Opinion: Augustine Nwagbara’s False Comparative History of Ghana and Nigeria – Part 3 by Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., PhD

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“Professor” Augustine Uzoma Nwagbara

The first caption that came to mind when I read the warning letter released by the University of Lagos’ Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), was as follows: “This Is the Veritable Language of Terrorists, Not Professional Academics or Academicians” – (See “We’ll Hold You Responsible If Anything Happens to Prof. Nwagbara – Univ. of Lagos to UEW, Gov’t” MyNewsGh.com / Ghanaweb.com 6/21/19). But I decided that it would be better and far less inflammatory and epistemically more comprehensive to incorporate this grossly and characteristically intemperate and uncouth press release into my rejoinder series to the insufferably and inexcusably flagitious and ignorant and arrogant remarks made by the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), in a bid to deliberately fanning the flames of hatred among Nigerian college and university students in attendance at Ghanaian tertiary institutions or academies against the citizenry of their host country.

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About the only major remark or statement made by Prof. Augustine Uzoma Nwagbara (His name has also been given by Prof. ’Dele Ashiru, of the University of Lagos’ Academic Staff Union as “Austin Nwagbara”) that rang with indisputable truism, was his utter frustration that Nigerians were not cross-ethnically unified and cohesive enough to launch a blistering and thoroughly destructive media campaign intensively aimed at the total destruction of the host nation in which he had decided to voluntarily spend his sabbatical leave. We also learn that, contrary to the erroneous impression given by Prof. Nwagbara on the videoclip vis-à-vis his longstanding association with the country’s flagship academy, the University of Ghana, the former had only been a Visiting Professor at Legon during the 2011 academic year.

But on the videoclip, Prof. Nwagbara gave the misleading impression that he was still professionally associated with Legon where, presently, my brilliant high school classmate and globally distinguished Japanese-trained Entomologist or Insect Scientist, Prof. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu, is the Vice-Chancellor. Interestingly, when Prof. Owusu left PERSCO, St. Peter’s Secondary School, he also went on to my late father’s alma-mater, namely, GSTS, formerly a technical teachers’ training college in the late 1940’s when the old man attended. My senior brother, a Columbia University-educated Nuclear Physicist, also attended GSTS, then called Government Secondary Technical School, Takoradi. I believe it was the IK Acheampong-led junta of the National Redemption Council (NRC) that demoted the first-tier status of the 110-year-old institution by changing the name of GSTS to Ghana Secondary Technical School.

The foregoing also reminded me of a book review that I wrote and published in “The Campus” weekly newspaper, while I was an undergraduate student at the City College of New York of the City University of New York (CCNY of CUNY). This was shortly after the immortalized Prof. Chinua Achebe had truncated his tenure as a Distinguished Visiting Professor of African Literature, or some such designation. This was in the Fall Semester of 1989. Prof. Achebe had been scheduled to end his tenure as a Visiting Professor in the Spring Semester of 1990. He would be back several years later, as a Keynote Speaker at a Commencement Exercise at the City College of New York, if memory serves me accurately, and be honored with an Honorary Doctorate in Literature and the Humane Letters, or some such conferral.

In the Fall Semester of 1989, like many well-sought-after famous writers and authors, Prof. Achebe had been very busy responding to a flurry of invitations to do speaking engagements and presentations – mostly readings of some of his most famous or widely read essays, short stories and brief sections of his novels that he ended up coming to class only six times. The class was a once-a-week seminar which was comprised of both graduate and undergraduate students. We were told that we ought to count ourselves among the lucky ones, as we could have had a very busy Prof. Achebe attend classes at the most two or three times. But it is also equally significant to underscore the fact that when he was not teaching his seminar class, Prof. Achebe was busy reading and selecting the best short stories and essays for literary competitions organized by the City College’s English Department.

