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Intellectualism, Social Philosophy, And Governance: A Nexus



Dele Jegede In Conversation With Prince Yemisi Shyllon



Conversation With Professor Richard Joseph (2)

Intellectualism, Social Philosophy, and Governance: A Nexus

President Obama with Professor Joseph

Toyin Falola

Talking about the functionality of the human biological parts, either of animals or humans on this planet, is easily construed as primarily attached to natural programming or sentient behavior. To conceive the world through the examination of the functionality of these parts in the way highlighted above is to have a very superficial, yet conventionally popular, position about how things work in the world because when society plays an important role, it is too ordinary to ascribe the capacity to function to nature. Of course, a surface examination of the above would, predictably, push people to question the logicality of the assumption, and that in itself would not be a problem because such a contrariant position is not unforeseen.

A logical aversion to it will immediately generate a mental eruption that could potentially pose a question such as: if biological parts could function outside of nature’s configuration, how would there be people with eyes who yet cannot see, people with ears who yet cannot hear, all of them having their problems traceable to a congenital anomaly? Whereas they will not be wrong when carefully thought over, they would have committed a crime of overlooking the place of secondary performative values, which is exclusive to social programming, and we shall connect this to Richard Joseph’s place in knowledge production.

If the eyes were naturally meant to see, one would be able to perceive dangers before they became obvious. But since dangers exist in different dimensions in civilizations, different societies worldwide have undertaken the need for a conscious programing of these biological parts. We would notice that even when they can fulfill their natural assignment of seeing, the eyes are valueless in situations where knowledge that can grant them the ability to see things before they are obvious is not transferred to them. In essence, it would be able to look but not see in the sense of its social importance.

What does the eye need to activate its seeing ability, one may ask? The eyes need knowledge, which is the most straightforward response to such a question. However, the people who give the knowledge need to be examined. Knowledge is central to development, but by human nature, not many people want others to grow, especially beyond them, as that would inferiorize their achievements. For these people, transferring knowledge to others would be done selectively, though this does not happen with teachers. Teachers light the candles of others, and surprisingly, theirs do not diminish as a result, which sums up the reason for the strong intellectual legacy that is usually associated with teachers. Without the thorough contributions of our teachers, we would not have been able to see, except to stare blandly, nor be able to understand when society is heading towards doom. The predominant responsibility of the eyes would have been short-circuited (although this is what happens to many people without knowledge in every human society) when there are no teachers to hint to us about the proximal future that we face, using only the activities of the present as their guide to peep into the future.

READ ALSO: Richard A. Joseph: One Of A Kind And The Rarest Breed Of Political Scientists

Teachers such as Richard Joseph have educated us that when the wrong societal philosophy is demonstrated or perhaps ornamented by the available political system, leadership reality, among other things, is corrupted, with dangers inevitably lurking around such a people, and they are unaware. With our eyes’ configuration, as done by teachers, we have a hint about our collective future that might have evaded us, as it is with many people who have eyes only for looking and not seeing. Human society has been made to function in this capacity that places so much importance on what teachers have to offer, and during the just concluded Toyin Falola Interviews, we had a good intellectual ride with our guest, Richard Joseph.

Richard Joseph opened our eyes to see that states are a political unit saddled with the duty to ensure the safety of those who fall within its boundaries. This perspective is suggestive of something very interesting. First, it reveals to us that the state is an instrument itself and not something that is naturally given. If we believe that the state is to be conceived as an instrument, then it would be used with some specific tactics to have maximum impact. This again means that it is susceptible to being misused, especially when it is in the wrong hands. Secondly, the state politically stands the possibility of losing its integrity as a political unit if some members do not believe their well-being is important to the state. An instrument is fundamental to achieving results, and it is managed by some groups of people whose selection process is determined by the collective decision of the people, except in cases of imposition.

READ ALSO: Speaking Truth To Power: Attahiru Jega, Toye Olorode, And Nigeria’s Future

Therefore, we can aver to challenge the reason for the dysfunctionality of a system when it is conventionally understood that the ones under whose control the state is, are selected and bound by the principles of representation in that geographical environment. We would not be taking a wrong step by doing this because it is obvious that although a number of these selected individuals use the state as an instrument to improve the lifestyle, lifespan and life quality of the people, they have, however, colonized the state so that it can only function for them. We would have no idea of the danger they are doing to the people and their future unless we have seen from the intellectual empowerment of our teachers that people kidnap the political system of countries for their provincial intention, which is what experts in political science call “state capture.”

