Connect with us


A Philosopher’s Spiritual Journey And Bertrand Russell’s Influence



Professionals In Government: Issues In Navigating The Policy Space In Nigeria


 Tunji Olaopa


For those familiar with the writings of Bertrand Russell, the eponymous British mathematical genius and one of the defining philosophical figures of the twentieth century, the title of this piece would seem to suggest a false dichotomy between Russell’s hardboiled philosophical template and spirituality. British philosophical tradition was founded on empiricism as a defining framework. Starting from John Locke and down to Russell and many successors, empiricism latches on to a scientific mindset that sees reality in terms of hard sense data, rather than spiritual essence that defines the rationalism of Plato, Descartes and Hegel. However, this essay is not about the philosophical differences between empiricism and rationalism, or even the fine grains of Russell’s empiricism. On the contrary, it is to outline the paradoxical effect that Russell’s hardboiled scientific empiricism had on my philosophical and spiritual maturation as a scholar and a person. In so doing, I am responding to passionate requests from a growing number of my readers who being believers want me to share some perspectives on how my seminal orientation had shaped my Christianity. I must however apologise upfront, that tried as I did to make this piece the most reader-friendly, it ended up more a seminal than a general reader’s delight

By now, those who have followed my public commentaries are aware of those historical figures that have had the most fundamental influence on my intellectual coming of age. References to Plato have peppered all my public writings. And that is because Plato constitutes a singular most important philosopher that initiated my first philosophical wondering. It is from Plato that I got my first inkling of what it means to think about reform. But it is from Martin Luther and Thomas More that I learnt not only about the depth of activism but also the content of the utopia that reform aims at. With Bertrand Russell—mathematician, philosopher and Nobel Prize winner—I got a different kind of motivation.

READ ALSO: Adedotun Phillips And The Unfinished Business Of Reform In Nigeria

My journey into Russell’s essential works, outside of Principia Mathematica and other contributions to the philosophy of mathematics and logic, began at a point when I was getting acutely confused about the multiplicity of religious practices to which I had been exposed, the contentions in their claims, and how they could be arranged to form a coherent whole for someone like me who was looking for spiritual meaning. My mind has always been conditioned by a search for spiritual enlightenment and existential coherence within which I could fit my wondering queries about the world and all its manifold realities. There have been two sides to my spiritual wanderings. The first has to do with my confused attempt at understanding the relationship between Christianity, mysticism and occultism. In other words, how does the desire to know Christ, for instance, lead Christianity into mysticism? How does, for example, Tibetan occultism and its interest in self-consciousness relate with the abasement of the self in Christianity? When I eventually unearthed Albert Einstein’s connection with Rosicrucianism, I became all the more perplexed as to how such a genius could be wrong in his choice of spiritual path. How could Rosicrucianism be wrong? Indeed, how could the Ifá corpus by which the Yoruba lived for centuries not be a means by which one could understand one’s world?

The second dimension to my spiritual wandering came as a result of my early encounter with Pentecostalism and its brand of theological exclusivity. Pentecostal Christianity seems to have satisfied my youthful search for religious puritanism. I was however seriously offended by the common knowledge that Christian clerics dabbled in occult practices to enhance their religious status. But then, I came short when I confronted the simplistic fixation with the miracle mentality that gave Pentecostalism its leeway into postcolonial sensibilities, as well as prosperity theology and all its obscene manifestations. It was at this point that I started dangling at the precipice of agnosticism, after all, I had read all of Lobsang Rampa’s Tibetan mysticism and dabbled in Rosicrucianism in my student days. All these offered their own unique spiritual titillation for my wandering mind. How then do I deal with the absolutism of Pentecostal Christianity, and its puritanical exclusivity? How then do I reach the divine?

