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Retrieving The Philosophy In The ‘Doctor of Philosophy – PhD’ Degree In Nigeria

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

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Tunji Olaopa

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported in the second quarter of 2020 that there were 76, 526 PhD holders in Nigeria. Indeed, in the absence of current and useful data, we can conservatively approximate the 2022 figure to be somewhere around 85,000. And there are approximately more than 20,000 PhD students in Nigerian universities. This ought to be beautiful statistics in terms of educational data for national development. But then the good statistical taste soured when you link the large number of PhD holders with the raging unemployment figure and quality cum relevance of education in the country. Still following the 2020 figure, the NBS said 16.9 percent are unemployed. The breakdown is that while approximately 46,000 are fully employed, 15,000 are underemployed and 12,000 are unemployed. And the worst evidence in this situation analysis is that a large chunk of the approximate 20,000 PhD candidates will be added to the unemployment figures on the completion of their doctoral studies.

Then there is the fundamental matter of the strength of these PhD holders, and their capacities and competences to intervene intellectually, through significant researches, in Nigeria’s socioeconomic predicaments. The quality of the doctoral degrees from Nigerian universities is tied in distinctly with the status of the universities, their infrastructural dynamics and academic acumen. Once we take ASUU’s outcry over the state of Nigerian universities into consideration, as well as the parlous working condition of academic staff, then we return with a negative verdict on what to expect from the doctoral degree holders that we are churning out every year. The state of higher education in Nigeria makes it extremely difficult to produce efficient and foresighted PhD holders with the philosophical sensibility that deduces and resolves problems logically and within a larger picture of human well-being and their humanity.

A fair diagnosis therefore is that the doctoral programs in Nigerian universities are essentially devoid of their fundamental core: the philosophical essence of a doctor of philosophy degree. This diagnosis takes its root from the stilted ideological premise of the National Policy on Education. In making a distinction between the humanities on the one hand, and the natural, social and management sciences on the other hand; and in preferring the latter to the former, the federal government grounds the Nigerian educational system on a philosophical path that rejects philosophy, history and the humanities, as being significant for national integration and development. If the philosophical sensibility is central to the nature and relevance of the humanities, then relegating the humanities to second fiddle in the national development equation in the NPE is not only tantamount to damaging the fulsomeness of what the doctorate implies in grasping the essence and fundaments of life and existence and being, it ought to be done more creatively.

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The anti-intellectualism of the Nigerian political class is demonstrated in the lackadaisical attitude paid to the health of higher education in Nigeria, as the very fulcrum of human capital development that sustains the backbone of the Nigerian state as a developmental entity. The universities produce human capital as a consequence of researches into existing and unfolding bodies of knowledge. And these human capitals are conditioned to also achieve the advancement of knowledge through their commitment to adding to the existing bodies of knowledge either in industries or by further researches. When the universities turn out students, the graduates are the finished products of specific knowledge about the societies and the economies. And they are expected to generate further knowledge that keeps oiling knowledge production for the sake of the society and the nation. The principles, theories, formulas, hypotheses and postulates that are taught these graduates are supposed to flow through them into the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the society and the good of humanity.

Philosophy features prominently in the understanding and analysis of the body of knowledge that is gathered and utilized. Philosophy and the philosophical methods, especially critical thinking, moderate both basic and applied researches, especially in outlining, analyzing and synthesizing ideas, issues, problems, data, and the direction in which to drive the issues germane to societal progress and the future of our civilization. Most fundamentally, philosophy insists on the clarity of ideas and issues, and rigor in the pursuit of answers and resolutions through properly formulated queries and questions. Most fundamentally, philosophy—as the love of wisdom—is concerned with the appropriated knowledges and facts that could be properly deployed for the sake of human well-being. Wisdom is not just an abstraction. It has functional tangibility. It asks the question: what do we do with what we know—about the world and about ourselves?

