Thursday, July 6, 2017

USA Africa Dialogue Series - Re: PROF'S COLUMN

Thanks for your detailed critique My comments are.                                                                  1 I am flattered by the conspicuous attention you paid to my two recent pieces, one of which you claimed to have read four times. Admirable industry.                                        2. I do not view my reference to your advocacy as an insult as you termed it. Most of us do a combination of advocacy and analysis, and that does not diminish us.            3 I cannot debate with you on Popper here. I stated my interpretation of some of his key insights. Are you suggesting that I can carry out empirical verification in the course of an op ed?                                                                                      4 I still do not know what you think on the issues raised by Shehu and myself. Picking holes in an argument is not the same as offering constructive suggestions.                      5 you ridicule the idea of restructuring and that of a developmental state as irrelevant?   If Nigeria were better governed would we attach so much importance to eminence abroad, and down playing excellence at home? Should not our charity have begun at home?                                                                                6 Debating tricks cannot save Nigeria at this critical juncture Systemic and institutional overhaul seem more to the point.                                                                                        Very warm regards.                                                        Ayo

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone.
From: Noel Ihebuzor
Sent: Thursday, 6 July 2017 21:49
To: Prof Ayo Olukotun
Cc: toyinfalola; USA Africa Dialogue Series; Prof Attahiru Jega; david atte; Dr Awolowo Dosumu; Kola Awodein; Stephen Bolaji; Hafsat Abiola; M Insa Nolte;; Olufunke Adeboye; Attehsun; Saburi Adesanya; Prof Bayo Adekanye;; adele jinadu; Prof Wale ADEBANWI; Jinmi Adisa; Ladi Adamolekun; rebecca adugbe; Mike Adeyeye; Prof(Egbon) Jide Owoeye; Bunmi Ayoade; Bolaji Akinyemi; Bolaji Ogunseye; bode fasakin; Bunmi Makinwa; bukky dada; Femi Babatunde; Olufemi Vaughan;; Tunji Olaopa; orogun olanike; Mr. Odia Ofeimun; Tunde Oseni; cyril obi;; Cynthia; Dr Nathaniel Danjibo; Gbenga Dr. Owojaiye; Shehu Dikko; DOYIN AGUORU; Dele Layiwola; Ademola Dasylva; Prof Dipo Kolawole; Richard A Joseph; Christian Ogbondah; Ebunoluwa Oduwole; Osaghae Eghosa; peter.kimani; Oluwaniyi Osundare; Femi_Osofisan Osofisan;; Olayemi Foline Folorunsho; Innocent Chukwuma;;;; Prof Ogunmola Ogunmola; Prof. Alaba Ogunsanwo; Prof. Lere Amusan; Olajumoke Yacob-Haliso; Niyi Akinnaso; Hassan Saliu; Toks Olaoluwa; Obadiah Mailafia; T Oyedeji; Lanre Idowu; Taiwo Owoeye; Michael Vickers; mimikofemi; alade rotimi-john; John Downing; Kayode Soremekun; Chief Femi Fani Kayode; Kwame Karikari; Yomi LAYIINKA;; Prof. Akinjide Osuntokun; labi adeyemi; Nimi Wariboko; chibuzo nwoke; Paul Nwulu; Prof Osinbajo; Prof. Omolara Ogundipe; Pai Obanya; Remi Sonaiya;; Ronke Ako-nai; Vice-Chancellor, Redeemer's University; Royal Gardens; R . O Okunmuyide;; Tade Aina;;;; Solomon Uwaifo; Warisu Oyesina Alli; Segun Gbadegesin; Ayobami Salami; Wale A.Olaitan; 'Wale Gazhal; Kole Omotoso; Koya ** Ogen; eesuola kayode; Hon. Nkoyo Toyo; nwokeoma joel; Reg Ihebuzor; Alowes Jimanze;; Biko Agozino
Subject: Re: Fw: PROF'S COLUMN

.I have just read Professor Ayo Olukotun's IS EXCELLENCE POSSIBLE IN NIGERIA? A POSTSCRIPT

As I am mentioned by name in it, I want to exercise my right of reply. Forgive me if I  quote quite extensively from the write-up IS EXCELLENCE POSSIBLE IN NIGERIA? A POSTSCRIPT,  from my earlier comments on the Professor's OpEd and also from the same OpEd. 

