Congratulation to Prof. Toyin Falọla, the man whose productive speed is like that of an aero plane’s!
When TF is here and seen here; he is several kilometers ahead of those around him. Does he sleep? I do not know. Only his wife can give us an accurate answer when he spends 24 hours at home if he ever does that.
If I am asked to describe Toyin Falọla, I will not hesitate to say he is an enigma because when you know him, you still need to know more, to gain more about how he operates uniquely and is able to maintain his balance smartly in accomplishing so much in every short time, at a speed no one can fathom in an environment where a little bit of what he does makes other people shine like a star, where those who do a fraction of what he does get a space of comfort.
I am not a boot licker. I am not his praise-singer. I will never do praise-sing for anyone except I notice something unique about the person.
If the word “enigma” sounds strange to describe him, I would say I am using it subjectively here, and I would expect you and him to understand me from that standpoint.
Perhaps TF will not feel comfortable with the word. Well, if he does not, he has to tolerate me for that. If he does not feel comfortable with the word, well, I will appease him with a bowl of “amala” and “abula” so that he will overlook the painting I am making of him. I am aware he is from Ibadan, the city of “amala”, “ewedu” and “gbẹgiri” where the natives are too bold to say whatever they want to say, do whatever they want to do and eat what they cherish.
I know no one serves as a mirror to himself or herself. TF is a man of two interpretations to the world: one, a combination of extremely powerful, knowledgeable, well-connected professor in the global academic circle of scholars of “Interdisciplinary Studies” today though an historian of excellent quality all along his career life, and , two, a man whose overwhelming influence poses a concern to those who see him “unstoppable” in crossing different bridges where others stay on one and keep moving on it at their own speed. If he crosses bridges and makes waves, am I wrong to describe his as an enigmatic person?
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Well, if he accepts the description, he likes the truth. If he does not like the description, he wants me to be his praise singer. Who will do praise singing for the professor whose praises for colleagues and others are more a whole, voluminous book that will fill many libraries in the world one day? TF is sharp when he expresses his feelings about other people without blinking his eyes for a second.
Professor TF, again, I warmly congratulate you on your new honorary decoration and wish you more productive years and honors!
Please accept your description or expect a bowl of “amala” and “abula” when you see me in Ibadan, the city of the brave people.
Dr. Ọmọlọlá writes from Howard University.
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Death, Drugs, And Dirges
By Toyin Falola
The chicken perches on the rope
The rope is restless,
The chicken is off-balance
Should we wear black clothes, take our lamps, and walk barefoot singing the dirges of the bereaved yet? Should we sing those dirges with the finality of nothingness? Or is there still a pulse our two fingers cannot make sense of? Should we speak of death, dying, or many things far from being alive? Not of humans but of the Nigerian educational system, whose viability and health are deplorable and, specifically, of the university system that causes students, the academia, the nation, and its citizens to dilly-dally. Should we sing dirges to the different excruciating deaths destroying education and the nation beyond repair?
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On February 14, 2022, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) declared a strike by its members, causing universities to close their gates to students for the past seven months, with no hope of resumption. The ongoing industrial action is one of the many that the university system has witnessed, crippling several processes and putting many Nigerians in confusion. ASUU has embarked on strike at least 16 times since 1999 and for more than 1500 days cumulatively; this is outside of the local and internal strike actions on local issues embarked on by individual Unions in some of the universities. The longest ASUU strike was the 270 days of total shutdown of Nigerian public universities in 2020, and the present one is about to overtake it if there is no favourable development and intervention.
Aside from the ASUU strike, the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and other Unions under the Joint Action Committee (JAC) also consider strike actions as the only language the government listens to. After two months after the NASU and SSANU strike was called off, the Union members claimed that their salaries had not been paid since then. With the continuous and constant strike actions by the staff of the university system, large underfunding, and lack of average facilities for convenient and purposeful learning, it is understandable if one is confused as to whether to pronounce the system dead or dying. However, it appears to be far from being convincingly alive, and if there is any hope of revival, there must be a strategy to end it.
