Scam, kidnap by South African police

Scam, kidnap by South African police

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Scam, kidnap by South African police

Scam, kidnap by South African police

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Lincoln University of Pennsylvania

Celebrating Lincoln University: Keynote Address for Lincoln University of Pennsylvania Conference Jun 4-7, 2012. Chieke E. Ihejirika PhD. MJoTA 2012 v5n1 p0606


It is my pleasure to welcome you distinguished scholars and ladies and gentlemen to this august event. What we are doing here these 4 days is a testimony to the nature and importance of this venerable institution called Lincoln University. This National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) sponsored Lincoln University Summer Institute which we are inaugurating today only validates what we all know, but need to celebrate, that is, that Lincoln University is the crown jewel in black intellectual accomplishment in America, Africa and the Caribbean –the 3 zones of Lincoln’s tripartite heritage. This citadel founded in 1854 at the peak of slavery, racism and segregation in America, has since blossomed to pioneer the goal and mission of Black emancipation here and everywhere.

In 1854, Lincoln University started as a pioneer institution in the cultural education for young Negro men. In 1933, LU reiterated that its invitation to fellowship is only to those who would pioneer in service to their race and to humanity. In 1935, the university still reaffirmed that: “The College that would serve our country best in the present time must give to those it educates a vision of nobility and importance in their life and destiny. This is and has been the endeavor of Lincoln University Pennsylvania during all the eighty years of its existence” (Crisis, 1935). Furthermore, at the twilight of the twentieth century, Lincoln University under the last administration reiterated its mission to produce leaders for the twenty-first century. Today the current administration is determined to return the Lincoln mystique. What is that mystique?

That mystique is the extraordinary character that distinguished this institution and her alumni culminating in the now famous assertion that: you can tell Lincoln men but you can’t tell them much. The goals of this Summer Institute are to highlight this rich history and legacy of Lincoln University by alerting the neighboring communities of the gem in their midst, by reminding our university community of our mission and most importantly by re-sensitizing our students to their sacred duties of upholding the honor and integrity of this venerable institution.

There is no gainsaying that since its inception Lincoln alumni have dominated the who’s who in Black America at least until the desegregation of schools in the fifties and sixties. Meanwhile, the same conditions that made Lincoln necessary also drew Africans and Afro-Caribbean to America in pursuit of higher education at the one and the first institution of higher learning in the world founded to educate Black people. Lincoln therefore started with educating the crème de la crème of Blacks in the world, and Lincoln quality’s was so high that they referred to it as the Black Princeton. In those days Lincoln competed and won debating contests with some of the world’s best colleges.

The challenges of today are no less daunting than those of the past. They are only different. Just as Lincoln students of the past championed civil rights and combated racism and other social ills and showed excellence in restoring the dignity of man, current students should be reminded to live up to the challenges of their own times. Such challenges include: recapturing and maintaining the high profile of their alma mater, through academic excellence, pioneering and championing economic independence or self-reliance for Black America, completing the Pan-African enterprise by encouraging and promoting political and economic integration of Africa, while helping to build Black multinational corporations that can participate in the utilization of the vast and untapped resources of Africa, United States and the Caribbean. The well being of Africa must be part of Lincoln University’s goals because the institution that John Miller Dickey established was to educate Black people for missionary assignment in Africa. Evidently, sundry challenges still exist in Africa today requiring Lincoln’s leadership.

Although it is impossible to exhaustively enumerate all the firsts achieved by Lincoln University, especially as this is still ongoing, given that more than half of our current students are the firsts in their families to go to college.

However, we must not fail to mention some of Lincoln’s singular achievements such as producing the Hon. Thurgood Marshall (class of 1930), the first Black Supreme Court Justice in the United States and two heads of state of independent Africans countries, His Excellency Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (also of the class of 1930), first president of Nigeria and Hon. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah (class of 1939), first Prime Minister of Ghana. These African pioneers came to Lincoln with a cohort of their compatriots who liberated and changed Africa, by continuing the emancipator role they acquired at Lincoln.

Apparently, there was something about Lincoln that ignited or elicited Afropatriotism or a sense of self worth which challenged these leaders to be supremely self confident and to believe in their innate capabilities even as they lived in a highly segregated world in which Blacks were clearly marginalized. Lincoln University was a major confidence booster. It instilled excellence in the students and excellence has the unmistakable tendency to heal any lingering feelings of inferiority complex that might exist in one’s psyche. At that early time Lincoln man engaged in shouting contest that was their orientation into audacity. The oratorical skills that came with that exercise served them extremely well. The three famous alumni mentioned above were the epitome of orators.

