Nigeria’s Challenge And Need For Reorientation
Salihu Moh. Lukman
As far back as 1918, the German Sociologist, Max Weber, while delivering the speech, ‘Science as a Vocation’ at Munich University, observed that the “fate of our times is characterised by rationalisation and intellectualisation and, above all, by the ‘disenchantment of the world’. Precisely the ultimate and most sublime values have retreated from public life …nor is it accidental that today only within the smallest and intimate circles, in personal human situations, in pianissmo, that something is pulsating that corresponds to the prophetic pneuma, which in former times swept through the great communities like a firebrand, welding them together.” More than hundred years after, logical (rational) and knowledgeable (scholarly) assessments of situations have receded. Disappointment (disenchantment) has taken over almost everybody, such that the direction societies are following deviate from known or predictable experiences. Inspirational (sublime) values have disappeared or are fast disappearing, and as a result, conditions that expedite processes of development and human progress are being eroded.
Instead of nations becoming stronger and people united, citizens are more and more divided, experiencing so many conflicts and wars, consuming human lives and property on a scale that is very alarming. In the midst of all these, everyone, or most people, both leaders and the led, as argued in the book edited by the American Psychologist, Robert J. Sternberg, Why Smart People Can Be So Stupid, become ‘trapped in rigid mindsets, …actively drawing novel distinctions rather than relying on distinctions drawn in the past. This makes us sensitive to context and perspective. When we are mindless, our behavior is rule- and routine-governed. In contrast, when mindful, our behavior may be guided rather than governed by rules and routines.’
This is no doubt the Nigerian reality of today – ‘rigid mindsets’ with ‘novel distinctions’ of our diverse sensitive ‘context and perspective’. Behaviour, rather than being ‘guided by rules and routines’ (mindful), is instead directed almost mindlessly. So-called smart people are behaving more stupidly. Therefore, more problems are being created than solutions found. How do we get out of this mess? With all the intractable problems of insecurity – insurgency, banditry, kidnappings, abductions, etc., what will be required to get citizens (leaders and the led) to become mindful and guided and not governed by rules and routines?
Given the excessive politicisation in the country, especially as 2023 comes closer, the temptation to reduce answers to partisan choices are quite high. Valid as partisan choices could be, it is important to recognise that even within partisan choices, citizens will require strong engagements with leaders at all levels and the courage to articulate recommendations as well as win the buy-in of leaders to consider implementation. Part of what must be also recognised is that, important as partisan choices are, beyond the personalities of leaders, the substantive details of initiatives, in terms of strategic plans and the programmes required to recover Nigeria and put the country on the path to resolve all its intractable challenges and accelerate processes of nation building can at best be work in progress.
Perhaps, it is necessary to make important clarification from the beginning. No choice is perfect or absolute, partisan choices inclusive. Citizens’ commitment to develop partisan platforms is a determining factor to ensure that choices produce desired outcomes. When choices of partisan platforms are therefore limited to celebration of ‘rigid mindsets’, it may only be active in ‘drawing novel distinctions’ and not capable of ‘relying on distinctions drawn in the past.’ The difference is that ‘drawing novel distinctions’ will be largely about rationalising choices while ‘relying on distinctions drawn in the past’ is about being able to recognise and acknowledge reality and accordingly envision new realities or at least give new insights to old realities.
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Therefore, in terms of political choices and their applications to contemporary Nigerian reality, the challenge is whether the choices Nigerians make are creating new realities or at least giving new insights to old realities. If political choices are expressed in terms of, for instance, expression of support or resentment to All Progressives Congress (APC) or any party for that matter, including the PDP, to what extent does that produce new realities that can respond to our numerous challenges as a nation? Or in what way is the choice at least giving new insights in terms of how problems can be solved?
There can hardly be agreement in terms of how to produce new realities and it will be fruitless to try to establish any agreement as it will be almost impossible. The important issue is about getting Nigerians to take reasonability and initiate actions to produce the envisioned new reality. This was the point very well-articulated by one of the leading ideologues of the PDP, my good friend and longtime associate, Dr. Sam Amadi, when he reported some reflections, he recently had, on his Facebook timeline, about a ‘friend from Rwanda who’ argued that ‘in Rwanda culture, leaders don’t complain or wail about problems. Leaders proffer solutions.’ This was explained to be because the Rwanda culture ‘was a result of the experience of genocide, when the youths of Rwanda discovered that the world did not offer them support. They took it to mean they alone should solve their problems. So, if you are a leader and you are wailing instead of solving problems, you are shifted from the leadership cadre to the followers cadre. Leaders solve problems.
With such reflections, Dr. Amadi admits that the ‘cultural mindset’ of the Rwandans ‘is the opposite of the culture of leadership in Nigeria.’ In Nigeria, ‘Leaders wail and complain and blame others. It is not their fault. It is the system. It is the federal government. It is the state government. It is Boko Haram. It is Yoruba agitators. It is Sunday Igboho. It is IPOB. It is even the people who refuse to change. It is the former government. It is the dead- Zik and Awo- who didn’t take us out of Nigeria. It is everyone and everything but the leader,’ if one can add, and followers too. Dr. Amadi further highlighted that even ‘in our personal life we fail the leadership test. Our misfortune has to be the work of witches and wizards, or relatives who didn’t help us or government that is corrupt. We are never responsible for our misfortune.’
