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Is There Future For Classical Studies As A Discipline In Nigeria?



Funding Public Education In Nigeria: Towards An Alternative Financing Model

By Tunji Olaopa

Just some few weeks ago, the management of the University of Ibadan announced the sad news of the death of Mr. Nigel Derek Henry, the longest serving member of the Classics Department, and indeed of the entire Faculty of the Humanities. Mr. Henry spent over four decades, tutoring students in the fine art of classical studies. Classics is concerned with the critical investigation of the cultural and civilizational antiquity of the Greek culture and its massive influence on the development of the West. Students are not only taken through the linguistic complexities and sublime beauty of Greek and Latin, they are also taught to come to terms with the literary, historical and the philosophical essence of what Greece bestowed on the world.

Mr. Henry came to Ibadan Classics Department in 1976, and since then had established himself not only as a fine classicist, but also contributed immensely in ingraining classics as a study of cultural and historical achievements in those who have had the good fortune to have passed through that department.
Now, Mr. Henry is gone. The good thing is that he taught all those who now constitute the backbone of the department. This constitutes a very strong act of intellectual and institutional continuity that keeps sustaining the department as a legitimate and veritable essence of humanistic learning. Yet, one needs to wonder more about the death of Mr. Henry. His death raises significant questions that go beyond his person as a brilliant classicist. His death points attention to the very stature and future of the discipline he dedicated his entire life teaching. Let us consider a most fundamental—and disturbing—fact: Classics is only studied at the University of Ibadan, and in no other university in Nigeria. And only at the University of Legon, Ghana, and probably in no other university again in Africa. What inferences can we derive from this fact?

There are many. The first is that the intellectual relevance of classical studies is vastly shrinking in the 21st century. I suspect that the department might have been struggling to attract students who might also have struggled over time to grasp the significance of the study of ancient Greece and all its cultural achievements. This struggle for relevance is not confronted by classics alone. It is a struggle that the humanities have been facing since the dawn of the twentieth century. With the rise of capitalism and the neo-capitalist hegemonic sway, the way we view the world has been fundamentally transformed. Whatever is relevant must have its relevance calculatable in cash values. Indeed, capitalism has redrawn the intellectual map of the academy, as well as its relationship with the frameworks by which we define our existence. There are now courses and disciplines in existence whose very status would cause no small wonder. To the extent that capitalism is increasingly motivated by an exploratory and exploitative logic that is interested in an unceasing understanding of the universe, to that extent science and technology become fundamental ally to the capitalist worldview. And it is also to that extent that the humanities must keep struggling to become relevant.

But then, in fighting back, the African humanities have had to invert the significance of relevance as a defining element of their existence and worth. The ideological battle that capitalism deploys does not in any way bode well for the continent. In the first place, Africa has an unenviable status in the world capitalist framework that makes it the dumping ground for all the effluvia of capitalism. And second, the African humanities cannot afford to play by the neo-capitalist ideological logic. Thus, rather than attempting to fight the battle of relevance on the same field denoted by capitalism, the African humanities need to clear a space for relevance within the valuational imperatives of the African continent. What makes any discipline relevant, therefore, is its capacity to contribute to the continent search for self-worth and solidarity in a world increasingly defined by the Eurocentric epistemological hegemony. This redefinition speaks more to classics than to any other humanistic discipline.

What, for an African, is the worth of an educational curriculum grounded in the cultural and civilizational trajectory and achievements of a non-African cultural entity? An undiscerning reader will take umbrage at this question before understanding what it is meant to demonstrate. Global history speaks to a lot of historical insights that undercut particularly Europe’s claim to so many things, especially the right to define what is universal and global. But most importantly, global history insists on the nature of our world as multilateral. The idea of multilateralism does not only speak to the collective impulse that created the world as we know it, and that gave it its distinctively interdependent character. It also speaks to the fact that the collective achievement of a people in one vantage point in the world has some unique implications for other people occupying a different vantage point in the same world. This simply means that the cultural struggles and material achievements of a non-African place can have solid lessons to teach an African cultural context. This is essentially what gives an ethical and multicultural approbation to the idea of globalization and its interdependent dynamic. Could that not be one of the reasons that made Mr. Henry left the comfort of his homeland to come to teach classics in a postcolonial African university? Is that not the same impulse that brought Susan Wenger down to Yorubaland? Is that not also the reason for the various diasporas?

