Educational Institutions Have a Role to Play in Promoting our Common Humanity-Prof. Dakas
By Ralph Madugu
The critical role of educational institutions in promoting our common humanity was highlighted at the convocation lecture which was part of activities marking the 31st and 32nd convocation ceremonies of the University of Jos.
Speaking on the topic, “Our Common Humanity: Towards Harnessing Nigeria’s Diversity,” Prof. Clement James Dakas said that given that, education empowers, liberates and makes people less susceptible to brainwashing and manipulation, the intersection of peace, education and diversity management could not be over-emphasized.
Said he: “Through peace education, we can, inter alia, counter the narrative that underpins and drives the rising wave of inter-ethnic, inter-religious and other atrocious ideas and heinous actions that strike at the core of our common humanity.”
On the choice of the topic, he explained, that over a century after Nigeria came into existence as a distinct entity and almost six decades after Nigeria’s political independence, the country had continued to grapple with the challenges of engendering an enabling environment for the mutual co-existence of its diverse peoples.
He added that identity politics was a major challenge in our polity, stating that, rather than celebrating our diversity and leveraging on it to advance our collective interests, it was being manipulated and deployed to unleash terror on Nigerians.
Prof. Dakas, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), explained that just like most other African countries, was diverse along socially constructed primordial and social identity markers such as ethnicity, religion, region, gender, modes of production, social classes, institutional systems, occupations, political affiliation, professional organizations, and civil society organizations.
He stated that most of the challenges confronting Nigerians were man-made and self-inflicted which include the general failure of statecraft across the tiers of government, poor management of diversity manipulation and distortion of institutional mechanisms.
“Sadly, Nigeria is enmeshed in a cesspool of crises of monumental proportions driven, largely, by identity politics. While conventional discourse on Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) relates to biological, chemical, cyber and nuclear weapons, Nigeria’s WMD are tragically the manipulation of religion, ethnicity and other sectional fault lines, poverty,” he stated.
Therefore, he advised thus: “As centres of learning and excellence, our universities (and other institutions of learning) need to, as a matter of deliberate policy, engender diversity in their governance structures, staff disposition and student enrolment. Instructively, at the official opening of the Jos Campus of the University of Ibadan in 1972, the Acting Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Professor G.M. Edington, remarked that this development would prove to be a strong unifying force in the country and that students and staff would be drawn from different areas; and new friendships, new relationships, and an appreciation of the diverse dimensions and greatness of Nigeria would make for greater understanding of its problems and forge the bonds of national unity. Professor Edington further pointed out that Jos is located in an area of exceptional cultural and linguistic diversity and expressed hope that the Campus would become a centre for scholars to take interest in a better understanding of the peoples, cultures and economics of different parts of the country.”