By ETOKOWO OWOH
When one encounters a knowledge-based society, it is not difficult to see the signs. Apart from libraries that are festooned with human beings, such a community is filled with robust discussions on issues based on facts, data, and evidence. People in such cultures usually avoid the personification and stigmatization of individuals during discussions.
Rather, they dwell on hard facts and adopt the principle of logical impersonality – a philosophical approach to debates that avoids names of people and places all in effort to drive home facts that are free from biases, whether intended or by coincidence.
A knowledge-based community would not only fill halls at book presentations, but the audience would also engage in lively exchanges as the reviewer exposes the book’s content.
A knowledge society exists when the dominant proportion of the labour force is knowledge workers. It is a society where individuals and governments invest heavily in education, research and development; and organizations are forced, by competition, to innovate continually.
I was an early arrival at the presentation of the book Ibibio Nation: History and Culture authored by Oto-Obong Uwah, FCA. I picked a seat at a vantage position to enhance my view and avoid distractions. A cultured usher came along and asked me to relocate, indicating that I was where special guests would sit.
I don’t know how she managed to know I was not a special guest. Maybe I didn’t look like a local government counsellor. But I obeyed. It was one of those days I acted a gentleman, all because I knew those VIP seats would soon need commoners like me to fill. In this clime, if the main business of the state – politics – is not the subject of a gathering, or a governor is not in attendance at an event, don’t expect a large crowd, let alone a “quality” crowd, more so at a book launch. And to tell you I was right, I could count the number of political gladiators that graced the occasion by the time I left.
If I wanted to, I could have appropriated three of the VIP seats to myself
The beauty, however, is that there was a large number of students at the venue of the book launch. These are the ones, the generation-next, whom we rely on to confront, realign, and reverse the knowledge anomie in our dear state. It gives hope to the fact that someday we shall live with a population of highly enlightened, knowledge-seeking society and reverse our current pathetic decline in the incorporation of knowledge into our development planning and implementation processes.
Not a few intellectuals and lovers of knowledge were at the event too. This again put a lie to thinking by anyone, individuals or groups, within and outside our shores, that the Ibibio race would be eclipsed by the current paucity of thinking about the revival of our culture and checkmate our present cultural drift, particularly our decline in relevance in the national scheme of things.
The hall was not in short supply of visitors, quality national representation across professional lines and industry players. And this is where we commend Oto-Obong Uwah for his extended linkages and rich array of friends and professional colleagues.
We should, indeed, cherish his effort at documenting Ibibio history and culture, and urge others to emulate his example. We owe him a debt of gratitude.
The choice of the lead speaker of the day merits kudos too. The Udom Inoyo we know will always find the right words to admonish our people to get in the train of competition amongst Nigeria’s ethnic nationalities. Mr Udom Inoyo, the keynote speaker, dwelling on the subject, Cultural Rebirth as a Critical Element for National-building, delved deep into the many challenges facing Nigeria and Akwa Ibom State in particular from a corporate cultural perspective.
Also read: Habits That Can Change Your Life
His paper was a sound dissertation and an intellectual expose on the danger of the Ibibio nation inventing a strange cultural identity predicated on greed, caprice, avarice, corruption, cultism, ethnic nepotism, and lack of principles and core family values. To him, these are sociological aberrations that will if not hurriedly checked, redefine our next generation in the language our forebears would hate to be associated with.
There is no doubt the challenge of cultural dynamism. We must however note that it is not always that change brings something good. The direction change (whether right or wrong direction) depends, to a large extent, on who, and how we pull the bait.
We have witnessed sharp changes in our cultural content which have led to disruptions in our collective ethos as a people resulting in “crime, corruption, ethnic and religious intolerance and moral decay” (Udom Inoyo, march 25, 2022) among other anti-social behaviour.
This is, unfortunately, being seen as the new normal, no less so by those in decision-making positions, adults in private business and politicians who should indeed serve as role models to the younger generation. It is dangerous how foods are renamed. Efere Ikon is now egusi soup, afia efere is rebranded white soup, efere Nkong is now vegetable soup, etc. all in efforts to anglicize our culture. It is no less so our names which, as Inoyo observed, are being bastardized with Anglophonic syllables. Many of us cannot pronounce our village names with dialectical correctness anymore. Speaking vernacular has become a sign that we are not enlightened.
At the national level, and like Inoyo said, Nigerians are willing to die living outside their country rather than live with the shame of not being able to fend for themselves. That is why it is now a ‘divine miracle’ worthy of testimony at Sunday service in our Churches to be issued an American visa.
These happen because economic conditions back home are cruel, discriminatory, and devoid of merit. We squander our God-given natural resources to serve only less than ten per cent of the privileged population without providing a floor for others to stand and aspire.
Asking why all these happen is begging the question; it is like seeking to know why we import petrol in a country of abundant crude oil. We can ascribe all these to corruption, leadership insensitivity, inefficiency in resource deployment profiling, lack of empathy by public servants, etc., but the incontrovertible reality is the plague of a malignant tumour described in management as leadership myopia – a lack of leadership vision. With existing glaring evidence of social injustice and economic deprivation, little wonder the elusive “peace” we now “enjoy” in the country.
The keynote speaker, having x-rayed our insipid disdain for virtually everything honourable, challenged the audience to “re-examine our national goals, values and priorities… and redefine our cultural pathways to ensure we are in sync with the future we hope to bequeath to the next generation”. He admonished the Ibibio race to avoid the new craze called “befitting burials” in preference for investments; to slow down on erecting outlandish mansions in preference for quality education; to tell the churches to be content with their spiritual callings and leave medicare to hospitals, and to re-create the reading culture, noting efforts such as Udeme Nana’s Uyo Book Club. Ray Bradbury says: “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just stop people from reading them”. Inoyo pleaded that we de-emphasize material wealth, the obscenity of “anything is possible society” in preference to enduring family values of hard work, honesty, and integrity.
On the whole, Oto-Obong Uwah, the author of the book in focus, provided a veritable spot, in the midst of ongoing obfuscating politicking, to speak truth to Ibibio nation who need the wisdom of Ruth Benedict when she said: “The crucial differences which distinguish human societies and human beings are not biological. They are cultural”. Ibibio will rise from the current misrepresentation of modernity to the understanding that even the scientific worldview is indeed a product of the dynamism of culture.