The Other Six: 4. Covetousness

Dorothy L. Sayers, 1942

In especial, it is at the mercy of the sin called Avaritia or Covetousness. At one time this sin was content to call itself “Honest Thrift,” and under that name was, as they might say in Aberdeen, “varra weel respectit.” The cold- hearted sins recommend themselves to Church and State by the restraints they lay upon the vulgar and disreputable warm-hearted sins. The thrifty poor do not swill beer in pubs, or indulge in noisy quarrels in the streets to the annoyance of decent people-moreover, they are less likely to become a burden on the rates. The thrifty well-to-do do not abash their pious neighbours by lavish indulgence in Gula or Luxuria-which are both very expensive sins. Nevertheless, there used always to be certain reservations about the respect accorded to Covetousness. It was an unromantic, unspectacular sin. Unkind people sometimes called it by rude names, such as Parsimony and Niggardliness. It was a narrow, creeping, pinched kind of sin; and it was not a good mixer. It was more popular with Caesar than with Caesar’s subjects; it had no glamour about it.

It was left for the present age to endow Covetousness with glamour on a big scale, and to give it a title which it could carry like a flag. It occurred to somebody to call it Enterprise. From the moment of that happy inspiration, Covetousness has gone forward and never looked back. It has become a swaggering, swashbuckling, piratical sin, going about with its hat cocked over its eye, and with pistols tucked into the tops of its jack-boots. Its war-cries are “Business Efficiency!” “Free Competition!” “Get Out or Get Under!” and “There’s Always Room at the Top!” It no longer screws and saves-it launches out into new enterprises; it gambles and speculates; it thinks in a big way; it takes risks. It can no longer be troubled to deal in real wealth, and so remain attached to Work and the Soil. It has set money free from all such hampering ties; it has interests in every continent; it is impossible to pin it down to anyone place or any concrete commodity-it is an adventurer, a roving, rollicking free-lance. It looks so jolly and jovial, and has such a twinkle in its cunning eye, that nobody can believe that its heart is as cold and calculating as ever. Besides, where is its heart? Covetousness is not incarnated in individual people, but in business corporations, joint-stock companies, amalgamations, trusts, which have neither bodies to be kicked, nor souls to be damned-nor hearts to be appealed to, either: It is very difficult to fasten on anybody the responsibility for the things that are done with money. Of course, if Covetousness miscalculates and some big financier comes crashing down, bringing all the small speculators down with him, we wag self-righteous heads, and feel that we see clearly where the fault lies. But we do not punish the fraudulent business-man for his frauds, but for his failure.

The Church says Covetousness is a deadly sin-but does she really think so? Is she ready to found Welfare Societies to deal with financial immorality as she does with sexual immorality? Do the officials stationed at church doors in Italy to exclude women with bare arms turn anybody away on the grounds that they are too well-dressed to be honest? Do the vigilance committees who complain of “suggestive” books and plays make any attempt to suppress the literature which “suggests” that getting on in the world is the chief object in life? Is Dives, like Magdalen, ever refused the sacraments on the grounds that he, like her, is an “open and notorious evil-liver”? Does the Church arrange services with bright congregational singing, for Total Abstainers from Usury?

The Church’s record is not, in these matters, quite as good as it might be. But is perhaps rather better than that of those who denounce her for her neglect. The Church is not the Vatican, nor the Metropolitans, nor the Bench of Bishops; it is not even the Vicar or the Curate or the Church-wardens: the Church is you and I. And are you and I in the least sincere in our pretence that we disapprove of Covetousness?

Let us ask ourselves one or two questions. Do we admire and envy rich people because they are rich, or because the work by which they made their money is good work? If we hear that Old So-and-so has pulled off a pretty smart deal with the Town Council, are we shocked by the revelation of the cunning graft involved, or do we say admiringly: “Old So-and-so’s hot stuff-you won’t find many flies on him”? When we go to the cinema and see a picture about empty-headed people in luxurious surroundings, do we say: “What drivel!” or do we sit in a misty dream, wishing we could give up our daily work and marry into surroundings like that? When we invest our money, do we ask ourselves whether the enterprise represents anything useful, or merely whether it is a safe thing that returns a. good dividend? Do we regularly put money into football pools or dog-racing? When we read the newspaper, are our eyes immediately arrested by anything which says “MILLIONS” in large capitals, preceded by the £ or $ sign? Have we ever refused money on the grounds that the work that we had to do for it was something that we could not do honestly. or do well? Do we NEVER choose our acquaintances with the idea that they are useful people to know, or keep in with people in the hope that there is something to be got out of them? And do we-this is important-when we blame the mess that the economical world has got into, do we always lay the blame on wicked financiers, wicked profiteers, wicked capitalists, wicked employers, wicked bankers-or do we sometimes ask ourselves how far we have contributed to make the mess?

