Friday, October 19, 2007

The Global Context of Faith in Cultures and in Education of Nations: A Vision for African Christian Leadership Education.

The Global Context of Faith in Cultures and in Education of Nations: A Vision for African Christian Leadership Education.

Being the Topic of a Colloquium delivered

at Greenville College Greenville Illinois

October 11, 2007


‘Sayo Ajiboye MA MSW

Mission Africa International
Plot 164 AK Street, Federal Housing Estate, Ikorodu Lagos

Good Evening, my name is Oluwasayo Ajiboye.I am a prince of the Yoruba people, from Imesi Ile in Ijeshaland by birth and a pastor- priest of the Christian faith by choice. I stand before you today as a generalist – in training and in disposition. In discussing The Global Context of Faith in Cultures and in Education of Nations: A Vision for African Christian Leadership Education,” I speak as a passionately concerned and involved African generalist, not as a specialist.

There was a time in Africa when hope ran wild. People believed that change was possible, they worked for it, they waited for it; they expected it to come quickly; they believed that it would set them and their generations free. This was a season when Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product and the per capital income was higher than South Korea’s, and quite close to that of many Western countries, including the United States. This was a season when Malaysia and other countries of Asia came to watch the unfolding drama of excellence that unfolded in our nations and learnt from it. It was a season when the leaders of these nations sought counsel from our African leaders on how to construct their own systems. Believe it or not, there was such a time when the only nation whose currency was stronger than that of Nigeria currency was Britain. I retreat into that season for inspiration whenever I have to engage with this new season within which Africa finds itself. This is a season, a long season within which hope has been low and excellence has been a wish, not granted.


I note that every leader of that season was a product of Christian philosophy in education.

  • Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana went to School under Rev Fraser and Rev Aggrey and later attended a Roman Catholic Seminary and graduated from Pennsylvania University with Bachelors in sacred Theology.
  • Leopold Senghor of Senegal was trained by the Spiritan Fathers from the Age of eight.[1] He actually entered Seminary and was told that he was not suited to Christian ministry!

  • Seretse Khama of Botswana was a product of South African Christian Boarding School and Fort Hare College, the first College opened to Blacks in Apartheid South Africa. Fort Hare was founded as a result of the activities of James Stewart of the Glasgow Missionary Society Church of Scotland[2][3],[4]
  • Julius Nyerere defied the odds and bested it all at once. He was the only one of the first generation leaders who was educated completely at a public school but he was also the only one who was the most devout of them. He never missed the daily mass throughout his public life, he was known to fast often. In fact, in the year 2005, the Catholic Diocese of Musoma in Tanzania opened a cause for the beatification of Nyerere[5].
  • Patrice Lumumba of Zaire was educated at a Protestant Elementary School and a Catholic Secondary Mission School. He was raised in a devout Catholic family.
  • Dr. Nanamdi Azikwe, the first President of Nigeria was trained at the Wesleyan Boys High School in Lagos before moving to Howard University here in the USA[6]
  • Obafemi Awolowo, the first Regional Premier of South Western Nigeria was trained at the Methodist Mission School in his home town Ikenne and later at Wesley College for Teachers in Ibadan. He was a devout member of the Anglican (Episcopal) Church.
  • I can go on and on and create an endless list. General Gowon of Nigeria was the son of a minister, Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso was raised in a Christian home etc etc.

Of all of these Awolowo or Awo as he was popularly called was and still is a mythical figure among my own people, the Yorubas of South Western Nigeria. He began leading a region of about 20 million people when he was in his late thirties, He worked under the oversight and intense opposition of colonialist; in spite of these he succeeded in leading an effective team of thinkers to set up structures of change. Within 5 years of becoming the premier of the Western Region of Nigeria, he introduced:

    • Free primary education for every child in the region
    • Built, equipped and staffed functioning General Hospitals in the 10 plus divisional headquarters of the region.
    • Organized agricultural productivity around a unique system that empowered young people and conserved age old structures of the community and brought hitherto unbelievable levels of prosperity.
    • From the financial result of Agricultural prosperity, he embarked on a process of modernization by
      • Building the first modern stadium in all of Africa, Liberty Stadium Complex Ibadan Nigeria
      • Installed industrial capacity that utilized agricultural raw materials and propelled the Western region far ahead of its contemporaries.
      • Laid the foundation for the first indigenously conceived modern University in Sub Saharan Africa
      • Constructed the first High Rise Building in Sub Saharan Africa – appropriately named Cocoa House Ibadan
      • Installed the first Public Television system in Africa
      • Created a networks of roads that is still essentially the backbone of South Western Nigeria
      • Demonstrated passionate commitment to the plight of the poor and the helpless

Himself and his team did all of these in an atmosphere of multi-party politics, ethnically motivated opposition, strong financial scrutiny by the colonial overlords. Much later, during the Nigerian Civil War of 1967 - 1970, he was invited to manage the national economy. He did this so well that to date Nigeria is still the only nation to prosecute a major war without resort to deficit budgeting or external borrowing; the country actually turned a profit during the war!