Prof Olukotun opens his assault on my person thus - 

In the same connection, several intellectuals prefer advocacy to rigorous analysis. You are no longer allowed to examine the merits and demerits of particular positions and policies before arriving at a conclusion. One respondent, Dr. Noel Ihebuzor, an international development expert, took me to task over last week's essay, for writing in an "on the one hand and on the other hand fashion" without maintaining a firm stand point. 

I found this excerpt from the said postscript very amusing. Professor Olukotun wrongly accuses me of preferring advocacy to rigorous analysis without providing proof for such a slur. The justification the professor of governance tries to provide amounts to a trivialisation and simplification of what I wrote. I have reproduced below (italicized) what I wrote in response to Prof Olukotun's article just to assist a reader judge how justified his attempt to insult my person is. 

 "Two fighting" can be a very ugly spectacle. Intellectuals like Ayo and Shehu will tell you that they do not indulge in such primitive habits. No, they do not. Ask them and they will tell those of us who do not belong to their elitist club that what they engage in are intellectual disputations and challenges, that is where they do not come up with better fancy terms to package what is clearly unflattering behavior. But when labels like Afro-pessimists and radical colonialists start flying around, wise men and women immediately realize that some rofo-rofo is afoot and keep their heads down to avoid standing in the way of fiery and heavy punches meant for sturdier chins. The fact that I am not keeping my head down is the best give away of my state of unwisdom.

Ayo invited this rofo-rofo when he wrote a piece steeped in ambivalence. I read it once. I read it twice. I read it thrice. And I said "Nice, Ayo is trying to be nice to the two sides in this matter and refusing to allow himself to be associated to any fixed position". I felt that Ayo was carrying on like our typical two handed economist of now universal infamy who would always escape taking a position on any important issue by adopting the ruse of feigned objectivity by saying - "on the one hand, one could see it in this way and on the other hand one could also see it in this other way"!   That was my take. Here was Ayo Olukuton, a Professor of Governance, discussing a rather challenging if not an irritating issue  - to what extent is the observed underperformance at home the result/product of unfavorable environments and defective policies - and refusing to take a clear position on what he felt could be its causes?(That was until I read para 10 a fourth time and got shocked, but to that later).  Rather than do this, the professor treats his readers to seven first paragraphs that present a litany of either Nigerian successes abroad or of glittering successes associated with or led by our compatriots outside of our shores. These are counter-posed by hints of not very promising outputs by their home based compatriots. Paras 1-7 come out as very negative and are very depressing to read.  They could have been written by either an afro-pessimist or by a triumphalist colonialist anxious to market the idea that our home soil destroys goodness and greatness. Here is clip to depress you - "a Nigeria steeped in anomie, becoming the grave yard of talents", This type of viewpoint is at its strongest in paras 3 and 7 but hangs like a wet blanket on all seven.  In these paras, Ayo outdoes Shehu in pessimism and negativity. Anyone who can write thus loses the right to label another either an afro-pessimist or a radical colonialist.

Ayo attempts a pivot in the same para 7, even though the pivot is not very successful. Neither is his effort helped by appeals to Achille Mbembe or to Herbert Marcuse as the two references poorly align with the colonized mind theory that Ayo tries to introduce in that paragraph as explanation for what he now presents as our uncritical acceptance of "failures at home/failures of home based Nigerian" narratives. If acceptance of such narratives is the result of introjected colonialism, of a mental colonialism a la Frantz Fanon, why has it acted so selectively? why has it not prevented us from identifying and celebrating the successes that populate paras 1- 6 of the professor's write up.

