PROF. AUGUSTINE NWAGBARA TASKS GOVERNMENT AND UNIVERSITIES ON DIASPORA PHENOMENON AS HE DELIVERS AE- FUNAI 7TH PUBLIC LECTURE
Recall that in June, 2019, Prof. Augustine Uzoma Nwagbara, was specially received on appointment to complete his sabbatical at Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu Alike, Ebonyi State, Nigeria, when his sabbatical appointment was abruptly terminated by the University of Winneba, Ghana, for expressing his opinion on the conditions of Nigerians in Ghana, at a meeting of Nigerians in that country. It was at that reception for Prof. Nwagbara at AE–FUNAI that the request for public lecture was made and approved by Vice-Chancellor, to give opportunity for Prof. Nwagbara to elucidate the subject matter, as raised in the video (www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzJff
Prof. Augustine Nwagbara, who was at the centre of the video under reference, and guest speaker for the 7th Public Lecture of Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu Alike, titled ONE TALE, MULTIPLE VOICES: Oracular Entrapments at the Cross Roads of Imaginations, held at the University Main Auditorium, on Thursday, October 3, 2019, started by stating that ‘’the subject of this discourse is that surreptitiously recorded video that provoked serious furore between some Nigerians and Ghanaians across the world’’ adding that the lecture was to ascertain the lessons that could be learnt from that encounter and find ways to harness the lessons in the interest of all involved and affected parties, especially Nigerians, Ghanaians, Africans and the world community at large. According to him, the lecture would afford opportunity to interrogate some of the issues that precipitated the misgivings; and to study critically the various interpretations of and reactions to the content of the video, considered one of the social media hits of the year in Ghana and Nigeria.
As a way of establishing the roadmap for the lecture, Prof. Nwagbara pointed out that he has turned out either as a hero or a villain, depending on the citizenship of those involved in the discourse, and that the video has generated consequences and contradictions for him, his family, Nigerians out there, Ghanaians and Africans, especially those living in other countries, but however that all those outcomes were not in any form the intention of that meeting of Nigerians in Ghana. For him (Nwagbara) the public lecture is about wading through the various shades of ‘’toxic, nationalistic rhetoric and extreme unsavoriness, in the hope that this can help to redirect the discussion towards well-articulated intellectual, objectivity-sighted and refined postulations and thoughts’’
Prof. Nwagbara opined that since the content of the video is attributed to a scholar, the protagonist in the whole ‘’drama’’, though in a non-academic forum, has a traceable link to the university, home of ideas, where the narrative should be properly situated. He stated that it is only in the university that such ideas would be properly interrogated for ourselves and ascertain its significances to our society and put it forward to serve as guides, pointers, and directions to policies, programmes or actions for our society- Nigeria and Ghana, in particular, Africa and the black world in general. Nwagbara aptly presented the content of the video in question, the definitions of all the terms in the title of the lecture and the metaphoric narrations as it concerns our nationalities, the diaspora Nigerian students, the university, government actions and responsibilities of the media. He also, in the course of the lecture raised pertinent questions to which he provided sufficient relevant answers and for him, ‘’the answers to these questions may give insights into the reasons for the plight and predicaments of the diaspora Nigerian. The questions so presented include:
- How are Nigerians and the Nigerian state perceived?
- How does the Nigerian present or project himself/herself?
- Why are Nigerians always negatively projected and uniformly stereotyped across Africa?
- Can it just be envy as Nigerians tend to believe and express?
- Why are nationals of other countries not disapproved of in the same way as Nigerians?
- What are the issues at stake here really?
Prof. Nwagbara went ahead to set Agenda for the diaspora phenomenon by his prescriptions to government and universities, on ways out of the lingering challenges of the Nigeria Diaspora in Africa and the emerging dynamics of the phenomenon. He said that the university should occupy a unique position in the attempt to find ways to address the problem. ‘’It is now a challenge to which the university can give significant research attention and with its capabilities to interrogate and generate ideas, take up the issues at stake and shine critical light on them’’ he iterated. He said that given the recent events in South-Africa and other parts of Africa, the situation has become a severe national crisis that must be given urgent attention and interrogation by government, and that governments at all levels should task universities, research institutions and Nigerian academics as national and global agents for knowledge, development and growth, to search for best ways to address the diaspora issues in the short and long term, within the shortest possible time, pointing out that young universities like AE-FUNAI have very vital roles to play in this direction.
