The passion for this programme started in 2007 after two successful uninterrupted terms of a democratically elected government led by former Olusegun Obasanjo. I was further inspired in 2015 when Goodluck Jonathan oversaw a peaceful cross-party transfer of power. As a newly established democratic society evolved, it became clear that most of Nigeria’s post-independence history is dominated by men trained at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, England.
It also became clear that the future of a prosperous, democratic Nigeria would require an academy that trained politicians in practice, planning, operations, and processes of a liberal democratic capitalist society. This should have happened before the 1999 military handover to civilian rule or soon after.
In 2010, I began an ethnographic study of Nigeria as a participant-observer studying its various cultures and peoples, their behaviours and values, customs and traditions, civil society and commerce, human and social capital, economy, history, geography, politics, and religions.
My report concluded that Nigeria is one of the most diverse societies anywhere in the world. A poly-hybrid heterogenous culture comprises several beliefs, customs, traditions, languages, tribes and religions at opposing poles. Integrating these opposing poles with liberal democratic values is a challenging feat.
As a participant-observer, I saw an urgent need to re-educate adults who appeared politically unctuous, economically untutored and socially subdued. The youth was far worse and an unmatching bunch for the intellect of rival youth in countries like Morocco, Mexico, Egypt and Brazil. It felt like people stuck in a time warp from decades behind, unable to see how fast the world was changing before them and the need to get involved. I saw an urgent need for the best and brightest among the young to participate in democratic processes in a more rational and inclusive system; as the only hope of fast-forwarding the countries progress. The hope is that future representation will be by well-trained democrats who can transform and modernize Nigeria for the 21st Century.
Nigeria needs democrats and scholars who can resist the destruction of its intellectual inheritance, expose myths, and remind us that there are other ways of thinking and acting than those we are familiar with; otherwise, we will quickly relapse into ignorant solipsism. The capacity to evaluate an argument, an understanding of the past, a reminder of what we once knew or did, an awareness of cultural differences remain indispensable for any public activity.
Looking back 22 years, Nigeria has had outwardly democratic politicians who have gained and retained power with the help of the military (militicians). These politicians have come to the fore without the requisite education and experience of running a genuinely liberal, democratic capitalist society as depicted in its 1999 Constitution. As a result, several mistakes were made from learning on the job and to its people’s detriment.
To deliver a program that embeds the concepts and principles for the smooth administration of a liberal democratic capitalist society, one suitable for Nigeria requires a multidisciplinary study in the social sciences. Such a programme would re-integrate Pan- African concept with liberal democratic values and adopt an African perspective through its curriculum. It must combine a broad spectrum of concepts, principles, and values from several disciplines into one programme and deliver it at a cost and scale such that millions can derive its benefits. This challenge has taken seven years of intensive study.
I am grateful to the staff and teachers at Oxford’s social sciences department who have patiently taught me, tolerated my inquisitive nature, and allowed me access to a world-renowned research facility. It’s a privilege to learn from some of the most talented people globally. I hope this programme can serve as a continuation of Oxford’s 1945-1955 extra-mural programme for British West Africa.
Between 1945 -1955, Oxford offered an extra-mural programme where our forebears travelled hundreds of miles to Lagos, Ibadan, and Accra to come and receive lectures from a programme put together by Lord George Briggs, David Kimble, Tony McLean, Thomas Hodgkin, Henry Collins, the British West Africa Colonial Office, (all late), the British Council and the British Government.
Today, we can bring you this programme without the need for you to travel, apply for a visa, or raise enormous associated sums.