Professor Peter Okebukola was one of those fixtures in Nigeria’s educational bureaucracy. And like Mariama Ba’s letter, Okebukola’s tenure was for so long a time. Suddenly, however, there were no traces of Okebukola or even his shadow anymore. So, one thought, his time had come and was gone. In other words, it was indicated that the great man had retired and all too prudently relocated. But to where? Our ebullient guess was that it must have been to Switzerland or, locally, to Banana Island, if only to live near his bankers.
Yet, he popped up as a guest on Channels morning television show the other day. And he looked so young and fit, as polished rocks. For his golden looks one was joyfully frightened he may have become eternal in the flesh. Perhaps, that is what public office does to her inmates in Nigeria. Somehow, to be of the public service is to be mysteriously rewarded with an eternity of things, not excluding the elixir of life. Examples abound or are we blind? Can’t you see how the great helmsman visited London on public funds and had his eternal youth retrieved. It was so much, political groupies are canvassing for the potentate’s third term. Public office is a kind of mausoleum for the living, someone whispered. That is why no one, repeat, no one, wants to give up on public office in Nigeria. It embalms you into eternal livingness even at the cost of the dearth of the rest of Nigerians.
So, it was in sync for Okebukola to reappear after a “century of absence” in one government role or another. We didn’t join his interview from the beginning but it appears he was back to public office. And he made it to Channels in such a capacity, defending one government position or another. In all, he discharged his briefs the best he could. However, there are two points he spoke on that we hold issues with.
According to him, the point that Nigerian students who hop over to the West for their postgraduates end up beating their Euro-American counterparts is proof enough the university system at home is doing well.
Anyway, he did not give any statistics of those expatriated Nigerians topping their faculties abroad. Let us assume his facts are correct, then there are still more important issues.
First, what then is a postgraduate degree? It is a lemma, for invention of new knowledge and or repudiation of well received, but false knowledge. So, the purpose of postgraduate degree is not to top your class. The purpose is to be a manufactory of new knowledge, to become the discoverer of the next big thing. Any other pursuit outside this is a waste of personal and public resources so devoted.
To illustrate, there is an examination known as Tripos in England. Her winners are called the Wranglers. And these Wranglers are those who beat the rest in that impossible national exams. They were touted as the brainiest Brits around for that given year.
After many years and the audits thereof, it was discovered that Tripos and thus the Wranglers were huge contributors to the destruction of British inventiveness and genius in mathematics. The Tripos was duly shelved. Of course, some Wranglers made their marks post-Tripos. One may recall a guy like Professor Ronald Fisher. However, it is understood that folks like Fisher made these marks in spite of, not because of, being Wranglers. Today, Wranglers are no more and the British genius in mathematics is on the rise again. Kids, like Alessio Figalli, are doing the Brits proud, right now.
The point is that Nigerians make a fetish of diplomas. In all, it must be understood that, no matter how brilliant you come off your exams, you still have come short. The only caveat is if you are training to be a worker, a technical coolie. For scholarship, the purpose of a diploma is to pre-qualify you into the real brief. And that brief is that of making fundamental or significant contributions in the creation of new knowledge. So, the fact that some Nigerian pupils beat their European counterparts is suggestive of little or indeed nothing. The real thing is for them to found new knowledge. Shikenan.
Are they doing those in infinite or zero numbers? Or is their genius only in being plebs, only in passing exams? The finest aristocrats are in the order of geniuses, of discoverers of fundamental new knowledge. And admittance into this other-worldly peerage is open by contributions made and not by bloodlines. Ahiazuwa.
Again, in the interview, Okebukola was of the view that Nigeria is leading the world in the ratio of citizen-entrepreneurs. For him and, approvingly, that is great sign the economy is about to improve. His underlying logic, which is well received by multitudes of Nigerians, is that entrepreneurs are creators of wealth and employment. But are they?
The answer is, no. There is nowhere in the world and or history when or where entrepreneurs created wealth. The problem of this misattribution issues from a dichotomy of histories, translations and philology.
