Thursday, August 22, 2013

Scholar dismisses Fani-Kayode's Igbo/Yoruba Academic History

I don’t know if some of you might have read this memo ‘allegedly’ from an Igbo scholar, Dr. Samuel Okafor, which dismisses some of the claims made by one-time Aviation Minister/self-confessed philanderer, Femi Fani-Kayode,  in his controversial August 8 article, "The Bitter Truth About The Igbo", which set off a social media storm that almost threatened Igbo-Yoruba relations. (really?! faceless social media warriors?? Ha!)

I did not join in the debate online or off line. I more or less assumed a siddon look approach. Why? Because I have decided that I am above being used by irrelevant/wanna-be relevant ex politicians like Orji Uzoh Kanu and Fani-Kayode to score cheap tribal points.
If the protests had been from a more credible Igbo politician or the rebuttal had come from a politician ex or present more credible than FFK maybe maybe I would have been pushed to take sides.
An ex school mate of mine who posted the 'inflammatory article' on his FB timeline managed to generate over 200 comments as young Nigerian men and women bickered like they had no other job. I was so tempted to un-friend him for propagating stupidity.

So when an Aunty emailed this to me, I was we go again, but on reading the letter and googling some names, I was surprised to find that they were true. So here I am, passing on the info. Not to start off new controversies please Noo.
Call it edutainment :).

In the first part of an article entitled "The Lies of Femi Fani-Kayode", Samuel Okafor, who has a 1st Class and PhD in History from the University of Nigeria Nsukka (I guess he needed to state his educational pedigree), sought to address point by point what he termed "the most reckless amongst the tangle of reckless comments spewed by Femi, a character who with each punch of his keypad stresses his severely unwell conditions of logorrhoea, delusions of enlightenment, history and sociology - amongst others."  Ok, I had to quote that bit. Too funny!.

Femi Lies About the Yorubas Being Nigeria's Earliest Graduates:
Femi FaniKayode claims the Yoruba were the first to acquire Western education; the first ever known record of a literate Nigerian in the English Language is the narrative of an Ibo slave Equanoh Olaodoh who regained his freedom and documented his life history as a slave from the time he was 11 years old in present day Ibo land till the time when he gained his freedom in the middle of the 18 th century. He later married an English woman and had 3 children. He died in 1795.
His autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, depicts the horrors of slavery and influenced the enactment of the Slave Trade Act of 1807. His claim to African origins have been challenged by another historian but without available proof to disprove him, Equiano’s autobiography stands.

Mazi Blyden
Dr Okafor asks that we google the name Edward Wilmot BLYDEN - an educated son of free Ibo slaves who by the mid-19th century had acquired sound self taught theological education. He was born in Saint Thomas in 1832. He is one of the founding missionaries that established the Archbishop Vining church in Ikeja. 
I did a google search, and just seeing the man’s face I could swear he was my ancestor. That face is sooo Igbotic!! Lol.  
Err…..despite his Igbo root claims, he is more or less British so I might not quickly quote this, but it certainly brought slave trade home.

Dr Okafor makes claim that the third president of free Liberia - President J JRoyle – was again, a man of Ibo descent. A search on google did not list any J J Royle but I hit gold when I checked the past presidents of Liberia, the 5th President of Liberia Edward James Roye (President from 1870 – 1871)  is said to be a descendant of the Igbo people. 

 Dr Okafor also states that the first Nigeria doctor was an Effik man Silas G. Dove who obtained a medical degree from France and returned to practise medicine in 1840 in Calabar. This he said can be verified from historical medical records in Paris. It contradicts FFK's claim that the Yoruba were the first lawyers and doctors in Nigeria. Couldn’t verify this on google maybe when i go to Paris....
Back in Nigeria, Dr Okafor says that before the civil war Ibos controlled and dominated all institutions in the formal sector in Nigeria from the universities to the police to the military to politics because of their advanced education:

Nigeria's first Professor of History - Professor Kenneth Dike who published the first account of trade in Nigeria in pre-colonial times. He was also the first African Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan.

First Professor of Microbiology - Professor Eni Njoku; he was also the first African Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos.

First Nigerian Professor of Mathematics - an Ibo man - Professor Chike Obi. He was followed by another Ibo man, Professor James Ezeilo, Professor of Differential Calculus and the founder of the Ezeilo Constant. He later became the Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and one of the founders of the Nigerian Mathematical Centre.

First Professor of Anatomy and Physiology at the University College Ibadan was Professor Chike Edozien, an Asaba man and current Obi of Asaba.

First Professor of Physics? Professor Okoye, who became a Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1960. He was followed by the likes of Professor Alexander Anumalu who has been nominated for the Nobel Prize for Physics three times for his research in Intermediate Quantum Physics. Never heard of him. Totally impressed!

First Professor of Nuclear Physics and Chemistry - again another Ibo man - Professor Frank Ndili who gained a Ph.D in his early '20s at Cambridge University in Nuclear Physics and Chemistry in the early '60s.

First Professor of Statistics - Professor Adichie.

First Nigerian Professor of Medicine - Professor Kodilinye - he was appointed a Professor of Medicine at the University of London in 1952. He later became the Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria after the war.

First Professor of Astronomy - Professor Ntukoju.

Philosophy - Professor G D Okafor, who became a Professor of Philosophy at the Amherst College USA in 1953.

Economics - Dr. Pius Okigbo who became a visiting scholar and Professor of Economics at the University of London in 1954. He is also the first Nigerian Ph.D in Economics.

