By Hassan Mohammed
We have a saying in Hausa, that, “Da dan gari akan chi gari”, which literally means “to win a war against a city, you need indigenes or those who know the city on your side”.
That saying is used in various ways to show how important practical knowledge of a people, issues, and situations is if you want to make headway with them. We know it, white people know but apparently, some of those who are supposed to among us, do not.
You see, in the 1980s, we had this elder brother, very popular in the Tudun Wada area of Zaria and indeed, in much of Kaduna State. We knew him as a retired criminal. The state government too. He was troublesome. His name is Tukur Nabakura.
One day, we woke up and we could not find this big brother. We tried to locate him where he usually goes to gamble. He was not there. Later, we learned that he’s an instructor with the Police College.
Now, throughout last week, the news on social and the mainstream media is that some practical beings, geniuses at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) have decided to invite MC Oluomo (his real name is Musiliu Akinsanya) to “deliver a lecture” to them and their students and some clowns who worship certificates have gone crazy.
When I read some of the posts and especially commentaries, the high level of ignorance exhibited there are just astonishing.
These people need to check the list of people that 8 of the Ivy League universities in the US (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, etc) invite for lectures, and especially the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and then come back and talk. When they invite you, they do so with some specific issues that they want those invited to address in mind.
Do they not know the kind of people that were invited to speak at the different Graduation or Commencement Speeches in the US in 2019? Hardly do they bring professors. Very few bring politicians. They have all the professors they need. And can get colleagues from other universities. But sometimes, they need outsiders, the regulars and the unconventional.
While some institution may invite Tim Cook, Indira Nooyi, Barrack Obama, Fareed Zakaria, Noriel Roubini, or Oprah Winfrey for either a lecture or to be their Commencement Speakers, others are bringing in Kim Kardashian, Snoop Doog, MC Lite, P. Diddy, Bill Maher and the likes.. My best this year are musician Cindy Laupher and actress Viola Davis. Everyone has a story to tell.
Mike Tyson, a high school dropout, convicted rapist, and boxing legend gave one of the best speeches and Central State University, even though he upset his hosts in his acceptance of his honorary degree when he said, “‘I wasn’t sure what kind of doctor I was, but looking at all the lovely sisters here, I think I’ll be a doctor of gynecology”. But the young ladies caught the humour in his speech.
What impressed his listeners was his honesty about making 100s of millions of dollars and losing all of it, and he talked about how not to wasteful.
Probably, the most controversial person to speak “at” a University is Mumia Abu-Jamal (born Wesley Cook) who is currently serving a life sentence for killing a police officer but has given speeches to about 3 universities, usually pre-recorded and broadcasted. He gave a good one to students of Goddard College. Everyone has a story.
It is why I’ll invite an AYM Shafa or MC Oluomo who will help my students connect bukuru with street smarts and art of survival than any Professor. I’ll do the Professor job, talking about concepts, theories and principles. They will come and deal with the pragmatism of the business world.
What is even surprising is how, just yesterday we were celebrating Hon. Gudaji Kazaure, even with his limited knowledge of the issue and terrible English because he knows what real representation is in democracy and is ready to speak where PhD holders, former professors, and other degrees were useless to us at the National Assembly.
It took just him, a Grade 2 Certificate holder, to address our problems and pains. He was not refined but he gets us. He knows our problems. He talks about them while idiots were laughing off their asses at the NASS.
Here we are in our elitists, ivory-tower mindset wondering why “UNILAG” is extending the invitation to MC Oloumo. What is more shocking is reading people living “in the abroad”, those “saner climes” asking the same questions.
Various universities in the UK or the US, when they want to talk about the deradicalization of Muslim youths, they bring people with experience, those who changed their ways and are even some ex-convicts. They deemphasize talkers to doers – unless if the talker happens to have been a doer before. If they want to talk about gangs and gangsterism, they invite bangers.
Just this week, the British Police, as sanctioned by the government released a video of a convicted killer, Sadam Essakhil, who is serving a life sentence, appealing to kids to stop stabbing each other on streets across England because that is how he started. When school kids were interviewed, they said hearing from him and how his life turned out made a huge difference.
But here are clowns challenging UNILAG for inviting MC Oluomo. “Nigeria is finished,” one abrodian said. He is obviously “in the abroad” but knows nothing about what they do there.
So, I asked another one of them, do you know the topic/theme of discussion? He couldn’t answer. I also do not know, which is why I’m cautious. Just ask the next complainant, what is the event attending or even the theme and you will be shocked at the answer.
You think if I know a former armed robber and if I’m teaching criminology, as a professor, I’ll not invite him or her as a special guest or to the second chair my lecture?
What if I’m teaching a class logistics and supply chain management teacher, and I’m to discuss the problems of transportation, gridlocks and (say) how drivers’ unionism affect movement of people, goods or oil supply in Nigeria, you think I’ll jump the likes of MC Oluomo, and invite you because of your social standing? You? Someone who knows next to nothing about that sector in real life?
What about if I’m teaching a class of small business management or entrepreneurship and the topic for discussion is hardships faced by small business owners in Nigeria?
In that same small business class, do you think I’ll ignore that woman running after cars with carton of gala on her head and bag of pure water in her hand and a baby on her bag, who had to deal with police extorting them, Lagos State environmental officers and some evil motorists who will collect their wares and not pay to call Aliko Dangote or your professor?
Do you think I’ll knowingly and voluntarily ignore that business center owner who faces similar extortion problems like Madam, high cost of rent and running completely on his or her generator and invite some elite with no knowledge or without experience? What is wrong with you people?
There was a time I was discussing the effect of an oil glut and oil scarcity on our economy, especially in the midstream and downstream sectors with final year business students. A student asked me a question, and I said you’ll have two sets of answers for this beautiful question. One will be academic from me. For the other, I asked one of the students to go to my office to bring my speaker.
I connected the speaker to my phone and called my friend and brother Abdulrasheed Abdulkareem. He studied Public Administration but in the last 25 years has been in oil and gas business locally and internationally, also with filling stations across the country. I asked him the question and told him he is speaking to my class. He asked me drop the call. He called back, I’m a poor teacher. 35 minutes later, he was through. He took a couple more questions.
By the time he was finished, both of us, I and my students have learned a great deal. The professors in the Department or Faculty that invited Oluomo must have done their work as far as teaching is concerned but need someone with requisite knowledge or experience.
We are not saying MC Oluomo, Mumia Jamal, Saddam Essakil, Mike Tyson, Will Ferrell, Kanye West, P. Diddy, and all other unconventional speakers are the same. They are not by quality and life experience. But one commonality is that they are not going to your current/former schools to preach the Bible or Qur’an. They are not going as role models. They are not in any way perfect. But each one of them has something important to talk about, experience to share, that speak to topics or times that some of our universities and dons want to discuss.
And if in that certificate worshipping and elitist wannabe mind of theirs, they think this is a defence for MC Oluomo, who I condemned just 6 months ago, then they are more stupid than I thought.
See, book knowledge is very good. In fact, very crucially important. But street smart is equally super. I’ll recommend “Beyond Harvard” for you.
Hassan Mohammed, a university teacher writes from Kaduna.