Enemies of progress: The lessons

Some men are like sunshine, they illuminate the faces; some men are like the rain, they make people grow; some are like hurricane, they wreak havoc, and yet others are like the flood, they destroy everything on their path – Chinese proverb

In spite of the futility of the efforts to disparage the University of Ilorin before now by its traducers, the nine-page media onslaught on the University in March this year was masterminded to up the ante. This is more so because of its timing to coincide with a critical period of decision in the University.

However, to the utter consternation of its sponsors, the energy and resources invested in the project amounted to a sheer waste of time. At best, it was akin to shaking the giant baobab tree to gain dewdrops. The University remains strong and unscathed by the undiluted lies and half-truths that are strewn throughout the ineffectual tirade.

Like all life phenomena that are undergirded by lessons, a little reflection on the whole saga would reveal some lessons. One lesson is that the project failed partly because it was an overkill. Even in humongous cases of corruption that had grabbed headlines in our recent political history, no newspaper has devoted nine pages to their analyses. By the way, how many people would read three pages of newspaper reportage everyday for three consecutive days on the same issue? The whole report dropped without a whimper. The social media that should have ordinarily buzzed ignored it like a plague. The lesson here is that you don’t kill a mosquito with a hammer.

Then, every incident is always either a blessing or a lesson. The University of Ilorin has every reason to consider it a blessing on the one hand for having free publicity. As it happens in literary and other criticisms, every criticism ultimately is an indirect projection of its object. The most criticized works ultimately become the most popular and the critics of the University have to be thanked for contributing to the prominence and visibility the University enjoys.

The lesson on the other hand lies in the opportunity the report offers to analyse some issues raised and separate the wheat from the chaff. There is an iota of sense in every bit of nonsense. For instance, some Nigerian universities including Ahmadu Bello University were recently flayed by an alumnus of the University of Ilorin and well-respected public affairs analyst cum essayist, Prof. Pius Adesanmi. When message reached the writer that some of the issues he raised were being addressed, he wrote another piece to laud the “great example” of the University. In essence, another lesson the ill-conceived hatchet job offers the University is an opportunity for reflection.

Besides, the report provides additional evidence of the piquancy of Mark Twain regarding newspapers. An American author, journalist and intellectual, Twain had contended that one is at the risk of being misinformed if one reads newspapers and being uninformed if one does not read them. As neither of the two is desirable, it means that a middle course should be charted by readers. What lawyers say is here relevant: “caveat emptor” or buyers beware. Therefore, you don’t trust or believe all you read in the press.

Another important lesson from the University is that it is not all the time one immediately dignifies such attacks with a response. The University has largely ignored the shenanigans of its attention-seeking critics by sometimes giving them “the best answer”. The easiest thing to do is to criticise others; the “best” players are  the spectators.

Ultimately, the timeless lesson still remains that in spite of the sacrifices of the University of Ilorin and the achievements it has recorded over the years, evident in its high rankings and highest subscription rate in the country, it is still subjected to condemnations. Yet, the University must remain true to its values and allow noisemakers to continue to make their noise. It is always good to remain good even to one’s enemies.

The story is told of a scorpion that fell into a well and was about to drown. A man impassioned by doing good stretched his hand to the scorpion to pick and rescue it but he was stung. Not deterred, he tried it again and he was stung, and again he was stung. He then fetched a stick, lowered it a bit in the well and the scorpion was successfully rescued from drowning.

A man who was standing by could not hide his consternation. How would a man bother to rescue a scorpion? He told the good man that he should know that the scorpion would sting him and he shouldn’t have bothered himself. The good man replied, “You see, it is the nature of the scorpion to sting and it is my nature to help and be good. Let everyone hold on to their nature.”

The better by far University will not be distracted or affected by the stings of the scorpions but will remain true to its core values of excellence, probity, innovation, integrity and creativity.

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