By Farooq Kperogi
You can’t be made permanent secretary and not work in the civil service, an ambassador and not work in the diplomatic service, an editor and not work for a media organization, a CEO and not be associated with the company that made you CEO, or a field marshal and be away from military service.
Pantami is a “professor” who doesn’t profess, who doesn’t teach, research, or render service at the university that supposedly conferred the title on him. That’s a down-the-line intellectual scam that he should be ashamed of. It’s one of the most intellectually violent vandalisms of time-honored academic conventions I’ve seen in a long while.
As a religious cleric whom many young people look up to, Pantami should know better than to perpetrate fraud, promote it through third parties, and then swank it himself with unabashed hauteur. If he has any honor and really desires a professorship, he should disclaim this fraudulent “professorship” and earn it the right way.
After his tenure in 2023, he should go back to either ATBU or the Islamic University in Madinah and spend at least 6 to 8 years teaching, researching, and rendering service. Then he might legitimately earn a professorship. Different universities have different criteria for promoting academics to the position of professor. Some prioritize teaching over research. Others prioritize research over teaching. Still, others strike a happy balance between the two.
If he is too impatient to follow the conventional route to professorship, he can get the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, to make him a professor of practice in cybersecurity AFTER his ministerial tenure. This will, of course, require him to relocate to Owerri and actually teach students there. Professors of practice don’t have to go through the traditional protocols of academic promotion because it is their industry experience, not their scholarship or pedagogy, that is the basis for their employment.
My friend Kingsley Moghalu was a professor of practice at Tufts University in the United States. Although Nigerian universities don’t have a tradition for appointing professors of practice, there is always a first time. If Pantami can bludgeon a university into “promoting” him to the position of “professor” even when he has zero formal association with it, he can cause it to do anything.
But to pretend to be a “professor” when he isn’t qualified to be one—and when he doesn’t teach and has never taught at the university that conferred the position on him—is the sort of self-debasing fraud a religious leader shouldn’t be identified with.
To be sure, Pantami’s fraudulent “professorship” isn’t new. As I pointed out in my June 25, 2011 column titled “Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke’s Fake Doctorate and Professorship,” former Nigeria Stock Exchange boss Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke, whose Ph.D. is fake, got her “professorship” the exact way Pantami got his: through intellectual legerdemain. The University of Nigeria, Nsukka made her “professor of capital market studies” in 2007 without having ever taught a course at the university before and after her conferral.
The late Dora Akunyili’s path to a professorship was less fraudulent than Okereke-Onyiuke’s and Pantami’s but it was also unusual. As I wrote in the June 25, 2011 column, “Although she taught at [UNN] for long, she left for public service when she was many ranks away from a professorship. Curiously, however, it was while she was officially away from teaching, research, and university service that she mysteriously skipped several ranks and became a ‘professor’.”
In my December 5, 2020 column titled “Ganduje and Fraudulent American ‘Professorships’ for Nigerian Politicians,” I called attention to the growingly maddening titular vanity among Nigerian politicians that causes them to want to be known as “professors.” “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’,” I wrote.
A U.S.-based Cameroonian academic by the name of Victor Mbarika used to routinely scam Nigerian politicians into thinking they had been appointed to “professorship” at a historically black Louisiana university called Southern University. Ike Ekweremadu was told that he had been appointed “professor” at the university. The same guy also scammed Ganduje until his scam was unveiled.
Pantami appears to be leading a detour back to home universities for the conferral of fraudulent “professorship” on politicians who can pay compromised university administrators. Fortunately, Professor Abubakar Abdulrasheed, a conscientious, ethically sound, thoroughbred academic who has a reputation for doing the right things, now heads the NUC.
I hope Professor Abdulrasheed will cause the NUC to sanction the FUT, Owerri, for the intellectual fraud it has perpetrated in “promoting” an undeserving non-employee to its highest academic rank and ensure that other mercenary university administrators don’t replicate this swindle in the future.
I also hope Pantami has enough decency left in him to renounce the professorial fraud he wears— in the interest of the sanctity of what remains of Nigerian university traditions.