Nwagbara further recommended that the Nigeria diaspora population, who are mostly very resourceful young people and undergraduates and post graduates, should be attracted back, absorbed and integrated into Nigerian universities. Nwagbara said that Alex-Ekwueme Federal University could be regarded as a model young university in the country which can create policies and programing to allow children of diaspora Nigerians come home and get placements in the university and evolve means of aligning the curriculum and programmes of the institutions of the returnee students, to those of the university here. He called for review of state of affairs in our universities and education policies of the country, to discourage impetus to Nigerian students’ migration to other African countries, even sometimes to unknown, sub-standard institutions. Prof. Augustine Uzoma Nwagbara at the end requested VC Prof. Chinedum Uzoma Nwajiuba and the university management to ‘’consider the prospects of creating a Centre for Diaspora and Migration Studies, either as an independent arm or being aligned to any of the existing centres in the University’’.
In the opening remarks of the Vice-Chancellor, titled It Is About Us (Nigeria), and not Ghana, Prof. Chinedum Nwajiuba, did not hesitate to state that he did not find enough reason to justify the reactions of our brothers and sisters in Ghana, toward Prof. Augustine Nwagbara, for airing his views, based on the circumstances he found on ground, but that on the other hand, our Ghanaian brothers and sisters may have reasons for their anger, in view of perhaps the Ghanaian expression, to the effect that ‘’however big the eyes of a visitor, he cannot see everything’’.
Referring to a lecture he delivered sometimes in 2013 entitled ‘’What is a Country Without a Thinking Elite’’, Prof. Nwajiuba raised issues about the challenges of Nigeria’s development and made reference to Lee kuan Yew, first Prime Minister of Singapore, who transformed the country to a modern state in his three decades as President/ He also said that‘’ a group of sheep led by a lion would likely defeat a group of lions led by a sheep; but only one person does not change the trajectory of a country or society’’. He pointed out that history has shown that there has to be a dominant elite that defines the direction a society must go and drives that society to achieve it. According to Prof. Nwajiuba, ‘’where a society approximates a country, and there is a dominant patriotic, enlightened and thinking elite, that defines the trajectory for that society, and musters the required energy to move the society in the desired direction, positive change occur’’ and he stated further that we need to study the absence of Pan-Nigeria dominant patriotic, enlightened and thinking elite, that defines the direction we ought to go and mobilizes Nigeria’s resources to lift Nigeria, rather than the existence of elites of sub-units of the country as we have today. He did not mince words to say that the absence of a pan-country elite in the political class is often accompanied by the absence of political leaders, with philosophical content and clear ideological inclinations, unlike what we saw in the likes of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Michael Okpara, Akanu Ibiam, Ahmadu Bellow, Tafawa Balewa, Obafemi Awolowo, Ladoke Akintola and the rest, pointing out that ‘’the fruits of these philosophical and ideological hollowness can be simplified by looking at our universities’’.
Prof. Nwajiuba recalled that Prof. Nwagbara mentioned in that video, that Nigerian parents will not donate N50,000 to a university in Nigeria, but will pay $10,000 in Ghana, which for him (Nwajiuba) is a wake-up call for Nigeria to take her place but that it cannot be achieved without thinking, patriotic and enlightened elites. He welcomed Prof. Nwagbara again, stating that “We believe that a person should have honour and dignity and most importantly, something that is gradually becoming scarce in our clime, you must stand for something, Prof. Nwagbara exhibited these traits”.
Chairman of the Inaugural and Public Lecture Committee, Prof. Rosemary Igbo, in her welcome address, thanked the Vice-Chancellor and the University management for making the event possible. She specially welcomed the guest speaker and other special guests for being present and urged everyone present to listen attentively to Prof. Nwagbara. The University Registrar, Odisa C. Okeke (Mrs.) who gave vote of thanks, appreciated the Vice-Chancellor for providing unique leadership that is driving rapid mental, social and physical development in the university, stating that the lecture was a valuable take away for all who attended. Dr. Nnenna Nwosu-Nworuh, Director of French Centre, read the citation of the guest lecture, a full Professor of the University of Lagos and presented him for the lecture. Special guests who graced the event included Honorable Abike Dabiri–Erewa, Chairman/CEO, Nigerians In Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), who was represented by the Programmes Officer, Mr. Tobechukwu Obienu; Dr. Robert Obiora, Chairman, Editorial Board of Sun Newspaper, represented by Mr. Magnus Eze, Regional Editor (South East); Prof. Val Ekechukwu of University of Nigeria, Nsukka; and Prof. Michael Amadihe Ezugu, a representative of the Vice–Chancellor, Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu.
Prof. Nwagbara, earlier led the special guests on courtesy call on the Vice–Chancellor and other university officers, who thereafter led them to the lawn of the main auditorium for tree planting in support of the University’s Go-Green Initiative.