Prof. Toba Alabi. firstname.lastname@example.org
In January 1986, the Ikole Local Teaching Service Committee came to Ayede Grammar School to announce my transfer from that school to Oke Ako, about the smallest village in the whole of the old Ondo State. One of the instruments that the then secondary schools principal used to secure sanctimonious reverence and total loyalty from their staff was the threat of being transfered to Oke Ako or Irele Ekiti. So, that day was a day of total victory for my principal and his loyalists. The intransigent, rebellious and irrepressible Alabi was trounced, beaten, down and out. Let us see what would become of him in his Siberia of loneliness, frustration and despair. I later learnt that that night there were so many kegs of palm wine to celebrate my disgraceful exit. At least, so they thought.
But before I left that day I made a speech. When I finished the speech, I could see tears running down the cheeks of two of my fellow female colleagues. What did I say?
'I stand before you today as a young man in his 20s who started his teaching career in less than two years but from what the Secretary to the Local School Authority and the Principal said, it is obvious that this career might come to an end very soon.
I paused and looked round the hall and most especially the Principal and the Secretary. The room was dead silent. Meanwhile, I had read the speech of Chief Obafemi Awolowo in court when he was convicted of treasonable felony in the 1960s. And I continued.
'In life, a man struggling alone could be defeated but a man with God on his side is invincible.' I got that from Dale Carnegie on How to Stop 'Worrying and Start Living.' 'Let me inform you Mr. Secretary and my Principal that this your letter of transfer and conspiracy can never defeat me. Ladies and gentlemen you have all listened to both of them and you could see that they have not been able to charge me with any crime or not performing my duties satisfactorily. But I know why I am going to Oke Ako. I am going to Oke Ako because I stood up to the high handedness of the Principal and his nocturnal harassment of our female students in the streets of Ayede. Let me assure you all that this my Babylon of captivity will be a stepping stone to grater successes for me in life. Thank you and God bless you all. My Vice Principal in that School, Mr. Ade Olomofe and Dele Falayi, my friend might read this piece to confirm the authenticity of my story.
What is my point? My point is that my three years in this village put me in a good stead for academics and intellectualism. In the village I did a Master's degree in International Relations and I read close to two hundred books. In Oke Ako village there was no electricity, fan and television set. So, the only pass time was to read and listen to the radio. I remember one afternoon when two of my friends invited me out to drink palm wine and I told them I might not be able to follow them as I was having physics lesson. That day I was reading theory of mechanics in 'Introduction to Physics' by Dotun Oyewole. Then, I also read 'A Toad for Supper' by Chukwuemeka Ike that chronicled how Nigerian professors went fettish, going to their villages so that the juju men could kill their opponents so that they could be vice chancellor. Ike is a compelling writer that would hold me spell bound on my single bed far late into the night. In addition to this I read his 'The Portal's Wheel.'
Since 1986 that I read this book, have the Nigerian academics changed so radically from their pettiness, small mindedness and petty jealousies? Hardly. Why? Because they suffer from poverty of the mind. What are the manifestations of poverty of the mind in the academia?
- Intellectual arrogance and haughtiness
- Staff club gossip and running down of fellow colleagues?
- Departmental acrimony and factionalisation into irreconciliable camps.
- Undue and polonged delay in supervision of students' theses.
- Sexual harassment of students.
- Extortion of money from students.
- Lack of academic engagements and research.
- Lack of vision
- Defeatist thinking.
Let us for a second examine the issue of mental poverty of extortion of money from students. A university teacher is a role model for his students. But when for whatever reason you ask one of those your students to buy two of your car tyres how do you expect him to perceive you! At that point you have completely lost your respect as a role model and as a teacher. How much would your student give you that will make you soil your name and reputation you have built for several years. Here in the Academy a notorious colleague that was in the habit of extorting money from military cadet was set up by the intelligence unit. One of the cadets he had been harassing for money walked up to him in his office with some marked currency notes which he collected. Unknown to him, the military police personnel were on hand to effect his arrest. Arrested and detained for one thousand and five hundred Naira! God have mercy! That marked his shameful exit from the Nigerian Defence Academy. What a shame! Is this not poverty of the mind. Today, there is a South West Nigerian professor in jail because of sexual harassment of a female student. What poverty of the mind could be worse than this. In several departments in the Nigerian universities there are so many faculty members that are not on talking terms. Just like what I read in 'Toad for Supper', there are many academics that consult juju men to eliminate their colleagues. Is there any powerty of the mind that is worse than these!
Rather than collaborate together, conduct ground breaking researches and put their names on global intellectual map, win Nobel prizes and furhert extend the frontiers of human knowledge, so many brilliant Nigerian academics are today held prostrate by their limited vision, religious bigotry, ethnic chauvinism, weaponisation of mediocrity and canonization of ignorance and stupidity. And all of these in the 21st century with limitless opportunities. What is the nature of the 21st century?
In a lecture delivered at the Nigerian Defence Academy Registry lecture by Tonny Dogun II on 28 November, 2019 titled, 'Critical Skills and Competencies for the 21st century professional university administrator' he identified the following characteristics of the 21st century:
- The rise of the knowledge society, one in which more than ever before, knowledge and highly trained knowledge workers have become the driving force of economic growth and societal development.
- Globalization/Internationalization and increased competition (flat world).
- The marketization of institutions and products.
- The democratization of Governance, ensuring inclusivity, workplace diversity and gender balance, as critical issues.
- The necessity of lifelong learning.
- The revolution in information and communication technology (ICT).
- The rapid increase of automation/artificial intelligence.
- The demand for new skills and competences in all fields of endeavor.
- The adoption of new ways of thinking, dressing, talking, communication and living that call for universal acceptance.
These are the contemporary realities of the world in the 21st century. Any academic that wants to survive in the current century must address himself to these realities and the challenges they that throw up. Hence, there could be no room for pettiness and trivialities. The vastnessness, boundlesness and the unlimitedness of the opportunities that currently attend the globalization and internationalisation of scholarship are issues that the Nigerian scholars must tap into in order to advance the cause of the sustainable political and socio-economic development of Nigeria. Nigerian academics take note.
(Written on 9 November, 2019}.