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Rebuilding the intellectual community on the continent’-Zubair A Zubair



Zubair A Zubair


Zubair A Zubair

Neo-liberalism has devastated African universities, turning them from vibrant centres of new thinking and academic comradeship into factories churning out marketable academic products and “saleable” students, according to leading Tanzanian scholar-activist Issa Shivji.

African scholars have become mere data “hunter-gatherers” instead of producers of theory; while the nascent radical intellectual community that emerged on the continent in the wake of independence has been decimated, says Shivji, who occupies the Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Research Chair in Pan-African Studies at the University of Dar es Salaam.

In the meantime, the Global North has retained control over the upper reaches of knowledge production since the 1970s, when higher education on the continent was devalorised and starved of public resources as African governments embraced neo-liberal prescriptions and austerity programmes.

“The very idea of the university was undermined,” says Shivji.

“The World Bank and its associates said that Africa did not need thinkers; rather, it needed only implementers of policies,” he says. “The ‘luxury’ of theorising could be left to the developed North, which would do the thinking, while Africa did the acting.”

Under the “long shadow” of neoliberalism, he says, “the market determined the form, content and depth [of] courses. Theory was eschewed; and action and a skills-oriented approach were privileged.”

“Instead of being centres of thinking and basic research, African universities were turned into sort of factories, with the academics being told to package and brand their products, including the students, to make them ‘saleable’.”

One consequence has been a devaluation of the quest for original knowledge on the continent and, in particular, theory, which Shivji views as the “highest form of knowledge”.

Quality of African scholarship has deteriorated

The trend has been made manifest, he says, in a number of ways: the content of PhDs has become increasingly descriptive rather than theoretical; the academic vocation to produce new knowledge has been undermined by scholars’ increasing dependence on consultancy work; university courses have become vocationalised, with increasing numbers of “executive evening courses” being taught; the younger generation of academics unquestioningly imbibe intellectual fads with little regard for existing scholarship; and the task of mentoring young faculty is undertaken by visiting scholars on a jaunt.

Shivji identifies a lack of seriousness among “today’s neo-liberal generation of young faculty members who neither care about nor have any sense of the traditions of their own alma mater”.

In particular, he notes that young African academics educated “outside”, in the North, tend to return as adherents of new intellectual fashions: “It is as if they want to re-invent the wheel and start all over again.”

Meanwhile, as the quality of the African scholarship on offer has deteriorated, international financial institutions have “jumped on the bandwagon”, providing funding for foreign scholars to come from the North with the goal of upgrading local scholarly standards, according to Shivji.

“These visiting academics … come for a few weeks or a couple of months; rush through a couple of courses; take time off to visit local tourist resorts; and off they go, leaving behind no sense of academic collegiality and camaraderie, which should be the stuff of university life,” he says.

However, “this is not what universities were meant to be”, he argues.

‘A site for thinking’

“Neo-liberalisation, in my view, devastated the fundamental rationale of a university just as it devastated the social fabric in Africa. The very idea of the university was undermined.”

Shivji describes his idea of the university as “rather orthodox”.

“I think a university is a site for thinking, a site for the production of knowledge, and, of course, a site where ideas clash and knowledge is developed.”

“The idea of the university should be of a kind of comradeship which is established among the faculty but also between the students and the whole academic community. The aim is not simply to produce people with certificates but rather to cultivate deep scholarship and, if possible, some societal commitment.”

In pursuit of this goal, Shivji advocates a pan-African approach under which academics across the continent collaborate to rejuvenate the African intellectual community and seek to produce a new breed of ideas.

He notes the scale of the rejuvenation effort given that “a whole generation of deep, committed scholarship” was lost under the neo-liberalisation of universities from the late 1970s.

“The few faculty members who stuck to their guns found themselves abandoned both by colleagues and students,” he notes. As a result, “the radical and nationalist faculty staff failed to reproduce itself”.

