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NAL feathers the caps of humanities’ eggheads 


Humanities’ eggheads in procession

The J. F. Ade-Ajayi Auditorium, University of Lagos, Akoka, venue of the 2017 Nigerian Academy of Letters’ (NAL), yearly convocation and investiture of five new Fellows was full to capacity, when humanities’ eggheads in Nigerian universities converged to deliberate on crucial issues, as they relate to nationhood and the role of citizens towards its realisation.

The ceremony attracted array of personalities, including captains of industry, traditional chiefs, government officials, members of the Diplomatic Corps, Chancellors and Vice Chancellors, as well as scholars from foreign countries, who have come to felicitate with fellow colleagues and students, who were there to cheer their lectures and mentors. It was a notable day both for the new fellows and their guests.

The convocation lecture titled ‘The Patriot And The Nationalist In An Emergent Democracy’ was delivered by a former Director, Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, Professor Dele Layiwola.

Made up of top eggheads in all Faculties of Arts, the Nigerian Academy of Letters (NAL) is an autonomous, scholarly and non-political body. And to be a fellow, one must distinguish him/herself as a scholar, in terms of research and publications, and must as well have been a professor in a recognised university for at least 10 years.

The five new inductees were Professors Siyan Oyeweso, Unionmwan Edebiri, Mabel Osakwe, Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, and Joseph E. Inikori.

Oyeweso studied History at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) between 1978 and 1982. He later obtained his M.A. Degree and PhD in Intellectual History from the same University. Oyeweso joined the services of Lagos State University (LASU) as an Assistant Lecturer in October 1985 and rose to the rank of Professor in 2004. He is a recipient of several national and international awards and research grants.

Oyeweso is a notable authority on Nigerian history and politics, religion and culture as evident in his numerous publications since 1986. As an administrator, he served LASU in different capacities. From 1992 to 2005, he was a member of the 4th, 5th and 6th Governing Councils of the school. He is a pioneer staff member of Osun State University. He was the pioneer Provost of College of Humanities and Culture, Ikire Campus of the University for two terms.

Edebiri was born on April 1, 1942; he retired from the service of University of Lagos on April 1, 2007 after 35 years of meritorious service. He was Head, Department of European Languages, Faculty of Arts, from 2002 – 2005 and held other positions before retiring. The professor of French did extensive work of French and other Europeans languages and has received different awards and recognitions within and outside the country.

Osakwe is a professor of English, Department of English and Literary Studies, Delta State University, Abraka; she is a visiting Professor at UKZN. She was born on November 5, 1951. One of her latest contributions in a collection of essays, Language, Communication, and Human Capital Development in A Globalised World (2012), reveals her trans-disciplinary venture across unusual terrains of linguistics. Jointly with a professor of Mathematics, she examined the use of symbolism in English and Mathematics as ‘Brain Tools for Human Capital Development.’

Poetic discourse holds a special attraction for this scholar, who has shown that there should be mutual interpenetration and cooperation between linguistics and literature, the latter being a creation in language, since language grows deeply and broadly, unhindered in the former’s domain. Her interest in the functions of language accounts for the versatility of her research works and its interdisciplinary nature such as Applied Linguistics, Sociolinguistics, Language Pedagogies, and Psycholinguistics.

Inikori was born in 1941 in Delta State and was appointed lecturer at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1973 and became a professor of History in 1981. He was a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics (1974–1975). Inikor won the John Cadbury Fellowship at the University of Birmingham (1980) and in 1989 became a professor of History and Associate Director of Frederick Douglass Institute (1989–1998) at the University of Rochester, New York, after serving there for a year as a visiting professor. His research has been essentially to the growth of scholarship on the Atlantic Slave Trade.

Inikori has also examined the economic aspects of slave trade, particularly its market structure, profit levels, hazards, and financial relationships. He has more than 30 years of scholarship that culminated in the publication of Africans and the Industrial Revolution in England: A Study in International Trade and Economic Development (2002).

Born in October 1957 at Makarfi in Kaduna State, Rasheed began his teaching career in July 1981, as a Graduate Assistant in the Department of English and European Languages of Bayero University. He rose, through the ranks to become a Senior Lecturer and Head of Department. In April 1993, he left the university to be Editor of New Nigeria newspaper, and consequently the Managing Director and Chief Executive of the media house.