READ ALSO: Rebuilding Nigeria’s Broken Walls: From Emotional Patriotism To Nehemiah Complex

And this was the worst possible time to be fascinated with Bertrand Russell as a budding intellectual and believer! This was a philosopher and professed atheist. His Why I Am Not a Christian (1927) outlined his many logical arguments against Christian theology, Christ, immortality and even God. He argued, till death, that religion was essentially harmful to human flourishing because it was founded on fear. However, it is Russell’s philosophical methodology that paradoxically assisted in my achieving a religious open-mindedness that opened my path to spiritual enlightenment eventually. Russell was instrumental in the founding of the analytic school of philosophy, alongside Ludwig Wittgenstein, Gottlob Frege, Karl Popper, W. V. O. Quine, G. E. Moore, and many others. The tradition is characterized by its dependence on analysis, logical argumentations and clarity of thought. Analysis implies taking an issue and focusing philosophical reflection on its constituent parts in a way that enable an understanding of the whole. Analytic philosophers aim for conceptual clarity. Philosophical puzzles are the result of linguistic misuse.

With Bertrand Russell, logical argumentation became the foundation of clarity in social and political matters. At the core of my fascination with Russell’s empiricism is an epistemological skepticism that insists that we see our beliefs as just a starting point for any actions we wish to take; beliefs are just guides that should be scrutinized seriously. They are not absolute in any way. Russell called on what Alfred Henry Lloyd, the American philosopher, called the “will to doubt.” In the lecture, “Free Thought and Official Propaganda” (1922), Russell wrote:

None of our beliefs are quite true; all have at least a penumbra of vagueness and error. The methods of increasing the degree of truth in our beliefs are well known; they consist in hearing all sides, trying to ascertain all the relevant facts, controlling our own bias by discussion with people who have the opposite bias, and cultivating a readiness to discard any hypothesis which has proved inadequate

READ ALSO: Tenure Policy Restoration In The Federal Service: Matters Arising

This principle of skepticism led Russell to agnosticism. On the contrary, it led me to faith. Agnosticism was too steep a commitment for me. But I saw the logical point of Russell’s argument. With the will to doubt, fundamentalism becomes an epistemic position that cannot be sustained. On a supposition, it excludes all other possible alternatives of faith. Thus, with Russell’s relentless dedication to logical inquiry and philosophic curiosity, I gradually began to surmount my leaning towards religious puritanism in ways that gave me spiritual clarity. A significant part of that derived from my upbringing as a Yoruba Baptist who grew up within a context of traditional inter-faith relations, what Ali Mazrui famously regarded as Africa’s triple heritage. This was a tradition that implicitly insisted on “live and let live” in terms of religious tolerance. Without the need for Russell, the traditional Yoruba epistemic framework provides an accommodationist ambience that allowed religious manifestations to coexist peaceably.

Under the deep influence of a good dose of Russell’s philosophic arguments for fallibility, there was no way I could afford religious fundamentalism, even with my attachment to Pentecostal Christianity and its absolutist theology. Indeed, I began to see clearly how I could begin to relate to my fascination especially with Yoruba spirituality. The implication of fallibility for me is that I could hold on to my belief while not disdaining other beliefs. In other words, being a Pentecostal Christian, for me, is my own leap of faith and mine alone. It does not commit me to an absolutist rejection of the religious beliefs of others. This has some far-reaching implications for my intellectual and spiritual maturation. Most significantly, Russell’s counsel of rigorous logical argumentation and the idea of fallibility makes me a more reflective and, I think, better Christian. This means that it opens up within me an open-minded space that allows for more empathetic relationship with those whose beliefs are unlike mine.

This becomes a sine qua non not just for me as a private individual with a religious belief, but also as a public intellectual with an aspiration to mediate in the making of a freer and more flexible marketplace of ideas and opinions. This is where Bertrand Russell’s opposition to pubic censorship and rabid support for freedom of opinion becomes a cornerstone. Being a public intellectual comes with a range of intellectual and epistemic burdens. Being trusted to distil ideas on several realms of thoughts makes her an embodiment of a fundamental striving between personal prejudices and public requirements; essentially, she is confronted with a limitation of her knowledge even to the extent that she wields the power to influence others. To borrow the title of Robin Sharma, a public intellectual is a “leader who had no title.” This appeals to me tremendously, especially within the context of the craze by Nigerian elites for political appointments that do not amount to any fundamental transformation of people’s lives, and that are riddled with ethnic biases and religious prejudices.

