Thursday, September 15, 2011

Guest Blogger: The African Scholar By Mankind Olawale Oyewumi

(The author, a Nigerian scholar, emailed me this post and was hooked and thought of sharing it with readers of The Burning Splint.)

Pixley Ka Isaka Seme, the first South African to graduate from Columiba University in 1906.

“Only the brave dare look upon the gray-- upon the things which cannot be explained easily, upon the things which often engender mistakes upon the things whose cause cannot be understood, upon the thing we must accept and live with. And therefore only the brave dare look upon difference without flinching.” Richard H. Hungerford.
 “I do Mathematics and Physics in the first place. I live a life of a hungry philosopher. I am the product of the universal machination, ethereal and effervescent. If you think you know me, you have just merely skimmed the surface. I am not religious in the normal sense and I believe that the universe is governed by the laws of science; the laws may have been decreed by God, but God does not intervene to break these laws. I don’t know anything; but I do know that everything is interesting if you go into it deeply enough”
 George Amaron.

Behold, I reflect:
Co-efficient beauty of a world run down
Administrated fate of a race wrecked at dawn
From whom and whence had these
Heralded our novel nests for wrecks?
Benefactors beaming dark
The bright beam of abuses and sacrifice-arks
Beneficiaries boast as sick healthiness
Get back at the joint greatness for which preachers were hung
On the trees of life forbidding full kungs
Kings of traumatic tragedies
Arrived with drums of elegies
Their early banishment glued zero repentance
And to this clear peril we gave no assistance
And shall we imply that we implore
Even when we rely not on its luck or lure?
Frisked I have never been
By the eerie defenders of fraud or hate- links.
From a non-alcoholic, yet intoxicating liquor of a maverick American Physicist, Richard Feynman, I recollect drinking the elevating gin of some esoteric muses; and beyond his own displayed intellectual spirituality harnessed and accrued the philosophy of physics that the summarized interpretations and operations of literal or of numerical physics of philosophy stood for in electronic circuits or mechanics, motion or gravity, etc., the Pain of which he patiently bore in stressful solitude with innate dignity, the gain of which this and that metropolitan city, I and other grandly investigative minds are, and shall forever be, this challenger-thriller in worded tether does momentously appear in my mental theatre as an African scholar: “Thought is the wave on the ocean-bosom of ancient depth; and though it be in Mathematics or Geography, or Logic, Astronomy, politics or Biology, the goal has historically been the same: the place of the central mind disintegrated into this and that school and scholar in the beginning remains the profound contemplations of signs and hiddens, facts and figures that realities and mysteries from differing facets of existence may wear the garb of attributes and functions that improve Man’s all.”

Man is naturally a thought manufacturer, thought processor and thought store-house: he asks questions about existence and essence and turns a philosopher. He pours out from the depth of his imaginations and is called a writer. He observes the fluidal imports of plants and rivers, and assesses the morphological structures of animals and organisms, and is addressed a scientist. He studies society and criticizes its regulations and is tagged a sociologist or a lawyer. And where ever he goes his deep questions and contributions dictate by what name he is identified and addressed. From wherever he comes, his hands sketch out in writing, what his mouth effuses from the grand chambers of his soul.

Man is inherently a scholar. The question he asks, the answers he finds, the critiques he writes, all combine to demonstrate and corroborate his nature- wedded instincts, intuitions, soul, body and all, to some liberating body of knowledge others must believe and use. Essentially, man learns to live, that he may conveniently live to learn.

Scholarship is at the core of all that God urges that the world should be. Deep thinking is on the teeth of those eternal hills the plight of all planets, continents and nations must scratch hard to reach. Coordinated presentation in speech or in writing thrives best in being endowed with the best of the world in mind. The scholar is higher man thinking, explaining and doing higher things for the higher good of man. The scholar is the proof that God is alive, or that God is dead. The scholar is the change-margin between man’s prosperity and ruin; between man’s violent wars and blissful pence, and between his despairs and hopes. The scholar is the delegate of God on earth, the harbinger of earth’s concerns to God.

The scholar is the reservoir of beauty in thought and man’s last hope in actions that highlight, copy and pertinently and rightly paste for logical conception, as food for thought, and for collective good that is unbounded in the world and beyond. Logical conception is the function of the scholar’s mind; its operation is the chronological action that stem from the rays in his soul. If that which he conceives as thoughts is dwindled in almighty action – and if he insists (and we perceive his insistence to be right) – then the scholar bears his own name without rights. The scholar is one whose thoughts show in all his manifest relations, actions and organizations, sorrows and joy, beliefs and unbeliefs, and in all that his mind eclipses to ponder and to remake as he traverses the vast universes of ideas.

In the scholar’s mind and conferences, classrooms and books dwell creation’s preponderant prototypes and posers for markers of good and goods; and if he is true to, and worthy of his calling, he sees and knows that nothing exists here or elsewhere that his mental wonders ought to abandon for reasons of laziness, impossibility, realism, or for fear or fears that fans failures into the planet of man. No traditions, no injunctions can ever cow his holds, he is the African the scholar!

The scholar is the difference or the balance between the known and the unknown. Because he lives, probes and reports to the joint globe of man, taboos have stopped to boo the innocent postures of man; and when the laws his forebear writes ruin with fun, his radicalism, heroism and logic writes another patterned after the superiority of depth that positively redefines and progressively prospers our all.

