Where are the public intellectuals? By Reuben Abati


Reuben Abati
Something sad has happened and is happening, and is getting worse in our society: the decline of public intellectualism. And so I ask, where are the public intellectuals? Once upon a time in this country, the public arena was dominated by a ferment of ideas, ideas that pushed boundaries, destroyed illusions, questioned orthodoxies and enabled societal progress.
Those were the days when intellectuals exerted great influence on public policy, and their input into the governance process could not be ignored. Ideas are strong elements of nation building, and even where interests are at play, you know the quality of a country by the manner in which a taste for good thinking propels the leadership process.
Public intellectuals are at the centre of this phenomenon: they include academics who go beyond their narrow specializations and university-based scholarship to take a keen interest in public affairs and who use their expertise and exposure to shed light on a broad range of issues. They also include journalists, writers and other professionals who question society’s direction, and offer alternative ideas. The beauty of public intellectualism is that the intellectual at work is a disinterested party, he is interested in ideas not for his own benefit, but for the overall good of society, and he does not assume that his opinions are the best or that he alone understands the best way to run society and its organs. The product of this attitude is that discourse, a culture of debate, is encouraged and in the cross-pollination of ideas, a good current of thought is created; truth is spoken to power.
We have had glimpses of this in Nigeria, and without trying to sketch a history of public intellectualism in our country or attempt a ranking of public intellectuals, let me just say that between the …Read More

Source:: PM Newspaper