But this is not the entire story that recommends classics to us as a veritable humanistic discipline. There is definitely more that classics can be. Or else, its days are numbered within a context that must define its own ideological path in a world under threat. We really should not be afraid to hold any discipline’s feet to the imperatives of an Afrocentric curriculum and pedagogy. A very good example that speaks to the Department of Classics at the University of Ibadan is Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s success in getting the syllabus of the English Department of the University of Nairobi Africanized. Indeed, the syllabus of the English was founded on a supposed “historic continuity of a single culture throughout the emergence of the modern west.” In this regard, as Ngugi rightly noted, Africa becomes an extension of the West. And he asked: “If there is need for a ‘study of the historic continuity of a single culture’, why can’t this be African?” And we can also ask: Since what underlies the classics curriculum at the University of Ibadan is the trajectory of a single culture from ancient Greece to modern Europe, why can’t that curriculum be Africanized to make Africa central to the study of Greece and its cultural and civilizational achievements and dynamics? Africanizing the knowledge imparted by classics is simple—it requires viewing the Greek culture and civilization in relation to Africa. In what sense, that is, does classical studies enable us to come to terms with Africa’s place in the world? If classics cannot achieve such a curricular transformation, how then should we conceive of its ideological place in an African university? Can such a discipline afford classical knowledge for knowledge sake?

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As it presently is, the curriculum of the Classics Department at the University of Ibadan does not make any gesture towards Africa in any sense. Even though the discipline, unlike African history, African literature and African philosophy, has not been motivated by historical, ideological and intellectual crises to define its own parameters vis-à-vis its global reincarnations, say, at the University of Cambridge, the study of classics in a postcolonial African university like the University of Ibadan cannot keep carrying on as if classical studies at an African university ought not to have consequences for how we think about Africa. The knowledge imparted about the glories of ancient Greece must be Africanized, even if in a comparative fashion, to point at the centrality of African knowledge for Africans. There is no small measure of contradiction in an African lecturer teaching Greek culture, language and philosophy to African students in a postcolonial African university charged with the responsibility of contributing to the development of Africa. Mr. Henry would not be attended by the same contradiction, even though his ideological affiliation might not be Eurocentric. African philosophy, African history, African literature have fought and won the battle over the relevance of their curricula.

The time is ripe for classics at the University of Ibadan to be drawn into an Africanized, and indeed a transdisciplinary matrix within which these other disciplines are already enmeshed. I doubt whether classics has any intellectual representation in African or cultural studies. The discursive conversation on the status, centrality and development of Africa requires all disciplinary voices. Classics cannot afford to remain like a disciplinary fish out of African academic waters. We all know what happens to any fish that stays out of water for far too long.

Prof. Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary & Directing Staff, National Institute For Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos.

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The Black Tax: Family Charges And Mandatory Payment 



Dele Jegede In Conversation With Prince Yemisi Shyllon
Prof. Toyin Falola

By Toyin Falola

    You cannot be one rich man among your poor siblings and relations and not become poor. After all, you stole the destiny of six others to add to yours. Having made them poor, you must cater for them. Ogunde, my friend, built a house for his father and mum. You did well. On the day of house-warming Mama Ogunde called my friend to her room for a private discussion, advising him to buy a plot of land for his junior brother. The first tax has been paid, then the imposition of the second. Three months later, his sister called him to announce her wedding ceremony. Ogunde had to pay the third tax. Each time he calls me, Ogunde is lamenting the never-ending tax. Those payments, the mandated gift, and the exchanges are now what we call the “black tax”: it is the price you pay for knowing someone. Kinship was invented in an agricultural age for collective bonding and survival. Today, it is for purposes of tax collection with delivering public services. As you read this, you are either paying the tax or collecting it. Confess!

The African social system is unarguably built on the premises and strength of family and responsibilities. Society is built on collective responsibilities that spread even to every member of the society at large as a unit. This is why persons from the same village, like Umuahia, would always refer to their kinsmen as brothers or sisters merely because they have come from the same village or area. It is the sense of responsibility that bonds the African society that has been spelt out so eminently. But the question in this piece is not about the collective nature of the African communities but the responsibilities that follow from the family relationships, either for those within the same blood or the “village family.” The issue is of “black” tax; black here is not a racialized category.