The scholar, beyond the creative critiques of Fredrick Engel, is the angel we lack in the unjust wars we fight and the just quarrel we avoid, in the penurious policies we adopt and the rightful reason we resent, in the rotten cultures we keep, and the salvaging ways we hate, in the ignoble stands we take and the noble instincts we kill. Scholarship is man’s mot trustworthy promise in the deadly den of possible mar; egg-headedness pays no creature than man through the mystical depth he uses for the mystical redemption of the mystifying miseries of the world.

The graphic description of the emphatic roles of the scholar is abided in the collective hope of the soul. Here every human organ, every human name and naming, every human topic and concept, every human realization and culture, etc., must be defined and identified by nothing other than its spiritually coherent health of use and principle. In this awareness, man is not Mr. X or Mrs. Y; man is Man in all the good and evil every Dende and Dindinrin, Jack and Robinson may be capable of, in the conflicting contact of joint existence, and the shallowness of individuals’ vain pursuits. “Neighbours” “friends” “lovers”, “angels”, “reformers”, “critics”, “dictators”, “tyrants”, “exploiters”, “imperialists”, etc., refer to no one but to the elevated possibility of beauty, and to the decayed certainty of crimes and inhumanity in every creedal region regulated by the moral and immoral arms of the collective man.

It was to this cryptic paradox of ageless doxy the ancient Lai of boorishly impaired poetry had dotted its nuisance dotty as nothing but a greedy lie. See how varieties of generations’ reactions had confirmed and invalidated the debated papers of infallible classroom Zeus, and made valid the rubbished submissions of non-protesting altar-bards? Observed natures and structures crawled into facts shelves arrange as volumes in contents and interpretations of seas and oceans, valleys and mountains, rocks and powdery sand sealed the basis of the knowledge in mortals’ breasts in markets and temples, offices and battle-fields. The first man to swim was not humiliated by the first man to fly; everyone, by the dream of his heart is free to crawl or run its entwined best to the address of his feasible but invisible ambition, for the attainment of the uncommon opposites; or should a man deny the absence of logic because his passion finds stimulation in law? Does the accountant’s ignorance of theology make him less human before this chronically icarian priests of ruin?

The one sphere your kingdom’s heir airs in the open air implies no decking for any differentiating superiority if we search beyond the popular province myopia. Every invention was once an observation breathed into conundrum, and then into a theory; and from the first stair to the last ease-filled step, we must find the relative agony and average fulfillment of finding things out. My way cannot be yours; in my practice and quest for intellectual laurels, expect no clinching though occasionally I smarty pose like you on the other track as you creatively run. Can the University of Cambridge, or the University of Oxford, or Harvard University deny being the continuation of the founding principles of the 1193 destroyed Nelanda University in Asia? Can the first University in the world historically from African represent nothing in the laboratories and libraries and academic cultures of MIT, Imperial College and Salamanca University in Spain? Theories and principles, schools and perspectives are manifestations of man’s various stages of development in thought; man was, is, and forever remains a stakeholder in the work of pondering and reporting and preserving and living by the tested outcomes of man’s thoughts.

Africans have been massively involved in the timeless search for truth and realty without appearing less relevant in those fragmented facets of the nativity that spell their Africaness, and in those inevitable duties that permeate their humanity through the widely acclaimed works and thoughts of Nurudeen Farah and Obotunde Ijimere, Tewfik and I.M Aluko, Okot P’ Bitek and Amilcar Cabral, Yaw M. Boatangand Kwesi Brew, Sheikha El-Miskeryand Benard D. Dadie, Modikwe Dikibo and Yusuf Idris, Mugo Gicheru and Bessie Head, Sly Cheney-Cokerand Taha Hussein, Dauda Muideen and Jack Mapanje, Kenjo Jumbam and Naguib Mahfouz, Thomas Mafolo and Mazizi Kunene, Jonathan Kariara and Alex LaGuma, Amin Kassam and Bonie Lubega, Walter Rodney and Frantz Fanon, Wole Soyinka and Ali Mazrui, Tajudeen Abdul –Rahman and David Ananou, Denis Brutus and Antoinne Bangi, Saburi Biobaku and Joseph Ki-zerbo, Ferdinand Oyono and Richard Wright, Chinua Achebe and David Diop, Niyi Osundare and Kofi Awonoor, Seydou Badian and J.P. Clark, Akin Oyebode and Sekou Toure, Kenneth Kaunda and Camara Laye, Cyprus Ekwensi and Leopold Sedar Senghor, Amos Tutuola and Obi Benedict Egbunna, Steve Biko and Cheick Hamidou Kane, Julius Nyerere and Obafemi Awolowo, Nelson Mandela and Mankind Olawale Oyewunmi, Okey Ndibe and Sir Seretse Khama, Femi Osofisan and Desmond Tutu, Olympe Belly – Quenum and Jomo Kenyatha, Amaa Aidoo and Chimamanda Adichie, Ayikwe Amah and Zainab Alkhali, Farooq Kperogi and Babatunde Fafunwa, Jubril Aminu and Moses Ochonu, Uche Nwora and George Ayittey, Tai Solarin and Helon Habila, Valentine Ojo and Michael Orimobi, Wale Fapounda and Seun Lawal, Leye Kolade and Fela Anikulapo, Akin Iwilade and Mayowa Awosika, Taiwo Agboola and Babatunde Timothy Taiwo Adebisi, Femi Falana and Tunde Oseni, Kayode Folorunso and Oluyi Isaac, Sola Ayorinde and Sola Ogunyele, Seye Olanrewaju and Seye Ayanfunso, Ben Okri and Elechi Amadi, Femi Ademiluyi and Odumegwu Ochukwu, Adeola Goloba and Wasiu Bakare, Bemigho Awala and Bayo Kolawole, Olumide Akinbile and Samuel James, Biodun Olaosun and Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Hope Eghagha and Biodun Awonusi, Khaya Dlanga and Rotimi Inyang, Grace Allele –William and Sage, Joseph Omoregbe and C.S Mommoh,etc.

