By Tunji Olaopa
There are two cogent reasons why I remain relentless about Nigeria’s chance of overcoming its development predicament to transit successfully from its ‘arrested development’ to assume its giant destined status, through a giant leap unto genuine transformation, after 62 years of missed opportunities. The first is simple: I really wish to see the Nigeria of my dream, and that of countless nationalists and patriots who have ever believed in this great nation, in my lifetime. And in some sense, I have this hunch that a few of us have a role to play in the fruition of this ultimate transformation, ex cathedra. That certainly is not something I need to apologize for, however presumptuous. It is that hopefulness that I just need to keep in perspective, and pursuing relentlessly, like many patriots who have passed on did, through faith, research, reflection and advocacy, until I can no longer contribute thoughts and actions to that possibility.
The second reason is that my entire professional life has been dedicated to the task of researching and fashioning policy management frameworks, public sector development ideas, implementation research cum governance and institutional reform models, as critical elements of the development process that could take Nigeria forward. My institutional and governance reform expertise is therefore meant to initiate a development trajectory that Nigeria could harness to redirect her drift away from the precipice, for all that might mean for posterity. And, truth be told, I do not think that professional service to a country whose future greatness keeps getting deferred is done just yet. And hence, my constant angst about the fate of Nigeria as we approach yet another bend on the way to a possible transformation, or another hellish four to eight years of political listlessness.
In this piece, I pose a simple reform query: After the election is done and completed by February 2023, how can the elected administration move from the euphoria of election victory to the task of governance and performance? The perceptive reader would already have a clue where that question could lead. And in subsequent reflections, I would still rehearse the same issue, simply to emphasize what ordinarily should be an obvious narrative, just for emphasis.
Within Nigeria’s clientelist and patronage politics, once an administration gets elected, casualty is often the electoral promises—the political manifesto is shredded on the altar of pragmatic consideration of those who made the wins possible, in the dynamics of the short and the long-term theatrics. It has often been said that the first year of an administration in Nigeria is dedicated to fending off the losers in the zero-sum game (of the politics that Nigerian nation had played), through tribunal and court hearing. The second year is dedicated to “settling” backend political negotiations and high-politics. And before the administration could get a sense of what is imperative in transforming the lives of Nigerians in the third year, the end of the administration is already looming. And the vicious cycle of electoral shenanigans commences again!
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This narration of the parceling out of the critical four years that could transform a nation’s fortune already puts a focus on the experiential cynicism that attends Nigerians’ reactions to the historical disjuncture between genuine expectations and failed governance of consecutive administrations from independence till date. So many have already given up on 2023, even before the first vote is cast. The political cynics say “voting is a scam” or that “Nigeria is too bad for a change,” or even that “the next administration cannot do better than the last.” And who can blame a citizenry that has borne the full brunt of bad governance since the founding of Nigeria? And yet, I feel compelled all the time, despite the allure of cynicism and pessimism, to keep interrogating the crannies and fault-lines of governance and developing in Nigeria in search for reform and change management creative possibilities. And that optimism is fueled by that suspicion that a leader could still emerge who has the capacity to take the bull by its unruly horns and force a change through sheer political will, vision and strategy. There are so many examples of countries that have been pulled back from the very brink of instability through innovative statecraft and vision.
This already focuses our attention on the role of leadership as the crucial game changer in post-2023 Nigeria. Since it is impossible to import leaders from Mars, the search for that turnaround in 2023 and beyond is now focused around the possible incumbency of Peter Obi, Bola Ahmed Tinubu or Abubakar Atiku. Come February next year, one of these three will be saddled with the onerous political task of redirecting the future of the Nigerian state. And this is despite whatever political critics and commentators make of their existing scorecards of political and governance achievements or failure. Given the benchmarked metrics for determining leadership qualifications and competences, the three candidates have both their high and low points. This simply implies that Nigeria does not need an angel to make a success of transformation. On the contrary, what is needed is a dogged determination to weigh the balance of what needed to be done, and to just do it. This will involve a mixture of conceptual awareness, political sagacity, leadership and policy sophistication and the political will to make things happen.
For the new administration to succeed, there must first be the urgency to transcend the tricky and diabolical “elite bargain” for the imperative of “development bargain”. Elite bargain derives from the strategic negotiations of a nation’s elite to feather their own lust for primitive accumulation enabled by a rentier culture, rather than pursuing innovative out-of-the-box policies and strategies that could initiate economic growth and development. Development bargain demands betting on the possibilities of a nation achieving progress through negotiated economic bargains and reform dynamics. With development bargains, the elite deliberately become nationalistic in the sense of enabling a collective sense of national belonging that sacrifices together to make the nation great. Elite bargains always sacrifice the citizens on the altar of the greed of the political class. And for anyone who would be courageous enough to administer the Nigerian state, the task is to move from mere political rhetoric to the brass tacks of rigorous policy intelligence, analysis, negotiation, design and implementation. This implies putting in place a policy portfolio, beyond mere campaign noises, that could be modeled into a solid governance architecture that could be efficiently performed to birth a new productivity framework that defines a development progress.