ASUU has been in constant demand for the revitalization of the University system through the injection of ₦1.1 Trillion by the Federal Government. The purpose of this, which is reasonable enough, is to raise the standard of Nigerian tertiary education and bring the various institutions close to the level of their counterparts across the globe. We can even forget that ASUU cannot monitor campus fraud, and some of this money will be stolen. Alongside this are agitations for the payment of earned academic allowances and the discharge of other commitments by the Nigerian government.
Currently, the Nigerian government spends between five and seven per cent of its total budget on education, against the recommended 27 per cent by the United Nations. In a nation like Nigeria that needs considerable investment in both human resources and factors that guarantee a favourable future for the nation, education is an investment that cannot be excused. However, education cannot fully displace other needs like the lack of power, bad roads, and insecurity, so we have to cry out for other priority needs. University professors are not the only ones suffering from the consequences of a mismanaged state; they just happen to be the most combative.
These problems and other issues faced by the Nigerian university system, including social factors that have placed the institutions under lock and key for a long time, make one doubt how to describe the state of the university system. I do not intend to address whom to blame in the feud between the academic staff and the government, but the provocation and damning damage to the nation’s state, the citizens, and students. On this issue, the system and the institutions are not the only ones affected, as the nation records more body count and an increase in social vices, as well as the systematic soaring of the number of miscreants traceable to unengaged students over a long period. For emphasis, a study by Andreu Arenas and Lucas Gortazar shows that students who are victims of school closure are more likely to experience learning loss, and according to Eric Hanushek and Ludger Woessmann, there will be a possible reduction in their future incomes. It has also been proven that students coming from prolonged school closures have a higher risk of failing future tests and examinations. This is because the heavy distractions from learning affect their psychology and their orientation towards learning.
Whereas one could hold a strong ground as to the existence of certain activities of the academia or institutional operations, it cannot be denied that the rising brain drain at the university level due to this brouhaha is causing intellectual death and sickness in the university sector. If we do not know whom to sing our dirges to, we should prepare ourselves for this increasing intellectual death.
Unfortunately, as the system dies, those within it are dying too. On July 8, 2022, the Ambrose Alli University chapter of the ASUU claimed that the university had lost ten lecturers that month, five months into the strike.
Also, on September 26, 2022, it was reported that 21 lecturers, including professors, and other non-academic staff of the University of Calabar, lost their lives. Many still alive have resorted to other ways of surviving, selling belongings and petty trading. On September 13, 2022, it was reported that a University of Maiduguri lecturer, Dr. Othman Abubakar, from the Department of English, decided to sell his library at any price. Abubakar was convinced that nothing was left in academia after the gradual “destruction of the university system” and the “insensitive” starvation of lecturers. Abubakar’s statements made me cringe, and to make it worse, some individuals have started calling for aid for lecturers like they were some castaways. It should also not be forgotten that the government implemented a “no work, no pay policy” for striking lecturers to make them give in to pressure. Starvation has become a wicked weapon to test the integrity of the intellectuals; even in war, starvation is not a noble strategy. So, I sing a dirge to the lost souls and the purpose of the Nigerian intellectuals.
I sing yet another dirge to the simultaneous effects of this strike on the university students who have become the primary victims. While intellectual death among the lecturers is overwhelming, the students also lose their lives. On March 8, 2022, it was reported that Henry Ehis, a 300-level student of the University of Jos, committed suicide due to frustration from the unending strike. Rachael Opadele, a final year student of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, took a part-time job in a hotel because of the strike, was kidnapped in the same hotel, and killed afterwards in August 2022. Many other students have been killed by unfortunate events that would have been prevented if they had been in school.