The public sphere—the home of the public intellectual—offers a more significant space for fundamental ideational conversations that are founded on a fallibility-induced humility, unconditioned by petty ethnic rivalries. This for me represents a microcosm of what, in my little book, The Joy of Learning (2010), I called an enlarged mentality that enabled a learning to live together in society. This kind of learning goes beyond learning to know and learning to do to a broader understanding of the interdependent relationship among people of different persuasions and values. In a final sense, Bertrand Russell sowed into me the seed of an epistemic humility that flows from my religious open-mindedness to the significance of ideational reciprocity for the effectiveness of my reform advocacy. No reform idea can ever survive if it fails to tap into the open space where the global and the local, the government and the nongovernmental are relating coherently. That is how far Bertrand Russell drove me to engage with my own thoughts and biases. I am the better for it, trust me.

Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary , and Professor of public administration, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos .


Read more authentic news on our social media platforms


Continue Reading
Click to comment


Rigged Elections And The Moral Burden Of Illegitimacy



Prof. Hope Eghagha

By  Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

Adamu: A man who rigs his way to power carries a moral burden!

Orezime: A moral what?

Adamu: You heard me, didn’t you?

Orezime: I’m not sure I heard you right. Moral what you said?

Adamu: A moral burden, I said!

Orezime: Hahahahahahaha! You make me laugh! Are you from the moon?

Gani: Or Mars?

Emeka: In which country? In Nigeria? That principle does not apply in Nigeria! There is no moral burden on anybody in this country! The election which produced Bubu in 2015 was rigged. Where are the two million voters from Kano State who voted in 2015? Was an INEC official not burnt alive after that election? The one which brought Obj to power was also rigged by the forces which wanted him to ease the tension of the Abiola tragedy on the Yoruba people. Yet those men had the temerity to preach against corruption!

Orezime: The international community winked at the whole exercise.

Gani: Yes! That’s why those two could only preach; they couldn’t really act decisively. A moral burden? They spoke from both sides of their mouths on the issue of corruption. The late President Yar Adua confessed that the election which produced him was compromised. An honest man, he didn’t live long enough to right the wrong of the period!

Orezime: That’s why I laughed when Adamu talked about a moral burden arising from rigged elections.

Bankole: In the ideal world, any power that is stolen and acquired through a dubious means imposes a moral burden on the power holder. No matter what the person does, that power remains stained.

Orezime: What does that amount to in our country? Even the brigands who shot their way to power in the notorious days of military misadventure in Nigeria soon became legitimate.

Emeka: You are going too far in our history. See what happened in Lagos State in the governorship elections of March 18. Ethnic jingoists went about preaching hatred against Igbo people and warned them against coming out to exercise their constitutional rights. Security officials looked the other way when ballot boxes were snatched in broad daylight in places where the opposition was leading.

Gani: A serving state governor personally went about snatching ballot boxes and threatened to shoot whoever got in his way. The same governor declared somebody wanted without recourse to the Inspector General of Police! He worked against the party on which platform he won the seat to spite the party hierarchy!

Adamu: And to think that this is the President-elect’s state. He kept mute through the horrendous attacks on Igbo people in Lagos State just the way the incumbent president has looked the other way when herdsmen went on the loose!

Bankole: Rigged elections are so familiar yet notorious in our land. It was the main trigger to the crisis in the Western Region in the First Republic because the people reacted when they saw a rape of their rights and wishes! It soon snowballed into a conflagration that consumed the nation in the late 1960s. Already, the youths are talking about a protest in the ENDSARSNOW# manner. I hope it doesn’t result in disaster. We have lost too many lives already!

Orezime: What I fear is the rise of ethnic profiling in a supposedly democratic society. To be sure, Governor Sanwo-Olu and the party hierarchy did not single out any ethnic group for verbal attacks. They even courted them. Yet they didn’t caution their followers to stop the degeneration into ethnic hatred. It is a dangerous curve what is happening in Lagos. I don’t subscribe to the Lagos is no man’s land nonsense which some misguided fellows are spewing, but threatening anybody not to vote their candidate is a new low! Can a Sanwo-Olu victory be said to be legitimate if a significant percentage of the electorate is disenfranchised?