“What remained was not an intellectual community propounding, advocating and debating the idea of the university and its ethos, but only a few individuals,” he says.

A need for collective purpose

In this context, Shivji advocates for a restoration of comradeship and a sense of collective purpose among academics in order to help rebuild the intellectual community on the continent.

“Such work can only be a collective effort, not an individual task,” he explains.

“Although individuals may manage to spark debates, they cannot easily sustain them. They soon get demoralised for lack of support; and there is always a limit to how much an individual can withstand in terms of derision and ridicule from an ignorant young faculty and a hostile university administration.”

Shivji also envisages the university’s restoration as a pan-African project although, at the same time, he stresses that national governments “must be persuaded that [higher] education is a priority on the basis that, like health, it is a strategic productive sector rather than just a service sector”.

Shivji’s argument for a continent-wide pan-African approach is based on what he terms “the fragility of the idea of nationalism based on the nation-state” and separate territorial domains; and also on what he views as the strength of regionalism in the African context.

“Unlike in other continents, regionalism in Africa – that is, pan-Africanism – gave birth to territorial nationalism, not the other way around,” he says.

Accordingly, he proposes that the effort to reclaim the idea of the university and build an African intellectual community “should take place as a pan-African endeavour at the continental level”.

Reclaim the ability to theorise

Adopting such an approach, Shivji contends, the present nature of African knowledge production can be transformed and African academia can reclaim its credibility and capacity to theorise.

“I think a new breed of ideas is required, which depends on many discussions, and debates being held at every opportunity … among African intellectuals.

“So, there is a need to engage in a double process: the process of building a pan-African intellectual community; and the process of raising these important questions.”

Shivji cites the collegial nature of the former University of East Africa, which had campuses in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, as an example of the kind of pan-African collaboration that could be fostered.

“There were annual meetings bringing together the subject teachers from the different disciplines at the three sister colleges [in Dar es Salaam, Kampala and Nairobi]. Views were exchanged on the content of the courses; on the work being undertaken; on the pedagogy, and so on,” he recalls.

“These discussions were very fruitful, indicating how the task of changing orientation cannot be an individual endeavour; if it is to be effective, it must always be a collective enterprise.”

Shivji contrasts this collaboration with the present academic climate, in which, for example, “few intellectuals in universities in other African countries know about or keep track of the debates taking place in South Africa”, and vice versa.

However, such is the kind of pan-African interaction that he would like to see as “a starting point” for the restoration of African academic endeavour, although he emphasises that this “cannot be left to happen spontaneously”.

“It should be undertaken in a conscious and conscientious way.”

This is imperative, says Shivji, particularly since “the continent cannot continue to depend on the North to revive its universities”.

“The North is not interested and understandably so. Higher education has become a major export for some countries in the North. Why, then, should they invest in reviving African universities?”

From a practical point of view, Shivji advises that South Africa, which became a destination for many academics leaving other African countries as their universities were starved of resources, has the potential to provide the leadership required to rebuild the African intellectual community.

“I would hope that greater energy and thinking in the South African academy may be directed at supporting and building relations with universities in other African countries, not in a predatory fashion but in the spirit of genuine pan-African collegiality,” he says.

“In this regard, the South African academy should plug into African debates, and not be constantly overawed by European debates.”

This article is based on an interview conducted by Professor Crain Soudien for ‘The Imprint of Education’ project, which is being implemented by the Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa, in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation. This project, which includes a series of critical engagements with experienced scholars and thought leaders on their reimaginings of higher education in Africa, investigates current and future challenges facing the sector, including best practices and innovations. Mark Paterson and Thierry M Luescher edited the transcript for focus and length.

Copyright © 2022 Zubair A Zubair and University World News”


Emotional Farewell: Staff Bid Adieu to Departing Executive at FCTA




By Bala Ibrahim.

In Arabic, the name Najeeb means the Distinguished, the Noble or the Outstanding. The Arabic dictionary says if you’re seeking a name with inherent star power, Najeeb will make for a lovely fit. It is the masculine respelling of the Arabic favorite, Najib, which stands for the Distinguished.