The highest point of the academic accumulation of such functional knowledge is the doctorate. That is the highest degree that a university awards. Philosophy, as the love of wisdom, therefore sums the zenith of the love for knowledge and its utility in practice. It stands to reason, therefore, that the highest degree would be a doctor of philosophy. Having a doctorate, however, does not make the holder a philosopher. But this is because we have used “philosopher” here in the sense of someone who had dedicated his or her life studying philosophy as a discipline, and understanding its methods and subject matters. But there is a broad view of philosophy that makes every human a philosopher. In this context, we are all proto-philosophers to the extent that we are curious about our existence and what it entails. A PhD holder approximates philosophy to the extent that she achieves knowledge in a specialized field that speaks to a problem-solving capacity and critical thinking. At this level, a PhD, properly so-called, must be able to apply the accumulated knowledge to problems and predicaments. She must be able to search and re-search in ways that clear the path for solutions and re-solutions. After all, philosophy generally used to be the sum of all practical knowledge.

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However, the real issue is not to ask if everyone with a PhD is a philosopher. On the contrary, we should ask if it is desirable to make a PhD holder a philosopher. The answer is an emphatic ‘Yes’. Philosophy goes beyond a method of research. When we seek a philosopher in a PhD, we are demanding that a doctoral degree holder must be essentially trained to be a thinker—that is the philosophy in the PhD. A philosopher in this sense develops the perspicacity—the deep vision that allows for a relationship between existence, meaning and values in life. And the thread that runs through the three is the accumulated knowledge that relates values to the meaning that makes existence bearable. When a candidate therefore applies for a PhD in a university, she enters into a journey of discovery, through a disciplined research regimen, that outlines the relationship between the knowledge accumulated and the imperative of being human. Knowledge becomes useless—from physics and quantum computing to sociology and human geography—if it is not conditioned by the human search for meaning. The methodological rigor involved in researching for the PhD involves perseverance, creativity, imaginative learning, critical and analytic thinking, passion, patience, and communicative openness. However, all these open up the candidate to an empathetic mindset that sees the larger picture about humans and humanity, and the functionality of the acquired knowledge in the larger search for meaning. It is the capacity to see the larger vision about humanity and the values that make life meaningful that makes the PhD holder a philosopher—a thinker with the imperative of making life and living worthwhile.

From the above, it is not difficult for the reader to see how the doctorate-as-philosopher becomes critical to the task of nation-building in Nigeria. With an enlarged mind, radiating in those dimensions of being and being-ness that my little 2010 book characterizes as The Joy of Learning, such a doctorate holder transcends the ethnic and religious bias that cripples the national integration project in Nigeria. The discipline requires in accumulating and sieving through knowledge to determine which is relevant and which does not condition open-mindedness. A critical and analytic mind enables the capacity to see how we can move beyond the frivolous and the superficial as a people towards a deeper understanding of our collective malaise and the way out of it. Unfortunately, however, it is also not difficult for the acute reader to see how transforming a PhD holder into a thinker becomes a rather herculean task in Nigeria. The condition that makes higher education the context for such transformation is just not there in the first place. The universities themselves are not motivated by any philosophical clarity about the vision of their existence and objectives vis-à-vis the postcolonial knowledge production of Nigeria and her search for development.

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As a first order of business therefore, the objectives of higher education in Nigeria must be re-visioned and re-strategized, especially within the national policy on education. The place of the humanities, and of philosophy in the humanities and in national development, must be re-aligned properly and creatively side-by-side the natural, social and management sciences. Philosophy is fundamentally central to the understanding of the educational dynamics of a nation as it is to the core of the doctoral degree that a student earns from such a higher education that is meant to produce the human capital to transform such a nation. Once philosophy is missing anywhere in this equation, hope is lost!

.Prof. Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and Professor, National Institute For Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos .
tolaopa2003@gmail.com

 

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Opinion

Professor Ayo Olukotun, My Eyuze

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Readers’ Showers Of Encouragement
Prof Tony Afejuku

 

