Friday, December 30, 2016

USA Africa Dialogue Series - Fw: column

Ayo Olukotun's column is on point again with the innovation that approximates my own sense, albeit biased sense, of 'A man of the year'. Professor Toyin Falola has truly become an enigma of an intellectual in the mould of an outlier characterisation that I would usually hesitate to use, given its definitional complexity; a genius.

The 2016 testimony of achievements becomes starkly wondrous in an environment where people celebrate wealth, white elephants; virtual emptiness in all sphere of life that are clothed in garb of eminence, but signifying nothing and, whited sepulchers. Here we are celebrating a genius. That word "genius" holds a special appeal for me. I first came across that word as a young chap growing up in Aáwé, Oyo State. My father introduced me to the word. The dictionary used it to characterise Albert Einstein; my father used it to describe the late Prof. Ojetunji Aboyade ostensibly, to inspire me with what Oje typified as an exemplar of what education meant to the people of Awe. That word has stayed with me ever since, and I have frugally rationed its use. It cannot just be applied to just anyone. I mean, not just anyone deserved to be associated with great minds like Albert Einstein. But now, I am very proud to apply that word to Prof. Toyin Falola.

We are not just talking about mere quantity of the books published. But rather, we are celebrating ideas that are directed towards the rehabilitation of Africa in the eyes of the world. We are celebrating, for example, the books on Biafra and Nigerian modernity, on ethnicity and on the humanities that are meant to transform thinking and the rethinking of the Nigerian society. I have been concerned, for instance, with the state of the humanities and humanity research (the social sciences inclusive) in Nigeria. I have placed this concern as one of the focal point of policy dialogues that the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP) is motivated to interrogate as a viable mean by which Nigeria can be made to work better for democracy and development. But when I read Falola's The Humanities in Africa (2016), I knew there is a lot of work to be done. The freshness of the ideas in that book connect not only to theory but also to the practical perception of parents' expectations for their children, global hegemonic struggle over the soul of Africa and what is expected of African scholars.

Toyin Falola is the indefatigable scholar in a class of his own, and genius should be celebrated, inspite of Nigeria's denigrating tendencies now taken to heights by the liberty that social media seemingly presents, for making us all believe in our humanity and for stirring in us the collective responsibility to make the world a better place for ourselves and for posterity.

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