What Is Our Understanding Of Modern Nigeria? – Reflections On A Book Presentation
Thursday, November 18, 2021, will go down in history as one of the most intellectually fulfilling days I have seen in a long while. To some, that may come across as surprising, given that I provided little to no direct intellectual input at the presentation of my most recent book, Understanding Modern Nigeria. I made not a single contribution to this great event, but then realised I had made much indirect intellectual input, seeing as the reason for the gathering was yet another of my books. It is said of the wise that they do not always give or contribute. Sometimes, they take a seat away from the spotlight to observe the flow of discourse and fire up their wealth of knowledge. This was the position I took on November 18, when eminent scholars and concerned Nigerians from all over the nation journeyed down to Trenchard Hall, in the ancient city of Ibadan, my source and pride, for the presentation of the latest product of my intellectual repertoire.
I have written many books, hundreds of them, so much so that writing a new book should not come as a means of lasting reflections. Yet, it is. Weeks after the book’s presentation, I am here, putting words to a white background — writing yet again. What is special about another published book that, for a long time, it takes the centre of attention of the author who has written hundreds of books? Understanding Modern Nigeria is special to me, and the book presentation more than reinforced my belief in that.
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In writing Understanding Modern Nigeria, I sought to do several things, one of which is to spark the flame of discourse among Nigerian intellectuals. What begins with a small group of intellectuals will spread to other members of the society till the flame is ubiquitous enough to elicit stronger reactions. Understanding Modern Nigeria was not written as just another book, and I did not expect it to be received or regarded as such. Therefore, I was joyous to see the form that the maiden reception of the book took.
It is the joy of any development-oriented author to have other people analyse their works and extensively explore the topics they have touched. For books are not only written to inform and educate but also to spark conversations and rouse the spirit of engagement and solution-proffering conversations. This was the atmosphere created on November 18 at Trenchard Hall, University of Ibadan. The book presentation was like an onion, with several layers of revelations for me. I am sure it was the same for the attendees – for those who were physically with us and those who were virtually present.
A man is lucky if he is surrounded by capable people who can and would ensure that concrete plans are implemented even in his absence, and I am lucky. I was privileged to have Prof. Adesina of the Department of History, University of Ibadan, as the Convener of the book presentation of Understanding Modern Nigeria. He worked with a wonderful team who were my eyes and hands in Nigeria; people I could rely on to hit the ground running and put things in place for the success of the book presentation. Prof. Adesina keyed into the vision of the book since the day he got to know I had it in the works, and he remained unflinching in his support.
Prof. OBC Nwolise is one of the most brilliant minds I know, especially when it comes to analysing political issues and trends. I could not have asked for a better critic and keynote speaker at the presentation of Understanding Modern Nigeria. Prof. Nwolise read the book with the mind of a learned Nigerian, truly ready to understand and help others understand modern Nigeria. And the result of his rigorous and painstaking course through the book is the beautiful presentation he made on Thursday, November 18, 2021. It is often said that no book is ever complete before it is published, for no matter how meticulously the author dedicates time to finish the work, post-publication clarity will reveal some additions that could have been made. The cerebral scholar, Prof. Nwolise, came with a basket full of comments and insights to the book presentation, and many of them have caused me to reflect and consider different possibilities. I thoroughly enjoyed his analysis of the book, particularly his examination of each aspect. Indeed, one day soon, we should have a conversation on our divergent perspectives about Nigeria.
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Such valuable contributions that Prof. Nwolise made to the discourse include his comments on the absence of dialogue, the non-recognition of the Nigerian Police as the lead agency for internal security, and the disregard for education and true learning in the Nigerian space. These three problems are truly among the biggest impediments to the nation’s attempt at progress. Sadly, the people at the helm of affairs in Nigeria would rather resort to brute force than involve dialogue, thereby overriding the democratic powers of Nigeria as a free entity. Hopefully, the recent happenings and revelations will spur the leadership to follow the right path so that this entity will retrace its footsteps from the steep precipice of an anarchical abyss.
