My dictionary characterises the term intelligence as the ability to learn or understand things or to deal with new or difficult situations. I have a problem with this definition; for, what it simply means is that an intelligent mind does not need to be one that is capable of learning, understanding and, at the same time, capable of dealing with difficult or challenging situations. To be intelligent, one only needs to have one of the following attributes: 1. Ability to learn; 2. Ability to understand or comprehend; and 3. Ability to deal with difficult or new situations. This is why I have problems with psychologists who claim to have — and can administer — standardised tests for measuring human intelligence. They even pride themselves on being capable of measuring an individual’s intelligence quotient (IQ). The most obvious fallacy in such a claim is that if I have a fantastic ability to learn or understand what I read or can comprehend the teachings of others with utmost ease, but lack the ability to deal with complex phenomena around me, I will still be considered an intelligent person. Perhaps that is why many people claim that Nigeria, our beloved country, is blessed with countless number of intelligent citizens, and yet we do not have answers for the myriads of problems of development that are confronting us.
Many of us have gone to school and have acquired all manner of certificates. We were taught, we learnt and understood. We passed prescribed examinations by which our intelligence was tested. But that learning and understanding have not given us the ability to deal with our complex environment. Learning and understanding may influence perception, memory and information processing; but it is hard to tell what manner of learning and/or understanding that bears upon the ability to deal with complex phenomena or our challenging environment. While we may need to employ the services of psychologists to further explore the workings of human intelligence, we do not need the assistance of psychologists to conclude that we, as Africans, have not used our intelligence to confront our environmental and developmental challenges.
Before facing this concern about our inability to intelligently challenge our existential problems, let me address an unclear angle to the issue of intelligence. Many would say that one of the differences between humans and animals is that the latter have very low intelligence. Of course, there are animals that one can describe offhandedly as stupid. Take the example of the panda — an animal that is meant to be carnivorous, but prefers to be herbivorous. It has the build, the teeth and fangs to live on meat, fish or eggs; but it prefers to live on bamboo, which is devoid of sustaining nutrients. Instead of feeding on meat or fish or eggs to nitrify its brain and acquire enough energy to enjoy life like other carnivores, it feeds on bamboos. In a word, by its own fault and stupidity, the panda deliberately denies itself the energy to mate more than once a year.
There is something about the panda that is akin to the African. We have all the human makeup with which we can manipulate our environment to solve developmental and existential problems. But like the panda, we deny ourselves the mental nutrient and energy with which we can squarely face our challenges.
Take the example of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), the erstwhile biggest and richest political party in Africa. It became an opposition party in Nigeria at a time that nature plays favourites with the opposition. The All Progressives’ Congress (APC), the party in government, started on a bad footing. It did not have the money and cohesion to deliver on all of its electoral promises. It inherited a recession and a lean federal purse which it could not replenish overnight due to low oil prices. The disappointment and frustration of the citizenry became a fertile ground for the PDP to plant the seeds for the undermining of the electoral value and prospects of the APC. But like the panda, the PDP is feeding on the wrong and poor diet that its body is not meant for. Instead of cashing on the opportunity and present itself as a viable alternative to the APC, it has enmeshed itself in a fratricidal war that has further torn it apart and given the APC the time to turn around its fortune.
Without an opposition, the APC has been able to weather the storm and is surely on the way to building an impregnable fortress around the more than 15 million Nigerians that voted it to power and the many more who now perceive it as the only standing and serious party in the land. Like the panda whose lack of energy and nutrients do not allow it to actualize its potentials, the PDP is denying itself oxygen and is suffocating to death. There are, today, two factions of the PDP; and, for its own good, the PDP will have to kill one of them because it does not have the nutrients and energy to sustain the two. The PDP will have to kill the weaker of the two factions in order to sustain the stronger one. Like the female panda, the PDP does not have sufficient milk, because it has been feeding on a poor diet, and will, therefore, kill one if it is not to lose the two of them.
The PDP did not seem to have learnt from history or understood the dynamics of opposition politics, and it certainly does not have the ability to deal with the complexities of being in opposition. This, to my mind, makes it a stupid party.