It was Prof. Patterson who strongly encouraged me to register for Prof. Achebe’s class in the late spring of 1989, because it was highly likely that Prof. Achebe may not be around to complete the entire academic year of his appointment, as a remarkable number of flagship academies all over the United States and overseas also wanted to have the famous author of “Things Fall Apart” (1958) on their staff or faculty. Anyway, the book review that I published in the Spring Semester of 1990, was about another globally renowned Nigerian writer, the poet, playwright, memoirist, essayist, sculptor, actor and Nobel Literature Prize Laureate, to wit, Prof. Wole Soyinka. It was on the latter’s prison classic titled “The Man Died.” I had captioned my book review “The African Shakespeare.”

It was on account of this admittedly “flamboyant” title or fulsome encomium that the Nigerian-born City College sociologist and former Nsukka student of Prof. Achebe’s felt cholerically provoked beyond reason and common sense. Not surprisingly, Prof. Thingumabob (not his real name, of course) had also studied for the master’s degree in Mass Communications at the University of Lagos where, we are told, Prof. Nwagbara was once the Vice-Chancellor. He would phone me to come and see him in his office at my earliest convenience, only to caustically castigate me for rather offensively describing Prof. Soyinka as “The African Shakespeare.” He would also caution me against the grossly “misguided” use of such superlative appellation for a man who, according to Prof. CPU, had unctuously or hypocritically put forth a global façade of having been a political unifier during the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970), also known as the Biafran War, but was, in fact, secretly on the side of the inveterate enemies of the Ibo/Igbo people of Nigeria, namely, the dominant Hausa ethnic group from the northern-half of that most populous of African countries.

I had almost ended up missing the rare privilege of becoming one of the “Achebeites,” but for the kindly advice of one of my favorite professors and a quite successful poet in his own right, namely, Prof. Raymond Richard Patterson (1929-2001) and the founder of the famous annual Langston Hughes Festival, hosted by the City College (See “Raymond Patterson, 71, Poet and Professor” New York Times 4/12/01). You see, I was of the initial view that being that Prof. Achebe was a globally renowned African writer, the latter was likely to be mobbed by too many students crawling over one another to get into Prof. Achebe’s course for me to get his personal attention. Thus, it seemed like the savviest thing to do by waiting until the following semester, when the star-struck newness of Prof. Achebe would have considerably worn off.

Not surprisingly, like Prof. Nwagbara, the aforesaid City College sociology professor is an Ibo/Igbo from Anambra State – I have not yet established the native state of Prof. Nwagbara, but I am deeply inclined to suspect that the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos hails from the Imo State, and that is stereotypically speaking. Among the Ibo/Igbo, the citizens of Anambra State are widely known to be the most elitist, arrogant and sub-ethnic supremacists among the five or six Ibo/Igbo states of Nigeria. Indeed, I have always laughed at the still prevalent idea that the Ibos/Igbos could actually secede from the rest of Nigeria and remain intact as a mega-/meta-ethnic polity. Most likely, shortly upon seceding, the Ibo/Igbo Nation, so-called, could very well split up like post-1948 Pakistan, which today is split up into the two countries of Pakistan and Bangladesh, with Bangladesh on the verge of being up again.

Which was also why I could not help but literally fall off my chair, when I heard Prof. Nwagbara angrily call for Nigerians to quickly rally and teach “these dumb Ghanaians” an unforgettable lesson in humility before the intellectually and culturally “superior” Nigerians. It is a pity and a crying shame that Prof. Nwagbara seems to have so soon forgotten that until very recently, more Nigerians were far more likely to have been taught by Ghanaian teachers and professors than vice-versa. I am also quite sure that Prof. Nwagbara had at least one Ghanaian professor or, possibly, three or even four while in both high school and college. So, he coming to Ghana to teach for a brief while is nothing unique to brag about. I mean, how does one square up the fact of an English language professor who cannot even pronounce the word “Respect” with any appreciable rhetorical register being named a Visiting Professor at the University of Education, Winneba, let alone the University of Ghana, Legon? This goes to show Ghanaian residents abroad like yours truly, how abysmally low the quality and standard of Ghana’s tertiary academy have hopelessly fallen.

*Visit my blog at: kwameokoampaahoofe.wordpress.com  Ghanaffairs