Yesterday, Friday, 29/09/2023, I had reason to write on one of the 21 Chief Executives at the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCDA, that was relieved of his duty by Minister Nyesom Wike. As of the time of writing the article, I hadn’t any inkling about his name or the company he headed. Within minutes of the release of my article, responses came in torrents, giving the name, the agency he headed, his state of origin and an addendum, spelling out his personal qualities which people admire. These include honesty, generosity, courage and selflessness. His name was given as Najeeb, Najeeb Abdulsalam, whose sojourn as the Managing Director of the Abuja Urban Mass Transit Company, AUMTC, was cut short by the Minister of the FCT, barely three months on the saddle. I was made to understand that Najeeb came from Danbatta, in my native Kano state. In short, Najeeb Abdulsalam was described by many as a man of noble character. The encomiums were so encouraging that they gave me the justification for this follow up article.

For starters, I must make it very clear that the mission of the article is not in any way meant to support Najeeb for reasons of nepotism, not at all. I wrote without even knowing his name or where he came from. I was only touched by the show of uncommon support, solidarity and the sincere sentiments from those he led, alongside the testimonials of those that know him.

His staffers’ account gave the picture of an Officer and a Gentleman, with commitment to discharging correctly, the work he was assigned. Some of the staff that served under him were even volunteering to go with him, should the Government refuse to reverse the termination of his appointment. It is not surprising, because the name Najeeb is meant to go with a certain degree of nobility. Indeed I know some Najeebs, and truly all of them are noble and outstanding. One of the testimonies I received about Najeeb Abdulsalam is thus:

“I can proudly say that I was part of the overwhelming success he recorded during his 3 months+ long tenure at the agency. A friend and a business associate of mine financed the supply of spare parts and supervised the repairs of 37 number buses of the agency. The repairs are almost concluded with about 5 more buses to go out of the Lot. I managed the whole transaction on behalf of my friend. If merit was a yardstick for appointment into public office, Najib would have received a merit award instead of having himself unceremoniously sacked from office by the HMoFCT Bar. Nyesom Wike”.

Another one says: “Individuals like this should be fished out by the leadership of Government and celebrated to serve as an encouragement for others to perform well, Najeeb is highly disciplined and upright individual that I know, being a former Local Government Chairman twice”.

If the society sees traits like integrity, honesty, courage, loyalty and fortitude as the virtues of good behavior or character, then people like Najeeb Abdulsalam should be among the cardinals of the system. Three out of the 8 point agenda of President Tinubu are, Job creation, Adherence to the rule of law and the Fight against corruption. With people like Najeeb Abdulsalam at work, I see Asiwaju’s ambition as a fait accompli.

The Abuja Urban Mass Transport Company Limited (AUMTCO), where Najeeb Abdulsalam was heading up till last week, was established by the then Ministry of Federal Capital Territory, which had a change of name to the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) in 1984, as Abuja Bus Service (ABS). It later mutated to Abuja Urban Mass Transport Company Limited, AUMTC. The ambition is to implement an environmentally friendly and sustainable Urban public transport system in the FCT, for effective, comfortable, safe, regular, efficient and affordable transport service delivery. The company has had a sizable turnover of chief executives, who served for years at various times, but according to insiders, non came near Najeeb Abdulsalam in performance. And he was only there for three months.

On his first day in office as the Minister of the FCT, Bars. Nyesom Wike promised to restore the national capital’s master plan by cleaning up the metropolis, instilling orderliness and ensuring infrastructural reforms, which were destroyed by decades of corruption, incompetence, carelessness and impunity. If the Minister is serious about matching words with action, people like Najeeb Abdulsalam should not be removed from the saddle.

Najeeb’s antecedents have given Kano state additional magnificence, especially when put alongside the recent story of Auwalu Salisu, the 22-year-old commercial tricycle operator in Kano, who returned the sum of N15 million, forgotten by a Chadian commuter in his tricycle.