Just as the sin of Gluttony thrives on our little greeds, so the sin of Covetousness thrives on our little acts of avarice-on the stupid and irresponsible small shareholder. for example, who is out to get money for nothing. There is a book called Wall Street Under Oath [Louise Pecora] which makes entertaining but rather shameful reading. It is an account of the exposure of various great business and banking frauds in the United States at the time of the post-war slump. When we have finished wondering at the bare- faced venality, graspingness, and lack of scruple of the notorious financiers who stood in the dock to answer the charge of fraud, we may fruitfully wonder at the incredible avarice and criminal folly of their victims. For no share-pusher could vend his worthless stock, if he could not count on meeting, in his prospective victim, an un- scrupulous avarice as vicious as his own, but stupider. Every time a man expects, as he says, his money to work for him, he is expecting other people to work for him; and when he expects it to bring in more money in a year than honest work could produce in that time, he is expecting it to cheat and steal on his behalf.

We are all in it together. I often wonder why Germany was so foolishly impatient as to go to war. If domination was all she wanted, she could have it without shedding a drop of blood, by merely waiting long enough and trusting to the avarice of mankind. You may remember the sordid and cynical French business-man on the boat that brought Elie J. Bois to England after the collapse of France. Someone asked him: “Why did France break down like this?” and he answered: “Because she had too many men like me.” France was bought-the politicians were bought, the Press was bought, Labour was bought, the Church was bought, big business was bought, even the army was bought. Not always by open bribes in cash, but by the insidious appeal to security, and business interests and economic power. Nobody would destroy any- thing or let go of anything; there was always the hope of making a deal with the enemy. Everybody, down to the smallest provincial official and the pettiest petty shop- keeper had a vested interest in non-resistance. Wars are not made by business-men, who are terrified of the threat to their powers: what business-men make are surrenders . Nobody prays more fervently than the business-man to be freed from the “crushing burden of armaments”; the first thing that happens in a war is the freezing of international credits, which the business-man does not like. The same business-man who will view with perfect indifference the senseless destruction of fish and fruit, coffee and corn in peace-time, because it does not pay to distribute them, is preternaturally sensitive about the senseless destruction of property by war. Patience, cunning, and the appeal to avarice could bring the whole world into economic subjection by a slow interior corruption. We may, perhaps, count ourselves fortunate that Hitler’s patience was at length exhausted and that he conjured up the devil of Wrath to cast out the devil of Covetousness. When Satan casts out Satan, his kingdom does not stand; but we have come to a grievous pass if we have to choose between one devil and another-if the only deliverance from Covetousness is the Wrath of war, and the only safe- guard against war, a peace based on Covetousness.

The virtue of which Covetousness is the perversion is something more positive and warm-hearted than Thrift- it is the love of the real values, of which the material world has only two: the fruits of the earth and the labour of the people. As for the spiritual values, Avarice has no use for them: they cannot be assessed in money, and the moment that anyone tries to assess them in money they softly and suddenly vanish away.

We may argue eloquently that “Honesty is the best Policy”-unfortunately, the moment honesty is adopted for the sake of policy it mysteriously ceases to be honesty. We may say that the best Art should be recompensed at the highest rate, and no doubt it should; but if the artist lets his work be influenced by considerations of marketing, he will discover that what he is producing is not Art. And we may say, with some justice, that an irreligious nation cannot prosper; but if a nation tries to cultivate religion for the sake of regaining prosperity, the resulting brand of religion will be addressed to a very queer God indeed. There is said to be a revival just now of what is called “interest” in religion. Even governments are inclined to allot broadcasting time to religious propaganda, and to order National Days of Prayer. However admirable these activities may be one has a haunting feeling that God’s acquaintance is being cultivated because He might come in useful. But God is quite shrewd enough to see through that particular kind of commercial fraud. 

The Other Six: 3. Envy

Dorothy Sayers

But we are only half-way through our list of the Deadly Sins. Hand in hand with Covetousness goes its close companion-Invidia or Envy, which hates to see other men happy. The names by which it offers itself to the world’s applause are Right and Justice, and it makes a great parade of these austere virtues. It begins by asking, plausibly: “Why should not I enjoy what others enjoy?” and it ends by demanding: “Why should others enjoy what I may not?” Envy is the great leveller: if it cannot level things up, it will level them down; and the words constantly in its mouth are: “My Rights” and “My Wrongs.” At its best, Envy is a climber and a snob; at its worst, it is a destroyer- rather than have anybody happier than itself, it will see us all miserable together.