Dr. Amadi’s reflections excellently highlight part of Nigeria’s challenges. As Dr. Amadi stressed, until Nigerians ‘focus on finding solutions and less on wailing or blaming’, and ensure that focusing ‘on problem should be to find solution and not for the smug feeling of sanctimony’, our challenges as a nation will not disappear. Instead, our challenges are more likely to get worse. The caution however is that this should not be used in any way to rationalise political choices or block criticisms. In fact, what this means is that in the context of taking responsibility, within our different political choices, including partisan choices, Nigerians should constantly be able to recognise challenges and accordingly initiate or propose appropriate responses to them. Inability to do that will only push citizens, including leaders to be mindless, and not mindful, of Nigeria’s development challenges.
Inadvertently, this requires that part of the overarching political goal is to develop Nigerian politics such that both leaders and followers take responsibility. This is not simply about declarations or simply choices of leaders. It is about developing corresponding political initiatives to reorient Nigerians to take responsibility, which entails a clear political vision. Within the context of individual political choices, Nigerians should have the courage to develop recommendations and work to win the support of, first, political leaders to undertake to implement the recommendations, and secondly, win support of Nigerians in general. It should be expected that the requirement for competition will necessitate that each of the partisan choices available to Nigerians, APC, PDP or any other party for that matter, will have to be both responsive and representative.
Ideally, being responsive and representative should compel political parties and leaders to be more guided by rules and routine and to that extent ‘sensitive to context and perspective.’ Without going into analysis of Nigeria’s political history, especially under the Fourth Republic, it is hardly disputable that PDP mismanaged and squandered opportunities for sixteen years between 1999 and 2015. No need to go into details as that is not the focus. What is more important at this point is the recognition that it was easy for Nigerians to register their support for APC, and on that account voted PDP out of power in 2015.
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Of course, there were contextual factors, which made the APC to win the support of Nigerians. These factors include the successful merger of defunct opposition parties – Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressives Change (CPC) and Owelle Rochas Okorocha’s faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) – combined with relatively transparent processes of candidate selection for the 2015 elections, especially the presidential candidate, together with all the inspiring campaign promises and the personality of President Muhammadu Buhari as the presidential candidate of the APC. With all these, the APC was able to win the 2015 elections and Nigerians had very high expectations. The question is, to what extent did the APC and its governments meet or are meeting the expectations of Nigerians? What are the challenges and how is the APC and its governments responding to these challenges? Compared to PDP, how different is the APC?
No need for the familiar debates of PDP vs APC here. The fundamental issue is the question of the extent to which APC leaders and members are responding to challenges. Are we taking responsibility? The good thing is that, in APC, leaders are not in denial of the challenges. This was not the case with PDP before 2015 and up to this moment. However, being members of the APC, we should be able to acknowledge too that although, the slogan of the APC is CHANGE, which underlines the commitment of the party and its leadership to bring about change in the country, the programmatic details as articulated in the party’s manifesto require a mobilisation programme in order to win the support of Nigerians.
One of the big gaps confronting the APC, which unfortunately makes it easy for opposition politicians to dent the party and its governments’ is the absence of mobilisation programme to engage Nigerians to take responsibility in their different fields of endevour in responding to challenges facing the country. Getting Nigerians to take responsibility in their different fields of endevour in responding to challenges facing the country is a critical success factor in terms of producing the change envisioned by the APC and its leadership as articulated in the manifesto of the party. The inability of Nigerians to take responsibility through initiating appropriate actions raises questions about the sustainability of initiatives of government. Beyond questions of sustainability, there is the issue of public awareness and the associated challenges of public support and endorsements. It is not enough for government to initiate programmes and projects as responses to challenges facing the country. Public support and endorsements will be required to make them sustainable, which is not automatic.
Part of what should be recognised and acknowledged is that the challenges facing us as a nation are deep-rooted. It will require a robust programme of reorientation in the country to sustain the envisioned change APC and its leadership are working to achieve. Once the focus and scope of initiatives is limited to operations of government institutions, and non-governmental institutions continue with business-as-usual practices, most of the challenges facing the country will linger. For instance, take the case of insecurity, which is the most important threat to the survival of the country.
As much as combative military operations against insurgency in all its manifestations – banditry, kidnappings, abductions, etc. – are fundamental to restoring order and protection of lives and property in the country, equally important is also how Nigerians across all strata of social life are being mobilised to take responsibility in restoring order and guaranteeing security of life and property in every part of the country. How is government working to raise awareness of Nigerians in terms of what to look out for as danger signals in our different communities? What kind of conducts by citizens, including community leaders constitute risk factors and therefore indicative of security challenges? What should be done, where and who to report to? What other initiatives should citizens take?