Para 8  catalogues the successes of Nigeria's home based players whose impressive achievements are "far less celebrated" than those of Nigerians abroad who are described as "riding the waves of eminence".
Shehu's quarrel and the reason for the rofo-rofo must be with this para. And I believe Shehu is wrong in his position that achievements such as listed in para 8 are not worth celebrating. They are worth celebrating and saying this does not amount to me trying to lower the bar. Celebrate success where you see it and let the success fire you to seek and aspire to  higher successes. So to Ayo and Shehu, please stop the two fighting. Enough of this "Shanchi"!

Para 9 - contains some dangerous claims and appealing to the views of late Alli Mazrui on the matter does not make the claims any less worrisome. Comparisons can be odious. Enough said on this.

Para 10 is critical in this write up. Ayo recognizes, albeit implicitly, the role of environment in constraining outputs and achievements of "home based players". But I think it actually amounts to over-stretching logic a bit to try to move from such a faint and hardly audible recognition to trying to use it to make a case for restructuring of the polity. This comes as if right out of the blues. No where in the write up till this point is there any hint of any causal relationship between the Nigerian state as presently configured and the failure of productivity and dearth/death of excellence among "its home based players". I have quoted the troubling para in full just in case I am suffering from post dinner reading challenge as I scribble this rejoinder.   

Professor Olukotun fails to inform his reader that I acknowledged that he finally tries to take a position in para #10 of his write up. I consider this failure to inform the reader of this acknowledgment to be deliberate and dishonest. It makes me sad. I also pointed out that the position the professor takes in para #10 has no logical bearing to all the assertions he had made up to that point in his OpEd. Professor Olukotun does not respond to that observation too. Here is the para in question

       #10 The real issue, however, is how to turn Nigeria into a more functional state, where achievement will not be heroic, stressful, and for those who can brave the odds, but for a larger strata of population. For this to happen, the Nigerian state itself must be reconfigured in such ways that the current centralised mode of governance will be unbundled for greater efficiency and equity. Considering that many states in Nigeria, have roughly the same population as countries in Europe, why do we encumber them with an outmoded governance structure which represses the energy of federating units? Furthermore, Nigeria will become a more rational, more effectively governed, rather than merely administered state, if politics and leadership succession are not abandoned to full time crooks, who can pay or buldoze their way to high office. A situation where the noble and worthy holders of office arrive there accidentally, or on terms dictated by god fathers, does not make for excellence. Kukah made this point in his lecture by recalling Chinua Achebe's warning that high office and politics should not be left to the intellectually challenged.

As I observed, this para reads like an excerpt from an article written for another constituency and in the furtherance of a different agenda. Professor Olukotun's answer to that observation was to try to remind me that Nigeria was once a developmental state! Yes, we were once a developmental state, especially in the immediate post-independence era and perhaps up to 1967, but how is that related to the issue he was addressing in his article?

Professor Olukotun tries to build his case for choice of deliberate ambivalence in much of his OpEd by invoking Karl Popper and other philosophers of science

My reading of Karl Popper and other philosophers of science is that you must leave your postulations open for the purpose of empirical testing, in order to confirm, modify or refute them. Empirical testing in this case refers to alternative arguments, conceptualisations and narratives. As Popper saw it, the failure to test arguments by opposing narratives is what breeds dogma. 

Professor Olukotun would want his reader to believe that he was testing arguments by opposing narratives in his OpEd.  Where is this empirical testing that the professor mentions above in his first article? Merely making assertions does not amount to empirical testing and Professor Olukotun knows this. And even some of the assertions he makes are poorly thought through and even dangerous as I pointed out to the professor. Here is one articulated in para #9 - 
 #9  Many years ago, the late Africanist of renown, Professor Alli Mazrui remarked that a student who made a first class in Ma Nigerian University was probably more gifted than one who made a first class from Oxford University in England, given the plenitude of educational resources available at Oxford. Of course, that was before the glut in first class graduates in Nigerian Universities, about which Professor Niyi Akinnaso, complained in a recent comment in The Punch. The point remains however, that those Nigerians excelling at home are doing far more work and possibly more gifted than those working inder more enabling conditions abroad.