In love, Envy is cruel, jealous, and possessive. My friend and my married partner must be wholly wrapped up in me, and must find no interests outside me. That is my right. No person, no work, no hobby must rob me of any part of that right. If we cannot be happy together, we will be unhappy together-but there must be no escape into pleasures that I cannot share. If my husband’s work means more to him than I do, I will see him ruined rather than preoccupied; if my wife is so abandoned as to enjoy Beethoven or dancing, or anything else which I do not appreciate, I will so nag and insult her that she will no longer be able to indulge these tastes with a mind at ease. If my neighbours are able to take pleasure in intellectual inter- ests which are above my head, I will sneer at them and call them by derisive names, because they make me feel inferior, and that is a thing I cannot bear. All men have equal rights-and if these people were born with any sort of privilege, I will see to it that that privilege shall be made worthless-if I can, and by any means I can devise. Let justice be done to me, though the heavens fall and the earth be shot to pieces.

If Avarice is the sin of the Haves against the Have-Nets, Envy is the sin of the Have-Nots against the Haves. If we want to see what they look like on a big scale, we may say that Avarice has been the sin of the Anglo-Saxon democracies, and Envy the sin of Germany. Both are cruel -the one with a heavy, complacent, and bloodless cruelty; the other with a violent, calculated, and savage cruelty. But Germany only displays in accentuated form an evil of which we have plenty at home.

The difficulty about dealing with Envy is precisely that it is the sin of the Have-Nots, and that, on that account, it can always find support among those who are just and generous-minded. Its demands for a place in the sun are highly plausible, and those who detect any egotism in the demand can readily be silenced by accusing them of oppression, inertia, and a readiness to grind the face of the poor. Let us look for a moment at some of the means by which Envy holds the world to ransom.

One of its achievements has been to change the former order by which society was based on status and substitute a new basis-that of contract. Status means, roughly speaking, that the relations of social units are ordered according to the intrinsic qualities which those units possess by nature. Men and institutions are valued for what they are. Contract means that they are valued, and their relations ordered, in virtue of what bargain they are able to strike. Knowledge, for example, and the man of knowledge, can be rated at a market value-prized, that is, not for the sake of knowledge, but for what is called their contribution to society. The family is esteemed, or not esteemed, according as it can show its value as an economic unit. Thus, all inequalities can, theoretically, be reduced to financial and utilitarian terms, and the very notion of intrinsic superiority can be denied and derided. In other words, all pretension to superiority can be debunked.

The years between the wars saw the most ruthless campaign of debunking ever undertaken by nominally civilized nations. Great artists were debunked by disclosures of their private weaknesses; great statesmen, by attributing to them mercenary and petty motives, or by alleging that all their work was meaningless, or done for them by other people. Religion was debunked, and shown to consist of a mixture of craven superstition and greed. Courage was debunked, patriotism was debunked, learning and art were debunked, love was debunked, and with it family affection and the virtues of obedience, veneration, and solidarity. Age was debunked by youth and youth by age. Psychologists stripped bare the pretensions of reason and conscience and self-control, saying that these were only the respectable disguises of unmentionable unconscious impulses. Honour was debunked with peculiar virulence, and good faith, and unselfishness. Everything that could possibly be held to constitute an essential superiority had the garments of honour torn from its back and was cast out into the darkness of derision. Civilization was finally debunked till it had not a rag left to cover its nakedness.

It is well that the hypocrisies which breed like mushrooms in the shadow of great virtues should be discovered and removed; but Envy is not the right instrument for that purpose; for it tears down the whole fabric to get at the parasitic growths. Its enemy, in fact, is the virtues them- selves. Envy cannot bear to admire or respect; it cannot bear to be grateful. But it is very plausible; it always announces that it works in the name of truth and equity. Sometimes it may be a good thing to debunk Envy a little. For example: here is a phrase which we have heard a good deal of late: “These services (payments, compensations, or what not) ought not to be made a matter of charity. We have a right to demand that they should be borne by the State.” It sounds splendid; but what does it mean?

Now, you and I are the State; and where the bearing of financial burdens is concerned, the taxpayer is the State. The heaviest burden of taxation is, naturally, borne by those who can best afford to pay. When a new burden is imposed, the rich will have to pay most of it.

Of the money expended in charity, the greater part-for obvious reasons-is contributed by the rich. Consequently, if the burden hitherto borne by charity is transferred to the shoulders of the taxpayer, it will inevitably continue to be carried by exactly the same class of people. The only difference is this: that people will no longer pay because they want to-eagerly and for love-but because they must, reluctantly and under pain of fine or imprisonment. The result, roughly speaking, is financially the same: the only difference is the elimination of the two detested virtues of love and gratitude.