The Minister of State in the FCT, Mariya Mahmoud Bunkure is an indigene of Kano. She must rise up to the challenge, by waking up to smell the coffee. The country needs people with integrity to manage it. And in Najeeb Abdulsalam, I see a glimpse of such noble-mindedness.

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Kano State Education In 100 Days-Muazzam



Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf

Let me begin by refreshing our memory with the popular saying of the African Independence Revolutionary Nelson Mandela who said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” This is a clear testimony that any nation which wants to progress and have an independent life must make education its priority in governance.

This important reason is what led Engr. Rabiu Musa Kwankaso’s Administration in the years 1999-2003 and 2011-2015 to introduce a primary school pupil feeding program, providing them with free uniforms, canceling school fees, introducing the payment of SSCE fees to Secondary School Students, establishing State Universities, and offering overseas scholarships to outstanding indigent students to study in different disciplines. Today, many of these students have recorded tremendous achievements and are contributing their best to the state, Nigeria, and overseas.

His Excellency Engr. Abba Kabir Yusuf promised during his campaigns that he would continue from where his Leader Engr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso left off. Education was made a priority in his blueprint, being the first, second, and third agenda items. This was stated by H.E Engr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso several times and was reiterated in the RMK 2023 Blueprint, page 3: “Education is a public good, we shall ensure, through the correct reforms and investment, that all our schools provide the appropriate quality education to our citizens…”

The first assignment of Engr. Abba Kabir on education was in primary education. He conducted a special investigation on AGILE, a program that supports girls’ child education. He selected 19 LGAs for the program and disbursed the sum of N917 million to benefit 45,850 female students. Unfortunately, this World Bank-supported project didn’t receive the required attention and results until now. One may inquire from 23/6/2023, when the program was launched until today, about how many female children are enrolled in school, especially in rural communitiesThe results would be certainly amazing.

Secondary school students in Kano State are in joyful moments after the Executive Governor of Kano State paid their NECO fees. The previous APC administration had abandoned the examination fees of 55,000 students, but they turned a deaf ear towards the end of their administration. To save the students from this quagmire, the Kano State Government ordered the release of N1 billion to ensure they were eligible for the examination. It might interest you to know that 11 boarding schools were abandoned in the past administration, and N79,284,538 million was released for their renovation and reopening during the 5th State Executive Council.

On 23/8/2023, the Executive Governor of Kano State, Engr. Abba Kabir Yusuf, approved the payment of N700 million to 7000 Kano indigent students at Bayero University, Kano. He also approved the renovation of pedestrian bridges at Bayero University, Kano, Sa’adatu Rimi University, Kano, and Aminu Kano College of Islamic and Legal Studies, Kano, which were abandoned since 2015. We have another great effort where 131 Kano indigent students have been approved to travel overseas for a Master’s Scholarship Program sponsored by the Kano State Government.

This is a clear indication that the Education Sector has been made a priority in the first 100 days under the Leadership of the NNPP in Kano State. During the past APC administration, releasing funds for the Education Sector to cater to its immediate needs was not easy. They were more inclined to demolish school structures to transform them into shops, plazas, event centers, or recreational facilities. This behavior drove donor agencies and organizations to neighboring states like Katsina and Jigawa State to fulfill their charitable gestures.

We have reason to thank the Almighty Allah for these wonderful and generous gestures. We believe and hope that the first year of H.E Abba Kabir Yusuf’s administration will bring back the lost glories in the education sector in Kano State, Northern Nigeria, and the country at large, In Shaa Allah (God willing).

