Sunday, 24th September 2023

Nigeria now: Nietzsche in their thoughts – Part 3

By Tony Afejuku
12 May 2023   |   1:50 am
Today I was prepared to speak some words that are words on the Adamawa abracadabra gubernatorial election. I was prepared to utter words that are words on Binani, Finitri, Hudu, INEC, APC, PDP, and the ballots in Adamawa in ways that will or would mock the mockers of our democracy...

Adamawa State Governor, Ahmadu Fintiri

Today I was prepared to speak some words that are words on the Adamawa abracadabra gubernatorial election. I was prepared to utter words that are words on Binani, Finitri, Hudu, INEC, APC, PDP, and the ballots in Adamawa in ways that will or would mock the mockers of our democracy when a voice voicelessly told me as it told Nietzsche that it was not yet time for my words to perform great things. Really? Maybe yes! – because in our present circumstances “To perform great things” with words “is difficult.”

I was contemplating this with the thought of Deathless Spiritual Master Thoth also in my thoughts when Professor Ibrahim Bello-Kano, a well-bred first rate gladiator and combatant, overwhelmed me with a friendly and at the same time an unfriendly response, or, if you prefer it, salvo, to Professor Ademola Da Sylva, his fellow well-bred first rate intellectual combatant and gladiator, on the Adamawa gubernatorial something-less something. Both of them graced this column last week, but the former wanted (and still wants) the debate to continue. I must re-quote and reproduce Professor IBK now (but not ad infinitum as I must say that the debate is not a ceaseless one).
Dear Professor DAO, I did mention, in my piece on the subject of Nietzsche on the very, very pretty mind of the distinguished columnist of impeccable originality, that mine was not to offer arguments or defend positions here and there, but to offer what I call “observational commentary.” Actually, I have been persuaded by the perspectivism of Nietzsche (that there are no facts but only interpretations). Perspectivism says that it is unlikely that there could be symmetry in interpretations: the same facts, the same events, would naturally elicit a variety of possible “takes” on or about them. So, on this count, no problem with a differing account of the same events.
Second, I have been persuaded by Richard Rorty’s view in “Consequences of Pragmatism” (1989) that there is no need for one to offer arguments in support of their positions on an issue; the point is to make the claim and then accept, at the same time, the contingency of one’s “vocabulary.” I was not out hunting for a transcendental truth but rhetorical delicacy and persuasive clan. Third, if I had to offer “arguments” to “undermine” any position opposed to mine, then I would have had to know the facts and the events before they existed or could have existed.
Here is an example: in my piece I made no reference to Fintiri’s intellectual capacity or competence, but only to Binani’s because I “had listened to her speeches and thoughts” on a number of issues. Yet, I did say that, for some people, Fintiri is from the “wrong” ethnic group. I also made no reference to the “religious factor” in my piece. I did not imply that the voting was influenced by ethnicity and religion. I did mention the sectorial or sectional politics in Adamawa. By and large, the events in Adamawa cannot be fully described from a truth-propositional point of view, as penetrating to the truth of things as they are or were as Professor DAO seems to offer. His is just another interpretation of an interpretation or a cluster of interpretations.
Professor DAO did mention that intellectual capacity would have disqualified Shagari, Buhari and Tinubu, but this is a logical error and an invalid presumption: those men were never put forward as men or male subjects. None ever campaigned as essentially representing a gender or their gender. They were presented in different contexts as capable of this or that on account of their personal and public history, but never as men. I did not suggest in my piece that Binani should be judged wholly by her intellectual capacity. If one studies the posters and justifications for her candidacy, which are available on the net, it is because of some “gender affirmative action” in favour of women. Even our sound, good and wise Professor Afejuku fell into that trap – Binani was deprived of a tremendous historical thunder of universal proportions – the first woman Governor in Nigeria, is that why she should be elected into that office? Are we out for only a cosmetic glitz? There are no other women for that role?
To conclude, Professor DAO’s discussion of the Adamawa events is not truth-saturated, logically impenetrable, or even beyond contingent truth-claims but only an interpretation, no better or worse than mine. To borrow a phrase from Wolfgang Iser, what should decide the matter is not epistemology or truth-concreteness but theoretic, namely, which account is rhetorically interesting and persuasive to the reader?
Which interpretation is plausibly interesting? Accounts of events that seek to assume that their analytical or descriptive language can capture, or has gotten to the heart of the matter miss an important point, namely, that our knowledge or what we prefer to say or not say is constitutive of our interests. Finally, I couldn’t persuade Professor DAO about the efficacy of my interpretation of the Adamawa events. He certainly did not persuade me either. Perhaps we are all poor or bad or only “interested” mis-readers of each other’s “takes.” I look forward to a third reader, one with the requisite “interestedness,” one way or another.
Now today I, the columnist, this columnist, was to offer myself as a “third reader” and debater or umpire when Professor IBK, had something more to tell me as follows:
TA the TA, there is something admirable about your column (there are others) namely unfettered reader response. The traditional columnists in many Nigerian newspapers or magazines hardly take in what their readers say or have said about the issues raised in their columns.  Such columnists go on as if they need to “lecture” down on their presumably hapless readers or as if they alone have something terribly important to say. Not Professor TA’s column: we read what the readers have said or thought; we come to glimpse at the readers’ mindset, ideological leaning, reasoned or not-so-reasoned arguments and postulations 

Some of the readers of, or responders to, the column’s ideas and views strike me as very intelligent and insightful. It is thus clear that Professor TA is committed to dialogic or Bakhtinian polyphony, a sort of democratic free play of opinions in and for his column. Rarely do you have a columnist who upholds the principle of open discursive free play. Yet all this should not be surprising because Professor TA is a Professor; and as a rule, Professors who must have read tons of books and debated many friendly or hostile interlocutors, would always be replicated in TA’s posture and image.  Professor TA would always be at one with “cocophony” and the “din” of scholarly and popular contestations. I think, in concluding, that Professor TA’s column should be a model for all other columns; the cultivation and promotion of what Matthew Arnold calls the “free play of the mind on all subjects.” Have I flattered TA? Certainly not, because IBK does not flatter as TA flatters no-one. DAO is of the same mode.
I, the columnist, must end without concluding the subject next week with words that may move mountains. And you may weep aloud. Yes, you may. And don’t dispute it. Don’t! Oh Nietzsche!
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.