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.
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
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.
By Rejoice Chipuriro and Aribiah Attoe
Between the 27th and the 31st of October 2019, the African Philosophy Society hosted some of the best minds in African philosophy and other related disciplines at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. What was particularly interesting about this conference was the focus on young enterprising African scholars, and this was shown in the fact that most emerging scholars who attended the workshop, did so with all-expense paid for.
On the 27th of October, like many other participants, the Conversational School of Philosophy’s expedition to Tanzania began with members attending in two teams – one travelling from Nigeria (where her base is located), led by Dr John Umezurike, and the second team travelling from Johannesburg, South Africa, led by Ms Rejoice Chipuriro. Dr Pius Mosima, a member from Cameroon had travelled alone from his country. For the first team travelling from Lagos, Nigeria, it was a long flight, having to lay-over for a few hours in Kigali Rwanda before moving on to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. For the second team travelling from Johannesburg, South Africa, it was a less arduous three-hour flight. Arriving at Tanzania’s small but beautiful airport immediately reminded one of the fact that one was close to the equator, as the bright sunshine and searing heat threatened to melt flesh from bone.
Having arrived and settled down in the two designated Hotels for participants at Dar es Salaam, the CSP was ready for the conference. The conference began on the 28th of October 2019 and participants were taken to the beautiful University of Dar es Salaam. It was indeed a serene environment and it was an interesting touch to see a large troop of monkeys running freely on the campus.
Having registered for the conference and set up her book display stand, which drew in curious participants, it was time for members of the CSP to attend the conference activities for the day, which was highlighted by a keynote address by Nigeria’s literary icon, and Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka. Inundated by various breaks – since the events of the day were long and jam-packed – members of the CSP took advantage of these free times to unwind, give their impressions about the events of the day, and strategize and bond as a team.
After the first day, the second and third days were mainly for individual presentations by participants in the conference. It was thrilling and quite educative to watch and listen to both young and old scholars deliver their various presentations, and members of the CSP were not left out. Apart from the two-panel sessions dedicated to “Conversational thinking” where CSP members like Jonathan Chimakonam, John Umezurike, Greg Nnajiofor, Jerome Alex-Hounnouve and Isaiah Negedu were prominent participants, other members presented their papers in various other panel sessions. While Diana Ofana and Amara Esther were prominent speakers in the panel on “Gender matters”, Rejoice Chipuriro and Edwin Ejesi were prominent in their panel on “International Development Agenda”. Other members like Aribiah Attoe (metaphysics and ontology panel, Mirian Alike (Philosophy in Africa: Critiquing the critique panel), and Pius Mosima (Phenomenology and Intercultural Philosophy), also made their presentations in their respective panels. The CSP members were shown to be quite adept at presenting their papers with their trademark extempore presentation, and they all received great feedback – in terms of questions and comments – after their talk.
In Conclusion, the Tanzania conference was generally a success, both for the organisers/participants and the CSP. This success is captured by the words of Rejoice Chipuriro, who, in describing her own perspective of the conference, writes:
“My journey to the conference began with some drama at the airport and that was when I first experienced the power of the CSP as an indomitable group in practical affairs of life. I was denied the opportunity to board my flight on some technical grounds – another barrier on human movement through border policing and control by our African countries. My team insisted that they were leaving no one behind and I was made the team-two expedition leader. Through the sheer determination of the CSP team travelling from Johannesburg, I was able to get appropriate permission to board my flight. The team stood firmly by me to the time we landed in Dar es Salam, where I was introduced to the rest of the CSP family. I was accommodated with so much acceptance and heartfelt camaraderie that I knew I had found my intellectual home. The CSP team residing at Kebbys hotel immediately took me in and we practised our presentation thoroughly with feedback. When I presented I was confident and I had three CSP members who attended and supported me. I reciprocated by attending and supporting member presentations at the conference. We enjoyed a truly arumaristic experience, and mealtime was team time where coaching took place under the leadership of our convener. My first African Philosophy conference left an impressive mark thanks to the power of the CSP teamwork.”
The death of Ifeanyi Menkiti (born on the 24th of August 1940) on the 17th of June 2019 came as a shock to the African philosophical community. Before his death, Menkiti was considered an “elder” in African philosophy, having served as a second-generation African philosopher with peers such as Kwasi Wiredu, Kwame Gyekye, John Mbiti, Paulin Hountondji, Peter Bodunrin, to name a few. With an established career spanning at least 40 years, Menkiti was best known for his seminal articles on African metaphysical understanding and as well as those detailing his views about African conceptions of personhood. Those articles still, and will continue to raise debates, and influence African philosophers.
