Obi Nwakanma

Aremu Obasanjo's recommendation speaks to the true crisis of leadership in contemporary Nigeria. Political leadership must have a fundamental philosophical backbone, such that those who steer the state would understand the dimensions of order necessary for the political, economic and cultural evolution of the state. Any notion of development that does not take into consideration these dimensions, that is, the necessary link between economics and culture, and political development is blind and unsophisticated. That is the problem. General Olusegun Obasanjo is unsophisticated. His training was not in statecraft, he was always guided by capricious hands to political authority. Because Obasanjo was not nurtured for political leadership, his grasp of the meaning of the state is limited to excercising raw power whose authority is primitive. He has no broad political philosophy; no conception of the state. His goals are merely utilitarian, and his ambition is limited to providing iconic rather than fundamental changes in the political and social space; he is not equipped with the intellectual grasp of the meaning of society. In other words, his very limited education limits his abilities to conceive the state as an organic phenomenon. Olusegun Obasanjo had High School, missionary education, and this did not seem to make any subtler, the crudities of his imagination. He has remained a country bumkin in spite of his many years in power. He had two further years of military training at Mons, and could not pass on to the elite officers training at Sandhurst. So his education has been fairly limited. He always wished he could go to the University College Ibadan with his contemporaries, and his inability to go to Ibadan always somehow gave him an inferiority complex, and one which he excercises with his brutal treatment of university-educated people, and his complex desire to be an intellectual. This desire in its subtler form is also at the roots of his current project to establish a private university. Obasanjo's ambigous relationship with the university led to some of the destructive policies, starting with the the treatment of students in the Ali-Must go era of 1978, and even in his participation among the hawks that tried to drive university professors out of campuses in the last days of the Gowon Supreme Military Council in 1975. His comments about "inferior Degrees" must therefore been seen from the background of his complicated relationship with intellectuals, even those who came into the Army, who did not particularly treat him well before the 1966 disrupted the real shape of the Nigerian Military High command. But for the events of 1966, people like Obasanjo were destined to serve out their days in the barracks; he particularly leading a work gang of soldiers to do road repairs, build county bridges, construct military barracks, and things like that. That was his training. Not to be statesman.
To be a statesman requires a different kind of training. It required broad, liberal education that ought to allow you to articulate a philosophical conception of the state. Imagine Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe or Obafemi Awolowo or Kwame Nkrumah or Julius Nyerere making that kind of comment about liberal education.These were properly educated people. Obasanjo absolutely does not understand the basis of Sociology as a tool for social design, or Mass Communication as central in the construction of society. Besides, he fails to understand that in the contemporary environment, even those disciplines require a knowledge of information technology. How does anyone carry out demographic surveys, for instance, without the tools of contemporary data collection? The limited scope of perception which the Nigerian president has shown marks the limitations of his presidency; his inability to think in complex ways; his inability to conceive of the production of a broad national human resource base as vital to the economic and cultural development of any society, and on whose benchmark nations are judged, locates Obasanjo's primitive and limited imagination. This limited view of the world is why Nigerian governments do not invest in culture: in theatres, in fine Art or music education, in galleries and studios, in literary and humanistic education; in publishing; and so on and so forth. It is this mindset that made the Nigerian government to ban the study of History in the Nigerian school system! One of the central problems in the education philosophy of most post-colonial societies is that it has been trapped in time, and it is the stillbirth of utilitarian colonial mandates in which people were give artisan rather than High education. But if we, for instance, do not invest in art education from the pre-school, if we do not subject children to design and aesthetic education, it would be impossible for them to conceive of their cities, design parks or gardens, or even more complex systems. I have always said that part of the reasons why we have chaotic spaces in much of our urban areas is because generations have not been taught to conceive of the space of urban experience in terms of its complexity. To conceive space you must have aesthetic training. This neccessity is the central reason why other societies especially in the west invest in the aesthetic education of their children from the very young age; to make them aware and able to conceive the generic order of structures, colours, and other aspects of design, for without that ability, it would be impossible to manage chaos, or design systems. It would be impossible to be a good mason or an innovative Engineer without that kind of education. But of course, Obasanjo would suggest that those who studied Fine Arts and Architecture are not educated. They may even be uneducated to Obasanjo, if they take a straight degree in Pure and Applied Physics. The single honours. They have to study Computers. Perhaps someone should tell him that there is a great reason why people invest their time and resources in promoting liberal education. In any case, Nigeria has numerous Computer Scientists, Electrical/Electronics Engineers and such others who are without jobs. Obasanjo is simply not literate enough to understand the complexity of the state and its demands for varied hands. This inability, and the lack of sophistication of the Nigerian political leadership emblematizes the higher tragedy of Nigeria.