Phd! A Shroud For The Academic Living Dead?
By Yerima Kini Nsom
Ace critic and literary don, (the) Late Dr. Bate Besong alias BB, once came down hard on unproductive, Doctorate of Philosophy, PhD holders. He pooh-poohed them as “nanos” who have pushed the PhD down the abyss as “a shroud for the academic living dead and an obnoxious fraternity for opportunists and time-serving schemers.”
BB fired the critical salvo when he received the Patron Publishing Literary Award in 1993 in Bamenda. “BB, BB!,” his audience cheered as the critical don emptied the content of his verbal bazooka on PhD holders who did not publish any works nor behave like the intellectuals who are saddled with the responsibility of fighting the ills of the society.
And as Fonlon would have it, a genuine university is different from a glorified secondary school in that it must have this one and indivisible trinity; university library, the University Bookshop and the University Press.
Thus, a PhD holder who publishes not, perishes!
In consonance with BB’s averment, an avalanche of criticism has been unleashed on the newly recruited PhD holders who stormed the streets of Yaounde last Monday in a motion-of-support caravan to thank President Paul Biya for giving them jobs. Although life is a duality of give and take, it is preposterous that people who are supposed to be intellectuals who can stand their own anywhere, consider their recruitment into the university teaching corps as a favour from President of the Republic.
The march of these men and women who have gone through all the rituals of education and drunk deep from the fountain of knowledge, piqued critical onlookers in Yaounde. For, the PhD holders who would have been proud and prim in their triumphant robes, staged a procession of shame and ridicule. In their hypocrisy, many of them did not believe in what they were doing. They were just the proverbial little birds dancing in the middle of the road while the politicians did the drumming. Little wonder words quarreled in the mouth of one of them as he spoke in fractured syntaxes in front of television cameras. Such a scene of shame or walk of scandal was a tell-tale that Cameroon’s intellectual vineyard has become a fief for academic mercenaries and intellectual eunuchs who lack the virtues of principle and positive intellectualism. They give the impression that a PhD is limited to teaching in the university, whereas its holders have research skills that make them eligible for many other jobs.
That is why many people did not cozy the idea that supposed intellectuals were being manipulated to rub their academic robes in the mud. The march was just a testimony that the varsity lecturers are in the throes of intellectual and political enslavement. Such a march is also motivated by the fact that professorship in our country can also be acquired on a politico-tribal basis as well as through sheepish loyalty to the academic czars. Men and women without scruples know that the easy path to success is to “seek ye first the kingdom of a certain political party”.
What our grateful PhD holders did last Monday, may be odd. Yet, there is nothing monumentally new in that feat of ignominy. A few years ago, our (pseudo) intellectuals scrambled to sign a motion of support in which President Paul Biya was called upon to remain in power for life. Thus, last Monday’s act of disgrace can only be strange to people who do not know that many of our intellectuals are people who do not believe in themselves, but in thin political gods that give them crumbs from the high table. People who complain are ignoramuses who are too naive to understand that our society is a land where superstition easily conquers science.
It is likely to be so for quite a while because, to many observers, Cameroon is a political hell wherein life is a running tale of harassment, victimization, stress and frustration for the critical and independent- minded academics. The universities that are supposed to be citadels of free-thinking and universal knowledge par excellence, have lost their academic potency and independence to a political organization whose sugar-coated euphemism is the Ministry of Higher Education.
That is why intellectuals who are supposed to be movers and shakers of the society in the onslaught for the general good, have been reduced to whimpering dwarfs. They seem to have taken a pact with silence so that their voices are not heard on controversial issues of grave national import and impact. They cut the anonymity of mouths that do not have tongues as they prosper in their oath of silence.
The treacherous capitulation of the intellectual class in our society has fouled up our universities and desecrated them as holy ground(s) for academic sovereignty. It is time our intellectuals went back to their seats in order to arrest this betraying resignation.
The former US president, Dwight Eisenhower once said: “People who value their privileges above values, would eventually lose both”. One Nigerian writer posited that! “What matters in life is the nobility of one’s convictions and the courage to pursue them, using all skills”. Can our intellectuals be proud of being accomplices to a system that stands reason on its head, where due-process is by-passed with ease and the rule of law is eroded with dictatorial insanity?
Can we be proud of intellectuals who spy on each other just to show their loyalty to the establishment and scurry for favours?
Can we be comfortable that our intellectuals maintain sealed lips as some power drunk individuals put the nation on the boil? Or are we saying that Cameroon is so unfortunate that it has mostly pseudo or “book-cooking intellectuals”?.
At this trying moment in our country, we need genuine intellectuals that should see themselves at the border-post of the nation’s conscience and defend the people against the numerous brutalities. The minds of such people should be grander than joining the oppressors against the oppressed for the sake of having a slash of the national cake. We salute those intellectuals who speak out against injustices metted out on the people. The truth and the good are undying. They will prevail even in the most barbaric circumstances.