By Maryam Ado Haruna (Programmes Assistant (Gender and Internet Advocacy), CITAD).
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reasons and mind. Thus, in its quest to bring about sustainable development in Nigeria by equipping the youths with a more realistic way of thinking, Center for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) has organised a 3-day Philosophical interactive session for participants from various states in Nigeria. The Maiden Edition of the Institute of Philosophy was organized by (CITAD) in order to prepare the young Nigerians to become creative and critical thinkers and also provide them with a guiding principle of resolving their societal problems. The institute was named after the inspiring mentor, Malam Ibrahim Mu’azzam of department of Political Science, Bayero University, Kano. The 3-day interactive session was organised to prepare the participants with a philosophical thinking in an attempt to conquer the lackadaisical attitudes that have covered the minds of many Nigerians especially the youths.
In his opening remarks, the Executive Director of CITAD, Malam Yunusa Ya’u stated that the Maiden Edition of the institute of Philosophy was established with the view to make the participants realize their intellectual capacity, be critical thinkers and develop a deep and better understanding of issues and ideas. He added that the main idea of Philosophy is to make people to enquire and understand things they see in order to avoid making decisions on the basis of unfounded assumptions. He further stated that the Institute is not the conventional way of learning, rather, an interactive one for a better understanding.
In the first day, the mentor, Malam Ibrahim Mu’azzam described the term “Philosophy” as central to any knowledge-based society, since Philosophy is the key to knowledge. He explained that whenever we search for wisdom, we are being philosophical. Malam Mu’azzam further explained that Philosophy provides humans with the foundation of knowledge and freedom from rumours and assumptions. The mentor also stated that Philosophy encourages people to question and interrogate every idea they come across adding that there is no understanding without questioning making which makes it an essential aspect of their life. He called on the participants to never let others to think for them because that will only give them the opportunity to manipulate people. He also explained that the only way to move a society forward is for people to question their government since the governed gives the mandate. According to him, that is the only way to compel the government to fulfill the promises they made during campaign rallies. He also explained to the participants that every human is capable of learning; ideas are everywhere in the world and are conceptualized differently based on people’s perception, beliefs and values, but Nigerians should not let their diversity to bring about disharmony and disunity among them. People have to be capable of overcoming the fears in them before they can change the society. He explained that every government wants to instill fear in the minds of its governed in order to have the absolute sovereignty to rule without being challenged.
How can we discover the truth of everything in Nigeria? Malam Mu’azzam explained that in Nigeria, things are done unscientifically and not philosophically, thus, solutions to problems are arrived at based on assumptions.
At the end of the first day, the mentor gave the mentees some text to read and deliberate on before the following day.
In the second day of the Institute, the participants were taught how to verify the truth of what have been said and distinguish between the truths and beliefs. They also acquired the skills on the power of the words, its contextual meaning, and how important choice of words is to the writer/speaker. He explained that word in its originality has no meaning, but meaning is attached to it depending on the type of group using the word.
Thinking outside the box is another parameter for a philosopher. It is very crucial and fundamental to think beyond the level of other people, but Nigerians are lazy and even among the youths, they don’t buy the reading behavior which is supposed to make them more sound and vibrant.
One of the factors inhibiting Nigeria’s development also is that they accepted the culture of impunity from those in government. If any political officers would be punished accordingly, the rate of political crimes and or embezzlement would be cut down. It is very important for Nigerians to understand that every government can be impeached for its failure. Another factor is that Nigeria adopts development theories directly from the western countries without domesticating them to Nigerian context.
On the third day also, the session started with the readings from the texts that were given in the previous day. The mentor, Ibrahim Mu’azzam then established the relationship between truth and belief and how they differs; not all beliefs are true since they are perceived based on values and acceptance of a society. Thus, peoples’ beliefs and ideas when brought need not to be accepted right away, the reason why they raised them need to be understood. It is also good to understand how and why people view a particular idea or problem in a certain way.
For change to take place in Nigeria the people must become warriors and not “worriers”, supplies of drugs must be cut down and parents must understand their children and bring them closer, people need to be more aware of their rights, the society needs to be gender sensitive in its approaches. Nigeria also lacks recreational centres which give leisure to the youth; youth need to be considered in development efforts. Also, the day-3 tried to reshape the mindsets of the participants from the vertical way of thinking to a lateral one which tends to explore better ideas about a particular phenomenon. The participants were taught how critical understanding is in the quest of searching for knowledge and why they need to embrace Philosophical approach to societal problems.
