God”? Should you use this sacred title to cover up for your atrocities, Mr. Ichabod? Yet many people are still following them sheepishly even when the glory of God has left them. Some of them cannot teach the undiluted word of God.By their fruits, you shall know them!
Factors facilitating immorality among pastors:
These will be briefly itemized:
a) Many pastors are not called by God. They are self-made.
b) Many lack formal education.
c) Most of them do not have pastoral training. They neither went to bible schools nor theological institutions.
d) Some came into the profession just to have a means of livelihood.
e) There is proliferation of false prophets for money-making.
f) Many people patronize them with money for powers and to help them solve their seemingly insurmountable problems.
g) The society worships them without questioning their source of power.
h) The society is already lawless and disorderly.
i) Unemployment and poor economy sydrome.
j) The craze for wealth and power.
k) Gullibility of followers especially the female gender.
l) High-level criminality in the society without appropriate punishment meted out to culprits.
m) The culture of silence among the high and the low especially, the leadership of the Christian Council of Nigeria. The idea of covering up the atrocities of these pastors has eaten deep into the society.
n) Proliferation of churches in every nook and cranny of the society by men of shady characters. The factors are inexhaustible!
Consequences of unethical behaviour and practices by the so-called “men of God”:
a)Disruption of the integrity of the Church of Christ. Their unethical and immoral practices have brought shame and mockery to Christendom. The Glory of God seems to have departed from many churches.
b) It has increased the level of doubt people have on the integrity of real pastors in our churches.
c) Societal lawlessness, indiscipline and criminality are on the increase as unscrupulous individuals hide under the name of the churches to perpetrate heinous crimes in the society.
d) There is a high rate of sexual atrocities among members and their pastors. Cases of sexual abuse, heterosexual and homosexual relationships abound now as well as adultery. These have led to a high rate of divorce and single parenthood. e)Paternity issues are on the increase no doubt.
f) Instability in families is also on the increase.
g) Many so-called men of God seek powers from herbalists, cultists and marine spirits leading to more evil such as ritual killings.
h) Since it is now a lucrative business, charlatans, false prophets and false teachings are on the increase.
i) Competition and jealousy among pastors are now the other of the day. There is no more unity, love and peace in the body of Christ.
j) Conflicts and schism( division) in the church is the order of the day.
1)Formal education and seminary training must be the criteria for becoming a church leader. The Christian Association of Nigeria must see to this.
2) the curriculum content of training pastors must include relationships, educational laws, rights of the citizen and guidance and counselling. These will help would-be pastors to adjust well to societal issues.
3) Seminars and workshops should be organised periodically by different bodies such as the Christian Association of Nigeria, denominations, non-governmental organisations, counsellors, bible schools and theological seminaries for pastors in the field to discuss trends in their profession as they relate to the society.
4) sanctions should be meted out to culprits.
5) The culture of silence should be stopped among Christians especially by the leadership of CAN.
6) Men of God found guilty should be prevented from practising as church leaders and the licence of such withdrawn. No pastor should be allowed to practise without licence from a properly registered seminary or bible school.
7) The society should stop being gullible and learn not to be easily deceived by this category of pastors. So church members need counselling too on who to call to pastor the church and how to handle him when issues on unethical behaviour arises in the church .
8) Families should take care of their children and spouses. Members should caution themselves on too much dependence on their pastors. This gullibility should stop.
9) The society should lay emphasis on morals and not on wealth, fame and power.
10) Churches take care of your pastors financially, morally and socially. They are human beings and can be tempted, so pray for them without
We exhibit faith when we trust in the wisdom and logic of God’s plan. Faith in God is a choice and not a feeling. Many so-called men of God are but a lie and exhibit behaviours that have brought shame to Christendom in Nigeria. Unhealthy toxic culture at work in the church has penetrated the society at large. This includes money temptation, sexual temptation, anti-Christ teachings, suspicious criminal acts such as cultism, ritual murders, exaggeration of fake miracles, lies, pride and fraudulent “men of God” playing god before their gullible members. These practices have influenced the society negatively and have also destroyed the integrity of the Christian body in Nigeria. The glory of. God is fast departing in churches harbouring this category of church leaders .
The culture of silence among the high and low in the church has further heightened the scandals, abuses and moral fallouts among the pastors. There is a call that enough is enough! The church leadership should rise up to fight against this pollution and unhealthy immorality in the church by teaching the undiluted word of God, resisting unethical behaviour by fellow men of God, counselling, restoring the old-time religion of the apostles, abolishing the culture of silence and flushing out culprits, withdrawing their licence and taking legal actions against them. These will help in restoring the glory of God in our churches and further bring sanity to the society.
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When Engineers Go Unethical
A few years ago, Effiong Bob walked into the hallowed chamber of the Senate clutching about half a dozen bills. That was unprecedented in the history of Nigerian legislature. All the bills were listed in the Order Paper for First Reading, and were taken; the same day. When passed into law, one of them granted full operational autonomy to the Federal Inland Revenue Service.
As a senator, Bob’s voice on the floor of the Senate was not so loud. But at the Committee level — which is the engine room of legislative business — he was a master of the game. Those who should know, know that the Senate in plenary is a Senate on exhibition, the Senate in Committee Room is the Senate in its workshop. It is at the Committee level that the worth of individual senators is measured and graded.
As Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, and later, Chairman, Senate Services Committee, Bob noiselessly discharged his functions with amazing speed and accuracy. He pursued each task with messianic commitment. So, when he was invited by the Nigerian Institution of Mechanical Engineers some weeks back to present a keynote address at their annual event, he took the ball straight into their court.
Speaking on “Impact of Legislation on Engineering Practice: The Mechanical Engineers Experience”, Bob said the theme of the presentation, aligned completely with the dominant issues of the season; especially in a country where impunity seems to run riot almost everywhere and in everything.
Without any doubt, he said the relevance of engineering and engineers to our everyday existence cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand. Despite their failings and excuses, we cannot forget to applaud their little successes.
He was right. A close look at the environment will always reveal that the major infrastructural creations around us — things that contribute to make life worth living — are products of engineering ingenuity. Some engineers create, others maintain. I can only imagine how boring and drab life would be without engineers.
Bob stated that the formal regulation of engineering is crucial because it is the law that separates the practice of engineering from other natural sciences. The law provides guidance, spells out controls and gives impetus to the practice. The legal frameworks ensure public safety.
He defined legislation in engineering as the process of enacting and applying laws to ensure qualification, safety and quality compliance, application and use of engineering outcomes. It also means the protocols of how ethics and legal frameworks are used to ensure quality delivery and public safety in the profession.
The former senator told the attentive audience that legislation in engineering practice is meant to prevent certain problems and behaviours observed in the application of science in the public interest, in a bid to protect life and welfare of the people; because it would be against the run of play for a practising engineer to endanger public safety.
By implication, the law places a high responsibility on the engineer to uphold sound ethical standards in his operation, as system failure would most likely attract legal action, particularly if such failure creates liabilities by causing harm to the public or incurring other unintended costs, as a result of unprofessional or ethical breach.
Bob stated: “It is one of the reasons a practitioner must be registered for proper identification, regulation, monitoring, training and discipline. He is expected to practise professionally and within the ambits of the regulations governing the practice. Legislation confers both moral and legal authorities on practitioners of the profession. It also comes with expectations and punitive measures.
“Let it be made clear that any person who calls himself a professional in any aspect of human endeavour, if what he practises is not governed or regulated by law or is not known to any existing law, that person must be engaging in an act that is inimical to the interest and safety of society. The reason is because he cannot be justifiably held accountable if anything goes wrong because where there is no law, you can’t talk about breaking the law.”
What he meant here was that an unregulated space is likely to be governed by impunity. Regulation generates sanctions. Every human endeavour requires the knowledge of the laws governing the discharge of that responsibility and the rights of others within the environment of practice.
Truly, since an engineer deals with a wide range of activities that involve lives and the environment, he must be guided, and in fact, arrested by the law, if misguided. The law is there to control and give impetus to the practice. Bob went ahead to cite specific existing laws that are intended to guide engineering practice in Nigeria.
He observed that without legislation, engineering practice would be subject to infiltration and severe abuse by unqualified persons. Of course, even with legislation, the practice is richly infiltrated by various grades of persons who have not received the requisite training that qualifies them to practise.
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Referring to Sections 6 and 7 of the Engineers (Registration, Etc) Act, 1992, he said it clearly specifies who should be registered as an engineer as well as titles to be used. Section 7 stipulates that a registered engineer shall use the abbreviation “Engr;” an engineering technologist shall use “Engr Tech;” and a technician shall use “Tech;” while a registered engineering craftsman shall use his full title with his trade in bracket under his name.
Declared Bob: “But there are lots of people who go about with the prefix Engr, yet have not received professional training from relevant institutions and definitely not certified by the appropriate body to practise as prescribed in Section 6 of the Act.”
He said these persons go about executing projects and, in most cases, create image problems for the profession through ethical and criminal failures. But again, even some certified practitioners also flout the codes and bring the profession into disrepute.
This is where the relevance of legislation comes in, to preserve the profession from quacks. But though the relevant statutes are there, it is the duty of the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) to ensure that they are enforced for the sake of the profession and the safety of the society.
It was revealed that different aspects of engineering legislation deal with different activity areas. Without tort, for instance, impunity would have a field day especially in our clime where the propensity for substandard deliveries is high. The law assigns blame and penalties.
In addition, contract law defines the rules of engagement between engineers, business partners and clients. Product liability law talks about quality. There is also the intellectual property protection law; and the safety legislation codes and regulations.
If legislation provides checks and balances, Bob wondered why “We have had several cases of collapsed structures in our society including buildings, roads and bridges; and these are structures that a number of professional engineers must have or are supposed to have been involved in building.
“Let’s look inward. Can COREN honestly absolve itself from blame or complicity in the collapse of these structures since its members were involved or are supposed to have been involved in the building of such structures?
“How come that in spite of the uproar that greets each incident with accompanying casualties, it still happens again and again? Does it mean that the regulatory authorities are not doing much to whip members into line or deal with quacks to act as a deterrent?
“This is an area that should be focused on. The body has a responsibility to save the profession from this embarrassing situation which in some cases has claimed lives. There is an urgent need therefore, for the strict enforcement of legislations governing the practice of engineering if professional integrity is to be maintained.”
COREN, don’t pretend you did not hear, please.
Akpe, a journalist, lives in Abuja.
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