Micah Stephen: AFRICA AND KNOWLEDGE PRODUCTION (2)

 “Before political subjugation comes intellectual subordination”-Tataalo Alamu, Invention Of African Intellectual Tradition, The Nation Newspapers, November, 2011.

Everything was created from a thought, including nations. Success and failure are most often products of what was executed from thoughts. The question is, was Nigeria and indeed Africa a badly conceived idea or a badly executed one? This question begets many answers. But I dare say Nigeria, nay Africa, was a well conceived and well executed idea, as a colonial plantain plantation. But an economic plantation cannot be transformed into a viable political nation overnight. It must be done with persistent, coherent and committed intellectual exertion.

As I continue from where I drew the curtains last week, I shall attempt to link scarcity of knowledge in the evolution of our nation to our misadventure. Herein lies a caveat, in attempting this arduous task, I may dabble too much into our problems more than focusing on the topic of knowledge production. I apologize in advance as it will not be deliberate. As I have said previously, writing is a writhing task especially when you try to isolate and extricate one problem from another in Nigeria.

I believe the mind is a vacuum; an open book. Every man was born tabula rasa. It remains that way until experience comes to play as man grapples with the extant realities of his environment. This is why nations with ambition, try to isolate the mind of their people and impel them to think in terms of productivity, creativity and innovation. The mind is such a big thing to trifle with. I make a biblical detour as I try to expatiate. When God created Adam, rather, after God created Adam, he left the job of “sub-creation” to him. Adam had to use his intuition to give names to all animals, plants etc, such that they still the names we call these things, language variation notwithstanding. Adam used his skull to perform his tasks. God created man, with the intuition to grapple with his realities and engage his circumstances with scientific precision. God will not do for man, what He has created man to do for himself. You can pray for His inspiration and guidance in directing your affairs, but you do not expect Him to put food on your table, provide your shelter and govern your state. God created us to create something.  gods don’t build nations, people do. Wealth creation and national liberation can hardly be accomplished without productivity. Productivity can only be increased via the window of knowledge. For instance, less than 1% of the American population feeds the over 300 million Americans and other nations. They have taken advantage of the unquantifiable potentials of the human mind to navigate their way to the summit of human affirmation and dominance. Nigeria cannot even feed itself. Africa, lacking in knowledge, depends entirely on commodities. We rather export cocoa than chocolate, oranges than juice, cassava rather than ethanol etc. you cannot sustain a nation on commodities in this era. We import finished products, and export jobs. Again, this was the objective of the imperialists. This was the reason why colonialism happened and why Africa was created in the first place. We have continued to own fidelity to this founding charter. We produce raw materials, export them, they are returned as finished products. Our leather becomes their shoes, our cocoa becomes their chocolate, we are still the slave plantation and they are still the slave holders.

Lack of knowledge production is the reason why we lack ambition as a nation. You cannot overcome what you do not despise. This is why we still use hoe and cutlass to farm and we expect these to feed a nation of almost 200 million. We generate lesser electricity than Paris, Germany with a population of 80 million generates more than 300, 000 Megawatts of electricity, while we are struggling to keep ours at 3,000 Megawatts. We leave policing to the centre and expect the centre to understand that the topography of Buguma is not the same as Kafanchan. We still use hammer to crush stones, camels to carry goods yet our engineers are gainfully employed in banks! In fact our leaders visit dibias to proffer solutions to economic crisis. Some governors have even attributed our economic woes to divine orchestration. Vain religiousity cannot take the place of detailed perspicacity. Thoughtlessness should not be mistaken for godliness. God is too big to be reduced to such vanity. Abdication of what is a primary responsibility cannot be redressed by patronizing God’s sovereignty. It is a futile effort.