Development bargain is first a critical function of vision, strategies and targets. There must be a macro-economic template of action that will allow for lost ground to be recovered first, before the economy could accelerate in any significant sense. In other words, Nigeria requires like a 15% GDP consistent growth rate over the next twenty-five years to be able to make the economy worthwhile in productivity terms and therefore attain a medium-power status. The N450 billion economy of today needs to multiply at least five time to be able to make any economic sense that will alleviate the suffering of Nigerians. The implication of this is that the leadership, as game changer, must focus critical attention on determining the pressure points of policy frameworks, functional areas and expert domains that will serve as catalysts to create the desired change, shift and transitions that are needed for socioeconomic transformation. Put in proper-speak, the incoming administration must be determined not to appoint people mainly for political compensation but wise enough to be guided by the imperatives of technical-rationalism and smart practice guidelines that demand that appointment to critical defining nodal point offices and posts must be accompanied by performance contract and targets. The administration must select its first-eleven team with political and administrative wisdom guided by the team’s capacity to match vision and strategy to objectives and development targets and outputs. Within the change space that the leadership must necessarily make possible, the technical team must then take charge at the strategic, tactical and operational or political, technocratic and bureaucratic leadership levels, with the relevant supportive backends incentives, resourcing, support and accountability structures, that together constitute the critical template around which the leadership align vision to policy architecture for development.
Within the Nigerian socioeconomic context, a game changing leadership willing to enter into a development bargain rather than elite bargain, must be ready to confront and engage with certain difficult development challenges and take firm decisions around them. First, there is the imperative of diversifying Nigeria’s monocultural oil-based economy. This decision must ride on the out-of-the-box economic calculation that recognizes the role of agriculture plus, and labour productivity, in proper proportion to transforming the productive base of the Nigerian economy. It will take a really courageous leadership to take the agricultural revolution (requiring 95% science and 5% labor function) seriously in the face of the enduring seduction of the crude oil. And yet, only a visionary leader will see that staying with the oil economy is a sinking endeavor. Starting with the prioritization of agriculture, and even the mineral sector, the new leadership would have taken a bold step towards making Nigeria a production cum export-based economy. And second, a significant dimension of the change space must be dedicated to rethinking the capacity of the state to achieve development vis-à-vis productive capacity of the private sector as the template and engine room of performance management. This requires reflecting over the evolving role of the state relative to the market in the development process.
At a deeper level, courage is equally required to get a handle on dozens of extant legislations that must be recrafted to unlock critical binding constraints to development, while at once pushing through constitutional amendments that will make Nigeria a federation not just in name but in fact. Nigeria’s federal arrangement is the only one that has the capacity to allow for the fulfilment of the national project, and the birth of a development framework that genuinely transforms the socioeconomic capabilities of Nigerians. The current lopsided arrangement will only keep stifling whatever genuine efforts any leadership makes in making Nigeria work. Without a truly federal constitution that enables constitutionalization of local governance, the grassroots will never be the source of a development paradigm that is enabling for democratic governance. A regional arrangement could be refashioned around the six or more geopolitical zones, and instigated to activate their comparative advantages that build regional economic corridors of development.
Leadership success, or even failure, is institution driven. There is no democratic governance that could enable development outside the frame of a measured and monitored institutional paradigm for generating productivity. The incoming administration must then realize that Nigeria’s post-2023 turnaround depends on a carefully curated public service institutional reform that aligns the operational capacity of the public service to the development objectives of the Nigerian state. This is the firm basis on which a developmental state is built worldwide. And no administration with the determination to transform Nigeria post-2023 will ever do so outside of a capable developmental state. We cannot dare allow everything to return to business as usual. I doubt that Nigeria’s future can survive that elite bargain.
.Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and Professor, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies
(NIPSS), Kuru, Jos .
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Islam In The World Of Global Knowledge
By Toyin Falola
Within the intricate fabric of global historical narratives, the indelible impact of Islamic scholarship serves as a compelling testament to the formidable potency of erudition and intellectual inquisitiveness. The inception of Islam in the 7th century initiated a profound trajectory of intellectual and cultural advancement, which would subsequently imprint an enduring legacy on the global stage. This historical epoch bore witness to an unparalleled convergence of intellectual traditions emanating from Greek, Persian, Indian, and Byzantine civilizations, which were subsequently cultivated and enhanced by erudite Islamic scholars. The Islamic ethos, which finds its origins in the pursuit of knowledge, draws inspiration from the teachings of the Quran and the Hadiths of Prophet Muhammad. These teachings underscore the significance of acquiring knowledge as a sacred obligation.