A Togolese friend of mine – Patrick Agnionu-- told me of one Togo-born and bred Barim Moussa Barque whose intellectual depth and superb academic performance at Sorbonne, one of the most prestigious Universities in France, served (still serves?) as standard the University authority were proud to hang with words at their beautiful entrance:

“Si vous frequentez ici, faites come le togolais Barim Moussa Barique.’

This means, “If you are studying here, do like the Togolese Barim Mouson Bargue”.

Founded by Cardinal de Richelieu in 1635, the French academy is the body charged with the duty of maintaining the morphological, semantic syntactic, phonetic and phonological standard of the French language from time immemorial. Its membership is strictly by intellectual merits, and the Senegalese Leopold Sedar Senghor met up as a life member. Senghor did not only attain mastery in the use of the French language as a writer and activist, he also taught the jealously guided French language to the French citizens at a time when Africans were seen as fools and imbeciles who were incapable of grammatical logic and phonetic and phonological complexities of foreign languages.

A Nigerian and an Egyptian easily won the globally revered Nobel prize in literature in 1986 and 1988 respectively. With wonderful subjects and themes represented in Soyinka’s plays and poems, and in Naguib’s excellent novels, African showed her full-fledged capacity for excellent scholarship. Chinua Achebe and Ali Mazrui were wonderful scholars of Africa. Their contributions have great impacts on the West’s assessment of the continent. They have their different shelves filled with awards for their deeds and books they have written, on Africa and on the whole world. Wole Soyinka belongs to the highest forum of letters in Great Britain. Chinua Achebe belongs to the highest literary body of the United States. George Ayittery the Ghana –born professor of Economics at the University of Washington (with his controversial stands and styles on how to move Africa forward for good)-- is one of the ‘best’ fifty in the history of African quest for, and dwelling in the abode of scholarship.

The first president of Ghana and the first president of Botswana attended reputable America and English Universities. The Biafra war lord, Odumegwu Ochukwu studied History at the University of Oxford. Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief Gani Fawehinmi studied Law in the early British academic culture. Africans have schooled and taught at schools that are seen as the exclusive preserves of the white. From Cambridge to Harvard, Africans sit as experts in various academic departments. Check Oxford and Stanford, London and MIT, Imperial College and Princeton, these beings blaze several academic trails. Okey Ndibe, Uche Nwora and Farooq Adamu Kperogi teach and write from Western Universities. Africa is as academically capable, if not more academically impressive than imperious claims and imperial nations condemning her to academic nothingness.

Malcolm Fabiyi, a former student Union President of the University of Lagos brilliantly reformed the opinions of those who mistook activism for hooliganism by graduating with First Class in Chemical Engineering despite his activist commitments. He progressed to the University of Cambridge for his PhD programme, graduating as one of the best in the United Kingdom in 1998. From every given African University, the type of Barim Moussa Barque and Malcolm Fabiyi exist in impressive abundance. They are the mega experts in these and other fields working, as expatriates in the United States and the United kingdom, China and Canada, Australia and Saudi Arabia, France and India, Israel and Italy, Russia and Germany, Belgium and Norway, Switzerland and New Zealand, Korea and Japan. In fact, there is no field of study where the African scholar has not garnered some degrees of laudable exploits; there is no country or major company of the world in which the African scholar maybe missing.

The scholarly depth of Africa was vividly captured in the deep words of a celebrated African historian from Guinea Contrary – Jibril Tamsir Niane – “In Africa, a dying old man is a burning library.” Scholarship is a common goal of all Africans. We bury this in our rich cultures and unrecorded experience that books and conferences have constantly copied from. It does not matter the mode through which we learn, or teach, every African has some latent, noble dreams in alarming boundless that drive him or her in pursuit of the secrets of a given subject, conflict or life.

In natural resources, Africa is great. In human resources, Africa is great. In spiritual resources, Africa is great. But amidst all of these, Africa chooses to reign as the headquarters of needless hunger and unnecessary despairs. Africa is the dumping ground of miseries and indignity. We suffer some thorough paradox of bleakness in the midst of nature-endowed infrastructures of hope. We lack the best things produced and attainable by the deep genius of, and honest services of other regions whose citizens are never more talented than ours, whose regions are not more favored than our own. We loot the hope of, and connive to bury the destiny of our land; Africa is not accursed by any spirit than by the ungodly faith of home and foreign human monsters that decidedly administer destructive disasters upon her.