Likewise, it is saddening and even dangerous that Nigeria has no counter-culture for its large and ever-growing youthful population. There is no grooming for the youth, and they live in the shadows of the adults until they reach full adulthood and find themselves in the corridors of power, ill-groomed. Prof. Nwolise’s insight at the book presentation has helped to broaden the scope of my recommendation regarding the handing over of power to the youth. If we are to hand over power to the youth, we must first consider if they are ready, and can the youth be ready if we do not groom them or make provisions for self-grooming? In addition, there are no adequate provisions for the development of human resources in Nigeria, as opined by the learned Prof. Nwolise. Nigeria is churning out millions of graduates to its workforce and corporate space, yet these graduates underwent little to no human resources development and capacity development while in the higher institutions of learning.
I am also grateful to Prof. Olufunke Adeboye — historian par excellence. Prof. Adeboye is so unassuming that you would hardly be able to tell that the soft-spoken academic is a well-read and widely published African history researcher. It is amazing to see that we share similar research interests. I appreciate her insights into yet another way to explore the book, Understanding Modern Nigeria. I am particularly marvelled by how thoroughly she understood the thought processes and considerations that led to the writing of the book. It was wonderful to listen to another person read out insights that perfectly aligned with my thought processes on why I wrote the book.
Understanding Modern Nigeria is a personal contribution to the body of work on the Nigerian entity, as well as a call on other intellectuals to join the discourse, first, at the book presentation, and perhaps later at their individual writing desks, with books to show as products of their intellectual labours. Prof. Adeboye’s analysis was a fulfilment of one of the major reasons I wrote the book, and I am grateful to have sat in the hall that day to listen to her.
Notably, Prof. Adeboye suggested comparative studies as a means of seeking solutions to the Nigerian conundrum, which I consider a novel idea. She urged everyone to find countries that have had problems similar to Nigeria’s and see if the strategies they applied to their problems can be adopted or modified to solve Nigeria’s problems. I also got a valuable suggestion from her. It would indeed serve to the betterment of the country to make an abridged version of the book that would be easier to consume within a smaller timeframe.
The book presentation had two phenomenal keynote speakers, but it would have been nothing without the other sixteen participants who joined these two professors to form two panels. Thus, it is reasonable to say that the discussion on understanding modern Nigeria started from the book’s presentation. I am grateful to the panelists and panel moderators. To the panelists who spoke on ethnicity —Edmund Obillo, Prof. Ayo Olukotun, Prof. Remi Aiyede, Dr. Nathaniel Danjibo, Prof. Michael Afolayan, Prof. Jide Owoeye, Prof. Akin Alao, Oluwaseun Sanwo Olu, and Kunle Afolayan — I say thank you for your immense and unreserved contributions to the now continuing discourse on ethnicity in modern Nigeria and the factors that influence how ethnicity and ethnic politicization plays out in the Nigerian space.
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To the panelists on democracy and development — Seun Akinola, Prof. Tunde Babawale, Prof. Adigun Agbaje, Dr. Festus Adedayo, Prof. Francis Egbokhare, Prof. Jumoke Yacob-Haliso, and Precious Ibeh — I am indebted to you all for gracing the occasion and also making valuable inputs that have proved that we are ready to understand modern Nigeria and foster more conversations about Nigeria’s challenges. I am sure that the members of the audience had an intellectually stimulating and enlightening moment, and this is further proven by the overwhelming number of comments and messages that I have received since the book presentation.
If anything, this book presentation is an opening to an endless possibility of ways through which we can interrogate the problems of the Nigerian state, with a view to solving the country’s problems. Can things veer away from what they look like currently? Yes, it is possible, and based on this, we will continue to interrogate these issues.
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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Death At Dawn, Rebirth At Dusk
By Toyin Falola
Twilight-zone, Afterlife, What-Mays, and Whatnots;
Questions that transcend mortal thoughts.
Uncertainties plucked by the hands of certainty
pondering life beyond the galaxy.
Philosophies, religions, and sciences;
Ancient lenses to dissect and ponder.
Beliefs, opinions, and standpoints in their multiplicities;
Scalpels that open the heart of certain death
Blazing free the skins of uncertainty.
Science, a nobility I revere,
But it stammers answering to the afterlife.
For science is knowledge and knowledge from experience
But the dead neither speak, nor take records.
Their journeys, ordeals, triumphs or woes?