Another dirge is to the death of the minds of the Nigerian students caused by increasing drug abuse made worse by these strikes. Logically, thousands of students who have been denied access to education, which formed their primary source of engagement, would be vulnerable to acts like drug abuse. In other words, there is often a considerable risk of drug abuse among students of tertiary institutions in Nigeria, and the disengagement from academic activities exposes them to even greater risk. Governor Godwin Obaseki, the Edo State Governor, on May 13, 2022, lamented the increasing rate of drug consumption in the state after ASUU embarked on strike, noting that drug abuse has become the second problem of the Edo State government. Likewise, in June 2022, Senator Douye Diri, the Bayelsa State governor, confirmed that increased drug abuse amounted to increased criminal activities in the state.
On August 19, 2021, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) revealed that about 40 per cent of the Nigerian youth, which forms the majority of the university students, are “deeply involved in drug abuse.” Also, on February 22, 2021, the NDLEA, through its Chairman, Buba Marwa, stated that drug abuse accounts for and influences about 90 per cent of crimes in Nigeria. Since the majority of students in the university are youths, there is a tendency for drug abuse among them. The psychological and physical effects of drug abuse are dangers the nation cannot afford. It is a pronouncement of an end to the academic endeavour of individuals, either directly or indirectly.
Moreover, there is a strong and direct link between drug abuse and criminal tendencies. Given the above positions and facts, it is only logical to be concerned about the consequences of students’ disengagement and idleness due to ongoing strike actions. And though different universities in the country have developed anti-drug abuse schemes to put drug abuse in check; however, closing these schools makes the programs inefficient.
Then I sing a dirge to the death of ambition and purposes in the frustrating waits of the Nigerian students. Many students get their purposes and ambitions crippled by life-changing incidents during the schools’ shutdown. Equally, the prolonged and delayed educational period caused by unpredictable ASUU strikes reduces the employability rate and loss of certain opportunities, killing dreams and purposes, particularly because the delay causes many students to graduate above the entry age of many employment requirements.
I sing this dirge to Nigeria’s dying future, which the government is ignorantly killing. Education is the hope of a progressive future for any nation, and research is the tool it uses to chart its successes. The intellectual capacity of a nation is a projection of how far it will grow in the future and its position in global discussions. Innovations and developmental discoveries are the results of dedicated research and efforts. A war or affront against the intellectual bloc of the nation is a risk of a negative expectation for the nation’s future. Human resources development is pivotal to any nation that wishes to develop, but with the above incidences, one would doubt if Nigeria considers development important.
Where there is value, there is respect and care, and it seems the value given to education by the nation reflects in the management of the industrial crisis in academia. Where workers at factories strike, the company is forced to react, as it stands to lose products and profits within the period. In this instance, the products are of value, and for their sake, the company finds a solution to the problem within a limited time. Taking the company as Nigeria, the workers as the lecturers, and the students as the products, it seems that the nation does not value the students enough to be motivated to a quick resolution with the academia.
I sing a dirge to the death of a nation, its intellectuals, and the pillars of its future, the students.
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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20 Years Of African University College Of Communications (AUCC): Looking Back On The Achievements And Looking Forward To Innovative Upgrades
By Toyin Falola
Some qualities are common to all visionaries: innovation, strategic planning, and giving back to society. Based on these qualities, one can rightly say that Honourable Kojo Acquah Yankah is a visionary par excellence. Honourable Yankah, who at a time served the citizens of Ghana at the Parliament, has his roots in journalism and communications right from his days as the Editor of the Daily Graphic to his role as the Director of the Ghana Institute of Journalism. These two roles are not unconnected from his eventual founding of the African University College of Communications (AUCC).
Innovation can take varied forms, either as a viable product morphed from a novel idea or an improvement on existing models or products. Thus, establishing the AUCC was a strategic and innovative move from Honourable Yankah. His was an innovation with a mission to improve how journalists and communications specialists are trained in Ghana—having overseen the affairs of the Ghana Institute of Journalism for close to a decade, who better to found an innovative school of journalism than the visionary? And so goes the story of the founding of Ghana’s first private institute of journalism and communications, the African University College of Communications.
