How Should I Raise my Mànàrị? Ruminations of an Agonized Father
(dedicated to the girl-child in Africa)
By Jonathan O. Chimakonam
The South African Government declared August as women’s month in honour of over 20,000 women who “marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women”. It was a protest against abuse and oppression of women. Some time in 2020, my wife bore us a daughter, and all of a sudden, I am woken to the harsh realities of a modern society awash with abusive tendencies for various categories of people, like the women, of which my daughter, Mànàrị is now one. Now that the joy of having that baby girl I always wanted has sank in, the question is, how should I raise my Mànàrị, not just to be a responsible human being, but also to be shielded from the abuse and oppression women still suffer in the modern society? In the Igbo country where I come from, stories had it that the age of the slave-hunters had made children grow up fast. Colonialism also forced a new social and economic orientation upon people, which required children to imitate grown-ups rather than grow up. Our world is ageing, not necessarily because of the several millennia that have passed since the big bang; it is ageing in a moral sense! Our ideas on how to organise a society have continued to change and become sophisticated, since the time of Hammurabi the Wise. Historians inform us that it was Hammurabi who first thought of sending children to school to learn the etiquettes, arts and norms established by the elders. Since then, civilisation has progressed through steady improvements on the norms, and sophistication in the arts and techne. But how do these affect the experience of being young, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, in this new age of science, technology, information, digital media, and of cancer and AIDS?
Attaining puberty, I recall, the radio and TV jingles every five minutes are about HIV/AIDS. Sex and even flirtations were tabooed not for religious reasons, but for obiri n’aja ocha, that dreadful disease that only ends when the victim has been lowered into the red earth. So, we are the HIV generation who could not even enjoy sex as our parents did. If you insisted that you wanted to toy with your life, you must use a condom. So, we are also the condom generation. Who could believe that supposedly a natural experience such as sex could be so regulated, and fatal? Or, that folks would strive to avoid it like the plague? When, and if, you eventually have your first sex or your first real sex without a condom, you feel horrified. As if to say, yes, that is it. You are now old enough to die. You have had sex without a condom; your fate is sealed. That dreadful disease is going to see you to the red earth−aja ocha!
And then also, is one of the legacies of coloniality− that is, foreign religion. As a child, I was required to wake at 4 AM to prepare for the Sunday Mass. That is after you had been to the church on Wednesday for the irritable ‘Ekpere Nwanesde’ and forced to skip play on Saturday to go for the prayer meeting of your church group. On Tuesday, you had to wake earlier than usual to attend the morning mass before going to school. And on Friday, you went to church in the evening for the gathering of whichever church paramilitary group you were forcibly enrolled into. At home, there was always a long prayer session every morning and every night before you are allowed to sleep. In-between all these prayers, at home and in the church, there were sermons, sermons of damnation. A pure metaphysics of terror that made you think that the world was dark and full of terrors! As a child, all you worry about was the damnation of the fire of hell rather than living your life. You worry so much that you begin to have nightmares. Nightmares that continue till adulthood and perhaps, may continue till you are lowered in the terrifying red earth. We were born in terror; we grew up amidst terror; we are the terrorised generation.
In Nigeria, where I come from, there are always ethnic and religious conflicts amongst the ethnic nationalities, and Christians and Moslems. The next outbreak is always unpredictable. Hundreds are killed in each, sometimes thousands, properties destroyed and survivors are thrown into hardship. This has been the situation since I was a child. In South Africa, where I now live, there is always violent Afrophobia attacks with Nigerians targeted specifically. These conflicts cause death and destruction. So, we are the conflict generation.
My people were egalitarian and communal in pre-colonial times. There were a few wealthy individuals, but there were no poor people – no destitute on the road begging, wondering how a single coin, proudly dropped by a more fortunate person, could magically relieve pangs of acute hunger. But the capitalist order that emerged with colonialism, and sucked us into a global matrix, appears to have bequeathed a dangerously lopsided economic system that left many of my people poor. Growing up, you have to join the family business or play some roles to increase family income. We all thought it was the way the world worked. As far as my memory could take me, I was working in the family business to increase income for the family as early as seven. It must have been earlier because as an adult, I see children much younger participate in winning extra income for their families. Yet, no matter how hard you worked, there was hardly enough. So, again, we are the poverty generation.
Nowadays, there is a new wave of social problem spreading around the world, from India to South Africa and elsewhere. It is the twin problem of rape and femicide. South Africa, where we live, and where my daughter was born and would likely be raised, has emerged as a global hotspot. Even children younger than my daughter are being raped, many of them to death, others to a point where doctors can only stitch by trial and error. In the last three years, many rape victims were also killed in a wave of femicide around the country. So, ours is also the rape and femicide generation.
But what worries me now is how my Mànàrị would relive all these experiences I had as a child, and even the ones emerging in this new millennium? As a father, I am agonised and dispirited that my daughter may have to relive all these terrible experiences I had been through from childhood to adulthood. How can I break the chain? Just when I thought I was finally figuring the African world out, a new reality orchestrated by my daughter’s birth has emerged. I am working so hard at my job that I barely have enough sleep each day just so that my daughter would not grow up poor even if she is a member of the poverty generation. I think about the conflicts, ethnic and religious in Nigeria where we come from, and Afrophobia and femicide in South Africa where we live. I want to shield her from all those. I worry about how and when to begin talking to her about safety measures against HIV/AIDS, it pains me to have to do that, but I see no other choice. I also worry about how to protect her from rapists. I can do my best, but I cannot attend school with her. When she becomes a teenager, I cannot accompany her to every social activity or high school party or to her first date. She should have her space and be free to operate in it, to grow up. As a father, I am terrified! But what it is in my power to spare her is metaphysical terrorism. There will be no gospels and prayers and churches in my family. My Mànàrị, will grow up without nightmares. It is within my power to do this, and I am happy to exercise that power.
The world seems so old, and the young must learn old tricks to survive. But I am now conflicted on what is the most suitable norm to set for children like my daughter who are growing up. Which moral orientation should I inculcate in my Mànàrị? The Western Kantian deontologism grounded in the Aristotelian bivalent logic, or the uze-Ezumezu moral paradigm grounded in a trivalent logic? This is one more thing I feel I have the power to do. That is, the choice of which moral orientation I should give to my daughter. How should I raise Mànàrị in order to make the most of her capacities in this ageing world? A few days ago, I discussed my concern with someone who dismissed it with the simple statement: ‘you worry too much’. Maybe I worry too much, maybe I don’t, but the set of moral values I should inculcate in my daughter to enable her to lead not just a successful life, but the good life should concern me, if not as a philosopher, then as a parent.
Nietzsche proclaims the death of God and bids us look inwards. Kant proposed his deontology-based ethics as a universal and perduring framework. But we have since found technological ways to circumvent that and restore our nihilism. We have found google, a new God we look up to for everything. Nolen Gertz informs us that some have even quit expecting the return of Jesus Christ and are now looking forward to the second coming of Steve Jobs. Perhaps, the problem is not technology, as Gertz intuits, the main question may not be that it is making us better or worse; because that is who we are, entities that are always in search of a new domino or alter ego. Perhaps we should accept this and become active in such a search. Such that Kant’s categorical imperatives should not be foisted on us as the alpha and omega of moral paradigms. We have seen our world of today, a world of Kantian and Bentham’s morals, its strengths and weaknesses. We can’t say we are entirely satisfied with its lopsidedness. Perhaps, we should seek another paradigm. In a world in which technology has had a huge impact on ethics, pushing back its bounds, it may be time to review our principles of morals or seek new paradigms? However, would the global system that sucks in every culture and everyone, and which rides on the crest of the ICT not make it difficult, if not impossible for anyone who opts out to realise their ambitions? What then must one who has lost fate in the Kantian or Bentham’s moral paradigm do? How should I raise my Mànàrị?
Should I follow the Kantian or the Bentham’s paradigm and teach her that the moral weight of actions is to be measured in terms of duty or consequences? Obligations and strict numerical consequences can be constraining for children. Or, should I follow the uze-Ezumezu paradigm and teach her that an action is right insofar as it promotes the individual good, the common good or both; it is wrong if it fails to promote at least anyone at all? Should I give up and raise her by the Kantian or Bentham’s paradigm, which allows little or no space for children to live and enjoy the freedom of growing up, and become a passive nihilist? Or, should I raise her by the uze-Ezumezu paradigm, which can restore children’s freedom to grow up, and become an active nihilist? But the problem is, how can my Mànàrị survive in a world with a uniform standard where she had imbibed a different paradigm? Children need other children to enjoy their freedom of growing up. How would she deal with the backlash of being the odd one? It does not matter the choice I make, I would remain a nihilist, but an active nihilist makes the most of their human capacities. It is one who is truly living, finding ways to reach new and better values. Besides other weaknesses, remaining with the Kantian or Bentham’s paradigm stifles the freedom of being human, especially for the young.
I am a philosopher, who has proposed a paradigm (uze-Ezumezu) I believe to be better than the Kantian or Bentham’s. This paradigm, I believe, is informed by the new realities that encapsulate my cultural worldview. I am supposed to practice what I preach, why should I go on to raise my child by a moral paradigm I believe to be inadequate for the new age? What a hypocrisy that would be. If the freedom to grow up cannot be defended by the philosopher, it would not be defended by anyone at all. If a philosopher should not practice what he professes, what rights has he to educate others?
This question should concern us all because we live in an old world where it is a tradition to establish moral standards and rules for the next generation. Juan Enriquez has criticised this practice. But as despicable as this sounds, I believe that more worrisome is how the standards we set for the next generation affect their capacities as young people.
Nowadays, being young entails striving to mimic adulthood. The world, our world is an old one. So, to survive, it is assumed, is to learn to be old. But because children are young and cannot be old at the same time, they are compelled to learn how to be old from adults. This entails most times, abandoning the act of thinking so as to avoid mistakes. The young must hand over their freedom of thought to adults who must think for them. But making mistakes should be a part of growing up. Thought informs action. Mistakes are products of erroneous thinking. The practice of thinking must go together with action informed by such thoughts. Whilst mistakes are costly in the short term; they are more beneficial in the long run. Growing up should have a lot of moral latitudes. But religions and modern society hinged on the Kantian moral paradigm promulgate against this. A child must be judged as an adult, and mistakes must be punished. This is no way to treat the young. The young are to be guided when they make mistakes. They must be allowed to think for themselves.
In our present moral universe, what it means to be young is the total surrender of one’s freedom of thought. It is the acceptance that one cannot yet think for themselves. It is the belief that thinking is an activity that the young must learn from the old. It is the assumption that until one is old, they cannot think or are prone to erroneous thinking. This is preposterous! I believe that training the brain daily is the way to make it efficient. This training, inexorably, must involve experience. We should restructure our moral universe to allow children to train their brains daily under our guidance by allowing them to think and made decisions, fail and be guided, etc. We must discourage a pattern that compels them to copy adults and be punished when they fail to do so, or do so poorly. This approach is not only bad for the young; it is bad for humanity as a whole.
But what should it mean to be growing up in an ageing world? For me, ‘it is to have the freedoms of thought and errors’ despite the standards set by adults. I want my Mànàrị to have the freedom to think and make her own mistakes and learn from it. To be able to afford her all of this, it is my duty as a parent, and then, as a philosopher to protect her from direct harm ensuing from conflicts; from mental terrorism which religion unleashes; from the constraints of poverty and diseases such as HIV/AIDS, from the foreign moral paradigms that alienate her from her cultural roots, and from the cankerworms of rape and femicide.
At an early age, we often observe stunning curiosity in children. They ask questions about everything. But as they bid to grow up, all that automatically ceases. They stop asking questions because we scream, intimidate and threaten them with punishment. They only look and learn from adults. They stop being children; they start copying adults and practising adulthood. They start being grown-ups and stop growing up, where growing up means inquiring, searching, making mistakes, tripping and falling, getting up and moving on. They stop asking questions; they stop thinking and start copying.
In philosophy, questions are more important than answers because they are outward signs that one is thinking. When young people are terrorised with religion, or by the conditions of conflicts, poverty, diseases, rape, femicide, and even by a given moral code, they withdraw inwards, and begin to copy adults as the sure path to safety. I do not want to do that to my Mànàrị. I want her to retain and grow up with her childhood curiousity, to always ask questions, to probe the world, her world, our world. To find her own ways. To be free to make mistakes and learn from it. To have as much sex as she wants and with whomever she chooses. To reach her own understanding. To have the courage to use her own reason. To exercise her brain daily; to realise its power and to grow in the use of her brain. I want my Mànàrị to grow up thinking for herself, and reaching her own informed decision on any matter at all. I don’t want her to hand over the job of thinking to her mother or me, or to a priest or teacher or to anyone at all. I don’t want her to have to restart the use of her brain at adulthood, after giving it up as a child. I don’t want her growing up to be an exercise in imitation of adulthood. I want her to think through it in her total mental freedom and independence.
But if I want my Mànàrị to grow up thinking for herself, why would I bid to set a moral paradigm for her? Shouldn’t I allow her to develop one for herself? Her own norms and standards? I am not opposed to standards being set for the next generation, as unfair as that sounds, it looks like a better option than allowing a child to grope about in a dark moral universe. What I am opposed to is setting standards like the Kantian, Bentham’s and the Judeo-Christian standards, which rob children of their childhood, and for those from parts of Africa like my Mànàrị, it alienates them from their cultural roots thereby disidentifying them from childhood. Besides, these standards skew our perception of reality. The good is not the ideal; neither is evil, the opprobrious. A child should be taught the subtle art of balance, and that is the mainstay of uze-Ezumezu paradigm, which is African culture-inspired, albeit universalisable.
Jonathan O. Chimakonam is a senior lecturer in philosophy at the University of Pretoria
Is History Repeating Itself? Covid-19 Vaccination, Religion and the African Populace
By Amara Esther
It has been over one year since the SARS-CoV2 virus, was discovered in Wuhan, China and roughly one year that the World Health Organisation declared it a “public health emergency of international concern.” Since then, tens of millions have been infected, and millions of lives lost. As of the time that this article was written, it has been reported that about 1.8 million people have died of the disease and about 86 million victims fear for their lives around the globe. The global economic costs hit trillions of dollars. It has been projected that it will take years for the world to overcome the impact of Covid-19.
The rise in Covid-19 infections in most African countries has forced many governments to enact measures to curtail the spread of the virus and avoid the overwhelming of the public health care system. They take those steps while waiting for a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine to become available and administered to a significant number of their population. Some of these measures include social and physical distancing, wearing a mask, movement restrictions, lockdown of major cities, restrictions on social gatherings, and religious activities restrictions. While some religious leaders in Africa complied with these measures, others reacted adversely to it. These reactions ranged from outright denial and conspiratorial theorising to partial acceptance. All these did more than enough to downplay the reality of coronavirus pandemic in Africa.