By Tony Afejuku

My bosom friend, Professor Ayo Olukotun, a man and personage for whom I placed considerable respect, who died recently, was committed to mother earth last Friday. The ever-delightful Professor Kayode Soremekun, the immediate past Vice Chancellor of Federal University Oye-Ekiti pointed my attention to this in his tribute to Professor Ayo Olukotun symbolically captured in The Punch newspaper of Friday, 27 January, 2023. After reading his tribute on the very day Ayo Olukotun normally appeared on the back page of The Punch as a five-star columnist, I nodded my head in painful pain. Kayode Soremekun’s tribute essentially captured aspects of our friend’s public life, and I gave some long thought to our departed humanist of humanists’ hurried committal to the brown earth of Ibadan which was not near his homestead, geographically speaking, in Egbe Yoruba of Kogi State. Was an injustice done to him in his prompt burial in Ibadan of cultural and poetic seven hills?  Perhaps circumstances of his demise compelled his remains to be committed to mother earth in Ibadan of JP Clark’s “broken china in the sun.” (How my memory is failing me as a result of my emotional state!) The one who was supposed to get back to me for accurate information on and about the event did not when I was putting my words together. Another common friend and my friend’s course-mate at Obafemi Awolowo University (formerly University of Ife, Ile-Ife), did not divulge this information in his similarly public picture of my friend in his The Guardian’s roaring tribute of Tuesday, 31 January, 2023. I am of course referring to Barrister Alade Rotimi-John who was one of the early bringers of our gone hero’s demise to my poor attention. The other person was Suyi Ayodele, Tribune’s Tuesday ace columnist.

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Before Soremekun’s and Rotimi-John’s well-crafted tributes found me, Professor Olu Obafemi’s great elegiac poem of immortal diamond had galloped and gasped to me. The poem by our National Laureate, a Nigerian National Order of Merit winner, clearly made its mark on my mind. The privately circulated poem to a select audience was one in which Professor Olu Obafemi tried successfully to crowd Olukotun’s career with conquest in Olukotun’s years and years of eventful events. I never knew that Obafemi knew Olukotun until I read his afore-said poem entitled “Ayo, Omo Olukotun, Odabo!”

Professor Olukotun’s “Yagba homestead” and ancestry and scholastic biography right from “Titcombe College, Egbe in Kogi State” up to the “forest of Knowledge” in Ile-Ife and beyond as “hero of the Globe” were/are movingly and movingly rendered in the poem. But why was the dazzling adventurer “Okun, Son of Jege” committed to the red soil of Ibadan when his eyes finally and eternally closed? I tried in vain to reach Professor Obafemi, another worthy friend, and  my friend’s close kinsman, for an answer. All I got was prophetically rendered in the poem as follows: ”It is doubtful that this adventurer into/the forest of knowledge/Shall return to these shores again.” Another common friend, Professor Ademola Da Sylva, who knew Ayo in their Ife days, was similarly moved by Obafemi’s elegy.

    Professor Ayo Olukotun was no Professor Ayo Olukotun to me. He was simply to me – until he breathed his last breath Eyuze as I was to him Tone Baba. We first met in 1977 in Zaria now in Kaduna State. We were lecturing colleagues (Graduate Assistants – later Assistant Lecturers) at Ahmadu University. He was my tightest pal. Our other tight friend was the sociologist/criminologist Basil Owomero (a fellow Graduate Assistant) from Ozoro town in Isoko-land in Delta State. Basil died a pretty long time ago after earning a doctorate in Criminology. Of the three of us I am the only living one now. As I am reflecting on this confusion of thought, emotion, and vision of our then years a void stares at me pitilessly. The vastness of the then years of youthful youthfulness up to when we left Zaria at different times blurs and time becomes hollow. I am in the moment of writing remembering only one or two or three things of the happy and unhappy events we shared. 

    I remember that Eyuze Baba brought Adebayo Williams and me together. Adebayo Williams is now a Professor of Literature and a novelist and columnist of no mean repute. He and Eyuze were together as under-graduates in those years of tempestuous student unionism of patriotic patriotism when Eyuze made hay and held sway in Ife as President of the Students’ Union. But it is not this I am recalling and remembering. I am recalling and remembering… I am recalling and remembering Bayo Williams’ visits in his ever-faithful Passat to Eyuze (and then eventually to us) from Kaduna (where he was teaching at Federal Government College and at the same time working on his Master’s degree in Ife as we were doing in Zaria) when we dreamed dreams of Nigeria and our tempestuous love affair with your country my country our country. We dreamed the dreams of writing and of how to help this country to constitute ethical or moral or whatever science and knowledge of growth to shape it and humankind. Each of us endeavoured to adopt the method which would make him the peerless master of positive criticism of our country. Then we really had and held lofty dreams of enlightened patriots as young as we were with the whole world before us. Until he died Eyuze did not betray the dream and did not deviate from its anatomy.  Our man was a stammerer and stutterer in private conversations but in his public speeches and lectures he was a brilliant and very brilliant orator and analyst of acute dialectical proportions who always was an orator’s orator. He always reminded me of the late famous socialist novelist Professor Festus Iyayi of the University of Benin (who famously led the Academic Staff Union of Universities in the military era that in hindsight is hundred percent better than this civilian democratic regime of rotten rottenness). And in Professor Olukotun’s shining and shiny writings you would not notice any stammering and stuttering. Let me refrain from citing numerous examples. Eyuze was simply and more than simply audaciously brilliant and courageously courageous. He stood on a very high moral ground which his elegant writings are evidence of.