Most of these issues are at best taken for granted. There is hardly any planned campaign taking place at national level to mobilise Nigerians with specific sets of detailed responses. Because issues of public awareness around these issues are taken for granted, everybody, both leaders and followers are just ‘complaining and wailing’ as Dr. Amadi rightly observed. Some have gone beyond ‘complaining and wailing’ to propagate false narratives, which can at best be distractive, if not subversive to any campaign or initiative to end insecurity in the country. Unfortunately, most of these false narratives are allowed in the public space without strong efforts to correct them. Take some of the claims by religious and community leaders that insecurity in the country is directed against particular ethnic and religion groups. These are very treacherous narratives, which should be combated not through military operations but civic engagements with religious and community leaders.
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Absence of engagements with religious and ethnic groups is more and more creating factors in the country, which are disorientating and undermining the authority of conventional structures and representatives of Nigerian society, including non-governmental institutions. In their place, unaccountable and self-appointed leaders are emerging and culture of public blackmails against conventional structures and representatives is becoming rampant in the country. It was Benjamin Arditi, the Mexican political scientist, in the book, Politics on the Edge of Liberalism, who cautioned that ‘situations of disorientation can facilitate the appeal of charismatic leaders who present themselves as self-styled saviours, or lead people to seek the sense of belonging offered by aggressive forms of nationalism, uncompromising religious sects, or violent urban tribes.’
One of the major challenges facing Nigeria today is that ‘self-styled saviours’ projecting themselves as leaders campaigning to win ‘a sense of belonging’ based on aggressive ‘nationalism, uncompromising religious sects, or violent urban tribes’ are springing up in every part of the country. This is partly the issue around the Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho phenomena in the South-East and South-West. Unfortunately, because such phenomena are allowed without any counter-mobilisational strategy, they are increasingly becoming threats to political leaders. To some extent, they are also becoming models of responses to Nigeria’s challenges by ethnic and religious groups, which is dangerous.
Therefore, beyond the question of insecurity, the broader issue of mobilising Nigerians to develop new orientation require a programmatic national coverage. Given some of the challenges, especially in relation to, for instance, engaging youth in the country, how can it be handled? This will require partnership with youth organisations. Who are these youth organisations and what will be required for government to be able to develop the kind of partnership that can produce the desired outcomes of changing Nigeria? What is the potential of using the nation’s educational system to facilitate or strengthen engagements with youth groups in the country? Given the challenge of frequent closures of our educational institutions due to strikes by teachers and university lecturers, how will it affect government’s mobilisation of youths in the country? Above all, how can engagement with youths address the challenge of creating employment opportunities in the country?
M Generally, the ‘situations of disorientation’ in the country have created problems whereby the character of Nigerian civil society, including the labour movement has radically change. Most of the organisations that used to be knowledge-driven, based on which they have strong connections with academic institutions, are bereft of knowledgeable viewpoints. At least up to the late 1990s, most of these organisations were very active in policy engagements through campaigning for alternative policy frameworks. When they criticised government policy, they did not only explain reasons for such criticisms, but also proposed alternatives. This is hardly the case today. The main approaches of the work of civil society are mainly to abuse and condemn whatever government is doing with hardly any recommendation for alternatives. If anyone is looking for evidence of how ‘sublime values’ have retreated form Nigerian public life, just look at the character of today’s Nigerian civil society and labour movement today and compare them with what used to obtain in the past.
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Beyond civil society organisations and labour movement, the sad reality is also that quality of scholarship in our academic institutions is, to say the least, below standards. We have professors, researchers and lecturers who cannot engage in any useful enquiry about the challenges facing the country. Many so-called professors, researchers and lecturers, rather than working to provide new insights into challenges facing the country and to that extent propose alternative responses, they join the ‘complaining and wailing’ community. They speak in languages that are offensive to government and political leaders with unsubstantiated allegations.
Part of what has been lost is the fact that categories of leaders of non-governmental organisation who used to have strong values that envisioned a prosperous country have disappeared. Instead, we have many leaders of non-governmental organisation who see nothing good in Nigeria and its political leadership. They promote the campaign for hatred against the country and its leadership. The culture of political intimidation using protests and strikes has become rampant. Most demands by non-governmental organisations come with threats of strikes and protests in the first instance. In the context of mobilisation to produce change in Nigeria therefore, what will be required to change the orientation of leaders of non-governmental organisations in the country for instance? Being members of APC, how can we engage our leaders differently without joining the ‘complaining and wailing’ group of Nigerians? If, like other Nigerians, APC members join the ‘complaining and wailing’ community, which is largely the case, how can we take responsibility to ensure that the commitment of our party and our leaders to change Nigeria is achieved?
To be different, APC members should be able to appeal to the party’s leaders to urgently develop a strong mobilisation campaign that can connect citizens with all the initiatives of government. As part of such mobilisation campaign, raising public awareness about the initiatives’ government is taking should be a priority. The second thing is also to be able to provide feedback to government about the effectiveness of initiatives taken by APC governments’ so far. To what extent are government initiatives responding to challenges? How are government initiatives’ being able to envision new realities or at least give new insights to old realities? What are the expected roles of citizens in their different fields of endevour to achieve envisioned realities? In particular, how is government mobilisation programme succeeding in securing the buy-in of especially non-governmental leaders to initiate supportive actions to resolve challenges?