I do not say for a moment that certain things should not be the responsibility of the State-that is, of everybody. No doubt those who formerly contributed out of love should be very willing to pay a tax instead. But what I see very clearly is the hatred of the gracious act, and the determination that nobody shall be allowed any kind of spontaneous pleasure in well-doing if Envy can prevent it. “This ointment might have been sold for much and given to the poor.” Then our nostrils would not be offended by any odour of sanctity-the house would not be “filled with the smell of the ointment.” It is characteristic that it should have been Judas who debunked that act of charity. 

The Other Six 2. Sloth

The Other Six Deadly Sins

Dorothy L. Sayers

An Address given to the Public Morality Council

at Caxton Hall, Westminster

October 23rd, 1941.

SLOTH

The sixth Deadly Sin is named by the Church Acedia or Sloth.  In the world it calls itself Tolerance; but in hell it is called Despair.  It is the accomplice of the other sins and their worst punishment.  It is the sin which believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, loves nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing.  lives for nothing, and only remains alive because there is nothing it would die for.  We have known it far too well for many years.  The only thing perhaps that we have not known about it is that it is mortal sin. 

The war has jerked us pretty sharply into consciousness about this slug-a-bed sin of Sloth, and perhaps we need not say too much about it.  But two warnings are rather necessary.

First, it is one of the favourite tricks of this Sin to dissemble itself under cover of a whiffling activity of body.  We think that if we are busily rushing about and doing things, we cannot be suffering from Sloth.  And besides, violent activity seems to offer an escape from the horrors of Sloth.  So the other sins hasten to provide a cloak for Sloth: Gluttony offers a whirl of dancing, dining, sports, and dashing very fast from place to place to gape at beauty-spots; which when we get to them, we defile with vulgarity and waste.  Covetousness rakes us out of bed at an early hour, in order that we may put pep and hustle into our business: Envy sets us to gossip and scandal, to writing cantankerous letters to the papers, and to the unearthing of secrets and the scavenging of dustbins; Wrath provides (very ingeniously) the argument that the only fitting activity in a world so full of evildoers and evil demons is to curse loudly and incessantly “Whatever brute and blackguard made the world”; while Lust provides that round of dreary promiscuity that passes for bodily vigour.  But these are all disguises for the empty heart and the empty brain and the empty soul of Acedia. 

Let us take particular notice of the empty brain.  Here Sloth is in a conspiracy with Envy to prevent people from thinking.  Sloth persuades us that stupidity is not our sin, but our misfortune: while Envy at the same time persuades us that intelligence is despicable—a dusty, highbrow, and commercially useless thing. 

And secondly, the War has jerked us out of Sloth: but wars, if they go on very long, induce Sloth in the shape of war-weariness and despair of any purpose.  We saw its effects in the last peace, when it brought all the sins in its train.  There are times when one is tempted to say that the great, sprawling, lethargic sin of Sloth is the oldest and greatest of the sins and the parent of all the rest. 

 


Kindling Hope with the Spirit of Innovation

OA Fakinlede

Many people get the feeling that the Faculty of Engineering at Unilag was always apart from all the others, but have not just been able to put their finger on the reason why. Now hear it from the oldest “Son of the soil” in this race! It is simply the Spirit of Innovation. The specifics are easy to see.

A bit of history …

While ABU, the other “real” competitor was built around a “generous” number of British lecturers and other expatriates, Unilag was able to attract local geniuses that came from world-beating universities. Apart from the well-known Ayodele Awojobi, there were several other greats- examples: Okurounmu from Harvard and MIT, Akinsete of Cambridge and McGill, or Soboyejo from Stanford, EE Okon who first completed a PhD in Electrical Engineering before earning a First class Bachelors degree in Mathematics at Kings College, London, etc. These were led by that twin of perhaps the greatest structural engineers Nigeria had known in former deans Adekola and recently deceased Oladapo (one of the crafters of Norway’s design code) with the great Sonuga that brought in the Hydraulics and Coastal laboratory that is now a vestige of its old self. Ladies and gentlemen, you are sheltered in exactly the same offices, teaching in the same classrooms and still also entertaining the very top students that Nigeria can produce! These people were not afraid to innovate. They were not following the minimum NUC standards which is the Lowest Common Factor that lecturers from lower ranking schools come together to enunciate. Instead, following top schools such as Stanford, Illinois and Urbana Champaigne and Cornell, Adekola (Dean 1968-1972) established the first and perhaps the only truly Engineering Mechanics program in Nigeria called Engineering Analysis which the NUC never knew how to handle. This is exactly what the trio of Aderogba, Okon and Olunloyo in the older days used not only to lift the Engineering Math and Mechanics of Unilag students beyond Nigerian standards but to establish the Nigerian Congress of Applied Mechanics that is now virtually defunct. Adekola, as professor, personally taught us Strength of Materials, Awojobi/Soboyejo graphics while Okurounmu did Thermodynamics all to first year students in Room 106!

