"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: June 2011

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke’s Fake Doctorate and Professorship

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

I don’t want to be known as the guy who exposes or popularizes exposés on people’s forged qualifications. But when our reporters have shown themselves to be either unable or unwilling to bring to light cases of shockingly brazen and bizarre certificate forgeries in high places, it behooves those of us on the reportorial fringes but with knowledge of these frauds to fill the gap.

Early this month, the Nigerian diasporan online media were abuzz over the scandal of Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke’s fake doctoral degree on the basis of which she became so many things in Nigeria. The stories were accompanied by compellingly irrefutable documentary proofs of her culpability. Strangely, however, no Nigerian newspaper has touched the story with a ten-foot pole.
Ms. Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke
Essentially, it has been established that Okereke-Onyiuke’s claim to have earned a Ph.D. in business from the City University of New York (CUNY) in 1983 is fake. This shocking discovery was instigated by investigations into her other famous claim to have worked for years at the New York Stock Exchange (the world’s largest stock exchange) before returning to Nigeria in 1983. That claim has since been proven to be false as well.

In January this year, the (American) Securities and Exchange Commission sent a request to the City University of New York’s Graduate School asking to know if Okereke-Onyiuke indeed earned a Ph.D. in business from the school. The Director of Student Services and Senior Registrar of CUNY’s Graduate School, identified as Vincent J. De Luca, categorically said in a statement that she did not.

“On January 18, 2011, I caused a search to be conducted of our student records (including graduation records) at The Graduate Center, at the request of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, to determine if Ms. Ndi Okereke–Onyiuke was ever enrolled in the Ph.D. Program in Business and if she received a Ph.D. in Business at The Graduate Center,” De Luca wrote in a sworn affidavit in New York.

“A thorough search of our electronic and paper files for the names, Ndi Leche Okereke, Ndi Okereke, Ndi Okereke – Onyiuke and Ndi Lechi Okereke – Onyiuke was conducted. No record was found that Ms. Ndi Okereke – Onyiuke ever enrolled in the Ph.D. Program in Business or received a Ph.D. in Business at The Graduate Center.”   (Click here to see the PDF file of the affidavit).

Even the authenticity of her bachelor’s degree is being called to question. A search in the database of the U.S. Department of Education and the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges by a Nigerian online citizen media site [the link is dead now] found no record for the undergraduate school she claimed to have attended.

Given that all the things around which the social and intellectual basis of her legitimacy revolve have turned out to be fake—e.g. her claim to have worked at the New York Stock Exchange, her claim to have earned a Ph.D. in business, etc—I won’t be shocked if it turns out that, like Andy Uba, she actually does not even have a legitimate high school qualification. It would really be dismally dispiriting on so many levels if this were to be the case.

I now have no doubt that Nigeria is the safe haven for, and the world’s capital of, fakery in high places. Why wouldn’t it be when we have embraced and internalized a culture of glamorizing incompetence and mediocrity? All it takes to climb to the upper reaches of the social scale in Nigeria is to have the ability or luck to know the “right” people in the “right” places— and to be able to scheme and connive and bootlick.

But, for me as an academic, the bigger scandal in all this is that the University of Nigeria Nsukka, one of our finest universities, actually awarded Okereke-Onyiuke a “professorship” in “capital market studies” in 2007 when, in fact, she has never had a full-time appointment with the university. Let’s even forget for now that her Ph.D. is fake. A professorship is not an honorary title that can be arbitrarily bestowed on people who pay for it—the way the honorary doctorate has become in Nigeria. A professorship is the highest-ranking position for a university academic, and people don’t get it unless they actually teach, research, and render services on a full-time basis in a university.

There are three main criteria to rise through the academic rank: teaching, research, and service. Since Okereke-Onyiuke has never taught at UNN and has no scholarly, peer-reviewed publications to her credit, she absolutely has no business being a professor. Awarding a professorship to her in spite of the obvious absurdity of doing so is the most scandalously grotesque profanation of that title I have ever encountered anywhere in the world.