As members of APC, we need to take responsibility and acknowledge that challenges facing the country require a strong mobilisation campaign as a fundamental requirement for bringing about change in the country. This is, at the moment, almost taken for granted. In fact, most of the distortions going on today in Nigerian public spaces, which attempts to dismiss the APC and its governments as a failure is largely because of weak or absence of strong mobilisation programme. Being able to acknowledge this reality should be supported with good recommendation on how best to develop strong mobilisation programme to rally the support of Nigerians to address challenges facing the country.
Noting the existence of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), with the statutory functions of mobilising public support for government policies, programmes and activities, among others, how can it be transformed to get it to develop and drive the kind of strong mobilisation programme, which can begin to re-orient the mindsets of Nigerians and get everyone to take responsibility? The question of why the NOA was unable to develop a strong mobilisation programme since 2015 should be engaged mainly in the context of ensuring that the campaign supports Nigerians to embrace positive behaviours and to that extent therefore envision a prosperous future for the country.
How can this be achieved? Perhaps one of the things that need to be done is to completely re-organise the NOA. As part of the re-organisation, it may be necessary to be moved out of the Ministry of Information and make it a specialised agency of the Federal Government directly under the presidency. Making it a specialised agency under the presidency will strengthen its powers to be able to engage all agencies of government at all levels. Its current status as an agency under the Ministry of Information limits its powers and to that extent its capacity.
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The second issue is that there has to be a review of its activities, personnel and general orientation. Elementary logic would suggest a complete overhaul, otherwise, it will simply continue with business-as-usual approaches. Once its approaches are business-as-usual, it will not be able to drive any campaign for change in Nigeria. Largely because it is conducting itself based on business-as-usual approaches, it is hardly present in most of the critical public debates about challenges facing the country. Beyond being absent in most public debates, it is hardly under any consideration in terms of organisations regarded with any visible roles in addressing challenges facing the country. For instance, in the case of insecurity, does the NOA outline for itself a kind of checklist of what to do when incidents of insecurity emerge in any part of the country?
All these need to be put in place. It is not to lament about any failing or rationalising why we have what exists today. As members of APC, it should be about responding to the reality facing us and ensure that we appropriately take responsibility. We must engage the issues with all the confidence that our political leaders, especially President Buhari will favourably consider these proposals and strengthen the capacity of the party and its governments to mobilise Nigerians. The important appeal that should be made is that failure to develop a strong mobilisation programme will continue to create gaps that will make the voices of political opposition louder in the country, even as they don’t have any clear proposed alternatives. They will simply continue to promote divisive politics based on mis-information and falsehood. It is painful that with all the initiatives of APC governments, especially Federal Government under President Buhari, the claim of any failure can be made. Unlike all past governments since 1999, the APC Federal Government is successfully implementing more initiatives and projects. How can the APC government successful implementation of almost all the projects past governments have failed to execute be a failure?
If APC and its governments are being alleged to be a failure, what is the specific alternative being presented by the opposition to APC? The narrative of failure of APC and its governments must be corrected based on a strong mobilisation programme. Nigerians just need to ‘focus on finding solutions and less on wailing or blaming’. Nigerians must be protected from ‘self-styled saviours’ – both politicians and other desperate categories, whose mission can only be self-serving. A stich in time saves nine!
Dr. Lukman is the Director-General of the Progressive Governors Forum, Abuja. However, the position he expresses here does not represent the view of any APC governor or the Progressive Governors Forum.
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Toyin Falola: Foremost African Historian Wins Lifetime Achievement Award
By Olusola Ogunnubi
On Wednesday, May 31st, 2023, US-based Nigerian renowned historian, Professor Toyin Falola, was awarded the distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award by the Canadian Association of African Studies (CAAS) for his contributions to African Studies. The entire hall was full of elevation, and the side talk was that this was one of the best decisions ever made by CAAS.
CAAS is the umbrella body for scholars and practitioners dedicated to promoting the study of Africa in Canada, and according to its website, the Lifetime Achievement Award is indeed the highest honour of the Association awarded to senior scholars who have been actively involved in CAAS and have retired or about to retire. In the words of Prof Nduka Otiono, President of the Association, “this esteemed accolade recognizes your exceptional contributions, unwavering dedication, and profound impact on the field of African Studies in Canada and beyond”. According to the CAAS website, the selection of Falola for this prestigious award was on the merit of three criteria: (1) a lifetime of sound scholarship, (2) accomplishments (research, teaching and mentoring awards, etc.) and (3) involvement in the activities of CAAS. The award was formally presented to him during the CAAS Annual General Meeting and Conference hosted at York University, where coincidentally, Toyin Falola had been a professor between 1990 and 1991. Prof Falola stands in the illustrious company of previous awardees, including Prof Paul Lovejoy. The CAAS Distinguished Lifetime Award was the first awarded to a scholar in over five years.