    Black tax is a phenomenon that has been brought to bear in the African society of today; the modern exposure has allowed questions raised on whether the cultures are of necessity or mere subjections that have resulted in the slow pace of individual developments or castigated some Africans’ invisible slavery. African men and women give, and they take care of theirs. But then there is just one successful person in an extended family: the act of giving moves from mere social responsibilities to social burdens.

    Mikel Obi, a Nigerian footballer and a legend in the English Premier, recently lamented the plight of an average African. When you reach out to success and strive hard, you probably might face limited help from some of your family members. In fact, everyone is supposed to have his or her problems, and the contemporary conditions of African countries would actually justify their excuses. However, you could strive and become something without anything, but when that success comes, you have not achieved it for yourself or your immediate family; you have done so for almost everyone who carries the same last name as you, related by any measure of distance and acquaintances. The black tax must be paid.

    The concept of the black tax probably originated from South Africa; it was seen as the returns black workers, in the past, sent to their families and relatives for upkeep. It should be understood that the apartheid South Africans were such that Africans and blacks were discriminated against and had only a few opportunities to contend with. Hence, the few of them who had the opportunity to work were seen, to some extent, to have been in such a position for their families that they could not have similar opportunities. I have been in the company of people from Lesotho in South Africa, returning home with the Black tax. Many people from Zimbabwe living in South Africa pay it. In my heavy luggage to Lagos, only the contents of the carry-on belong to me; the rest is black tax. I pay it routinely. Recipients even now include chefs, drivers, and Malam the Gateman.

    Like the Brown Tax in the Latino communities, the Black Tax spread across Africa as a general description of family relations for every black. It is seen as an obligation, and the person who sends it must do something as a necessity. Those who are the beneficiaries sometimes develop a sense of belonging and claim over the income of the individual.

    Let’s address the culture. African cultures are beautiful, and the idea of taking responsibility for one’s immediate family, at least, is born out of the many philosophies that formed the foundations of the African society, from Ubuntu to Omoluabi to the collectivism orientations that have cut across the African societies; one would understand why the contemporary society should not quickly run into the mistake of casting the habit as a forbidden practice. 

We must understand that new cultures and the contemporarily subscribed behaviours born out of overbearing cultural diffusions gotten from excessive universalism have been gradually killing the bonds that the African societies have for each other. It has increased selfishness and made the act of philanthropism, which was initially a social necessity, become out of the ordinary.

    At what point should one say that the black tax is bad, and to what extent would the African circumstances create the limit? Are African parents truly entitled to the success of their children? Often than not, an average African parent assigns a primary purpose of nurturing and sacrificing their lives for their children. It is an African thing for parents to forego what they need the most in order to allow their kids a needed opportunity or resources that would put them in the right positions. In the pre-European interference era in Africa, what was paramount was to ensure that a child had the right skill as well as the right behaviour, but the parents were always on the watch to ensure that akosejaye, the written destiny, of a child is fulfilled to the fullest and they were ready to make any type of sacrifices. This mentality was carried on when the new order of definition of what success meant arose across Africa. Education and other resources must be attained, and the mothers would not mind selling their biggest clothes or properties to ensure that these voids were filled. The culture prevailed over time and is still predominant in the African society of today. Children in every African household became an ambition and duty that nothing would negotiate the commitments to them. Many African parents have continued working in toxic environments; many have lost their health or become disabled from the wares they sell in traffic jams and the hustles and bustles of places like Oyingbo Market.

    Basically, to an African parent, a child is an investment and future insurance for old age and moments where one’s effort would not be enough to feed or meet necessary needs. The African family institutions are different from many other parts of the world. One would then ask whether the “wokeness” conceptions would justify taking such future expectations wrong. For anyone a parent has sacrificed for, there is a level of expectation from them, and I do not think contemporariness should be reason enough to remove that responsibility. This goes down to immediate family like siblings who have followed the rough paths with one.

    My point is not that one must give without control or that every ‘ask’ should never be met with a ‘no’; otherwise, one would never move to the point of self-actualization. However, the first condition to be put to black tax is the measure of sacrifice the potential beneficiary had made. This separates responsibility from mere philanthropy. It is a measure to keep one’s circle small and reduce unnecessary ‘billings.’ Young Africans who are growing must understand that what comes first is themselves, the means to secure their future, and after all personal or immediate needs have been covered, those that we owe come in, but it should never be at the expense of one’s development. One must know that the greatest responsibility owed is that that guarantees growth.

