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.

 

The City Circle – Much Ado About Jollof

MUCH ADO ABOUT JOLLOF….

I spent the festive period in the kitchen. And we did not travel to the village o! Anyways, my mom who sat and watched while I cooked most of the time tried to engage me in the usual marriage conversation (single ladies, raise your hand if you had this conversation during the holidays)

She started. “We need to teach you how to cook other delicacies apart from Jollof rice, you know what they say about the way to a man’s heart, how are you going to find a man with only jollo…”

“Mom, abeg abeg we? Who is “we”? ….”I didn’t let her finish.

I had a mental picture of me on the mainroad with a bowl of Jollof rice in hand, searching for a man and it made me hiss. You see, my mom does not cook. That chore has been shared unequally between my dad and I since I can remember. He likes to cook and I have to cook when he is not around. I am only happy to cook when I am called upon to make Jollof rice which I think sums up enough culinary prowess to grant me passage into any man’s heart. (Yes I said it. My Jollof rice is badt like that).

I found my talent for Jollof rice in 2010 but quickly abandoned it in favour of vegetable soup. Now that I think of it, I don’t know what my mom was talking about. I can cook other things too… anyways, back to Jollof. With the media frenzy and constant hype of the staple food, I had to tap back into my Jollof talent and our love affair’s waxing stronger every day. There are so many hush hush secrets and methods to the art of Jollof rice preparation. And there is the constant pressure to surpass the success of your previous pot of rice. So most days, ladies (and gentlemen like my dad) are on the internet, Tv, searching for ways to enhance our Jollof cooking skills. Because you cannot carry last in this Jollof race. If you sleep on the bicycle for too long, you’ll find yourself making Ghanaian Jollof (no shade intended) in a Lagos home. One day you will wake up and the Jollof ship has sailed….it is that serious. The number of brands churning out “Jollof rice spice” nowadays… because once the shopper passes by a shelf and sees “spice for Jol…” gold niyen.

Wherever you find a pot (or plate) of orange rice, there’s a hash tag for husband/wife material (mostly 100 yards) beside it. So many memes for “when bae makes Jollof rice” and there’s the ongoing battle between two countries over this rice.

Jollof is the cheat in this “way to a man’s heart” struggle. If it comes down to “the cooking skills or no husband”, do not even fret. Just take a crash course on Jollof and you’re in… Jollof to the rescue!  There is no inappropriate occasion to cook and eat Jollof Rice.

She is economically friendly. Jollof does not discriminate. Snails, chicken, panla and sardine can play together with Jollof. She can sit with you at Iya Ijebu and Radisson Blu. Jollof has friends in high places.She is popular with Tech entrepreneurs, world class billionaires, (ask Mark Zuckerberg), oil tycoons…nobody is immune or allergic to Jollof rice (I dare you!)  Jollof has class and standards. You cannot treat her anyhow or she will tarnish your culinary image. Jollof is the mistress that has turned to family. She has her own day (August 22). She is the queen of rice. Period.

I wonder who told this Orange rice that she can be / cause all these things. Who elevated Jollof Rice? (Taste buds. duh!). Who is attaching all this importance to Jollof? How can we just let Jollof waltz into our lives and take over like this? Where did this Jollof craze start from?

The City Circle with Aunty Rose

The Voicemail situation

I am not sure if I want a lot of pidgin or strictly “queens English”, whether I want to be informal or formal. But I do know that the purpose of this blog is to rub minds on daily real life struggles and relationships.

I have thought about the structure of this column for months. After wrestling with myself for an appropriate name (I eventually opened two blogs since I could not decide so one day, I might introduce you to the second one), I battled with the form and tone of the blog. I am not sure if I want a lot of pidgin or strictly “queens English”, whether I want to be informal or formal. But I do know that the purpose of this blog is to rub minds on daily real life struggles and relationships. I also know that there is no set structure for talking about all those things. So instead of putting it off further, I am just going to start blogging today and hope that you help me with it along the way. After all, this blog is about you my dear reader. So welcome to the City Circle (excited much!). A little mind hub where we can unwind from all the political and economic struggles that plague our days in the city and talk about other mundane (or not) issues that are being overwhelmed by all the “seriousness” out there. Today, I am thinking about the “voicemail situation”………………

My sister just marked her 29th birthday last month. When I called her to wish her well, she sounded very sober for a birthday girl. I didn’t have to probe too much before I found out why. My sister thinks that she has entered “voicemail” in the marriage department. After consoling her and getting her to cheer up, I hung up the phone feeling sober myself. As if we had exchanged moods. My sister has tried the Yoruba demons, Igbo patriots, and Arab monies. No luck. She has a good job, her own apartment, a small car that she’s managing and she dresses well.  Oh, and my sister can cook! She has very good manners. Make e no be like say I just dey blow her trumpet because say she be my sister. The point I am trying to make is that there are many reasonable and well packaged ladies out there that cannot find reasonable men to marry. To answer those that will comment here later to say that she should reduce her standards and consider poor people; it is one thing to not be financially stable at the moment with prospects and another to just be a throwback with no ambitions. And if you are a reasonable Nigerian guy with prospects that is willing to marry and move into her tiny flat with her, biko drop your email address in d comment section. Lol.

Ladies get in here! What can we do about this “voicemail” situation? There are so many desperate men and women out there. So many scams. It affects the married women too! Because person no go fit chop belefull for front of hungry lion o! (na me talk dat one. lol). What is the way forward?

Let me know what you think.

Ps: of course it is a really long post. It is, after all the first blog post (not that the subsequent ones would be a lot shorter seeing as I blog from the heart and this blog is sort of structure-free).

Please feel free to send your stories, experiences and topics you want to discuss to auntyrose16@gmail.com. I promise not to use your name if you do not want me to.

Enyioma Madubuike: The Nigerian legal profession: An exodus of young talent?

A lot has been said about millennials-that demographic of confused young people generally accepted as born between the early 1980s and early 2000s- about how we desire instant feedback, about how impatient we are; about how easily it is to distract us.

Is there a gradual exodus of young people from the legal profession? I really do not have access to authoritative facts and figures but I am beginning to notice a trend among colleagues in the legal profession today. “Enyioma, I am thinking of resigning from my chambers, I want to be a blogger. I have always had a passion for writing”. Enyioma, I am running a freelance business strategy project on the side and I may leave my job soon. Enyioma, I left my job last year, I have a digital marketing business I am running now and Sanmi, our law school roommate now has a cool bakery. Having just resigned from one of Nigeria’s top commercial law firms myself, I wonder if this trend of young lawyers exiting firms for other projects is one about which the legal profession in Nigeria should be worried.