Throughout the Golden Age of Islamic erudition, which endured from the 8th to the 14th century, the Islamic domain emerged as a fertile ground for the genesis of significant advancements in the realms of science, mathematics, philosophy, and medicine. Prominent figures of intellectual prowess, such as Al-Khwarizmi and Ibn Sina (Avicenna), surfaced, leaving an indelible mark on various domains, encompassing algebraic principles and advancements in the realm of medicine. Educational establishments such as the House of Wisdom in Baghdad emerged as prominent hubs of erudition and scholarly discourse, assuming a crucial function in the safeguarding and amplification of the collective wisdom of humanity. The enduring impact of Islamic scholarship transcended geographical boundaries, exerting a profound influence on the intellectual milieu of mediaeval Europe. The establishment of the Renaissance and the European Enlightenment was significantly influenced by the pivotal role played by the translation of Islamic knowledge into European languages, thereby setting the groundwork for these intellectual movements. The dissemination of knowledge, facilitated by prominent centres such as Toledo and Sicily, catalyzed the introduction of scientific and philosophical concepts hitherto unfamiliar to the European intellectual landscape.
Prof. Toyin Falola and others during the lecture.
In the contemporary milieu, the Islamic scholarly tradition persists in its dynamic evolution, actively grappling with present-day challenges and making valuable contributions to the worldwide repository of knowledge. The symbiotic relationship between conventional Islamic pedagogy and contemporary scientific inquiry is readily apparent within Islamic educational establishments, serving as a pivotal conduit for reconciling historical and contemporary knowledge paradigms. The bedrock of knowledge within the Islamic tradition, intricately interwoven with its theological and philosophical underpinnings, highlights the paramount importance of intellectual endeavours. The Quran and the Hadiths espouse the imperative pursuit of knowledge, encouraging adherents to partake in introspection and apprehend the complexities inherent in the world. The prioritisation of education in early Islamic societies engendered a milieu characterised by a profound thirst for knowledge, thereby catalysing the inception of madrasas and other educational establishments.
Islamic scholars played a pivotal role in not only safeguarding existing knowledge but also actively participating in critical analysis, extensive expansion, and groundbreaking innovation, thereby making substantial contributions to a wide range of academic disciplines. They engaged in the scholarly examination of the literary and philosophical compositions of antiquated societies, undertaking the tasks of translation, conservation, and expansion, thereby engendering novel perspectives that exerted a profound influence on various geographical areas worldwide.
Upon embarking upon an exploration of the historical discourse, it becomes evident that Islamic erudition was not merely an insular occurrence but rather a pivotal participant in the worldwide dissemination of knowledge. The profound impact exerted by this phenomenon on the trajectory of European intellectual progress throughout the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and subsequent eras serves as a compelling testament to its fundamental significance in shaping the broader narrative of global intellectual history. In the present epoch, Islamic scholarship encounters the formidable task of effectively navigating the intricate nuances of modernity, all the while remaining steadfast to its profound intellectual legacy. The delicate equilibrium at play necessitates a sophisticated comprehension of established Islamic doctrines coupled with a flexible disposition towards the swiftly progressing realm of worldwide scholarship. Islamic educational institutions globally are actively engaged in the pursuit of integrating traditional Islamic knowledge with contemporary scientific and technological progress.
An essential facet of contemporary Islamic scholarship lies in its active involvement with the realms of science and technology. Islamic scholars have been actively engaged in the intellectual exchange of scientific knowledge, making significant contributions to various disciplines, including medicine, engineering, and environmental studies. The amalgamation of contemporary scientific advancements with Islamic ethical and philosophical paradigms has engendered novel opportunities for comprehensive and enduring resolutions to present-day predicaments. One illustrative example pertains to the notion of ‘Islamic Environmentalism,’ which finds its foundations in the principles of stewardship and equilibrium within the natural world, as expounded upon in Islamic doctrines. This particular viewpoint presents a distinctive lens through which ecological challenges can be approached and resolved.