Toyin Falola is a professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin, where he holds the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities. He was also previously The Frances Higginbotham Nalle Centennial Professor in History, a position he held from 1995 to 2012. His research is focused on African History since the nineteenth century, African Diaspora, Epistemologies, Theories and Methodologies. Professor Toyin Falola’s contributions to the field of African Studies and African History have continued to place Africa on the map of global recognition. Not only is Falola’s scholarship recognized globally, but he is also dedicated to mentoring a new generation of young and emerging scholars in the social sciences, arts and humanities. He also convenes the Annual Africa Conference, a platform for knowledge exchange between scholars from Africa and the diaspora. I had the honour of attending the Africa Conference in 2012, where Falola generously accommodated me in his house after the conference along with other guests from Africa. As a postgraduate student attending the conference from South Africa, this short period of interaction would eventually shape my resolve to aspire to greater heights within the academic space.
In 1981, Prof Falola finished his doctorate in History from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), where he completed his thesis on “The Political Economy of Ibadan, c.1830-1900.” Remarkably, more than 40 years after his first PhD, professor Falola earned a D.Litt in African Studies from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, in 2020. Professor Falola receives 16 honorary doctorates and over 40-lifetime awards from several universities and countries. A brief list includes Monmouth University (2007), City University of New York (2013), Lincoln University (2015), University of Jos (2015), Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (2018), Redeemer’s University, Nigeria (2017) Federal University, Lokoja (2021) among others. Falola has also previously been appointed to several distinguished honours, honorary professorships and visiting fellowships at various universities, including the University of Cape Town, South Africa, Centre for African Studies (2018-2022), Olusegun Obasanjo Centre for African Studies, National Open University, Abuja (2019-2021), Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South, Library of Congress (2016), Pontifícia Universidade Católica De São Paulo, Brazil (2007); Humanities Research Council, Australian National University in 1995.
Interestingly, Falola helped organize the CAAS conference at York University in 1991, where he started his career in North America. He had also previously delivered a keynote address at the CAAS Conference 1991 and again at the just concluded 2023 CAAS conference. In over 40 years since he left Canada for the US, Falola has continued to make an impact on the Canadian and the North American academic landscape in general through his invaluable contribution to CAAS, serving as external examiner to major Canadian universities, including Queen’s University, York University, Trent University, Dalhousie University and the University of Toronto, helping to shape the academic depth of the African Studies programs in Canada and being a mentor to Canada-based Africanist scholars. Notably, Falola has supervised over 100 Master’s thesis and Doctoral dissertations in History and African Studies and examined countless theses and dissertations. CAAS also acknowledges and recognizes Falola’s invaluable contribution as a reviewer for the Canadian Journal of African Studies and his longstanding role as a member of the editorial board of the Harriet Tubman Series on the African Diaspora at York University.
Given his excellent and distinguished scholarship and its impact across disciplines, it is not surprising that this is not the first such prestigious lifetime award that Prof Falola has received. Some of his previous awards include the Distinguished Africanist Award in 2011 by the African Studies Association (ASA), which is the largest global Association by scholars of Africa, Nigeria’s highest National Merit Award – Member of Order of the Niger (MON) awarded by former President Muhammadu Buhari in 2022, Award of Excellence in recognition of support of tertiary education by Lagos State University in August 2022, Distinguished Award for Intellectual Contributions to Knowledge and Scholarship, University of Abuja, Nigeria (July 2021), Distinguished Award for Scholarship and Mentorship, Babcock University, (June 2021), Distinguished Africana Award, University of North Carolina, Charlotte (April 2011) among many others.
Several celebratory legacies and honours have also been named in recognition of Falola’s exemplary contribution and scholarship to African Studies. One such honour is the Toyin Falola Annual Conference on Africa and the African Diaspora (TOFAC), inaugurated in 2011 by the University of Ibadan Cultural Group (ICSG). TOFAC is a huge annual conference convened in an African university on different themes. Also, the Toyin Falola Book Award is administered by the Association of Global South Studies for the best book on Africa. Lunaris Review also awards the Toyin Falola Literary Prize, named after him for his contributions to advancing African cultures, people, and histories. Falola is also Series Editor for at least a dozen monographs and Encyclopaedias and has served on several Book Prize Committees.
Professor Falola has also led major academic associations, including as President of the African Studies Association (2014-2015) and the Nigerian Studies Association (2005-2007). He has also received several traditional titles, including the Bobagbimo of Ugboland in 2014, the Agbakin of Kusela-Ibadan in 2022 and Nii Kpani Ashaabla 1 of Adabraka Otukpai Palace, Accra, Ghana, among others.
Receiving the Award at the ceremony held to round off the CAAS conference, Falola expressed his gratitude to the Board and Members of the Association, seeing the recognition as a responsibility to continue to do more to extend the frontiers of African epistemic traditions. Falola lauds the Association for leading the intellectual path for the advancement of African Studies globally through the creation of opportunities for critical debates, research engagements, knowledge exchange and interactive space between academia, government and other non-state actors to drive policies and a commitment to ensuring that the systemic issues that Africa and Africans face are confronted through meaningful scholarship.