A lot has been said about millennials-that demographic of confused young people generally accepted as born between the early 1980s and early 2000s- about how we desire instant feedback, about how impatient we are; about how easily it is to distract us. It is a demographic considered so troublesome that there is a multi-million dollar consulting industry out specializing in how to handle millennials, in schools, in the workplace and in government. It appears therefore that the rising trend of young lawyers pursuing other projects after going through a minimum of six years training is part of the worrisome symptoms of the typical Millennials’ penchant for rebellion.

While, this may be a large part of a plausible explanation, one wonders if this trend is not an indictment of the profession and the entirety of its structure. I make bold to say that with the peculiar structure of the legal profession as it stands today, it may continue to witness a decline in the number of young people willing to pursue a lifelong career as lawyers.  I will highlight a few reasons why I hold this belief.

  1. The length of training: Anyone who knows me knows how I have come to detest a system that takes six whole years to train a single lawyer in the theoretical aspects of a profession which is largely practical. The inadequacies of the Nigerian educational system which prioritizes tests and exams over discovery, and hands on experience will require another essay. The legal profession can actually do more to encourage an early exposure of law students to issues they will encounter in real practice as soon as possible to avoid the disappointment one feels as a lawyer when in your first year you realise most of your time in school was a waste because you have to learn an entire new set of skills
  2. Competing options: For many, whose main motivation for the practice of the profession is money, the information age has thrown up a new set of career options capable of providing enviable financial benefits with relatively less rigour and time requirements. Let’s face it, a few decades ago there was no blogging, digital marketing, programming and such other careers available to young people and so accounting, law, engineering and such traditional professions were considered the elite professions because they provided comparably better packages in prestige and money compared to other available careers at the time. Today, apart from the emergence of information age related careers, other options that were not as lucrative in years past are now more popular as a result of increased information and access. It is no more taboo for example for young people to pursue careers in music, sports and comedy.

    Nigerian Law School, Lagos

    Nigerian Law School, Lagos

  3. The life of a young Nigerian lawyer: The early years of practice are expected to be strenuous for any lawyer all over the world. In Nigeria however, the strain of working long excruciating hours, is accompanied by the emotional harangue of bosses who believe they have done you a favour by hiring you- a mentality carried over from a past where the boss was the master and the employee was the servant; and the ridiculous salaries paid at the end of the month which is incapable of sustaining a young commuting lawyer for a month. The fact that one goes through six years of learning to be treated in this way is enough disillusionment for many young people; and with other options available there are enough ships to jump into
  4. The eroding credibility of the profession: One of the attractions of the legal profession especially for young impressionable minds is its position as a symbol of probity and virtue. Unfortunately, the profession has been battered in recent years from tales of incompetence to publicized news of corruption from the bar to the very top of the bench. Our courts have lost a lot of credibility and it has rubbed off on how young people view the profession. By staining its pristine cloak, the profession gives young lawyers one more reason to not associate with it.
  5. Dreams change: A lot of young people are young lawyers because it was considered a great thing to be. Prodded by parents and the society, they aimed to be called “barristers” with little or oftentimes misguided understanding of what the profession entails. However, upon becoming lawyers, the reality of the profession becomes a far cry from the dreams of youth and one is often faced with either remolding expectations or dreaming new dreams. More young people are choosing today to shoot for new horizons instead of managing the false pretenses of old ones.
  6. Career mobility: It has become accepted that the days when it was fashionable to work for an employer for a decade has gone. Young people prefer to be able to change environments and gather a mix of experiences through their work lifetimes. Even more, young people are beginning to desire changing their careers as often as they can before they die. The legal profession requires six years of training for a life of practice. With increased access to knowledge, young people are more likely to prefer fluidity to monotony.
  7. Doors of opportunity: Despite all that has been said about legal education, there is no doubt that it positions a young lawyer for more opportunities that his counterparts. This means that apart from openings in law practice, lawyers are more favoured in handling duties like administration, organization, advocacy and leadership. This makes it easy for a lawyer who grows dissatisfied with his practices to branch out into other field where his training is valued and considered relevant
  8. The Rules: The legal profession is a very conservative profession steeped in tradition and rules religiously protected by a well regimented structure. The millennial is one for fluidity, adaptability, speed and efficiency. He will continuously be at loggerheads with a profession which prides itself more in its ability to enforce its own rules than in its tenacity to reform it.

 

A lot has been written about the impatience and entitlement of millennials. However, businesses and industries all over the world are not just complaining, they are adapting. Hopefully, the Nigerian legal profession finds a way of reinventing itself to ensure it continues to attract and keep young motivated talent. If this is not done, trickles become torrents and the profession might find itself on the lower rung of preferences of young Nigerians in the nearest future.

 

Enyioma combines his knowledge of philosophy with an in-depth understanding of how law works. He is constantly in search of new and interesting pursuits.

MICAH STEPHEN: Africa And The Globe (Part Two)

[Continued from Part One]

Consequently, globalization created by liberalization, continues to be maintained by the liberalization of economic policies in several key areas. This presupposes that globalization is part of a broader trend called Marketization, which by its nature tends to generate international market failures, because it is uneven in intensity and scope and also because it impacts differently on different classes of people.

The paradox implicit in this point is underscored by Irene Fernandes, in “Globalization, the Economic Crisis & the Challenges to women”, when she attributed to globalization a three stage historical process. To her, Globalization, for the economies of the South, has three phases; the first phase came with Colonization where the North plundered the resources of the South. Colonization was fought and independence was presumably gained. However, the universalization of production and consumption patterns of already industrialized North which typified the second phase made the joy of independence pale out. What this phase did was to substitute traditional consumption patterns with contrived western states accentuated by the process of industrialization of essentially the North (the growing penchant of Africa of abandoning “local” markets, stalls and imbibing the glorified culture of shopping in Spar, Shoprites, Walmart not only changes consumption patterns but stifles the growth of small and medium enterprises which consequentially further deepens the rate of unemployment of the unsuspecting many).