For instance, the general overseer of the Bible Believing Mission in Aba, Southeast Nigeria, Kingsley Innocent (also known as Talknado), reportedly denied the existence of Covid-19. In his words: “Special prayer sessions are being held these days for coronavirus. I want to tell us that that thing is not in Nigeria. Say Talknado said so. It’s not in Nigeria. That thing cannot survive in Nigeria. What do you mean by coronavirus when there are corrosive anointing. I don’t know about other places; there is no coronavirus here. Coronavirus does not exist in Nigeria.”
As if to re-echo Innocent’s point, Pastor Augustine Yiga of Revival Christian Church, Uganda, was reported to have informed his congregations that there is “no coronavirus in Uganda and Africa.” Sheik Sani Yahaya, a Muslim cleric in Nigeria, also declared that Covid-19 is a ghost of the West created to thwart religious obligations like congregational worship and pilgrimage. Despite this denial, evidence indicates that approximately one million people may have been infected in Africa. As of the time of this research, Covid-19 cases, for instance, in Kenya is 97, 398, Nigeria is 94, 369, South Africa is 1,149,591, Egypt is 145,590, Uganda is 36,702. Also, thousands of lives have been lost in Africa since the disease broke out. For example, Kenya records 1,694 deaths, Nigeria reports 1,324 deaths, South Africa records 31,368 deaths, Uganda reports 294 deaths. The reports in Nigeria, for instance, should be seen as mostly optimistic, since the lack of rigorous testing, presumably, conceals a much grimmer picture.
On the other hand, those religious leaders that acknowledge the reality of Covid-19 proclaim it as an instrument of God’s anger on sinful and unrepentant generation for abandoning his laws. For example, Christian leaders often cite numerous examples from the Old Testament of how disease outbreak, such as the ten plagues, are instruments of God’s anger on sinners and unbelievers. A similar response was developed in the Muslim community, where coronavirus is regarded as “one of Allah’s soldiers.” The “corona soldier” is said to be sent by Allah to deal with infidels and sinners. A historical prototype is the African traditional religious leaders’ reaction to the smallpox outbreak on Africa’s west coast in 1871. It has been reported by S. L. Kotar and J. E. Gessler that “the JuJu priests are very busy instilling into the minds of the ignorant natives that the disease is a judgment of their JuJu, or God, on the people for so many of them embracing Christianity.” This kind of reaction was reported among the people of Liberia during the 2014 Ebola outbreak. As Dorothy H. Crawford reports: “So people preferred to believe that the disease was caused by evil spirits or was a punishment by God because they had ‘lost their way’. These beliefs are compounded by certain religious leaders. The Catholic Archbishop of Liberia reportedly preached that ‘one of the major transgressions against God, for which he may be punishing Liberia, is the act of homosexuality.”
These religious leaders use Covid-19 as bait for repentance (which, curiously enough, often leads to more church members). They promise of reprieve from God’s wrath if people show their repentance. These religious leaders believe that God is the anti-virus to Covid-19 and that believers should place their faith in God by adhering to the holy scriptures for divine healing. Pastor Franklin Ndifor of Kingship International Ministries Church, Cameroon, claimed that he could cure Covid-19. His ample quotations from the New Testament provided numerous examples where the laying-on of hands and faith prayer cured the sick. Unfortunately, he died less than a week after being diagnosed with Covid-19. A similar example from history is the cholera outbreak in Ethiopia in 1835 where the church leaders organised religious processions in the streets to invoke God’s mercy and save them from the disease.
This downplaying of the reality of Covid-19 has resulted in the non-compliance of religious authorities to government rules aimed at curbing the spread of the disease. They shunned the government’s instructions to close religious centres, wear a mask and observe social and physical distancing. In Nigeria, the general overseer of Love World Incorporated (aka Christ Embassy), Chris Oyakhilome, describes wearing a mask as a huge embarrassment to science and accuses the government of deceiving the people into wearing a mask, since (according to him) it is scientifically dangerous to health. The Bishop, David Oyedepo, of Living Faith Worldwide (aka Winners Chapel) considers lockdown measures as the devil’s work to stop the church’s growth in Nigeria and block Nigerians from salvation. In Cameroon, despite government’s lockdown measures on 8th of March, 2020, Muslim clerics and their faithful attended their Friday worship sessions en masse throughout the region. This kind of attitude encourages members not to observe lockdown measures, thereby increasing the rate of infection and, in turn, frustrating government’s efforts to adequately fight against the present pandemic.
Nevertheless, it seems that the fight against Covid-19 is winnable with the recent development of vaccines, which raises the optimism that very soon Covid-19 will become history. It raises the hope that humanity will no longer be subjected to the raging wrath of coronavirus that has caused millions of deaths worldwide, crippled economic activities, stripped people of their livelihood and pushed many of the world population into extreme poverty. Public health experts have suggested that such hope is realisable when at least more than half of the world’s population is inoculated in order to reach the level of immunity needed for the suppression of the coronavirus.
However, many religious leaders in Africa have, again, revolted against this development. Even before the development of the Covid-19 vaccine, many Christian religious leaders have demonised it as part of an elaborate plan by the powers of hell to stamp within the individual’s genetic make-up, the infamous “mark of the beast [anti-christ]”. As incredulous as that sounds, there are some Christians who have vowed no to take the vaccine to avoid falling prey to the anti-christ. Indeed, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome in early 2020 foretold the development of Covid-19 vaccine and claims that it will be a façade for enthroning a “New World order” led by Anti-Christ.
Pastor Oyakhilome is not alone here. A South African man of God and Chief Justice, Mogoeng Mogoeng, who should have known better, recently said that Covid-19 vaccine is from the devil. He also maintains that it is developed to infuse the mark of the beast in people’s lives so that their DNA would be corrupted. Pseudo-scientific numerologists have also reconstructed the word Covid, in order to invent its relationship with the mark of the beast: C=3, O=15, R=18, O=15, N=14, A=1, summing up to 66. In the same vein, Muslim clerics declare that Covid-19 vaccine contains pork content and issue a Fatwas (Islamic rulings) restricting Muslims from getting vaccinated. This vociferous religious opposition to vaccination has stymied general acceptance among African populace. This pool of ridiculous theories and the wilful acceptance of it, only shows that Covid-19 will continue to be a scourge in Africa, even when the rest of the world must have curbed it.
These religious sentiments pose a great danger to the government’s effort in combating Covid-19 in Africa. Africa is predominantly a religious continent with over half of its population identifying with one religion or another. Religious leaders often exercise an incredible amount of influence on their followers, many of which trust them more than their government. With this kind of influence that they wield, many of their followers are likely to obey their instruction not to vaccinate thereby endangering their lives and frustrating government efforts to overcome this disease.
The above sad episodes remind us that history often repeats itself in Africa. History has shown that in the time past, whenever there is a disease outbreak, people often associate it with the wrath of God(s), and they have always paid dearly with their lives. Today, many African religious leaders are doing the same, which poses severe health consequences to their followers. To avoid this looming catastrophe, the need for public re-orientation that will re-educate and awaken their consciousness to the realities of this pandemic is very much needed. Religious leaders must also re-educate themselves, so they do not fall prey to conspiracy theories which basis is simply the imaginative mind of a social media user who wishes to garner more followers. Like their religious creed admonishes, they should always tell the truth, even when misleading one’s followers appears more lucrative. To avert the danger of history repeating itself, people in leadership potions, especially in different religions in Africa must commit to saving humanity rather than promoting superstitions and crass ignorance.
African Philosophy and the 2020 UNESCO World Philosophy Day Celebration: A Conversation with JO Chimakonam
By Chukwueloka Uduagwu
To mark the 2020 UNESCO World Philosophy Day Celebration, I interviewed one of the leading African Philosophers of this century, JO Chimakonam of the University of Pretoria, South Africa.
CU: The Third Thursday of November every year is set aside by UNESCO as World Philosophy Day. What is it all about and of what relevance is it to the development of African philosophy in particular?
JC: The World Philosophy Day is not exactly like most days earmarked for the celebration of one important thing or another; it is special in a sense. This special sense needs to be explained. Philosophy or the act of philosophising is the most sublime of human intellectual activities. It is the finest expression of human freedom. Freedom is not just about the motion of the body; it involves to an important degree, the allowance of the mind to reflect on issues of interest and express ideas it generates unhindered. To be free to do this is what it means to live. No one is truly living if they had no right to reflect and express their views. In the past years, The Conversational School of Philosophy (CSP), a society I belong to has organised philosophical outdoor events to mark the importance of the freedom of thought which usually culminates in a public lecture on a relevant topic. This year is not going to be different.
But I guess what I should talk more on is the importance of the UNESCO World Philosophy Day in the development of philosophy as both a discipline and culture. I would like to address this from the perspective of African philosophy. You are well away of the irresponsibility of some Western racists and sociopaths who discounted Africans who look like you and I from the sphere of reason. They say that we cannot think, thereby making philosophy a preserve of folks in the West. Now, we all know these despicable claims to be false, but how many people in the West are reflecting that knowledge in their behaviours towards the African today? I will save you the headache of tabulating the figures so as to avoid the danger of understating it. In August of 2019, I was travelling with a European colleague through some airports in Europe. The racial profiling against me by airport securities made this colleague sick, or so it seemed. In one occasion, I was put through the scanning machine twice, then asked to take off my shoes for some special scanning. My bag was also scanned twice. Then I was asked to take a seat and wait for further screening. All this time, my travelling colleague looked on helplessly at my ordeal. But such is the problem. Losing one’s cultural and intellectual heritage to the hegemony of the Western global systems does not only subsume and assimilate; it inspires racism and all forms of othering in the mind of the oppressor.
Now, UNESCO comes along as an agency of such a lopsided global system to recognise the epistemic resources of our people as having equal value with those of other peoples. It may not be everything, but it is definitely something we can reference as we bid to recover and restore the dignity of man from our corner of the world. As much as some folks in some places strive to deny the viability of the African episteme or seek to invalidate its propositions, part of what they would have to contend with is the apparent contradiction that such produces in light of UNESCO’s stance. I am not saying that UNESCO’s recognition of the African philosophical tradition as one of the traditions in world philosophy to be celebrated every third Thursday of November is everything. No, but it is definitely something we can tuck away in our goatskin bags as we develop and formulate modern systems of African philosophy. The job of developing and promoting African philosophy must still be done by the African philosopher, and the elements of the CSP are doing that excellently.
CU: Talking of the Conversational Society of Philosophy, which has emerged in the last decade as the most vocal African philosophical front, what does philosophy mean for you and for this group?
JC: Well, most people see philosophy as a critical activity. I would like to extend that a bit more by highlighting the importance of context. No philosophy is worth its name if it does not aim to attempt solving any problem for anyone. The interesting thing is that most problems or questions arise in specific places determined by method and logic. I think this is why there is talk about philosophy of this or that tradition. In the conversational tradition, we amplify method and logic as paraphernalia that shape thought from context to context. In the conversational tradition, that method would be conversational thinking, and Ezumezu, which is a strand of trivalent logic would be its logic. We may have the generic meaning of philosophy, but we cannot avoid talking about its nuances from culture to culture. Reason as the tool of philosophy manifests in different places and is shaped by the conditions of life in such places. What philosophy means for me as an African and as an advocate of the conversational approach is a critical and creative programme that aims at addressing the questions that arise in the African place but which can be universalised nonetheless.
CU: How do you describe the commitment to philosophy education in African countries, and what that portends for the role of the philosopher in nation-building?
JC: Very poor in some places, skewed in some other places and only fair in a few places. Perhaps, we should begin by asking how many countries in Africa meet the UNESCO budgetary recommendation for education? I don’t have the statistics, but when you consider the deplorable state of education and poor funding in many African nations, then you would imagine that the answer cannot be encouraging. Is there a country in Africa where philosophy is taught at pre-tertiary levels? I don’t think there is. I am aware that the new leadership of the Philosophers Association of Nigeria (PAN) are taking steps to woo the Nigeria law-makers to integrate philosophy in the pre-tertiary education curricula. I can also give an insider’s information that the Conversational Society of Philosophy is working on a project to develop classroom materials for pre-tertiary philosophy education, but these two efforts are independent of any governments and look to face tough challenges in securing government approvals and support.
You have to understand that like every other aspect of life philosophy is not immune to problems. In some parts of Arab Africa, philosophy is virtually non-existent for religious reasons. Where it does exist at all, it is watered down and restricted from engaging some topics. In other parts of Africa, like the Franco-phone, Lusophone and the Anglo-phone, it is skewed with Western methods which most times present it as a mere commentary on the reflections of Westerners, and alienate its spirit from Africa itself. We do not have to be too pessimistic; there are a few places where there is a burgeoning culture of academic philosophy, Nigeria and South Africa lead the pack nowadays. But there is a danger that much of what folks do even in those places are twisted and distorted by the mainstream application of Western methods instead of home-grown ones.
Worse still is the influence of the past in South Africa and Nigeria. Many philosophers in South Africa avoid discussing, critiquing and theorising on certain topics because they are afraid of reprisals. You are familiar with the history of apartheid, a terrible legacy one must admit, but the fact that some philosophers in that country shy away from engaging issues of concern is a terrible disservice to the nation. The same can be said of Nigeria. The years of military dictatorships seem to have inflicted fear in the minds of some philosophers there. Many evils perturb the Nigeria society of today which the philosophers pay little attention to. Jacques Derrida and some others explain a philosopher’s duties and debts to their society. Socrates demonstrated the importance of a philosopher’s role as a social gadfly. The situations you have in South Africa and Nigeria where the philosopher does not seriously deploy their thought in calling out issues in the society and investigating the same, or, where some give deflated attention to social problems, is appalling. It is a betrayal of philosophy, a silencing of voice and a failure of reason. There is little doubt that the proliferation of such a stock one can describe as ‘commercial philosophers’ has become a problem in the profession.
The philosopher has a sacred role to play in nation-building. It consists, in part, of gadflying the society. In another part, it consists of pathfinding through idea creation and theorising. It is hard to see a country in Africa nowadays where the philosopher’s voice factors into national policy formulation and implementation. There is a complete disconnect. Recently, there was a noise made in some quarters in Nigeria about the Federal Executive Council approving a certain National Ethics and Integrity Policy. This reached the philosophical community with a shock that the government can formulate such policies without consulting any of the philosophical associations in the country. But that is just how bad things have become. No philosopher of note in Nigeria indicated that they were consulted. It is a shame, and these are things that must be corrected urgently.
CU: Concerning some of the contemporary philosophers in Africa who, according to you, are paying deflated attention to social issues, what is your advice to them, and what are some of the contemporary social issues they must learn to engage with?