No one bears witness.
But as dead, we must all be witnesses;
witnesses that testify not.
So, for now, we survive the knowledge of death.
On my Agbàlàgbà head lies my Ọ́kpụ́ Ágwụ́
With eagle feathers, rare and honorable
Adorning it for three scores, a decade, and some more days.
I had flipped my Kente given by the Gaa
And danced to crescendos from Gàngàn drums
I have been celebrated and celebrating
For the miracles, I have worked with pen, paper, keyboard, and brain
I have taken the tales we tell in my village square beyond the Atlantic
Changed the songs that disdain us into appraisals
I have called my brothers not to point to our fathers’ house with their left hands
I have honed Africa and beyond
To answer the calls of the people’s need
I have reached the thinkable and done the unthinkable
So, I danced and keep dancing.
Suddenly, I felt a touch on my host?
Electrifying my hand, leg, brain, and my whole
Telling me that my jur from the Dinka people awaits me.
That my hourglass tells of crossing the bar.
I thought I knew what it was like,
But my grasping convictions of approaching jur were perceptions
Just surviving the death of the knowledge of death
So, arms wide open ready to abound
What was there to fear?
No catacomb of secrets
No palm oil-drenched white garments
I have taken many to my gourmet
To feast and to see.
What was there not to fear?
With medicine men and women,
Syringes, lights, water, ECG, Oximeters, voices, and touches
Hovering around me like a sacred etutu
Making conversations with me and beyond
I was thrown into a pool of reminiscence
one leg and a part of me were already in the boat
It beckoned but I heard another.
A loud voice like my mother’s.
Who takes a journey without locking his home?
Who takes the jur with unpatched palm fronds on his hut?
While the thunder rages up the sky?
The walls are broken and Balogun journeys?
So, I left the sea to clear the cobwebs and light up the night lamb.
The past few weeks have opened new lights of understanding to me. I now see the world from different hills and have helped to reach new resolutions. I know I have written about “transitioning to nothingness,” but my emphasis was on the “nothingness” with lesser attention on “transitioning.” I think we need to continue to ask questions. Philosophies, religion, sociology, psychology, science, and other ramifications are mere perceptions and we are uncertain. The transitioning occurs when death becomes an angel to hug not a beast to fear. We do not know what it entails but one must always endeavor to go with clean hands.
My recovery from an illness may have offered me a fresh opportunity to shout some more, point to societal needs, and settle unfinished businesses. No, not those caused by my personal undoing, but rather those of the people who would be left unguided, and for matters untold about life, society, and individuals. I can say I have passed through the lessons of tantra transfiguration, to use an elegant phrase that I recently came across, to move from secular to sacred activism. No one survives death because of its finality, but when it seems that you did, it is a renewed quest, offering a new purpose.
Professors On INEC’s Will (3)
By Tony Afejuku
The debate has progressed well so far. Our professors, whose strokes have centred on their fellow professor’s manned INEC have tried as best as they could not to confine their impressions solely to the prism of subjectivity. Even when their impressions seem to be subjective, they still make allowance for contrary views, for opposing views. This obviously gives clarity, objectivity and logic to the subject at hand. Is the will of INEC of a professor minder and mincer of words’ control the will of the people or of the masses? On whose side are the Professors who are as concerned as almost everybody is with what is going – or with what has gone on – primarily about our Presidential 2023 elections? Our Professors who are debating the subject constitute the courageous and prophetic Nigerian voices of our day. Their authentic and responsible thoughts are not restricted to the local or regional. They are also not confined to electoral duties and responsibilities expected of the umpire and the will that belongs elsewhere. The truth about the quality of leadership about our country and elsewhere is also told in the debate of the literati.
Professor (Mrs.) Razinatu Mohamed in her submission, in her salvo-cum-explosion actually, drew attention to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s explosive explosion in the presidency. If Professor Osinbajo had provided the right vice-presidential leadership there would not have been the need for him to explode as he did as per a viral video Professor Razinatu Mohamed referred her fellow debaters to. “What has he been doing in the eight years of their administration? Irritated my foot; he is complicit.” Not done, Professor Razinatu drew attention to the kind of leaders that Nigeria and Africa need: “Leaders that understand the rudiments of modern socio-economic development and systems; Leaders that understand the crux of requirements for economic growth. Leaders that could demonstrate to the rest of the world that just as the world needs Africa, African countries need the world in a symbiotic relationship and partnership context where assistance becomes a dual role…..”