The Home of Innovation

It is that same spirit of Innovation that made Unilag to blaze the trail of introducing Robotics, Mechatronics and Finite Element analysis (and even started graduating students) six full years before NUC scrambled Vice chancellors to Abuja to announce its “discovery” and “instructed” that Nigerian Universities should now go and start doing Mechatronics!

If many think I don’t have the liver for the status quo, it is partly because I have seen better days at Unilag. Of course we can decide to behave like the proverbial one eyed king in the Blind Country. Yet, there is no reason why we cannot aim higher. The younger ones that have recently visited foreign universities KNOW that we have some “catch-up” to do. The only way we can do this is to revive the spirit of Innovation and do it the UNILAG way: Lead and let those who dare follow.

Partnerships to address Infrastructural Deficit

The main challenge of our faculty is the infrastructural deficit that made the enabling environment to be real academics impossible. I am happy that dean Salau accepted our demand for a changing room for lecturers who stayed overnight at work. What preceded his innovation is better imagined! This goes to show that innovation does not always require a lot of money. It is also good to see that the frontage of our faculty looks good. Yet, the back side and the civil area of the labs look like shantytown and must be changed while we explore the outlining areas for a tripling of the parking space to reduce the pressure in the front lot. In our core business we must innovate.

The innovation must continue the small idea that gave us the LG Laboratory and the largest stash of software support we have ever known. It must naturally lead to a recrafting of our curriculum such that once students have done multi-variable calculus, they are empowered by tensor analysis early so they can have the background training to do multiphysics simulations in their final year. Ladies and gentlemen, it is not OK to teach programming at the final year. We should do that, if possible in the first year and leverage on that background to use that as the means of teaching through the entire programme!

Industry partnerships that we have been following in the past six years include the

  1. Exxon-Mobil proposed under-water welding facility that can help us not only to greatly expand the workshop, foundry and other laboratories but to create an executive Master Programme for the Oil Industry that can not only be self-sustaining but can fund other projects in the faculty.
  2. A Controls laboratory that will be multidisciplinary and therefore be timetabled for Chemical, Electrical, Systems and Mechanical Engineering – serving all equally and manned by a senior academic and capable of doing multidisciplinary work in that area.
  3. Two or three laboratories from the mandate of the ECN’s Center for Energy Efficiency including testing laboratory, measurement and other equipped space to enable us mount a certification programme for energy equipment that are being dumped on Nigeria with false ratings. This will include certification of inverters, Deep cycle batteries, etc. A major contribution to the amelioration of the energy predicament of Nigeria.
  4. The Ayodele Awojobi Centre. We were promised help to complete the construction to replace the former Health Centre behind us. We will pursue this with vigor to add to our facilities.
  5. A Revival of the coastal modeling laboratory. If we do not take care to vigorously revive research in the Old Coastal Simulations Laboratory established in 1975, we may find ourselves struggling with other interests in the university to keep that values space. We will need at least a hundred million naira just to restore that Laboratory. Only a University-Government-Industry partnership can make this happen.
  6. From Survey to Geomatics Engineering. It is time to upgrade the Survey and Geoinformatics Department of our Faculty to a Department of Geomatics Engineering. This will greatly invigorate admission drive and raise the profile of that course making it one of the most competitive engineering programs while fulfilling both COREN and SURGON requirements. That is the kind of Innovation Unilag is known for.

We shall also pursue new ones. We have active contacts with Oil companies and some others in the deep offshore. In addition cooperation with foreign universities that can help our delivery with modern blended delivery methods that will leverage executive Masters programmes in areas where Nigerian parents now send their children to low ranking British schools set up to take their money.

Staff Welfare

There are always simple solutions to every human problem. They are usually wrong! To some, staff welfare is around money and quick promotions. Of course one must be mindful of the environment we are working in. Here is how we see the issue and what will be vigorously pursued as solutions.

First the palliatives. In the past six years we have established the fact that engineers and surveyors with Masters degree and professional qualifications should start at no lower than lecturer 2 in step with what similarly qualified professionals in Law and Medicine are given. We have argued further that completion of the PhD should naturally move someone to the Lecturer 1 cadre. The present dean and HODs must be commended for following through with that in most cases. Now here is the catch: If the typical engineering academic studying here usually grows grey hairs before completing that PhD, even this proviso is a pipe dream! The real issue therefore is the facilitation of a more speedy process for doing research in the faculty. A full paper on that will be made available on the site www.facebook.com/oafak2012. Unless that problem is fully addressed, all the palliatives become tenuous and cannot be administered fairly and cannot therefore endure.