JC: Well, the most important advice is to have the sincerity to take the first genuine step aimed at practising your profession. A philosopher is not a teacher of documented ideas, or a teacher of the ideas of dead colleagues, ancient and modern. A true philosopher is one who teaches what they believe. I may not agree with everything the South African anti-apartheid fighter Steve Biko said, but he seemed like a true philosopher. He even titled one of his work “I Write What I Like”. Over the years, people treat Biko’s chosen title with some humour. But that was a man who lived and wrote what he believed. When you peruse the history of great philosophers from Confucius, to Socrates, Plato, Siddhartha, Jesus of Nazareth, Hypatia, and to Amadioha, etc., you would understand what it means to be a genuine philosopher. Nowadays, and since the rise of analytic philosophy in the Anglo-American world, it seems convenient to aspire to some glory through a wide range of sophistry. There are many modern philosophers who became popular for espousing theories and ideas they do not believe in. Most of them led lives and continue to lead lives that are clearly in opposition to the theories they propounded. What do you call that if not pretence?
In those days, when philosophy meant something to its practitioner, you could see honour in thought. The ancient philosophers I mentioned above sacrificed personal ambitions, and some of them gave their lives to uphold the integrity of their profession. I guess the LCM is clear enough. Let African philosophers or philosophers in Africa, whichever one individuals are comfortable with, begin to write about what they believe and practice the values they preach. Racists amongst them should write what they believe so that non-racists can respond. We have had enough of hypocritical publications and lectures aimed at making up the number of output required for promotions. Similarly, I have met some African philosophers who would scream ‘brother’ at you, cover you in a warm embrace, yet cease the next available opportunity they get to destroy you. What type of brotherhood is that? If the philosopher cannot be real and true to what they believe, then it is fair to say that the crucible of truth has broken.
Concerning what some of the contemporary issues are, I think this varies from place to place for obvious reasons. As philosophy is a programme that attempts to respond to the questions that arise in a place, it is easy to see that some, if not most burning issues in a particular place might vary from those that yearn for attention in another. For example, in South Africa, the continuing problems such as racism, poverty, Afrophobia, Gender-based violence, rape, femicide, and the new monster of leadership corruption which are gradually destroying that country demands the philosopher’s attention. Who could believe that twenty-six years after apartheid was ended, that most university campuses still look as though they were segregated? But that is the reality. Visit the University of Pretoria, for example, and you would be alarmed to see students move and sit along racial lines. It is an eyesore, but no one seemed perturbed by it. When I arrived to take up my appointment at the University of Pretoria and noticed the pattern, I was sick to my stomach. It is not just an aesthetic problem; it is a sign of a much deeper problem eating away the soul of the nation. South Africa cannot truly be a rainbow nation or yank off its ugly historical past without first addressing the problem of racism decisively. And it is not just a problem out there; it is a problem from homes and families where children and young people are given racist orientations, whether directly or indirectly. What happens in the public spaces is a manifestation of indoctrinations given in the privacy of homes and families. Philosophers have a duty to theorise and expose the root of this problem. In an invited lecture which I presented at the University of Johannesburg on October 30, 2020, I theorised on a form of othering I called Nkali which encapsulates racism in South Africa. Radical as some say it was, it is the sort of thing philosophers should talk about.
In other places like Nigeria, issues such as poverty, ethnicism, religious bigotry, bad governance, corruption, human rights abuses, etc., are some of the troubling issues the philosopher must engage and theorise about. As an African philosopher, I would say that these are some of the issues that confront most African nations, not just South Africa and Nigeria. While some of them can be seen as generational problematiques, others can be viewed as transgenerational; but it is the duty of the philosopher to honour their commitments and obligations to their places no matter the nature of the problematiques.
CU: As we celebrate this year’s philosophy day, and as the convener of the Conversational School (CSP), to what extent can you say that your society is promoting the goals of UNESCO such as intellectual co-operation and mutual understanding of peoples as well as the protection of the cultural heritage of the African peoples?
JC: That is a fascinating question. I will begin by saying that our approach to philosophising in the CSP is one that takes similar traits in African worldviews into account. This enables us to ground our thinking in a type of trivalent logic following the communalistic orientation prevalent in African thought systems. It is from this type of logical background that some home-grown methods such as Innocent Asouzu’s method of complementary Reflection and my method of conversational thinking were developed. These home-grown methods go on to inform theories such as Asouzu’s Ibuanyidanda philosophy, Ada Agada’s consolationism, Even Pantaleon Iroegbu’s Uwa Ontology, and of course, the theory of Conversational philosophy of which I am a major proponent. Elements of the CSP like Victor Nweke are contributing to the theory of Conversational philosophy in the area of political thought and curriculum transformation; L Uchenna Ogbonnaya and Aribiah Attoe are doing the same in the area of methodology; Fainos Mangena in the area of applied philosophy; the same as Maduka Enyimba who is applying the theory in the area of development. Others like Isaiah Negedu are extending the theory through race studies, while Uti Egbai has taken the theory into gender and intercultural fields. Diana Ofana is also doing the same in the field of gender studies. Leyla Tavernaro-Haidarian, on her part, has also taken it into the field of epistemology. The list is growing, but I guess what is more important to talk about is that our approach encourages the formulation of concepts in African languages, grounding of theories in systems of logic that define the African worldviews, and developing methods that can be regarded as home-grown, even though universally applicable. In these ways, our approach to philosophy preserves the cultural and intellectual heritage of Africa.
One major problem which Western modernity and the intellectual hegemony that it has come to represent causes is that it displaces local epistemic formations wherever it manifests. Africa is not an exception. The disheartening thing is that without cultural and intellectual heritage, people are at the danger of losing their identity in a global system that seeks to subsume and assimilate. Elements of the CSP through the original, yet rigorous approach to philosophy are on track in promoting UNESCO’s agenda for cultural revival and preservation of local intellectual history. For us in the CSP, this year’s celebration of the UNESCO World Philosophy Day will focus on ways of advancing research collaboratively in African philosophy.
Reconsider your ‘Reconsideration of the Decolonisation Project’: A Reply to Rafael Winkler
By Jonathan Chimakonam
Eburu ozu onye ọzọ, ọdị ka ebu ukwu nkụ. (When ‘An-Other’ man’s corpse is carried shoulder-high by ragged job men, folks who live in luxury treat it like a mere bunch of firewood) —Igbo Proverb
In his piece titled “Reconsider the decolonisation project” published in the Mail and Guardian of January 14 2020, Rafael Winkler tried to persuade us to abandon decolonial programmes. Here, I want to persuade him to reconsider his stance by not only pointing to some of the weaknesses in his arguments but by shedding light on some of the peculiar circumstances that justify and necessitate decolonial programmes.
Winkler, Thomas Nagel would enthuse, does not know what it is like to be a bat. He can, for all eternity, speculate that the South African students are merely acting on impulse from the “stories” which their “parents” and “extended family” told them about apartheid. He can imagine that the environment in which today’s South African students live in does not reflect the apartheid past. He can even conclude that the South African students are “robbed of an objective relation with their past.” Such a simplistic understanding of the condition of the Native South Africans, who have felt the sword of an ungodly history from edge to edge; such a discourteous, highbrow analysis of the economic circumstances of the South African student; such philosophical counselling to those who bore the brunt of apartheid to have an “objective relation” with it, makes one cringe away. Should anyone who paid the iron price of apartheid be asked to have an “objective relation[ship]” with it?
And because Winkler does not know what it is like to be a Native South African, he can afford to dismiss decolonisation wryly as a “remedial action,” or that it is, gleefully, something that can apply to “the orgasm” as he did. In reading Winkler’s piece, one easily understands why it is possible for a monk to visit a labour camp without seeing the suffering of those caged in it. In times like this, the words of Naom Chomsky come alive, “[R]esponsibility I believe accrues through privilege. People like you and me have an unbelievable amount of privilege, and therefore we have a huge amount of responsibility.” Philosophy is nothing without responsibility! It is not responsible (even in philosophy’s speculative standard and the use of unbridled poetic license) to suggest that because the government of South Africa is not excelling in dismantling the economic legacies of apartheid, or that the managerial class running the universities are profiting from the promotion of decolonial programmes means that decolonisation is superficial. Or, that the government policies on decolonisation of education, the universities curriculum decolonisation programmes, policies of professional bodies and associations and, indeed, every other well-meaning decolonial programme, including African philosophy is “superficial”. It simply does not follow.
I will tell Winkler what is superficial! A decolonisation programme in South Africa is not a remedial action, that is, it is not about handing chocolates to cry babies while their hardworking peers manage sweets. It is not about changing the rules of the game such that underlings would be able to post an average performance. It is not even about bringing the goalposts closer for the spoilt kid to be able to score a goal. These, my friend, are a superficial treatment of well-meaning decolonial programmes in South Africa.
Here are some of what decolonisation entails: Decolonisation is not merely a critique of coloniality; it is one done from the perspective of otherness. Decolonisation is logical, in the sense that our framework for reasoning is not the only one, so, others are free to develop new ones. It is methodological, in the sense that our approach to studying reality might not be the preference of all peoples, in all places and at all times, so, others are free to formulate new ones that work best for them. It is recognition, tolerance and accommodation of otherness because knowledge is not exhausted in our preferred episteme. It is the understanding that universality is accounted for by the particulars. It is allowing a thousand flowers to bloom. It is a sentence that makes complete sense but without a full stop.
One cannot know the relevance of decolonial programmes if he thought that the sky was always blue. That is what the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie calls “the danger of the single story”. I do not frown at Winkler’s position. I sympathise with him as a victim of the single story! He enjoins us to think of decolonisation as a programme that can aid the South African students to become “economically useful and politically obedient by having” their “behaviours shaped by the norms of reason”. But I ask Winkler, whose norms? Decolonisation is a creative struggle against the hegemony of the single story. It is obviously difficult for one to see the need for decolonial programmes if they did not see the danger of the single story. The perduring intellectual climate or the lopsided cultural statusquo which Winkler defends is not only bad for the normalised or the residualised; it is bad for the self-anointed norm, and most certainly, it is bad for the progress of human civilisation.
Without denying the possibility of politicisation or even the abuse of decolonisation by some misfits in some quarters (a point made abundantly by Winkler which I agree with), there is no ‘reasonable reason’ that warrants some of the brow-scratching conclusions Winkler reached. Policies and policy-makers are not necessarily symmetrical. Winkler produced some reasons in the guises of political culture, identity politics, government irresponsibility, mercantilist university management, etc., on the bases of which he juiced down the relevance of decolonisation, but none warrants throwing baby alongside the bathwater. Bad apples abound in every system and hardly is there any programme without fault. Caricaturing decolonisation as he did by referring to it as “the so-called” points not only to Winkler’s insensitivity to the condition of the South African otherness but to a possible lack of adequate understanding of the conditions of life in a society that affords people like him a legion of goods. It is important in commenting on sensitive issues such as the need or otherwise of decolonisation in South Africa that we avoid recourse to assumption where there is a paucity of real-life experiences.
“It has often been observed”, said Gordon Hunnings, “that whereas the truths of philosophy turn out to be trivial tautologies, it is the errors of philosophy that are intrusive”. In the very first paragraph, Winkler draws attention to a special issue of a journal he edited which concerns the idea of decolonisation. A theme is chosen, according to him, to highlight the “exorbitant value” that has accrued to the concept in the “last five years.” It turns out that this bogus claim that the value of decolonisation is exorbitant wets the appetite of the reader for nothing. As Winkler makes no effort to substantiate his claim in the second paragraph. One might even think that he would come around to it at some point in the essay, but he never did, except for a few other poorly supported claims.
The second paragraph begins with a fancy statement intended to ridicule than to inform. For example, Winkler claims that advocates of decolonisation want everything to be decolonised, including orgasm. That sense of casualness, when addressing a serious issue, could be costly. The result readily manifested in the next sentence as he switched from ‘decolonisation’ to ‘transformation,’ two different concepts, discussed by the author as if they meant the same thing. Winkler’s over-confidence on the subject of decolonisation has become his hubris in that paragraph.
By the third paragraph, Winkler seems to have lost his mojo. The reader cannot tell whether he is still talking about decolonisation or his newly introduced concept of transformation. He admits that his now ‘lost’ concept features in the works of Frantz Fanon, Gayatri Spivak, Edward Said, Walter Mignolo and Enrique Dussel. He even proudly included a list of continental philosophers some of whom are notorious for their racist or misogynistic views or both. Winkler did not deem it important to highlight what those thinkers said, after all, he had declared in paragraph one that decolonisation (assuming he was still talking about it) had accrued exorbitant value down the years. What seems to bother him is that the African student is not engaging with a host of western scholars and schools of thought on the connection between “rationality and power.”
In paragraph four, Winkler makes a bold and unsupported claim that what the government of South Africa, universities and professional bodies mean by decolonisation is neither clear nor precise. He jumps into this conclusion without disclosing any apparent policy confusions and incoherencies. How? On what basis? I guess we will never know. Winkler brushes forward to provide a wild presupposition that the assumption out there is that “reflection” is not needed “but, rather, remedial action without further delay.” One wonders to whom he attributes this assumption.
In paragraph five, he claims that the intention for introducing decolonisation in the tertiary institution was to “pacify middle- and lower middle-class black students aware of their grim future owing to increasing unemployment, and who already feel alienated from society.” Let us assume for the sake of argument that Winkler is telepathic, just how decolonisation can answer to the so-called grim future and unemployment is hardly clear. He obviously wanted to criticise the wisdom behind the idea, but this was done without regard to logic. Then, as if he had hurriedly forgotten his story of grim future, unemployment and alienation, he states, “These students have heard stories about apartheid from their parents and extended family who lived through the terror. But the environment they live in does not reflect this past (emphasis mine).” But, those students can still see high electric fences, economically segregated neighbourhoods, attack dogs, shanties, matchbox houses and so forth which were some of the legacies of apartheid, needless to repeat that “grim future, unemployment and alienation” of today’s South Africa were the main features of apartheid. How can he say that the environment has changed for those students? Which South Africa is Winkler writing about?
I could go on to dissect Winkler’s essay further, but it seems better to spend my last few words urging Winkler to reconsider his reconsideration of the decolonisation project. That we have a pair of strong wings to fly does not mean everyone has them in their garage. Privilege should teach us some humility. That we have two strong legs to run does not mean that those who need some help are unfair burdens. Ability should teach us some responsibility. Perhaps, in the euphoria of our accomplishments, we should all take a step back and ask most sincerely, all things considered, whether we would be standing so close to the sun if we weren’t in the east.
Winkler claims that today’s South African environment does not reflect the apartheid past. In his words, “Apart from the Apartheid Museum, there are precious few things in Johannesburg that reflect these stories (other cities have even fewer tokens of remembrance).” Really! If Winkler sincerely wishes to see, he could drive down to Soweto. He should drive through its streets to view the matchbox houses. He should drive around the country, through its suburbs and villages to view the shanties. He should step out of his car to meet the occupants of the matchbox houses and residents of the shanty settlements. He should drive through almost every city in South Africa today to see that even though the formerly segregated areas are shrinking, they are still there nonetheless. He should check the poverty, disease and the life expectancy statistics and the vast percentage discrepancy of different races in the same country. He should open his eyes to see that the legacies of apartheid are dying hard everywhere. Or perhaps, Winkler should visit Orania in the Northern Cape, an Afrikaner-only town where native South Africans are not allowed in. What about the high electric fences and the attack dogs one finds at Melville in Johannesburg or Arcadia in Pretoria? Etc., Should I go on?