The third present stage of globalization is that which emphasizes commercialization, trade liberalization and deregulation of most facets of life under the auspices of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization. This phase in terms of production techniques is marked by the tension in genetic engineering technologies.
Therefore, the tragedy is that Africa has to develop in tandem with the discretion, whims and caprices of her imperialists and their goons. So it was in 1885 in Berlin, so shall it continually be. In establishing the current order, the mind of Africa must be eroded, its essence must be distorted that she no longer recognises her own. What we are grappling with is a fundamental defect of pre-creation (as imperialists wove hitherto contrasting ethnic habitats into inconvenient states), pro-creation (inability of nationalists to answer or reconstitute the new states anew during creation) and post-creation (the complicity between the rudderless African leaders and the insistence of the imperialists to forge Africa to their taste). Thus to recreate Africa, Africans must be recreated through the process of acculturation.

Globalization therefore has a toxic effect on a continent trying to understand herself after years in the imperialists’ animal farm. It is still stagnated and left to clear the debris of misconception and misinformation that has pinned her down.
Ali Magrui captured the resultant paradoxes of the acculturation of Africa relative to Asia, and the consequential impact on economic growth of the two continents. First, he noted that despite a shared experience between the two continents (territorially almost the whole of Africa was colonized, while only 60 per cent of Asia was Temporally, however, Africa was colonized for a much shorter period than Asia), African values and cultures were disrupted much faster in spite of the brevity of the colonial experience.
So if Africa was culturally westernizing faster than Asia, why was Asia economically westernizing faster than Africa? While western culture may be good for economic performance in the west, this is not necessarily the case outside the west.

To be meaningful, there has to be the right balance between western technique and indigenous culture as the example after the Meiji restoration of 1868 shows. Singapore under Lee Kwon Yew also epitomizes the importance of not surrendering your cultural initiative in the face of spiralling interdependence of nations. Simply put, the more globalized the world gets, the more you deepen your indigenous values to withstand the erosive tendencies of the western ideologies.

To borrow, you may compromise on certain fronts, but you must not surrender. However in Africa, what is happening is cultural westernization without economic modernization. Thus, Africa is suffering from double jeopardy; westernizing too fast, and in the wrong areas of western culture. The effect is what Mazrui called Mal-modernization – a state of urbanization without industrialization, western states without western skills, capitalist greed without capitalist discipline, western consumption patterns without western production techniques.
With these negative indices, the competitive edge needed to cope with and derive the benefits of the globalization phenomenon, is lacking. This will make nonsense whatever economic and political structures or processes are inherited from the phenomenon.

For there to be the entrenchment of the essence of Africa in the consciousness of the globe, in order to accentuate the necessity of the development of Africa as a continent and as a people, the mind of the African must be imbued with the substance of knowledge of self. The environment of Africa must be explored with the support of other nations as colleagues, not as bosses who sit in Hague, New York or London to create a typhoon that Africa has to battle with. Africa must be wary of the toxic nature of globalization. In seeking for “a good society”, we need to be careful as to what constitutes it. Development antecedents have shown that culture, tradition and indeed values of the society in question are imperatives, as the Asian example typifies. This means that we should avoid the reflexibility belief that excessive individualism, freedom and western political systems are prerequisites to economic success.
Societal values and culture must be part of the political process so that a sense of belonging is felt by the people. Before political subjugation comes mental and intellectual subordination. African intellectual elites must be at the vanguard of leading the restoration of the continent and in the formulation of sound political ideas, ideals and ideologies.

Micah Stephen is a practising Lawyer. He tweets via @Micahesq

Expectations and Reality: The Fate of a Recent Petroleum Engineering Graduate

By Adebola Olanrewaju

So it’s official! The Petroleum industry is going through its worst years in recent memory. Oil prices have reached new lows; four, five times? I have lost count myself. Petroleum Engineering graduates like me have made bookmarks of websites like Reuters, CNBC and Bloomberg on our browsers as we constantly monitor the slump. For the sake of knowledge, I would do a quick recap of how this crisis started.

The slump in oil price is a classic Economics 101 case of Demand and Supply, as CNN’s Richard Quest rightly explained. Demand for crude oil has greatly reduced over the last couple of years due to the drop in the growth rate of major economies while supply has increased significantly.

Also, the crisis had been fueled by America’s discovery of shale oil in early 2014 – one they have been able to economically extract. With this, America went from being a major importer to an exporter of crude oil.
As if that was not enough, Saudi Arabia and Iran (both are members of OPEC, lest we forget) decided to start their own ‘economic war’ which further affected oil prices.
Sanctions placed on Iran were lifted late 2015/early 2016 and Iran is bent on claiming its oil market share by increasing oil production by 500,000 barrels a day. In summary, even with the low demand, oil supply is still on the rise, causing oil prices to plummet.
So where does that leave us, the Petroleum Engineering graduates?

While in the University in Nigeria, there was this common notion: ‘Just finish school and start collecting armed robbers salary’. That was the expectation. Oil was selling at well over $100 per barrel and all seemed to be well.
Now that our dear oil companies have aggressively halved their workforce and stopped recruiting due to the dip in prices, it is apparent that the landscape has changed considerably. This is the reality we face as graduates in this volatile industry. So where do we, the Petroleum Engineering graduates go from here?

As dire as the situation seems, there are still quite a number of options for the Petroleum Engineer. The most obvious route, especially for the gurus, would be to obtain a  Masters degree. A friend of mine attended an Oil and Gas conference, met a representative of a company (name withheld) and asked about job opportunities. “This is the best time to go back to school” was the laconic reply he got. I would go no further on that option.

Another alternative would be to choose another sector such as the Accounting sector. January 29 2016 made it exactly a year since I wrote my final exams at the University of Ibadan and I have hardly applied for oil and gas jobs. Not because I don’t want feel like working in an oil firm (LOL! of course, everybody wants to) but because most oil companies are not recruiting. I find myself applying for jobs at the likes of KPMG and PwC. Trust me, it’s saddening but hey, that’s the reality. Man must chop!!!
The last route will be to look for an Oil company;  if you know someone that has an Uncle who knows a friend that owns an Oil servicing company (i.e. if your legs are longer than Usain Bolt’s), please use them and get that job while you wait for the mega job.
History has taught us that oil prices will rise again, therefore patience is the name of the game (It rose from $28per barrel to $35 per barrel today due to Russia’s intervention. That’s some good news).

The oil industry goes through periods of crests and troughs and I strongly believe the next crest is just around the corner. It is therefore essential to be fully prepared for this crest. If you have to go to school, please do so. If you can gain experience, do that as well. Whatever you do, just make sure you are on the move. Do something worthwhile, else you will find yourself competing with the present 200 and 300 level students when that mega job you always dreamt of comes around.
Now how would it feel if you don’t have an edge over them?

This article was inspired by Stephen Hunyinbo’s personal message on BlackBerry Messenger: “The gap between expectations and realities though. Sometimes, it just pays to be a pessimist.”

