Paul Obi highlights the importance of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thought to the Nigerian discursive space 

Intellectual freedom is the only guarantee of a scientific – democratic approach to politics, economic development and culture” 

– Andrei Sakharov 

From time immemorial and historical accounts, societies that have evolved to great nations have achieved that through various layers of intellectual engagement, access to quality education and the enhancement of the discursive space. From the Greek Agora, the Frankfurt School, New School, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) to new emerging Think-Tanks, the production and distribution of knowledge is at the very core of innovation and intellectual crystallization that has given birth to great nations – particularly in western societies. 

Thus, knowledge production is both an engine room and a lubricant to innovation, development, growth, and even sane society. On a real, knowledge itself is not just a tangible abstract or a supersonic metaphysical concept. Until it’s channel into production, it’s merely a fluidity of no substance. Julian Landry in an edited collection, Critical Perspectives on Think-Tanks: Power, Politics and Knowledge stressed that think-tanks are increasingly becoming enduring fixtures of national and transnational sociopolitical landscape; and although they could be considerably ambivalent, they are social forces geared towards organizing knowledge production, research, ideological advocacy and political mobilization. In the 21st century world, the conceptualization of knowledge has somewhat become the central element of development, and even its existence. Therefore, anything think-tank worth its salt must produce knowledge, or perished in perpetuity. 

For Nigeria, it’s not about the lack of knowledge, but the advancement of knowledge through the best skills and channels. This gap is evident in the shortage of critical thinking in our being and existence. Although, in the late 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, there was a semblance of intellectual gathering and summoning of ideologies and ideologues. From the Bala Usman flank in Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Eskor Toyo in University of Calabar, Bolaji Akinyemi in University of Lagos, Tam David-West in University of Ibadan, Chinua Achebe in University of Nigeria (UNN), or the quattro ring of Achebe – Wole Soyinka – John Pepper Clark and Christopher Okigbo, among other intellectuals, there was an urgency then to project ideas as the forerunner of statehood. But in the 1980s during the catastrophic democratic interruption and the Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB) chaotic and scorched-earth Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) and the deep incursion of the military into civil rule in the 1990s, Nigeria’s path to anti-intellectualism kick-started in earnest and took deep roots. 

What happened was that intellectualism was replaced for gaming the system – and in whatever illicit way. Then, entered school is scam (sic) generation. Despite these efforts against intellectualism, Nigeria’s creative and intellectual DNA never left. Overseas, the Nigerian diasporic community is one of the most vibrant, creative and intellectually adapt community, maybe second only to India. Back home, Nigerians creativity and innovation in the continent and tech world has been phenomenal. Hence, there is need to crystallize Nigeria’s discursive space for the ideation of thought and our intellectual engagement for the right reasons. It is in the light of the above, that the Abuja School of Social and Political Thought is stepping in to fill that void and vacuum within the discursive space for a better (de)construction of our socio-political, economic and cultural milieu. 

Leading the pack in the Abuja School, is the Director of the school, Associate Prof Sam Amadi, a Harvard scholar with expertise in clinical jurisprudence; constitutional law, the political economy of human rights; pro-poor legislative advocacy; legislative theory, energy law, democratic governance; statehood and nation-building; Prof. Udenta Udenta, a Distinguished Fellow and critical theory scholar will focus on the interrogation of culture and cultural politics; the intersection of Nigerian history and democratic journey; global politics and hegemony. Prof Chudi Uwazuruike will be in charge of international relations and politics, exploring diplomacy and Nigeria’s position in a global context. Dr Francis Ohanyido, a public health expert will be researching health governance; vaccination and vaccine equity; health security and global pandemics. 

There is also Prof Abiodun Adeniyi of Baze University, whose research dwells on diaspora studies and communication; journalism and media studies and strategic communication. There is Prof. Adibe Jideofor;  Dr Chizoba Imoka; Dr Law Mefor, Co-Convener of Centre for Liberty; Ariyo Dare Atoye; Barr Victor Okpatare; Director, Initiative for Research Innovation and Advocacy in Development- Electoral Hub, Princess Hamman-Obels; Director of Institutional and Sustainable Development Foundation, Paul Ogwu; Clement Aguiyi; Nze Ugo-Akpe Onwuka; Ndi Kato; Godfrey I. Chidibuwa; Joyce Iwueseter Natu; John Oke; Evangeline Obeta; Mercy Eke; Ngozi Okoye; Dr Kelechi Akubueze; Tochukwu Ifeneme; Rex Odoemenam; Oge Udegbunam, Ose Anenih, among others. 

For this writer, the research concentration in the Abuja School will be to unpack the interactions involving media, elections, politics and democracy. A focus that will cross-examine the critical role of the media in Nigeria’s democracy and elections. What role does political communication, technology, internet and social media play in participatory politics and democratic governance in Africa’s biggest democracy? What are the sociopolitical norms underpinning Nigerian elections, and to what extent does this impact the Nigerian nation-state? 

Primarily, the Abuja School has five key areas of focus, ranging from one, Politics, Democracy and Elections; two, Law and Governance; three, Economic Policy Research; four, Media and Cultural Studies and five, Security and Sustainability. Flowing from these trajectories, the school will seek to provide pragmatic and creative solutions to Nigerian challenges of statehood and nationhood in a turbulent world. Today, the Abuja School begins a National Policy Dialogue on the 2023 Elections that will highlight the different political variables associated with the 2023 general elections and their overall implications. 

The essence is to create a forum for structured analyses in view of the preparation for the 2023 general elections; from security, the role of citizens vis-a-vis voters, political parties, state actors, electoral umpire, civil society, the political economy dynamics of elections and institutional framework for free and fair polls. With such intervention, it is the Abuja School’s firm conviction that a new agenda for resetting Nigeria’s national conversation and discourse is guaranteed for the overall good of society. The basic commitment of the Abuja School is therefore to optimize the value of our national discourse, and repurpose Nigeria’s knowledge production for good of country.  As Talal Abu-Ghazaleh posited, “intellectual capital is the main determining factor and the base for economic and social development to any country.”  Welcome to the Abuja School of Social and Political Thought – a school and centre beyond the orthodoxy. 

Obi is a journalist, researcher and fellow at the Abuja School of Social and Political Thought interested in media, elections and democracy 

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