Winkler seems embittered that some African students nowadays want to study African philosophy; the question for him is, so what? Without supporting the racialisation of philosophy, one must understand the sort of intellectual climate that necessitated the thinking that an African should not study Nietzsche. That thinking and Winkler would agree with me, was created by an academic culture that residualises Africa intellectual history. Guess what? That culture that marginalises and subjugates Africa has now created a new consciousness in the marginalised peoples of Africa to find meaning and value in their own intellectual accumulations. What is wrong with Africans studying African philosophers where Europeans would rather avoid including them in the curriculum? So, for Winkler, only knowing Nietzsche, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Foucault, or the ideas of the Frankfurt school is knowing the one true philosophy. Knowing Wiredu, Asouzu, Momoh, Ramose, Oruka, Gyekye, or the ideas of the Calabar school does not count. It is precisely this type of mindset popular amongst some teachers in South African institutions that is the cause of the “MustFall” movements and constitutes part of the ground for not only justifying but necessitating decolonisation of the nation’s system of education and schools’ curricula. The anonymous Igbo philosophers of the complementary system of thought were clearly correct in their rumination that “When ‘An-Other’ man’s corpse is carried shoulder-high by ragged job men, folks who live in luxury treat it like a mere bunch of firewood!” Those whose kernels were cracked for them by benevolent spirits, the Igbo say, ought to learn the virtue of being considerate to others.
—– Jonathan O Chimakonam is a senior lecturer in the philosophy department at the University of Pretoria.
The Anti-Racists Purge Must Begin From Within
By Ben, Patrick Effiong
Racism is utterly bad at all levels of moral theorizing. But, do you know what’s worse than racism itself? It is when those who are at the receiving end of racial discrimination fight against it on one hand, whilst at the same time working to sustain racism by pandering to social practices that affirm racial inequality, thereby strengthening the argument for racial hierarchy. This is what most victims of racial discrimination do today, and it is this problem that I seek to address in this blog article.
Anti-racists movements and protests in recent times have taken the center stage of public discourse – and justifiably so – almost eclipsing the rampaging Coronavirus pandemic, spurred by the despicable murder of George Floyd by a Euro-American police officer in the United States of America. Racism as we know it, involves the discrimination against people on the basis of their skin color/pigmentation, ethnicity, historical origin and other peripheral differences. Fueled by both the fear of aliens within one’s society and the chauvinistic belief in human hierarchy, racism has earned the highest medal for popularity in our social space today second only to perhaps, terrorism. With its cheap accessibility by almost every human society, political and religious leaders and other transactional social groups today conveniently exploit the fragility of racial differences to stir up discord amongst peoples to achieve their negative ends.
William Julius Wilson, a sociology scholar in his 1999 book The Bridge Over the Racial Divide, argued that at the fundamental level, racism is “an ideology of racial domination”. This ideology of racial superiority socially built on external phenotypic foundations has been used to justify many atrocities against racialized groups, or the “racialized other”, throughout history. In recent times, specifically from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries according to Matthew Clair a Harvard University scholar, and Jeffrey S. Denis of McMaster University, the Europeans employed this notion of racial superiority to “justify and prescribe exploitation, domination, and violence against peoples racialized as nonwhite”, for the expansion of slavery and their colonial empires. The Nazi Holocaust which marked the peak of the barbarity of what the belief in a racial hierarchy can lead to remains arguably the most crystal reminder of the dangers of peddling the idea of one race’s superiority over another.
Two brilliant African philosophers have also problematized the origin of racial discrimination based on skin pigmentation. Kwesi Tsri in his 2016 paper, Africans Are Not Black and Jonathan Chimakonam in his 2019 paper, Why the Racial Politic of Colour-branding should be Discontinued, respectively exposed the sinister origins and unwholesome symbolic representations of racial discrimination based on physical appearance, as having its roots in ancient Greece in the works of Homer, Aristotle, Ptolemy and other early Greek writers down to Kant and Hegel in the 18th/19th century, where the skin pigmentation of the Africans was equated with having a “burnt face”. Chimakonam further argues that the reason why we categorize humans according to their skin coloration is to foster – “politics of division, discrimination and subjugation”. The truth of this abounds in our observation of the end goal(s) of the hierarchical racial divide as employed by religious and political leaders from Northern Ireland to Northern Nigeria, and from Hitler’s Germany of racist memory to the present-day Gaza Strip of bloody reality. However, little attention has been paid to the role of the victims of racial discrimination – or the “racialized other” – in sustaining the ideology and institution of racism. How is this done?
Across many religions we find images of God(s) represented as “light-skinned” and the devil depicted as “dark-skinned” being endorsed by dark-skinned peoples themselves; in TV commercials, the standard of civilization is measured by how Westernized an individual is; in the beauty industries, we have many products touting the “light-skinned” as the standard of beauty that every dark-skinned person should aspire to, this is evident in the massive “skin brightening/lightening” creams aimed at reducing the level of melanin in the dark skin for the attainment of the status of humanity; those who are not light-skinned and those who do not have long hairs are wearing wigs cut from and/or artificially made to model the hairs of those who are light-skinned and fixing artificial European eyes. These practices of trying to mould oneself in the image of the racists – or the socially constructed central race – without a doubt, entrenches the notion of a “standard, better and superior race” and defeats the logic of uniqueness of individual humans being fundamentally equal and worthy of respect amidst their differences.
One question that begs to be answered, which those in the “other” categories of the racial divide have been avoiding is this: can racism – say European-orchestrated racism – ever be defeated in a world where they use the category of European phenotype as the standard by which “other” racial categories should measure themselves against or aspire to as the quintessence of humanity? Can the line of hierarchical racial categorization ever be blurred in a world where the hoax claim to “Whiteness” is placed at the center of racial significance, while “others” constitute the fringes moving towards that center for the purpose of attaining relevance? The answer is a resounding NO!
Self-affirmation of racial inferiority implied and applied through a preference for the European imagery politicized as ‘white’, and anything but that which is associated with the culture/image of the victim of racial discrimination is the biggest stumbling block to the actualization of racial equality. And this is sadly entrenched by the racialized victims of racism themselves in the context of European/Euro-American racism, through their everyday practices that projects a fruitless aspiration to the false idea of “Whiteness” rather than self-awareness and respect. Racism cannot and will never end, so long as no Westerner, for example, takes pride in giving their children African names despite spending centuries in Africa and forcefully reaping the rewards of the continent’s great cultural heritage, yet many Africans take pride in taking on Western names and cultural practices, and projecting same as the standard for civilization that all should aspire to; so long as Africans keep worshipping European God(s), ignoring the cultural manifestation of God(s) in all societies, while no Westerner have regard for or thinks the African God(s) worthy of worship or respect; so long as Africans keep doing European weddings – the traditional marriage practice of the race they think into superiority by giving it utmost preference while relegating to second-class status their traditional organization of marriage.
The above are overt sociocultural affirmations of racial inferiority, one that projects the European/Euro-American race as the quintessence of what a human being should be, thus, reducing the human worth of the aspirants for this image to the category of a “racial other” – an inferior stock and imperfect representation of what a human being shouldn’t be. This self-affirmation of inferiority should be fought against at all levels as it emboldens the racist. Racism itself feeds off of its victim’s acceptance of inferiority to survive. Consequently, to fight it, one must not act in ways that affirm or feed the hierarchical narrative.
Inasmuch as the racist has a great task of unlearning negative social perceptions of peoples that informs the notion of racial superiority, a far greater task lies with the individual who’s racially discriminated against, to dispel this groundless ideology by desisting from affirming the existence of racial hierarchy, through self-negating practices that directly/indirectly aspires to the image of the racist. Without first purging the self of this fundamental racism towards oneself which is common among racialized groups, the fight for racial equality – which sadly, first acknowledges the existence of racial inequality – will become an exercise in futility.
The anti-racists purge must therefore begin from within!
A CONFERENCE ON “WITCHCRAFT PRACTICES” IS NOT A “WITCHES AND WIZARDS CONFERENCE”: A MEMOIR FROM MY U.N.N. EXPERIENCE (1)
By Emmanuel Ofuasia csp (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Towards the end of November 2019, there was, what seemed to me, a needless hullabaloo, in the town of Nsukka, which houses the University of Nigeria (U.N.N). The reason is not unconnected to the “Conference on Witchcraft Practices,” an event initiated by the B.I.C. Ijiomah Center for Policy Studies and Research within the same University. An arm of the University community, however, seemed to be against the Conference as they made effort to frustrate the efforts of the convener (Professor Egodi Uchendu) and the pivot of the Local Organising Committee (Dr. Elizabeth Onogwu). These women deserve more accolades than a blog post as they seem to recognise how the history and concept of witchcraft presents itself to peoples, essentially as a feminine affair. They stood their ground in spite of the withdrawal of the proposed keynote speaker, Professor David I. Ker.
A “Conference on Witchcraft Practices” soon metamorphosed through the media into “Witchcraft Conference” with the underlying presumption that witches and wizards have chosen the University of Nigeria Nsukka for their “gathering”. This was followed by various banners and posters within the institution signaling: “Witches and Wizard, UNN belongs to Jesus so no way for you!” The media made matters worse, so much so that nearly all radio stations were questioning why an institution of the caliber of UNN will allow such a backward and diabolic conference, in the first place. After much hullabaloo, the LOC made a slight turn regarding theme but the Conference took place.
As a doctoral student of philosophy at Lagos State University, the journey from Lagos to Nsukka for the ‘demonic’ Conference could not be communicated to family members until I arrived safely to present the paper – “Process Ontology and Witchcraft as Illustrated in the Ifá Literary Corpus,” – whose abstract had been accepted months hitherto. And it was during this presentation that I disclosed how the amorphous notion of witchcraft by the Church and the consequent witch-hunt served to relegate the woman as a Satanic agent only for gendercide – a calculated exertion toward the extermination of thousands of women, to escalate. It is this subtle but dangerous understanding that diffuses into contemporary Nigeria where the woman is the one that is usually perceived as the ‘winch’ (Nigerian pidgin English term for witch). Unless the origin of this erroneous ascription is dealt with, methinks, the “Conference on Witchcraft Practices” would not have attained its goal.
So, I started by disclosing how, sometime ago in European history, it was admitted that only women can practice witchcraft. Even when men may muster the capacity to do what these women do, they are usually gleaned as righteous and divinely inspired or magicians. Incidentally, the term ‘wizard,’ which seems to be the equivalent masculine semantic of witchcraft, is, however, not gender-specific. I employed two English lexicographers to make my point.
In his Encyclopaedia World Dictionary, Peter Hanks defines a witch as “a person, especially a woman, who professes or is supposed to practice magic, especially black magic or black art.” The implication is that the ‘craft’ could only have the woman as competent. Wizard, a term which is usually employed for the man, Hanks defines thus: “One who professes to practice magic; a magician or sorcerer.” It is clear that whereas witchcraft is gender-specific, the definition ascribed to wizardry is not. The inference is that it is not possible for a man to be a witch. The second lexicographer, Bernard S. Cayne in the 1992 version of The New Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language, passes a witch as “a woman practicing sorcery usually with the aid, or through the medium of an evil spirit.” He defines a wizard as “a person who seems to perform magic.” Clearly magic is not witchcraft or perhaps it is not a deadly art as witchcraft, it may be argued. I pointed out during my presentation that the lexicographers have failed the woman! This failure however is influenced by the Roman Catholic Inquisition. As a result, I relayed to my listeners, the fit between the English lexicographers and the Catholic Inquisition concerning the necessary feminine character of witchcraft.
In the Bible, a clear depiction of a witch is Jezebel but there is no explicit mention of a wizard throughout the scripture. Jezebel is portrayed as wicked, malicious, plotted the death of a subject, and was prophesied to die a horrible death. Cleopatra and Queen Elizabeth I were worse, yet no one in history has passed these as witches. This is made more problematic, I reflected during my presentation, by the fact that the Bible’s idea of witchcraft/witch is nebulous if not tenuous. Even as it seeks justification from other concepts such as necromancy or medium, sorcery, magic, it is not evident enough that the Bible endorses witchcraft as a feminine enterprise. For those who may want to be sure, I disclosed that the concepts: “witch”, “witches” and “witchcraft” appear nine times [(Ex. 22: 18); (Dt. 19: 10); (1 Sam. 15: 23); (2 Ch. 33: 6); (Gal. 5: 20); (2 Kings 9: 22); (Mic. 5: 12); (Nahum 3: 4); and (Nahum; 3: 4)] in the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. On the other hand, the concept, “wizard(s)” appears eleven times: [(Lev. 19: 31); (Lev. 20: 6); Lev. 20: 27); (Deut. 18: 11); (1 Sam. 28: 3); (1 Sam. 28: 9); (2 Kings 21: 6); (2 Kings 23: 24); (2 Ch. 33: 6); (Isa. 8: 19); and (Isa. 19: 3)]. A meticulous reader will find that the Bible, save for Jezebel, is not gender-specific both on witchcraft and wizardry. How did the gender ascription and the consequent gendercide enter the fray? I turned to the Medievals and the Catholic Inquisition for justification.
An outspoken declaration of witchcraft which endorses my gendercide conviction is clear in the publication of the Malleus maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches), emanating from the Catholic Inquisition authorities in 1485-6. In that document, the following is proclaimed:
All wickedness is but little to the wickedness of a woman…What else is a woman but a foe to friendship, an inescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, a domestic anger, a delectable detriment, an evil nature, painted with fair colours…Women are by nature instruments of Satan – they are by nature carnal, a structural defect rooted in the original creation.
There is no single verse from the entire 66 books of the Christian bible that ratifies the above, yet it has served as the injunction for the moral backing for a horrible, endless march of suffering, torture and human disgrace inflicted on thousands of women in Europe and then Africa, especially. In the 17th and 18th centuries, irrational tales of forced witchcraft confessions, leading to scores of death on women were recorded in Europe.
My presentation relayed the case of 1645 Suffolk England as an instance, where 124 individuals were accused of the craft. Of the 124 accused in that year in Suffolk, 68 of them were executed and 80 percent of them, women. Confessions (which are usually induced and never voluntary) bother on the perceived failures of these women as wives, mothers and the possession of quasi-physical imps. It is also important to understand that of the remaining 20 percent that were executed, it is not easy to indicate if they were not women since only the surname appears. In other words, the total number of women executed in Suffolk could have well been over the 80 percent mark. These figures not only indicate but validate the thesis of my presentation that those accused of witchcraft are usually women even when a properly defined and conceived notion of ‘witches’ and ‘witchcraft’ remains amoebic.