Adebola Olanrewaju is a graduate of Petroleum Engineering from the University of Ibadan

MICAH STEPHEN: Africa And The Globe. Part One

It is time to be bothered about fatherland. We might have coiled into a cave of denial just to escape from the corrosive effect of our malady: from the distasteful effect of colonialism on our psyche, the near impossibility of Africa to transform from a plundered, pillaged and thieved hemisphere, into a genuine modern state. Let us go the full cycle to acceptance, we are in a limbo. What she has as reality is a beehive of political bedlam, inter-tribal hubbubs caused by the forceful union of diverse empires into nation states. Unity achieved by the cudgel of force. But of more importance is the fate of this continent, in the hands of her former masters and their cohorts. We are being globalized, changed and short changed. They are the first world, we are the third world.

It must be noted that the largest chunk of the Third World is powerless and backward and will continue to be powerless and backward because it lacks the production of organic and indigenous knowledge to power its political, economic and technological development. Yet, the very notion of a huge chunk of Africa and some parts of Asia and Latin America as the Third World is steeped in remarkable ironies. Before it became a veritable and enduring marker of backwardness and underdevelopment, the radical and progressive leaders of these countries such as Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Surkarno of India, proposed the term at the Bandung conference as a way of distinguishing countries within their spheres of authority – countries which pursued a middle road policy of mixed economy as against capitalist and socialist countries which belong to the first and second worlds respectively.

Yet after the collapse of the Second World and actually existing socialist countries, one would have thought the term “Third World” would itself disappear, but it has clung to these countries like an ugly limpet. Tataalo Alamu has opined that the fact is that if knowledge is power, the production of knowledge is the production of power. Those societies that cannot produce organic and authentic knowledge will only produce powerlessness and utter poverty. This is because poverty of knowledge cannot lead to knowledge of poverty.

This poverty of knowledge is at the roots of Nigeria’s and Africa’s abysmal poverty and its continuous production of powerlessness in all its dimensions and ramifications despite outlandish oil riches. So the question is why has Africa been unable to produce her own knowledge? An endless list of corruption, nepotism, tribalism and at the apex of this pyramid is globalization.

There is a general agreement that the history of mankind (as of the world) is a history of one world order or the other. As Popoola puts it, “man’s existence has been one continuous struggle for the maintenance of an existing world order or the search to create a new world order”. To begin with, even though, globalisation as Ohiorhenuan, Mowlana, and Oyejide, Grieco and Holmes respectively opined, is a positive or powerful force for the improved material well-being of humankind, that would aid developing countries to “create better economic environments”, to “leapfrog” into the information age; improve their access to technology; speed development and enhance global harmony”, its effects on the political, economic, social and cultural nerves of the weaker member states cannot be ignored without severe consequences. In other words, the seeming near-consensus on the agenda of globalisation, notwithstanding the unrelenting encouragement of its “uneven thesis” does not give room for comfort, as it is exorbitantly costly to the developing nations. This is particularly so. in that globalisation affects developmental thinking and actions of the developing polities; relegates ethical equity and social concerns behind market consideration and reduces the autonomy of the independence states. According to Ohiorhenuan , it challenges the mediative role of the state vis-à-vis external pressures. It threatens the discretion of the state everywhere. Not only this, globalisation encourages “decreasing National control and increasing control over the (Internal) economy (of the state) by outside players. In fact, the gospel of globalisation through its economic liberalism “has been elevated to the position of absolute truth, a sort of pensee unique (or single theory) against which there is no credible alternative”. Indeed, globalisation is an awesome and terrifying phenomenon for African countries.

Concretely put, the planetary phenomenon of globalisation is nothing but a new order of marginalisation of the African continent. Its universalization of communication, mass production, market exchanges and redistribution, rather than engendering new ideas and developmental orientation in Africa, subverts its autonomy and powers of self-determination. It is rather by design than by accident that poverty has become a major institution in Africa despite this continent’s stupendous resources. Indeed, the developing countries/world burden of external debt has reached two trillion dollars (World Bank, 1994). In the process, it has enlivened the venomous potency of mass poverty and, its accompanying multidimensional depravity of the citizenry of all the requisite essence of meaningful living. It has disintegrated or disarticulated the industrial sector of most, if not all polities in Africa. This has been particularly evident in the areas of cost of production which has become uncomfortably high in most of the developing countries (e.g. Nigeria); also in the lack of government’s incentives to encourage local production; subversion of local products through high importation, currency devaluation; and depletion of foreign reserves. This clearly raises the problems of marginalization which is in reality, the dynamics of under development – the development of under development by the agents of development, Akindele, Gidado and Olaopo have submitted.

Nation-states in Africa today, rarely define the rules and regulations of their economy, production, credits and exchanges of goods and services due to the rampaging menace of globalisation. They are hardly now capable of volitionally managing their political, economic and socio-cultural development. S.T. Akindele, Ph.D; T.O. Gidado, M.Sc; and O.R. Olaopo; Department of Political Science, Obafemi Awolowo University in their article; “Globalisation, Its Implications and Consequences for Africa” explain that” globalisation has imposed heavy constraints on the internal management dynamics of most if not all the polities in Africa (e.g., Nigeria) where the government now finds it difficult in most cases to meet the genuine demands of the governed on many issues of national urgency (e.g., the June 1st, 2000, 50% hike in the prices of petroleum and related products and its attendant crippling national strike by the Nigerian workers). The reality in Nigeria today, as it is for most African nations, is that globalisation has made it immensely difficult for governments to provide social insurance – one of their central functions and one that has helped many developed nations to maintain social cohesion and domestic political support”. Trends like this have been largely dictated by the asymmetry of powers that accompany globalisation (i.e., inequality in the status of the members of the “villagized world” and, their inability to resist imposed policy options). In fact, this asymmetry which is undergirded by a system of production where capital rules has been clearly amplified by Madunagu (1999) when he claimed that ; “the result of globalisation in Africa, is basically a competition between the palatial centres (Developed World) and the slums (Africa) of the village where a preponderant majority of the people daily sink deeper into poverty and misery.”