Razinata’s concern is clear. Nothing in Nigeria will climb out of its hollow hole. In fact, the will of the people will remain hollow so long as a hollow mincer and minder is in charge of its electoral affairs.
Professor Da Sylva perhaps responds better to Professor Razinatu Mohamed’s algebraic stroke. “Unfortunately, Nigeria’s democracy is trapped in its primordial self-made ethnic and religious sentiments and so, standards, merit, competence and pedigrees are measured by their curious divides of religion and ethnic inclinations. Until we all come to realize that heavens help those who help themselves, Nigeria ain’t going no-where – meeen!”
But below is Professor Da Sylva’s sledge hammer response to Professor Razinatu Mohamed’s Osinbajo hammer blow:
“Prof Osinbajo’s office demands he does what he did. Besides, it shows maturity and spirit of sportsmanship on his part. Every loser in a game “healthily” contested, is naturally expected to do the same. The only difference which again shows Osinbajo’s magnanimity is that in this context, the contest under reference was neither healthy nor just. The umpire seemed compromised and merely worked to a prepared answer. Yet the gentleman did the needful. I guess, brothers and sisters, that we should put all that behind us, and work for our common good, and the wellbeing of the country, provided the mythical Aso cabal will let the President-elect be, and let the masses be, and as such, they should not create any cause for us to think otherwise, lest they provoke our sense of patriotism to take appropriate action! I guess that those were the reading or feelings of the dirty-minded Aso Villa cabal. People that kill with sword never wish that any folk should pass a sword over their heads, a wise saying goes in Yoruba. The human principalities simply suspected that should they allow PMB to give the VP the intended latitude, they might not be able to control him. I remember on his return from London, he commended the efforts of his VP while he was away. He said he would still continue acting while he would still have some more rest at home. The following day everything changed, PMB decided to take charge as the President. I suspected some back door politics was playing out. My co-debaters, quite naturally, you’ll agree with me that, it is not over-ambition or sheer opportunism as you might insinuate for any deputy in an office to aspire to the next higher office, in a legitimate manner, there is nothing really unusual about it, and it would amount to killing a mosquito with a sledge hammer, should Oshinbajo be crucified for that, if at all. And as for his wishing Buhari’s non-recovery, I think that, again, like my Sister R, is a little unkind and not fair to the gentleman who I know to be a servant of God. He knows as much as I do, by our true Christian orientation and Biblical injunctions that, should he ever wish Buhari’s death or wish him any form of misfortune in those trying periods of the President, God Almighty who we serve would deal mercilessly and ruthlessly with him. That is what Psalm 41:1-13 is all about. So rule that out, because it is not, and could never be in his character. I can vouch for him. Rather, I saw him in those times that he acted for his principal, as someone zealous and appreciative of the trust his principal invested in him, and as such he tried to do his very best to merit the trust and the opportunity! I know and I am also sure that this is what an IBK, or a Razinat, would have done too had they found themselves in a similar situation! It does not amount to wishing one’s principal any evil, not at all. Not everyone can be like Chief Obafemi Awolowo who resigned his position under Gowon when the regime became financially reckless shortly after the civil war. Awolowo also gave very profound argumentation to justify convincingly his actions. He also turned down some other appointments including the “49 Wise Men of the Constitution Drafting Committee.” Oshinbajo couldn’t have resigned, normally, and naturally his principal, PMB should have supported him as a capable successor, but again, the President’s ethnic and religious bigotry took the better part of the President. Besides, PMB’s mind was long poisoned against his VP, a clean job by the Aso Villa cabal. IBK, Lady R, until the faceless cabal is permanently silenced the wheel of Nigeria might continue to go round in a circle, and to nowhere in particular”.