Contemporary Islamic scholarship has made notable advancements in the realm of adapting Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) to contemporary contexts. Emerging concerns encompassing bioethics, financial systems, and digital technology have engendered a pressing need for a comprehensive reassessment of conventional Islamic jurisprudence. Contemporary Islamic scholars actively employ the practice of Ijtihad, which entails the exercise of independent reasoning, in order to interpret Islamic jurisprudence in a manner that is both pertinent and applicable to the contemporary era. This approach ensures the preservation of the fundamental principles inherent in Islamic teachings while simultaneously accommodating the exigencies of the present circumstances.
Within the domain of education, Islamic institutions have adeptly integrated contemporary pedagogical approaches in conjunction with age-old teachings. This pedagogical approach guarantees that students acquire comprehensive knowledge of classical Islamic texts as well as contemporary subjects, thereby equipping them with the necessary skills to make meaningful contributions across diverse disciplines. The prioritization of critical thinking and analytical aptitude within these establishments is indicative of the Islamic scholarly tradition’s unwavering dedication to intellectual rigour and the pursuit of knowledge.
Islamic scholarship plays a pivotal and indispensable role in cultivating and nurturing interfaith and intercultural dialogue. In an era frequently characterized by misinterpretations and hostilities, Islamic scholars and intellectuals have played a pivotal role in fostering inter-communal comprehension and collaboration. By means of scholarly exchanges, symposiums, and scholarly articles, scholars have underscored the shared principles inherent in Islamic teachings and various other religious and philosophical doctrines, thereby fostering a climate of reciprocal regard and compassion.
In light of these notable progressions, Islamic scholarship encounters a multitude of obstacles within the contemporary global milieu. A paramount concern lies in the imperative for enhanced representation and active engagement within the global academic sphere. Despite the notable intellectual contributions made by Muslim scholars, it is imperative to acknowledge the necessity for heightened visibility and active participation within international academic forums. Furthermore, the intricate endeavour of upholding the genuineness of Islamic doctrines while simultaneously accommodating contemporary circumstances remains a formidable undertaking.
As the field of Islamic scholarship traverses the complexities of the contemporary era, it remains an indispensable agent in the cultivation of the worldwide knowledge economy. The intricate and dynamic relationship between tradition and modernity within the realm of Islamic thought presents a plethora of invaluable insights and perspectives that extend beyond the confines of Muslim communities, resonating with the broader global society. As we direct our gaze towards the forthcoming era, the vast capacity and promising prospects of Islamic scholarship in moulding worldwide intellectual and cultural terrains are of considerable magnitude. The juxtaposition of tradition and modernity, intertwined with a profound legacy of knowledge and ethical principles, establishes Islamic scholarship as a noteworthy agent in tackling the complexities and dilemmas of the contemporary era.
The domain of global peace and understanding stands as a significant sphere wherein Islamic scholarship possesses the potential to exert a profound influence. In an era characterized by frequent cultural and religious misinterpretations leading to societal divisions, the fundamental tenets of tolerance, dialogue, and empathy that are deeply embedded within Islamic teachings possess the potential to serve as a pivotal force in fostering unity and reconciliation. The writings and interactions of Islamic scholars have the potential to engender a climate of mutual respect and harmonious coexistence within diverse communities. The incorporation of universal principles such as compassion, justice, and human dignity within the realm of Islamic scholarship holds the potential to foster the development of societies that are more inclusive and harmonious.
The convergence of Islamic ethical frameworks with contemporary global issues offers a promising avenue for making meaningful contributions. The Islamic viewpoint on matters of social justice, economic equity, and environmental stewardship presents viable alternatives to address contemporary challenges such as poverty, inequality, and climate change. The Islamic philosophical notion of Tawhid, denoting the indivisible unity of the divine, assumes a paramount position within Islamic intellectual discourse. This concept, with its profound emphasis on the interrelatedness of all facets of existence, possesses the potential to engender comprehensive and enduring methodologies in the realms of development and environmental preservation.
Within the realm of education, the forthcoming trajectory of Islamic scholarship is contingent upon the profound amalgamation of conventional wisdom with state-of-the-art investigation and inventive advancements. There is a growing acknowledgement of the inherent worth of multidisciplinary methodologies that amalgamate the discernments derived from Islamic studies with the realms of science, technology, arts, and humanities. The integration of diverse perspectives has the potential to enhance the academic milieu, offering novel insights and resolutions that are firmly rooted in ethical deliberations and fundamental human principles.
Furthermore, the advent of the digital revolution presents unparalleled prospects for the dissemination of Islamic scholarship to a broader spectrum of individuals. The utilization of online platforms and digital media has the potential to democratize the accessibility of Islamic knowledge, thereby facilitating enhanced engagement and the exchange of ideas on a global scale. The advent of digital expansion has the potential to enhance collaborative research and foster dialogue among scholars with diverse backgrounds, thereby cultivating a more inclusive and dynamic intellectual community.