Yes, there are several university professors in Nigeria who are not worthy of that title on the basis of their research output (which requires over 40 peer-reviewed scholarly articles in academic journals or at least two scholarly books published by reputable academic presses), but they at least actually teach—or taught—in a university and render(ed) services in various capacities in the universities as a matter of routine. After all, in the United States, there are people who become “full professors” (as Americans call professors) on the strength of their teaching alone. They are called “teaching professors” as opposed to “research professors.”

Okereke-Onyiuke’s only association with university teaching, according to her official bio, was when she taught “MBA, MBF and MSC classes” at the University of Lagos between 1995 and 1997 as a part-time lecturer. (I pity the unfortunate students who had the misfortune to be taught by her). Interestingly, it is UNN, not UNILAG where she “taught” part time for two years, that conferred a “professorship” on her.

Well, now that it has come to light that Okereke-Onyiuke’s Ph.D. is fake and that her professional profile is willfully hyperbolized (to put it nicely), does UNN owe its students, staff, and alumni an apology for shamelessly desecrating the highest possible honor in academia by awarding it to an undeserving forger?

But it’s not only Okereke-Onyiuke that UNN has awarded an unorthodox, unmerited professorship to. Dora Akunyili is another. Although she taught at the university 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.” What’s really going on at UNN?

To be sure, it’s universal practice to appoint people with extensive industry experience (who may not even possess a Ph.D.) to professorships. In America, such people are called “professors of practice.” But in all cases, the professors of practice often resign from their jobs and become full-time employees of the university that appoints them to the position.

Given the multiple layers of dissimulation in Okereke-Onyiuke’s educational and work profiles, it’s obvious that she wasn’t worthy of being a professor of practice in any university, except we want to degenerate into teaching what she actually practiced—forgery.

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Black Nutjob Who Wants Obama’s Job

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Perhaps, I should first clarify what the term “nutjob” (sometimes written as “nut job”) means for people who aren’t familiar with this American slang. The word denotes a crazy, mentally unbalanced, eccentric person. And it perfectly describes Herman Cain, the brusque, notoriously Islamophobic, self-hating black American Republican presidential aspirant who has been stirring controversies since he announced a run for the Republican presidential nomination.

First, it is sufficiently odd that a black man would seek the presidential nomination of the Republican Party, a party that, until the early 2000s, officially embraced anti-black racism as an electoral strategy through what is known as the “southern strategy”—an invidious, unapologetically racist strategy of winning elections by actively mobilizing anti-black sentiments among whites in the American south.

 (Before the 1960s, the Democratic Party was the racist, southern, anti-black party that supported slavery, and the Republican Party was the liberal, inclusive, northern party that freed blacks from slavery. This changed in the 1960s when the Democratic Party supported Civil Rights legislation for American blacks. Southern whites moved to the Republican Party in large numbers in protest. Since then, the switch in ideologies between the parties has remained constant).

Second, it is strange that a man who comes from a racial group that has historically been at the receiving end of systematic discrimination and exclusion would seek to anchor his campaign on visceral hate and bigotry.

So who is this Herman Cain and why should you care? Well, Cain is a rising, cranky, 65-year-old black Republican presidential candidate from Atlanta, Georgia. He once worked as the CEO of a pizza company called Godfather’s Pizza. He is also a former Navy man, a banker, and church minister, among many other not-so-spectacular positions he held. He came to national prominence in the 1990s when he challenged former President Bill Clinton in a televised town hall debate on Clinton’s healthcare plan. Many analysts attributed the death of Clinton’s healthcare to his encounter with Cain. That singular “feat” earned him a special place in the hearts of American conservatives.
Herman Cain
In January 2011 when he announced a run for the nomination of the Republican Party to challenge President Obama in the 2012 presidential election, few people paid him any attention. Today, he is one of the leading Republican candidates. He is a favorite of the ultra-conservative, racist Tea Party movement. He has also been adjudged the winner of many Republican presidential debates. The once inconsequential, guffaw-inducing candidate is now a rising star.

But he is a dangerous star who only radiates hate and bigotry. The Center for American Progress, a left-leaning public policy research and advocacy group, fittingly characterized Cain as “the Islamophobia candidate.” And it’s a well-earned epithet. For instance, in an interview with Christianity Today, Cain was reminded of an incident he related where he said he was a “little uncomfortable” when he discovered that his cancer surgeon’s name was Abdallah until he “found out he was a Lebanese Christian.”