The transition of the world from a bipolar to a unipolar world particularly in the last decade or two of the 20th century, in reinforcing the dominance of the US in world affairs, means the dominance of liberal philosophy regarding the political or economic or even legal affairs of man- a necessary offshoot of the present globalization process. Consequently, development today seems to be the adoption of liberal processes (democracy, human rights and liberal (market) economics) especially with the “demise” of communist world led by Russia and the gradual assimilation of China in the field of liberal economics. This imperialistic cultural dimension of globalisation, particularly in the area of “internet connectivity” which has often been used as a bait for luring Africa and other developing polities into the villagized world, has recently been put into perspective; thus the world is gradually moving in a unidirectional manner and, the tendency towards uniformity has never been so appealing as it is now. Consequently, there is a serious concern that nations like Nigeria whose contributions to the internet pool are high may lose their identity. A sort of cultural imperialism which will seek to enslave the African mind, leaving in its wake a cultureless or culturally-disoriented people may become a permanent feature of Africa and her people.

Two issues, consequently, stand out for clarification here. The one as to the type of development necessary for the people of the developing economies (including Nigeria) and the other as to whether globalization impacts positively on these peoples so as to attain that type of development. This analysis is necessary if we are to have a better picture of how we should build our state.

First and foremost, globalization is understood in economic and financial terms, where it seeks to broaden and deepen linkages of national economies into a worldwide market for goods, services and particularly capital. With the revolution in telecommunications and information technologies, dramatic increases in trade linkages, cross border capital flows as well as changes in form, structure and location of production have been witnessed. Benedict Kanyip in the book, “Consumer protection in Nigeria: Law, Theory and Policy” explains that these national linkages have however brought two additional impacts. The first is that because of developments in media technology and communication, globalization brings with it a growing tendency towards the universal homogenization of ideas, cultures, values and even lifestyles. He explained further that the second is a corollary of the first, which is, given the homogenization of ideas and indeed the dominance of western liberalism as exemplified by the United States, it is now fashionable to the economic growth and development with liberal democracy and its attending imperatives such as human rights. Although good governance is stressed, the impression given is that a necessary fall-out of liberal economics which emphasises such imperatives as privatization, deregulation and commercialization of developing economies is indispensable if they are to come out of their relative underdevelopment. This is in addition to other imperatives like right-sizing and retooling the civil service, upgrading the standard of personnel management, decentralizing and rationalizing government structures etc

………to be continued

UDOFIA JOSEPH: Chop my money

DISCLAIMER: ANY RESEMBLANCE TO ANYONE DEAD, NEAR-DEAD OR UNDEAD IS AN ABOLUTE MYSTERY
“Chop my money, chop my money. Chop my money, cos I don’t care”
(P Square’s song plays in the background at the Villa, as Daskuki strolls in)

Oga Egbele: Colonel. How far naa. Chop knuckle. Please have a seat
(Egbele pauses the song and takes a sip of his Jack Daniels. Do you mind some)
Daskuki: Don’t worry Oga. I came to discuss business
Oga Egbele: Ok. Go on.
Daskuki: We have exhausted the little you gave us. We need to bless more people
Oga Egbele: The only money available now is the Arms money.
Daskuki: Oga let us use it like that. My men can manage the one we have on ground. Just speak Iwe Alla. We need enough money. You know AFeeCee is gaining grounds
Oga Egbele: No problem. It is sorted.

As Daskuki strolls out, Egbele returns to his song. “I don’t care, don’t care don’t care”

LATER AT NIGHT….
Oga Egbele: Madam Iwe Alla. How are you doing. Hope you still keep contacts with your IMF friends. We’d need them in the future
Madam Iwe Alla: (Iweala speaks big grammar): Trust me.  I am doing just what you have me do.
Oga Egbele: How about what we discussed – Dasuki’s money.
Madam Iwe Alla: I’d forward it to your office so u append your signature in the morning.
Oga Egbele: Welcome my dear. That is why I love you. If only Mama Peace can speak good English like you.
Madam Iwe Alla: (Stifling a smile). Mr President. It is a good thing. At least, she can connect with the grassroots.  One more thing, Lamide is giving me issues at the Central Bank. You need to do something about him.
Oga Egbele: Trust me. I have started looking for a replacement. We’d see in the morning, good night
Madam Iwe Alla: Good night

MEANWHILE, AT BAFANAWA’S RESIDENCE, SOMEWHERE IN ABUJA
(Pastors speaking in tongues. Deliverance session going on in the Parlour. Incantations are heard in another room)
Daskuki strolls in

Daskuki: As salaam wa alaikum
Bafanawa: wa alaikum salaam. Please have a seat. To what do I owe this pavour?
Daskuki: I see you are a very spiritual man
Bafanawa: Yes o. You know politics demand us to be closer to God. You can see all these religious leaders are seriously praying.
Daskuki: So what is God saying about the elections
Bafanawa: (Consults with the spiritual people) They’ve been fasting for a while. The latest revelation are that Buhari will win. We need to act fast.
Daskuki. Name the price
Bafanawa: We need to appease the Christian God, Muslim God and the God of our forefathers. For the Christian God, we’d do that in collaboration with Pastor Ayor. I think his God will be content with Gold chains. For the Muslim God, we’d send the Senior Imam some Tasbih and some slim ladies. For the God of our forefathers, they quite demand a lot. Let me get the list
(Bafanawa leaves to consult with the Spiritual head)
Bafanawa: Here it is. We need two coconut-white fowls with pepper-red combs, Two he-goats with ponmo brown skin, Cotton-wool white attire to be worn by seven 40-year old virgins, some palm wine. Everything should amount to N100m
Daskuki:  I’d send you the money tomorrow

DASKUKI RETURNS TO MEET OGA EGBELE THE FOLLOWING DAY
(A call comes in while in the waiting room)

Bafanawa: Thank you very much Oga. I have gotten the money
“I don get alert, na GodWin”, a line from Korede Bello’s Godwin,  is heard playing in the background
Daskuki:  Don’t thank me. It is our national cake. Just get the job done
Bafanawa: Yes Oga. Nagode

(OGA EGBELE’S SECRETARY USHERS DASKUKI INTO THE THE PRESIDENT’S OFFICE)

Daskuki: The last stop are the Party Chieftains. If we get them on our side, we’d crush AFeeCee.
Oga Egbele:  That’s a great suggestion.
Daskuki: Any suggestions. The AFeeCee is strong in the S/West.
Oga Egbele: Try Pa Ifalaye. He knows a lot about the Presidential Race. And lest I forget, arrange a dinner few days to the election. I need to appreciate everyone that is contributing to my re-election.
Daskuki: Yoo waa….