    What else am I remembering? When I was leaving Zaria finally, with my all-what-not, Eyuze accompanied me to the Mid-West. This attests to the measure of our tight friendship. We spent three days together in Sapele and Warri before we travelled back together in order for me to tidy up my disengagement from Ahmadu Bello University. I can write a treatise on the pure geometry of our healthy relationship. But it is immaterial now. Yet let me say this. In later years, in much later years, after we were fully committed to marital duties – with the vagaries of our politics and economy not helping matters – the cruel wind and breeze of boisterous Nigeria roped, wrestled, beat bare our friendship but we never ignored the generosity of our closeness through ample calls. In one of those calls I related the gloriously memorable one night I spent with him in the Lagos Daily Times estate/quarters he was staying in then as an editorial staff  member of that once famous global newspaper before he was a faculty member of University of Lagos. He enjoyed it all then. I can imagine how he and our elderly GG Darah, who is also now a Professor, cordially and graciously – and very warmly, welcomed me to the editorial office when I visited Kakawa! Or is memory failing me again? No, no, no.

    Is there anything further I want to recall about Eyuze? Of course, there are many more things to say about my kind and joyfully-minded Eyuze. But I must hold my breath here. In despair, of course. And my despair is not the vigorous pleasure of despairing. Our gone revolutionary humanist was every revolutionary’s humanist. He should not have left us now. But his time was surely up. I say this as a revolutionary mystic and peace activist – if you permit me to say so.

Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.

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Opinion

Witch Persecution And Dream Experiences In Nigeria

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

By Leo Igwe

The Advocacy for Alleged Witches welcomes the arrest of a young man, Joseph Friday, who allegedly murdered his father for witchcraft in Akwa Ibom. The development represents some of the best ways the police could help end impunity and beat back the tide of witch-hunting in the country. The suspect told the police that the father used to appear to him in a dream. He said that the father would hypnotize him before depositing a spell in his body. Mr. Friday said, “My Father used a charm on me; he appeared in my dream and hypnotized me. Whenever he appeared, something like a tortoise entered my body, and I would start to behave abnormally”.

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Akwa Ibom is one of the states in Nigeria where witch persecution is pervasive, and abuses linked to witchcraft beliefs are widespread. As in this case, many cases of witchcraft accusations are linked to dreams, mystical interpretations of dreams. It will take more than arresting suspects and perpetrators to end these savage acts.

In Akwa Ibom, people are taught to take their dream experiences seriously. They believe or are made to believe, that those who appear in dreams are witches or agents of the occult. People are taught that dream experiences are revealing; they disclose potential harm and harmers. So people believe that their dreams point to what would happen to them or their families. So, whenever a person sees someone threatening or attacking them in a dream, they confront, attack, or kill the person when they wake up. Some people have noted cases where they have seen people pursuing them with a machete, or pressing their chest in the dream. And they felt horrified upon waking up. People who see others in a dream prefer to expose and kill them before they wreak further havoc. People take the dream experiences as real-life experiences. Incidentally, this mistaken idea of dreams is real and dangerous. And as this case has illustrated, the mystical idea of dreams leads to horrific abuses.

To end witch persecution, Nigerians need to change their attitudes towards dreams. Nigerians should understand that dreams are natural, not supernatural phenomena. Dreams are a stream of images and sensations that well up in the mind whenever a person is asleep. They have nothing to do with witchcraft or magic as popularly believed. People dream because their brains are not dead. Dreams are rooted in thoughts and imaginations that the mind entertained while awake. It is grossly mistaken to attack or kill someone based on another person’s dream experiences.