As earlier stated, Honourable Yankah founded this school to improve on what existed, and this is better expressed in the school’s mission, which is student-focused: “The African University College of Communications aims to prepare lifelong learners to become innovative problem-solvers and ethical leaders through excellence in inter-disciplinary teaching, research, and collaboration, using a Pan-African network.” Innovation and work ethics are two qualities that every journalist must possess and hold dear. Yet, there is no gainsaying that there are several journalists who either do not know or know but have chosen not to live by and operate within the provisions of the profession’s ethics.
Such outrageous instances as journalists receiving bribes, false reports, plagiarism, failure to give due credit, and toxic workplace culture, among other issues, have built their nests on the branches of the noble journalism profession. Aside from a lack of respect or adherence to the profession’s ethics, the continent is also breeding journalists who lack an innovative and creative spirit, journalists who cannot think on the spot, improvise, or explore several perspectives on issues. This may be due in part to the limited barriers to entry into the journalism profession, such that a formal education in journalism is not a prerequisite for a journalism-based job. These issues are what the AUCC seeks to address.
Another thing that would immediately catch one’s attention, especially if one is pro-African, is how the AUCC’s mission revolves around Pan-Africanism. Honourable Yankah embodies Pan-Africanism; he is one of the most passionate Pan-Africanists of our time. This is true because he has dedicated his time, resources, and envisioned institutions to the Pan-Africanist belief, movement, and existence. One such institution is the Pan African Heritage Museum, through which he tells the African story and displays African histories the African way. In a world where everyone seems to be strategically positioning themselves for the attention, recognition, and awards that the Western world has in abundance — sometimes losing their identity and connectedness to their roots in the process — it is important to groom journalists who will key into the vision of Pan-Africanism and deploy the available tools and resources in journalism for the promotion of African cultures, heritages, and people, and the AUCC has successfully ticked these marks. The AUCC is the quintessential African-themed higher institution of learning. Everything about the College, including how students are trained, the research focus, the College’s colours and logo, vision, and values, all project Pan-Africanism.
One of the things I cultivated the habit of doing from early on in life and which has immensely shaped me as a historian is the capacity to reminisce about visualizing. Reminiscing to visualize means looking back and doing retrospection and introspection to prepare for what is to come and shape how one wants the future. As the African University College of Communications marks 20 years of existence, there will be several plans on the part of the management and administration to plan for the future as the journey of another milestone has started. However, the historian in me will look back to look forward. In the 20 years it has existed, how has the College committed to its mission and vision? The successes and achievements of the AUCC these past 20 years have been in leaps and bounds. The College has grown from an institute of journalism into a new-age university with advanced programs in journalism, communications, business administration, and business information and communication technology. Professor Abeku Blankson, the College’s President, and the university’s administration have steered the ship to wondrous sails, facilitating strategic collaborations and sending well-trained journalists, business analysts, and communication specialists to the African industries.
Aside from the strategic collaboration and networking through which the institution has earned beneficial opportunities, several centres and institutes are also set up to benefit students, Ghana as a nation, and Africa as a continent. These institutes include the Kwabena Nketia Centre for Africana Studies, the African University College of Communications Pensions Academy, the Executive Education Center, and the Ama Ata Aidoo Centre for Creative Writing. What started with 60 students as a private institute of journalism poised to improve journalism training has become a world-class and award-winning higher institution of learning that has produced thousands of students.
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In addition, the AUCC keeps a strong database of its alumni body, with a job board designed to help place its graduates in suitable roles of their choice. This innovative move is often absent in several higher institutions on the continent. Having a job board and support system for graduates means that when they find their footing and become leaders of industries, giving back to the institution that shaped them will be a priority. In adopting this move, the AUCC is like a world-class institution that prioritizes its alumni network and benefits immensely.
