“Few Nigerians understand that our chaos, our urban rot and rural decay, our decrepit roads, hospitals, and Universities, our power failures and water shortages, and our fuel scarcity are collective consequences of our wanton embrace of the unthought and unreflected society.
Since we inherited this dilapidated contraption from the British, we have made not a single attempt to philosophize the Nigerian project through sustained critical thought. The price is always very heavy when a people develop a collective hostility to philosophy.
Dubai, London, Paris, and all the other destinations that Nigerians adore and desire are all outward manifestations of something called modernity. Democracy, law and order, urban planning and regulation are all features of modernity. Innovation and science and technology are equally features of modernity.
Nigerians see the end product but they have absolute contempt for the road which led the advanced world to the glittering modernity that they desire. They do not know that more than two hundred years of philosophy, writing, and critical thought went into the conceptualization of what they see and admire in the advanced world today. They do not know that modernity and its gloss exist today because a long line of thinkers in Renaissance and Enlightenment Europe produced philosophies which became the bedrock of what we see and call modernity today.
Google the period covered by the Renaissance and the Enlightenment for an idea of how many centuries of philosophy produced the cities you admire in Europe and America today.
Nigerians do not know that all the material things they acquire in order to be able to form ajebutter and boast that “I better pass my neighbour” are products of philosophy and critical thought.
They do not know that the cars they drive are products of philosophy before being products of science and technology. They do not know that the houses they acquire in Dubai, London, Paris, and Washington, DC, are products of philosophy before being products of architecture, science, and technology.
Because Nigerians are ignorant of these things, they frown on philosophy, intellectual labour, and critical thought. The slightest encounter with philosophy and critical thought in our lives is quickly dismissed as “dogon turenchi”.
Even supposedly educated Nigerians are quick to dismiss philosophy and critical thinking and writing. You hear them say impatiently that what we need now is action and not big grammar. I am sure that when this lecture goes public, there will not be a shortage of Nigerians to grumble that it is too long, too big on grammar. They will then beat their chests and proclaim loudly in readers’ comments area that they did not bother to read beyond the first paragraph. Those who are kind will advise the author that what we need now is action, not big grammar.
That is the predictable Nigerian attitude to philosophy and critical intellection. Our contempt for philosophy and critical intellection is why we build our houses everywhere and anyhow; why we drive our cars anywhere and anyhow; why we still invest billions in the open drainages we call gutters in the 21st century and call them ultramodern; why we invest in refurbished World War II locomotives in the 21st century and boast that we are sophisticated.
Everywhere you look, our national life is a sordid and tragic display of the absence of philosophy in our conceptualization of Nigerian society. When you declare war on philosophy, knowledge, and critical intellection, the consequence, simply put, is Nigeria as you and I know her today.
Nigeria can therefore be defined as the absence of and hostility to philosophy in the life of a nation.”