Friday, 9 November 2018

African Intellectuals, Universities and Africa’s Development by SMB Sesan Johnson

African Intellectuals, Universities and Africa’s Development by SMB Sesan Johnson

As a product of the premier university of Nigeria, I am joining the world to congratulate University of Ibadan as it celebrates 70 years of University Education in Nigeria. Significantly, for me what come to mind now is what has been the trajectory of the major contributions of the intellectuals to Africa’s development? What has become the link between the gowns and towns? No doubt, Africa is in dire need of development since by 2030 urban populations in Africa are expected to increase by an additional 350 million people. Can we really separate the contributions of the intellectuals from resistance to colonialism and eventual independence of the country? Africa’s political history had highlighted the major contributions of intellectuals to political and constitutional developments of the continent.

In recent times, the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) opines that African economies have sustained unprecedented rates of growth, driven mainly by strong domestic demand, improved macroeconomic management, a growing middle class, and increased political stability. However, the bank (AfDB) holds that if the fight against poverty has to be won, there must be improvements in the quality and quantity of statistical data on all components of development. Hence, reliable data is critical to setting goals and targets as well as evaluating project impact. For me, this is where collaboration must be forged between universities and policy makers. Government agencies and industries must make policies on research based data.

Paradoxically, the ideas that usually provoke revolutionary developments do not originate with the masses — a people with the most reasons for revolt. It is the intellectuals that usually orchestrate developmental trajectory. Lenin agrees with this assertion, no wonder he opines that the ‘armies of the proletariat would dissolve in purposeless confusion’. However, intellectuals are usually considered trouble makers — for example, Stalin considers historians as dangerous species. Notwithstanding, intellectuals are useful to the society as a whole, hence; intellectuals can render conservative as well as radical services. Considering various strands of differentials, and dichotomies in the world, intellectualism is the bedrock and benign engine of their proliferation and authorisation. For instance, intellectualism or works of intellectuals cannot be divulged from the following dichotomies: conservatism versus liberalism, monarchism versus republicanism, capitalism versus communism, First World states versus Third World states, etc. Therefore, regardless who the protagonist or the antagonist is, the intellectuals are regarded as useful but also dangerous. Take for instance, the contributions of Keynes to world’s economies.

Keynes was one of most famous world’s economists and a self-proclaimed liberal intellectual. Evident were the trial runs of Keynes’s economic ideas in Hitler’s Germany and its applicability in USA under the auspices of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. Consequently, governments (USA, Britain, etc) started using ideas from Keynes’s economics. Invariably, Breton Woods’s frameworks were premised on Keynes’s arguments against the tyranny of gold, which crystallised into the establishment and operationality of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and International Monetary Fund (IMF). Likewise, the Marshall Plan which contributed greatly to the revitalisation of the post-WWII devastated European economy was financed by the kind of money Keynes advocated for as a way out of economic recession. This became Breton Woods’ financing architecture for governments. This thus ushered in ‘the Age of Keynes’. The flaws in Keynesian ideologies manifested in its ineffectiveness in solving economic problems of the Third World states including Africa.

What can we say of future contributions of intellectuals Africa’s developments? What have become of the various thoughts developed by the likes of Claude Ake, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Wole Soyinka, George Ayittey, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, Toyin Falola, etc. In Africa’s universities there’s a great a need to provide intellectual archetype that will facilitate flowery of ideas and postulations that will create future developmental models for Africa. Africa needs ‘disruptive political theories’ premised on indigenous African political systems particularly for inclusive governance and security. Same goes for ‘disruptive economic theories’ that will be based on Africa’s realities and imperatives and which will yield economic performance, inclusiveness, and structural transformation, as well as necessitates diversifying African economies away from dominant sectors such as agriculture and commodities. Likewise, there is a great need for intellectuals to train their protégés (students) using current realities and methodologies all in an attempt to bringing lasting solutions to all societal problems.

What can help shapes the development templates of Nigeria as 2019 approaches? What can intellectuals contribute to the utilities and appropriation of the binaries of Buharism and Atikulation? What are the variables and possibilities of the political and socio-economic graphs of other presidential candidates like Sowore, Oby, Fela, Donald, Iroko, etc. No doubt, Nigeria’s universities are having their challenges particularly when you measure their qualities and performance within the frameworks of global standards. Today, within the cycles of pervading economic woes in the country and the preparedness towards 2019 elections, I believe the country’s intellectuals must rethink their contributions towards the future of the nation.

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