On December 1, many Nigerian newspapers published the story of East Carolina University’s appointment of Kano State’s dollar-stuffing governor Abdullahi “Gandollar” Ganduje “as a visiting full professor of e-governance and international affairs” purportedly as an affirmation of his “accomplishment in good governance and genuine investment in human capital development.”
Ganduje’s Press Secretary by the name of Abba Anwar said in a press statement that the formal offer of a “full visiting professor” to Ganduje was signed by a Victor Mbarika on behalf of East Carolina University in the United States.
Mbarika’s letter to Ganduje said he would “provide mentorship for Ph.D. students and junior lecturers of the institution.” “Looking at your academic, administrative, and overall leadership record in Nigeria and Africa, you fit perfectly in East Carolina University’s goal to remain a leading research and teaching institution in the United States and beyond,” Mbarika’s statement reportedly said.
This is straight-up dupery. And there are many telltale red flags for this. The first thing I did when I read the story was to search the website of East Carolina University. There was no story of Ganduje’s appointment anywhere on the site.
I chalked it up to this last paragraph in Ganduje’s so-called letter of appointment: “It is our fervent hope, Sir, that you will accept this offer. Your appointment will be posted at …ECU-ICITD’s website…once we get your acceptance.” Perhaps, it will take some time between Ganduje’s acceptance and the publication of the appointment on the university’s website.
The second red flag, though, was the language of the letter. As someone who studies— and writes on— Nigerian English and its deviations from native-speaker English varieties, I whiffed several Nigerianisms in the letter.
For instance, the letter says, “You have been a source of motivation to the Nigerian youths both at home and in the diaspora at large. We are amazed at your accomplishments both as the Executive Governor of Kano State, Nigeria, Fellow National Association of Educational Administration and Planning, Nigeria, and your investment in Human Capital Development.”
Apart from the extravagantly exaggerated flattery and the gushing nothingness of the language, which isn’t typical of the bureaucratic language of American English, that paragraph features expressions that no American university administrator would use: “the Nigerian youths,” “executive governor,” “diaspora at large.”
An American would say “the Nigerian youth” (since “youth” is pluralized with the “s” morpheme only when it refers to young men, and remains unchanged when it refers to young people of both sexes); “governor” (because Americans don’t prefix “executive” to “governor” since it’s a given that governors have executive, not ceremonial, powers); and just “the diaspora” (since the addition of “at large” to “diaspora” is a little superfluous).
Most importantly, though, the appointment the letter says Ganduje has been given—and the duties he is expected to perform— at East Carolina University aren’t conventional. I should know. I have been in the US university system for nearly two decades.
A “visiting full professorship” at an American university to a politician who is a full-time governor of a state in a foreign country is unheard of. It’s the stuff of comedy. What is even stranger still is that Ganduje, according to his letter of appointment, is expected to “provide mentorship for Ph.D. students and junior lecturers” at East Carolina University.
OK, I get that Ganduje has a PhD in Public Administration from the University of Ibadan, but that alone doesn’t qualify him to mentor PhD students at a US university. First, American doctoral education involves coursework. His didn’t. And he hasn’t taught or supervised any PhD student since he got his PhD in 1993.
Second, East Carolina University doesn’t have a Ph.D. in Public Administration. Nor does it even have a PhD in Political Science. It only has a master’s in public administration.
So which “Ph.D. students” is he going to mentor—if even if he’s qualified to do so? And “mentor junior lecturers”? About what? About stuffing dollars in their pockets without being caught?
By the way, the term is “junior faculty” in American academe. “Lecturer” is the generic term for university teachers in the UK and the Commonwealth. The term has a specific, slightly different meaning in American academe.
There are two dominant senses of the term “lecturer” in America, as I pointed out in a December 13, 2015 column titled, “A Comparison of Everyday University Vocabularies in Nigeria, America, and Britain (I).” The first is a public speaker at certain universities. The second sense is an inferior-rank university teacher who either does not possess a Ph.D. or who has a Ph.D. but doesn’t have a tenured or tenure-track job.
Lecturers are overworked and underpaid, only teach undergraduates, are not expected to be researchers, and are often abandoned to vegetate on the fringes of academic departments in American universities. Are those the people Ganduje will mentor? Or is the person who wrote his letter of appointment simply not smart enough to replace “junior lecturers” with “junior faculty”?
Well, it turns out that Ganduje isn’t the only Nigerian politician who has courted this sort of fraudulent “visiting professorship” from an American university. This has been going on longer than most people are aware of.
For instance, Ike Ekweremadu, the former deputy senate president, was appointed a “full professor” at a historically black university in New Orleans, Louisiana, called Southern University. The university has this information on its website at the time of writing this column on Friday. The language used to appoint Ganduje as “visiting full professor” is eerily similar to the language used for Ekweremadu.
“Professor Ike Ekweremadu will mentor PhD students, junior lecturers, as well as take a lead in advising our University’s research center on academic issues related to E-Governance and Strategic Government Studies,” the appointment says. Have you already seen the similarities between this and the language used in Ganduje’s letter?
But that’s not all. Ekweremadu was appointed by “The Southern University International Center for Information Technology and Development (ICITD).”Ganduje was appointed by “East Carolina University International Center for Information Technology and Development ECU-ICITD.”
Most importantly, both centers are managed by someone called Victor Mbarika, a Donald Trump-loving Anglophone Cameroonian academic who taught Information Technology at Southern University from 2010 to 2020 and who started teaching the same course at Eastern Carolina University from August this year.
I am still researching what Ekweremadu and Ganduje gave Mbarika in exchange for the meaningless and worthless titles he conferred on them— and whether the authorities in Southern University and East Carolina University are aware of Mbarika’s unconventional professorial conferrals on foreign politicians.
In June 2019, a senior, far-famed Nigerian-American professor here in the US told me about similar dubious schemes. “Some of our friends in the US set up an agency to be recruiting failed Nigerian politicians into US campuses for ‘sabbatical leave.’ Saraki has gotten a position in Georgetown with my friend…” he said.
He continued: “The guy and his collaborators want to recruit my university to join in what they call a ‘network.’ The politician will pay the professor who recruits and creates a spot for him as a Visiting Distinguished Professor. He sent an impressive brochure which I just read. It can never occur to me that things will degenerate to this level. Maybe it has been going on, and I am not aware.”
You see, bought honorary doctorates have lost their gravitas and the “Dr.” title has now lost its sheen among Nigerian politicians, so they are moving to the next level, which is bought “professorships” in foreign universities.
Two-bit diasporan scholars exploit and abuse the social capital of their education and location in America to humor cognitively vacant politicians with fragile but vaunted egos. For a couple of million dollars, which is chicken feed to our crooked politicians, many universities here will humor them with worthless titles—until they are shamed. Watch out for more.
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