Unfortunately, contemporary Africa seems to have tapped into the notion that a witch is necessarily a woman even when their traditional institutions, tender otherwise. The need to correct this uncharitable misrepresentation from an African traditional religion will be the focus of the part 2 of this blog post.
The Statues of our Discontent
by Boaventura de Sousa Santos
Statues look a lot like the past, which is why, whenever they are called into question, we turn to historians. The truth is that statues are a thing of the past only as long as they stand quietly in squares, as indifferent to us as we are to them. At such times, which may actually last centuries, they are visited more intentionally by pigeons than by humans. But when statues come under assault, they leap from the past to become part of our present. Otherwise, how could there ever be any dialogue between us and them? Of course, there are statues that never come under assault, either because the past to which they belong is just too remote for them to make the leap to the present, or because they belong to art’s eternal present. Such statues are safe from everything and everyone except insane extremists, as was the case with the 5th century Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, blasted by the Taliban in 2001.
The statues that do make the leap and engage in dialogue are part of our present and are bound to come under assault because they represent unsettled accounts and unredressed depredations and injustices. Those who assault them are not asking for a settling of accounts nor do they demand any reparations from them. The accounts have to be settled and reparations have to be made by those who inherited and now hold the unjust power represented by the statues. Whenever the power that had them erected was toppled, whether justly or unjustly, the statues have been promptly removed, without much fuss and maybe even to the sound of applause. The reason today’s movement against the statues, which was initiated by the #blacklivesmatter movement, remains strong lies in the fact that to this day the power that once ordered the depredations and injustices to which the statues bear involuntary witness still holds sway. And if the power lives on, so do the depredations and injustices, which are truly the ones under assault.
What power is this? In the European, Euro-descendent context, this power goes by the name of capitalism, colonialism and patriarchy, three interconnected forms of power that have been dominant for almost six centuries. The former dates from the 15th century and the other two existed long before that, but were reconfigured by modern capitalism and then placed at its service. All three are so intertwined that it is impossible for any of them to exist without the other two. Therefore, what we see as the past is an optical illusion, a blindness to the present. Is colonialism a thing of the past? Certainly not. Historical colonialism — a specific form of colonialism in which a given territory is occupied by a foreign power – may, indeed, be said to be a thing of the past (although not entirely, as attested by the cases of Western Sahara, West Papua and Palestine). But colonialism has persisted to this day in other guises, from neo-colonialism to the plundering of the natural resources of former colonies to racism. If there was nothing in this that was part of our present, the statues would still be standing there, quietly left to the pigeons.
To be specific, if there were no ghettoised neighborhoods like Bairro da Jamaica in the Greater Lisbon area; if, instead of being what it is, the skin of the populations most exposed to the virus were the same color as the skin of those who are teleworking; if the police did not resort to racist brutality or allow neo-Nazi groups to infiltrate its professional organizations, the statues would still be undisturbed in their stony or metal repose. Isn’t patriarchy on the way out, what with all the gender equality laws and policies? Certainly not. Had the feminist movements been fully successful, femicide would not be on the rise, nor would the pandemic have caused a sharp increase in violence against women in every single county. Hasn’t capitalism come to an end? Certainly not. This is probably the most perverse illusion of all, one disseminated by the media and by economists and many social scientists. For many, capitalism used to be an ideology; now we have markets, associates, entrepreneurs, market economy, GDP, development. In fact, over the last forty years capitalism has increased its capacity to produce injustice, as plainly reflected in the erosion of workers’ rights and in wage stagnation (since 1969, in the U.S.). This stew of unjust power favors the rise of racism, the negation of other stories, violence against women, and homophobia. This power is what the assault on the statues is directed against. The assaults tend to emphasize the anti-racist and anti-colonial struggles, but let us not forget that the anti-sexist and anti-capitalist struggles are just as important.
The statues will not find peace as long as these forms of power exist, especially if the current virulence persists. Besides, the statues only appear to be innocent, ill-chosen targets because of today’s pervasive politics of resentment: having ceased to grasp the causes of our discontent, we’ve turned on the consequences. That is why the impoverished white U.S. worker believes that his worst enemy is the Hispanic immigrant worker, who is actually poorer than he is. That is also why the European middle class, fearful of losing all its recent gains, believes that its worst enemies are the immigrants and refugees. As long as this power lives on, if those who wield it have a shred of historical awareness and are at all willing to make concessions, they should prudently have the statues removed in orderly fashion and build a museum for them. Next they should ask artists, writers and scientists from the country and from what we hastily call our brother countries to engage in intercultural dialogues with the statues and thereby start building a creative liberation pedagogy. The moment that happens, the past will leave the present through the front door.
The conditions are now in place to take that step, because in addition to having endured so many humiliations, the wronged peoples are creative and even well capable of seeing that the power which has wronged them is also seeking liberation. Let me share two stories from my research experience as a sociologist. I was told the first story in 2002, when I was doing field work on the Island of Mozambique, in the northern part of the country. There is a statue of Portuguese poet Luís de Camões (15241580) on the island, placed there in colonial times. During the turbulence that spread across the country after its independence in 1975, the statue was removed and stored in the captaincy’s warehouses. There followed a several-year drought on the island. The local sages gathered together, performed their rituals and came to the conclusion that the lack of rain had probably been caused by the statue’s unseasonable removal. They asked that the statue be brought back, so there stands Camões again, gazing at the expanse of the Indian Ocean and bringing the rain to fill the cistern. In this way, Camões’s statue and history have been reclaimed by the Mozambican people.
The second story took place on 24 July, 2014, when the descendants of the indigenous children that are part of the polemic statue of Father António Vieira (1608–1697) in a Lisbon square visited the University of Coimbra’s Center for Social Studies. This delegation of Brazilian indigenous leaders, the largest ever to come to Europe, included representatives from the Guajajara, Macuxi, Munduruku, Terena, Taurepang, Tukano, Yanomami and Maya peoples. They came to thank me for my pleading before Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court in the process that led to the demarcation of the Raposa Serra do Sol indigenous land. Without wishing to belittle Canada’s McGill University — the first on the list — or any of the eighteen universities that followed in granting me honorary degrees, I consider the headgear and the baton of command that was given to me in that ceremony as one of the honors I cherish the most. It was rather Father António Vieira’s statue who got it wrong, in leading us to believe that those children have remained children to this day. And there are quite many people around who still believe that.
Boaventura de Sousa Santos is Professor of Sociology at the School of Economics, University of Coimbra (Portugal), Distinguished Legal Scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School and Global Legal Scholar at the University of Warwick.
Acknowledgements: This article was first published in Critical Legal Thinking on June 20, 2020. See https://criticallegalthinking.com/2020/06/20/the-statues-of-our-discontent/ It is republished here under Creative Commons licence (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). The author and the first publisher are here acknowledged.
A Tribute to Late Professor Chris Okezie Ijiomah
Put together by the Elements of the Conversational Society of Philosophy (CSP)., Monday, June 15, 2020
When an individual contributes immensely to humanity or makes giant strides in his/her field of endeavour, those who are aware of those contributions are immediately met with sadness when the demise of such an individual becomes news. Despite the promise of a blissful paradise, on one hand, or a blissful nothingness, on the other hand, this sadness persists. The reason for this sadness emerges, first and foremost, from the fact that something as intimate as another person’s subjective experience has been snuffed out. Second, the fact that the continued contribution to society, which the individual is known for, would no longer be actively pursued by the dead individual.
Thus, it is with great sadness that the Conversational School of Philosophy announces the passing of Professor Chris Okezie Ijiomah of the Department of Philosophy, University of Calabar. His reflection ended in the early hours of Sunday, May 31, 2020. He was one of the first-generation giants of the Calabar School of Philosophy. He contributed a lot to the ascendancy of philosophy at the University of Calabar in the last three decades via his research and teaching.
Professor Ijiomah began his philosophical journey at Western Kentucky University, Kentucky, USA, where he earned his degree in philosophy. He subsequently earned his doctorate at the University of Calabar, Nigeria. Prof Ijiomah began his teaching career at Western Kentucky University before moving to the Federal College of Education, Katsina, the University of Port Harcourt, Port Harcourt, and finally, the University of Calabar. Professor Ijiomah specialised in African philosophy, logic, and foundations of mathematics. His two notable theoretic formulations are Harmonious Monism and Humanistic Epistemology. Harmonious monism, his best-known theory of philosophical logic, emerged as a reaction and counter-claim to Levy Bruhl’s claim that Africans are pre-logical. Ijiomah’s main thrust was that to understand a particular way of thinking, one must first understand the logic underlying that mode of thought. It is against this backdrop that Ijiomah developed a three-value system of logic from the prevalent African ontological viewpoint of the interplay between matter and spirit. He believed his system of three-valued logic could ground and legitimise African philosophy.
Professor Ijiomah was also a great teacher, and most of his students would attest to his intelligence, sharp wit and a great sense of humour. He taught and supervised many students over a period spanning more than 30 years, including the logician, professor Uduma O Uduma, who is the current Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) at the National Open University of Nigeria, and Jonathan O Chimakonam, the founder of the conversational school of philosophy and proponent of Ezumezu logic, among other established and emerging scholars in universities across the globe. Indeed, many of the vibrant young scholars of African philosophy from the Calabar school, all had some encounter with the great man.
The passing of Professor Chris O. Ijiomah has marked the beginning of the end of an era! In the last two decades (2000-2020), philosophy at the University of Calabar, Nigeria rose to take a top spot in the Nigerian philosophical community. Globally, in the last decade, it has emerged as the first among a few equals as far as African philosophy is concerned. The alias, Calabar School, has become emblematic of that great African philosophy shrine and centre of learning. Professor Ijiomah was one of the first-generation giants of the Calabar School, which is now witnessing the rise of the third generation. His contribution to the emergence of the Calabar school has secured him a place in the annals of history. He will be greatly missed. Below are some tributes that poured in from his former colleagues, students and admirers as put together by the Conversational Society of Philosophy (CSP).
The Last Conversation and the beginning of the End of an Era
On Tuesday, April 14, 2020, at precisely 10:25 am, my phone rang. It was one of the chief priests of the shrine of African philosophy at Calabar. I did not imagine it would be the last conversation. It lasted for 2 minutes and 9 seconds. He wanted to check on me amidst the coronavirus problem in South Africa. “You might be over there now, but you belong here in Calabar. When you are tired of running, you will come back here and pick up the baton from those of us who are now fading away,” he said.
Oketim! He called out to me as usual. We both laughed aloud. The nickname had an unpleasant history. It was a nickname he gave to me when I returned to the shrine for my doctoral studies. I had chosen him as my master’s supervisor, but things did not go well between us. But somehow, as most men do, we found a way to resolve our differences, and I chose him, yet again, to co-supervise my doctorate. It was then that he gave me the nickname Oketim, which I resented. I recall I did not hide my displeasure for the strange nickname, but he would not stop. One day, I asked him to stop calling me by that name. Stubbornly, he made it clear that he would not stop. Realising the futility of my demand, I humbly asked to know the meaning of the name. If I could not stop him, perhaps, I could find solace in the meaning of the name. To my chagrin and utter desolation, he said it was a nickname of a certain stubborn man in his village. It was professor Ijiomah’s unwavering opinion that I was stubborn. He always said that he had nothing but admiration for my type of stubbornness, even when I do not see myself as a stubborn person. On the flip side, my long relationship with professor Ijiomah as my teacher and supervisor left me convinced that he was not just stubborn, but very stubborn. To my surprise, he always contested that. But here is the twist; I found no worthier interlocutor and conversationalist than him. He, too, loved every session he had with me. How two people who believed each was stubborn, came to agree on many points in their debates would remain a mystery to me.
Ajo nwa si owele baa nne ya afo! He laughed again, in one of his usual jovial innuendoes. His voice was characteristically youthful, unmistakably sarcastic, yet, ever playful. I admired the man, even though I never said that to him. I knew he felt the same way, even though he did not say that to me. The only time that he ever said something close was when he said that he admired my stubbornness. How was that supposed to be a pleasant remark? But that was the enigma called Chris Ijiomah. When I completed my doctorate, he said, unexpectedly, that he had taught me everything he knew. It was not true. I said it then, even though I understood the context. I continued to learn from the man many years after because once a teacher is always a teacher. Just before we ended the last conversation, he asked when next I would come to Calabar. I promised I would come around in December. I told him that I would bring along a complimentary copy of my forthcoming book on Logic and African Philosophy to which he contributed two chapters─his last academic writings. Had I known it was to be the last conversation with a man I shared some qualities with, I would have prolonged the telephone call.
The Calabar School has lost one of its finest exponents of original thoughts. He can neither be replaced nor forgotten. It is the beginning of the end of an era!
Professor Chris O. Ijiomah was not the tallest nor bulkiest of men, yet, somehow, the tallest and bulkiest would choose their words in his presence. He was not just a logician; he practised the craft in his everyday life. “Height and size,” he said to me on some occasions, “are not part of the defining features of a human being. Otherwise, those who are the tallest in height and biggest in size would be the most intelligent.” On one occasion, he said in his usual witty demeanour, “Oketim, that stubborn man in my village whom I named you after was a short fellow, but he was very intelligent.” He was simply teaching that the height and size of a man are inconsequential. It is the brain-power that matters, and he had a lot of it.
He was not the finest nor the most prolific philosopher from Africa; and certainly, not the finest in the world, but he had his moments. His article, “A Man in Confluence: An Index for the Millenium African Philosophy”, ─that was a masterpiece. “Some Epistemological tools with which Africans relate to their Realities,” that was Professor Ijiomah at his best. What of Harmonious monism: A philosophical logic of explanation for ontological issues in supernaturalism in African thought? The book was doubtless his chef-d’œuvre. Those were moments that will immortalise him.
As a teacher, he was dazzling!
As an interlocutor, he was fierce!!
As an intellectual, he was eponymous!!!
He was not without flaws. None of us is flawless, anyway! Hubris always lurks around every great man. Flaws or no flaws, he was my teacher, one of the wittiest I have known, and that is all that matters to me. It was his witty essays that re-ignited my passion for African philosophy. He sowed some of his knowledge in me. My story as a philosopher cannot be told without a mention of his name. He had a fair share in the accomplishments of philosophy at the University of Calabar. He was one of us!
Yours in conversation,
JO Chimakonam, PhD, cspp, University of Pretoria, President: The Conversational Society of Philosophy.
Prof. Chris O. Ijiomah: An African Philosopher of Uncommon Courage
My relationship with Department of philosophy, University of Calabar dates back to mid-1980s. Apart from having one of the products of the Department as my undergraduate teacher, many other scholars came from Calabar to the University of Ibadan for their postgraduate studies in Philosophy. Philosophy at Calabar has proved to be one of the most developed ones in Nigeria leveraging on the analytic tradition just like Ibadan, and developing what they call the conversational tradition, and then making a giant foray into Philosophical Logic, History of Philosophy and African Philosophy. It was within this enviable and developmental tradition that Chris Ijiomah developed his intellectual fame, having obtained his first and second degrees in Rome and USA and his PhD from Calabar. He showed particular interest, developed and taught various students in Logic, Foundations of Mathematics, Mathematical Logic and African philosophy.
