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Books and ‘burden’ of knowledge

Busuyi Mekusi

Arguably, knowledge is a profitable item, not available in the supermarket like votes in Nigeria elections. Veronica Roth has averred that “knowledge is power. Power to do evil…or power to do good. Power itself is not evil. So knowledge itself is not evil”. It goes to mean, therefore, that knowledge is central to human existence, as it constitutes the aggregate of exposures and output for several socio-cultural and politico-economic orientations. It is also true that in the opinion of Cassandra Clare “all knowledge hurts”. With knowledge being a form of awareness and knowing, it is relative and attainable from very many sources.
It is instructive that knowledge could be burdensome, depending on the conveyor and the pertinence of its ascription. Notwithstanding the place of knowledge and knowing, we have in abundance irredeemable ‘illiterates’ who peddle the knowledge of a thing only to increase the casualty found in a drabbing post-colonies like Nigeria. Knowing is also confronted with willful amnesia in a country like Nigeria, leading to a journey nowhere! Whereas nations all over the world are depending on knowledge-driven economies, Nigeria is still mouthing development with sufficient cosmetic artificiality.
Books are some of the elements used for the circulation and sharing of knowledge, and they remain treasures for academics who invest in them, more than everything else. Books are like living things, with a life of their own, spine and intestines. Books can be ‘killed’ if manhandled. Charles Baudelaire posits that “a book is a garden, an orchard, a storehouse, a party, a company by the way, a counselor, a multitude of counselors”. Books help academics build forests in their homes, with ‘hunting’ expenditures and cooking materials excavated for delightful menus and thoughts, used to nourish the minds of humans, in a timeless order. Definitely, according to George R.R. Martin, “sleep is good…and books are better”.
The usefulness of books played out during my MA programme at the University of Ibadan, when I secured some books from the library of Late Dr. Z.A. Adejumo, after rummaging his Afin-Akoko home. These books complemented my use of the university library. My doctoral adventures at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, availed me the opportunity to satiate my thirst for books, as my ‘famished’ minds got wetted by both electronic and hard copies of relevant academic materials. While there, I could cite a source to be published in 2009, while I was writing in 2008. The currency contrasted with the obsolete materials I had survived on. A bookshop in Braamfontein precinct of Wits made it easy for me to voraciously acquire new and old books to ‘build treasures on earth’, by stocking my library back home.
Travelling back to Nigeria, predominantly with books and other items, reminded me of the idea of ‘excess luggage’ in human existence, particularly because of our unquenchable avidity for primitive accumulation. Preparatory for a trip home, a domestic scale was used to weight my luggage to be sure it was within the approved limit for my class. At the O. R. Thambo airport, the calibrated commercial scale reported that my luggage was in excess of the approval, with no choice than to either pay heavily for the excess or shred the books I was treasuring. The revelation by the airport scale exposed the inadequacies of self-assessment or tilted opinion, leaving us at the mercy of relativity. My book acquisition was also instructive of Nigerians’ quest for ‘foreignness’, in cosmetic consumerism.
Books and knowledge are inseparable allies, as one could argue that ‘little’ book leads to little knowledge’. This is countenancing traditional knowledge that has been rejected in Nigeria on the altar of abridged western innovations and orientation. Whereas books are plenteously available in electronic and hard copies today, we are a ‘busy’ but lazy generation of ‘executive summary’. This generation loathes book-knowledge, but well grounded in IT skillful endeavours that some criminally use to climb socio-political and economic ladders. They are taking over a distressed nation for liquidation!
Nigeria embattled professors have been handed the commissioning of farming by the Minister of State for Education. Whether speaking for himself or the government he represents, one could see personal frustrations and government helplessness amidst an attitude suggestive of the commercialisation of education, and repression of workers who must lose their voices because of Agreements/MoU not honoured, and disadvantaging payment policy. The Minister’s outburst was an instance of ‘books without knowledge’. We must note that the cutlasses and hoes that should have been inherited by academics were appropriated by their siblings a long time ago when they were busy chasing book-knowledge. Little did they know that book-knowledge would be ‘useless’ in the period of Hushpuppies, greedy university administrators, and political vote buyers.
Nigeria academics are enterprising, as they ‘farm’ with pen, and ‘brush’ with computers. Some use gardening as tension-killer, when farming has turned to tension-trigger due to herders’ onslaughts. Some plant in a subsistent manner for personal survival amidst unpaid salary and the need to contribute to the food baskets. Yet, public universities in Nigeria are like the ‘Farmers’ Congress’, now populated by quacks, power gamers, looters and inept handlers, leaving the conscientious ones to farm with obsolete tools, with classrooms equaling degraded soil, laboratories as uninhabitable pens, dead computers as blunt cutlasses, and books as unimproved seedling.
The knowledge about ONDO 2020 and the knowing of October 10 revealed intrigues, betrayals, and Akeredolu’s conquering before stooping. Congratulations to him for his re-election! The markets were opened, votes were allegedly sold and bought, but electorate made a strong decision, with the voting pattern reflecting personal and group interests, zoning and rejection. More importantly, the fall of an ambitious godson and ‘bogus’ godfather was loud. Just like Arákùnrin forgave his ‘bogus enemies for life’, he should tame his recrimination about the Akure Kingdom as they simply responded to democracy. Vote-buying is symptomatic of pervasive corruption, heavy attractive political office and the ‘baiting’ of the impoverished majority. It must stop before Hushpuppies ‘acquire’ political power that would become liability!
The ||ENDSARS protests are as good as the tangle between two criminals, with the argument by the impeached nebulous NAN’s President that the protests were sponsored by ‘Yahoo Boys’. The so-called deranged personnel of the defunct outfit are a microcosm of our habitual recklessness, and wickedness. This is as impunity and criminality have become a standard practice in Nigeria. As we mitigate the needless deaths by security agents, we must not allow criminals become models. Book-knowledge is no longer as rewarding as entertainment, with BBN Laycon becoming an emergency millionaire. Book worms are now a burden to the society, as they have been variously battered to submission.
Analogous to the eye seeing the puss, there is the need to return to effective knowledge-production, both traditional and western, and adopt a knowledge-driven developmental agenda, with relevant priorities set. Personal and collective reforms are required to shake off ‘excess luggage’. Vote-buying is morbidly cancerous, and must die. Farmers are kings, but teachers birthed them. We must all ‘farm’ and garden, with government living up to its responsibilities, as we get our humanity back, to scientifically end criminality and brutality.

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