Professor Falola is today honoured because he’s been a solid and unforgettable part of CAAS’s contribution to African Studies. Prof Falola is humble to the core, and there’s a lot that old and new scholars in the field can learn from his humanity, simplicity and sincere concern for the academic well-being of everyone.
. Ogunnubi writes from the Department of Political Studies, Queen’s University, Canada.
Ama Ata Aidoo: A Gallant Intellectual
By Toyin Falola
Our encounters were not limited to knowledge sharing. Yes, this is important, as Ama Ata Aidoo and Ngugi wa Thiong’o were among those who read the draft of my first memoir, A Mouth Sweeter Than Salt. It was mutual, as she also gave me a few drafts to read. Then we met in Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, and the United States. The most memorable was at Smith College, where we spent a semester together, seeing twice a week. A great cook, I took delight in consuming her egusi soup. I felt emotionally sad to be one of the earliest to know of her death and had to announce it on several platforms. It was a privilege to do a short tribute on May 31, 2023, at the recently concluded Canadian Association of African Studies held at York University, Toronto.
Ama and I were on first-person name salutations. She musically pronounced my name, Toyyin, adding “y” and refusing to let go. I reciprocated and called her “Amami, Mamami” to return the musical song. She knew when to provoke me. I was also a master at teasing her by making a patriarchal statement, to which she would immediately respond. I knew the Ghanaian presidents she could not stand, the ministers she detested, and I would say, “Amami, Mamami, you know I miss President Dash!”
Mamami reminds me that at several points in life, especially during childhood, most humans have lofty dreams and ambitions. For many, those dreams and ambitions will only come to represent “the good old days when life was simple,” never seeing the light of reality — especially if the dreamer is limited by one or several factors like poverty, country of birth, a lack of education, poor nutrition, and a limit in both exposure and cross-cultural experiences. For others, opportunity and preparation help them realize their dreams. This day, you’re stuck with your convictions, committed to your beliefs, and working to support the causes that align with your values. The next day, you have transcended into a realm larger than life — larger than a single lifetime that any human could have.
Since Aidoo shed her robe of the human hood and took on the next adventure in existence, the news headlines that made the rounds about her death seemed to have some common words: Ghana, Ghanaian, literary icon, author, and feminist. However, Aidoo can be qualified by more than those words that made up the news headlines of her death. For one, I chose to describe her as Africa’s gallant intellectual and literary general because although she is proudly Ghanaian, her life, works, and impacts transcend one country — they have been for Africa, from within Africa’s Golden State. It’s understandable that the reporters, especially those of foreign media houses, might have chosen to be specific about her country to avoid backlash on the Western world not doing enough research to report African news contextually. But in the case of this eminent scholar and what she has lived for, she is our collective heroine.
Professor Aidoo knew what it meant to have a purpose, define existence, and stay true to one’s causes, so much so that a legacy is built, intentionally or not. She lived for Africa; she lived for the rights of African women; she dedicated her life to documenting African realities and deconstructing erroneous notions of what Africa is, who Africans are, and what the realities of Africans and their continent are. She lived a wholesome and fulfilled life — an 81-year-old is old enough to join the sacred ancestors in many African cultures and societies. Nevertheless, no matter how old our loved ones are at the time of death, our insatiable human nature and the prospect of their absence, our loss, and our longing will always douse our mood at the reception of the news.
Nature and nurture come to play in forming the formidable intellectual and literary general that Aidoo was. Grounded in the history and exploits of her people from early on, Aidoo envisioned the life of an author for herself— seeing it as the best way to document histories and put the stories she had heard and was living into the hands of many others to make impacts. She was one of Africa’s generals, not on the battlefield during the world wars but on the intellectual battlegrounds of academic and literary imperialism. While staying vocal through her writings and words, Aidoo fought for Africa and did so proudly. She was instrumental in spotlighting some of the biggest issues African women have faced in decades. In so doing, she drew the admiration of Africans, especially African women, who came to see her as a mother, mentor, and idol.
Aidoo made great impacts, and they reverberate so much so that death is not finality for her. From her poems to her novels and plays, the literary world will continue to make reference to, discuss, critique, and base other works on the foundation of what Aidoo did during her lifetime. That is her legacy, which has inherently conferred on her the goddess status. She might have left her mortal body, but she lives on and among us through her works.
Although she was better known for her writings, activism, advocacies, and feminism, Aidoo’s life was an excellent demonstration of walking the talk and living one’s words. She will be remembered back home in Ghana as a literary heroine and a patriotic countrywoman with a deep desire to help catalyze her country’s development. Convinced that the Minister of Education role would afford her that opportunity, she accepted her appointment by the government in 1982. However, like several of the recently independent African states then, she soon discovered that the people in power mostly wanted the best hands without wanting those hands to go to work in a way that would benefit the country. Seeing as her lofty visions for the Ghanaian education system would never materialize because of the Council, Aidoo resigned from the position and dedicated herself to excellence in teaching in the Ghanaian tertiary education system, which she served assiduously for decades.