Starring Nigeria and Senegal, Ghana and Morocco, Algeria and Botswana, South Africa and Malawi, Zimbabwe and Cameroon, Ethiopia and the Republic of Benin, Guinea Conakry and Congo Democratic Republic, Libya, Egypt and Sudan, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Somalia, Mali and Kenya, Nigeria and Gabon, Madagascar, Eritrea and Chad, Ceuta and Djibouti, Comoros and Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho and Swaziland, Madeira and Mauritania, Mauritius and Mozambique, Reunion and Saint Helena, Sao Tome and Principle, Burundi and Canary Island, Caper Verde and Central Africa Republic, Mayotte and Melilla, Malawi and Seychelles, etc., my native Africa is a little jungle within the larger world’s jungle. By her, you and I were born and bred with the passion of her beauty, survival and even greatness. For her, you and I have fought and fought battles financed and coordinated by her own surface depth, excessive trust for dwellers of other jungles, selfish pursuits that wrap up as general good and cowardly resignation to malleable fate as we lived.

Through Mother Africa – the origin of all human monstrous justice showed face more than it did in other human outlets and jungles; and we were menaced by lions of privation and tiger of tyranny and indignity. For our farms, we dared not head for food or any healthy good unless our heads we tacitly pledged to the jaws of monsters through the doors of abysmal doom. Thirst in regular haste we did ensure, or excruciatingly forsake. From this jungle of a plethora of beauty, nothing beautiful, nothing free in liberty’s bowel was to be expected because we were scared. But these lions and tigers and monsters and vampires which boldly devoured the African jungle from their own sufficient jungles were not as invincible as they posed it we were as brave as we should be.

And for our visionlessness and cowardice, the joint farm and stream served the grandiose aggrandizement of selected few. Native brothers and sisters registered legitimate fellows for the official access and patronage of psyche-demolishing and spirit-vandalizing miseries. Through ceaseless corruption and endless murders, we lost the reasons for which this jungle was Africa. For fear of the terror placed on our path by the giant beasts of slavery, colonialism and imperialism, we dignified the taste of wild oppressors with the servitude of our inelastic, cowardly resolve for redeeming battles.

Alarmed by this preposterous state of things, David Diop composed an inspiring song for his precious Africa:

African, my Africa
Africa of proud warriors in ancestral Savannahs
Africa of whom my grandmother sings
On the banks of distant river
I have never known you
But your blood flows in my veins
Your beautiful black blood that irrigates the fields
The blood of your sweat
The sweat of your work
The work of your slavery
Africa tell me Africa
Is this your back that is bent
This back that makes under the weight of humiliation
This back trembling with red scars
And saying yes to the whip under the midday sun
But a grave voice answers me
Impetuous child that tree young and strong
That tree over there
Splendidly alone amidst white and faded flowers
That is your Africa springing up anew
Springing up patiently obstinately
Whose fruit bit by bit acquire
The bitter taste of liberty

In the brilliant words of Tunde Olaoye, one of the most intelligent brothers and friends I am lucky to have, “Everything that can be wrong is wrong with Africa.” The four poles of Africa: North, South, West and East are fraught with expensive neophytes in academic regalia, despite her huge harvest of profound scholars. Africa has no facilities for state-of-the-art researches in natural, physical, chemical and social sciences. Our scholars are perpetual believers in the discovered. We resent the excitement of learning. We love the vain outcomes of unsweated researches. We have conceded superiority to the University of Chicago, California State University, University of Leeds, University of Georgia and the University of Waterloo. Research is no longer research unless the Cambridge journal or the Harvard Review calls it so. We allow only Oxford laboratories and ignorant African leaders to set the pace for our nation’s academic traditions and standards. We do not sacrifice for the fulfillment of education in Africa beyond teaching and researching those already taught and researched topics for which we deserve, and so get no credit.

We envy the genius of our exceptionally brilliant students and friends. We abandon the best brains with impuissant financial conditions to die without lifting them; we give our leisure to pleasure and call them pressure these spiritual measures that journey with the lurked treasures in intellectual colours. We want quick returns; we aim materially ingratiating goals. We research for social prestige, never for the exciting pleasure and the pleasurable excitement of discovering new truths. The best among us contest elections to add to the ruin –pyramid of our nations or federated states. We join cabinets to net in worse goals of evil that regularly reflect in the sorry-state of our people. The ambassadorial appointment we take milk on our nation’s image with glee.

We enroll lies in the truth that we love. We betray our calling by serving the evil we earlier lambasted and decried. We give vitality to expedience at the detriment of honorable moral choice. We attack the confidence of the daring scholars in our midst. We patronize the filthy on accounts of our loneliness in the lane of the truth. We cannot say “To hell with you!” because we rely on the devil and his loyal demons for our relevance and for our rice. We cannot die on our fate but constantly bend on our kneels, in pacification of the deity of ethnical dirt and social malaise. Glaring lies truth are our creeds that this or that imperial international organization may fill our bank accounts with millions of dollars for which millions of African hourly advance in hunger, diseases and death!