Do you know why he is uncomfortable with Muslims? “Based upon the little knowledge that I have of the Muslim religion,” Cain explained, “they have an objective to convert all infidels or kill them.”

So a man who is seeking to be president of the world’s most powerful nation distrusts and hates over a billion people—who cut across the fault-lines of race, ethnicity, and geography—on the basis of a self-confessed “little knowledge” about them. 

But it gets even scarier. On the basis of this “little knowledge” and the absurdly paranoid hate and fear it has inspired in him, Cain has said he will never appoint a Muslim in his administration. Never mind that Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

Obviously, it is not only Islam and Muslims about which Cain has “little knowledge”; he also certainly has little knowledge of the constitution of his own country.  Nothing illustrates the meaning of the age-old saying “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” more than this.

But it is not only Muslims that Cain hates and fears. He also hates immigrants—and himself. For instance, he resents being called “African American,” the preferred name to refer to American blacks. He says he is American first, Black second, and then Conservative. That makes him “ABC,” he says. The “ABC” stands for American Black Conservative.

 Given his pitch dark complexion and unmistakable African features, it’s infinitely laughable that he is running away from his African heritage. The ABC initialism he claims as his identity could very well be “America’s Blackest Child,” the derogatory nickname kids gave Clarence Thomas, America’s only black Supreme Court Justice, when he was a kid. He was so called on account of his very dark skin.

Curiously, the same Cain who subordinates, and sometimes ridicules, his racial identity to please his white conservative audiences flashes the race card when he wants to denigrate Obama. For example, he told a white conservative group recently that the “liberal establishment” in America is “doubly scared that a real black man may run against Barack Obama.” Here, he is undisguisedly introducing a dangerous politics of racial purism. He is basically saying that because Obama is half white, he isn’t a “real black man.” And if he isn’t a “real black man,” he can only be a “fake black man” since Obama self-identifies as black. So, you see, Cain’s bigotry is multi-layered.

The good thing, though, is that Cain’s campaign is unlikely to be anything more than a comic sideshow. He has never won any elective position in his life; his lone attempt at running for the Republican Senate primary here in Atlanta in 2004 was a dismal failure; he won just 26 percent of the vote. That’s not the profile of a serious presidential candidate. Besides, the conservative whites who are egging him on would never vote for him when the tire hits the road, as Americans say.

But the bad thing is that Cain’s rising prominence is helping to mainstream the kind of fringe, socially insensitive bigotry that is the signature of his campaign. It is only hoped that the comicality of his candidacy will attenuate his bigotry in the public imagination.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Zainab: One Year After, It Still Feels Like a Dream

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

It’s difficult to believe that today, June 4, marks the one-year anniversary of the tragic death of my wife. I don’t know what feels more like a dream: the death itself or the staggering rapidity of the passage of time between the death and now. Perhaps it’s both. My daughter captured it so well and so precociously when, out of the blue, she said to me two days ago, “Daddy, I think this life is a dream from which we will wake up one day.”

She probably memorized that line from one of her movies or TV programs. Nonetheless, it felt like she had pierced open the inner recesses of my heart and gazed at the motley of labyrinthine thoughts that uneasily resided therein. Since June 4 last year, my mind has vacillated endlessly between coming to terms with my loss and dismissing the materiality of the loss. It’s tough, really tough, to accept that Zainab who brimmed over with so much optimism, who taught me to believe in the realness of tomorrow’s possibilities, who projected and mapped our future with unbelievably contagious confidence, and who never even entertained the prospect that any of us could die before the age of 90 is gone—and for good.