Aidoo never minced words about her criticism of the Western world and its role in the colonization of Africa, which has metamorphosed into colonialism and is being continuously modified to withstand and survive the agitations of intellectual and well-meaning, patriotic Africans. She is famously known for commenting on how Europe has been tirelessly milking Africa of its human, mineral, natural, artificial, and artistic resources for over 500 years. Aidoo’s vocal nature in decrying the covert and subtle neocolonialist efforts from the West earned her transgenerational reverence among her peers and even the younger generation.
One of the distinguishing traits of her feminism is adapting the African communal and tight-knit nature of pre-colonial communities into the formation and interactions of the women communities on the continent. This manifests in how renowned feminists like Aidoo and Professor Bolanle Awe take several other women under their wings and groom them. As the mother hen readily spreads her feathers to protect her children, Aidoo supported the feminist communities and female writers and authors. This is evident in her many engagements with these communities, as recently as 2021, at the Kwame Nkrumah Festival in Ghana. Aidoo’s life has inspired many of these young women in academia and the literary world. It has helped them understand that they can also dream and aim for their dreams.
Many of those she assisted, whether they had only met her through her work or had the opportunity to meet her physically, shared a special bond with her, so much so that until her death, she was popularly known as (m)Ama Ata Aidoo — the bracketed “m” signaling a prefix to form “Mama,” the African name for mother. Aidoo lives on through the many people she’s inspired with her work. Many found meaning through her work; they found reasons to be conscious as Africans, appreciate their African identity, deconstruct erroneous notions of colonialism, and recognize the ills of the colonial system and its impacts on Africa. She was a fierce and vocal general in her advocacy against the misrepresentations of African women and African stories, but she was a soft and accommodating mother to many.
Mamami, you earned your position among Africa’s most revered and respected literary icons, and now, you have donned the cloak of immortality through the body of your work. Beyond your existence, you live on. In that instance, death as the finality we have come to know ceases to be the end. A literary icon would then have attained the status of a god. You will be sorely missed. Africa’s academia will feel the void of the inputs you could still have made if you were here. However, our solace lies in the fact that no one can ever do enough and that, taking your exploits and achievements in the context of the impacts they have had and continue to have, you did your best. For that, we are grateful.
Farewell, Amami Mamami! May your journey in the next phase of life be easier!
TB Joshua: Remembering Exit Of A World Changer
By Dare Adejumo
The month of June is a significant month in the annals of Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN). It is the month of the birth and passing of its founder, Prophet TB Joshua, that great world changer.
Its fifth day makes the second year of his glorious exit from earth and on the twelfth, the great man of God who cherished marking his birthdays would have been 60 years old.
Nations across the world would have been agog for an extraordinary prophet of God whose footprints of wonderful deeds touching the lives of millions across the globe remain in the sand of time. TB Joshua came to revitalize the face of Christianity and made the physiognomy of practical Christian living as given by Jesus Christ already in abeyance real to mankind once again.
There’s no hide and seek in his life. He was love personified. The humbliest human being I have ever come across. Firm and stern, even in his moment of severity, you would still find love encapsulated. You could not offend him. He’s extra sensitive with propulsively radiating wisdom, unfathomable knowledge of life, charming and a paragon of magnetically illuminating character. He was completely acidic to vanity, envy, jealousy, human comparison, imitation, vulgarity and wonton desires. He described them as some of those “foolish things” not to be entertained for a moment in one’s life.
Pastor TB Joshua
TB Joshua was a divinely self-made man. Here was a man with little elementary education. Yet with your degrees, erudition and western exposure, you would be humbled by the self-discovery of your personal hollowness or quasi- emptiness when you sat to discuss or share a view with TB Joshua, a shy village man. TB Joshua was an attestation to God’s omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence and greatness that lay in simplicity.
I personally witnessed several cases of some other so-called men of God who out of ignorance and envy were once persecuting him but after receiving the touch of God in different dimensions including mere touching of EMMANUEL TV while praying came to weep before God for forgiveness. Joshua would only say to them: ” I didn’t fire one single arrow back from all your arrows against me; otherwise you won’t be here today to talk. One thing we should always know is this: I did not choose myself to do God’s work. He in His wisdom just chose me and I know He is with me. God would never give anybody this kind of power He gave me if the person would use it for selfish purposes or against his perceived enemies. No!”
TB Joshua was a puzzle, an enigma. He was the light shining in darkness that many couldn’t comprehend. He looked too simple and ordinary having not been commissioned by the earthly papacy or religious authorities of the day and for him to be performing miracles of diverse kinds like breathing. This was clearly indescribable, incomprehensible, a mystery and shocker to the spiritual ignoramuses and empty flamboyant oratorical, motivational preachers with big congregations.
That great English thinker and philosopher John Locke once said: “New opinions are always suspected and usually opposed without any other reason but because they are not already common”. In God’s adamantine and inscrutable will, TB Joshua came to the scene when the acts of Christianity seen in Jesus Christ and His early desciples and apostles as captured in the Bible were gradually becoming moonlight tales to this generation. Religious leaders had already metamorphosed to careerism and polarised with pervasive unhealthy cacophonous standards. It was obvious that these religious leaders no longer knew what they were doing then even till today in several quarters without any tangible impacts in the lives of atrophied worshippers!