(DASKUKI STEPS OUT TO CALL PA IFALAYE)
Daskuki: Pa Ifalaye. How are you doing?
Pa Ifalaye: Colonel. I am doing great. To what do I owe this call?
Daskuki: I have a small parcel coming your way. We need your support against AFeeCee
Pa Ifalaye: Hehehe. I understand. You know the rules, rub my back, I rub your back
Daskuki: Correeect! 100 units is coming your way in a moment
Pa Ifalaye: Fee Dee Fee
Daskuki:  Power to the people

Minutes later, a black SUV arrives Pa Falaye’s office
A young man is ushered into Pa Ifalaye’s office:

Man: Good day Sir, We have the parcel

Pa Ifalaye: Thank you. My regards to your Boss.
(Man exists the office)

(He inspects the Ghana-Must-Go bag and begins to ruminate)
Ahh. I can’t tell them they sent 100 million. Ki ni ma s’ofun awon omo yii. These Yoruba people are smart. Errm.
Yes. I will stage a kidnap. I can say I bailed myself with N95m. I’d just give the kidnappers 10m to keep quiet and keep 85m. Hehehhehehehehhehehe

FEW DAYS TO THE ELECTION
Presidential Banquet. Iwe Alla strolls in on hot spaghetti with gele to match. Ladoje is adorned on faded Ankara. As Oga Egbele walks in on his Texan cap, the DJ plays “Stand up for the champion”
Daskuki: Oga Egbele. Truly you are a champion. Congratulations in advance
Oga Egbele: Thanks a lot. Hope you covered your tracks, else America will know

All present exchange pleasantries and dance into the middle of the night

MICAH STEPHEN: THE ARMS, THE ARMY AND THE ARMAGEDDON

The Armageddon is really nigh. There is nothing as precise and accurate an explanation as that. Nationals are increasing their knack to bear arms against the State. As each second ticks, the idea of genuine national rebirth or rearmament of the nation for genuine transformation seems to be as inane as it gets. Nothing can be more shameful. Woe unto a nation that is afraid of its nationals. Woe betides the nation that is scared of imposing its laws within its territory. To the thoughtful, these are strange times. The Shiites debacle that occurred a fortnight ago shows that Nigeria is still an idea, it has not evolved in its fullness. A time will come when this historical and political merry-go-round will come to a halt. When rhetoric of national unity will be exhausted and reality will unfurl. Meanwhile, as always, our responses have been filled with crass indecision and acutely implausible arguments powered by religious innuendos.

Let us lay it as bare as possible; a bunch of miscreants in the name of religious beliefs, armed with machetes, planks and other dangerous weapons, mounted a road block. In the ensuing intervening events, the Chief of Army Staff who by a stroke of sheer fate, was passing by and needed that road as a route, happened to meet a resistant bunch of scoundrels, claiming he had no right of way. A mental replay; the Nigerian soldier that we have grown to know is passing by your neighbourhood and without any reason; you said he had no right of way. Well, without equivocation, a slap and a kick would have been the most civil of responses you would have got. But this Chief of Staff, for some consideration ( I doubt if it is mere dictates of reason, or maturation of the soldier’s mind, or awareness of fundamental human rights which the soldier considers mundane) came down in person to beg the machete-wielding goons to leave the road. A plea they turned down. Their “civil” responses were chants and abuses, with some of them claiming that even if the president was passing, he would not be allowed. Now that is as unreasonable as it can get.  Few hours after the altercation, many were on their way to the afterlife. Well, let the dying bury the dead.

To my utmost chagrin, many have berated the army for being blood-thirsty and having flagrant disregard for human rights. Many a phrases have been thrown into the marketplace that is the internet, like “the reckless” , “unprofessional” Nigerian soldiers. Without any ounce of apology, I say poo. I think we have been stressed by the caterwauling state of the Nation, that proper analysis of happenstances is no longer our forte. And we are also being dragged along the global penchant for political correctness, that we say things as soothingly as possible, even if untrue. And I must also say that we have evolved an attitude of greeting the efforts of our armed forces with derision and ridicule. Nigeria is a fundamentally flawed state with fundamentally flawed institutions, but our arms men in spite of their much avowed irritability have held their own very well. The political and security architecture of the nation will stress any armed force anywhere in the world no matter how best equipped, talk less of an ill equipped one as ours. Our armed forces are handling the rage of internal security challenges, national orientation programmes in NYSC, external aggressions, international collaborations etc, and still they are always derided by the people they protect. It is as unconscionable an attitude as it can get.

We are currently in a dicey situation, a semblance of terrorist attack against the state, which in the rambling odyssey of our nation, we have never experienced. We have lost many lives and properties, consequentially stretched beyond limits, by the travails of our displaced compatriots and stretchered by the tragedy of the yet-to-return chibok girls. All these oddities emanating from this same zone. We have so much wailed at the number of our maimed friends, but we have not asked ourselves the numbers of dead soldiers. What I saw was a soldiers’ chief who in all civility, tried to douse an unwarranted tension caused by the arms-bearing young ones. He did what we do not always see a Nigerian soldier do. He should be commended not condemned, he tried his possible best.

The militarization of religious sects is the reason we are where we are. There are efforts being put in place to pacify the aggrieved sect. Once again, as always, we dress our problems, we do not address them. Ethno-religious militarization is the effect of the inability of the state to impose itself when it is faced with challenges. People are talking about caution. There is nothing; absolutely nothing to be cautious about, but to uproot this menace totally. These people can never be assuaged. That Iran was the first to raise eyebrow (reports have it that Ibrahim Yakub Elzakzaky even called an aide of Iran’s president), shows that we are yet to see the last of this sect. While rummaging through informations available on the Shiites, I found an open letter written by one Abdussamad Umar Jibia, an associate professor     and Head of Department of Mechatronics Engineering Bayero University Kano, quite instructive and educative. It is crucial to note that this open letter, predates the current hullabaloo as it had been written as far back as May 12, 2015. The academic is a seer. He stated that “it is well known that the original members of the group known as Boko Haram or Jama’atu Ahlissunnah Lidda’wati wal Jihad as they call themselves were students of one Muhammadu Yusuf who lived and preached in Maidugri until his death in the hand of the Nigerian Police in 2009. It is also well known that the final episode that led to confrontation between his disciples and security forces was the refusal of his followers to obey simple driving rules like the wearing of helmets by motorcyclists. However, my reason for writing you this letter is not Boko Haram. It is something worse than Boko Haram. Yes worse. It is a sect more dreadful than Boko Haram that has established itself in all strata of Muslim Ummah in Nigeria. They are in the civil service. They are in business. Their members have deliberately come close to several unsuspecting politicians of note. It is Shia”. He stated further that “Shia was embraced by Persians because they saw it as an opportunity to distort a religion that destroyed their kingdom and culture. After the Iranian revolution which was led by Shiite scholars, the government of Iran set an agenda to spread Shia to other countries. In Nigeria, this task was to be carried out by one Ibrahim Yakub Elzakzaky. The man Elzakzaky devised several strategies to achieve his mission. First, he banked on the gullibility of some Muslim youth who could easily be misled by slogans like ‘Islamic revolution’, ‘establishment of Islamic state’, ‘total change’, etc. …….”