Emeka: Good question. They did not stop there. They rolled out the culturally dreaded Oro rituals on election night. Come on! Who is fooling who? The Oro festival was designed to drive fear into non-Yoruba in Lagos. In the 21st Century?

Gani: I am sure the reports from election observers will be damning.

Bankole: I don’t care about those biased observers.

Adamu: Where are we headed in this country?

Orezime: We are on the road to Kigali!

Bankole: May we not travel that route!

Orezime: It’s a good prayer. But what are we doing to avoid the descent into anarchy? Nothing. Those monkeys are simply interested in acquiring power.

Gani: The Obedient Movement seems to have lost steam once it was misbranded as an ethnic agenda to grab power at the national level. Peter Obi needs to tread carefully so he doesn’t become another June 12! Some people are egging him on to challenge INEC through protests.

Orezime: If he decides to lead a protest, it would be within his constitutional right to do so, especially as INEC is stalling on the issue of inspecting elections materials despite an order from the courts. Peaceful protests are guaranteed by the Constitution.

Adamu: No one can be sure whether a peaceful protest will remain peaceful after it starts. That’s the experience the ENDSARS people had.

Gani: It’s not enough to stop people from taking to the streets. Protests are fundamental to democracy.

Adamu: We do not want dead heroes! Mark my words.

Bankole: That’s ominous!

Emeka: It means nothing. Nigeria must change. We cannot go on like this forever! Things are just going down. No cash. No fuel. No power supply. No security. No nothing.  Peter Obi gave a glimmer of hope. Now that has been dashed to the ground.

Adamu: Rigging will remain a moral burden each time our President-elect travels outside the country, each time he meets foreign observers, especially those ones who have a dossier on him. History will also judge him and assess how he came to power. This applies to all the states as well where some politicians have turned themselves into demigods and have compromised poor INEC officials with mouthwatering sums. This is not how to build a democracy. The votes must be counted and must count. Seventeen people have their lives during the governorship and House of Assembly elections. We are supposed to count ballot papers, not bodies. Sad!

Bankole: The moral burden of rigged elections is on all of us. Without our connivance there would be no rigging. We can only hope that this will end some day!

Emeka: Tough luck!


Continue Reading


Professors On INEC’s Will (2)



Readers’ Showers Of Encouragement
Prof. Tony Afejuku

By Tony Afejuku

On Thursday, 2 March, 2023, the Financial Times based in London, England published a blistering editorial on the February 25, 2023 Presidential election which up to now is the talk of everywhere beyond our shores. The said Financial Times editorial was entitled “Nigerians badly flawed election fails to set an example.”  Indeed, it was a positively blistering presentation as any positively blistering presentation can be. Professor Olu Obafemi FNAL; NNOM drew the attention of the literati to the editorial that argued succinctly that “If Tinubu’s victory is challenged the courts should take a hard` look.”  In his summation of the editorial Professor Olu Obafemi, who headed the debating literati, said he had nothing to add to the efficacious editorial but he would be happy – by my inference – to have the viewpoints of others. Thereafter the debate began. The arguments and counter-arguments began. Whose will was INEC propagating:  Was it its will or the will of the cabal in the presidency or the will of the Nigerian people?

    By the way, be it noted here and now that the Financial Times, though headquartered in London as already indicated, is owned by Japanese, by Nikkei, a Japanese holding company with “core editorial offices across Britain, the United States and continental Europe.” Why this point is necessary here will reveal itself in the debate I hereby tender to fit my creative and journalistic purpose. But you will notice that there is a shift in focus from the substance of the editorial to the question of anti-black or anti-African Western propaganda.

