By Ikenna Nwokedi

Scholars in the field of Arts and Humanities have emphasized the need for application of democratic ethos in ensuring the nation achieve sustainable growth and development.

This was during the opening ceremony of the two-day Biennial Conference of the Nigerian Academy of Letters (NAL) which kicked off on Wednesday, 19th June 2024 at the Chisco Institute for Transportation Studies, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.

The NAL second Biennial Conference which is an assemblage of scholars in arts and humanities across the nation holding has its theme as: “The Humanities and Nigeria’s Democratic Experience.”

In his keynote address, the Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University Lokoja (FULOKOJA), Kogi State, Professor Olayemi Akinwumi, FNAL, gave an insight on how Nigeria transitioned to democratic governance following a series of failed attempts at democratic transitions orchestrated by military regime under General Ibrahim Babangida and General Sani Abacha followed by a successful transfer of power by General Abdulsalam Abubakar to a democratically elected government marking a significant turning point in the nation’s political and democratic journey.

Prof. Akinwumi also informed that the restoration of democratic governance heralded the establishment of vital institutions like the legislature, which had been suspended during military rule while also pointing out that achieving a robust separation of powers in Nigeria has proven difficult because the judiciary and legislature, particularly at the state level, are heavily reliant on the executive.

The FULOKOJA VC informed that the peaceful transitions of power in 2007, 2015 and 2023 marked significant milestones which was unprecedented in the nation’s history while asserting that citizens of the country have benefitted from fundamental rights and opportunities inherent in a democratic system, protected by the constitution and upheld by the judiciary. The scholar lamented that Nigeria continues to grapple with myriad of challenges including poverty, insecurity, weak institutional frameworks, inadequate infrastructure, corruption, and faltering educational and healthcare systems.

The VC however affirmed that humanities can play a vital role in intervening decisively to address Nigeria’s current predicaments through humanities education, critical thinking, ethical awareness and civic education which can be nurtured to foster a renaissance in the nation.

In his goodwill message, the Acting Vice-Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, Professor Joseph I. Ikechebelu, FAMedS, averred that he is honoured by the fact that the NAL Biennial Conference is being hosted by UNIZIK. Prof. Ikechebelu informed that his administration upon assumption of office came up with a short term vision termed ‘BLESSED’ which translates to Beautiful UNIZIK, Light-Up UNIZIK, Excellent UNIZIK, Digitize UNIZIK, Safe and Secured UNIZIK.

The Acting VC opined that the theme of the conference is quite germane which is aimed at addressing the sad socio-political cum economic predicament that had bedevilled the country right from independence to the present day. The scholar disclosed that humanities are academic disciplines that use analytic, critical and speculative methods to study the human conditions while also describing the humanities, particularly, philosophy as the mother of democracy.

The host and President of NAL, Professor Sola Akinrinade, FNAL, stated that the conference theme is apt as it provides an avenue to delve into Nigeria’s Democratic Experience in the past 25 years, reviewing the scorecard and being futurist with the salient questions on the way forward in effective implementation of democratic ethos.

Prof. Akinrinade while revealing the history behind the advent of NAL appreciated the organizers of the Biennial Conference and Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka for their roles in sustaining academic culture of conferences and seminars which is essential in enhancing intellectual discuss and strengthening the ties between the town and gown.

On his part, the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) Chair, Professor Alex Asigbo disclosed that NAL is an apex professional body for Arts and Humanities and the foremost in Africa with congregation of professors and top scholars in humanities. Reacting on the theme, the scholar revealed that Nigeria have not had it so well in democracy which is why the conference offers an opportunity to discuss individuals various experience, make appropriate suggestions with the outcome in the form of a communique forwarded to lawmakers and government agencies for implementation.

Also speaking, the LOC Secretary, Professor Greg Obiamalu described the conference as a huge success judging by the participation and turnout recorded by both physical and virtual participants. The University Don informed that as a show of commitment, the association pulled the Vice-Chancellor of Federal University of Lokoja, Prof. Akinwumi to present the keynote address. He thanked all who are contributing to the success of the conference.

The conference continues on its second day with parallel sessions addressing sub themes such as Democracy, Language and Literacy Studies; Democracy and Literature; Multidisciplinary and Democracy, Philosophy and Religion.

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