He continued “There is plenty more on Shiites and their doctrine. What, however, would be of major concern to your Government is their notoriety in dealing with Government and fellow Nigerians. Way back in the 1990s, the Shiites constituted a major threat to the public in Kaduna state. For a period, any Islamic preacher who dared to criticize Ibrahim Elzakzaky or Ayatullahi Khomaini in his preaching was attacked and beaten in his house in the presence of his wife and children.

The main activities of Shiites are demonstrations which they organize on specific occasions like the Quds and Ashura days. During these demonstrations, they block main roads in cities across the North and intimidate the public including the Police whose permission they do not seek. Last year, this type of event led to a clash between the Army and the sect members leading to the death of several people including three children of Mallam Ibrahim Elzakzaky. In addition, these heretics organize an annual pilgrimage to Zaria for which they trek in large groups from certain points to go and meet their leader. In the process of this long trek, they block major highways and create a lot of havoc for travelers. This is watched by the security agents and nothing is done to stop it. Like the Boko Haram of Muhammadu Yusuf, the Shiites have no regard for any rule, no matter how harmless it is….”

I would have continued the reduction of his letter but for space constrains. What we have at hand is an Armageddon waiting to happen. It is no time for ethnic masturbation or stroking religious egos. Disaster is waiting to occur. If the Northern Elite in the long term refuses to reinvent their region anew through mass education of the populace, that part will be torn into shreds by needless extremism. In the short term, all appearances of extremism should be nipped in the bud. No two ways about it. Else the only way is hell.. Arms must be wrestled away by the Army to prevent this impending Armageddon. I stand by the Army on this.

TATAALO ALAMU: The Invention of African Intellectual Tradition

Illustrious members of the high Table and the table not so high, distinguished members of the audience, notable and budding philosophers, Professor Sophie Oluwole, the keynote speaker who is also the moving spirit behind the whole event, it gives me great joy to be here as the chairman of this interactive session on the occasion of the World Philosophy Day. I must particularly thank the Centre for African Culture and Development for putting the issue of Africa’s lost intellectual heritage on the front burner of discourse again.

Given the multifarious problems confronting humanity, it is only sensible that once a year, a day should be set aside for sober philosophical reflections on the state of the human society and the prospects for the survival of the species. Some of these concerns are not to be taken lightly or dismissed glibly. As Claude Levi-Strauss, the great French Structuralist anthropologist, has put it with caustic relish, “the world began without man and will end without him”.

I am not by any stretch of the imagination a professional philosopher. But there is a philosopher in everybody. The ability to think and to think through problems is what distinguishes human-beings from our animal cousins. If prostitution is the oldest human profession, philosophy must come a very close second. It is impossible to conceive of a human society without thinking of its thinkers and savants. These are the wise people, the cognoscenti, the visionary dreamers and conceptual pathfinders without which the great strides and the epic feats of knowledge and self-knowledge recorded by humanity would have been impossible. Without philosophers, a society must atrophy and perish.

This year’s World Philosophy Day is coming against a background of great global unease, of human eruptions on a revolutionary scale and scope, of a fierce contention between man and a capitalist machine that no longer recognizes even its own. There is a trans-societal struggle to bring to heels a world in which inequity and inequality among classes, races, hemispheres and nations have assumed a staggering and idiotic proportion.

A consensus appears to have emerged that the world cannot continue along the lines of the present economic disorder and disequilibrium. After almost six hundred years of unrivalled hegemony, the World Order imposed by the capitalist mode of production and its twin bye products of liberal democracy and the nation-state paradigm appears to be at the end of its historic tether.

It is hard to predict what will follow, but it is a profound irony that while the system bequeathed to the world by western modernity is unraveling at the seams; while the philosophical and intellectual assumptions that underpin and power its baleful hegemony are being daily rubbished by new and novel imperatives, Africa is bogged down at the level of clearing the intellectual debris of misconceptions and misinformation imposed and inflicted on it by the expiring World Order. In a classic case of double jeopardy most of Africa has joined Europe and the west on the road to economic and political ruination without being able to develop the substantial infrastructural insurance of the capitalist metropole.

The misconceptions about Africa’s intellectual heritage are many indeed; the orchestrated misinformation very scary. But intellectual misconceptions do not just arise in a vacuum or out of a void. There is always a philosophical fundament which underlies and structures such misconceptions. In the particular case of intellectual misconceptions of Africa, It might have started out as mere prejudice colouring the worldview of sea-faring merchants and buccaneering adventurers, but it was later to receive its philosophical ballast and intellectual scaffolding from dominant western intellectuals and thinkers as a means of providing rationale for the project of modernity and its systematic brutalization of the human species from Africa.

Let us now put the matter as crudely and as graphically as possible. Can the Blackman philosophize? At face value, this appears to be a particularly inane and vexing question. How can there be a people who cannot philosophize? But by philosophizing, we do not mean stringing together witticisms and wise-sayings into a coherent cosmogony or worldview. We are talking of the capacity for conceptual formulation and rigorous abstractions; the ability for sustained intellection and paradigmatic speculation.

A whole retinue of western thinkers and intellectuals are united in the belief that beyond empty story telling and the regurgitation of received wisdom, the African is incapable of sustained abstractions. From Hegel to Karl Marx and down to Hugh Trevor-Roper who noted that African history is a dark void and an embarrassment to humanity, these western intellectuals are unanimous in the notion that Africa has no cultural or intellectual heritage worth talking about.

In an infamous passage from his Notes on the State of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, a founding father and Third President of America, noted thus of the African American: “It appears to me that in memory they are equal to whites: in reason much inferior, as I think one could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid; and that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous”.

It is note-worthy and interesting that whatever the ideological temperament of these western intellectuals, they were all united in their denigration of Africa’s cultural and intellectual heritage. The project of modernity, being a “national” project that transcends individual ideological proclivity, does not brook intellectual dissension. The discursive formation behind the formulation of western hegemony suffers from its own tyranny of the mother culture.