George Amaron, the Philippines-born and bred but exceedingly brilliant physicist writes, “We are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. But there are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass them on.” The African scholar must be deep and true to the creedal values of scholarship for Africa to depart from her path of mar. First the African scholar must have a universal mind though his attention is on botany or law. Let him or her forsake the officiating sophistry that tags him the expert of chemistry or communication. Harmony is the very essence of things; in millions these steps to harmony rank, we cannot specialize in one step without ambition for the experience on the way, for the end it links. Deep knowledge is only possible when the awareness shuttles different abodes of existential subjects. It does not get to the mansion of physics and refuse to visit the scintillating sight of civics, never stay-put in the company of statistics at the detriment of logic and classics. In the essential law of intellectual measure, stagnation is impossible, specialization a fatal taboo. And except for the differential shortsightedness we unwittingly and jointly revere, different departments of Universities nullify and desecrate the grand harmony of things. What is medicine but the physio-anatomical bailing of complex living beings afflicted by the abuse and the systemic dis-configuration of some fundamental body elements? In law and literature, see how this subsisting substance is being redeemed still; the judiciary, the legislature, the executive, poetry, drama and prose, and the essay are all the workable creations of legal and literary visions whose essence is man. And beyond, every possible count has its concrete manifestations that become in critiques, commentaries and reviews of a billion books. Do you not get the agreeing imports of the academic province of Botany and Pharmacology, Zoology and Oceanography? Drag to, and group these with the most seemingly unrelated fields of Insurance or Accounting, and you will be stunned by the stone-sealed similarity of academic divergences as they are paraded and invoked in the duty of man.

Mr. Kayode Quadri of Jalupon Hospital, Lagos, Nigeria is a man to be called a scholar. He is never limited to his field of medicine; he is a fine writer. He is neck –deep in politics; he is equally an Islamic evangelist. Uncle Friday, a police detective, knows something virtually about everything. He starts with art to end with science. His discussions on politics draw to mind, its link with literature and journalism. This surely plays his roles well as a scholar. Nothing he does with no systematically related sources in, or branching links with other things. Men and women like this find it hard to be satisfied with the boredom of the one province to forfeit the excitement of the other field. They follow knowledge from every faintest curiosity to meticulous observations, and to whatever confusion or discovery it leads. They are our heroes in the spirit of learning something about everything.

I marveled right there before Malcolm Fabiyi in our August 2010 meeting in Nigeria, how exactly he had come to so perfectly combine the mastery of Chemical Engineering with the writing of drama and poetry, and even later metamorphosed into a Business Management lecturer at the Lagos Business School and a formidable consultant to companies all over Nigeria, South Africa, the United States and the United kingdom. Oh lest I forget, this hydra –headed scholar is also a fantastically splendid cook! The rice he boiled mellifluously melted my tongue under the supervision of his chicken stew. His response was, did Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and other philosophers specialize? I then remembered the history of education as the activities of sophists. I recollected how Emmanuel Kant and Anaximander, Pythagoras and others had shown interest in, and massively worked on everything that concerned existence.

Given their enjoyed excitement of discovering things, these set of stars were all that mortals did start with. They were diligent spirits who excitedly followed necessities to the distant, almost tortuous terminus of advantageous learning. They alone captured in deeds, what the American physicist in his famous THE PLEASURE OF FINDING THINGS OUT – Richard Feynman later eloquently painted in lasting words, “I can live with doubt and uncertainty, and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers, and possible beliefs, and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I’ am not absolutely sure of nothing; and in many things, I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here, and what the question might mean. I might think about a little, but if I can’t figure it out, then I go to something else. But I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things, being lost in a mysterious universe without having any purpose, which is the way it really is, as far as I can tell, possibly. It doesn’t frighten me.”

As if accursed by some special force of enlarging inferiority complex, African scholars give more them respect to ancestral academic Africans; they ignore the light from themselves to follow the prominent darkness gone professor of this or that provided in their different fields. They worship the academic attainments of those before them at the detriment of their own unique inspirations. And in worshipping these, future advancement is scarified, real mental power is diminished. Evolvement becomes a difficulty. No other African can perform the past feat of the Egyptian Nobel prize winner. Niyi Osundare and Dennis Brutus mark the end in the era of great poetry, and that what the new mind composes as novel or poem is the very irrelevance no eye will read and archive store. But who are these Wole Soyinkas and Ali Mazruis whose written thoughts, alone in literature and in political science must be law? What did professor Ogunjobi and Professor Alfred Susu know in science and technology that these intellectual young products of Cape Town and Cape Coast, Ile-Ife and Nairobi, Legon and Ibadan, Nsukka and Kara, Sokoto and Cairo, Dar es Salaam and The Gambia, will later not brilliantly criticize or know comprehensively better? The Mathematics student is wise, who does not respect the Mathematics professor at the detriment of his own intellectual independence and confidence. He must master and later question the theoretical submissions of Mr. Pythagoras and Mr. John Venn as he studies geometry and set theory. Let him respect Thales, Leibniz and Blais Pascal’s contributions to Mathematics without assuming he cannot surpass these. Let the law lecturer rethink the definitions and meanings of contract and tort, crime and jurisprudence without ignorantly discarding the finding of Lord Denign, and Demola Popoola in these aspects that count. The policies decided though the application of logistics extracted from the statistics of unit analysis can nothing else beat view the reconfigured horror of the past, all these revered faces and names boasted no input in their fundamental fixture of things. Hiding the footnote-stories of how they paid their tuitions at different levels of their education, most of them merely boast of the substance they wretchedly lack, and of the profoundness that has driven them past. They cannot like Professors Hope Eghagha and Okey Ndibe break bread with their loving students, let alone paying a Wale Oyewmui’s Benedictine College tuition deposit, or his Trent University application fee. They cannot, like Professor Harry Olufunwa, encourage a Mankind Olawale Oyewumi to perform brilliantly well in his literature courses, and a Lekan Aliu to graduate with First Class in English. They are happy to see a gem waste at a frustrating pace. Why then do you rate yourself so low that such huge psychological booster may accrue to these dead and dying scholars, impeding your self-confidence? Only that is qualified to be respected, which does not reprobate others to approbate the deserving; it is an immortal impediment, every excess, undeserving homage given in the hope of being in others’ good books through the regulatory dictates of undue courtesy.