Intellectualism, Social Philosophy, and Governance: A Nexus

In Africa, many states are victims of this horrible condition. Instead of being the instrument of development that would promise protection and prosperity to the people, the state is shortchanged to have absolutely no value for them under the reality that they use them for their selfish interests. Because they have mastered the art of deceit and duplicity, they make themselves nearly unquestionable and unaccountable. Many African countries are captured by the ones (s)elected because the category of people values self-aggrandizement than collective progress. It gets clearer that these are connected because the terminology that teachers feed us with to describe situations where the state is captured is called “prebendalism,” which is a concept used to designate the process of activating political patronage so that cronies would have access to public wealth.

To capture a state requires the collective effort of people in different political offices. When there is increased greed for personal aggrandizement, the people looking for effective opportunities to enhance their plan would find allies of similar ambitions or create them. They would find allies that would jointly assist in the despoliation of the state resources. This would continue because they have a unified ambition that does not serve the majority’s interests. Meanwhile, capturing a state gives such relief to the individuals at the front line of the exercise. However, they are always unaware that staging bad governance would not particularly help the culprits, for they would harvest from the problem either directly or indirectly. This would happen because society operates on the general law of physics: “behind every action, there is an equal opposite reaction.” The opposite reaction would come from people whose safety, welfare, and interests are not protected by those chosen to use the state as an instrument.

Suppose the social philosophy that necessitates the creation of a state shows the residues of collective interests in the development of interrelated and interrelating offices. In that case, one can understand that the basic reason is to promote a unanimous agenda that strengthens bonds and solidify connections. This means that, in addition to helping create a system responsible for managing people’s safety and welfare, the establishment of a state has another importance, which is humans’ inevitable need for mutual dependence. It should be emphasized that individuals in isolation cannot ensure their safety, no matter how powerful they are.

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In essence, the understanding that humans are vulnerable to external pressures, threats, and potential attacks necessitates the development of a system, such as a state. As a result, creating a state and its systems or institutions helps uphold humanitarian services for people within that geographical setting. Meanwhile, because each state has many institutions, then if some powerful individuals in charge of the affairs of the state want to capture the state, they first weaken the system for their plans to succeed. The sense of collective purpose that underpins the creation of the state is thus defeated because it is unavoidable in a state-captured situation for the person who wields state power to suck, milk, and render the available institutions useful only to themselves until they are removed from that position.

State capture harms our general moral principles as a people because individuals who have experienced the brutality of state capture will inculcate ideas and philosophies of how to conduct such atrocious undertakings when they are in positions of leadership. And because they would have mastered the art, they would have a more disturbing tenure when they have the opportunity. This is why the problems of prebendal states always appear humongous after a series of overwhelming political experiences. There is the individual who seized the country’s political system, ruling with every manner of brutality. Some people may succeed in learning or teaching these monstrous philosophies. When the masses complain or show defeat, it would lead to the ascension of other leaders, democratically elected or militarily selected, and they would come to do more damage to the system because the state is conquered.

Once the state is captured, education, security, health, economy, and other available institutions fail to deliver the expected public good. They will be ineffective since what is required of them is not met. Imagine the situation when the state plunges into this abyss. The education system would not produce vibrant individuals that can effectively make any difference in society, which would affect the philosophical constructs they would have. For example, they might downplay the significance of education because they do not have a firm foundation in it either. Security would become subdued, ineffective, and unproductive, giving room for every manner of atrocity that the morally decapitated individuals would wreak. This will happen in essence because the ammunition that would have been procured would be abandoned. Those who benefit from the systemic rots or state collapse would either procure ammunition of inferior quality or not buy them, making the individuals within such political boundaries unsafe. In addition, health difficulties would arise due to the lack of scientific laboratory equipment, and because of doctors whose understanding of diseases is based on Google search, following a patient’s complaint. In essence, state capture can induce state collapse.

Furthermore, there seem to be the grandparents of state capture; the notorious child called gerontocracy. The term is used to designate a political system run by older adults is gaining popularity among those who want to make the state work for them and in their favor forever. Many countries are considered victims of this political condition, but it concerns us more in Africa as many leaders in the postcolonial African environment have philosophically declared enmity with the democratic ethos about alternative perspectives and successors. They consider themselves above every other individual in society and have serious suspicion about others’ ability to manage the state to benefit the majority. The hate against others has shielded them from the cries and crises society faces because of their actions. Many African leaders have captured the states only in different capacities and dimensions. Except Cameroonians aged forty and under-read about having rotational leadership or a democratic system that allows the emergence of popular candidates, their experience of and with Papa Paul Biya alone cannot make them appreciate democratic ethos because they have not witnessed another leader but the only Papa in their whole existence.