This is how Professor Ademola Da Sylva, FNAL puts it:

    “The Western media are so powerful that they have their ways of turning non-Western genuine patriots and revolutionaries to look like some nameless demons all because they failed to toe servile line as underdogs! Idi Amin, for example, might not get it right in his choice of modus operandi, but he knew what he wanted for his Uganda people. His successful ejection of the British Asians was one of his policies that did not go down well with the hegemons because it devastated the British economy. So the Western media descended on him and painted him as a blood-sucking Dracula! Of course, there were Uganda compradors and cronies of multinationals from within who tried to undermine Amin’s revolution, too. Dedan Kimathi was also considered a “terrorist and a bandit” by the British imperialists; they got him arrested and hanged him, but we know he wasn’t a demon they tried to make us believe he was! Furthermore, no matter what we may think of Mugabe, the immediate past Zimbabwe President, he meant well for his country, he revoked the licences of large parcels of fertile lands, and also a large chunk of the lands from the White occupants and re-distributed the lands among the black peasants. That was ordinarily unthinkable in Africa by an African leader who wanted justice and equity for his people, but he did it and called the bluff of the West. Again, the Western media took over from there, painted a devil of him, and many Africans uncritically swallowed the gambit, too!  The first accusation of the West against these patriotic leaders has always been that they were antidemocrats! Democracy is anti-African governance principles. It is the primary reasons why we never get it right, but it has always paid the West because it keeps Africa underdeveloped to the advantage of the West. The truth is: Why would you want to change a leadership that is up and doing, responsible and responsive, and doing very well, why? That principle foregrounds our sense of monarchy. A king remains on the throne for as long as his reign brings progress and security. Where a king fails, as in the cases of the indigenous Yoruba Obas, he is made to commit a voluntary suicide, and another Oba replaces him. Anyway, let me pause here.”

    Professor Ibrahim Bello-Kano’s stroke goes thus: “My view is that if humans have (or bear) an original sin, according to Christian eschatology, and if humans need to pray and carry out religious duties to be worthy of divine grace, and if secular education requires progressive edification of humans, and if humans are brutes unless they are inserted into a humane culture complete in all its sides (as Matthew Arnold has argued), and if the classical calculators looked forward not to human nature, with its brutal immersion in self-interest and wars and strife, and if humans have repeatedly to struggle to rise above their petty narrowness, then how can their voting behaviour or action be perfect, pristine or excellent? Those who expect a perfect electoral behaviour or outcome in a country brutalized by a savage economic policy and an insensitive and thieving cast of state officials, and the electors riven by religious and ethnic divisions are expecting a miracle. Yet at the local level, the electors did succeed in electing a new set of people to represent them. The problem with macro analysis is that it is positivism at its worst. At the micro level, the elections were expressive of the will of the people. In Kano State, for example, the newly formed NNPP swept the board with more than 18 out of the available 22 seats for the House of Reps and 2 out of the 3 Senate seats.  Thousands turned out to vote. Finally, why should we believe anything the Western press says about us? Look at their reporting of the war in Ukraine. They keep saying, against the evidence and the facts, that Ukraine is winning the war with Russia, despite the former being slaughtered on the battlefield and having lost a staggering number of soldiers.

    “Humour comes from the ridiculous and the ridiculous from the comical. Here is an example of a statement that is hilarious because it is ridiculous and ridiculous because it is comical: “Ladies and gentlemen, meet the newly elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Reverend Mullah Professor Mr. Mallam IBK of Madagascar!”

 Do I have any doubt that our readers will find it hard and uneasy to follow the mind patterns and strokes of the debaters who are trying in their peculiar ways to say something tangibly tangible about our will as voters and INEC’s will as electoral umpire? Not at all!

To be continued.

Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.

Continue Reading


Stomping For Sheriff Oborevwori 



Prof. Hope Eghagha

By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

The political, social, cultural and perhaps spiritual forces which have produced Hon Sheriff Oborevwori as 2023 governorship candidate for the PDP are a watershed in the political history of Delta State. For as a humble, friendly, and perhaps unlikely candidate different from past candidates, his emergence took some in the party by surprise and indeed shock. It has brought joy to the Okpe people, the largest of the Urhobo clans who have rightly argued that the governorship of the state ought to come to their zone.

To be sure, it has led to a falling out, a disagreement among erstwhile comrades sworn to the preservation of PDP hegemony in the state. But the party machinery which was controlled by incumbent governor Senator Ifeanyi Okowa was able to pull through his candidacy even though he was pitted  against some other candidates who had powerful forces behind them and who also paraded academic certificates that could intimidate the fainthearted. And so Oborevwori’s paper qualifications, his antecedent as a ‘street boy’, and his association with the incumbent governor have become campaign issues meant to denigrate the authenticity of his candidacy! But the courts, even the highest courts in the land, have validated his paper qualifications. David, the shepherd boy has emerged as the anointed of the Lord; so be it! It is also important to state that a man who was a street boy, gained admission into a university, took a first degree and a subsequently a second degree must be given credit. How many ex-street boys have lifted themselves to the level which Oborevwori has done?

