They say the mark of having had a fulfilling time in the university is that not only do you pass through the university but it also passes through you. I’ve never quite been sure if that expression is anything besides a fluffy Nigerianism but, if the university passing through you means that some of the things you learnt remoulded you and will stay with you forever, then logic (aka Philosophy 102 – Arguments and Critical Thinking) really passed through me. Mr. Owolabi, God bless him and his crutch, would frequently say “Let’s do what they’re incapable of doing in Aso Rock; let’s think!”
That elective has probably gotten me into the most trouble with my wife since we met. For some inexplicable reason, I would rather logic prevailed over intuition even though I know full well that life is more than inductive and deductive reasoning. When trying to interpret other people’s actions, more often than not, I use my logic filter. Mrs Tex (whether or not it’s because she’s a woman and therefore more likely to be more intuitive anyway) doesn’t have this ‘handicap’ and over the years my logic has prevailed over her intuition only 1 out of 5 times on the average. Which makes my devotion to it increasingly infuriating for her.
So maybe not everything in life can be subjected to the rigour of testing the validity of the thinking behind them. However, the greatest thinkers of any generation, and their critics and disciples, have no other means of establishing or disputing the authority of their ideas. No meaningful discussion can be had otherwise. If you want your conclusions to be accepted, you need to give valid, logical, reasons why. It is therefore somewhat sad, for example, to read rejoinders to articles and opinions that, rather than discussing the original issues raised are nothing more than attacks on the person of the original writer. Or, on the comment threads of some online articles, to find an opinion roundly criticised only on the basis that it was expressed by someone from a certain tribe.
Clearly, we are products of our environment and sentiments and bias will have some bearing on the attitudes we adopt and ideas we express. And that’s probably acceptable for private discussions. When ideas are being propounded for public consumption though, I believe logic must relegate sentiments, intuition and bias. I may be wrong but I am convinced that until we elevate the way we discuss issues (and actually discuss issues), especially those of us outside the “cabal” crying for change, we may find progress elusive.
Below are a few examples of prevalent thinking (from the educated segment of our society) – they should give us pause:
- El-Rufai is only criticising the government because his own party lost the elections [has he raised valid issues?]
- Kathleen doesn’t support the doctors’ strike because she wanted to marry a doctor but failed to [has she given valid reasons why they shouldn’t have gone on strike?]
- We know Ijeoma’s antecedents in XYZ corporation, how can she castigate us? [are you guilty of the allegations she has levelled against you, though?]
- I couldn’t have orchestrated fraud because I actually taught at Harvard [yes, we all know Harvard is next to the Vatican in preparing people for priesthood and sainthood]
- We’re revoking the contract because it was skewed in favour of the concessionaire [I killed my parents but you should have mercy on me because I’m now an orphan]
- You’re a foreigner; Nigeria’s issues should only be discussed by Nigerians [Boko Haram issues should only be discussed by terrorism experts too, right?]
- This kind of backward, myopic (etc) thinking can only be found in the [pick your choice] tribe [and everyone is a genius where you come from? Even that your uncle that the entire family mocks?]
- Do you know who I am? [If Obama, Putin, Cameron and Merkel jointly put forward a stupid idea, it’s STILL a stupid idea!]
On a lighter note, logic served my friends and I very well at Sade Eleja. There was always someone willing to buy us another round of drinks and catfish peppersoup to prevent us from leaving early. “Mo n gbadun yin gan an…”