READ ALSO: Nigeria And The Multiplication Of Chaos

The consequences of having government representatives who are old and devoid of ideas are distressing. Apart from Cameroon, the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, is another African gerontocrat. These leaders have no particular touch with the events of the contemporary time, yet they are intricately tied to the government of their countries, giving no opportunity to budding individuals to positively impact their countries. All forms of political-crazy with negative connotations, such as plutocracy and gerontocracy, are different realizations of state capture because those involved in it have the dream and desire to use the institutions of the state for their personal gain. Therefore, the problem is that by holding the state to ransom in this way, voices of reason which would have injected normalcy, orderliness, and due process into the system find ways to escape from the country to another place where their intellectual ideas are valued and celebrated. The urge to remain in power, greed and an insatiable quest for personal glory seems to be common denominators among the leaders of the countries facing this political problem. When all these are found in anyone and they have successfully found a way of cornering the system, they would rule with utmost impunity.

However, there is a meeting point. In an intellectual society, humans provide ideas that are eventually clothed in theoretical knowledge and used or applied to enhance sanity and stability through careful observation and long-term examination of events. But the misapplication or non-application of theories could bring numerous disasters so much that one would believe the theories are ineffective in the first place. Therefore, knowledge production would not be disregarded because leaders fail to understand its application or are generally mischievous in its usage. In Africa, what is needed goes beyond theory since results are imminently required. What do Africans need to do to make them a better people and continent that is well poised for greatness, from which other countries or civilizations would benefit substantially?

Responding to the question posed by Professor Yacob-Haliso, Professor Richard Joseph intones that theories are not what have failed the African people or the states, but praxis. Theoretical frameworks are human conceptions connected to the evaluative observations and judgments they make of a situation after thorough engagement. Indeed, the beauty of theory lies in the fact that nearly all aspect of human endeavor is constructed by theoretical reasoning because conceptions usually precede productions. While the centrality of statehood is important for achieving basic things needed to lead a quality life, it requires certain ingredients to be properly put in place.

First, according to Professor Richard Joseph, is leadership. The right leadership is needed to get the state to work in the appropriate direction. Leadership does not mean an individual occupying a political office. It means the resolution of individuals who find themselves in public offices (and by the public, I mean any position where one’s services are required) to demonstrate uncommon readiness and commitment, with uncompromising principles to drive societal changes. Leadership is that important because critical decisions that should be made would have to be made by leaders with foresight. Their ability to see far beyond is not all the time theirs. On many occasions, a good leader is defined by the ability to coordinate people and ferment ideas from them through constant engagement. Therefore, they take the bold step to make these ideas count in their policy formulation and intervention. This indicates that there is a need for a leader who is not vainglorious, as vainglory is at the core of prebendalism. When leaders are all out for their selfish ambitions, the state is also the primary victim.

Secondly, the people who are trusted with the responsibility to produce ideas would have to stay loyal to the cause because they would always be needed when idea reformation, knowledge creation, and frameworks of moral principles are needed. Meanwhile, every group of people needs these things to progress. Intellectuals are not appropriately celebrated, and this is why it appears like their efforts are not recognized or worthy of any attention. They do not produce ideas from nothingness, after all. Their theories are based on their continual observations of the world around them, and the fact that they have debated and discussed their ideas indicates that they have the potential to transform people and society into something great.

READ ALSO: Communique Issued  At The End Of The Presentation Of Understanding Modern Nigeria

When intellectualism, social philosophy, and governance are understood this way, a level of unity will combine to produce the necessary spark for the restoration of progress among the people. There is no development without knowledge, and since knowledge produces the form of social philosophy that people use, they may produce the wrong results if these things do not work well. The African continent has placed limited value on its educational system, resulting in the underplay of the role of knowledge.

(This is the first report on the interview with Professor Richard Joseph on March 27, 2022. His views have traveled wide, reported in several newspapers. For the transcript, see YouTube; Facebook

Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.


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Interview With Beautiful Nubia



Beautiful Nubia

Please join us for a conversation with the renowned Nigerian Songwriter, Music Composer, and Band Leader, Olusegun Akinlolu (Beautiful Nubia).

Sunday, March 19, 2023

5:00 PM Nigeria // 4:00 PM GMT // 11:00 AM Austin CST

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Toyin Falola Interviews Holds Conversation With Kunle Afolayan



A  renowned Nigerian Actor, Producer, and Director, Kunle Afolayan will on Sunday, March 5, 2023 have an interview with the Toyin Falola Interviews at 5:00 PM Nigeria // 4:00 PM GMT // 10:00 AM Austin CST.


