By Tony Eluemunor
There are university teachers and there are university teachers. Every profession, every trade, every vocation, has them; the real and the fake. The remarkable and the scandalous. The gifted, the skilled, the brainy and the worthless, the trashy, the insignificant and irredeemably irrelevant. Some are so terribly useless that they are toxic and sickening.
Last Saturday, I challenged a lecturer of the History Department of Delta State University, Abraka, to debate me on identified issues; today, I thank Prof. Tony Afejuku of the English Department of the University of Benin, for the perceptive and penetrating question he asked after reading the same articles.
Just a few weeks ago, Prof. Afejuku pointed out something defective in my style; “Tony” he wrote, “your introductions are electric. But you have to work on your conclusions. You need to make them as compelling as your intros.”
For two weeks, I provided insight into some inflated contracts, over which nobody took any action. And then, two things happened that reminded me of Alexander Pope’s famous phrase, which in full or in part, has been used countless times since 1711. Pope describes an insolent “Critic” (such as the DELSU Lecturer): “The Bookful Blockhead, ignorantly read, With Loads of Learned Lumber in his Head,
With his own Tongue still edifies his Ears, And always List’ning to Himself appears. Name a new Play, and he’s the Poet’s Friend, No Place so Sacred from such Fops is barr’d, Nor is Paul’s Church more safe than Paul’s Church-yard: Nay, fly to Altars; there they’ll talk you dead; For Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread.”— Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism, lines 612-615, 620-625.
Unlike that lecturer, Prof Afejuku asked a simple question:”Very interestingly loaded. But what purpose will this longish piece immediately serve”?
Well, there are lecturers and they are lecturers. That was an important question, for a piece of writing must be engineered to have a particular effect, or the author would have wasted his time.
My reply:”Thanks. I want to show Nigerians the “dark side of the moon.” It is there all right, but unseen.
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I want to show that no anti-corruption fight has been waged during the Obasanjo administration. Instead, power games, the sort no journalist ever wrote about, ensued. I want to show that what obtained from the Obasanjo era was AUDACITY OF HYPOCRISY…the title of a book I have been working on since 1999.
I want to show that Nigerians, including our journalists, columnists, professionals and professors, failed Nigeria by disdaining the healthy skepticism they should have had, and so never interrogated the leaders’ anti-corruption claims. Instead, they joined in applauding the masquerades they didn’t BOTHER to comprehend.
I want to show that we applauded the grandstanding of the hypocrites in power who were deceitful from the start. And thus we aided them in the destruction that ensued. And having been so bushwhacked by generations of politicians and pseudo-leaders, we raised our collective hands against Obasanjo’s enemy number one, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, as the face of corruption.
Nuhu Ribadu, who battled mightily to make his friend, Nasir el-Rufai, President in 2007, identified Ibori as an obstacle and did everything to remove him from the political scene. Ribadu began by fighting Obasanjo’s battles but went rogue when third term scheme ended.
Nigerians never knew of Ibori’s battles; the stout and lusty stand he took on MATTERS SOUTH-SOUTH AND RESOURCE CONTROL.
How many knew that during Obasanjo’s national conference, Ibori’s Delta state funded a Secretariat in Abuja for the entire South-South delegates? Prof G.G Darah laboured there. So, too, the late Dr. Chris Akiri. How many knew that the DSS operated a secretariat to further Obasanjo’s third term agenda?
What could have happened if Dr. Alex Ekwueme became president in 2003, he and his seven-degree brain? He may not have been a political and leadership genius but he would have been a gentlemanly president, open to fresh and relevant ideas. He could have been accommodating. But Obasanjo was a bull in a China shop. That is why some people stole our elephants, but we play blind to their infractions as we all pursue Ibori who the really corrupt and corrupting leaders want us to see as corrupt, because they say he stole our cricket.
Did you notice how I emphasized the journalists and professors’ failures? Yes, Nigeria’s problem is not only of leadership failure; followership failure compounded the problem. How much did the military dictatorship shred the ties that bind Nigeria? How much does Nigeria mean to people from the various ethnic groups? What is Nigeria to our children? Are we getting more united or disunited? Does our military differ from the civilian population? If not, is that why some persons there may be sabotaging the anti-insurgency fight?
The July 1997 ATLANTIC monthly magazine article: THE WIDENING GAP BETWEEN THE MILITARY AND THE SOCIETY, is an example of American citizens’ constant studying of America’s problems, unlike Nigerian intellectuals.
From that in depth study of the military versus the civilian mindset comes this: “Whatever the implications of these changes, they put society at odds with the classic military values of sacrifice, unity, self-discipline, and considering the interests of the group before the individual.” We all acknowledge the ethnic divide in the military, which mirrored that larger civilian populace, especially in the political class.
Now, who has tracked the changes the military academies have on their graduates? Have they changed at all, and in which directions? Is the military more divided along ethnic and political lines than it was in 1966? What about the civil service? The Judiciary? The Nigerian youth? Who has studied such things?
Without such studies, Nigeria “dey roll, like one yeye ball when one yeye wind dey blow put for one yeye corner” (pardon the adaptation from Fela Anukulakpo Kuti’s “Alagbo Close” song). Replace “yeye” with useless and you would begin to understand the Pidgin English.