The past has been good for the AUCC, but the future can be so much better, and it seems this message is not lost on the institution’s founder, management, and administration. In selecting “Re-Imaging UACC: Excellence in Education within the Context of Pan-Africanism and Digitization” as the theme for the institution’s 20th anniversary, the visionary and forward-thinking nature of the founder and the administrative body comes to the fore once more. This theme demonstrates that the university recognizes how far it has come, is in alignment with its vision and mission, understands global trends and how technology is shaping the future and has made plans to strategically position itself for the coming decades while effectively training its students.
I have advocated for technology-driven courses at African universities and am particularly excited that the African University College of Communications has made digitization and Pan-Africanism the core of its focus going forward. For an institution as forward-thinking as this in its planning, it will be no surprise if the study of digital media becomes a core course for students at the AUCC. This will give every student of the institution some edge over the average student of communications and journalism in several, if not all, other African universities. Undoubtedly, our continent needs the innovative, visionary, forward-thinking, and strategic spirit of Honourable Yankah and Professor Blanson in more persons than two.
Congratulations to Honourable Yankah, the Board of Directors, the Management, staff, students, and alumni of the African University College of Communications on celebrating this historic milestone.
.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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By Tony Afejuku
Something big and little and little and big at the same time has happened in the last couple of days in respect of ASUU, our one and only union that abominates any injustice or wrong act or wrong doing in the land, this land – your land my land, and our land where our universities are no more our universities and never will be our universities unless our so-called political leaders end their infatuation with evil. And one evil that prevails in the land is the evil of falsehood. The central regime’s dramatis personae have been fortifying it with evil, real evil of falsehood – which they have been employing to decimate the just struggle of ASUU. What an irony! What an irony employing the hyperbole of deceit drivelling blood for effect!
What transpired last week at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria certainly spoke volumes upon volumes about this land that has witnessed heinous crimes against university education; but why and why? On Wednesday, 21 September the Industrial Court ruled against ASUU. I knew it would happen as it happened. In fact, in this column on Friday, 16 September 2022 I said, inter-alia, as follows: “I have a lurking suspicion that the government and its constrictors are out and are determined to straighten out the judicial paper in the mind of the judge in their favour.” Furthermore, in the last paragraph of the column, I said that “The union shall know no retreat, no surrender and no depression in its decently patriotic and patriotically decent struggle even in all the pertinent courts of justice as well against its constrictors. I can hear the knock of judicial thunder with my inner ears. (“Reflections on ASUU and the constrictors”). Everything revealed to me shall come to pass. Meanwhile, stay in suspense as I try to address what I must address here and now. Before this is done, however, let me quote one of my ardent readers pertinently. By the way, as every reader of this column knows, I quote my ardent readers from time to time because I see myself as their faithful and strict apostle and vice versa. Now my reader’s words: “The government can only deceive itself for as long as it wants. The draconian policy of ‘no work no pay’ cannot work, will never work. If I were to advise ASUU, I will say no more negotiations until the government announces a reversal of that nonsensical policy. Why should ASUU even sit down with these locusts? The agreement is there; let the brainless government go and implement: End of story!”
This reader was reacting to my last Friday’s essay entitled “No work, no pay:” Oppressors’ law.’ Suyi Ayodele, every ‘Tuesday Flat Out’ columnist of the Nigerian Tribune, sent me the words I have just quoted. I perfectly understand his patriotic dimensions which are not entirely different from mine and those of many other compatriots. One of his primary dimensions is that ASUU should be as committed as ever to its struggle to reclaim our public universities from this central government of liars whose falsehood has caused and is still causing so much pain that is drooping us droopingly.
