The Knowledge of Now: Pathways for the Yoruba, By Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú
There is no shortcut to hypermodernity. The link to hypermodernity is education. We cannot compete or achieve hypermodernity by continuing with education in the traditional way. We have to recalibrate education to fit and tap into the new knowledge economy by creating hubs and regionalising processes.
It is time to expand the dialogue on creating a new kind of leadership for the Yoruba by laying the foundation for identifying, selecting, creating and electing authentic leaders. There are many issues facing the South-West as a region, as a people and as Yoruba. Like we did in a time past, we must focus singularly on education as our major weapon and appreciate education as the nomenclature of development. The Yoruba achieved early success and greatness because our late leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo recognised quality education as a ladder to success. The South-West became an industrial powerhouse because of early investment in people and education. We staffed the federal bureaucracy because we trained our people. We created an enviable crop of leaders who championed and midwifed Nigeria’s economic development through education.
The South-West is living on its past glory. Henry Brougham, esq., M.P., in his speech to the House of Commons, on Thursday, February 7th, 1828, titled “The Present State of Law” said, education makes a people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern, but impossible to enslave. The South-West cannot lead when our youth are denied the right to quality public education and equal opportunities, a fair chance to get a decent job, to escape poverty, to support their families, and to develop their communities. Every society at the forefront of advancement and development (Asia, the Gulf States, the West, etc.) are thinking the future in terms of education. The available 30-, 40-, 50-year development plans for Dubai, China, Europe, the United States and even South Africa are anchored on education. It is noteworthy that capable leaders will not and cannot emerge and lead in today’s knowledge economy without world-class education.
According to H.G. Wells, human history becomes more and more of a race between education and catastrophe. The Yoruba have helped Nigeria avoid catastrophe because of advancements recorded in education in the earliest days of Nigeria’s nationhood. The South-West did not become the conscience of Nigeria by chance, the Yoruba became one by design. All the giant strides have become stories. Those who had the benefit of great education and some of us who had a semblance of good education at some point are forced to ask some hard questions. How did we arrive at this exact point in time? What will happen when those we denied quality education take the reins? What will be our future narrative as a region?
If our region is to produce transformative and visionary leadership, if we are to be competitive in the next 50 years, we need to have a fundamental rethink of our education immediately! A rethink is needed for futuristic projections in terms of infrastructure, science, innovation, high-tech agriculture, information technology, advanced industrialisation, etc. We cannot do this state by state. It is easily achievable through regional integration. From the experiences of other nations, the connecting strand and the driver of regional integration and other forms of cooperation, collaboration and integration is the global knowledge economy.
Through hubs, we can establish the connection and linkages between education, human capital development, and the global knowledge economy. We can democratise the meaning and forms of education by breaking it down to knowledge hubs along the dynamics of regional collaboration and integration.
How do we tap into it? How do we harness education for a quick yield? We can do this by creating a basket of hubs. Hubs are effective knowledge centres for ideas, products and services. Through hubs, we can establish the connection and linkages between education, human capital development, and the global knowledge economy. We can democratise the meaning and forms of education by breaking it down to knowledge hubs along the dynamics of regional collaboration and integration.
What does this mean in concrete terms? It means education or knowledge hubs will be broken down into three main areas of specialisation; philosophy, innovation and teacher training. We need to have specialised centres for thinkers and philosophers, innovators and teachers. The philosophy hub will be for the production of thought, knowledge, and culture. The innovation hub will be for technical, technological and innovation education and the teacher training hub will go back to the basics of teaching
In France, École Normale Supérieure produces only thinkers and philosophers. At École Normale Supérieure, they concentrate those who philosophise the future of the French race, of the white race, of Western culture, modernity and civilisation. The people admitted into École Normale Supérieure do nothing but produce the thought that morphs into culture, democracy, governance, institutions, mores, ethos and visions of society. On the other hand are technical and innovation institutions, which produce the makers and the inventors; followed by teacher training.
In the race for the future, Dubai, China, India, etc., are all adapting the French model of specialisation to meet these needs. The South-West needs to reconceptualise education in terms of specialisation hubs. All the institutions of tertiary learning in the region need to be rethought along these lines. There must be mergers and mega mergers among tertiary institutions. Ekiti and Ondo could be the philosophy hub; Lagos and Ogun could be the innovation and technical education hub; Oyo could be the teacher-training hub
The South-West needs to find a base for Oodua civilisation, Oodua philosophy, Oodua thought, endowed chairs and philosophical chairs to help us build a strong, competitive and virile region. We must establish innovation hubs, innovation Supermart, Supermegamart and a philosophy hub.
The South Africans are already moving in that direction. On the continent, the University of Johannesburg is a good example. It is a merger of a University and about three polytechnics to form one philosophy hub. Knowledge hub is the new nomenclature of education that will shape the next 50 years in the advanced world. Traditional universities in those places are rapidly adapting to the emerging trend. The South-West needs to be at the forefront of this new realignment of the purpose, nature, and dynamics of education. The demographic being captured worldwide in this new thinking are millennials and the emerging digital generation and those coming after them.
There is no shortcut to hypermodernity. The link to hypermodernity is education. We cannot compete or achieve hypermodernity by continuing with education in the traditional way. We have to recalibrate education to fit and tap into the new knowledge economy by creating hubs and regionalising processes. The South-West needs to find a base for Oodua civilisation, Oodua philosophy, Oodua thought, endowed chairs and philosophical chairs to help us build a strong, competitive and virile region. We must establish innovation hubs, innovation Supermart, Supermegamart and a philosophy hub.
Getting this done requires funding and a healthy dose of creativity. We need to break away from the unitary strictures of Nigeria. We cannot continue to wait for restructuring before we begin to look at education creatively and differently. Education, health, agriculture, road, housing are on the concurrent legislative list. In this list are areas of human need and activity where responsibilities are shared jointly by both the federal and regional or state governments as stipulated in the Nigerian constitution. The South-West governors can take the bold step of committing close to 25 percent of their state budget to education as recommended by UNESCO. We must break away from feeding bottle universities by looking for Public Private Partnerships and taxes as ways of raising funds. These prescriptions are long term solutions for development and a pipeline for identifying and nurturing leaders. It is time to shed the notorious short-termism that has been our albatross.
This article is adapted from my keynote presentation to the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) on Monday July 17 in Abeokuta, Ogun State.