“The trouble with the world” Bertrand Russell wrote, “is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubts”. Let the African scholar not trade his fantastic convictions for favor, property, friendship or family. Let him look into towns, and cities that contain millions and see some spiritual significance of the message he bears. Can it be by accident that these globes of mortals see not what he sees? Will he, in his quest for immodest humility and fruitless acceptance offer truth a gruesome death? Those who attack his views and express abusive bewilderment for his stands will be the first to acquiesce to his greatness. What if they are oddly evil and refuse to pay him homage when they eventually discover he is right? So be it! Do we know and abide by the leadership of the truth that we may be rewarded, awarded and praised? What we forfeit in dissociation and in material attainment we gain in the fulfillment our loyalty to truth happily promoted in our souls as hope. Hollow mortals and liars will not be less firm in upholding the ignorance and lies they propose as knowledge and as truth in the world, therefore the African scholar must be more firm than firmness itself insisting that the truth be left in its plain colour as the truth. The true scholar must find abundant joy in the stipulated and sustained conditions of the truth.

The African scholar does not discriminate. He readily accepts and tolerates other African and non African scholars. He goes to non-scholars with absolute hope in the possibility of their redemption from the ambience of ignorance. He humbly insists though when he thinks he is right. But he cannot slaughter his convictions on the altar of any empty tolerance. He makes himself available to family and friends. He is not the snobbish figure that thinks other humans are insignificant on accounts of their estrangement from formal schools. He looks out for, appreciates and begins engagement with knowledge, not their places of origin. He is not the arrogant graduate of any given University who thinks the graduates of other Universities are unlearned and foolish. He cannot berate or discriminate against those scholars in fields that are different from his.

The African scholar, as the only heart-beat of beauty, must know, master and symbolize for Africa and the world, the meanings, scopes and essence of the field in which he is our specialist. For no reason should he compromise, let poverty patronize his home, or joblessness hangs on his neck. I love lecturers who do not give evil government or demonic University council the glory of feeling fulfilled after receiving the boot. Hanging stably with standard that thoroughness and principle prescribe, these University dons are the pride of Africa as true scholars!

And though they were sent out of the class, they are still the class as ideal scholars. This is because, you may send the scholar out of the class, but not the class out of the scholar; in the true scholar we find the assignment and the beauty of the class. Forever, the ideal scholar is the needed and badly sought class. And as the class, wherever he goes or lives, there alone teaching and learning can be done. The pages from his pen, the volumes from his mind, can whoever stands before the student do without to impart, and to excellently teach. His theories, sourcing from excellence and depth, our health and environmental, social and political problems cannot ignore though we deny him his dues. In the journal and the conscious newspaper, it is the African scholar that we read; turn this into an oral task if you choose lectures and symposia, debates and conferences are elementally impossible without the scholar.

The African scholar must not be too close to the public. He needs the public to gauge the moods of the truth he hold as knowledge though, he must not agree to their fancies and indulgencies. The public will tell him how wonderful he is and express interest in all he has stood for in views and books. Believe it not! They are, in most cases, hollow minds who will eventually get offended if you insist you do not share their own ideas. Times without numbers, I had found myself in this funny mess. A friend of mine told me how he felt each time we exchanged arguments as pals. He confessed the force with which I presented mine implied the humiliation of his own points, and by extension, his own person. He said that was most likely the feeling of those I had argued with in the past on any subject. I understood his plight. Another set of friends, evidently detesting my guts and confidence on issues they did not support, devised a nasty way of dealing with me. They would abuse and say a host of humiliating things that my spirit may be broken in acceptance of their illogical logic and lies. I stood my feet in a particular intellectual brawl that ensued, and for the eccentric words used as we combated with the tools of our wits, I temporarily broke up with them! It was painful, doing so though; these two friends suffered intellectual accident in fatal habit-choice. We had eaten and dined together as pals. I attended their brother’s wedding in a far state. But they did not feel what I felt. And the truth, as forceful as the scholar can, must be said! The wisdom is not to be too deep with anyone to the extent that you will be forced to agree that the truth is no longer the truth in appeasement of any friendship or association that binds, when eventually you prove those points that your destiny requires of you as a real scholar that you are.