I met this great scholar in person in 2014 on a National Universities Commission accreditation to the Department of Philosophy at the University of Calabar. This period also coincided with the year he published one of his major contributions to philosophy, under the title of Harmonious Monism: A Philosophical Logic of Explanation for Ontological Issues in Supernaturalism in African Thought (2014). I was lucky to receive an autographed complimentary copy from this amiable and logic happy Professor of Philosophy.
In Harmonious Monism, Ijiomah makes the following claims, among others:
1. Philosophy is culture-bound
2. There is African Epistemology
3. Root-paradigms influence philosophy within culture
4. Every explanation has a logical base
Some of the implications of these claims can be put thus: Since every explanation has a logical base, African culture also has one, and this leads to the refutation of scholars like Lucien Levy-Bruhl on primitive mentality. It also means that logic can be studied as an instrument that explains the structure of reality in itself.
One should also be quick to point out that Ijiomah has his grudge against formalism in logic as it lacks eidetic (ontological) meaning and therefore cannot represent a statement of ontology. This observation alone gives the foundation to ‘Harmonious Monism’ as a basis of philosophical logic for the explanation of ontological issues of supernaturalism in African thought. This is a major contribution to philosophical logic.
Ijiomah further notes that “every logical system cannot be adequate for the explanation of all social experiences” (Harmonious Monism: vii). Flowing from this is that “logicians could benefit from a conscious interest in constructing alternative logics that could serve as a good explanatory tool for analyses of different phenomena “(Harmonious Monism: Ibid). This position serves to validate, legitimise or give due space to many-valued Logic rather than the hegemonic two-valued Logic that has been uncritically and dogmatically adhered to by some philosophers in Western and non-Western cultures.
Harmonious Monism is, therefore, a veritable basis for constructing alternative logic which, I believe, is complementary to two-valued logic rather than opposed to the latter, to explain the realities of human cultures, especially African cultural dynamics. In Ijiomah’s postulations, he shows that metaphysics, especially ontology, is crucial to other aspects of philosophy such as logic, epistemology, ethics and so forth. This is for the simple reason that, according to him, “one cannot successfully philosophise on a phenomenon without touching on the nature of the being of that phenomenon (“Humanistic Epistemology”, 2011: 63)
I sincerely believe that Ijiomah’s contribution to philosophy, which was championed by him through uncommon courage makes him one of the Philosophical Legends of our time. Adieu Professor Ijiomah until we reunite in the world of forms.
Olatunji A. Oyeshile, PhD, Professor of Philosophy, University of Ibadan. Email: email@example.com
My First and Last Encounter with Chris Ijiomah: A Tribute
Deep emotion overwhelmed me as the news that Professor Chris Ijiomah has passed on last Sunday, May 31, 2020, hit me. This is an intellectual giant whose contribution to African philosophy is something only very few can ever surpass. His doctrine: “Harmonious Monism” is one of the trailblazers in the journey toward system building and original thinking in African logic and philosophy. Unfortunately, I did not know that my first encounter with him last July in his office at the University of Calabar will be the last.
My good friends, Dr. Lucky Ogbonnaya and Mr. Samuel Odey, the latter a lecturer in the Faculty of Education, UNICAL were my escort as I demanded to meet Calabar scholars whose books I had read. Incidentally, only the exponent of ‘Harmonious Monism’ was available on the day I visited. Being a very good friend and kinsman of my undergraduate project supervisor Professor Princewill Alozie, it made sense to engage him.
Professor Chris was very charming and played a good host. He was attentive to my proposal that logic grounds ontology, since the language employed for the latter is enmeshed in the former. After listening to me, he rose to a board in his office, pointed to a diagram of two intersecting circles and illustrated to me why he thinks the converse should hold – ontology grounds logic. Then he invokes his Structural Analogy and logical functionalism (SAALF) to buttress his stance. Not that I was totally convinced, but I was relieved that he could churn out names that stick to either side of the discourse. I learned many things that day!
Perhaps the death of this great scholar may come as a shock to many, allow me to relay to you that Professor Chris died a fulfilled man. He pointed at the beautiful photographs of his children, home and abroad that hung in the wall of his office and spoke with an air of accomplishment: “I do not mean to be boastful, but I am a man that has excelled excellently as a father, husband and philosopher!” This utterance obviously parallels the pictures I was seeing. But deep within, I now recall that a great scholar that I was meeting for the first time was already signalling his exit paradoxically!
I had just one encounter with the proponent of ‘Harmonious Monism’, and it was enough to strengthen my intellectual journey. I interacted with a scholar who strongly believes in the progress and development of the African intellect as he lectured me how ontology grounds logic when I hold a converse perspective.
Existentially speaking, death is a debt that we cannot experience, but others will on our behalf. As I witness Professor Chris’ I am consoled that he left this realm, fulfilled as a father, husband and scholar. Rest on sire!
Emmanuel Ofuasia csp, Doctoral Research Student, Department of Philosophy, Lagos State University Nigeria.
Tribute in honour of the memory of Professor Chris Ijiomah
Professor Chris Ijiomah taught me Logic and Foundations of Mathematics at the Master of Arts level. I found his ability to explain complex concepts in simple ways intriguing. I believe he influenced me in this direction. He was my charismatic, resourceful and intelligent teacher, who became my friend, elder brother, colleague and associate in African philosophy. In African philosophy, he is one of the original thinkers in the field and is legacies in “Humanizing Epistemology” and “Harmonious Monism” can never be undermined or erased. Professor Chris Ijiomah had his faults. We all do. May God forgive his human frailties and grant his soul eternal bliss in the heavenly realms.
Mesembe Ita Edet PhD, cspp Department of Philosophy University of Calabar Calabar-Nigeria.
Tribute in Honour of Professor Chris Okezie Ijiomah
Prof Chris Ijiomah was amiable and friendly. I can’t now put a date to our first meeting, but I do recollect that he simply walked into my office and stated that he was on a familiarisation tour. In truth, he had stopped by to visit Dr Azubike Iloeje and strayed into my office. That chance meeting was the beginning of many years of mutual respect and friendship.
What perhaps made this relationship enduring was the love of family. We both, to a large extent, had family physically away from us, yet ever near. Chris was immensely proud of his daughters and could never stop talking about them.
Fond memories of how he would call out my name still ring in my head. It was always Eno Nta; nothing more, nothing less. When others get carried away by titles, he remained Chris Ijiomah, ever friendly and with a listening ear.
I thank God that he was celebrated on August 22, 2018, when he presented his inaugural.
The Faculty Board will surely miss his witty interjections, but I will hold on to the memory of a friend and brother.
Professor Eno Grace Nta, Director, Centre for Teaching and Learning Excellence (CTLE), University of Calabar.
A Tribute to Prof C O Ijiomah
Prof, the news of your demise came as a shock to us. I still remember the first time I had a chat with you, though I never knew it would be the last. You met me by your office waiting to have a meeting with Prof. Mrs. Olu-Jacobs (President, FAHSANU) who was yet to arrive. Young lady, you asked, are you waiting for me? And immediately I glanced at the name tag on the door and said, good morning Prof Ijiomah, oh no, I’m waiting to meet with Prof. Olu-Jacobs. You kindly invited me to wait for her in your office, which I did with all pleasure. While in your office, I introduced myself and as soon as you realised I was a junior colleague, you handed me a copy of your inaugural lecture and encouraged me to work hard so that I will be ready to present mine at the appointed time. You encouraged me to write, publish, work hard to be a good academic. I left your presence that day mentored and happy.
Prof. May your Soul find eternal rest. Amen!
Dr (Mrs) Gloria B. I. Okon (nee Umukoro),
Dept of Modern Languages & Translation Studies, University of Calabar.
Tribute to Prof Chris Okezie Ijiomah
The news of professor Ijiomah’s passing on May 31, 2020, got me thinking about the time I spent under his tutelage at the University of Calabar. I will always remember him for his contributions in making a philosophically curious intellectual out of me. He was not just a lecturer; he was also a proud father and husband. Prof Ijiomah was indeed a force to be reckoned with in the Philosophy Department of the University of Calabar. He contributed a lot in projecting philosophy at the University of Calabar. He taught many, including me. I remember how my colleagues and I used to wait patiently for the end of his ‘unending’ lectures. He never runs out of energy and would seize every opportunity to discuss his idea on “the excavation of logic in African philosophy”. He will be missed dearly for his contributions to African philosophy. Adieu Prof.
Diana Ekor Ofana csp, Doctoral Student, University of Fort Hare, Member of the Conversational School of Philosophy.
A Tribute to a Great Logician and Mentor
The sad news about the demise of Professor Chris Okezie Ijiomah, which reached me on May 31 2020, traumatised me. At first, I doubted it and had to put phone calls across to two of my friends in Calabar, for confirmation. When I received a confirmation that professor Ijiomah has joined his ancestors, I quivered and cogitated on the Albert Camus’ philosophy and Aribiah Attoe’s theory of meaninglessness of life. As I meditated, considering Ijiomah’s indelible contributions in African philosophy, through his doctrine of “Harmonious Monism” and his novel idea and coinage in epistemology called “Humanized Epistemology”, I was bold enough to fault both Camus’ and Attoe’s positions about life. After all, even professor Ijiomah had the belief that there is spirituality in physicality and physicality in spirituality. Though he is dead, his discoveries in Logic, African philosophy, Epistemology, Philosophy of education, to mention but a few live on.
I am a scholar who never liked logic as a course. Despite my poor background in logic, his humorous and excellent way of teaching built up my confidence in logic. My postgraduate coursework on Logic and Foundations of Mathematics made me see professor Ijiomah as a logic simplifier. While researching on my doctoral dissertation, I had the good fortune to interact with professor Ijiomah who introduced one of his articles in the philosophy of education to me. That encounter was the beginning of a series of interactions I had with him, in and outside his office, which provided tremendous insight into my work. I still remember how joyous he was when I told him about the thesis of my PhD work. In his humorous style, he told me that he had argued a similar position in one of his articles too. His position was that we experience problems in our educational system because of the lack of an indigenous or a specified philosophy on which the policies of education in Nigeria could lean on. He was one of those who gave me confidence that my proposal for a veritable philosophy of education in Nigeria represents an uncommon insightful direction.
The Conversational Society of Philosophy (CSP) and the Department of Philosophy at the University of Calabar have lost a logician par excellence. May we be consoled, comforted and take solace in the fact that his epistemic contributions remain forever.
Umezurike J. Ezugwu PhD, csp, General Studies Unit (Philosophy), Nigeria Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Delta State, Nigeria, Member of the Conversational School of Philosophy.
A Tribute to my Teacher
I wish someone would tell me that the news of your demise was only a false alarm. I still can’t believe you have joined the cloud of witnesses!
I had anticipated doing a doctorate at the University of Calabar with a bias in African Philosophy of Logic to have the opportunity of learning from you. This time, not as an undergraduate degree student but as a postgraduate research student. Indeed, for me, it was to have a second taste of your intellectual wittiness and mastery of logic and foundations of mathematics at a more advanced level. I remember those years of my undergraduate studies; you taught me, Research Methodology and Philosophy of Mathematics respectively, the latter brought shivers to many students of philosophy in their final year class. Senior colleagues told us stories of how difficult the course was and how very mean and stern the lecturer could be. As a result, most of us treaded cautiously and resolved to turn the narrative by focusing on our studies and putting in our all into it. Alas! I passed so well in both courses.
I remember another time I visited the University of Calabar in 2017/18, as a postgraduate student from University of Ibadan seeking for research materials on African Philosophy of Logic, of course, Unical Philosophy Department remains the centre of attraction in the country. It was the birthplace of the trio of Ibuanyidanda, Harmonious Monism and Integrative Humanism, and the novel style of philosophising now called conversational thinking.
The conversation between Professor Ijiomah and I as I recall it:
Me: Good afternoon Prof. It’s me, your ex-student from back in the day. I learnt your book “Harmonious Monism…” is finally out after long years of being in the cooler. I consider myself so lucky as it came out the exact time I am doing my master’s research on African logic. So, I came to buy a copy.
Prof: Please, do come in and have a sit.
And before I could say, Jack, you excused the visitor in your office and then summarised a book of almost 200+ pages in less than 20 minutes before handing it over to me.
Indeed, a star has fallen from the roof of the sky. A god amongst men has joined his ancestors. A great iroko has fallen!
Dear Prof, please be rest assured that your intellectual contribution to scholarship and African Philosophy of Logic, in particular, will live on.
Intellectual Eggheads are now gathered to mourn the demise of a celebrated African Philosopher per Excellence. The proponent of the acclaimed ‘Harmonious Monism’ and ‘Humanized epistemology’.
If only consciousness is transmittable…
If only cerebral wittiness can be transmitted with all of its contents..!
Some of us wouldn’t mind owning your mind.
I am so saddened by the news of your demise. But I am, however, consoled by the fact that you bequeathed those of us who are proud to be called your students your intellectual legacy.
As some philosophers in the West today are proud to have sat under the tutelage of the likes of WVO Quine, P.K Feyerabend, Karl Popper etc., I, as an African philosopher, am proud to have sat under the tutelage of a great intellectual Arusi as you. And so shall your legacy live on.
Adieu, my Teacher and Lecturer at the University of Calabar agora.
Amaobi Nelson Osuala, csp, Ex-Student, University of Calabar, Doctoral Research Student, University of Ibadan, Nigeria, Member of the Conversational School of Philosophy (CSP).
An Encounter that Never Was
I have always looked forward to meeting Prof Chris Ijiomah, having read and reflected on his theory of harmonious monism, which marked yet another attempt by a forward-looking Nigerian philosopher to advance African metaphysics. On several occasions of my visit to Calabar, the long-awaited encounter was postponed as it could not be arranged. Alas, the encounter is now postponed forever as the professor exits our tumultuous world after rendering invaluable service to African humanism. While I regret the encounter that never was, it is comforting to me that he makes his exit in a confetti shower of praise for lifetime achievement in the field of African Philosophy. He will endure!
Dr Ada Agada csp, Centre for Interdisciplinary and Intercultural Studies, Universität Tübingen, Germany, Member, The Conversational School of Philosophy.
In the light of Scholarship: Conversation with Chris O. Ijiomah
It was in Prof. LOM Enendu’s office in 2018 that Prof Ijiomah was discussing the contributions of Africans to philosophy. I didn’t know what brought about that. I said to him, Sir, I won’t blame the non-Africans when African Scholars themselves cannot tell them that values cannot simply be understood within the Truth/False dichotomy. He then said to me (in feigned ignorance, I presumed), if it is not true or false, what is it?
