By Edwin Madunagu
|Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayyah Ahmed Rufa’i
On Africa must be modern, authored by Olufemi Taiwo, I had proposed that the book be freed from its “capitalist and idealist integument” and the result “integrated into the socialist discourse”. But Values Education and National Development, in my view, requires only to be freed from its “idealist integument” before its integration – since no “ideological preference” – in the specific sense I use the term here – is expressed in the latter book. Let me put this point differently: Values Education and National Development can be used by any serious agency of social transformation – of the Left, or the Right, or the Centre. The key word is serious. The result in either case would be a new and better society. But if it used by an anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist agency, that new and better society would be definitively more humane, less exploitative, less unjust and less unequal.
During one of the national strikes in the early 1980s, a revolutionary socialist group to which I belonged in Calabar decided to set up a strike support committee. At the first meeting of the committee a decision was taken, in principle, to co-opt other activists. When the nomination of a certain lady, a senior journalist and labour activist, came up, some members stoutly opposed it. Their reasons, in the main, were that the lady was not leftist enough and that she interacted too comfortably with “bourgeois elements”. But one male member argued that, in that type of popular-democratic struggle, to be an intelligent, truthful and courageous journalist was sufficient qualification for admission into the committee. She was admitted.
Ironically, this particular lady was the person who, at a point, suggested, and acted out, a “coup” that prevented a particular betrayal of the national strike at a lower level. This event was, and is, an argument against, and a victory over, “ideological narrowness”. To guard against “ideological narrowness” is to be aware of the dialectical relationship between revolution, on the one hand, and popular-democratic struggle (that is, reform struggle from below) on the other. This awareness helps to draw the lines between opportunism, reformism, sectarianism and revolutionary line.
This is one of my attitudes to the book, Values Education and National Development, its contributors, its inspirers and the Foundation itself, and my advice to its radical and leftist readers. I was strengthened in this attitude after reading the essay contributed by Ven. Professor W. O. Wotogbe – Weneka: As will be seen later in this appreciation and review, I explicitly and strongly indicated my rejection of some of this man of God’s views even while commending his love, honesty and clarity.
The premise of this book, stated explicitly in the editors’ one-page summary, About the Book (page 6), and by the various contributors, is the virtual collapse of Nigeria’s values system and the grave dangers this poses for the future of the country. Professor Anya O. Anya, in his Keynote Address, Values Education and the Future of Nigeria (Chapter 1), however, takes a step back and explicitly asks a question he considers “legitimate”, and that is: “Is there a Nigerian values system?” Each chapter answers Anya’s question, after telling us what values are, and then proceeds to show that this nation’s values system has collapsed (generally and in a particular sphere or cluster of spheres – as shown in the table of contents). Then follows, sometimes explicitly and sometimes implicitly, what has to be done to reverse the situation.
What were the critical points, or periods or historical factors, in this collapse of Nigeria’s value system? Do they include regionalism, as Professor Anya suggested? Do they include military intervention, the Civil War, primitive capitalist accumulation, Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), neoliberalism, “monetisation of politics”, bad governance, tribalism and nepotism, public cynicism, proliferation of religious sects (what a friend has called “deregulation of religion”), poverty, corruption, the widening gap between the rich and the poor, etc?
All these causative factors, except, possibly, “deregulation of religion”, have been suggested by various contributors to this book. However, the editors made a claim in the introduction whose proof readers may need to track as they proceed with the book: “Values Education and National Development gives policy-makers and students alike a deeper insight into the critical role values education can play in both shaping and reflecting the acceptable ways, the behaviour that governed the Nigerian society before things fell apart” (page 6). The question is: When did things begin to fall apart, or is it a “slip of pen” or “manner of speaking”? I make this inquiry because some people, including my humble self, take the questions when, why, where and how very seriously.
In his paper, The Place of Religious Values in National Development (Chapter 4), Ven. Professor Wellington O. Wotogbe-Weneka commends Professor Otonti Nduka for “venturing into the realms of religious and moral values advocacy in a society characterised by glaring decay in every facet of societal life. It is heartening to note that in a society where religious values are, as it were, made to play second fiddle, there are a few individuals who still believe that a godless society is heading to its doom” (page 109).
I join the author in commending Professor Nduka – but for additional reasons: his wisdom, his tenacity, his genuine intellectual liberalism and his faith. Beyond that, Ven. Professor Wotogbe-Weneka has made a serious intellectual formulation of a proposition, which many religious charlatans nauseatingly parrot every time. He strongly argues his proposition in a way that makes it debatable and not in a “take it or leave it” manner. I commend it. He goes on to lament the growth of secularism and underlines the challenge posed by “secularist tendencies” and “human ideologies” including, in particular, “Humanism, Marxism and Socialism” (page 112). He follows with debatable arguments. My only comment here is to underline, and draw attention to, the fact that the writer has here condemned and dismissed three global movements which, together with democracy, nationalism and modernity, constituted a bloc of really great movements that, beginning from the French Revolution, radically and completely transformed our planet Earth – including religion itself.
Professor Mark Anikpo, in his paper, Traditional Values and Globalisation: the Nigerian Example (Chapter 5), asks the question: “To what extent has globalisation affected traditional values?” The paper argues that “globalisation is the contemporary phase of capitalist development with its imperialist tendencies still intact and perhaps more deadly” and that “in order to understand its impact on traditional values, we must understand the nature and logic of capitalist development” (page 131) (all emphases mine). He strongly argues his point of view. The last leg of Anikpo’s compound proposition, namely, that “African leaders failed to comprehend the logic of capitalism which they adopted…” (pages 131 – 132) does not seem to be strongly supported by the facts of history: What we are dealing with here is more of class interest than of mere incomprehension.
In Chapter 6, under the title Values Conflict and Social Order in Contemporary Nigerian Society; Survey of Issues and Programmes, Professor J. O. Charles and Dr. Moses U. Ikoh set out to show that “a trend that is emerging in Nigeria in the face of globalization and economic reforms is the intensification of amoral values”. Their thesis continues: “Our diverse cultures create room for diverse values. In many instances, personal values systems conflict with social values systems, thus obstructing actions aimed at enhancing the welfare of others’. The authors therefore argue for the “adoption of a national values system that can be sustained through value re-orientation and national ideology” (pages 198 – 199) (emphasis mine). I subscribe to the theses.
In tracing the efforts that had been made – hitherto in vain – to realise that imperative in Nigeria, Charles and Ikoh mentioned Ethical Revolution (1982 – 1983), War Against Indiscipline (WAI) (1984 – 1985), The Directorate of Mass Mobilisation for Social Justice and Economic Recovery (MAMSER) (1989 – 1992), “Letter to my Country Men” (I think late 1980s to early 1990s), the National Orientation Agency (NOA) (merger of MAMSER with Public Enlightenment Division of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture) (1993 to the present). The authors seem to suggest that what was wrong with these programmes resulting in their respective failures – was their implementations. But I think – and as the authors can be construed to have implied in both in the title and the body of their work – there was also something wrong with the premises and formulations of the programmes. I shall later generalise and pose this point as a question.
This is the second part of the review of the book “Values education and national development” which was presented to the public on November 26, 2012. The first part was published last Thursday.
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