In May 1999, he voluntarily withdrew his services from New Nigerian to his teaching job in Bayero University, Kano. With his return, he served as Head of Department of English and French (1999-2000), Dean of Faculty of Arts and Islamic Studies (2000-2005), Chairman, University Consultancy Services Board (2005-2007), Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration) (2007-2009), Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) (2009-2010), Acting Vice-Chancellor (July 5-August 17, 2010), and as immediate past Vice Chancellor (2010-2015).

An author of several peer-reviewed journal articles and technical reports, Rasheed was promoted to the rank of professor of English, in October 2001 and on August 3, 2016, became the Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission (NUC).

In his lecture, Prof. Layiwola, raised two salient questions: ‘Can one be a patriot as well a nationalist? Can an individual wear two different caps at the same time?’ He pointed out that both the patriot and the nationalist are devoted to their fatherland and serve it with exemplary passion, noting that the controversy regarding what the preoccupation of social and cultural concepts stand for will be a continuous issue for a long while.

Taking on today’s elite, he said they are far from playing exemplary roles as against colonial era African nationalists, who were inspired by the 19th century European nationalists. He stated that while the latter sought to settle people of related languages and cultures into respective nation-states, the former is battling to coerce persons of different languages, diverse traditions and culture within one nation-state. Layiwola then said such manipulation is a recipe that has swayed Africa’s historical experience from serving as a bulwark of strength, but a platform for battles, disagreements and endless disputation.

The university teacher also observed that the situation has further made the African elite to safeguard their African identity in the context of the new nation based on cosmopolitan European values on which their social, political, legal and cultural institutions are now fashioned.

According to him, this was the major concern of the Negritude movement and the concern of such literary works as Camera Laye’s The African Child (1953) and The Radiance Of The King (1954); Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958); Wole Soyinka’s Dance Of The Forest (1960), The Lion And The Jewel (1963); Cheikh Hamidou Kane’s Ambiguous Adventure (1963); Cheikh Anta Diop’s The Cultural Unity Of Black Africa (1959); Alexis Kagame’s La Philosophie Bantu-Rwandaise De L’etre (1956, 1976); among many others.

Layiwola argued that these philosophical texts are not only critical repartees and bristling exchanges across epistemological and ideological frontiers, but helped to establish the kind of healthy intellectual dialogues necessary for the development of a postcolonial academy and its attendant theory of knowledge production. He further said: “The real crisis is not in the loss of authentic tongues, voices and consciousness of self-worth, self-apprehension and self-esteem in our private and public lives, but we have suffered the attenuation of a collective identity, the loss of moral public order complete with the collaterals of philosophical and material heritage.”

On ways to correct these wrongs, the university don called on African elite to rise to the intellectual responsibility in the re-engineering of the knowledge and education industry in its rearguard intellectual arsenal as enshrined in the African institutions, academies and research apparatus. This, he noted, would, in no distant time, re-establish the intellectual and ethnic foundations of the Nigerian and African societies prior to slavery and colonialism.

In examining Johnson’s assertion that, “He that wishes to see his country robbed of its rights cannot be a patriot,” and Thomas Hobbes’ “A man has no duty to a sovereign who has not the power to protect him,” Layiwola asserted that he had often regarded Hobbes assertion as ‘guarded opportunism’ whereby one becomes a stooge of any government in power: be it benevolent or inimical to good government.

Based on the above, Layiwola asked, “Is it that the Nigerian or Ghanaian citizen fails as a patriot because his or her country could not provide for him? Would he or she be considered a patriot or nationalist by the kinsmen to whom he or she brings the stolen national cake?”

He noted that the question arose on account of the emergent nation-state: If as Johnson states, “you rob your country or wish to see your country robbed of her right, you are not qualified to be a patriot. But if, as Hobbes avers, your country robs you of your rights by not protecting you or providing for you, are you qualified to be a patriot?

He noted that there have been numerous instances in contemporary Nigeria, where school children have either been slaughtered or abducted, using the 219 Chibok schoolgirls and other horrific incidents that have happened in Lagos since June 2017, as example. He said communities bereft of social and psychological security within the state have had to resort to the services of primordial vigilante groups, rather than Nigeria’s law agencies. He noted that where day-to-day living has become precarious and citizens are unable to find security and a sense of belonging, patriotism suffers and there is resurgence of various degrees of nationalism due to self-help.

Layiwola observed that these anti-patriotic sentiments had become the norm because “we are urged to believe that we derive our identity through ethnicity, linguistics grouping or our nationality,” adding that the nation-state is a domineering factor of the modern world, not ethnicity.

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