Prof Ijiomah: Can you explain that Chinyere?
Chinyere: Prof, look at the sense and not the grammar (At this point Prof Enendu laughs as usual).
Prof Ijiomah: If you like say it in Igbo, let me just hear your argument.
Chinyere: As a catholic, it is Purgatory, heaven and hell. In Pentecostal reality, we know heaven, hell and the unseen reality that only God knows about- should I say grace?
As a native of a place where African Religion is key, things are not strictly understood within the confines of truth or false. There is a thin line in-between.
Prof Ijiomah: Explain, please.
Chinyere: A woman went to the market and bought goat parts, head and legs. Two months after eating it, her children and husband died, and she was about dying. Through divination, it was discovered that she brought home a stolen goat, and the gods were after her. She didn’t steal the goat; she bought it in the market from a meat seller who also did not steal the goat. The owner of the goat that was stolen said to the “Arusi” “take this Kola nut and alligator pepper, wherever the head and legs of my goat entered, CLEAR!!! Those that bought the other parts and the thief were exonerated.
Prof Ijiomah: Really?
Chinyere: I am not done, Sir. In the early 1990s, my cousin gave birth to a child and that child was born with a kind of translucent bulb on his head. The child never slept nor ate. He was taken to many hospitals and UNTH, in the present day Enugu State. Nothing was diagnose. The next option is to go abroad. Then one morning, the grandfather’s sister in her 80s came to the house and started scolding everyone, heard the child’s cry and carried and said to him, “Joseph, please forgive me, you can’t doubt my love for you. I didn’t know you came. Jenny and her children never informed me.” The cry stopped. The translucent bulb dim and the baby became okay without further treatment.
Profs Ijiomah & Enendu: How did that happen? Throw more light.
Chinyere: Mama Mary was in the house singing the praise of his brother who died as a result of the bomb or bullet that fell on his head during the Nigerian civil war. The brother appeared to her in a trance, and said “Mary why are you still lamenting and calling me when I have returned to you, but you never cared to take care of me. I am tired of crying. I will return home soon if you don’t take care of me.” He disappeared, and Mama Mary moved to his brother’s wife house base on that visitation. As she entered, the story above unfolded.
Prof: Ijiomah: mmh, is this true?
Chinyere: Very true, I can’t project the course of ancestor worship but remember that Wole Soyinka in “Myth, Literature and the African World” talked about the Living, dead and Unborn. That’s African value system. It’s tripartite!
Prof Ijiomah: Great, I am sharing my inaugural invitation. Come to my office later.
I went to that Office, and he gave me a journal titled Ultimate Reality and Meaning Vol 27, 2004. In his contribution, Ijiomah states: “African contribution to philosophy of language is quite different from what obtains in the West… Language reflects the people’s perception of reality. Therefore, African philosophy of language is not just a study of the logical structure of language or how language is used at a particular time and space.” Thus, he agreed with Kagame that in “African language the choice of words is made strictly in agreement with one’s concept of reality which his language describes”.
I can say, that Ijiomah’s claim is his reality to the growth of African Philosophy. “The thesis of this paper is that there are different kinds of cognitive paradigms from which philosophical discussions can be carried out” (2004: 70). Thus, he highlights the overview of African cultural inclination found mostly in the third value.
Adieu, great thinker! Adieu Prof Ijiomah!!
Chinyere Lilian Okam, Theatre, Film and Carnival Studies Department, University of Calabar-Nigeria.
Tribute to Prof C. O. Ijiomah
Dear Prof C. O. Ijiomah,
Your demise is a painful one not just to me, but to everyone within and without the philosophical community who cherished your unique energy and ambience of placidity. You were a prototypical cynosure of African intellectualism as embodied by your mental progenies of Harmonious Monism and Humanistic Epistemology.
Particularly worthy of mention is your wits and inimitable sense of humour that made your lectures both intellectually stimulating and vivacious. Your ability to dissect the most complex issues to the understanding of your students is a skill worth emulating.
As a “Biafran General” as you would fondly call yourself, you led the battle for the emancipation of the African intellect from the CSP battlefront with your logical armour, to the trenches of Humanistic Epistemology with your courteous demeanour.
I’m elated our paths did cross beyond the walls of logic. I wish you a Harmonious exit from the mortal gate of existence, into the Monism of that which your life embodied.
Farewell, the General as you begin your journey to the ontological beyond.
Sangha-sung, owoh ukoh!
Ben P. Effiong, csp, Former student, University of Calabar, Member, The Conversational Society of Philosophy.
Tribute to CO Ijiomah
Bia enyia! Yes, you at the far back, what is your name? Those were the exact words of the professor of philosophy of mathematics on my first encounter with him as he walked into the classroom to discharge his duties, as my teacher. In a class of over a hundred students, Prof. Ijiomah, as we fondly called him had the jovial habit of walking around the classroom, probing and wanting to know each student by his/her name. In many of such occasions, he would present each person with a token (sometimes, sweets), and this, to a large extent goes to suggest how passionately he cared about and valued his teacher-students relationship.
Not minding his age, Prof. Ijiomah, a man with immeasurable virtues, impeccable character and one with an unusual kind-heartedness would stop at nothing to ensure that every participating student in any of his classes understood the topic of the day. He would explain an idea severally, sometimes, relentlessly until he is assured that many have understood him.
Alas! Prof. Ijiomah, a good man with the purest of hearts, has left us and gone to be with the Lord. We nonetheless find solace in the good things he has done, and the many indelible legacies he left behind for which he will forever be remembered. As I bid you farewell, on behalf of myself and the graduating set of 2018/2019 Academic year, we pray that you find eternal peace in the Lord until we meet to path no more. Rest on Prof Chris O. Ijiomah.
Akpa Princewill Chukwuemeka, (His former student at the University of Calabar).
The Harmonious Boss, Gone?
Just a few months ago, you survived the scare of a near plane crash, and your testimony made you even stronger, but your sudden demise only left me confused.
You were my mentor! I was employed to study Logic and Foundations of Mathematics under your tutelage, but the cold hands of death have snatched such an opportunity away. How am I going to carry on? Before your sudden departure, you were concluding a book manuscript on Philosophy of Mathematics. What now? Perhaps, the burden lies on some of your mentees like myself to see that it is published posthumously.
Professor Ijiomah was a kind and generous man. For a short time, I worked under him as his trainee; I began to have a full grasp of his intellectual voyage in African logic, which culminated in his theory of Harmonious Monism.
He was compassionate, relating to everyone as though they were old-time friends. He was very straight-forward and always wanted everyone to do the right thing at the right time. He hated trouble, and will at once render an apology if he stepped on someone’s toes. Goodbye is hard to say, but can we question your maker? No. GOODBYE BOSS.
Okey, Joel Ndifon, Graduate Assistant, Department of Philosophy, University of Calabar.
In The Creed of Harmonious Monism of Prof CO Ijiomah:
A Tribute to its Proponent
Dear Dede, as I fondly call you, it is not without pain that I sit reminiscing on the powerful philosophical claims you exposed me to during our short but productive encounter. Your claims are rational, humanistic and convincing. Your averment that there is unity in reality; that the basic ground foundation and attribute of Being is HARMONIOUS MONISM, is ever more illuminating. That the three value logic is meaningful only when we choose to be humans, that my idea of Phenomenological Justice is evidently intrinsic in the ontology of the justice-giver as a Being-with-others, as a conscious rational rule-guided Being and not solely as a distinct rule-governed Being. But Dede, you departed even without the completion and publication of the masterpiece.
Dede, your intellectual sagacity, tenaciousness and humane approach will forever be cherished and missed. We, your mentees, students and loved ones will miss your fatherly encouragement and support. We cannot change what fate has granted you but can only say: rest on with the good spirits beyond!
Celsuspaul Ekwueme PG student, University of Calabar
A Tribute to My Reified Postgraduate Supervisor: Professor Chris Okezie Ijiomah
Until his Last Breath in the Month of May 2020, Chris Okezie Ijiomah was an Emeritus Professor of Philosophy of Logic and the Foundations of Mathematics, University of Calabar, where I did my Postgraduate Studies (2013-2016). Here are synopses about de’ Professor C. O. Ijiomah, I Know!
My Logic Professor: Ijiomah was classically a Jovial Teacher. I enjoyed his manipulation of logical absurdities in Class, but I did not choose him to supervise my MA Re-Search on ‘The Ontological Foundation of Logic and its Effects on Cross-Cultural Understanding’, which was meant to be a critique of his theory of Harmonious Monism (2016). Somehow, the Department, in its wisdom, asked me to work with professor Ijiomah. The first meeting was not funny: ‘You know very well that I am the ONLY qualified full Professor in Uni-Cal to Supervise your thesis, leave my office!’ Luckily, some of his colleagues interceded to normalise relationships. He was working on his magnum Opus on his theory of Harmonious Monism, then. He often talked about it. We discussed many aspects of the work. He said he was determined to complete the project. The genial professor kept to his promise: the book, Harmonious Monism. Philosophical Logic of Explanation for Ontological Issues in Supernaturalism in African Thought came out before I could complete my MA Program. Okezie Ijiomah was, in truth, a Caring Father and Logical Supervisor!
Indelible Advisor: “Nnanna, be cautious with your research, my experience during and after the Biafran War shows that people tend to hate you when you know their tricks. As you continue your PhD re-search always remember that that the ignorance of sound logical principles is the major cause of injustice. Nigeria, for example, would not have defeated Biafra. I am proud of what you people [CSP] are doing.” That was his last advice during my conversation with him on May 28, 2019.
Prof. C.O. Ijiomah was a Jolly Fellow, Logician and Father!
Odogwu na’ Obodo Nne n’Nnä-nna° CSP°
Oke Mmuo na ‘Cross many Rivers’ I Know, You Know
Okezie Ijiomah Dey Rest 4 Homeland!
We Know, Oke dike, Anaghi Anwuanwu°
Victor C. A. Nweke csp, DFG Researcher, University of Koblenz-Landau, Campus Koblenz, Member, Conversational School of Philosophy (CSP), Calabar, June 07, 2020.
Tribute to Prof CO Ijiomah
“HE should have died hereafter. There would have been a time for such a world. Tomorrow, Tomorrow and Tomorrow. Crept no wonder desire. It’s like a tale told by an idiot full of words and fury but signifies nothing. Life is but a walking shadow, a brief candle, it lits, and it goes…” Shakespeare
The deaths of Chinua Achebe and Prof Chris Okezie Ijiomah at different times, though with impactful lives, remind me of the meaninglessness of life and scholastic injury in promoting originality in literary and philosophical adumbrations.
Ijiomah- a quintessential, dramatic, hilarious and uncompromising personage was my teacher at different levels of academic pursuits. A scholar of no mean measure was credited to discovering the existence of units in component whole through his harmonious monism. Ijiomah’s humanised epistemology remains a gateway to clear grasp of epistemology within the African context.
As a student of due process, originality and standard, Ijiomah’s ardent and uncompromising resolve to ensuring decency and due process earned him an avalanche of criticisms.
Prof Ijiomah was glued to decency, and this quality reflected on his appearance anytime any day. Indeed, I have lost a friend, teacher, counsellor, in-law and a fearless Biafran who detested slander and running down of people. Rather, Ijiomah liked to confront situations head-on, and what he could not tell you face-to-face, he would not do so behind you. A man with logical and philosophical stamina, courage and oratorical prowess who would speak out where others would remain silent for fear of blame. I have lost a great African philosopher, a socialite, bridge builder, logician, author and teacher of originality. Good night my dear teacher as tears fail to dry.
E. A. Ikegbu PhD, Department of Philosophy, University of Calabar.
A Tribute to Prof. Chris Ijiomah
My heart is heavy with sorrow since I heard of your demise. My sorrow is informed by the mass exodus of our finest brain in the academic field of African Philosophy. The truth is that this field is yet to attain its full maturity. Unfortunately, “the men who are full of age, who by reason of use have exercised themselves to discern good and evil” are gradually leaving the stage.
Oh, Shakespeare was right in his observation that:
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”
The truth is that you maximised your stage and played your parts and acts intelligently. These were demonstrated aptly during your lifetime.
I have heard of your passion and quest in contributing, nurturing and teaching of African Philosophy during your days at the University of Calabar. My friend Victor Nweke once told me of your passion for excellence and hard work as a supervisee under you. He informed me of how you critically and consciously read and shaped his work.
Your theories, Harmonious Monism and Humanistic Epistemology are classics on their own.
Rest on Sir
Conversationally yours, Osita NNAJIOFOR, PhD csp, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.
A Tribute to Ijiomah
My memories of Professor Ijiomah have always been fond memories. I, first, remember him as a great teacher – as a young undergrad who was still finding his feet, my most imprinted memory of him was his explanation of Russell’s paradox. A difficult thing to grasp as a second-year philosophy student, his down to earth explanations and patience in answering all my questions in clear terms, was most liberating.
As I grew older and became a master’s student at the University of Calabar and eventually as a PhD student at the University of Johannesburg, we grew closer, and he became one of my mentors. I remember, most fondly, his wit and sense of humour during this time. Every time he saw me, he called me Abiriba (a town somewhere in the south east of Nigeria) which was a humorous corruption of my real name “Aribiah”. He always asked about the wellbeing of my family and what progress I had made in my studies (Needless to say, I was always inspired to achieve something so that I would be able to reply to his questions about my progress anytime we met).
Every moment spent with Prof Ijiomah was a moment to learn, as he not only taught logic, he lived like a logician. One naturally felt safe talking to him as he was a father to many.
As his existence has now turned into nothingness, may his reflections live forever with us, or, at least, for a very long time.
Aribiah David Attoe, PhD, csp, Centre for Leadership Ethics in Africa, University of Fort Hare, South Africa, Member, Conversational School of Philosophy.
Can you teach an old Dog new tricks? The Impending Leadership Gap during a stay-at-home internet-based governance in Nigeria
By Jonathan Chimakonam
There is a popular saying that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. Perhaps it would be a stretch to take this saying to apply in every circumstance. But the main point of such a saying is that teaching an old dog new tricks can be difficult or daunting – sometimes, exceptionally so. Can the stay-at-home internet-based governance work for the ageing Nigeria’s leadership team?
For most leaders in Nigeria, and the institutions that they control, the scenario is not so different from that of an old dog who is suddenly faced with the challenge of learning new tricks. From the President who is officially 77 years old to the senate president who is 61 years old, to the chief judge of Nigeria who is 68 years old and even down to the information minister who is 68 years old, there is no doubt that Nigeria’s leadership is dominated by geriatric or older politicians. With the current COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world and forcing lockdowns, the Nigerian government has cancelled executive meetings; senate sittings have also been suspended, and all meetings involving the highest level of decision-making have been temporarily suspended. Nigeria’s leadership at different levels have moved from their public offices to their private rooms in a bid to safeguard individuals from illness and death. The measure to suspend physical contact by the leadership became even more necessary when the (now late and former) Chief of Staff of Nigeria, Abba Kyari (another old-timer, whose real age is unknown) tested positive for COVID-19. In the same period, Nasir El Rufai, a 60 years old Kaduna State Governor and Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State who is 61 years old, tested positive after contact with an index case. With the old-timers forced to lead the nation remotely through the internet and with limited staff contact, the question remains – can these old dogs learn some new tricks and adapt sufficiently to the new demands?