Karl Marx, for example, thought that pre-historic societies, such as was the case with all societies preoccupied with mythology, tried to dominate nature in and around the imagination and that this fixation with idiotic superstitions gives way once humankind masters his environment through scientific certitude and the knowledge that comes with enlightenment.

To be sure, it is possible that at the time of the colonial incursion, the African continent might have suffered a brutal and catastrophic regression into the state of nature. But it does appear that what we are dealing with here is the substitution of one set of superstitions for another. The absence of western-type formal academies of learning from Africa at the time of colonial conquest does not invalidate the African capacity to learn and to philosophise at the most rarefied level of abstraction.

In the twelfth century, there was a university in Timbuktu which had an attendance of twenty five thousand students in a city of a hundred thousand, although this might have owed its provenance to the dominant Islamic culture. Ibn Khaldun, the fourteenth century Tunis-born Arab African philosopher and globally acclaimed political theorist, anticipated most of Marx and Vico’s theories about the cyclical nature of historical evolution. His notion of asabiyah, or group coherence and bonding in conditions of exacting harshness, showed a remarkable insight into the construction and deconstruction of tribal hegemonies.

Although there were no formal schools in pre-colonial Africa in the sense that we have come to know them, traditional African societies had their own informal system of education which produced the requisite elite to man the institutions. It was a capillary network of politicians, diplomats, historians, judges, spies, shamans, votaries, savants, psychiatrists, native healers, astrologers, information gurus among other traditional professions.

Indeed the extant ideological apparatuses of the pre-colonial African states still retain an efficacy and power of compliance long after their political and material basis and rationale have been subverted by the colonial irruption. It was not for nothing that Peter Morton described the Yoruba Ogboni confraternity as “mystery-mongering greybeards.”

Even if we are to put all this aside, even we are to concede that medieval Africa did suffer a terrible regression to the savagery of the state of nature, the roots and foundation of western modernity in the ancient African civilisation of Egypt cannot be denied. The myth of the black savage shambling about in the cave of cultural and intellectual darkness is just that: a myth rooted in intellectual superstition.

In order to deal with the conquered and subjugated people of Africa, but, more importantly, in order to explain away the systematic cruelties of western colonisation, western intellectual tradition had to “reinvent” the native African cultural heritage to suit their preconceived notion. Terence Ranger, following the conceptual breakthrough of Eric Hobsbawm in his landmark study of European elite, has written copiously and eloquently on this reinvention of African tradition by the colonialists.

This was the same phenomenon observed by Edward Said, the late Palestinian American cultural theorist , in his path-breaking study of the colonial imaginary in the orient. In order to handle better and justify the brutal decimation of India and the orient, a particular notion of the orient has to be invented and erected in place of the real thing. Thus orientalism, or the reinvention of the orient by the colonial imagination, has little to do with the real orient just as the reinvention of African intellectual tradition has little to do with the real Africa.

 

Western modernity had to resort to this fictional and ideological reconstruction of reality because it was first and foremost a power project based on the application and manipulation of knowledge. In order to cast itself as the unique bearer of a new universal order and an emergent world-historical rationality, it has had to deny what went before it and to suppress what is contemporaneous with it.

Yet there was nothing divinely pre-ordained or inevitable about its subsequent global dominance. Before its ascendancy, there were other competing projects of modernity. For example before it succumbed to internal disorder, China was the leading world nation around the twelfth century. Portugal was the first truly modern nation-state. The old kingdom of Benin had a representative in the court at Lisbon by the middle of the fifteenth century.

But it is one thing to uncover the roots of misbegotten representation, it is another thing to know how to go about reclaiming a lost heritage. The power of knowledge cannot be confronted by the power of superstition. As Terry Eagleton famously noted, “one sure thing about the organic community is that it is always gone”. The myth of the organic community is the cudgel we employ to beat a recalcitrant and hostile contemporary reality into place.

Much as we idealize and romanticize the ancient African community and our lost heritage, it is virtually impossible to reclaim that mythical past. Yet, the greatest problem facing the Black race collectively and as people sequestered within strange and alienating nation-states is the reconstitution and reconstruction of the colonial subject from a serf of colonialism to a citizen of the post-colonial realm of freedom.

The question is: is it possible to philosophize in a strange language? It is to be noted that countries and societies such as China, Japan, India and the oriental tigers, while enduring the odd colonial infraction or even brutal decimation, never surrendered the cultural and intellectual initiative to the colonialists. They swiftly reverted to their indigenous cultures and powerful philosophies once the colonial masters departed. Buddhism, Confucianism and Shintoism acted as binding glues for these societies helping them to survive and even leverage to their advantage the worst of the psychic and cultural atrocities of colonization.

In the particular case of colonial Africa, it is a major historical tragedy that there was no major or dominant African culture strong and resilient enough to withstand the ravages of colonization and to subsequently act as a cultural and philosophic hub for the rest of the continent. A feeble attempt to impose the Swahili language as this pan-African cultural hub could not even get off the ground probably because the Swahili culture itself emerged from the crucible of Arab colonization in Africa.

The urgent task at hand, then, is how to salvage what is still crucial and important about Africa’s cultural past without going completely “native”. Much as we may wish, we can never return to that old world and the pre-colonial African society. It is gone forever. No human society can wish away six hundred years of its history.

We must now turn the adversities of alienation into great advantages as famously echoed in Abiola Irele’s inaugural lecture. But while enjoying the paradoxical bounties of creative alienation we must also warily patrol the field in order not to turn out as metropolitan mimic-men or hybridized trapeze artists permanently walking a cultural tight rope just for the sake of grudging applause from our former masters.

This is an urgent task for African knowledge producers and the pan-African cultural and intellectual elite. The world does not wait for anybody. Even as the old order is crumbling and collapsing before our very eyes, the extant dominant powers are furiously and frenetically reconstructing the vanishing world to suit their interests and permanent prejudices. The NATO-led liquidation of Gaddafi’s Libya, America’s renewed military interests in Africa, France’s not so covert military intervention that saw off the ancien regime in Cote D’Ivoire, are all pointers to a ceaseless power project even in the face of historical superannuation.

Knowledge is both power and self-empowerment. Before political subjugation comes intellectual subordination. African elite must seize the day and the initiative to invent the continent anew as the past and possible future of humanity. Otherwise, it will be done for them and Africa will be reinvented once again by the emergent masters of the universe with even greater and more drastic consequences. As we have seen with western colonisation, if the adversary wins not even the dead or their heritage are safe. I thank you all.

Being an article written by Tataalo Alamu, culled from the Nation’s Newspaper on 20/11/2011