The challenges that has bedeviled our generation, bogged down to clear this debris of acute ethnicity, wholesale butchery, internecine wars definitive of our continent are staggering. But it is only when we appreciate the roots of our problems that we can prescribe solutions. What we see in the form of corruption, nepotism, stark inhumanity on our continent is the manifestation of what is a deeper malady. We should not mistake the symptoms for the disease. A faulty premise begets a faulty conclusion. Embedded in the faulty answer is the faulty question. A bad diagnosis attracts a wrong remedy. The question, dear readers, is not why we have these effects, but what is the cause of these realities? The problems I dare say are the inability to achieve elite consensus even at the most minimal level and knowledge production. Most other problems are outgrowths of these two. While the first is crucial, the second is to me more fundamental.  Our people currently find it had to grapple with realities. Like I earlier stated, the mind is a vacuum which must be filled either by knowledge or ignorance. Once the latter occurs, the human is in darkness with no hope of emancipation. What is begotten is irresponsible leadership which has led to the capitulation of many states in Africa. There is therefore an urgent need to anchor national evolution on knowledge production and elite consensus. Now, by knowledge production, I do not mean being credentialed or certificated as is our wont, which hardly refines the human mind. I do not propose the regurgitation of 19th century syllabus as is our culture. It is of great danger to the nation to the “miseducated” than the ignorant. The miseducated does not know that he does not know. I am talking of the type that will stimulate the mind towards articulating sound solutions for the liberation, management and preservation of our continent. Africa will always lag behind if she does not transform herself with knowledge. The “trade ahead of aid” slogan bandied about by our leaders is not inspired by an aforethought economic plan, coherent policy formulation, educational roadmap that will power such motive, but it is chaired by  people who are neither partakers nor believers in the vision they profess. It is difficult to see how a Pierre Nguruziza will entrench sound political principles and economic master plan that will liberate Burundians. His immediate concern is Bujumbura, the seat of power.

A senior friend and mentor, asked on twitter, if anybody could articulate the Nigerian dream. Yours sincerely replied, with caustic relish, that I could articulate the Nigerian nightmare. In one fell swoop, there was a summary summation and dismemberment of a shared contradiction and circumstance. He, an evolving administrator (he was unarguably the best student leader of his time; the most innovative, creative and articulate faculty president in his time at the University of Ibadan), must have been miffed and agitated by his inability to comprehend Nigeria, Africa and their litany of problems. As a faculty president, he ensured he had an elite consensus and executed his many programmes using the best of human resources the faculty of law U.I could offer. It is therefore heart renting to see what was successfully done at the micro level of a university with a community as diverse as U.I’s, being difficult to achieve at the national level. I share his anguish and exasperation. Our anger is not directed at a dead past, but a dying future. Our generation seems distracted rather than surefooted. We are yet to extricate ourselves from the mindlessness of yesterday. We are being good sons of our fathers. This concern is even exacerbated by PMB’s second coming which is crumbling and a far cry from the messianic encore we had envisioned it to be.

At this juncture, I must say, we do not need anybody to tell us of our horrible state when the food we eat, the cloth we wear, the movies we see, our leisure, our history, our identity, legal system, our drugs, are given to us by nations who in the name of “common humanity” and globalization will prefer us bound to their apron strings. This is the reason for the epigraph at the beginning of this article. We need an urgent national rebirth.

As I conclude, my question is what is our expectation from governance? How do we expect our nation to be for ourselves and our children? Our answers will be the core of our consideration as we make our decisions in 2019. Our reality cannot be bigger than our expectation. As alliances are being forged ahead of the elections in 2019 over sticks of suya and cups of palmwine, will merit and knowledge play a pivotal role in 2019 or our pockets and ethno-religious solidarity? Our misbegotten past is going to be our future, if we embark on the same path as our fore fathers. For Nigeria to emerge as the unique torch bearer of the emancipation of the black race, it must ensure that knowledge guides its deliberations and policy articulation. Without knowledge production, we cannot be a worthy contemporary in the league of nations with high cerebral power. After all, only the deep can call to the deep.

Epilogue

Thomas Paine, the redoubtable campaigner against imperialism, in his treatise “Age of Reason” insisted that man should be the ultimate decider of his own fate since he has been empowered by God with the capacity for such assignment. Yours sincerely may not share in every piece of his stipulations but he undoubtedly was an enigma. As an ardent student of philosophy, history and an avid reader of Obafemi Awolowo’s philosophy, policies and postulations, I shall make concerted effort at critiquing Awo’s vision for national actualization and development. It is also important to see how Awo tried to establish a nexus between micro nationalism (tribe) and macro-nationalism (nation). We shall espouse Awo’s understanding of man and his roles and how this structured his policy formulation, articulation and implementation; his famous policy being the free education programme. It is an attempt to project his thoughts and not his person lest we engage in mindless ethnically induced polemics. Till then, adios!!!!!

 

Micah Stephen, combines his love for law with a deep appreciation of history and classical studies. He considers himself to be an admixture of a lawyer, classicist, historian and entrepreneur.