Fundamental Issues. We must pursue fairness and justice. The real issue is that other faculties can gain advantage over us simply because we are not pressing our basic advantages. Law, with a single real department – all producing exactly the same product can be creating several departments. Medicine can be having several faculties, deans, HODs and other paraphernalia because of the way university funds are allocated. What we shall do to ensure fairness is to remind the University of Lagos of its desire to be among the top universities in the world. Those others we are trying to emulate allocate their resources based on delivery of products. If the funds are allocated on the basis of what it costs to train a lawyer times the number of lawyers you train, then it should not worry us how many departments law creates! We should vigorously pursue that more equitable distribution and therefore starve off the wasteful balkanization of departments even when there are new programs. Much sought after degrees such as Oil and Gas, Computer Engineering, Geomatics Engineering,  etc will then not be given the same resources as some programs that are only here because of the accident of history and are no longer relevant or attracting students.

We must therefore ensure that we are able to create professorships at par with faculties such as Science that have had a jackpot harvest in the past few years. Details of these will be in the document to be released soon.

Innovations

  1. We will start the process of modernizing the Surveys Department to Geomatic Engineering. There is no better time to innovate in this direction. That will make the Faculty more homogeneous and expand the scope and usefulness of that department and aid in our recruitment and value to the nation. More on Geomatics Engineering at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geomatics_engineering
  2. Departments will be encouraged to introduce Symbolics, Multiphysics simulations, Executable documents technology into the courseware creation and instruction in engineering. This will necessitate a much earlier instruction on programming and increase the number of related IT mediation in our delivery. Internal training mechanisms will be used with additional input from foreign partnerships. We will require that new students of Engineering have their own PCs and so instruct on Symbolics and technical Skills Practicum at the first year. This is the practice in top universities. A PC can be got for 30,000 Naira today. Even poor parents want their children to be competitive in the technological economy they will face!
  3. Electrical Mechanical and Systems Engineering Departments will emphasize new Energy programmes and partner more closely with the Energy Centre for the realization of larger national goals for problem solving in our energy delivery imbroglio.
  4. An audit will be made into the way laboratories and workshops do business. We will direct accruable monies towards the basic energy self sufficiency and do away with mini-inverter solutions that are now littering our faculty.
  5. Partnerships projects will be designed to expand the scope of opportunities for consulting, executive teaching and other projects to diversify the areas of extra cash income instead of this choking dependency on university-wide sharing stuff.
  6. More on the Faculty journal at https://www.facebook.com/notes/oafak2012/journal-renovation/210560505727578
  7. More on Awojobi Centre at https://www.facebook.com/notes/oafak2012/the-awojobi-engineering-centre/210569602393335
  8. Our Julius Berger Auditorium. Despite the deficit in available infrastructure, we have been unable to fully benefit from a gift to the faculty by Julius Berger. Instead of the university renovating the old theatre while completing the JB twin, we find that community programs often take precedence over academic requirements of engineering in the JBA. We will work to change this. In fact, it will be time tabled for our postgraduate seminars which we will be able to hold on specific days of the week. That way, PhD candidates will have their work previewed by the entire faculty and will therefore become a learning experience to both undergraduates and PG students.

The university of Lagos needs to take the driver’s seat again in its usual position of leading by innovating! The best way to make these possible? Don’t waste your vote. Let it count for passion to refuse the status quo; Drive to dig deep and think; the daring to be different and the competence to innovate. Vote oafak for Dean!

No Going Back

OA Fakinlede

“Yes sometimes government decisions get reactions from the populace, we do not as an administration see this as a disapproval.” Labaran Maku, Minister of Information

If the present government ends its life as the best government Nigeria has ever seen, all the praises would go to President Goodluck Jonathan. And behind every successful president, there are several loyal officers whose untiring efforts assisted in achieving that success. If, on the other hand, this government, as I fear, ends up to be one of the most effete that Nigeria has produced, the first blame will be for the president of Nigeria while lesser blames will be for the officers. It is no use blaming people for not giving the president good advice. In a presidential system, the incumbent has the power to select his advisers from among the 150 million Nigerians. If he selected those who have a flawed sense of history and therefore give wrong advice, he better changed them, else, whatever faults they have, the bucks stop on only one table.

With the background in the above observation, the pronouncement of the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, reported in the media yesterday is quite noteworthy. Before looking at Maku’s statement, let us observe that he is a product of the Nigerian University system. He is expected not only to have the amount of history dictated by his age, but beyond that as a university graduate capable of reading about events that took place long before he was born. There is therefore no hiding place for Mr Maku. The press reported that there is “no going back” on the decision of Government to change the name of the University of Lagos to Moshood Abiola University. What reasons is Maku giving for this obduracy? Is there no going back because Abiola is deserving of honour? Is it because the president has the power to name and (un)name? Is it because due process has been followed? Is it because people are happy with the decision? Is it because there are no viable options to achieve the same objective in a non-controversial way?

Of these pertinent questions, Mr Maku addressed only the first. He even went on to picture Chief Abiola “turning in his grave” with approval. This statement may not have been intended by Maku as the signal point in his argument, however, on a closer look, it seems consistent with the whole mindset and understanding of this government. We shall now examine this in a little more detail.

To the Minister of Information of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the spontaneous demonstration and protest of the students of the University of Lagos is NOT viewed by the Jonathan Government as a sign of disapproval! Ladies and gentlemen, did you hear that! And, coming from Labaran Maku, you should please believe it! Remember that Labaran Maku is from Plateau State. He attended university in Jos. Over there, when you disagree about something – especially in recent times, you do not just protest. You set markets on fire, you throw bombs at people, you massacre villagers by setting their huts on fire. Is that what Mr Maku will want to see before understanding that the people are voicing out their disapproval? Now that the authorities of the university have decided to close it down in order to avoid a breakdown of law and order, how can Mr Maku be convinced that people are not happy with the illegal renmaming of their university? Or is it the Boko Haram paradigm that is defining for the Minister what true dissent is and how to express dissent? Is it not allowable in this present government’s eyes that dissent can be expressed in a peaceful and orderly manner? If those who make peaceful change impossible can be blamed for the inevitability of violent change, what can be said about those who find it difficult to understand peaceful dissent?

The most damaging conclusion we can draw from Maku’s announcement is that this Government is happier with the approval of dead people. Late Chief Abiola, according to Maku is approving from the grave; the protest of living university of Lagos students, which everbody can see does not constitute disapproval! Such convoluted logic in leadership may well explain why Nigeria is not getting it right! Are there more people like Maku in this administration? That will be a great pity! It is time for us to look for governments that will take the protest of living people seriously. Governments that will not wait for people to first die before hearing what they are saying!

Mr Maku is sure of Abiola’s worth to be honored. On that, we agree fully. We even think it’s a honour that should have been more thoughtfully considered earlier. There is no need to belabor that issue. This appears the only point in favour of the government and it even appears that the decision was taken with good intentions. Yet, as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The fact therefore you have good intentions does not secure your destination. It will therefore be necessary, for the sake of Nigeria, its future and the life of its teeming young adults that Officers of government be such people who allow their minds to engage reality. It is pertinent therefore to note that neither the president of Nigeria nor its council can legally change the name of any university that was given by an act of parliament. The due process has not been followed and hence this present act is not only reversible but is a nullity as it stands.

The violation of the process is beyond the arbitrary naming ceremony of May 29. The president went further that there will be a Center for Democratic Studies at the University of Lagos in Honour of Abiola. Commendable! But still a nonstarter so long as it has not been examined and approved by the Senate of the University of Lagos. I am sure this is a large pill to swallow for people who have been brought up in the party with a culture of “capturing power”. The essence of a democratic setting is that of separation of powers. The president of Nigeria has tremendous powers to have things done in the way he wants at any Federal University. Dictating by military fiat is NOT one way of getting this done! The Government has the power to dissolve the governing council and appoint a new one. The most powerful positions in this body are selected by Government in a way that nobody can legally challenge. That is tremendous power but can only be exercised with patience. President Goodluck has Patience! He should exercise patience and use his power appropriately. A council can approach senate and convince it of the need for a new Centre that will be well funded by the Federal Government. With patience, it should have little problems. Setting it up “with immediate effect” on a radio announcement will not fly. This is beyond President Jonathan’s powers!

The present controversy over university renaming may still end well. Government officials such as Labaran Maku will need to get some more education on democratic processes or be shown the way out. The government will find that it is much more pleasant to eat the humble pie and follow due process than face the snowballing of opposition he will inadvertently create by the obduracy announced by Labaran Maku.

Moshood Abiola University

The Government of President Goodluck Jonathan has done it again! Act first, Think later. This is the burden Nigeria continues to bear as it has been saddled with this present iteration of PDP in government. By what looks like a Babangida masterstroke, at the end of a better-forgotten alibi of a “Democracy Day speech” he announced that the “Federal Government of Nigeria has decided to rename the University of Lagos, Moshood Abiola University”. And so it is, I am now a professor at the MAUL – the Moshood Abiola University, Lagos.

I live in close proximity to the students at the university of Lagos. My present accommodation not so far from one of the residences I called home since my days as a student at the University of Lagos  nearly forty years ago. It is natural that an old hand like myself immediately reacted with disbelief as I heard the president’s statement. What I did not prepare for was the spontaneous action from the student’s hostel across the road. They were even more vehement than I and would have nothing to do with the purported name change. This article examines the issues around this new name. Does it benefit anyone? What is gained, and what is lost? What is the best way forward to save our university and our nation unnecessary chasing of shadows when there are real problems on the ground to solve? I hope there will be sufficient room for the government to work with in getting out of this self-immolation.