My sense of the insubstantiality of her departure from this world is often aggrandized each time I recall the near-death experience she and I had when we drove to my hometown with our then two-year-old daughter, Sinani, sometime in 2006. We missed being crushed by two trailers only by a hair’s breadth. The trailers were coming at breakneck speed from the opposite directions of a narrow, serpentine road, and we were caught in their middle. I instinctively swerved to the bush and somehow managed a split-second escape from the jaws of death. I frankly don’t know how I did it. Sometimes I wonder if we actually survived it. I used to tell Zainab that we probably died and merely transitioned to another life without realizing it.
Me and Zainab during our wedding in Zaria in 2002
Of course, I never believed my own wild phantasmagoric indulgences. Neither did she. But the second near-death experience she had with her twin sister two years after the one with me shook her much more deeply. She, Sinani, and her twin sister’s entire nuclear family traveled to Lagos to visit a family member. I was away here in America then. As her sister’s husband was driving back to Kaduna, she told me, he lost control of the car. As the car moved precipitously toward the bush, they all wailed in self-pity and made peace with the unsettling reality that they could all die. Zainab said just when she resolved to throw our daughter out of the window in hopes that she might survive, the car hit a tree and screeched to a jarring halt.

“I thought: so that’s how people die in car accidents!” she told me. “But by Allah’s grace we will never die in an accident. We will live until we are old. Amin.” These words now haunt and sting me periodically. They compel me to wonder about the agony of her last moments, about what must have gone through her mind when she was confronted with the cold, inexorable certainty of death. My parents and my friends tell me to not allow my mind to dwell on those toxic thoughts. I sincerely wish I had the capacity to censor my thoughts. Alas, I don’t.

However, many things console me. First, in death Zainab towers like the colossus that she truly was. Few people’s deaths have elicited the kind of sustained, impassioned overflow of genuine emotions and testimonies as much as Zainab’s did. If the dead could see, hear, or read, she would not only be proud of herself, she would be amazed by the immensity of the imprints she left behind. Zainab was a severely self-critical person who had a very modest self-construal of her impact and strengths. She always jokingly called me “Mr. Flatterer” each time I forcefully impressed it upon her that she was a huge reservoir of great intellectual strength, grace, piety, and compassion. The heartfelt testimonies of people who knew her closely have more than confirmed what I had always told her about herself. Of course, I wish I appreciated her more than I did when she was alive.

I am also consoled by the adorable children she left behind. Sinani and Maryam now look more and more like her than they ever did when she was alive—as if to compensate for her permanent absence. Zainab used to call just to tell me how certain of our children’s features and mannerisms often reminded her of me. It’s now I understand what she meant. Every day, Sinani reminds me of her, too. She asks me the same questions that her mother asked me. She is exactly as finicky about neatness and cleanliness as her mother was. And, what is even more mysterious, she makes the same aesthetic demands on me as her mother did. For instance, Zainab never liked it when I had a very low haircut. She always wanted some hair on my head. That’s precisely what Sinani wants of me as well. She protests when I have a very low haircut.

Most importantly, Sinani gives me the same courage and optimism that Zainab gave me. I wonder how I would have survived here alone if I had not brought her here. She has helped me to cope with her mother’s death in ways I can’t convey in words. She has an uncanny capacity to know when I am thinking about her mother. And almost always, she will tell me, “Dad, I know you’re thinking about mom. But you need to be strong for me and my siblings. When you’re sad we will all be sad. When you’re happy we will all be happy. And remember that mommy is having a good time in Heaven.”

On Mother’s Day last month, I was concerned that the heavy dose of advertising and program promos about children-mother bonding on TV would activate painful memories of her mother’s death. I was thinking of ways of dealing with this when she came in to my bedroom and interrupted my thoughts. “Dad,” she said, “it’s a good thing that my mom was a twin.”  My heart skipped a beat. So I asked why she said that. Then she responded:  “Because God gave me two moms. Now that my first mom is dead, I have a second mom. If my mom wasn’t a twin, I would have been motherless now. That would have been very bad. Now, can we go and buy some Mother’s Day gifts for my Mommy Kaduna?”

“Mommy Kaduna” is the name Zainab taught our children to call her twin sister, Hajia Aisha. Her twin sister’s children, in turn, used to call her “Mommy Abuja.” Sinani’s innocent and child-like yet hopeful and philosophical take on motherhood both delighted and touched me deeply. It gave me an insight into her infectious calmness and unusual strength in the face of her “first mother’s” transition to Heaven.

What more can I hope for? May Zainab’s wonderful soul continue to rest in eternal bliss.

Related Articles:
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Grieving in America 
Zainab: One Year After, It Still Feels Like a Dream