Ibrahim Mu’azzam Senator SSA Public Affairs to the Kano State Governor

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In my piece of August 23rd, 2023 titled “Blackmail Against Judiciary and Threat to Kano’s Security”, I brought to the fore the position of Kano State Governor, Abba Kabir Yusuf, owing to comments on Radio made by his Broadcast Media Aide, Abdullahi tanko Galadanchi. From those comments, the Governor counted on nothing to achieve victory, other than bribing the Honourable Judges of the Tribunal. This position was further affirmed by a leaked audio attributed to a Political Mobilization Aide for Kano South, who advised the Secretary to the State Government to ensure that all funds are channelled to procuring favourable judgement, even if to the detriment of the state, he emphasised. The Secretary to the State Government also, in his speech to mark 100 days of the government in office, attributed the administration’s failure to fulfil some of its promises to paucity of funds caused by enormous expenditure related to the proceedings of the Election Petition. Summarily, the administration has in its dwarfed wisdom, stylishly legitimised efforts to procure judgement through emotional blackmail, all of these came on the back of threats to lives of Tribunal Judges, and threats of making Kano a field of cultivation of lifeless bodies through anarchy and banditry.The administration of Abba Kabir Yusuf is indeed always clever by half; I predicted the ouster of some appointees that outwardly made heated, inciting or compromising statements, however in its narrow foresight, the government sacked only two out of numerous appointees that danced to an obviously authorised drum and song. We saw the Secretary to the State Government on video, accompanied by some Commissioners, threatening fire and brimstone, saying unambiguously in Hausa that “duk wanda ya taba mana zabe a Kano, sai dai uwarsa ta haifi wani”. This is the worst form of debasement that government has ever been brought to in the history of Kano State. The most senior appointed official of government threatening lives of Honourable Judges is indeed worrisome to every sane mind. Of course, tens of appointees followed suit thereafter, expressing intentions to wreck unprecedented havoc in the event of an unfavourable judgement, one after the other, we listened as they clawed at imaginary straws and have continued to sank even lower into abyss. In the case of self-acclaimed rufflers of feathers, Kperoogi and Naja’atu, it is funny that they missed the threats to lives of Honourable Judges and did not pay attention to government officials threats to make Kano worse than a banditry-torn Zamfara and Katsina; rather they only found their sense and logic in seeking a court to defend the indefensible and become father Christmas by granting Abba and NNPP that which they did not ask of the Court. Their illogical logic did not cause them to realise that APC in its petition raised numerous issues around non-compliance, and the NNPP even after its poor defence (due mainly to its complicity in the matter), failed to file any counter against the APC to cause us to have to defend the lawfulness of our votes. Yet, Kperoogi and Naja’atu believe that the court should have fed Abba & NNPP in their mouths, since Kwankwaso has made that a birth-right of theirs. In her comments, Naja’atu also exclaimed that if elections were to hold in Kano today, Abba would win by a landslide; this same woman not too long ago said the same of Atiku Abubakar, and we all recall how badly he was trounced in her home state of Kano.One would imagine that Kwankwaso, Abba & NNPP would have learnt a lesson or two from the irreparable damage the recent loss in court has caused them. Unfortunately, Abba through his mouthpiece, Bature, has come out to claim that the Honourable Judges might have been made to give judgement under duress. This speaks volumes of the failure of the Abba administration to see what is placed right before them, right in front of their noses. The Honourable Judges in their submissions have outrightly made clear the reasons why they chose to pronounce judgement via zoom, and it is the fault of none but those who demonstrated an uncultured, recalcitrant and violent tendency by threatening lives of judges and peace of the entire state, in the event of a loss. Let me do Abba and Bature a favour of asking them to read page 226 of the judgement, and frankly undertake an introspection exercise before engaging the public on such a matter again. Since I know you both may still be in slow recovery from the reality check dished by the Tribunal, I will assist you with some of the painfully piercing lines; “I use this opportunity to condemn the gang of Red Cap wearers… I am in no doubt that the security Agencies know and are aware of those who removed their eyes from their case and put it on the Judiciary. They are also aware of those who extended the threat further by declaring that THEY WILL KILL THE JUDGES. THIS THREAT MUST NOT BE SWEPT UNDE

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