Prof. Sophie Oluwole
If Nigeria is to attain real development, western educated Nigerian scholars must embrace inherited body of indigenous knowledge with their basic ideas, beliefs as well as principles, theories and technical skills to create new ones and integrate viable imported ones with them for the country’s growth.
The first female doctorate degree holder in philosophy in Nigeria, Prof. Sophie Oluwole, made this remark at the sixth Lagos@50 Colloquium. It has as theme ‘Language, Education and Development,’ held recently at Freedom Park, Lagos.
While noting that many people, including intellectuals, ignorantly assumed that many African cultures have no history and usable knowledge due to the absence of written body of knowledge, she explained that Africa’s vast body of knowledge is transmitted orally.
According to her, a great amount of evidence about the intellectual ability of blacks and African people exists both in Yoruba intellectual and material cultural heritage. She highlighted the deep-rooted knowledge of the Yoruba in science, mathematics and metaphysics, saying the Yoruba body of knowledge is vastly superior to the western ones that Nigerians embrace at the detriment of their own.
Oluwole stated that several scholars have demonstrated that ancient Yoruba thinkers understood the two basic features of reality, matter and non-matter, not as two independent, opposing axioms, as taught in physics in the west, but as two binary that are complementary and inseparable elements of nature. She revealed that western scientists have now come to accept this as the basic axiom in which reality in physics as pure matter is now defined as Quantum Physics.
Oluwole further explained that the Yoruba Ifa system, built on this knowledge, is calculated in terms of binary notations, haloisms, counting, cycles, stereoscopism, anagrams, mirrowings, progressings, permutings, algorithms and randomness, which are all principles of computer system.
The scholar argued that this shows that many western theories of physics, biology, chemistry, philosophy and mathematics taught in African schools as scientific and rational have thus been demonstrated as false and consequently inferior to the predominant ones in African intellectual cultures.
ALSO, Oluwole bemoaned the relegation of the country’s indigenous languages to the background, saying the neglect accounts for the stunted growth and underdevelopment all over Africa.
“Africa is the only continent that uses foreign language as a medium of expression in institutions of learning despite the reports of many studies confirming the fact that mother tongue is the best medium of instruction that facilitates better understanding of knowledge,” she said. “This is why many intelligent Nigerians perform woefully in academics.”
Oluwole explained that deep knowledge through formal and informal processes in African languages existed long before colonialisation, adding, “It is not just the teaching of western science, philosophy, medicine and other disciplines in English that has prevented true development in many parts of contemporary Africa; it is the fact that schools’ subjects and disciplines contain only foreign ideas, beliefs, principles, skills and technology that greatly retard meaningful development in Nigeria and other parts of the continent.
“Is it therefore strange that millions of Africans, who have received western education, are yet to bring true development to the continent? The reason is that while most of them are ignorant of indigenous science and techniques, they lack the competence to make electric machines.”
Oluwole pointed out that China, Japan and Russia never reinvented the wheel, but have developed to a very high level by combining western education with deep knowledge of indigenous medicine, social science and so on, that lies in their indigenous culture. She noted that these nations teach all subjects and disciplines, including science, in their own languages.
“Today, each has developed economically and materially, manufacturing machines, including ones that take them to space”, she noted.
Participants at the event observed that indigenous languages in the country are dying along with the cultures they transmit. They, therefore, called on the Federal Government to preserve Nigeria’s vast cultures and knowledge systems by promoting the use of indigenous languages.