FEATURE ARTICLE

Sunday, September 5, 2021
usa_akoji@yahoo.com
New York, USA
A WORD FOR NIGERIAN ACADEMIC AND CLERGY COMMUNITIES - PART 1

A) THE ACADEMICS.

here is a noticeably strange and negative competitive culture amongst us, Nigerians, on social media, which, if a person doesn't pay careful attention, it tends to subtly creep into one’s life. This culture is especially more pronounced amongst the literate (academics) and the religious (clergies) communities; and I may be guilty here too. The widespread behavior on social media is increasingly making me uncomfortable. I am unsure that this unhealthy culture that we are promoting on social media, which savagely belittle others as we brag about our own relatively tiny achievements in the academic and religious realms is meaningful. I propose that we should pause to reevaluate our flagrant deviations and intellectualization processes. Conceivably, some restraints, guided by the tolerant spirit of collegiality, and the understanding that each know in bits and pieces in this vast academy of knowledge is an appropriate prescription at this critical juncture.

The way it feels to me, and from the conversations that I have had with a few friends on social media, there is a need that we who are foreign-based or foreign-educated academics and clergies ought to be more sensitive and considerably cautious in our posturing, because we may ostensibly do more harm than good to our own - perhaps, academically, and religiously. Our counterparts in Nigeria who may be less privileged compared with those of us who are abroad should not have to be made to feel inferior because we have better access than they do in Africa. Where then is our mutually beneficial collegiality, tolerance, and respect? By this, I am not suggesting tolerance for mediocrity; I am only asking that we pause to ponder. Let's be mindful that to whom much is given, more is demanded.

To my fellow academics, I'd entreat you on this - our western education and training, I assume, were intended to empower us to become intellectual queriers, but also, generous propagators of objective knowledge that proposes solutions to the many problems afflicting our society and our waning human conditions. The goal of acquiring advance knowledge is arguably not to embolden us to diminish others. We, academics, should strive to add to the body of knowledge in a way that helps not just our specialties, but the human society at large – this includes Nigeria.

I become uncomfortable when those of us who have been foreign-educated belittle our Nigeria-educated counterparts. Genuinely, I don't necessarily believe that because we have been educated abroad, we know better than those who weren't. This may be debatable, but again, I'd prefer that we focus on systemic condemnation than analysis that tend to focus on the individual. It is fine to critique the scholarship capacities of others, but we should be guided by the ethos and pathos of the academy of intellectualism. Apparently, systems are the bane of Nigeria's defective academy of intellectualism. I am equally certain, that some would argue that systems are human creation therefore, criticizing personalities in the academy of knowledge is appropriate. I disagree. I would prefer a critique of a person's scholarship rather than the person's personality in the academy of learning. Our conversations should adopt collaborations and knowledge sharing if we care to help transform the conundrum in Nigeria's contemporary academy of scholarship.

I am compelled to redirect our academics to the examples of Professors: Achebe, Soyinka, and others who promoted Nigeria’s scholarship and attacked the faulty systems that tends to limit and make mockery of our quest for advancement in scholarship. Professors: Achebe, Soyinka and other Nigerian academics were/are scholars whose socioeconomic and sociopolitical engagements aren't anything like we are doing today on social media. For example, you have some Nigerian foreign-educated professors/academics who are vicious critics of others but are totally unable to accommodate those with divergent perspectives on their positions, especially, if the opposing views aren't coming from those who have been educated in the West. This behavior is adversative to the foundations on which Western education is built.

Forthrightly, I recognize the need to block off mischievous disparagers on social media, who don't add to intellectual conversations, and I have blocked some for this same reason; however, I don't understand why some foreign-educated Nigerian academics/professors consider themselves too important to align with those they consider inferior; I cannot comprehend why they are unable to stomach divergent perspectives from fellow academics who tend to disagree with them. In the most painstakingly simplistic term, I want to contend that there is certainly no need for all these social media braggadocious posturing that we are putting out there. It is a waste. There is no need to feel threatened on social media because of our feelings of self-importance. There is no need to crave for self-glorification in a way that intimidates and belittle others. Such behavior is not only arrogant, but also problematic to the common good.

This piece is not directed at any individual. It is my attempt to redirect our conversation back to the unscrupulous systems, institutions and government which are holding Nigerians captive right now.

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