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Touching Base With Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi’s Perspectives On Nigeria’s 2023 Elections



Professor Ademola Dasylva At 70: A Labourer In The Vineyard
Prof. Toyin Falola

By Toyin Falola

Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi is a well-versed law professor, international relations activist, and commentator. It was delightful to have her join us, alongside Miriam Oke, Chido Onumah, and Jibrin Hussaini, at the last edition of the Toyin Falola Interviews, where we discussed Nigeria’s 2023 elections.

If anything, the primaries being organised in the nation’s two most influential parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress, are pointers to what should be expected of the 2023 Nigerian elections. As is customary, the primaries have been rife with electoral malpractices, vote-buying, and unscrupulous voting figures, and there is a shocking video posted on Twitter by Bashir Ahmad, former Personal Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on New Media, who lost his bid to secure the ticket of the APC to contest for a seat in the House of Representatives primaries in his home state of Kano. The video shows how supposed delegates are handed pre-ticked ballot boxes and are asked to put them in the ballot box without even batting an eyelid at the malpractice.

The ball is being set in motion. Atiku Abubakar is the People’s Democratic Party flag bearer for the presidential seat. The All Progressives Congress has recently screened its presidential hopefuls and will soon appoint its flagbearer. Peter Obi, who defected from the People’s Democratic Party to the Labour Party and has since been elected as the party’s flagbearer for the presidential seat, is a seeming third wheel in the routine two-dominant-party multi-party system practised in the country. The stage is set. Or is it?

This piece is not much of a sequel to the one on Chido Onumah’s perspectives on the 2023 elections because Dr Akiyode-Afolabi had her unique views on the questions asked. Nonetheless, it will follow a similar pattern, where we will examine points touched on by Dr Akiyode-Afolabi during the interview.

Electoral Violence and Nigeria’s 2023 Elections

Sad as it may seem, electoral violence is an immemorial issue rocking the Nigerian state. Throughout all its republics, Nigeria has witnessed killings and maiming during election periods — whether at the polling booths on election day or among political rivals setting targets on each other’s backs. Nigeria’s electoral process is peculiar, involving the recruitment of violent electoral mercenaries, often branded as party thugs. These thugs sign off their loyalty to a political party and wreak havoc on the party’s behalf — from ballot snatching to intimidating voters to bow to their party’s will.

In the Nigerian political scene, these party thugs sit with political kings. They are deemed crucial to the electoral process and candidates’ success. The recruitment and payment of these party thugs consume huge financial resources. However, political leaders and public officeholders fail to consider the expected uselessness of the party thugs within the governance period of three to four years that separate pre-election and election years. Having tasted ill-gotten wealth that far surpasses what they could have earned honestly, and without any honest and paying job, these party thugs resort to all sorts of vice to pay their bills and keep themselves in shape. Thus, it is not uncommon to find that party thugs become robbers, kidnappers, bandits, and street-terrorising thugs who incessantly cut holes through the state’s peace, security, and quiet.

In most cases, we would rather relate the incessant kidnappings and unrest to unknown gunmen or herdsmen-bandits rather than the true perpetrators of the evil — anarchical party thugs with weapons they were equipped with during the election period. Thus, the rivalry for power and politicians’ insatiable desire for control, regardless of the extent they go to get it, could be strongly linked to the violent crises that have rocked the country for a while now.

READ ALSO: Dele Jegede In Conversation With Prince Yemisi Shyllon

For Dr Akiyode-Afolabi, violent political mercenaries in Nigeria and the political aspirants and parties who are their enablers act out of an abundant enjoyment of sheer impunity — the knowledge that they can do and undo, wreak whatever havoc they want to, without bearing the consequences. Although several of the perpetrators of this electoral violence are known, nothing is done to bring them to justice, further reinforcing the need to carry out their vice during the next election. Over the years, electoral violence has become a norm in Nigeria, and nothing is being done to curb the menace, especially in punishing the perpetrators. Thus, the electorate have joined the camp of political aspirants and political thugs who see electoral violence as part of the electioneering process in Nigeria. For members of the electorate who have difficulty processing electoral violence as a part of the electioneering process, the option of apathy kicks to the surface — especially among women and the youth who earnestly believe politics in Nigeria is a dirty game, and electoral violence is inevitable. Thus, it is not surprising that Nigeria has had a low voter turnout over the years.