Theology and theological research - Professor Njoku was the first Nigerian to earn a Ph.D in Theology from Queens University Belfast in Ireland. He was appointed a Professor of Theology at the University College Zambia in 1952.

According to Samuel, Femi Fani-Kayode has peddled falsehoods not backed by facts/research. "That the West were the first to see the white man and interact with him does not mean that you are way ahead of other groups. The Ibo as the late Achebe said had within a span of 40 years bridged the gap and even surpassed the Yoruba in education by the '60s." (I am only quoting this bit because I too have always believed that Western Nigeria was more advanced in education without ever challenging that history or considering that dynamics could change over time).

Further more, Samuel also states that the Binis were actually way ahead of the game than other tribes (maybe a Bini person will publish a rebuttal with names?)
The Bini who were the dominant military force from the 15th to the 19th century raided and sold other ethnicities to the Europeans. Top on the list of those they sold were the Yoruba, Igbo and Igala. Various other ethnicities suffered as a result of the Bini military expansion. 
Slaves were moved from the hinterland to the coast and many were sold through Eko to the New World. These slaves were the first to encounter the Europeans and by extension their way of life - this included education in a Western sense. The Bini King had taken pains to establish a diplomatic presence in Portugal and the relationship developed into areas that extended beyond trade in the late 15th century and lasted well into the early 19th century. Scores of young Bini youth were sent to Portugal and studied there, coming back with advanced degrees in various disciplines. Indeed, some went with their Yoruba and Ibo slaves who served the sons of the Benin nobility while they studied in Portugal. The next set of people to receive Western education were therefore the slaves themselves. Some of them managed to buy their freedom and develop themselves further.
These are facts that can be verified by the logs kept by ship owners in Portugal from 1494 to 1830. It is kept at the Portuguese Museum of Geographic History in Lisbon. o___0

In recent times, facts from the Federal Office of Statistics on education show that 3 Ibo states (Imo, Anambra and Abia) for the past 12 years have constantly had the largest number of graduates in the country, producing more graduates than Ondo, Osun, Ekiti and Oyo states. Yet Femi Kayode calls Ibos traders. I thought we were??! I wear the badge proudly!
Another often peddled lie is that the Yoruba have the largest number of professors in the country. The Nigerian Universities Commission has a record of the state with the largest number of professors on their records and as at 2010 that state is Imo State followed by Ondo State and then Anambra State; the next state is Ekiti and then Delta before Kwara State.

In his conclusion, Dr. Samuel Okafor says “It does not matter if your father was the first Lawyer or first Doctor in Nigeria but rather what matters is what an individual does with the talents the Almighty has given to him. Let us open up Nigeria for competition. That is the solution to our problems. Those who want privileges keep reminding us that their fathers were the first to go to school in London. Every generation produces its own leaders and champions. Like Dangote who is the biggest employer of labour in Nigeria today and the richest man in Africa. Was his father the first to go to study in London? Yet he is the master of people whose parents gave them the best. My brothers, the answer to the Nigerian problem is that we should establish a merit-driven society. "I get am before" no be property.

I am with him on establishing a merit-driven Nigeria. Amen to that.
And I must add, that all that ‘First in XYZ' education has not exactly advanced the lot of Eastern Nigeria or Nigeria as a whole 'scientifically/economically’ today. Sniff sniff.
But we soldier on.
It was interesting to learn of ‘illustrious sons of the soil’ and to think there was a time when Nigeria was merit driven. Can you imagine an Igbo man as VC in University of Ibadan or vice versa, a Yoruba man as VC in UNN in this generation?


  1. Ginger o. I'll just waka pass on this one. I promised myself i wasn't getting sucked into reading anymore about FFK's uncouth foolishness (the man should be gagged for a while)

    One thing though, when i saw Dr Okafor's rebuttal sef he fell my hand with his list of first professors. What FFk said was first graduates.

  2. lol. But i put in a disclaimer na. I certainly didnt put this to fan any embers.
    Just that i am finding out about our rich and diverse academic heritage. If i had been told to list 10 educated Igbo men from that era, apart from Nnamdi Azikiwe I couldn't name another to save my life.
    So YES, I am proud to know this...but like i commented at the end, - the Firsts have sadly not amounted to any significant improvement of our lot as Igbos or Nigerians as a whole today.

  3. ...and it all began when Fashola decided to deport some people back to their hometown. smh

    FFK and Dr Okafor and the other witty/funny writers publishing articles about this, when will it stop oooo...we need new news

    (is that even correct? 'new news')

  4. "I must add, that all that ‘First in XYZ' education has not exactly advanced the lot of Eastern Nigeria or Nigeria as a whole 'scientifically/economically’ today."

    Gbam! gbam! Gbam!

  5. Mscheewww. I decided to ignore the FFK rant. I find it divisionist (what? leave my English. Afterall, my forefathers weren't the first to graduate from London) and entirely unnecessary news.Boring! Yawn!! Who cares?! It is always good for a people to know their history for providence sake (that one's for you, Ging) but at this volatile time in the nation's history, such literature serves no useful purpose than to hold on to a long gone elitist era and divide a house. Abeg, FFK and his ilk can take a long row of stadium seats jare.
    Ehehn, Ginger, abeg any other better?

  6. "I put it to you sir, than my penis is bigger and longer than any Igbo man's penis ever born!"

    "No, sir, I will have you know that although yours is certainly longer and thinner, it can in no way compare to the girth and heft of this nine inch machine. Feel it sir, do you not see?"

    "My good man, you are talking rubbish. Let us settle this like gentlemen. The first person to shoot a steady stream over that wall yonder wins."

    "You're on!"

    Foolish oshi things.

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