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LEVERAGING ACADEMIC NETWORKS FOR CAREER EXCELLENCE

Applied Knowledge is Power

A paper presented at the “Town and Gown” Series at the Department of Political Science and International Relations, Covenant University, Nigeria.

Knowledge is power. So goes the popular maxim, which has been severally explored and tweaked in various ways that sometimes we fail to fully deconstruct its essence and practically explore the functional relationship between knowledge and power. While knowledge, on the one hand, is nearly impossible to quantify, its effect on human life is totally verifiable and measurable.

On the other hand, power is quantifiable but its effect is sometimes very hard to measure. Though power can mean different things, we are limited in this discourse to the framework of power as professional competence and the capacity to effect change in any area of human endeavor. It is the marriage of knowledge and power that forms the theoretical basis of my offerings in these thoughts.

In restating the premise of my thesis that knowledge is power, I consider Steve Fuller’s conceptualization of knowledge as “positional good” to be profound enough to terminate this thought. This is in the sense that knowledge expands or extends “the knowers possibilities for actions by contracting the possible actions of other”. If I know what you know, then you have no advantage over me, except in the case where we also have to measure the application of such knowledge. But if I know what you do not know, then I am elevated in advantage. So, yes. Knowledge does confer on one extended possibility for actions that sets one at advantage over others.[1]

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LEAVE YOUR KIDS ALONE!

I once lived in a part of New Jersey called North Bergen. It was quite European by design in most parts and was obviously an escape for all who had a phobia for the clutter of New York City. Most people, including me, worked in the City and the morning and evening commute was a social phenomenon to be observed. I liked it though. I was constantly drawn to the evening and weekends of the North Bergen life, which I have come to appreciate as a microcosm of big City conurbations.

Some evenings and weekends, I go jogging or biking in the park and derive my motivation from the older populations who display such pleasure at keeping fit than a fledgling male such as this writer. After combusting the calories I will usually sit on one of the park benches, earphones in place to pump some good low notes, and begin my careful observation on one of the highways of human activity. In doing this, I was particularly drawn to kids who were at the park training at one sport or the other, in particular Baseball and Soccer. Standing and sitting at the sidelines were several parents watching carefully over their wards.

During my many evening trips home from work, I had passively noticed that the parks were always bubbling with people exercising and parents who had brought their kids for after school training in their chosen sport. These are the baseball moms and soccer moms that wield so much influence in typical American sociocultural and political life. I recalled this from my park observatory and moved my attention to the several parents who were screaming and cheering from the sidelines and I thought how beautiful it was to see parents who are so involved in the lives of their children, something we scarcely see in this part of the world.
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NIGERIA: THE BEGGARS COLONY

This is one of those rants I cannot but punish you with because I am getting really sick and tired of its frequency. Almost anywhere you go in Nigeria, you are faced with beggars begging right up to your face and totally crowding your space that you feel your only escape is to settle them. I am not talking about the poor, haggard, and destitute soul on the street without a home to go back to; not the physically maimed citizen crisscrossing go-slows to tap on your car’s window screen for their sustenance. It is not even the poor person in the neighbourhood who has genuine need and shows up at your gate on a weekend. If it were just these, I would understand for even Jesus said we will always have the poor with us.

My concern is with the pervasiveness of subtle beggars who trudge our corridors of service, demanding privileges that they do not exactly deserve. They are everywhere from the supermarket you frequent to the professional offices where they don the most formal attires. Anywhere you go it seems you are bound to encounter what feels like an organized mob of commercial inducers, asking for settlements for all kinds of spurious reasons ranging from ‘weekend money’ to ‘big man status money’. The latter is very upsetting because you now have to pay for looking affluent, as though it were indicative on the flesh.

The matter has become very embarrassing (or ‘embarazzing’ for emphasis) to the point that I am suddenly put on the offensive every time I request a simple service. Even when I am not asking for any services, usually some freelancer suddenly appears and imposes a service for which you have to cough out something. I drive into the parking lot of a public facility and the security man directs the parking process, a role for which he is also employed along with securing the vehicle. The profuse greetings you get from the security man on alighting your vehicle has its cost implication. The doorman usually almost prostrates before opening the door even though he sees your fully functional limbs. You have to factor all these into the expense to be disbursed at your location – of course not forgetting the tips you have already given for services in the inner sanctum.
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Live in Lagos – Can I help?

Help by force!