While appreciating this effort made by CITAD, many participants who expressed their enthusiasm for the programme, explained that it is a privilege to be part of this Institute. Among them one participant stated that the Institute of Philosophy has really changed the way they view societal problems and now think both inside and outside the box. All participants have also expressed their appreciation to this effort by CITAD and have promised to utilize what they have learnt effectively.
On behalf of the Executive Director of CITAD, the coordinator of the Institute, Dr. Mohammed Aminu Aliyu thanked all participants for honouring this invitation to learn knowledge. He added that another version of the Institute will soon come up as the programme has already attracted interest of outside the organisation.
At the end of the 3-Dy sessions, the coordinator of the Institute, Dr. Aminu Aliyu shared an evaluation forms to the participants for their observations and comments. The following are the opinions of the participants:
- What do you like most about the programme?
The participants were asked to state what they think they like most about the entire programme. About 10 participants mentioned that they so much liked how the programme was coordinated, which was timely and educative; they also liked the participatory style of the facilitation which was very effective and the daily reading assignments as well. One participant observed that the programme has developed his or her mind to think critically and has encouraged me to pursue more knowledge. The programme has challenged my way of thinking. “Now I look at issues such as societal problems critically and it has enticed me to engage myself in reading” observed another. Some participants also stated that they liked the programme because it is mentally stimulating; and has made them to think of issues which ordinarily they might have not. At five participants also appreciated the materials that were given during the session. One participant described the programme as remarkable and awesome, while another one liked the idea that the programme was open to everyone to take part in it. Lastly, one participant said that the programme has paved way intellectual minds which informed his/her realization of the imperative ideas.
- What do you like least about the programme?
The participants were asked to state what they think was wrong with the way the institute was coordinated or what they did not like in their own opinion. Five of them said they liked every bit of the programme and therefore had identified nothing wrong. Another four said the duration of the programme was too short for their liking; two participants disliked the rowdy discussions by the participants, two others also complained of how time was managed during the programme (not sticking to the scheduled time), while other two complained that they topics that were discussed were complex and confusing.
- What do you want us to add in the next edition of the programme?
The participants were asked to mention what they expect the coordinators of the programme to add in the next edition of the Institute. Among the responses they were generated, nine suggested that the duration should be extended to at least a week. One mentioned that reading materials should be distributed in advance before the programme; two more said the subjects to be discussed should be more contemporary such as issues of imperialism and globalization. Another participant suggested that they should be a means to prevent late coming attitude of the respondents. To another participant, he thinks the institute should be held twice annually, while another one thinks there is a need to mobilise more participants into the programme. Some participants think the programme needs more publicity so that many people will become more aware of the institute. To some participants, they need to be encouraged to critically assess certain scenarios and present them for at least 2 minutes and a group working so that the participants will practically demonstrate creative and critical thinking.
- Please suggest ways we can improve the next edition of the programme.
The participants were asked this question in order to know in which ways the Institute of Philosophy can be better improved. Their suggestion included having the scope of what to discuss and reading texts before the session. The programme should also focus on current issues/topics such as imperialism in the context of capitalism. Another suggestion was that the participants should be tested on daily basis which is similar to the suggestion of having an exercise at the end of the programme in order for the respondents to be more serious about what they are learning. Again, four participants suggested that the programme should be extended to more than three days. Some suggested more publicity about the programme, sharing the record of the programme with participants, requesting some for amount as registration fee to make it more valuable, drawing participants from academia and having the participants to write any essay of their choice geared towards solving societal problems as part of criteria for eligibility. They should also be an Alumni network. Two more suggestions include inviting people influenced by Malam Mu’azzam to come in the programme and share their experience and a diversified class; participants from every region of the country.
The total number of the participants
- Adamu Yakubu Usman
- Ali Isa Musa
- Aliyu Dahiru Aliyu
- Hamza Ibrahim
- Harira A. Wakili
- Hauwa Musa Abdullahi
- Ibrahim Muhammad Mahina
- Ibrahim Rubakaya
- Isah Hashim Abdullahi
- Isma’il Auwal Garba
- Janice Malachi
- Maryam Ado Haruna
- Muhammad Chiroma Hasan
- Muntasir Adamu Kanam
- Rukayya Abba Kabara
- Rukayya Abdulhadi
- Suleiman Ibrahim
- Sunusi Shazali Suleiman
- Ummi Salma Babangida