    The above is also not to say that we should kill the African culture of giving. There are many individuals to be lifted out of poverty. The continent today is positioning itself as a proper headquarters of poverty and as such, it cannot afford to stop all the help it could get. However, one must ensure that giving should be out of abundance. Abundance is indeed the remainder from excesses and should never affect fundamentals, secondary, and even tertiaries. It is an act out of comfort. So, the black tax may not be an unnecessary social responsibility, but instead, some level of necessity and discharge of appreciation to those who have made tangible sacrifices in our lives. Evaluate your black tax; instead of complaining to me as Ogunde does every other day, he should review the list and delete the names of several recipients. As I told him yesterday, why not use part of the tax to take me out?

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Obama, Clooney, And Gates Should Include Witch Persecution InTheir Campaign



Witch Burning, Impunity And Abuses Linked to Witchcraft Beliefs In Benue State
Dr Leo Igwe

By Leo Igwe

The Advocacy for Alleged Witches (AfAW) welcomes the collaboration between the foundations of Michelle Obama, Amal Clooney, and Melinda French Gates to end child marriage in Africa. These foundations have committed to ending this practice within a generation. This initiative, announced during their recent visit to Malawi and South Africa, demonstrates the urgency that such a harmful traditional and cultural practice demands. Child marriage is a sore on the conscience of humanity. It violates the health, rights, and well-being of women and girls. Culture, tradition, or religion should not be used to excuse or justify practices that undermine the humanity of women and girls. So it was a great relief to know that these influential women would be working together to combat this menace.

At the same time, AfAW wants to draw the attention of Obama, Clooney, and Gates to another practice that is undermining the rights of women in Africa: witch persecution. Witchcraft accusation is pervasive in Malawi and other parts of the region. Witchcraft accusation is a gendered phenomenon that predominantly targets women and girls. Those accused of witchcraft are tortured, banished, or murdered in cold blood. In Malawi and other parts of the region, accused women are raped, stoned to death, or lynched. Many accused women are banished and forced to live in make-shift shelters called witch camps in Ghana’s Northern region. In Malawi and the Central African Republic, the accused are imprisoned, or flee to live in prisons to avoid being killed. Rooted in traditional and cultural beliefs, witch hunting is another vicious phenomenon which they said would not be eradicated.

This misperception should be rejected and discarded. This mistaken assumption has prevented international organizations including the UN from treating the problem of witch persecution with the urgency that it deserves. This misrepresentation has made the world ignore and look away while women and sometimes girls are accused, abused, abandoned, or savagely killed in the name of witchcraft. As in the case of child marriage, the Advocacy for Alleged Witches believes that witch persecution can end within a generation. The problem can be solved or resolved in a matter of years. AfAW is working and campaigning to rally national and international political will against witch hunting. That was why the organization announced in 2020 a decade of activism against witch persecution in Africa.

AfAW urges Obama, Clooney, and Gates to join efforts in stopping witch persecution of women and girls. They should know that the girls they are trying to save from being married away as children could end up being stoned to death or buried alive for witchcraft. Obama, Clooney, and Gates should include witch-hunting in their campaign because the practice is rooted in gender injustice and misogyny. The foundations should know that women are likely to suffer child marriages when they are young and witch persecution when they are growing old. So they should not focus on one and ignore the other. To effectively protect and defend the rights of women and girls, they should tackle both child marriage and witch-hunting . The foundations should commit to ending practices that violate the rights of women, whether they are young or old, children or adults.

Dr Igwe directs the Advocacy for Alleged Witches, which campaigns to end witch persecution in Africa by 2030.

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Powering Prosperity: Unlocking Nigeria’s Potential Through U.S. Partnership



Greene is Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. United States Embassy Abuja.

By David Greene

Nigeria is on track to be the world’s fourth-most populous country by 2050. It already has the largest economy in Africa and, with 60 percent of its population under the age of 25, it stands on the threshold of a demographic dividend that can dramatically transform its economy for the better. Nigeria’s strategic partnerships are essential in harnessing this potential, and the United States is playing a leading role. As we near the six-month mark of President Tinubu’s administration, our relationship has emerged as a key for success. One year ago, at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC, President Biden renewed our commitment to deepening engagement across the continent. Here is how we are doing that in Nigeria – working in areas that matter most to everyday citizens, such as growing the economy, strengthening democracy, improving health outcomes, ensuring security, and addressing the climate crisis.

