For Sogolo, It’s 70 hearty cheers, colloquium

The Conference Centre of the University of Ibadan has hosted quite a lot of activities, but the one of May 10, was unprecedented.  If the hall, which was filled to capacity with high networth guests, could speak, it would have uttered some intelligible statements, as well as asked questions on the person being celebrated.

Fireworks rented the air, as children, grand and great grand, in the academics, in conjunction with the Department of Philosophy, University of Ibadan, celebrated the Emeritus Professor, Godwin Sogolo, in a one-day colloquium.
In his keynote address, former Vice Chancellor, National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Professor Vincent Ado Tenebe, admonished African leaders to stop imposing themselves on the people. 

He said this attitude has continued to be the major cause of crises and conflict in the continent. In his paper titled: Ethics, governance and social order in Africa, Tenebe, who was represented by Dr. Eric Omazu, said it was high time African leaders stopped imposing their personal values as a policy on the entire citizens of their countries.

According to him, “when leaders in Africa and elsewhere are known to have imposed their wealth on their subjects, it has often resulted in crisis and conflict in Africa.

“The argument presented so far is that the ethical values, cultural practices and a vision of the world are never to be imposed on any people by leadership, even when they have the capacity to do so. They always represent a perspective to the proverbial grand elephant.  When people are born and have the authority to make the world better, the moral expectation is to help operate and negotiate values and not to impose them.”

The Executive Vice Chairman, Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP), Dr Tunji Olaopa, said the life of the celebrant has proven wrong, people, who had doubts whether philosophy could put food on the table or sustain the future. 

Olaopa described the celebrant as one of the widely known philosophers in Africa. He said Sogolo debated the appropriateness of talking about ‘African philosophy’ in the heat of the colonial ideology that Africans were sub-humans, who lacked the capacity to reflect about life and existence.

Olaopa asked in a rhetoric manner why the man of the moment should exit the bubbling philosophical arena at its most critical point when there was a need for leadership and direction.

Though, the celebrant has spent 70 glorious years on mother earth, he is agile and almost all over the place, at the same time, however, there is need for the body to take some rest and besides, exit is more meaningful when the ovation is loudest.  All the people who had one thing or the other to ensure the success of the colloquium were Sogolo’s old students, this again brings to the fore managerial style and relationship with subordinates.

In appreciation of those, who honoured him, and indeed, all those present at the event, Sogolo said indeed a good prophet would sooner or later be acknowledged and honoured even in his own country. 

Going down memory lane, Sogolo explained that he joined the University of Ibadan at a time when philosophy was taught in only four universities in the country.  He said there was no single professor in the department, when he joined, but over time, the department had turned out professors operating in several universities across the country, while some are serving in UI.
The septuagenarian said he is satisfied that philosophy, as a discipline, has continued to thrive in its role of refining ideas, thoughts as well as bringing greater clarity to knowledge.

His words, “philosophy is the mother of all disciplines, from which various disciplines branched off to create their own identities. As long as human beings are confronted with competing paradigms, philosophy will continue to thrive. I am happy that it is thriving at the University of Ibadan where students in the Faculties of Arts, Law and the social sciences are obliged to go through one philosophy course or the other.
“In the days of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and even St. Thomas Aquinas, philosophy provided a vehicle for understanding both material and spiritual phenomena. With greater division of labour, this is no longer the case. The sciences – biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics – etc have taken over the task of understanding the materials world from philosophy. Indeed, these basic sciences have given birth to problem-solving disciplines such as, engineering and its many branches, computer science, medicine and even space science.
“While philosophy does not have the skill to solve problems handled by the above disciplines, it nevertheless retains its centrality in the challenge of understanding of the universe and the human condition. Philosophy now focuses on bringing clarification to all human fields. That is why it is referred to as a Second Order discipline.

“Philosophy provides what may be described, for lack of a better analogy, as an ambulance service to all disciplines by helping to disentangle complications in their doctrines, theories and ethics, which explain why you find in almost all fields, courses devoted to philosophy such as: Philosophy of History, Philosophy of Mathematics, Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Philosophy of Law, etc. These courses offer conceptual knowledge in which the primary disciplines lack competence.”
The crux of the lead paper delivered by President of Nigeria Philosophical Association, Professor Joseph Agbakoba, was the need for philosophy to take its proper place in the scheme of things in the society. 

Agbakoba, who is of the Department of Philosophy, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, asserted that philosophy plays vital roles in the development, or otherwise, of any society. He said relegating of philosophy to the background is akin to relegating development and any society that refuses to develop will always sit at the backside where other developed ones have voices.
The colloquium also featured the launch of a book published by the University in his honour.  The publication, which is a collection of essays and discourses on different topics, titled, Ethics, Governance And Social Order In Africa, had topics, which dealt extensively on Sogolo’s philosophical thoughts on life, including governance. 

Edited by Olatunji Oyeshile and Francis Offor, who passed through the tutelage of the celebrant, the anthology is in recognition of his contributions to governance and social order in Africa.  His past works formed the baseline with which contributors to the book found fascinating normative recipe for rethinking and interrogating the bewildering amalgam of problems plaguing the African continent. 

Of particular interest is, Signs, Wonders and Endless Wondering: Godwin Sogolo and the question of religion in the contemporary African society authored by Obododimma Oha. 

The chapter explores Sogolo’s philosophical interrogation of religion as an important presence in African affairs, especially, how the African religious experience has been further complicated by the interference of the Christian religious vision.  It identified the areas of complication, which philosophers, like Sogolo, consider worthy of critical reflection, then it tries to extend the discourse a bit by developing a trajectory that is stimulated in the contributions of Sogolo and other philosophers of religion.
Another piece in the anthology titled, Godwin Sogolo and the metaphysics of development, by Adebola Ekanola and Ademola Lawal discusses Sogolo’s metaphysics viewpoint that an adequate understanding of reality or any phenomenon requires a comprehension of both the primary and secondary causes that brought about the reality or phenomenon humanity seeks to understand. 

Bringing Sogolo’s conception of primary and secondary causes to bear on the development discourse, a central argument of the paper is that past development plans have recorded only marginal success largely because they have largely concentrated on the secondary causes of development and under-development at the expense of their primary causes. 

Interestingly, the paper argues that for the newly postulated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to overcome the shortfalls of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), there is the pressing need to constructively address the primary causes of under-development the same way attention has been paid to its secondary causes.
Jacob Ale Aigbodioh opened his paper, titled, Is social order the creation of natural instinct, or reason?  Reflections on Godwin Sogolo’s critique of socio-biology with a quote by the philosophy giant himself,  “the complexity of the social structures if traditional societies is a manifestation of the intellectual creative abilities of traditional men.  The history of these societies is marked by a process of intellectual transition in which through rational selection rather than natural selection, old social forms are replaced by new ones.’’

Aigbodioh said the legitimacy and justifiability of the theory of socio-biology is what professor Sogolo calls to question in part of his work Foundation of African philosophy: A definitive analysis of conceptual issues in African thought. 

He said Sogolo is very critical of any attempt to naturalise the organisation of traditional societies.  He argued vehemently that reason and not biological instincts or nature is responsible for the ordering of any human society. 

Aigbodioh argued that the position of Sogolo and that of socio-biology have their strengths and limitations and that a better explanation is that strong human social institutions can best be regarded as having emerged from a combination of both views.

The aim of the 310 pages, 19 chapters anthology is to stimulate the necessary consciousness among citizens, scholars and leaders of state in Africa and also constitute a very formidable perspective for coming to terms with the African quest for social order and sustainable development.

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