Dr. Igwe is an executive director of the
Advocacy for Alleged Witches.

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Opinion

Where Did All The Money Go?

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Mike Hunder

By Mike Hunder

For eight straight years, the Buhari administration had been turning up the “no money” rhetoric.  Added to the puzzle, at a time when oil-producing countries were reaping sustained windfalls from high oil prices, at above $100 per barrel on average in 2022, following the Russia-Ukraine war, the NNPC made zero remittance to the federation account for most of the year. 

Now, a series of striking revelations have contradicted the administration’s “no money” claim, at a dramatic speed.  

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First, the Auditor General, in a 2022 letter to the Senate revealed that “a total of 17,877,705 barrels of crude oil valued at $1,020,969,281.12 (over one billion, twenty million dollars), were exported between 2016 and 2020, without proper records. This perhaps explains the non-remittance of funds by the NNPC into the federation account that characterized the administration. 

Second, things got so bad that, the then Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, locked horns with NNPC over shortchanging the government on several occasions. In one instance, in June 2018, there was a standoff between the National Economic Council and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), when the then Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, pointedly accused the NNPC of short-changing the government.  She declared NNPC’s account to the federal accounts allocation committee (FAAC), “unacceptable” and asked that they render the full account of the “missing billions”!

What happened there after?  The “deep state” clipped her wings, with allegations that she forged her NYSC certificate. Three months later, she resigned, and life went on.

Another revelation came to fore on the floor of the Senate in December 2022. That about 100 federal MDAs failed to account for the sum of #1.9 trillion naira from 2017 to 2021, despite several invitations. More shocking, most of the agencies involved, report to the presidency. This included the State House, Presidential Fleet, Ministry  of Finance, the armed forces, Police, Accountant General office,  NEMA, Ministry of Defence,  Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs and many others.

The fourth was a bigger problem than many first thought. The CBN embarked on unfettered “printing of money” for the Buhari administration since 2015, in repeated disregards of the laws. Under the CBN Act, “ways and means” facility (a code for printing money for government), should not exceed 5% of the previous year’s revenue of the government and must be paid within the financial cycle. Then again, Section 38 provides that, “ways and means”… must be refunded before the collection of another one.” Yet, the Buhari administration kept collecting “ways and means” from the CBN, without making a refund, in a zeal not seen before, hitting #23.7 trillion by December 2022.

When the Edo state governor, Godwin Obaseki, first spilled the beans about CBN’s printing of money for the federal government back in April 2021, the government denied it. Now, realizing that the “ways and means” account, cannot possibly be kept way from the public beyond May 2023, the president has sent a request to the Senate to give it a second life. Asking for a legislation to restructure it, and pass the repayment to future generations over a period of 40 years! Added to the puzzle, the request contained no records of how, when and what the #23.7 trillion was spent on.

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Until recently, the administration claimed that Nigeria does not have a debt problem, but a revenue problem. Then, it embarked on constant external borrowings, increasing external debts by 300% between June 2015 ($10 billion) and June 2022 ($40 billion), without a corresponding increase in foreign currency earnings.  Now, Patience Oniha, the director general of the Debt Management Office, when appearing before the House of Representatives to defend the 2023 budget, revealed that Nigeria does have an external debt problem. To the extent that Moody’s and Fitch downgraded Nigeria to a Category ‘B’ economy in 2021, the international market has closed its doors of borrowing against Nigeria, making it difficult for the country to borrow.

On top of this, fell the huge national debt stock, at seventy-seven trillion Naira.

Thus, an ugly spiral has developed: huge sums of money that are unaccounted for, constant external borrowings without a corresponding increase in foreign earnings – and a gigantic national debt of seventy-seven trillion Naira, completes the circle!

In the current climate, what is puzzling to people is, where did all this money go? Many who have defended the administration on financial prudence, now say they cannot go beyond this caricature. Then again, post-May 2023, things will probably get worse, before they get better. So, now comes the hangover! 

*Mike Hunder, an economist and business-training consultant based in Lagos, is a former General Manager at Union Bank Plc and Oceanic International Bank, respectively. He can be reached at: hundermike@mikehunder.com

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