Nigeria’s economic potential is vast, and with the right macroeconomic framework, a sound fiscal strategy, and a strong commitment to rooting out corruption, it can become a preferred destination for foreign direct investment. American investors and companies are eager to engage with Nigeria, and the United States government is doing its utmost to build our bilateral trade and investment ties.
Consider these examples: We have joined forces to accelerate Nigeria’s digital transformation, with investments from U.S. tech giants such as Microsoft, Cisco, Meta, Google, and Starlink. This partnership has built a platform to train unemployed and underemployed women and youth. Moreover, it has been a catalyst for quality investment, accounting for more than a quarter of all venture capital flowing into Africa.
Collaborative efforts in agriculture further underscore our commitment. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently dedicated $22 million to strengthen Nigeria’s cocoa value chain, supporting more than 60,000 cocoa farmers, processors, marketers, and other agribusiness service providers in what is Nigeria’s #2 foreign exchange-earning export. From tech to agriculture, these steps go beyond statistics. They translate into tangible outcomes: good jobs, seed money for new ventures, and higher-value agricultural exports.

The United States is also a steadfast partner in strengthening Nigeria’s health sector. With World AIDS Day – December 1 – approaching, it is worth recalling that over the past two decades, PEPFAR, the leading U.S. initiative to address HIV/AIDS, has invested nearly $8 billion in Nigeria, providing more than 1.6 million individuals with life-saving HIV treatment. In response to COVID-19, the United States donated more than 44 million vaccine doses, helping the Nigerian government approach its target vaccination rate of 70 percent of the eligible population. Partnerships like the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative, with an annual budget of more than $71 million, have reduced child death rates and strengthened health systems.
Those investments are just part of our overall development assistance to Nigeria. In fiscal year 2022 alone, the U.S. government allocated over $1.2 billion dollars in such support. These funds provide humanitarian assistance, and improve health, economic development, education, social services, democracy, human rights and governance, and peace and security.
In the latter two areas – democracy and security – we aim to support an inclusive future where Nigerian citizens’ votes count and translate into responsive governance, and where they can live in peace. We are a steadfast partner in seeking to strengthen election processes that will enhance accountability to meet citizens’ expectations, and pursuing innovative projects to help communities resolve differences without violence. Through cooperation with and training of Nigeria’s military and police, we are building more capable forces. Collaborating with civil society, law enforcement, and the judiciary, we are confronting the security challenges that stand in the way of economic growth while upholding a shared commitment to human rights. Initiatives include building Nigeria’s counter-terrorism capacity, bringing technology to courtrooms and case-management systems to help in the administration of justice and reduce pre-trial detention, and supporting efforts to enhance accountability and transparency in police forces.

Our partnership to address the climate crisis reflects our mutual recognition of this challenge, and our respect for Nigeria’s role as both an energy producer and a country profoundly impacted by the effects of climate change. In the leadup to COP28 – the 28th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change, which begins this week – the United States and Nigeria are aggressively seeking solutions. For example, U.S. support for Nigeria’s leadership as a Global Methane Pledge champion has led to action that is reducing greenhouse gas emissions for the benefit of all.
These programs and cooperative efforts advance a joint agenda that is built and driven by the highest levels of our leadership. President Biden met with President Tinubu in September, and numerous senior U.S. officials have come to Nigeria in recent months to confer on meeting Nigeria’s energy needs, driving U.S. trade and investment in Nigeria, and strengthening our law enforcement cooperation. These engagements strengthen our ties, address Nigeria’s pressing needs, and tackle shared challenges.

Ultimately, realizing Nigeria’s potential hinges upon enhancing its fiscal and economic health – and capitalizing on its strategic partnerships to build on that foundation. The opportunity has never been greater. Nigeria, with its youth, energy, and entrepreneurial spirit, is poised to seize this moment. We commend the government for its bold actions thus far to try to move the economy to a more solid footing. The United States is your partner in that effort – through investment, better security, a stronger workforce, and resilient institutions – that benefits all Nigerians and expands prosperity for both our peoples. Our journey ahead has its obstacles, of course. But together we will find a path toward a shared prosperity.

. Greene is Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. United States Embassy Abuja.

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