My African Literature Professor at the University of Lagos told me, and I humbly declined his warning in a telephone conversation. That day, I had told him how combative people could be while trading ideas with them. His answer? Let me cap it up in this expression: “It is wise not to engage in any discussion with fools.” In his classic GREATNESS, my best essayist and philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, strengthened the African scholar with the following words, “And what a bitter-sweet sensation when we have gone to pour out our knowledge of a man’s nobleness, and found him quite indifferent to our good opinion! They may well fear Fate who has any infirmity of habit or aim; but he who rests on what he is has a destiny, and can make mouths at fortune. … A sensible person will soon see the folly and wickedness of thinking to please. Sensible men are very rare. A sensible man does not brag, avoids introducing the names of his creditable companions, omit himself as habitually as another man obtrudes himself in the discourse, and is content with putting his fact or theme simply on its ground. You shall not tell me that your commercial house, your partners or you are of importance; you shall not tell me that you have learned to know men; you shall make me feel that; your saying so unsays it. You shall not enumerate your brilliant acquaintances, nor tell me by their title what books you have read. I am to infer that you keep good company by your better information and manners, and your rending from the wealth and accuracy of your conversation.”

Voices like the ones below remain indispensable to any meaningful scholarship, let the African scholar note:

“Mankind have a great aversion to intellectual labour; but even supposing knowledge to be easily attainable, more people would be content to be ignorant than would even a little trouble to acquire it” Samuel Johnson.

“You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the Bird…. So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing… that’s what counts” Richard Feynman.

“When you know a thing, to hold that you know it; and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it – this is knowledge.” Confucius.

“If we value the pursuit of knowledge, we must be free to follow whenever that search may lead us. The free mind is not a barking dog, to be tethered in a ten –fest chain.” Adlai E. Stevenson.

“Knowledge and timber should not be used until they are seasoned.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

“Ignorance may be bliss but it certainly is not freedom, except in the mind of those who prefer darkness to light, and chains to liberty. The more true information we can acquire, the better for our enfranchisement.” Robert Hugh Benson.

“A Baby has brains, but it doesn’t know much. Experience is the only thing that brings knowledge, and the longer you are on earth, the more experience you are sure to get” L. Frank Baum.

“You must know all there is to know in your particular field and keep on the alert for new knowledge. The least difference in knowledge between you and another man may spell his success and your failure”  Henry Ford.

“Mathematicians have sought knowledge in figures, philosophers in systems, logicians in subtleties, and metaphysicians in sounds. It is not in any, nor in all of these. He that studies only men will get the body of knowledge without the soul, and he that studies only books, the soul without the body.” Charles Caleb Colton.

“As each generation comes into the world devoid of knowledge, its first duty is to obtain possession of the stores already amassed. It must overtake its predecessor before it can pass by them.” Horace Mann.

The social responsibility of the African scholar is first to his country of birth and then to the whole family of man. Let him guide and lambaste the political officials of his nation with a view to correcting their common but costly mistakes; let all regional and international organizations be monitored in his researches, teachings and writings. Let him applaud their achievements without overlooking their evils. What right does Africa not have to be permanently represented in the Security Council? Oh, I see! The permanent members are nations with records of belligerence in man’s general history. Maybe, it is about time Africa too begin to fight wars—having been so historically abused, cheated and exploited--, if that is the standing requirement of belonging as permanent members of the Security Council. Why the sponsorship of revolts in Africa by those who are more interested in oil, diamond and other mineral resources them pence in Africa. Dear African scholar, your medicine, pharmacy, mathematics, physics, English , Philosopher, History Sociology etc bloom more in relevance when it poeticism those functions in the machinery of both home and foreign oppressions.

It is difficult, if at all combinable, wedding one’s love for wealth to ideological decency while still remaining a worthwhile energy in the noble task of putting laughter on the forlorn faces of millions. The forces which impoverish the masses are comprises no principled engager can defeat via morally messy involvement as the chaotic course of accumulating wealth progresses unabated by conscience. The work that will rain-in service to humility can’t materially enrich its owner. You either remain a comrade that you are as the African scholar or yield to the romantically tempting offers of ethical betrayal. But we cannot afford to constantly lose minds so sane and sound like yours to the helplessness importing camp of intractable capitalism or absolute socialism. Your types, African scholars, are strictly required for the reforming regeneration of your deforested existential values. Like Tai Solarin, and other true believers in the massive education of African children, we must always sacrifice to educate African children. We who teach and write in Africa to go constantly at the peril of not being incommensurably rewarded and recognized; but African children must not be left untaught. We must frequently weather all economic and psychological storms that the African future may be fixed on the path of progress.

