Opinion: Augustine Nwagbara’s False Comparative History of Ghana and Nigeria – Part 6 by Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., PhD

“Professor” Augustine (aka Austin) Uzoma Nwagbara

In spite of the massive outrage roiled up by the disparaging remarks made by the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Akoka, Nigeria, nonetheless, Prof. Augustine (aka Austin) Uzoma Nwagbara, deserves some credit for awaking Ghanaians to the imperative need to keep improving and exponentially raising the general quality of the standard of our tertiary academies. I, personally, tend to believe that the problem with Ghana’s public education system tends to reside at the secondary school level, presently called the Senior High School, where the Rawlings-founded National Democratic Congress (NDC) has been playing “political football,” or soccer, with both the curriculum and the duration of attendance. Under the leadership of the NDC, the traditional four-year Senior High School was reduced to three years, an inexcusably flagrant decision, being that none of the most socially, culturally, economically and technologically advanced nations, including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Britain, Canada, France and the United States pursues a three-year secondary school system; and the significant thing to point out here is that these countries are also among the most resourceful countries in the world.

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No, wonder, a little over a half-dozen years ago, the Paris, France-based Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a UN-sponsored establishment, ranked Ghana butt-naked last among the public school systems of some 145 countries. It must be obvious to my readers by now that Nigeria definitely performed much, much better than Ghana in the global OECD survey. Now, thankfully, with the massive victory of the Akufo-Addo-led government of the New Patriotic Party, Ghana’s Senior High School System has reverted back to the more competitive four-year curricular duration. The effete and ossified curriculum inherited by Nana Akufo-Addo from the previous Mahama-led National Democratic Congress’ regime is also being progressively and practically reformed and transformed. What is also significant to underscore here is the fact that under the old 7-year system of the “Ordinary” and “Advanced” levels, Ghana handily outperformed Nigeria because, for the most part, the Nigerians proceeded from the high school level to the university with an O-Level diploma/certificate, whereas in Ghana, for most academic and professional degrees, the Advanced Level was the basic requirement of choice for post-secondary education.

So, truth be told, relatively speaking, the Nigerians are recent arrivals on the scene of global competitiveness. In the old system, for instance, one could apply to study law in Nigeria with an Ordinary-Level Certificate, whereas in Ghana, to qualify to study law required at least a first college or university degree. In short, there is an enviable pedigree here, which may very well explain why a critical percentage or mass of Nigeria’s college and university-age students appear to prefer acquiring their academic and professional degrees from colleges and universities in Ghana, rather than from colleges and universities in their native country. Which may also be the reason why, in spite of his blistering disparagement of the general quality of Ghana’s tertiary academy, Prof. Nwagbara still opted for an extension of his sabbatical leave, so he could spend an extra year teaching and researching at the University of Education, Winneba, one of the youngest of Ghana’s tertiary academies.

Prof. Nwagbara also appears to have made a passionate appeal for forgiveness, when he reportedly appeared before the Faculty Disciplinary Committee at the University of Education, Main Winneba Campus. Here is how one news report retailed it: “When he [Prof. Nwagbara] appeared before the disciplinary committee, he said [that] what had happened was unfortunate. He told the committee that with reference to the video[,] it will[sic] take him the rest of his life to defend his statement, and he doesn’t[sic] see how he’d explain things to his children and friends who [had] called him [from] all over the world in the past few days since the video hit the internet” (See “Sacked Nigerian Prof. Nwagbara Had Applied for Extension of Contract” Kasapafmonline.com / Ghanaweb.com 6/21/19).

I have already remarked in a previous segment of this series that Prof. Nwagbara may very well be afflicted with a severe bout of cognitive dissonance or some clinical problem having to do with acute psychological imbalance, for which he may be in dire need of prompt examination and treatment. I have also listened to what some experienced professional Ghanaian journalists like Messrs. Kwesi Pratt, Jr., and Kweku Baako, editor-publishers of the “Insight” and “The New Crusading Guide” newspapers, respectively, have had to say about the derogatory comments by Prof. Nwagbara. In the main, Mr. Pratt seemed to be the better prepared to competently discuss and analyze the remarks by Prof. Nwagbara. And Mr. Pratt makes the very significant observation that in the globally publicized YouTube videoclip, Prof. Nwagbara actually attempts to instigate his mostly Nigerian audience to liaise with operatives of the Nigerian media to swarm Ghana, interview Nigerians resident in Ghana about their most excruciating and harrowing experiences, especially ones verging on gross mistreatment or physical abuse, and relentlessly flood the proverbial International Community with the same (See “Kwesi Pratt Reacts to Nigerian Professor Talk, Ghana Brouhaha,” an embedded audio-clip on Modernghana.com 6/24/19; there is also a link to a news article captioned “Police’s ‘Unlawful’ Arrest of Nigerian Lecturer Criticized” MyJoyOnline.com / Ghanaweb.com 6/24/19).

There is clearly a spirited attempt on the part of Prof. Nwagbara to instigate/incite Nigerians resident in Ghana to rally the Nigerian media to launch a massive campaign of “counter-demonization” of Ghanaians and our national image and reputation before the International Community. But unlike Messrs. Pratt and Baako, I do firmly believe that it was all-too-appropriate for personnel from the Ghana Police Service (GPS) to have promptly arrested Prof. Nwagbara and briefly detained him for questioning. We all should also bear in mind that Prof. Nwagbara is no ordinary Nigerian professor but a former Chief Administrator or Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), one of the flagship academies of the Federal Government of Nigeria. As well, ought to be deeply borne in mind that emotionally inflammatory language, such as have been widely attributed to Prof. Nwagbara, who, until his recent dismissal, was attached to the Linguistics Department of Winneba’s University of Education, is not constitutionally protected speech symptomatic of or akin to that which is staunchly and jealously protected by constitutional edict under the aegis of Academic Freedom.

We must also objectively acknowledge the fact that Nigerians have since long globally demonized themselves well beyond any negative publicity that members of the Ghanaian media could be credibly accused of having significantly added unto. Here again, it is equally significant to observe the striking incongruity between Prof. Nwagbara’s clearly calculated attempt to malign Ghanaian education, or inferiorize or deprecate the same, while at the same time seeking to have his sabbatical leave extended by another year. In other words, the last place on Earth in which one claims to have been execrably mistreated, must scarcely become one’s prime resort for either the renewal or extension of one’s sabbatical leave. Such a place must be simply too intellectually hostile and unstimulating for anyone to have any protracted dalliance with. On the latter count, somebody is clearly not telling the truth; and that “somebody” appears to have a far more striking resemblance to Prof. Nwagbara than to anybody else.

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