The question then is this: what accounts for the success of these man and his generation where subsequent generations with richer resources have failed miserably? I hang the answer on three anchors:

i. Their Preparation and the Form of education that they received

ii. Their Personal styles and the form of leadership that they espoused

iii. Their Philosophy of the Community and the vision of the nation as they saw it.

Preparation and Value Driven Education

I know a little about the kind of education that they received because I was born and I lived with one of Awolowo’s contemporaries. My father was a year Awo’s junior at the Wesley College, Elekuro, Ibadan. These titans were formed at Methodist Mission College much like Greenville where I stand today.

They were formed by a commitment to a value driven education that demands a commitment to a clear set of standards. I read in a scholarly paper how the present educational system of my country seeks to achieve the following goals:

i) produce manpower

ii) ii) conduct research and

iii) iii) serve the community.

The educational philosophy that produced these men turned those values on their head; these men were trained to invert that order. For them, education was not about a job, or about a career; it was about service. It was about living in the community; they joined the ancient sages in asking, “how then shall we live?”

In his book “Common Fire: Living Lives of Commitment in a complex World,” Educational Psychologist Laurent Daloz asserted that success among healers of communities in the America has been a success that is rounded by a purpose other than self. It is a success located in and around “Commons.” These New Commons are different from the Village Green; they are facilitated by “the development of a new mindscape.” Daloz believes that this mindscape “stretches space, place and time. “It is a shared world in which the good of all is being worked out.

The old African Commons was defined by ancestry and close affinity; the New African Commons will be defined by technology, globalization, diversity and complex radicality. It is a sad commentary that the Old Guard was better prepared to engage with the new global reality than the new players! I am nearly convinced that if there had been continuity of leadership of the old, Africa would have been a serious player in the space age and not an onlooker.


People speak about African tribalism. The Old Guards were vigorously confronted with the equality of man at the mission schools. Mission schools were always multi-ethnic; they always included students who traveled from very long distances to be a part of the community. The old mission school was the ultimate antidote to ethnic rivalry; there was simply no space for that foolish assumption. After school, the products of mission were forced by circumstance to circulate around their nations. They had to work with those other than them; they had to lead those with whom they do not agree. They were empowered by the values of He who is different than us who yet befriended us; they engaged closely with the values of our Lord the Nazarene.

Re-engagement with Development

For Africa to re-engage with its lost trajectory of development and for the nations to release their populace from the negative facilities that assails them, there must be a re-engagement with a value laden, value driven education. This education must redefine The Commons, it must embrace technology and a radically complex diversity; it must commit to an existence within a Trans regional Trans continental global construct.


I am always intrigued when I read about the African Old Guard and their very personalized kind of leadership. Their styles of leadership created effective disciples, it sets hearts on fire. So you hear about Nkrumanism in Ghana, Ujaama in Tanzania, Zikism in Nigeria, Negritude in Senegal and of course, Awoism in Nigeria. Someone will immediately throw at me the fact that the era of “isms are gone. I immediately answer that “most probably not…!” Maybe we are living in an era when one “ism” – capitalism, has so overshadowed the other “isms” that it effectively blinds our sight from a need for something other than itself. I wonder if we are living in an era of people who are afraid to engage with the big idea, maybe we are living in a season of leaders whose creative capabilities are suspect; I think we should worry at the preponderance of one “ism.” We need to be asking ourselves, how long shall it be when our world will remain monocled by one vision – that of economic gain? We need to desire the day when men again will engage with the beauty of the original thought, the original concept; we need to see the day of the philosopher King – again.

Ladies and gentlemen, I look forward and sincerely desire a New Lutheran Reformation, I desire a Wesleyan impact on national and global sanity, I yearn for a Calvinistic reintegration of order and form; I desire an Anabaptist rediscovery of ancient roots and mores. I believe that a new generation must arise that will engage with ideas and redefine concepts. This generation will have the capacity to make disciples; they will draw unto themselves willing men and women. I strain at the leash as I consider this thought; I pray passionately; “do it again in our days Oh Lord!”