The answer to this question is not as straightforward as one would like. While I do not claim to know the level of digital literacy among all of Nigeria’s current old brigade, I can envision a few problems. The internet is relatively young and first emerged commercially when some of Nigeria’s current leaders were closer to, or above, 40 years old. While this is so, millennials, who form a bulk of the country’s population, grew up in the digital age. In an ironic twist, it is the older but generally digitally inexperienced leaders who are expected to govern the younger and more digitally literate populace – an activity that would also involve reaching out to the masses digitally. To go around this problem, I would think that most government leaders would employ IT experts to assist them in the execution of their duties. Stay-at-home governance would then be dependent on these technically adept employees. While the preceding tactic may work with such things as setting up online meetings, video conferencing, etc., providing a consistent online presence that would assure the public may be nearly impossible. This is especially so since some of these leaders would not express themselves by themselves, beyond standardised renderings facilitated by their digital handlers. Would the internet-callow old brigade not create a leadership gap in Nigeria?
No wonder, Nigeria’s social media space is agog in recent times with rumours and gossip due to lack of leadership presence and communication. For example, not enough by way of official communication is known about the status of all the government officials who travelled with the late Kyari to Germany and dozens more, including the ailing septuagenarian President, Muhammadu Buhari, who was believed to have had contact with Kyari within nine days after the latter returned from Germany. Unlike in the United Kingdom where regular updates, including a hospital bed video clip are provided on the health status of the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who was also infected with the virus, there is very little information available in Nigeria on its public officials who are and those rumoured to be positive with the virus. What the ministry of information makes available is enshrouded in mystery and is, therefore, doubted by the public, and indeed, doubtful.
Some ten Chinese doctors have recently been flown in. There was an original announcement that they have come to help the country combat COVID-19. But questions about what ten doctors can contribute in a big country like Nigeria and whether Nigeria is in need of doctors in the first place, have led to suspicions in some quarters that the Chinese doctors were actually brought in to treat some government officials who may have been infected. In the early hours of Saturday, April 18th 2020, information began making waves in the social media that the Chief of Staff, Nigeria’s defacto President Abba Kyari has died of COVID-19 infection. Before noon, major news outlets carried an official report that he died in a private hospital in Lagos the previous day. But rumour soon emerged that he had died a week earlier in Cuba and the body was embalmed and flown back to Nigeria. In an atmosphere of bold lies from government sources, it is difficult to trust any information which the present Nigeria government puts out, and this is jackpot for rumour mongers. Yet, in a country, where much of what had been dismissed as false rumours in the recent times, somehow, turned out to be true, it has become difficult to dismiss information from the grapevine in today’s Nigeria. On the whole, there is a widespread suspicion that the remotely run government is struggling to remain effective. To make it worse, Nigerians in different media spaces continue to express doubt on the whereabouts of their president despite three national addresses so far.
When Kyari tested positive to COVID-19, the government of Nigeria closed its borders. And then, there was a rumour that the President and his Chief of Staff had been secretly flown out of the country at midnight of the 26th March, 2020 for medical treatment. The growing concern about the leadership gap in Nigeria intensified in the media and digital space as official government debunking of the rumours was slow to come. Worse still, President Buhari had not addressed the nation in the first few weeks of the pandemic despite a relentless call by the public. When he did, it was a short, recorded address, bereft of conviction, that the government was on top of the situation. The public noted with dismay that the President appeared to be unaware of how to pronounce the pandemic. His rendering of COVID-19 as Covik one-nine escalated the rumours on the social media that the leadership gap was beginning to become apparent. As if to make up for the failure of the first attempt, a second presidential address soon followed amidst rumours that the President was no longer in the country. It was a very reassuring speech no doubt, except that doubters and tech-savvy critics quickly produced analyses of the clip that claimed that it was a recorded speech relayed as a live address, and may not have been read by the president himself. In other words, they are suggesting that technology may have been used to produce the speech, which made it look like the image of the president on the tv screen was actually reading the speech. They also claimed that the studio looked nothing like any place in Aso Rock (Nigeria’s Presidential House). They claimed that no previous Nigerian president and even Mr Buhari himself had given a speech in a room like that. These are all speculations which may or may not be true. The point, however, is that the increasing lack of leadership presence in a time of lockdown has inflamed both fact-riots and tall tales. Even Mr Lai Muhammed, the loquacious minister of information, appears to have almost gone silent. Is the geriatric status of Nigeria’s leadership class a factor in the stay-at-home governance? The preceding question assumes that most older people do not have sufficient internet skills.
However, the above is a less pressing concern. The more pressing concern is the lack of preparedness and the lack of facilities needed to properly administer effective stay-at-home governance. Take, for instance, the judiciary. Most courts in Nigeria, including federal high courts, all operate analogue filing systems. Most of these courts do not have the facilities necessary to set-up online court sessions where judges can deliver judgements without contact with others. Most prison facilities that continually struggle with feeding and overcrowding do not have the resources to aid the courts in disseminating justice remotely beyond merely reprimanding the inmates. The legislature, a far more vibrant body, may find it easier to work remotely – in terms of hearing bills and voting on them – insofar as the wherewithal to entertain such an option is present.
But the efficiency of the internet service in Nigeria, especially when it comes to video and audio conferencing, has been a serious concern for some years. Some accuse the network providers of poor quality deliveries. Others blame the high number of subscriptions as a factor that overburden servers. There has never been an official explanation of why video and audio internet conference services are poor in Nigeria compared to other countries on the continent such as South Africa. The bit which the Nigerian Communications Commission could do over the years following constant complaints from consumers was to impose fines on the network providers for poor quality services. Now, in these unexpected, challenging times where internet services have suddenly become the only option for keeping Nigeria’s government running, the concern is not only the skill-set of Nigeria’s old leaders but the preparedness of the government and the efficiency of the services. So far, such wherewithal is not evident.
Even as far as delivering their mandate in rural communities is concerned, working from home rarely works for Nigerian politicians without some form of physical contact. Whereas the President can mete out orders remotely – as he has been doing for much of the last five years – the capacity for ministries and their employees (assuming these employees are digitally literate) to execute such orders remotely, is mostly absent. Again, the major culprits appear to be the historical lack of reliable technological capacity and the absence of required facilities. But even concluding on the preceding factors cannot rule out the possible lack of internet skills on the part of an ageing Nigeria’s leadership.
A few problems started emerging just two weeks into the stay-at-home-governance, which show how serious the leadership gap can be. For example, there is food crisis. The Nigerian economy has been described as comprising largely of the informal sector. Perhaps the truth of this is beginning to tell. Many Nigerian households are struggling to survive in places like Lagos and Abuja. This has led to an increase in criminality. Many neighbourhoods in Lagos are witnessing robberies and burglar crimes. Vehicles conveying staple food are being stopped and looted by irate crowds who should really be observing social distancing. The extension of the lockdown in some cities as announced by the president in his third national address has not been well-received. A few pockets of protests, social media criticism and a spike in criminality have trailed the extension. Law and order is hanging by a thread in populated cities like Lagos, and there is talk in economic quarters that Nigeria might go into recession soon. All these are happening with no real sign anywhere that the government has any response to the challenges. These are some of the pointers that the stay-at-home-governance has created massive leadership gap in the country.
All in all, the Nigerian situation is not just a matter of old dogs having to learn new tricks. We cannot fault our leaders for being old. Indeed, most world leaders are closer to 60 years old than they are to 35, but some older individuals are more tech-savvy than certain other younger individuals. So, being digitally illiterate because they are old is no excuse. What sets Nigeria’s geriatric leaders apart from their more celebrated counterparts elsewhere in the world (besides the lack of facility and preparedness), are levels of technological education and consciousness for self-development. At the helm of affairs is a septuagenarian president without any form of tertiary education. The old dog, whose trainer has no training regime nor the facilities to execute said regime, would never learn any trick, whether new or old.
Dr Jonathan O. Chimakonam is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Philosophy, University of Pretoria, South Africa
The Verdict of Posterity is Enough Incentive to Work Hard in the Absence of Recognition Today
Ada Agada csp
Forum Scientiarum, Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen, Germany
The Conversational School of Philosophy, Calabar, Nigeria
It is easy to forget that African philosophy is still very much at the stage of idea-ferment and system-building. While Western philosophy has passed this stage and is now very comfortable with analysis at the expense of synthesis, modern African philosophy is at the stage Western philosophy found itself in the sixteenth to nineteenth century which marked, in my opinion, the most productive centuries of Western philosophical thinking. That was the age of great syntheses, beginning with Benedict Spinoza and ending with German idealists like Arthur Schopenhauer.
It was an aberration that the march of modern African philosophy was hampered early by undue focus on metaphilosophy which saw the emergence of the great universalism-particularism divide. I have always believed that without the publication of Paulin Hountondji’s influential work African Philosophy: Myth and Reality and the subsequent premature turn to analysis, African philosophy would have progressed faster from ethnophilosophy (which was the first step) to the system-building phase and eventually the analytic phase. As the history of African philosophy reveals, the radical critique of ethnophilosophy delayed the arrival of the system-building phase. Intellectual energy that should have gone into the construction of African philosophical systems by individual thinkers was instead dissipated on arguments about the existence of African philosophy, the perceived primitivity of ethnophilosophy, etc. The metaphilosophical engagement reflected a desire by professional philosophers to find a place for analysis in line with the fashion in Western philosophy even when there was very little substantive philosophy to analyse.
But analysis cannot predate synthesis. Should it forcefully overtake synthesis, we will have an aberration, which was what we had in the beginning. Jennifer Vest has used the term ‘perverse dialogue’ to characterise the aberration in her article “Perverse and Necessary Dialogue in African Philosophy.” Kwasi Wiredu, Kwame Gyekye, Innocent Onyewuenyi, Henry Odera Oruka, Segun Gbadegesin and others clearly realised that the path opened up by Hountondji was leading nowhere. Hence, they set out to enhance the dignity of descriptive ethnophilosophy by ushering in a new kind of engagement: academic ethnophilosophy. Academic ethnophilosophy marked the beginning of the system-building project.
Given the unmistakable achievements of the pioneer philosophers and the tendency to focus disproportionate attention on them – as the hundreds of articles written on Wiredu alone will easily reveal – one will think that the system-building phase of African philosophy has ended and it is time for us to concentrate on analysis. This is not the case because the academic ethnophilosophers have not radically transcended ethnophilosophy, which is the ultimate goal of system-building. The transcending of ethnophilosophy is the invocation of ethnophilosophy as an inspiration for a systematic kind of thinking that surpasses ethnophilosophy by completely leaving the orbit of ethnic worldviews and projecting universalist aspirations.
Since the publication of Mogobe B. Ramose’s intriguing book African Philosophy Through Ubuntu, a number of philosophers have taken up the challenge of building elaborate systems of thought which can at once lay claims to both Africanness and universalism. The emerging systems inhabit thought-structures like complementarism, consolationism, relationalism, and conversationalism. This is a development worth celebrating. I see more system-builders emerging in the near and distant future to sustain and radicalise the projects of contemporary system-builders like Innocent I. Asouzu, Ramose, Thaddeus Metz, Jonathan O. Chimakonam, and Ada Agada, to mention but a few names that readily come to mind. As I suggested earlier, African philosophy is evolving historically and we are going to have our own René Descartes, Spinoza, Wilhelm Leibniz, Immanuel Kant, John Locke, etc. When posterity will look back a hundred years from now, two hundred years, perhaps even a much shorter period, it will lump L.S. Senghor, Wiredu, Ramose, Asouzu, Metz, Chimakonam, and the near-future stars as founding fathers of African philosophy.
The time gap separating Senghor from Chimakonam is negligible. Senghor was active as an African thinker in the 1940s and 1950s. A thinker like Chimakonam is still active in 2019. The time gap is just 70-80 years. The point I want to make is that from the perspective of posterity all thinkers and scholars active in the field of African philosophy in the 20th and the early 21st century will be grouped together into a single generation given that African philosophy’s uncontroversial history began in the 20th century. They will all be seen as pioneers and their works will be assessed without the kind of generational bias that prevails today. While the scholars will be acknowledged as having contributed to the general discourse, the thinkers, in particular, will be recognised as the iconic figures who defined African philosophical thinking in the beginning.
The possibility, nay certainty, sketched above, to me, seems like a powerful incentive to work very hard today in the face of non-recognition of system-building labour. It seems to me too that those philosophers embarking on system-building will be the thinkers most remembered by posterity. I can hear the eternal cynic sneering and muttering to himself that it does not matter what posterity thinks, that it is enough that one is celebrated in one’s lifetime and enjoys the fame and/or wealth that comes with recognition within a lifetime. After all, death ends all active sensations and thinking.
The pessimistic and cynical perspective is no doubt valid. But I persist in my stubborn hope and ask: is it not true that our lives are extended genetically and memorially in the lives of our children? If not children, then at least relatives who share family genetic resources and possess the capacity to remember and represent the past in the present? Right there! If our lives continue in the lives of our children and relatives – our posterity – and if our labours which are ignored today are remembered tomorrow by posterity, our descendents will surely rejoice. In their rejoicing we ourselves, though long gone, may yet rejoice in some mystical way. The story of Spinoza is a lesson. Not honoured adequately in his lifetime, posterity rehabilitated him and honoured him as one of the iconic thinkers of the world.
African philosophers should embrace system-building now more than ever. We cannot continue to argue over unimportant matters. Trifling metaphilosophical engagement cannot for long mask the lacuna in African philosophy, the empty space which systematic thinking should have always filled. Metaphilosophy itself is a desirable engagement, but it can only be meaningful when there is a substantial body of substantive philosophy. Mere intellectual talk-shops cannot constitute a history of thought. If ethnophilosophy is going to be relegated to the background, as it ultimately should, African thought-systems in the various branches of philosophy should come into the foreground and prepare the way for the kind of analysis that dominates contemporary Western philosophy. Attempting a leap from the starting point that marks the beginning of the history of African philosophy to the era of intense analysis without the consummation of the age of synthesis is like trying to ‘eat’ and ‘have’ one’s cake all at once. But this attempt at evading the natural sequence of the birth and growth of a philosophy tradition cannot succeed, which is why Hountondji looms so large in African philosophy as a critic of ethnophilosophy which sought to occupy the great lacuna in African philosophy. From West Africa to South Africa and from Central Africa to East Africa, established, emergent, and upcoming African philosophers must rise to the most urgent challenge they face as makers of a thought-tradition: the challenge of system-building.