The case of electoral violence and the state’s reaction to it is like several other policies in Nigeria. While the Electoral Act was proactively drafted to cover electoral violence and how to punish offenders and culprits, there has not been any action to make that part of the Act functional. It is akin to the numerous nation-improving policies whose existence has never gone beyond the paper. If we were to dig to the roots of why the aspect of the Nigerian Electoral Act that punishes electoral violence has not been enforced, we would be quick to find out that the average Nigerian politician is either directly or indirectly complicit. Thus, those at the helm and those willing to take over from them are all involved, making them reluctant to enforce the punishment for electoral violence, that is, if they consider punishing the crime at all.

Nigeria’s Three-faced Need and the Importance of a Long-term Agenda

The need for a long-term agenda should not be misconstrued as supporting the cabalistic unending Northern presidency agenda or any other agenda that does not mean well for Nigeria as a nation. Rather, it represents Dr Akiyode-Afolabi’s thoughts on what is truly needed to get Nigeria out of its current quagmire. The international relations activist considers the 2023 elections in Nigeria a big issue for the country, particularly because there are more people interested in the presidential position than we have had in quite a while. Nonetheless, most of these aspirants are people who have either held a political position or currently hold one. They are people we know so well. Given their deeds while in office, it will be difficult to convince any right-thinking Nigerian that there is hope for the country if any of the candidates being paraded were elected as president.

The double tragedy that is Buhari’s eight years in office has seen the country go from bad to worse. The country’s debts keep piling up, with no way of repaying them year after year. The people are impoverished, and the currency continually suffers a blow of worthlessness and devaluation, inflation, and the unemployment rate keeps rising. To make matters worse are the rife killings, banditry, and the near state of anarchy that the country has been thrown into. Has any of the numerous candidates aspiring for the presidential seat shown they are the visionary yet pragmatic leaders that can help Nigeria realise a remarkable positive change?

Careful consideration of the likeliest players at the 2023 polls, vis-à-vis the criterion above, would show that Nigeria is not prepared for an election. Dr Akiyode-Afolabi proposed a three-aspect strategy to help us discover a new Nigeria. These are aspects that cannot be fully realised within a four-year term. Thus, there is the need for Nigerian politicians, regardless of their differences—although there are no marked differences in Nigerian politics—to consider government as a continuum and treat it as such. This will help ensure that even if power falls to the opposition camp, the remarkable and change-focused plans that have been kicked into action by the previous government will continue to be nurtured by the new government. This is the only way we can fully realise the three-dimensional solution proposed by Dr Akiyode-Afolabi.

Dr Akiyode-Afolabi’s first proposed dimension is the need for an empowered political class. The Nigerian political field is riddled with whimsical people who are of the anything-goes breed as long as they get elected to office. That is why serial defection is nothing to them, and they can shamelessly befriend a foe today and betray a friend tomorrow. They are overly selfish lot who constantly put personal needs and gains before national needs and expected gains. The Nigerian political class needs to be empowered enough to engage the electorate in an ideological and issue-based manner. A look at the pre-campaign clamouring in the camps of the presidential aspirants will show that they think so little of Nigerians that they believe not much is needed in the way of plans and strategies to convince the people. It is also why Nyensom Wike, who lost his party’s presidential ticket, deemed it fit to incessantly chant, “give me power… power!” To him, that was enough to get him the ticket to become Nigeria’s next president.

The coming months will show us lamentable political campaigns with no depth, so shallow that every reasonable Nigerian would be too ashamed to identify with a country where such gimmicks pass as enough campaign to convince the people to vote for someone. There is a need to empower citizens and help kick structures in place to organise Nigerians and help them truly understand what they want. Nigeria has so much suffered from poor governance that asking the average electorate what they expect from the aspirants — what they look forward to hearing that could convince them to vote for an aspirant — would most likely render them stammering.

In Nigeria, constitutional reformation is of great necessity. The Nigerian Constitution has outlived its essence. What use is a constitution if it does not amply meet the state’s needs nor adequately answer its citizens’ burning questions? The systems of the constitution no longer effectively serve us as a nation, which is why there have been agitations and clamouring for secession, restructuring, regionalisation, and central policing, among other issues raised. In the end, until Nigeria intentionally kicks these three dimensions into action, and until there are successive tenures that consider the government as a continuum and reach a knowing agreement to nurture and not impede the realisation of the three-dimensional issue, a new and positive Nigeria will be anything but reality.

  1. *** This is the third and final report on the interview held on May 22, 2022, on the 2023 elections in Nigeria. The views of our distinguished panelists have traveled wide and have been reported in several newspapers.

For the transcript, see:




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