How An Awareness Of Ignorance Will Be Useful Knowledge For All Nigerians

Nigeria. Image source superhotmobile

Nigeria. Image source superhotmobile

FOR some time now, Alaba had been badging his boss Mr. Trouble to please support his campaign that Nigerian universities set up chairs of Ignorance to ensure the grounding in the Nigerian persona of the extent and depth and height of Nigerian ignorance. For me, this is Alaba speaking for himself; the greatest effect of Ignorance in the Nigerian society is that actions, or lack of actions, have consequences.

A degree in Ignorance, or some training of sorts in the dynamics of Ignorance, would temper this loudness and general self-advertisement of the Nigerian person. The greater effect of Ignorance on the Nigerian society is a lack of humility. And as for the great effect of Ignorance on the Nigerian society is Certainty.

So, in this order: great effect of Ignorance on Nigerian society certainty unsupported by any facts on the ground; greater effect of Ignorance on the Nigerian society pride based on what others have and have achieved; and the greatest effect of Ignorance on the Nigerian society no consequences for actions and lack of actions.

For some time now, initially out of frivolity, but progressively out of frustration especially in the medial sciences, students do not realise how little is known about virtually every affliction to which we are exposed. Voluminous text books of hundreds and hundreds of pages of facts, reasoning and reports of experiments do give the impression that we do know a lot. Like the village master in the Deserted Village by Oliver Goldsmith (published in 1770): And still they gazed and still the wonder grew/That one small head could carry all he knew! As if all we knew was all that needed to be known. Many have made their cases for the introduction of courses in Ignorance and in spite of people scoffing at such an idea, the demand persists. It is sobering to note that the places of the greatest knowledge today are the places where demand is being made for the measurement of ignorance through the study of it as a valid area of investigative effort. It may be that the more you know the more you want to know, or the more you don’t know the more ignorant you feel. It is as if nothing carried you further to search for knowledge more than ignorance!

Alaba believes that a society that prides itself on the plenitude of its proverbs is bound to think that it knows a thing or two about anything. All over the world the idea has been promoted that we are full of proverbs and we are likely to footnote our discourses with one or two proverbs pertinent to the particular discourse and making us sound profound. After all proverbs are a product of certainties; Certainties garnered by a people over a period of time. Problem though is that such certainties have not taken on the certainties of other societies and other knowledge areas. For instance, someone told Alaba recently of the proverb that he who is hit by a vehicle is not the one to take the number of the offending vehicle. Sounds profound ehn? The fact is that such a proverb ignores technology. It is true that he who is hit is not going to be in a position to take the number of the offending vehicle but if there are cctv cameras in the vicinity such equipment would dutifully record the number and everything else of the offending vehicle.

Come to think of it, anyone going around spewing proverbs these days tends to come from the time of Chinua Achebe, a time of certain certainties. These days, at least in Nigeria, there are no certainties any more, just doubts, ambiguities, deceptions and memorandums of mis-understanding! And the one figure of our culture who could have rescued us has been hastened out of the village, out of the town and out of the city padding his way across the desert, over the Medi lake and into Europe. Esu, mistaken for the Christian Devil and Muslim Shaitan, the cautioner of Ignorance and its consequences, has fled our dwellings to dwell among those who appreciate Ignorance. Will he ever return?

Alaba’s ultimate appeal is that we turn away from our learning mantra which states that we go from the known to the unknown. But it ought to be the other way round. People should go from the unknown to the known. If you start from the known, you are in your comfort zone. You know where you are and you are in control of where you are. The greatest learners are those who go from the unknown and arrive at the knowledge that was not there before. So, the mantra should be that from now henceforth we go from the unknown to the known.

Alaba shared a recent case in which Ignorance played a trick on a person who thought that he knew, at that material time, everything that needed to be known. Who can be more certain of his knowledge than an Executioner? Has there ever been, just by the way, a female Executioner? Would she be called Executioneress in English? Anyway, the Executioner was poised over his next victim, a boy of ten accused of sleeping on guard duty, a duty that should never have fallen on a ten year old. He would be beheaded as an example to the other child soldiers. And was the Executioner anxious to carry out his horrible duty that dawn? He prepared the doomed one carefully and got ready to behead a life that was just beginning. Somewhere in the camp, some people were also preparing him for his own death by fire. As the victim waited on bent knees, the Executioner waited with drawn sword, his own executioner trained a gun on him. As his sword descended the finger on the trigger pulled and he and his sword collapsed and the boy lived. Even at the most certain point, remember Ignorance! That could also be another problematic proverb!!
Kole Omotoso


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