A close interaction with Sheriff Oborevwori would reveal the deep stuff that has made it ensured his successful tenure as Speaker of the State’s House of Assembly for seven odd years. He is calm, patient, a great listener and a team player. Those who cry foul about his antecedents should also give him credit for staying a steady course as Speaker. He may not be Harvard educated but he definitely has matured on the job. Interacting with him shows how much he has learnt in the last seven years. It is sad that he is being castigated for the loans which the House passed after requests from the executive arm of government. The truth is that hardly any House of Assembly refuses requests from the state governors. This applies to the National Assembly and the President of the Federal Republic. When accounts are rendered, it should be for the Executive arm to account for how the funds were expended.

Sheriff has assured all those who have listened during interactions that he will shock the state in two years when he implements the infrastructure development programme which has been conceived and put into a blueprint. Sapele, Warri, Ughelli, Patani, Obiaruku, Orerokpe, Aboh, Ozoro, Ogwashi Uku will receive profound attention in terms of urban renewal. The youths will receive attention in terms of employment and empowerment. Our own Silicon Valley will help to redirect the minds of our youths to the positive aspects of the internet. There should be an end to Yahoo Yahoo because they would focus on development of different apps. Delta will be transformed to a construction site. That is a powerful thing to say. The team of highly-educated political gurus and technocrats around Sheriff will drive the development agenda. It is not going to be business as usual in development strides. The people must see the worth of their money. As a man who is widely in consultation with the grassroots, his agenda will be people-friendly, driven by inputs from the user’s end. In other words, he is not going to sit in Asaba and dictate what the people of Isoko need in the budget.

Those who criticize Sheriff’s association with the incumbent administration should remember that it is the executive arm that drives development programmes. Policy initiatives come from the governor. No matter the brilliant ideas which a legislator has, they won’t come to fruition without the blessing of the governor. As governor, Sheriff will introduce programmes that are close to his heart. To be sure, he has seen the weaknesses in all the administrations in the state and will plug loopholes to ensure service delivery. As a beneficiary of the incumbent governor’s benevolence, he will not turn against him. But areas that need better attention will be dealt with. For example, payment of pensions and gratuities will be vigorously pursued. Ditto for DESOPADEC. That organization will be better positioned to deliver on its mandate especially for oil producing communities. The goose which lays the golden egg must benefit from the wealth of the egg. Indeed, the MORE slogan of the Sheriff campaign means that he plans to do more and build deeply on the achievements of the outgoing administration.

The performance of LP in the February 25th presidential election showed a strong outing for Peter Obi, closely followed by PDP. This is comforting to the PDP. This is a clear sign that things are not as they used to be. Once Sheriff wins the ballot, he must ensure that development-focus is people-oriented. The mass disenchantment with the two establishment parties – PDP and APC- will need to be addressed radically through policy initiatives and implementation. Those who erroneously believe that APC will be different in Delta State should look at the abysmal performance of the party at the national level and forget the idea of an APC government in Delta State. Sheriff is a man on the ground who will not disappoint the people of Delt State.

Sheriff Oborevwori has matured with time and exposure. He served as Chair Conference of Speakers of Nigeria and the presence of some of these speakers at his campaign outings show his ability to build and sustain bridges. He has the good health, composure, and humility to widely consult stakeholders in order to keep the state together after victory come March 18. He also will keep intellectuals very close to the corridors of government. In other words, his government will not suffer intellectual deficit. He has the capacity to listen to profound ideas and distil the same into policy framework.

Finally, we should allow the ballot box speak for the people in the governorship elections and with the spirit of God’s favour with him, in counter disposition to mammy water spirit, Sheriff Oborevwori should be the next governor of Delta State. Grace speaks, principalities take a bow!

Continue Reading

Top Stories

%d bloggers like this: