Last Thursday (February 18, 2016) will remain evergreen in the annals of the Nigerian Academy of Letters (NAL) as it was the day it held its 2016 Annual Lecture, delivered by our mercurial former Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Is-haq O. Oloyede (OFR). The venue was the auditorium of the fast-growing Kwara State University, under the transformational leadership of Prof. AbdulRasheed Na’Allah, an alumnus of the better by far University.
Since I was opportune to serve in the Organising Committee of the 2012 NAL Lecture, hosted by the University and delivered by the late former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Maiduguri, Prof. Nur Alkali, I had assured myself that anytime I have the opportunity, I would join the NAL annual train. Not only the profundity of carefully selected topics, usually handled by outstanding lecturers, characterises NAL Annual Lectures, the vast array of academic irunmoles and intellectual iwins in the humanities always seen there would not make one wish to miss such high-octane engagements.
The 2016 lecture, entitled “Utilising Religion for National Integration and Development”, was as eye-opening as it was thought-provoking. There was no dull moment throughout the entire session as the tempo was heightened right from the beginning with the catalogue of textual evidence showing renewed anti-religious literature, which indicated that “this is not the best of times for religion”, as the lecturer put it. From Sam Harris’ The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason to Richard Dawkins’ The God of Delusion as well as Christopher Hitchen’s God is Not Great: How Religions Poison Everything and Victor J. Stenger’s God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist, among others, we were told how religion is being viciously attacked even at the pseudo-intellectual terrain, a captivating antithesis for the subsequent thesis and synthesis of the discourse.
However, despite the grim picture of unprecedented attacks on religion and its adherents, Prof. Oloyede, who is the Secretary-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Inter-religious Council (NIREC), provided further evidence that religion will continue to dominate the lives of billions of people in the foreseeable future. As a matter of fact, he contended, the three epochs of life, birth, marriage and death, will always attract religious rites and practices.
He then analysed with textual and video data how the religious are being manipulated by the irreligious to portray religion in bad light, despite the unanimity of opinions on the positivity of religious values. He especially condemned the systematic undermining of the study of religion in Nigeria and decried a situation in which, at a time religious understanding is crucial, the policy makers have collapsed both Islamic Studies and Christian Religious Studies to mere topics in an unwieldy and omnibus subject called “Religion and Moral Values” at the three levels of Basic Education in Nigeria.
Then, by illustrating and drawing attention to how religion can be used to promote national integration, advance character, achieve economic benefits, deepen unity, establish justice and fairplay and generally enhance national development, Prof. Oloyede demonstrated, to the open-mouthed amazement of the electrified audience, how the politics and intrigues of just four countries account for the "religious" problems the world is facing.
Besides, he emphasised how the values of religion are consistent with the values of good citizenship in terms of obedience to constituted authority, loyalty, kindness, honesty, justice, among others, while all forms of anti-social behaviour are inconsistent with religious teachings. "Armed robbery, cultism, gangsterism, prostitution, drug abuse, child abuse, human trafficking and drug trafficking are seriously condemned by religion," he stressed.
That day with Prof. Oloyede on the podium was another opportunity of tapping from the native intelligence and intellectual repository of a man who symbolises the quality of education offered by the University of Ilorin as a foremost alumnus. Having seen it all, as Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council of a Nigerian University, Chairman of the Association of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (AVCNU)/ Committee of Vice-Chancellors (CVC), Secretary General of the Association of West Africa Universities (AWAU), President of the Association of African Universities (AAU), and Board Member of both the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) and International Association of Universities (IAU) at various times, the University of Ilorin can proudly assert any day, when all is said and done, that the Oloyede phenomenon is its exclusive achievement.
It was a day to remember.
Congratulations to our new Professors!
Though still subject to ratification, information emerged last week that the University of Ilorin has raised the bar further by promoting scores of academic staff to readership and professorial cadres. This is a very good development, a culture of rewarding excellence that the University should sustain.
The Alma Mater congratulates all the newly promoted associate and full professors on their achievements while wishing them more wisdom and knowledge in the service of humanity!