There is nowhere on the face of the earth where this idealistic, responsive charismatic leadership is necessary like Africa. We are faced with a question however: Will he be a spawn of Al Qaeda or will she be a Prince of the Church. Those of us seated here can help determine that question.


I now return to the thought on the leadership of the Old Guard and its communal face. I dare say that the essentials of charisma xariðzomai, is attraction. Charisma draws; it holds; and it enfolds. Every contact with Charisma commands the contacted to reflect, to think; charisma cannot be ignored; it always demands action: it spawns creativity. Charisma challenges the weak to rediscover the innateness of strength; it creates unbreakable connectional bridges. Charisma makes individualism a mythical and ultimately, quite irrelevant (Daloz again!). The charismatic will always evolve into follower ship: whether it is St. Francis of Assisi or St Dominic or Saint to be Teresa of Calcutta. Whether he is Che Guevara , Fidel Castro, Lenin or Kim Il Yong, it does not matter whether he is Osama Bin Laden or Sheikh Omar: the Charismatic will always command deep following. Will this generation be able to raise Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury? Will we get another Wilberforce? We will train financiers, administrators, transnational reformers and mission leaders like the Clapham Sect? There is no continent on earth with such a need for charismatic reorganizers with enough will and following to enforce change.


I believe that the only force on earth capable of using Charisma without pollution and abuse is Christianity.

Only true Christians are capable of being altruistic, with no strings attached. This is because we are commanded to give something for nothing.

Only Christians are truly progressive; we aim at the enlightenment of that which is most hidden in the Universe – the Spirit of man.

Only Christians are truly practical, we reject a flight into nothingness (maya – or - illusion of Hinduism), demand a leap of faith (Kierkegaard) and insist that it must be based on the platform of reason (Paul, Lonergan).

Only the Christian faith is truly diverse in its assertion that all of you are brethren, in His personal acceptance of the service and ministry of Women (Luke 8:1-3),

Only Christians have the internal capacity to live in the world and not be of the world. We can be in the Company of fornicators without descending into morass of immorality.

It is only Christian Education that can bring the change needed to Africa.

Permit me to close my thoughts by reminding you of a dear friend of mine, some of you have probably met him where I met him – within the four walls of the library: his name is William Carey. Nearly 200 years since this man’s ministry ended, the most crowning deed that he undertook - with his team - was to facilitate transformational education for India. Working with a powerful team whose lead organizer was the indomitable Hannah Marshman, they provided free education for the poor around Serampore. By 1820 – 1830, 8000 students were in schools within a twenty mile radius of Calcutta. In his particular station, there were 400 students attending for free. By 1827, Joshua Mashman has secured a Charter for Seramphore College to confer degrees….

When we look back over a 200 years span, we will see the conditions in Africa that are very challenging today have probably changed, we will see a social peeking order that was committed to maintaining the privilege of the rich has probably been dismantled, we will see, post– date, a continental context that right now demands critical attention but all of which attention has been addressed. One thing that will however make all of the rest pale into insignificance: what is important then will be what we choose to do or not to do today, what our children are talking and writing about; what was considered important actions in an era of pain.

Nkrumah is dead, Zik is gone, Nyerere has passed away, Senghor is gone, Khama, Sankara, Sadaruna, Awo… all of them are gone; soon, we also will be history, we will be gone. What will be written concerning us? I therefore stand before you today as visionary seeking partnership, maybe we can affect a countless generations.

We are in the process of setting up an Institution of Higher learning, our aim is to provide a value laden, service driven visionary education for our young people. We desire a place of excellence in extremis, we desire a place of ethos that models our Lord the Master Servant; we desire a transcontinental College; a place where young thinkers can resort and be formed. We seek a contextualized application of technology, a center that refuses to mimic Europe/America but strongly encourages a spirit of contextual inquiry. We desire a place where technological questions are posed in manners that address the needs on the streets of Africa. We desire a place where history is respected, we desire a place where the future is gazetted; we desire a place of journeys, a center of voyages into the world wide ocean of knowledge walking on the narrow but firm ledge of the word of God. We desire a center that is consciously committed to a transformational agenda; we ask the partnership of Greenville College.



[3] The Life of James Stewart retrieved 10/11/07 at 1:53am from

[4] It was James Stewart who said It is better to Christianize the Africans than to crush them. It is better to educate than to exterminate them. And the day is coming, whether we live to see it or not, when even the Dark Continent shall have its Native Universities.”
Dr. Stewart in 1878.


[6] Nigerian Past Leaders: Sir. Nnanmdi Azikwe