As the trajectory of Islamic scholarship persists in its evolutionary course, it becomes imperative to foster and bolster the forthcoming cohort of erudite scholars and intellectuals. In order to ensure the continued vitality and pertinence of Islamic scholarship in the future, it is imperative to allocate resources towards the advancement of education and research, establish avenues for the expression of youthful perspectives, and foster an environment that promotes critical and inventive cognition. When considering the future, it is evident that Islamic scholarship possesses the capacity to not solely augment the diverse fabric of worldwide knowledge, but also to assume a crucial position in moulding a world that is characterized by justice, peace, and sustainability. By leveraging its rich historical heritage and actively grappling with the complexities and possibilities of the contemporary epoch, Islamic scholarship possesses the capacity to provide invaluable perspectives and guidance in effectively navigating the intricate dynamics of our globally interconnected society.
Excerpt of Convocation Lecture, Summit University, Offa, December 7, 2023.
Oba Awon University (OAU): The Foundation Of Glory
By Toyin Falola
It was Professor Akin Alao, my former student and a professor of legal history, who first told me about the conversion of the acronym of OAU from Obafemi Awolowo University to Oba Awon University. I laughed so loud that water rolled out of my eyes. Brilliant! The students composed their anthem, boasting that any other OAU is a counterfeit. Nigerian universities engage in a boasting competition, and I remember students at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria calling the University of Ibadan, ABU-Ibadan, and others as ABU-Ife, ABU-Nsukka. People at Ife call the University of Ibadan Agbowo High School! And people at the University of Ibadan would say there are only two universities in Nigeria—UI and others! Let us all amuse ourselves and remember that Oba Awon University was called in the 1960s Awolowo High School! If you follow American college football, you will notice the same joking competition as schools name themselves after animals. Africans love to self-describe themselves as sons of lions and tigers, but if you call anyone an animal, you get into a boxing match.
Situated within the verdant environs of Ile-Ife, a city imbued with the rich tapestry of Yoruba heritage and customs, proudly stands the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), an esteemed establishment that holds a prominent position within Nigeria’s scholarly sphere. Referred to by Professor Alao as “Oba Awon University” or the “King of Universities,” OAU transcends its role as a mere educational institution. It stands as a powerful emblem of scholarly eminence, serving as a source of optimism and motivation for numerous people across Nigeria. Since its establishment, this esteemed institution has epitomized the collective aspirations of a nation, diligently pursuing progress in the realms of intellect, culture, and scientific inquiry.
The narrative surrounding the establishment of OAU unfolds during the formative years of the 1960s, a period characterized by a profound sense of optimism and transformative shifts within the Nigerian context. During the pivotal juncture of the nation’s imminent attainment of independence, a compelling imperative emerged for the establishment of educational institutions that would nurture the intellectual faculties of the individuals destined to assume leadership roles and spearhead the progressive advancement of the nascent sovereign state. The establishment of OAU, formerly recognized as the University of Ife, was conceptualized as a proactive response to the appeal as mentioned above. A remarkable level of ambition characterized the project in question, as it aimed to challenge the prevailing norms of its time and establish novel benchmarks within the realm of higher education. The institution of higher learning bears the appellation of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, a wise statesman whose educational and governmental tenets persistently reverberate within its hallowed precincts.
Since its inception, OAU has established itself as an institution of scholarly eminence, characterized by its stringent academic curricula, pioneering research endeavours, and unwavering dedication to the preservation of cultural heritage and the pursuit of social equity. The university served as a dynamic nexus for the convergence of diverse ideas, wherein the rich tapestry of traditional African values harmoniously intersected with the profound intellectual rigour inherent in the Western academic tradition. This institution served as a breeding ground for some of Nigeria’s most brilliant intellects, whose remarkable achievements spanned diverse domains within Nigeria and beyond its borders. The roster of graduates from the university exhibits a remarkable collection of distinguished individuals in the realms of Nigerian academia, politics, business, and arts, thereby emphasizing the institution’s crucial influence in moulding the intellectual terrain of the nation. I am happy to have attended the institution where I met Olabisi Olusola, the teenager who later became Mrs Olabisi Falola.
The academic framework of OAU serves as a testament to its unwavering dedication to providing a comprehensive and well-rounded education. The university boasts a diverse array of faculties encompassing disciplines spanning from the Arts to Sciences, Law to Technology, Medicine and many more. This comprehensive range of academic departments provides a wide spectrum of programs meticulously crafted to engage and motivate students, fostering an environment conducive to intellectual growth and exploration. The distinguishing factor of OAU lies not solely in the extensive scope of its academic program but rather in the profound and exceptional calibre of its pedagogy. The esteemed faculty, consisting of highly accomplished scholars in their respective domains, contribute a vast reservoir of erudition and expertise, thereby guaranteeing that students undergo a profound intellectual metamorphosis rather than mere acquisition of knowledge.