 

Micah Stephen: Africa and Knowledge Production

“for a mind that knows is a mind that is free………” Unibadan Anthem

Writing is such a costly and exerting endeavour. Out of the abundance of the mind, the hand writeth. The writer at crucial times faces the challenges of paucity of events that rightly catch his fancy or a ridiculous surplusage or torrents of issues to battle. He either sets at dawn or he gets smacked down. Cerebral Achebe felt that it is the job of a writer to engage in a bit of activism, not to just be there, to partake in his own little way as his nation battles with the crisis of self-actualization or self-immolation. He must be the gauge of a collective conscience. The writer must engage his reality head on, not just drag the audience along the road of fantastic presentation and representations, but he must address and redress the immediate concern of his environment. Writing is “righting”. In Africa, there are too many wrongs to right. This is why writing is writhing to the African writer.

Something is inherently different about Africa. If evolution were true, it is either the black man evolved prematurely or evolved differently. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution deserves a revisit. What is referred to as Africa must be recognized as a tapestry of European settlements. It is hardly an apt description of a group of people as they had always been. Africa is a product of alien bargaining not native consensus. It was first alienated, emasculated, mutilated and then delineated over bottles of scotch at the Berlin |Conference of 1885. Licenses and assignments were created in favour of interested merchants, hardly by any beneficial owner. It was the first classic case of giving what one does not have; mortgages were granted colonial slave holders to ingratiate economic rewards. Hitherto, the African had been a master of himself far before Europe’s incursion into its body polity, up till Arab incursion at least. The Kingdom of Songhai was established in 1350 Years AD and lasted until 1600 AD when the kingdom was invaded and ransacked by forces from Morocco with substantial financial and military support from the English Tudor monarch, Queen Elizabeth 1st.  There were two hundred English artillery mercenaries in the invading force. Arabs had rattled and decimated much of old Mali, Gao, Djenne and Timbuktu by the 12th century. Universities were established at Timbuktu and Sankore. After Arabian hegemony was toppled around the 14th century by transatlantic trade, the resulting carcass was to be the object of the frenetic carnivorous appetite of the marauding Europeans from the beginning of 14th century. The image Africa presently bears is the image of Europe. It may change tomorrow. There was no Nigeria, at the beginning of the 20th century. It can cease to exist before the end of the 21st century. States are made not divinely created. Humans nurture states; they hardly have the imprimatur of gods.

After the departure of the European imperialists from its colonial plantations, it has been a disaster for the infantile states to assume a different shade from what was its original design; a European banana plantation. Europeans did not owe their settlements the duty to look after their political wellbeing, once their economic interests were safe. After a night of amorous torrid passion, Frederick Luggard foisted more than 200 polities together to form Nigeria. He learned from the Bismark chaired conference in 1885. One of the participants even stated that they knew not what they were doing; they only drew straight lines across the map. Over 20, 000 different empires and tribes were coupled that day. What was birthed was a leprosed continent constantly battling with itself, a collage of ethnic chauvinism, acute human depravity, extreme corruption, animalistic pogroms of unimaginable scale and scope, exceptional level of bad governance, biting unemployment rate , all scattered and shattered along primordial ethnic  lines, combining to form human suffering of epic proportion.

The transformation of Africa from colonial serfs into post-colonial modern states have been nigh improbable, if not impossible. The primordialism, archaism, obsoleteness of the mode of organization in most African states in the 21st century is befuddling, if not graphic. The challenge with Africa is knowledge. This is the reason for the adoption of the epigraph at the beginning of the article. It is the last verse of the University of Ibadan’s anthem. The challenge with Africa as a continent sequestered along alienating nation states is that of knowledge production i.e a continent midwifed by intellectual and philosophical exertion. I must state that most nations are hardly consummated with amicable resolutions. But they are ceaselessly and meticulously nurtured by deep philosophies that make them look immutable. To be precise, I do not mean that no form of knowledge has ever come out Africa. In fact, to the contrary, this piece is written to ensure that African states emphasize the need for production of autochthonous knowledge. Knowledge production sits at the base of any human advancement. By knowledge, we talk first about the mental agility by which the environment is explored, exploited by human reasoning. We are not talking about the collection of wise sayings, idioms; all strung together into a coherent cosmogony. To be exact we are talking about the need to build thoughts and philosophies as we engage our environment, battle savagery and barbarism in the production of a “native” civilization. After God created man, He left re-creation to him. Man therefore can only dominate his environment with the knowledge of his environment. The most advanced states are those who use knowledge of their world to better their lots. Civilization is simply the state in which a society is able to solve its problems with knowledge and scientific certitude. Civilization therefore has nothing to do with westernization. In Tataalo Alamu’s words, “we are talking of the capacity for conceptual formulation and rigorous abstractions; the ability for sustained intellection and paradigmatic speculation”. We are not talking about the echoing or regurgitation of knowledge from other centres of civilization. While that itself is not avoidable, it should not be the only consumable.