So, it came as no surprise that
recognising the importance of his philosophical legacy, the Department of
Philosophy, University of Johannesburg, decided to host a tribute event for the
late giant of African philosophy, Professor Ifeanyi Menkiti. Organised by one
of her Doctoral candidates, Aribiah Attoe, who is also a member of the
Conversational School of Philosophy,
this event (which held on the 18th of October 2019) brought together experts in African philosophy as well as postgraduate students to discuss the life and philosophy of Ifeanyi Menkiti.
This event also brought together some heavyweights in African philosophy. First, was the keynote speaker, Prof Thaddeus Metz, who is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa, who is well-known for his work in developing an African moral theory. Also invited was Prof Edwin Etieyibo, the Head of Philosophy Department at the University of the Witwatersrand and a friend of Prof Menkiti. Dr Oritsegbugbemi Oyowe, a lecturer at the University of the Western Cape, whose work on personhood converses with the blueprint laid down by philosophers like Prof Menkiti, was also present as a panellist. Last, but by no means least, of the invited panellists was Dr Motsamai Molefe, a senior researcher at the University of Fort Hare, whose work on African conceptions of personhood directly ties with Menkiti’s view on the subject. Not left out, the event also featured respondents – Ms Sarah Setlaelo and Ms Lindo Gama – who are Postgraduate students from the University of Johannesburg and the University of Pretoria respectively.
The event began around 10:10 am, with a short welcome speech from the Head of Philosophy Department at the University of Johannesburg, Prof. Veli Mitova, which was followed by a keynote talk by Prof. Thaddeus Metz. Beautifully rendered, Prof Metz traced the history and trajectories of Prof Menkiti’s Philosophical legacies, before delving into the various
philosophical controversies, debates
and responses that Prof Menkiti’s philosophy garnered. This was followed by a
brief discussion between Prof Metz and some attendees, featuring various
questions and responses.
Taking an important turn away from philosophical discussions, Prof Edwin Etieyibo delivered a passionate speech about the person Ifeanyi Menkiti, portraying him as a man who imbibed his own philosophy of engaging positively with the community in which he belonged. He began
with a personal story of sacrifice, describing how the late professor Menkiti selflessly decided to be present and support him during his (Prof Etieyibo’s) keynote address in an event in Boston, rather than celebrate his birthday with his family in New York (as was the family tradition). Prof Etieyibo also described Menkiti as a community person. To show that this was a well-deserved moniker, Prof Etieyibo describes two events. First, was Prof Menkiti’s rescue of the Grolier Poetry Book shop. The Grolier poetry book shop stood as a historical melting point for poets and poetry from around the world and it served one of the most important cultural sites in America.
At the time, this important institution was about to go out of existence due to financial problems until Prof Menkiti bought it, not for profit (as he was losing money while running the bookshop) but for the sake of sustaining an important institution that defined the community which he belonged. The second event that Prof Etieyebo mentions is Prof Menkiti’s decision to buy two buildings – a 122-year-old building that formerly held the Performing Arts Center and the
Shack’s Men’s Clothing Store building in Worcester. These buildings were bought
in a bid to establish his Emengini Institute for Comparative Global Studies.
This institute was meant to help establish conversations and dialogues between
African humanities and the global humanities. Prof Etieyibo maintains that this
showed that Prof Menkiti possessed a global sense of community that envisioned
a more interconnected world.
Following Prof Etieyibo’s presentation, Dr Motsamai Molefe and Dr Oritsegbugbemi Oyowe both presented their accounts of personhood, following from Menkiti’s view. Dr Oyowe
understood Menkiti’s account of personhood as mainly a narrative that continues to flow through even after the individual becomes an ancestor, and insofar as that ancestor is remembered. And Dr Motsamai presented his view of normative personhood that is hinged on what he terms “sympathy”. After their presentations, what followed was a series of responses and discussions – with postgraduates Lindo Gama (University of Pretoria) and Sarah Setlaelo (University of Johannesburg) at the forefront.
All in all, the event was greeted positively as a huge success. What this event showcased was the need to emphasise the celebration of African thought and the thinkers who think them. Beyond this, the need to further develop the discipline of African philosophy as the torch is passed to the current generation is of great importance.