That was the turning point.There was no way TB Joshua could have had it easier. He faced satanic conspiracies and persecution galore, but the man remained focused with unmitigated perseverance, vision and mission of his divine assignments which he tenaciously upheld victoriously till the last.
He took his persecution joyfully and that conspiracy against him at home launched him to the outside world in God’s agenda and design for his mission on earth.
Hear him: “I began discovering the good life when I was only 15 years. My objectives and motives were determined at once. I wanted what God wanted and I wanted it for the reason God wanted it”. That’s prophet TB Joshua for you. Till the end he carried his childhood with him, with malice to no one but love, charity and firmness to all in God’s righteousness. To him love is pure. Take good care of your heart because that is your communicating point with God and must ever remain pure to know and flow with Him. You can never love God if you don’t love your neighbours and your neighbours include your percieved enemies, those not in the same faith with you, the poor and those in need who you must give love unconditionally.
This Godly character often made TB Joshua to be misrepresented by low spiritual human beings whenever they saw him attend to other people who were not Christians just as his Master, Jesus was accused of dining with republicans and sinners which made the religious authorities persecute Him.
The truth of humanity as once put by that foremost existentialist Italian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard is that history would always repeat itself because man would never learn from history. Many never discovered Joshua not until he had departed! What a painful loss.
You could never find TB Joshua criticizing or talking about other men of God. He moved on quietly on his own even though he lamented the pervasive discrimination and disunity in Christendom.
Several people from other churches who received healings and miracles in his church, Synagogue Church Of All Nations SCOAN wanted to come and do thanksgiving in his church but Joshua would not allow them. “Go back to you church and do your thanksgiving and give your offering there. We are the same. God had already answered your prayers there before you came here” for you to see how selfless he was in all his dealings.
TB Joshua was more interested in the quality of your Christian life and character. He would ask you: “Do you hear from God? Do you listen to Him? Does He speak with you? Do you know how much you need Him? Do you have a relationship with Him?” The God’s general believed that your highest achievement on earth was to hear from God.
To TB Joshua, Christianity is not a religion but a relationship with God. If you don’t have that relationship with Him you have missed it and you are worshipping in vain. “How can you be worshipping God you don’t know?” He would jerk up his congregants to move away from spiritual docility, complacency and indolence.
TB Joshua was never an academic preacher. He spoke words of life that transformed lives of ardent and fervent seekers of God and salvation.
I remember a female nurse I once encountered when she came to treat a patient as she stood looking at EMMANUEL TV. On enquiries whether she knew of the television station, she said that she used to attend SCOAN. “I was a nurse and member of the church’s medical team. Then the church was not rich, just managing to survive. It was what happened during the man of God’s birthday that made me stop going and besides I had relocated to a farther distance. We all on our own contributed money to give TB Joshua as a present. When we got there to present it, the man just asked us to put all the money in one sack. He asked us to choose some people among us to take the whole money to the disabled people’s home at Oko Baba. He instructed that one of us should just dip his or her hand in the sack and be distributing the money to them one by one with whatever the hand could gather at once like that to the less privileged living there and nothing should be left in the sack. I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked that the man could take everything there like that not minding that the church itself was very poor”. This woman completely missed the beauty of life and essence of humanity the prophet symbolized. TB Joshua believed your giving is only meaningful when you give what you cherish most. He would never give in half measures. He was extraordinarily generous and at home in humility with all categories of people as a friend however commonised other people may look at them. Every human being is unique and important to TB Joshua and must be treated with dignity.
TB Joshua was never a burden to anyone but carried all human burdens that crossed his paths. He was the only man of God holding crusade abroad without asking for any donations or collecting offering from worshippers. He would rather go there with loads of charity works for people and the country. There was a time in Cameroon when the airwave was jammed with announcements that TB Joshua would be coming to hold a crusade in Yaounde, asking for people to donate money. This was a scam because the scammers were capitalizing on Joshua’s popularity and the perceived pressure of the country’s request for his crusade program in Cameroon. TB Joshua in holy anger countered the announcements saying: ” That cannot be my TB Joshua of Synagogue Church Of All Nations SCOAN. I have no plan to go to Cameroon. God has not directed me to go there. Have you ever seen my pictures or envelopes asking for donation of money from anyone or anywhere? Please disregard this announcement. When God gives you an assignment He would also send to you what you would need through His chosen vessels”. This is a symbolic message for you to differentiate the chalk from the cheese in the religiously distorted world. He never allowed himself for a moment to be carried away by anything.
The lofty principles and legacies of TB Joshua remain enduring and a high watershed in Christendom. The joy today is that SCOAN is in the capable hand of a down-to-earth and visionary successor, Pastor Evelyn Joshua, a woman who had gone through the spiritual mills and rigorous discipline of TB Joshua the spiritual mentor extraordinaire who strongly believed that life’s biggest decision is what you do with Jesus.
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