The assertion that entrepreneurs create wealth is a tribal Western/European assertion. The fact of it is attributable and imbedded in their history and sociology. This history and accompanying sociology allow them to make a list of assumptions that are tribal, legitimate or specific to them.
Perhaps, the most cognate example one can think of is the tribal dichotomy between those who use the descriptive epithets, Mohammedanism and Islam. To the Western [scholars], Islam is [tribally] Mohammedanism. However, to Muslims, it is Islam.
The point in issue is that, between these two tribes of men, the West and the Arabians, etc, the difference is not semantic. In fact, to borrow a fancy word off philosophy, it is ontological. That implies different, and possibly differently correct worldviews. To describe one reality by those two words means different things. In other words, reality or, perhaps, ontology, is not universal, is often tribal. Thus, the tribal reality of entrepreneurs creating wealth in Europe need not be our tribal reality in Africa.
Next, European history and sociology are in such a manner that in their “initial conditions,” scholarships were deemed higher than entrepreneurships. That is, the discoveries of scholars were tossed to lesser men, to make use of. The twin story of Thales of Miletus and the commodity futures and Euclid and his “artisanal pupil” are signals enough.
It is this initial condition that led to the “evolved” or “present” European condition of attributing wealth creation to others, to lower peoples, to entrepreneurs. The important point to grasp is that all wealth creation started with the founding of new knowledge or the debunking of false certainties. At initial conditions.
Thus, any attempts to inquire into the sources of the creation of wealth must start from the initial, the pre-Big Bang, pre-Cambrian conditions, as it were.
In other words, accounting for wealth creation cannot start and end at the point at which that wealth is manifested. Like Mother A’Endu warned, “things don’t just sprout, Jimanze, they first take root. Genius in things is to get to its roots, not cling to the flourishes.”
If you misunderstand things from the roots up, then all your voyages, as Shakespeare speculated, are bound in shallows and miseries.
Anyway, the statistics on entrepreneurs per capita is available: Of nine countries topping the list, Africa made it as follows: Uganda came first with a massive 28.1% of the population as entrepreneurs. Other African countries are Botswana, 8th; Angola, 6th; Cameroon, 4th. (https://www.businessinsider.com/top-9-countries-with-the-largest-amount-of-entrepreneurs-2015-6?IR=T.)
Please note that none of the rich countries of the world is in the list.
And what do we get? Too much entrepreneurs and too little wealth created. Thesis? Entrepreneurs are not a sufficient or even suggestive of any conditions for wealth creation. If it were, Uganda would have been one of the richest countries in the world.
However, the counterparty statistics of nations leading in knowledge creation are also available. (https://knowledge.insead.edu/entrepreneurship/the-worlds-most-innovative-countries-2019-12016.) In descending order, Switzerland, Sweden, America, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Finland, Denmark, Singapore, Germany, Israel. Thesis? All the nations in this group are, one and all wealthy as is indicated by history and logic. No shaking.
So, this Nigerian fetish for entrepreneurs as wealth creators is the equivalent of praying to the god of infernos for rains. It just won’t happen, is incapable of happening. All human prosperity, in economics, religion, sports, drama, is knowledge-seeded. All else is pure entertainment.
Thus entrepreneurs are around and about to leverage ideas, not to create them. Creating framework and fundamental ideas is beyond their remit or genius, if any. Of course, nobody who was on the verge of creating a fundamental new idea ever left the faculty to go for the plaza and be trading for kobo profits. We have treated this matter in our books, including Why I am Richer than Dangote and other stories. Simply put, in the great wealth-creation bazaars of the world, entrepreneurs are, at best, chancers not originators. All wealth is in ideas made flesh. Founding these ideas is the main fix. All else is humor. Ahiazuwa.
The new year comes with a big bang
Dateline: Festac Town, Saturday 11-01-2020. The E.U. Olokors kicked off the new year with a big bang party. It was to celebrate the 65th birthday of their matriarch. The well heeled shindig kicked off famously, with attendances to the brim. This is wishing Mrs. E.U. Olokor, the youngest 65 years old lady in the universe, the happiest returns. Shalom.