First, the government wants to honour Chief MKO Abiola. He extolled the sacrifice of the late winner of June 12 1998 elections. He was therefore trying to find a worthy National monument to immortalize him. This is the good intention of the President. On that score, even those of us that may not agree with his decisions must at least give him credit for the good intention that must have motivated this move.

Second. Looking over the entire Nigerian Landscape, President Goodluck Jonathan could not find a monument big enough to honour Abiola than Unilag! What is that so? There are airports, stadia, edifices all under the control of this government. Why does the President need the University of Lagos? Even if a university must be offered for this noble cause, it is a reduction in the status of Chief Abiola to seek a University located in the SouthWest. The University of Abuja looks better than Lagos in finding something national on a neutral ground to fully carry the import of Abiola’s national effort and appeal. There are also several newly-created Federal Government Universities looking for identity that Abiola’s name would have conferred on them immediately. There are the National stadia – notable national edifices and which, considering Chief Abiola’s support for sports throughout Nigeria, would have been befitting. The Airport in Port Harcourt is another cognate edifice. It is a no-brainer to find up to twenty suitable things to name after Abiola that would likely attract the support of most Nigerians and create little controversy. In the midst of these, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan chose Unilag!

There are two immediate reasons why Unilag is an inappropriate choice. First, this university is presently mourning the loss of a well loved Vice Chancellor. This is certainly not the kind of distraction required by anyone in Unilag at this time. The advisers of the president are probably too far removed from the reality on the ground, else such an obvious fact ought not to have eluded them.

The second immediate problem is that the University of Lagos is celebrating the fiftieth year of its founding. Who did President Jonathan consult? Did he talk to the council – a place where the president selects the chairman and where several important representatives of his government sit. What did they tell him if he did consult them? I know for certain that the Senate of the University of Lagos was NOT consulted. I am a member of that body and there is no record of such a move by the government. Did the Government consult the staff bodies? Neither ASUU nor the other staff organizations were consulted. What about the students? These went on instantaneous demonstration at the announcement! In a democracy, the government is supposed to be of the people, by the people and for the people. It appears to me that the present government is not consulting far enough. Its understanding of democracy seems to have a typographical abbreviation: Government of the Pdp, by the Pdp and for the Pdp! It will be difficult for him to make this decision of a military fiat stand. At least I am certain that several interested parties at Unilag will challenge this action in the court of law. That is a distraction that even this president and his government do not really need.

The above are facts that ought to be obvious to President Jonathan. They are easy facts that a working government ought to have considered before making an announcement. Yet these are NOT my reasons for not supporting the idea. Against the action of President Jonathan, I have three reasons to object:

  1. The name of a University is part of its branding. This is the first time that a 50 year old brand that is doing very well will be jettisoned like a worthless dross. People argue that the University of Ife was changed to OAU without any fuss. The University of Ife was 28 years old when its name was changed to honour the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. There is the inevitable comparison. This may be the basis and encouragement that President Jonathan is relying on. However, there are three differences we should bear in mind: The late sage occupied a place in the hearts and souls of the Yoruba people that they may not even mind if the Oodua nation were to be named for Awolowo. Apart from being the chief architect for the University that now bears his name, the free education he pioneered in the West remained the biggest reason people remember him. #We must not also forget that this was done under the military usurpers who are a law unto themselves and are both legislature and executive combined so their decrees can override acts of previous assemblies. Even in that case, we had twenty eight years of a brand now we are talking about fifty. It is not too late in the day to revert OAU back to University of Ife and find better things to name rather than well supported brands. President Jonathan is dreaming of life as a Military dictator who can issue decrees! No sir, you are claiming to be an elected president! No decrees from you!
  2. It will cost no less than two to five hundred million Naira just to give effect to this purported name change. This is coming at a time when the infrastructure at the University of Lagos is crying for renewal. That money, spent on revamping the Coastal modeling laboratory, replacing the obsolete equipment in most engineering labs and purchasing new equipment will give more hope to hapless Nigerian students. This is the time when students are likely to be told to pay fees; This is at a time where parents are out of employment and we have a government that has little more than promises and platitudes to give them. What is the madness of an unnecessary name change going to add to these miseries? More pain! Who needs that?
  3. The name change creates a disconnect between the alumni and the University at a critical time in the life of Unilag. Here we are celebrating our fiftieth year. Change the name now, old students will never accept they attended MAUL. This new entity will need to build its own brand and that unnecessary burden by a university that does not need it. Instead, it needs all the goodwill its brand can give it to get the funding the neglectful government cannot give to reestablish its position as a university that can be reckoned with in Nigeria and beyond.

Mr President, we thank you very much for your “Democracy Day” gift. There are no takers at the University of Lagos. See you in Court!