Is this empirical testing?  Simply making contrasting assertions also does not amount to empirical testing. In this particular OpEd, the way the assertions are framed in paras #7- #9 in contrast to those in #1- #6 could at best be forgiven as an attempt to adopt the methods of Hegelian dialectics, except that in this case the synthesis in para #10 falls flat on its face as it fails the tests of relevance and implication. 

Making assertions in a such a manner that they are falsifiable is at the heart of Karl Popper's scientific method. I invite Professor Olukotun to re-read "Conjectures and Refutations". How testable are some of the assertions that Professor Olukotun makes in his original article. What I suspect has happened is that Professor Olukotun has appropriated a phrase "empirical testing" and twisted it to suit his purpose. It is a lot easier to try to slur someone who makes observations that one is uncomfortable with than to try to sit back and recognize gaps and gaffes in one's logic or arguments. To try to shelter behind Popper and to misuse his well thought out epistemology as a defense for an OpEd that contains a number of poorly considered assertions is to pauperize philosophy, journalism, and governance.To try to unfairly suggest that someone who makes probing comments on one's OpEd is yielding to dogma is both unfortunate and misleading. Ultimately such a strategy of labelling aims to stifle critical reading - the professor should be assured that it has failed with this reader.

From: Ayo Olukotun <>
Sent: Thursday, 6 July 2017 14:31
Subject: Fw: PROF'S COLUMN