There is this eccentric caste system among African scholars; they seem not to accord respect to thee scholar whom their own academic cultures did not produce. Scholars trained by the Francophone academic cultures see their Anglophone counterparts as intellectual trash, and vice versa. I became a witness to this eccentricity when, after rending the first chapter of my second book – IMMORTAL INSTRUCTIONS –My Togolese friend, Patrick Agnionon expressed his eloquent disbelief of the level, according to him, of my academic excellence and philosophical depth in the written instructions. In his fifth year in Nigeria, the young Togolese scholar had viewed Nigerian educational system as disappointment and fake. He said he would not have believed Nigerian youths to be intellectually profound if he had no opportunity of interacting with me, or go through pages of IMMORTAL INSTRUCTIONS; and I too confessed knowing Nigerians who also think the educational system of the Francophone is a formal academic woe. And as we exchanged the oral parcels the illiterate confessions we had held or witnessed, I realized that deep minds can be found anywhere in the world; a genius is neither a product of this or that educational system; he or she is because it is in him or her. If a fool in China thinks by crossing borders to Nigeria, his foolishness can disappear, he is not in touch with intellectual reality; so also will a germ in Ethiopia remain so in Israel, Ireland or Saudi Arabia. Wisdom is eroded by no colour; depth and merit are no respecters of flags; dauncehood in the Francophone academic culture cannot be intelligence in the excellent modus-vivendi of the Anglophone schools. Only those mortals who pour the ancient libation of their tireless searches and inferable observations from any subject of their delight wears the crowns of Odudua, Emerson, Swedenbourg, Bayajida, Darwin, Newton or Einstein in the sphere of thought. And whether trained in the Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic, German, English, French, or native African academic traditions or not, the African scholar is the reservoir of facts in one or more province(s) of thought with the moral and spiritual will of defending the African earth for the general good of man. Why then do we bother from which academic boarder our fellow African brothers and sisters on the altar of scholarship have come? The truth and relevance of knowledge matter more to scholarship than the language or culture in which they are conceived or taught. Never again, in my life time, and millions of years after my death, should this rank in importance than the question of how Africa and Africans survive and nobly contribute to the general joy and bliss of our common planet.

The African scholar, whether working on Quantum Mechanics or Atom, Market Structure or American Literature, Asian Philosophy or Australian Politics, must be know well what he observes and be bold to announce it, let heaven fall! He must examine well the thoughts of others and hold well what his mind says is true. He cannot dogmatically accept the meaning offered by this or that professor without laying the issue for processing in the efficient machine of his own mind. He must advance sincerely and with deeper sincerity search and publicise his findings. What if popular commentaries devour his thought? He must hold on to that which he has faith in still! If the man whose mind cooks an idea thinks it impossible, then what he describes, from which his postulations have come, deserves no following by other scholars in the world. I write because I believe in it; impossibility is the terminology of those who, because they hear not the music that stirs my mind, think my dance is crucially crazy at the Agora that binds all of us. And, the success of a scholar does not necessarily lie in the comments it draws; it lies in the depth it confidently travels and the truth it contains and brings. Let the comments be positive, let it be negative, it does not move the true scholar, nor subtract from the truth he discovers and sincerely believes in. The felt tension in the course of truth evaluation, as this theory jams that thought in the market of knowledge is not a bad thing at all; what is bad is the scholar's refusal to sincerely and thoroughly examine and then, confidently hold on to, and disseminate the side that most appeal to his searching mind.

To think and think, and measure concepts and practices by the substance of one’s thoughts that words paint to recreate the mentality of the world, without divorcing the imports of these in one’s will and ways, remain the only nobility of learning. Lord, stir the joint Soul of scholars in Africa with greater hope for their planet. Make the African head the ovum that bakes apt words that cook noble thoughts for the family of man. Make the African scholar the artist of reason beyond which mo muses exist as man’s story gloriously unfolds.

The first president of Botswana and a brilliant graduate of the University of Oxford, Sir Seretse Khama, left us some wise words, “It should now be our intention to try to retrieve what we can of our past. We should write our own history books to prove that we did have a past, and that it was as worth writing and learning about as any other. We must do this for the simple reason that a nation without a past is a lost nation, and a people without a past are a people without a soul.”
Henri Frederic Amiel says, “Our duty is to be useful, not according to our desires, but according to our powers.” And, as my American friend Keely McManness – Wright rightly puts it, “Heroes are the ones who do what has to be done regardless of the consequences.” The African scholar, from any part of Africa and the world, must regularly remember his duty to solve problems that afflict any of the human regions, using his African earth as field where his definitions of concepts or theories of situations and things are first being tested. He must be thorough; he must be deep; he must be bold; he must be consistent in getting to, and getting his ultimate truth across to the needy circumstances of African realities. Tomorrow Africa depends on his obedience and loyalty to this written pact.

We live and strive for hope, Africans in a magnificent mansion built by God, relying on its old foundation and pillars to sustain our education, entertainment, security and trade; some mortals are dedicated to, most speak and assiduously work against the perseverance of a mansion we badly require for urgent survival as we live; prevented from dilapidation only by the vision, commitment, the diligence, and I will say by the hope we give our penuriously cracking mansion. We cannot abandon it half-cracked, half-strong, half-divided, half-united, half-successful, half salvaged, half -oppressed by the avowed foes of liberty – half-explored in a plethora of resources and privileges no other mansion can boast as we now humbly endure with such huge fundamental complications. On the resolve of the African scholar to study, sincerely apply, and courageously channel the lesson of the universal principles of his field to his scattered Africa and the general earth, for the good of all, lies the survival and greatness of African children.

(Mankind Olawale Oyewumi former student at University of Lagos, Nigeria is a journalist, writer, philosopher and teaches language and literature. The African Scholar is from his upcoming book Sermons from my planet. Mankind is the author of Songs of the law, Immortal instructions and A gift to Nigeria at fiffty (ed). He is currently working on the novel Hope for the Brave)

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