Personally, I hold Chris Ngige mainly responsible for what is what in the current almost eight month’s strike of ASUU. Clearly, Ngige, inter-alios, must be held responsible for the abominations which have caused and are still causing our academic casualties. His rhetoric is the rhetoric and has been the rhetoric of falsehood. His role all along has been the role of the owner and opener of the ways of tainted falsehood. The rhetoric generated therefrom, I say it again, is the rhetoric of the lying and drivelling one as his education minister colleague publicly informed us not long ago. Let me weigh you down no longer with suspense. Ngige illegally dragged ASUU to the National Industrial Court even when negotiation that was no negotiation was on between the warring parties. What did Ngige, the labour minister, say in this wise? As a minister who is akin to a government official who lives the life of spite, un-selflessness, wickedness, judgment that is no judgment, and un-forgiveness, he said openly that the government did not take ASUU to court! Who did? His lie was ironically exposed in court when the lawyers the federal government contacted and contracted to argue the government’s case owned up to be representing the Federal Government. Of course, the interlocutory injunction that Barrister Igwe, SAN and company got for Ngige and company has since been called “black market” injunction – as I foresaw (although not exactly as used in the immediately quoted words) in my first quotation of myself already tendered above. But I am now inclined to call the court order Ngige-market injunction. Some solid judicial comments on the last court proceedings that I have read certainly justify my current record of it. As a matter of fact, a brilliant review-cum-analysis of the National Industrial Court’s “injunctive relief against ASUU” by Abiola Sanni (SAN and a Professor of Commercial Law, University of Lagos) justifies my journalistic intervention as I hereby present it.
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The first casualty of Ngige’s hard deviousness is His Lordship Justice Polycarp Hamman. Allegedly, he has allowed himself to be used to procure Ngige-market injunction for the un-deserving – the un-deserving who is not in alignment with the power and vibrational vitality of justice without casualties. Whatever compelled His Lordship to do what he did will cause him cosmic consequences that are inescapable and which can never ever give him peace of mind that is peace of mind. The other casualties are the government’s lawyers whose judicial voices were bereft of the holiness of truth and justice and sanely sane morality. Indeed, the one called Senator Etang exposed himself as one whose judicial heart is as light as a feather-less feather when Seun Okunbaloye of Channels Television politely but frankly dissected him in his every day 7:00PM “Politics Today.” For tactical and strategic reasons, I must spare my readers essential details of his interview of Barrister Etang the driveller. But let me say this: Our public university students are major casualties of his and his principal’s actions. What they have done to the students, I must say, is not un-akin to the poison of King Cobra and a scorpion or tarantula bite. If and whenever their acts go the whole hog, what I am saying will be better appreciated.
So far the greatest casualties of Ngige’s rhetoric of deceit and falsehood and power of vindictiveness are ASUU members, many of whom allegedly have died. The man’s disease of falsehood and hunger poison are committing havoc which ASUU is, however, commanding. Don’t ask me how? Thoth, a deathless Divine Master and Avatar of Justice and of Healing and of Expansive Knowledge and more will not leave – and is not leaving – ASUU alone. Sooner or later Ngige and company will become their own casualties. At the appointed time they will pay dearly for every of their heinous crimes against tertiary education in the land. Only the deep can soar in the realm of the deep. O dear, dear ASUU, never forego dwelling in the struggle. The struggle is tasking and drooping you droopily but do it and carry it on with drool.
Let me anchor with the persuasive emblematic words of Franz Kafka (3 July 1883 – 3 June 1924), Czech but German-speaking novelist and short-shorty writer:
“One idiot is One Idiot.
Two Idiots Are Two Idiots.
Ten thousand Idiots
Are a Political Party.”
Interpret the quotation how you will, but its vibrational profoundness reminds me of the ancient Egyptian Thoth’s magical and vibrational profoundity whose depth I shall share with my readers in no distant time. The poison our idiots have put in the body of our public universities will soon be withdrawn with one profound word of command. Meantime, we must hum and keep on humming: Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! Thunder!!!
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
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