Nations with the greatest advancements are also the ones with the most developed means of knowledge production. There is nothing divinely orchestrated in western ascension to world dominance and its current and ongoing displacement by the Asians, it is conditioned by knowledge production. Japan negotiated its way to the top after Meiji Restoration of 1868 through a radical reform of its educational system and her political institutions. Lee Kwan Yew transformed Singapore by transforming the mind. You must know before you are known. Africa is still largely crude, absolutely unrefined. Recently, as the Fulani marauders unleashed mayhem on hapless compatriots across the nation, the reaction of the government to it showed a stark clarity regarding the dominant mode of mind-set that powers our polity. The orgy of bloodletting notwithstanding, the government opted to continue funding programmes that encourage herding as against the urbane method of ranching. A state government decided to pay thirsty murderers to placate them. At play was the interplay of ethnic loyalty, religious sentiments and intoxicating ignorance. Knowledge was entirely displaced in arriving at the conclusion. This was when Americans, having conquered the earth are conquering mars. Modern societies with pre modern mode of existence are ravaged by the conflict between knowledge and myth. The infestation and manifestation of myth and its superior logic is evident in Africa’s mode of grappling with realities. Subsistence mode of agriculture, evasive form of democratic bargaining, tired and wearied political institutions, crippled madrasahs, mangled understanding of religion, a total and shambled organization of geographical space. These are exactly what to expect from societies with the mind-set to dominate nature and reality with myth not knowledge. The current mode of reasoning is that of voracious consumption powered by myth. Reliance on brawn not brain, mediocrity is ahead of meritocracy. We feed on all, we produce nothing. Africa is Africans’ greatest inhibition. Indeed, our people perish because of lack of knowledge…

to be continued.

Micah Stephen, combines his love for law with a deep appreciation of history and classical studies. He considers himself to be an admixture of a lawyer, classicist, historian and entrepreneur.

Fadeke: Episode IX

Fadeke made it to final year of medical school with great effort. It was a busy year for her as she spent most of it working on her first studio produced solo album. By this time, she had won the hearts of many music lovers in Nigeria. Agreed that she was no party-crooner, her music could not fit into the average Nigerian party but it did fit into corporate events and that was her market and there she made waves. She appointed a manager to lessen her burden so she could worry less about scheduling and all whatnots. Throughout that year, she was very selective about the events she attended, she had learnt from the previous experience that she was not meant for every show, or concert or event. When she could no longer handle the requests, and due to Tade’s similarly busy schedule, she agreed to appoint Smart Ode as her manager.

Smart had worked his way up the ladder, having begun as a personal assistant to one of the greatest manager of human talent the country had ever seen, the legendary Martin Kay. Martin Kay during his active years managed about eight ‘A’ lists artists at different times in their careers, and they all agreed they could not have reached the heights they did without Martin Kay. Smart Ode learnt all he knew from Martin Kay, he learnt how to speak like a manager, dress like one and dish out instructions like one. Most importantly, Martin Kay taught Smart when and how to be humble when speaking to an artist. “That artiste is your employer, even if he or she is probably younger than you are. You are an employee, just a different kind and grade of employee. Never forget that my boy” Martin Kay would often say. Smart was smart enough to listen and follow the footsteps of his mentor, he  however went one step further by recognising talents in artistic fields other than the stage, this was the basis for his appointment as Tade’s manager.

“Fadeke, I honestly think that you need to attend more events, for two key reasons” Smart Ode knew his job really well and he tried to be as persuasive as he could “The first reason being that you need to stay in people’s consciousness, that is how you stay relevant. And the second reason is simply that you need the money for us to complete your studio release” Smart concluded

Fadeke wanted to laugh at Smart’s effort at persuading her, she knew though that he was merely doing his job, so instead she patted Smart on the shoulder and responded “No worries Smart, let me decide that. I have the final say on every invitation. Are we clear that?

“Loud and clear Ma’am, loud and clear” Smart responded and curtsied to lighten up the mood.

