by Toyin Aiyedogbon
Let me also add sir, that your generation is the generation parenting my own generation. You are our parents but how are you parenting us sir? All around us, we look at your generation and we see thieves who have stolen everything from Nigeria and they are never punished.
Dear Professor Pius Adesanmi:
Greetings to you sir. I am writing this open letter in response to an update you put up on your Facebook Wall today.
I would have sent this to you as an inbox message but you have always warned your teeming admirers publicly that you receive in excess of a hundred messages per day in your Facebook inbox. Besides, the issue you raised in the update that has necessitated this response has very serious public implications sir. So, pardon my outing you this way.
Before I get to the crux of the matter, please permit me to confess, as a 20 years old Nigerian student, I am one of the millions of admirers of the work you are doing for this country. Your patriotism, passion, commitment, and dedication to the cause of Nigeria are second to none. I was introduced to your work by a friend a few years ago when he forwarded a public lecture you delivered in Alberta to me. The said lecture, “Da Most Incredible Out of Naija”, got me hooked to your work and I am grateful that I have remained hooked ever since. You don’t know me from Adam but I consider myself your student. For, perhaps, unknown to you, many consider you as one of the best contemporary public teachers in Nigeria. For me personally, your Facebook Wall is a superior classroom to what is on offer here in our University classrooms in Nigeria. The lecture I cited above and so many of your other lectures and writings in wide circulation on the net also make you the greatest advocate for my generation. You have not just been our teacher, you have been fighting for us and speaking for us sir.
This explains why I was a bit taken aback when I woke up this warning and went to your Facebook Wall for my daily dose of drinking from your wisdom only to encounter what looks like a blanket attack on my generation. Maybe attack is not the right word sir. Maybe rebuke is the right word but let me reproduce the update I am reacting to sir:
“I don’t get it. Why is a generation with a handset, Google, and Wikipedia (the minimum in their endless world of immediate e-possibilies of knowledge) so resistant to knowledge? A piece of knowledge that I could acquire only after one week of reading till 5:00 am every day with a lantern in the lecture halls of Unilorin, tons of kolanuts on the study desk, and mosquitoes for company, is now just one click away in the numerous effizy devices of this generation. Why the effing heck do they refuse to click? Why the effing heck do they insist on publicly wearing the inevitable consequence of not clicking – ignorance – like a badge of honour? Why do they invest in those devices? Just to denge pose? When I go to Nigeria, I see these kids carrying phones and devices that could cause Boko Haram-level damage to my Canadian Professor’s salary if I dared to invest in such. Why the heck don’t they click?” – Pius Adesanmi
Sir, this reads to me like the frustration and exasperation of somebody close to giving up on a generation he has devoted so much time and energy to teaching and inspiring. I do not know what provoked this outburst sir but as a regular follower of your Wall, I can only guess that you were provoked by the sort of responses you got to some updates yesterday. You admitted that much openly that you spent the whole day trying to educate people, trying to open them to civics only to end up to some frustrating inputs from some members of my generation at the end of the day. I sensed and appreciated your frustration sir. I will be the first to admit that dealing with my generation in intellectual matters can be very exasperating. Part of what I have gained from being your disciple in the last three years is a deep sense of curiousity and appreciation of knowledge. I have learnt to read widely and to search because you inspired me.
I will also be the first one to admit that what you said about my generation not clicking on knowledge is true to a great extent. But I am writing you, dear mentor, to ask a simple question: why should we click, sir? Why should any member of my generation click on knowledge in Nigeria today, sir? Sir, it is my good guess that your generation went in search of knowledge before the generations before them taught them to do so and led by example. They taught your generation that knowledge is the key to “making it”, to use one of your favourite expressions. Dear Prof, what is your generation teaching my own generation in Nigeria? Here is what you had to say about your generation sir in your lecure, “Baba E Wi Hun Hun”:
“The generations that they trained, those fellows in their forties, fifties, and sixties, who are making such a thorough mess of Nigeria today, are not just content with betraying the dreams of Baba E wi hun hun. They are doing it in the most profligate manner possible. The labour of our heroes past… hun hun.”
Sir, in your own words, your generation, Nigerians in their forties, fifties, and sixties, “are making such a thorough mess of Nigeria today”. I couldn’t agree with you more sir. Let me also add sir, that your generation is the generation parenting my own generation. You are our parents but how are you parenting us sir? All around us, we look at your generation and we see thieves who have stolen everything from Nigeria and they are never punished. They are given national honours sir. Millions of my peers in polytechnic all over the country have been seating at home for over a year, their lives ruined by members of your generation who are ruling Nigeria sir. So, why should we click on knowledge sir when your generation is telling us in words and in deed that it does not pay to do so in Nigeria?
Sir, a member of your generation is the President of Nigeria. He recently went on national television to say that stealing is not corruption. That is an open invitation to steal at worst or a message that says that stealing is not all that bad at best. This is what your generation is teaching us sir, why should we click on knowledge?
Members of your generation are Senators and Reps sir. They are some of the biggest thieves in Africa sir. Why should my generation bother with knowledge when we see them? Members of your generation are state governors sir. The only message we have ever gotten from all of them is that after looting for eight years in the states, you can retire to the senate after awarding yourself scandalous pension at the state level. Why should we see all of this and be eager about knowledge sir? Your generation is telling us that knowledge is the surest path to hunger and poverty in Nigeria.
Your own personal case, sir, is proof that my generation does click on knowledge if it is worth it for us. I have not done a census or anything but I do not think that there is any Nigerian public writer today that is as influential as you are. I do not think that any Nigerian public writer has the kind of vast followership that you have. I have met people who remember your essays from four years ago as if you wrote them yesterday. That is no mean fit for a columnist in a country like Nigeria. I want to believe that my generation is a huge fragment of you vast followership. Sir, most of us read you on our handsets because you must click when Pius Adesanmi writes, whether you agree with him or not, whether you want to praise him or curse him, you must click and read him. We read those who matter to us, we click on those who inspire us. But we spend most of our time trying to perfect the only message that 99% of your generation is sending to us us. The only message that this 99% has for us is that stealing, not knowledge, pays in Nigeria. Thank you for your time sir.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.