On Thu, Jul 6, 2017 at 1:24 PM, Ayo Olukotun

"Can a Nigerian stand as candidate for the Election into the British Parliament? No. Can a Nigerian footballer play for England? No. So, how can some Nigerians be seen as players in these two fields? They are British and they achieved what they achieved in Britain in an environment that made it possible for them to do so".   Shehu Dikko, 30 June 2017.
"There is excellence at home and excellence abroad, and they can be experienced in equal measure. In every sector in Nigeria, astute individuals can be found honing their crafts and performing at an international level. Some professionals have built transnational careers, grounded as much at home as abroad". Prof. Richard Joseph, July 2, 2017.
A debate, heated, but ultimately edifying broke out last week, shortly after the publication, by The Punch of my piece entitled 'Disorder at Home, Excellence Abroad? (The Punch, Friday, June 30, 2017).
The conversation included several dimensions and side attractions, but for convenience, I have isolated the contrasting views of Shehu Dikko, a social critic and activist, quoted above, and prof. Richard Joseph, Distinguished Political Science Professor at North Western University in the United States. One of the main reasons for revisiting the discourse is the recent international award bestowed on a former Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, last week. Adesina, who is currently the president of African Development Bank was presented with the prestigious 2017 World Food Price, a laurel that is reserved for someone who has contributed to boosting "the quality, quantity or availability of food in the whole world". Adesina's achievement, which included innovations and renovations in Nigeria's agricultural sector, were not earned in Britain or the United States, but right here on Nigerian soil.
 There is a fashion among social critics to write off that which is worthy or notable about Nigeria and Nigerians, in order to strengthen their advocacy for good governance at home. Philosophically, as a nation we are losing grip of the complexity of social existence and events, by viewing life as a contest between good and evil, between right and wrong. We tend to think in polar opposites, forgetting that real life is often more complicated than one sided views suggests. Consider, to give an example, that Adesina's unique policy interventions were made under former President Goodluck Jonathan's monumentally corrupt government, which demonologists of that government would have us believe, was bereft of noble governance departures.
In the same connection, several intellectuals prefer advocacy to rigorous analysis. You are no longer allowed to examine the merits and demerits of particular positions and policies before arriving at a conclusion. One respondent, Dr. Noel Ihebuzor, an international development expert, took me to task over last week's essay, for writing in an "on the one hand and on the other hand fashion" without maintaining a firm stand point. My reading of Karl Popper and other philosophers of science is that you must leave your postulations open for the purpose of empirical testing, in order to confirm, modify or refute them. Empirical testing in this case refers to alternative arguments, conceptualisations and narratives. As Popper saw it, the failure to test arguments by opposing narratives is what breeds dogma. To be sure, Dikko is entirely correct when he asserts that many Nigerians, who are celebrated abroad, are citizens of the countries in which they reside, and became renowned in the context of working in a clime that facilitates achievement, and where the state is more emancipatory than predatory. Granting that point, however, takes nothing away from the thousands of Nigerians who are doing very well at home, in spite of the inclemency, and are becoming transnational actors, as Joseph informs. Before advancing the discourse, this writer craves the readers' indulgence to enter a short take.
Philosophers Karl Max, famously wrote, have interpreted "the world, the point is to change it". Someone who has taken that lesson to heart is the Orangun of Oke-ila, Oba Dokun Abolarin, who at this year's Toyin Falola Annual Conference, held at Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo, demonstrated how he is employing educational philanthropy to fight poverty. The conference itself, as narrated by Prof. Ademola Dasylva, chairman of TOFAC Board, is the 7th in an unbroken row of Pan-African parleys around the continent. Expectedly, we were treated to highly cerebral academic discourses by the likes of Prof. Jermaine Abidogun of Missouri State University, United States, prof. Fallou Ngom of Boston University, also in the United States, as well as Prof. C.O.O. Kolawole, former Dean of Education at the University of Ibadan. Enter Oba Dokun Abolarin, who presented in a moving ceremony 12 students, cutting across gender, of his emergent Abolarin College, Oke-ila, Orangun. The students, all from very poor backgrounds, several of them had lost their parents, treated the audience to recitations and displays of a quality comparable to the best schools around the country.
What is truly novel about the college, is that the students are all on scholarships, clean their environment, grow their own food on the school farm, and are trained as budding entrepreneurs. This is a far cry from the business model of private education, which has become a familiar feature of our educational landscape; indeed, it is a retrieval from our national archive of the model followed famously by Mr. Tai Solarin, the proprietor of Mayflower Secondary School Ikenne. Abolarin, a lawyer and public orator sounded like one with a vision and a mandate to alleviate, if not eradicate poverty through this educational experiment[I1] [I2] [I3] . He held the audience spellbound by a treatise on training future leaders through a model of compassion led service, targeted at the poorest section of society. If the vision succeeds, it will stand out as a show piece of intelligent social experimentation, riding on a pro-poor approach to restructuring education.
To return to our initial topic, there can be no doubt that the Nigerian State, for all sorts of reasons, is not, as currently configured, an enabler of achievement. Almost 6 decades after independence, successive governments generate electricity that is much lower than the quantum of electricity generated by Spain, a European backwater. The computer revolution in Nigeria is incomplete, patchy, and largely dependent on erratic service providers. As a result of poor social services and rising levels of insecurity, life is often nasty, brutish, and frequently rudely terminated. The dark exploits of the Badoo gang in parts of Lagos have joined the long list of threats to existence posed by Boko Haram insurgents, kidnappers such as the notorious Evans, Cult wars, road accidents, among others.
Government after government have promised to make life better, but have left office lamenting their failures and being mourned for their incapacity. There is no gainsaying all of that, but those citizens who are making waves took a decision not to spend their lives airing the woes, but to count for something by making changes in their neck of the wood.
If governments at federal, state and local levels will simply fulfil their electoral mandates, there will be many more Nigerians rising to eminence at home and abroad. The human resource profile is vast, but it is waiting to be harnessed by purposeful governance.

To care is to share; to share is to care.                                         +234 808 4177 865

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