I arrived Lagos like an Israelite carrying the half-baked dough into a determined exodus. I had absolutely no idea what to expect, particularly how I will react to the weather, coming from extreme conditions like we saw this year in the Northeast US. Nothing really changed about the humid conditions, even at 8pm the wind was warm and slightly noxious. But hey! I am used to this, just have to acclimatize a bit. Err…I will dare not talk about Murtala Mohammed Airport, else it will be the rantings of a raving lunatic. Lekki Airport to the rescue!!!!!!!!!!

The road from the airport still is the famished road. It is fast becoming a bush path and reminds me of the road from Onitsha to Owerri in the late 1980s into early 1990s, It may soon need the kind of old Mercedes-Benz 9-11 trucks to ply it. It still amazes me that the government expects people to encounter that road first on a visit to the country through Lagos. Again it may be one of those roads that fall into the grey divide of Federal and State roads and no one is responsible for it. Very soon I will get dangerously upset to code red levels and will fix it. If the government refuses, private business making a fortune refuses, very rich men whole have stolen us blind also refuse to act socially responsible (at least to save face and the impending anger of the State), mere men like me will one day carry a digger and shovel to repair the road. At least beyond our children traveling safely, the police checkpoints will run smoothly and not be afraid to stop more vehicles and harass tired travelers. I have an idea, I will first start by asking my neighbour from Borno, who owns an active barn in his backyard (suitable to shoot a medieval movie), to lend me his cattle so they can graze the weeds shooting from the islands on the entire stretch of the airport road.
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THE REAL COSTS OF POLICY FAILURE

The recent mandatory extension by nearly a month for primary and secondary schools to resume in Nigeria to enable the voters registration process, has sparked some ire within the circles of those who are advocates of better education in the country. But somehow such angst has not necessarily translated into an active debate on how the government remains very insensitive to some issues that impinge on a sense of good governance. I am very passionate about education and it seems to be the one issue I am daily engaged in as I read and research. When we were celebrating our 50th anniversary, I took out time to highlight the need to elevate the discussion on education to a national level, compared to debates on whether to hike the price of fuel or not. I am convinced that until it becomes that important, and people see it as a do or die matter, we will be playing into the hands of incompetence that which can likely determine our relevance in a competitive world in a few years to come.

But despite the glaring need to reform this sector, and the seeming interest of the present administration to tackle the demons therein, we are seeing nothing but contradictions already from our leaders. I cannot understand why voters registration”must” be done within the vicinity of a public school. Aren’t there countless other venue to use in doing this? What’s wrong with other public spaces and arenas? Can’t even the innumerable churches lend their outer space for this purpose if the inner sanctum must not be desecrated by secular activities? Even though schools might seem to be the most appropriate place to do this, can’t our leaders for once see that some things are far too important and should not be compromised on? Even if for nothing, there is a symbolism attached to holding sacred the education of our children. Yet we felt it okay to go ahead and bite of weeks from the schedule of these kids and think they can effectively compete with their peers around the world.
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THE POWER OF ILLUSTRATIONS

This video is to show how powerful illustrations are. I had previously heard this talk given by the famous Ken Robinson and applauded it. But when I saw RSA’s rendition of it through illustrations it created a different impression on my mind. I now understand in more detail, aided by graphical concepts, what Ken was trying to communicate. A great speech isn’t exactly communicated until you can build mental models of what the speaker is sending across. I just felt like sharing the video here and letting you into this. What I would say is that you first listen to the speech without watching the video. Probably just play the video and open another tab in your browser so you take your attention away from the video. The play it again, this time watching the video itself and see if your understanding improves. Try it.

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TOP STUDENTS DON’T WANT TO TEACH (Updated)

I do not necessarily believe that the best students make the best teachers. But there are some qualities about being an outstanding student that also qualifies one for the amiable profession of teaching, and these include discipline and commitment. The capacity to focus on one thing and stay the course with excellence in view is of great value to the ability to impart knowledge and facilitate the learning process. But really, it seems that the labor of the mind under the midnight oil is mostly motivated by the potential to earn big, and earn pretty big after college.  Much of what is on the mind of the average student is how to escape the hold of poverty. So coming out and ending up a teacher is not exactly a satisfying thought. This is a growing problem in many developed countries, with widening income differences and increasing poverty levels. But how severe this is in least developed and developing countries. The students in these poor countries are told and taught that education is a means through which they escape poverty. Now it is getting rather difficult to convince students in a country like Nigeria to take up a teaching profession after getting a degree. So we end up having the perceived “organizational rejects” as teachers, lacking any iota of motivation to stay in the classroom. Continue reading

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