In addition to its notable academic achievements, the university is widely recognized for its remarkable architectural designs and aesthetically pleasing campus, which synergistically foster an atmosphere that is conducive to both intellectual development and individual maturation. The expansive campus, spanning vast acres, harmoniously combines the splendour of nature with remarkable architectural achievements. The Senate Building and the Oduduwa Hall, both renowned architectural structures, serve as powerful representations of the esteemed heritage and ambitious aspirations of the university. The verdant foliage that embellishes the campus not only possesses aesthetic appeal but also serves as a poignant symbol of the university’s unwavering dedication to sustainability and environmental awareness. The cultural ramifications of OAU transcend its mere academic accomplishments. The locale has served as a central hub for the exchange of cultural and political ideas, effectively mirroring the dynamic and multifaceted nature of Nigerian society. The university has cultivated an intellectual milieu wherein students are actively encouraged to grapple with the pressing concerns of their era, encompassing domains such as politics, social equity, and the arts. The presence of events such as the OAU Arts Festival and a multitude of student-led initiatives serves as a testament to the vibrant campus culture that reveres artistic expression, ingenuity, and a deep awareness of societal issues.
Yet another distinguishing characteristic of OAU lies in the dynamic and lively nature of its student life. The OAU fosters an educational setting wherein students are not merely passive recipients of knowledge but rather engaged participants in a vibrant and interactive learning milieu. On the university campus, there is a proliferation of student organizations, clubs, and societies that cater to a diverse array of interests and passions. The university serves as a multifaceted platform wherein students are afforded the opportunity to articulate their thoughts and ideas through engaging in debates and dramatic performances. Additionally, it serves as a conduit for students to cultivate novel proficiencies and establish enduring social networks spanning various domains such as sports and social services. The dynamic and lively student life at OAU plays a pivotal role in cultivating a strong sense of camaraderie and affiliation within the student populace.
Within the domain of scholarly inquiry and inventive endeavours, OAU has exhibited noteworthy advancements, thereby enriching the reservoir of intellectual capital at both the domestic and international levels. The research output of the university has exerted a significant influence on society, particularly in domains such as public health, agriculture, and engineering. The researchers at OAU are at the vanguard of addressing a multitude of urgent challenges that confront Nigeria and the global community, encompassing health emergencies and ecological concerns. The university’s dedication to achieving research excellence is clearly demonstrated through its strategic partnerships with various academic institutions, government agencies, and international organizations. These collaborations establish a robust network that amplifies the calibre and influence of its research endeavours.
The university’s pedagogical approach is comprehensive, encompassing not only academic prowess but also the cultivation of character and the honing of leadership acumen. The philosophy of OAU is firmly rooted in the conviction that education ought to be a catalyst for profound transformation, empowering students with the requisite knowledge, aptitudes, and principles necessary to enact constructive societal advancements. The university’s commitment to this philosophy is exemplified through its community service and outreach initiatives. These programs afford students the chance to apply their acquired knowledge in practical settings, thereby contributing to the resolution of pressing issues within the community.
The impact of OAU on Nigerian society is of immense significance and should not be underestimated. The institution has served as a fertile environment for cultivating individuals who have emerged as influential figures and catalysts for transformation across diverse domains within the nation. Throughout periods of national adversity, the university has consistently served as a bastion of rationality and advancement, steadfastly championing the principles of democratic governance, fairness, and societal equity. The manifold contributions made by Nigeria to the realms of arts, literature, and culture have served to enhance the fabric of its society, thereby illuminating the nation’s opulent heritage and multifarious voices.
As an individual traverses the corridors of OAU, one is inevitably captivated by the palpable ambience of historical significance and profound intent that saturates the atmosphere. The walls are embellished with the depictions and accomplishments of previous scholars and leaders, serving as a perpetual reminder of the university’s historical heritage and the obligation inherent in one’s affiliation with this esteemed establishment. The library of the university, which stands as one of the most expansive in the region of West Africa, represents an abundant reservoir of intellectual wealth. Within its walls, a diverse assemblage of books, journals, and manuscripts is meticulously preserved, encompassing a multitude of subjects. Notably, this collection includes a number of exceedingly scarce and priceless works, further enhancing its scholarly significance. The challenges encountered by OAU are comparable to those experienced by other Nigerian universities and institutions in developing nations. Ongoing concerns encompass a range of issues, including the allocation of financial resources, the development and maintenance of infrastructure, as well as the availability and accessibility of essential resources. Nevertheless, the distinguishing factor of OAU lies in its capacity to transcend these obstacles, perpetually discovering inventive methods to accomplish its mission. The university has exhibited exceptional fortitude and flexibility, deftly manoeuvring through the intricacies of the higher education terrain with elegance and unwavering resolve.
