© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Five pieces of advice Pius Adesanmi left with Nigerians before his death
THOUGH he was resident in Canada and became a citizen eventually, late Pius Adesanmi was passionate about Nigeria and her progress and had consistently made interventions by demanding good governance and conscious citizenship.
The 47-year-old scholar, who died in the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash on Sunday, was a prominent author, professor, and social commentator, and a native of Kogi State.
Adesanmi wrote several pieces aimed at changing the way Nigerians think and ultimately bettering the country. The Carleton University lecturer, before his death, usually stressed the need to improve the education sector in Nigeria. He also contributed passionately and consistently to public discourse on human rights, modernism, democracy, and politics.
The ICIR, in this story, shines a light on some pieces of advice offered by the towering academic before he passed on.
Greater investment in education
On many occasions, Adesanmi criticised the Nigerian government for destroying the country’s educational institutions. He said the Nigerian elites who took over from the nationalists ruined the educational system, its foundation, its philosophy, its bases and infrastructure.
Through the “criminal” under-funding of universities, the rot of public primary and secondary schools, Nigeria had produced massive “dis-educated” youth, he once wrote.
The scholar condemned the incessant Nigerian lecturers’ strike, blaming the cause on the tragic and colossal failure of leadership. “I am not going to accept like the rest of Nigeria that a single day of university closure, because of a strike, is just another normal day in the life of the country,” he wrote.
Adesanmi also lamented the way government is lackadaisical about investing in education, saying it rather prefers to invest in the pockets of “useless politicians”. “Nigeria gives large funds to senators, governors, and other worthless political actors for wardrobe, clubbing, womanising, security votes, and frivolous foreign trips,” he explained.
He added that the way Nigeria retrieved the money consumed by the politicians is by increasing school fees indiscriminately and sending students out of school.
He spoke on a need for a complete overhaul of public education at all levels. In his view, infrastructural decay and welfare of teachers and students are just a fraction of the problem; the entire value system needs emergency surgery.
Students should harness opportunities during strikes
Adesanmi in an article written in June 2017 expressed how he was grounded because of strike almost every semester when he was at the University of Ibadan. But said he never allowed the strike to be an alibi for indolence, laziness, or fatalism.
The professor pointed out that the contemporary set of students in Nigerian tertiary institutions have turned strikes to an excuse for laziness. So he advised the students to do otherwise and exploit the opportunities made possible through the industrial actions.
Out of those things, he encouraged youth to do was to take free online courses in other universities, which could grow their knowledge. He added that they should create a list of reading tasks for the period of the strike, while their parents or guardians support them.
“Seeking personal growth and knowledge elsewhere, deploying your talent, intellect, and creative genius to be busy during the strike period,” Pius tweeted to encourage students during the recently concluded 90-day strike.
We need more youth in governance
While the government is unconcerned about public education, Adesanmi said, each generation of Nigerian youth settled for some narratives: “you are not ready, you are merely leaders of tomorrow (that tomorrow would conveniently never come), you have no experience.”
The 47-year-old director of the Institute of African Studies at Carleton University, Canada, until his death, charged the youth to overcome the mental block of low self-confidence and stand to be leaders. He also encouraged the youth who had contested in the recent presidential election.
Achieving modernity in Nigeria
Modernity is anchored on philosophy, critical thinking, and writing, Adesanmi severally explained. On his official Facebook wall, he wrote on March 6 that chaos, urban rot, rural decay and decrepit roads, hospitals, universities, water shortages, fuel scarcity and power failures “were collective consequences of the unthought and unreflected society”.
The professor said there were no attempts to philosophise the Nigerian project through sustained critical thought. While he observed how Nigerians build houses everywhere and anyhow, drive cars anywhere and anyhow, invest billions in the open drainage called gutters in the 21st century and call them ultramodern, he urged Nigeria to suspend her contempt for philosophy and critical intellection.
“Our national life is as sordid and tragic display of the absence of philosophy in our conceptualisation of Nigerian society,” he wrote.
Ensuring free and fair elections
On March 9, a day before his death, Adesanmi’s essay condemned the forced arrest of citizens in defiance of the law. He said the incumbent administration could grab citizens and detain them in spite of conflicting court orders.
He cited the case of Deji Adeyanju, an activist, arrested without a court warrant on an alleged crime. 20 years after the return to democracy, Adesanmi noted, elections are still midwived by the military. He said Nigeria practises a democracy in which the citizen is more familiar with troops and tanks than the ballot paper.
He said the government needs to guarantee a democracy of sacrifice to secure a democracy of means for the majority and urged the leaders to concentrate resources on the public good.
On February 15, ahead of the presidential election, he wrote that Nigeria has “laid foundation for a very violent election cycle”.