****

Fadeke’s first studio solo album was released in her final year; it was an instant hit as it rocked the airwaves and stayed on the top chart for weeks. The tune of her soul music captivated the hearts of many and soon, she was sought after by different individuals who wanted her to perform at their events. She had to turn down most of the offers as she needed to fully concentrate on completing medical school in good time and in style. She restricted her performances to one Saturday a month and carefully selected the events she accepted. Her practice time and performance time were the only time she spent outside studying and keeping it real with the love of her life, Tade. She was often embarrassed when even her classmates tried to mob her and ask for autographs. She had become a star but she felt she needed to complete it by concluding her medical education. She thought about the sacrifices of her mother and felt a tingle in her heart. She was finally going to reward Mrs. Onifade. She wrote her final exams with confidence and joy, she had an assurance that she had done all she needed to do. Her oral defence was also well received; her professors were particularly impressed at her self-taught knowledge of music therapy. She gave her a rousing applause.

“I understand you are musician too” a professor said and nodded his head as if saying ‘you have done well’.

“Yes o” another professor responded “my daughter would not let me rest. She wants an autograph”

Fadeke beamed “Thank you for your kind words Sirs and Ma’ams. And tell your daughter to come around whenever she is available ma, I will be glad to sign one. Though I’m trying to get used to all that” they all smiled at her and waved her off with admiration.

***

Fadeke was ready to pack out of her dorm room at school and move back home briefly before her induction into the medical profession. Tade and Mrs. Onifade came to assist her; she had officially introduced Tade to her mother earlier during the first semester of her final year. Both hit it off immediately, Mrs. Onifade became particularly fond of Tade. From the way she doted on him, any person who did not know otherwise would conclude that Tade was Mrs. Onifade’s only son. This made Fadeke jealous sometimes but she was also very happy, it was a happy jealousy.

They helped her pack her things and whilst they journeyed back home, Mrs. Onifade could not stop talking about how Tade had redesigned Fadeke’s room and how beautiful her room was. Whilst at Yaba Tech, Tade had garnered experience in interior graphics and designs, she had seen some of the works he did and they were breath-taking. Tade’s abilities were spectacular and she was so happy for him and at their future together.

“Mummy I don’t think it is as beautiful as you are painting it o” Tade laughed and tried to play down her mother’s ‘exaggerations’.

She snuggled close to him and whispered “I’m sure it is impressive”

“It is more than impressive o, o fine gan ni” her mother interrupted. Fadeke could not honestly understand why her mother was so excited, but she was happy to see her mother so happy and excited. She had not seen her in such high moods since her father left them, so she felt good.

She did not want her mother to continue her one-woman show so she quietly mouthed a ‘thank you’ to Tade. She closed her eyes and tried to picture what they would look like as a married couple and she felt herself blushing. She opened her eyes and caught Tade starring at her; there was some message in his eyes. The way he looked at her made her excited and she could not wait for them to have their alone time, without her mother’s excited Yoruba chatters.

When they got to the house, Fadeke rushed to her room. She was really excited and was so eager to see the magic Tade had performed on the outlook of her room. But she was not prepared for what she saw. Indeed her room looked more than perfect, everything were in the right place, her favourite art works were well hung and he had added a few portrait of some of her stage performances. Her room was a beauty but none caught her heart and made blood rush to her face like a beautiful inscription on the wall of the room, just above her reading table. She felt the tears rush to her eyes as she read the words

Fadekemi,

This wall is not big enough to show you how much I truly love and cherish you. Will you please marry me?

Signed

Tade

She turned with tears in her eyes; Tade was right at the door and on his knees holding a beautiful diamond ring. He looked at her and whispered “Fadeke, you came into my world and changed everything. You told me I could make it and you stood by me as I did. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life without you. Please say yes”

Fadeke could only shake her head in confirmation as he slipped the ring into her finger. She embraced him, still teary.

She heard her mother sob behind the door. ‘this woman, such a drama queen! She thought and smiled, without letting go of Tade.

Postcript

Fadeke was inducted into the medical profession. At the induction, Fadeke received the award for the best result in Anatomy. Mrs. Onifade was so proud of her daughter.  She could now be famously referred to as “Mama Doctor”; her lifelong dreams were fulfilled not only because of Fadeke’s achievement, Mrs. Onifade made some giant strides of her own. With Fadeke out of school, Mrs. Onifade was going back to school. She had timidly applied for admission to the Lagos State School of Nursing and never thought she would get in but she did. The admission committee were particularly impressed that she refused to let go of her dreams despite her age and they gladly offered her in place. Her joy knew no limits as she accepted the offer, after-all, age is nothing but a number

As for Fadeke, she felt fulfilled and proud of the woman she had become. She would now focus on building a long career in music and as a music therapist; and off course try to out-love her lover boy!

 

I guess that is the end. I hope you enjoyed the series.

Oluwatosin