The capacity for resilience and adaptability is likewise evident in the response of OAU to the dynamic and evolving nature of the global higher education milieu. In an epoch characterized by the transformative influence of technology and innovation on educational paradigms and social dynamics, it is noteworthy that OAU has successfully embraced these advancements, thereby positioning itself at the forefront of progress. The university has adopted digital technology in its pedagogical practices, thereby augmenting the educational encounter and expanding its influence beyond the confines of the physical campus. The incorporation of online courses, digital libraries, and virtual collaborations has become an intrinsic aspect of the educational milieu at OAU, thereby guaranteeing the university’s continued pertinence and competitiveness within the worldwide scholarly sphere.
The essence of OAU is most effectively captured by its dynamic network of former students, whose reach extends worldwide. The alumni serve as a testament to the university’s enduring influence, making substantial contributions across a diverse range of domains, encompassing academia, government, industry, and the arts. The individuals in question serve as representatives of the core principles and ideals upheld by the academic institution, embodying the pursuit of exceptionalism, moral uprightness, and dedication to the betterment of others. The alumni network plays a multifaceted role, serving as a valuable support system for present students while also functioning as a conduit that links the esteemed institution of OAU to a broader global community. In doing so, it facilitates the cultivation of international partnerships and collaborations, thereby enhancing the institution’s global reach and impact.
With a forward-looking perspective, OAU persists in aiming ambitiously, propelled by a grand aspiration to attain the status of a globally renowned educational establishment. This vision encompasses more than mere academic rankings; rather, it strives to generate a palpable influence on society. The task at hand entails fostering the development of a forthcoming cohort of individuals who possess the necessary skills and capabilities to effectively address the intricate and multifaceted issues that currently confront our society. The strategic plans and initiatives of the university are oriented towards the promotion of sustainable development, active community involvement, and global competitiveness. These efforts are aimed at ensuring that OAU remains a symbol of inspiration and exceptionalism for an extended period.
Upon careful examination and contemplation, it becomes evident that “Oba Awon University” serves as a remarkable embodiment of the profound influence that education possesses in the process of metamorphosing individuals and communities. The trajectory of this nascent establishment from the inception of Nigeria’s independence to its current status as a distinguished hub of erudition and cultural enrichment is an account characterized by foresight, tenacity, and steadfast dedication to achieving the highest standards of merit. This narrative serves as a source of inspiration, not only for individuals who traverse its corridors but for all those who hold steadfast faith in the profound ability of education to effect positive change. As we engage in contemplation regarding the profound impact that OAU has bestowed upon Nigeria and its global reach, it becomes evident that this esteemed institution transcends mere educational boundaries. It assumes the role of a potent emblem of optimism, a nurturing ground for cultivating exceptional leaders, and a bedrock of distinction that will persistently radiate, illuminating the trajectories of forthcoming cohorts. In a global landscape characterized by multifaceted challenges and pervasive uncertainties, OAU stands as an unwavering symbol of intellectual fortitude, illuminating the path towards a more promising and enlightened tomorrow.
Oba Awon University, congratulations on our 47th Convocation ceremony,
This is the second in a four-part series on Obafemi Awolowo University.
The Ansar-ud-Deen Society And Its Contributions To Educational Development In Nigeria
By Toyin Falola
This piece is provoked by the invitation by Summit University to address the Maiden Combined Convocation Ceremony, where I will speak to the broader issue of Islam and global knowledge on December 7, 2023. In the process of my research, I was able to cumulate the contributions and significance of the Ansar-ud-Deen Society to the development of education in Nigeria from the primary to the university levels.
The foundation of the modern Nigerian education system can be ascribed to the efforts of religious organizations and religious bodies who had held the fort even at the beginning of the colonial era. We know that the government sometimes loses its grip on the future and contemporary needs; some politicians would rather see education as an abstract, forgetting that it is the preeminent investment in our country. They are not roads that they could use to campaign in the next elections, as there would not be billboards carrying their faces between the roads. The sanctity of educational institutions, from the level of autonomy it requires, disallows politicians from playing much “ludo” with them. Those in power would have done much damage, but for struggles by ASUU.