And Professor IBK takes the floor: “Prof. DAO, yours is a powerfully convincing submission, at least in a large measure. Now I am willing to hold a slightly different opinion about Osinbajo. Yet, I cannot fathom why he chose to run against Tinubu, days or weeks after the latter had begun his campaign in the party primaries. There’s much we don’t know about why OSBJ decided to run against BAT. Nothing is wrong with that politically but a little problematic from an Ethical or, at least Moral, point of view. Osinbajo did a poor job of it and came out a distant 4th in the primaries. I think he didn’t read the situation correctly and was probably misled by some cabal of sorts. Either way Osinbajo made a politically fatal error in this regard. Perhaps he must have sensed, or was told, that BAT was not the anointed candidate, or that BAT would be crippled by some ill-health or a medical condition. I remember the party’s screening committee publicly recommending that only younger contestants would be recommended to the NWC or such. Clearly there was an attempt to sideline BAT. Whatever the explanation, Osinbajo make the error in his campaign of promising to be more Buhari than Buhari. A man despised by whole sections of the northern population, a man whose reputation for laziness and incompetence was on the ascendant. Anyway, all is now history and Osinbajo has not given a good account of himself in this particular case. Prof DAO, I think your concept of the Trickster should account for Osinbajo’s situation here. FULL DISCLOSURE: a very close family member of mine was drafted to head Osinbajo’s campaign effort in Kano. We discussed extensively about Osinbajo’s pledge to carry on with Buhari’s policies. There was bewilderment and shock within the members. A week later half of the membership resigned on account of Osinbajo’s increasing identification with Buhari’s policies. Many mistakenly thought that Osinbajo was Buhari’s anointed one! I could go on…”
Interestingly interesting and intriguingly intriguing, dear, dearly dear readers: this debate.
To be terminated by the columnist-terminator and terminator-columnist next week after Professor Olu Obafemi’s summation of the debate he presided over.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
With Us, Not For US
By Ijeoma Fynecountry
The 21st of March of every year is international day for the celebration of persons living with down syndrome. The advocacy and push for communal and political recognition of the basic fundamental rights for persons living with various types of disabilities, particularly intellectual disability, just as enjoyed by their peers who do not have any form of challenge – physical or intellectual has recorded a substantial success around the globe, especially in more developed climes.
While the same cannot be said of the situation in Africa and Nigeria in particular, scanty breakthroughs have also been seen over the years, with the consistent and dogged efforts by some specialized organizations such as Down syndrome Foundation, Nigeria (DSFN).
The theme for this year’s celebration is “With us, Not for us”. This theme is apt particularly in the current era where the push for inclusion has taken a center stage in the campaign worldwide. While it is comforting to know that people, government and communities alike are now becoming more empathetic to the plight of persons living with disability, it is also necessary and most important that their rights as human beings deserving of not just empathy but actual concrete benefits accruable to other citizens without disability, is massively taken into consideration and actually provided for.
Therefore, it is not enough for the government to map out and create as in Lagos state and few other states, sections in the public schools to admit children or persons with intellectual disability, it is necessary to adequately equip these special schools with the needed “specialized” manpower, infrastructural and educational aids to attain the targeted educational goals for these persons. Likewise in the provision of better healthcare, economic, social needs of persons with disability etc.
Persons with intellectual disability do not just need to be specifically educated in accordance with his or her type of disability, but MUST also necessarily be able to aspire to or expect to be employed according to his or her learned ability. That way, a full right, befitting of a person, be him a person with disability or not, is assured. For what is the need of going through a learning process, acquiring a specialized knowledge about a craft or handiwork and eventually still not being given the opportunity of gaining employment as supposed, not due to lack of knowledge but for having a disability? No human being should be subjected to such. Our government should do better. The society at large should do better.
The theme for this year is enjoining all stakeholders – the government, communities, corporate organizations, religious bodies/organizations, individuals to open up their hearts, and recognize the very urgent and important need to help in the actualization of these basic human needs, rights of persons living with intellectual disability as we are all human. No human rights or needs should be prioritized over the other no matter the state of their health, mental and physical capacity. Stand with us by taking actual intentional steps towards uplifting and elevating the humanness of persons living with disability. It is not enough to say that you are for persons living with disability, your specific, intentional, targeted actions toward ensuring the practical applicability of these rights matters.
Fynecontryis a Lagos-based legal practitioner and the legal resource person for the Down Syndrome Foundation Nigeria.
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