By Professor Toyin Falola
I am so sad as I write this. I never knew that things will become so bad. Immigrant scholars in the US have now become like the Europeans in 19th century Africa, the colonizers who saw nothing good about the continent. This is now the intellectual stuff on the Internet. I have read five in the last three days. I am currently reading a book manuscript that thrashed the entire academic culture in Nigeria. It was submitted to Routledge. Of course, I have asked them not to publish it, which means nothing as another publisher will do.
How did things get to this? You are supposed to empower your people, not destroy them. Statements to uplift and upgrade are different from statements to ridicule. We all criticize, even we criticize family members but not that we want to push them to the mouth of the lion.
Sam and Professor Ogunyemi are on this list, and they can attest to what I want to say next. Using the platform of the African Union, I launched a public criticism of this Africa-is- bad orientation. The President of the Association of African Universities was there. I followed it up with a long memo to the African Union that they should change the nature of the engagement with the diaspora. At that meeting:
I insisted on the formation of Africa-based journals sponsored by the AU. Some said publicly Africans cannot run journals! The next day, Sam and I held a meeting with the Commissioner in charge of higher education and they asked for a proposal. As I do too many things, I have not been able to follow up.
If people from the US go to Africa and are asked to teach, those from Africa must also teach when they come to the US. Many of you based in Africa may not know that you are not allowed to teach in many schools in the West. No need for names, and no need to talk about my own fights.
African scholars in the diaspora talk down on their colleagues. I said in public that most of them teach in schools that are far below any Nigerian public University. How can someone from a US Tier 2 school be talking down on professors at the University of Ibadan? Ask Professor Ogunyem and Oloruntoba how they went after me. Someone from a tier 3 schools goes to Legon and he is talking as if he is better than them. Someone from a tier 2B school goes to the University of Lagos and making himself appear better than them, when they don’t even the promotion criterion does not expect him to write a book. Someone who has no PhD student and has not produced one will go to the University of Abuja to lecture people how to mentor students.
The debasement of the African inputs to scholarship—they publish thrash, their English is bad, they don’t understand concepts, they don’t understand theories, they are serial abusers, they are rapists, etc.
The tragedy in this new anti-Africa orientation is that they come from those produced in Africa who came for their PhDs here. It is now becoming a pandemic to destroy Africa.
Professor Ochefu asked me for a paper on the contributions of the Nigerians in the Diaspora to Nigerian history. I reframed it for him. In cumulation, and I am not exaggerating, we still cannot evaluate the contributions of this generation of African scholars in the diaspora. Social media has given them a platform to exaggerate their claims. I have yet to see several books that advance the agenda of the African ion building from this group of scholars. They write for white people, not for Africans.
I became a full professor in 6 Western universities on the basis of the work I did at Obafemi Awolowo University. I say it in pubic; I say it in writing. Of course, we had our own fight, which is always about the incapacity to tolerate dissent and recognize brilliance. But what is now the point in collecting first degrees in Africa, coming to the West for PhDs and turning against those institutions?
At home, we don’t pay back. We don’t honor the high schools that we attended. We don’t honor the universities we attended. We don’t honor the past. We don’t celebrate good people but worship bad people. We are now paying a very heavy price.
The fight against this anti-Africa orientation must begin in Africa.
** Prof. Falola is an Emeritus Professor of History and African Studies