The role of missionaries in the education system started a long time ago. The spread of Islam came with the spread of schools. The religious organizations in Africa served as the holders and beholders of the country’s educational system before, during, and after colonialism, with little or no interest from the government. When the government decided to have a big share of the system, one could see the many mismanagement and disproportionate developments amongst them. So, religious organizations like the Ansar-ud-Deen will always be interested in the country’s educational development, and what they do will always be relevant to the academic development of Nigeria.
Islamic societies like the Ansar-ud-Deen were part of the early religious players in the educational space of Nigeria, especially towards the end of the 19th century and the early 20th century. At the time, when the southwest was the focus, different societies were established with a gradual development of Arabic educational centers, especially across Lagos. Sharif ‘Abd al-Karim al-Muradi from Tripoli in Lebanon, was part of those that established Arabic schools in Abeokuta in 1917.
In this light, the first Ansar-ud-Deen school was established partly with his contribution, and from then, their activities have been beneficial. The society’s interest started with the view of building modern Islamic life and such attitudes that will uphold the Islamic teachings despite the inexcusable modern realities. So, it was not enough to build Arabic or Islamic schools, especially in the southwestern region, the Muslim communities needed to ensure that when foreign ideas or globalization arrived, they must be absorbed in Islamic tenets and teaching. This formed the basis for establishing Muslim schools in the country. Many Muslims understood the need for the Western-style education system introduced by the colonial government without losing their children to other religions. This realization and conviction led to the revolution of Ansar-ud-Deen itself and the surfacing of the Young Ansar-ud-Deen. The first 42 founding fathers of the Young Ansar-ud-Deen Society, who were themselves products of government Muslim schools, held their official opening meeting on December 21st, 1923.
The Committee of Gentlemen, as the founders were referred to, pushed forward more establishment of schools across the country. From there, the nation saw the gradual development and expansion of the role of Islamic societies in the creation of schools in Nigeria. The Society created more options for Nigerians as well as giving access to individuals who wanted to hold on to their Islamic religion without divorcing them from the social and contemporary demands.
Well, I am not an Islam expert and, as such, must be cautious in my position on the rightness of the marriage between Western education and the teaching of Islamic principles. I understand the view of those who once believed that Western education could wrongly impact the lives of young Muslims. I am also aware of the arguments of those who believe that both Islamic and Western education can be blended. Even the Quran says that one should always seek knowledge from different sources. Education opens the ground for development and advancements and has been responsible for innovative solutions across the globe.
Knowledge is an enlightenment that could be put under the beams of concepts and beliefs. Someone discovered fire and how to make food with it and we all have benefitted from it. Many pearls of knowledge are now core in the survival of the modern world, and as far as we exist and strive within the world, we must continually adapt. We also do understand that adaptation extends into learning the norms and the basic survival instincts of society. The acquisition of knowledge is inevitable. As such, one cannot afford to separate oneself, based on religion, from the acquisition of relevant knowledge.
Much of the recorded role of Islamic societies in education has been towards primary and secondary education, but not anymore, as private Islamic universities have been created. The Ansar-ud-Deen realizes the need for the creation of higher institutions. The importance of tertiary education, especially for Africa, is far beyond just having universities available to people. Africa has been battled by the underutilization of its resources as well as the misappropriation of most of them. There will always be a need for advanced knowledge, skills of technological know-how, innovative reasoning, effective methodologies, and advancement of knowledge to allow the continent to reach its goals. So, tertiary education is non-negotiable to develop Africa.
The need for quality education should not be debated. Over the years, the business of higher institutions has been the determination of the government. Hence, they have not just been overcrowded but, unfortunately, underfunded and are now set to affect the very qualities they are supposed to produce. Hence, seeing the efforts of the society in creating the Summit University gives hope for the expansion of the educational system of Nigeria.
We must understand that if we must survive as a nation, we must be ready to ensure that the integrity of higher education is protected and maintained and, above all, that they are made available to all. Hence, the role of the Ansar-ud-Deen in building educational institutions should be celebrated because they give hope for the protection of the desired integrity in Nigerian tertiary institutions.
Summit University, when it was established in 2015, was a contemporary affirmation of the Ansar-ud-Deen Society’s commitment to education. The commitment to education has been evident for about 100 years, but its investment in tertiary education in Nigeria reconfirms its dedication to the contemporary educational needs of the nation. As a society that aims at propagating Islam by ensuring good and quality education, seeing the University flourish is answered prayer. Summit will gradually take its place in the sciences, technology, and the humanities, thus becoming one of the most enduring legacies of the Ansar-ud-Deen Society.
I offer my congratulations to Summit University on reaching a major phase in its foundation stage. I am assured that the Ansar-ud-Deen Society will be relentless in its support. I am hopeful that the people of Offa will see the Summit as their own and that its rich citizens will give generously.
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