It was at Lincoln that many young African leaders rediscovered themselves and found their roles as leaders. For instance, Azikiwe came to Lincoln as Benjamin and returned as Nnamdi Azikiwe. At Lincoln Zik became, what his younger mentee, Mbonu Ojike referred to as: the evangelist of a New Africa. Ojike called Zik his hero who showed him the way to America and Lincoln. While in Ghana, Zik recommended Lincoln to Nkrumah who came to Lincoln as Francis, and left as a transformed Kwame Nkrumah. They took the Lincoln crusade to Africa, where they not only liberated a continent, they also replicated Lincoln University in several places. There are several institutions established by Lincoln alumni all over America and Africa. One great example which is perhaps one of the largest grand-institutions of Lincoln is the famous University of Nigeria built by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe himself.

To really appreciate the legacy of Lincoln in the most populous Black Country, Nigeria it is important to look at the motto of the Azikiwe’s University of Nigeria, which is: “To seek the truth; to teach the truth. To preserve the truth and thereby restore the dignity of man.” Zik was intricately involved in crafting the vision and mission of the University of Nigeria. Dr. Azikiwe so loved his alma mater, Lincoln University, that the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) which he built is a replica of Lincoln University. President Azikiwe not only made the Lincoln Lion the emblem the University of Nigeria, he also introduced America and Lincoln to West Africa.


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Prior to the establishment of the University of Nigeria there was only a University of London college at Ibadan. Thus the UNN claims to be the first indigenous university in Nigeria. But more importantly this new American style university introduced the novel concept of core curriculum into the Nigerian educational system, with an astonishing impact.

As the newly independent Nigeria wanted to establish a merit based civil service system, the only way it could do that was through a broad-based public service examination that would ensure that the senior cadre of the service was well versed in world affairs, basic numeracy and literacy and basic sciences, collectively known as general knowledge. This encyclopedic general knowledge tradition introduced at the University of Nigeria in the tradition of the American core curriculum, ensured that the graduates knew a little bit of everything which is similar to what the French regard as petit la rouse. Expectedly, this gave the graduates of Azikiwe’s University of Nigeria a great advantage over their counterparts from the famous University of Ibadan which was of the British and European tradition. Consequently, UNN graduates quickly began to dominate the public and private sector of Nigeria. This caused the other regional governments in Nigeria to mimic the curriculum of the University of Nigeria when they established subsequent institutions. Today all Nigerian universities have adopted the America style.

As a result of the dehumanizing experience of slavery and racism, whose effects he experienced at Lincoln and America, as well as, in the European colonization of Africa, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe dedicated himself to restoring the dignity of man through the founding of a world-class university in Africa in the tradition of Lincoln University. Thus in the half a century of its founding the University of Nigeria like Lincoln University has produced very famous scholars and leaders in Nigeria and Africa. Today, Lincoln students are called to intellectual leadership and excellence, like their predecessors in order to help America maintain its goal of global preeminence.

Lincoln University over the past decade has positioned itself to play commensurate role in the future. The university is almost done updating its infrastructure to state of the art status. New academic programs are being added including graduate programs. So true to its mission of providing leaders for the twenty-first century, Lincoln university current students with the help of their faculty have their work cut out for them if they are to be true to their alma mater. An institution like Lincoln has transcended parochialism. In 2007 a friend of mine and I decided to provide clean water to a village in rural Nigeria. At the end of the project, we hoisted a sign on the structure showing that we are from Lincoln University, and quite instantaneously the audience erupted with great adulation, spontaneously chanting Ziiik! Ziiik!! Ziiik!!!, meaning that several years after his death masses of Nigeria still make the connection between Lincoln University and Nnamdi Azikiwe.  

In conclusion, even though we always run the risk of sounding redundant or repetitive in this country, we still sing the national anthem and recite the pledge of allegiance all the time. For the very same reasons we repeat those symbolic phrases and verses that highlight our pride as Americans who should uphold the lofty values of America, we at Lincoln must also continue to reiterate constantly to our students and the larger community, the values of Lincoln’s rich history and legacy.

Our current students must be reminded constantly to be worthy ambassadors of their alma mater. The participating faculty have committed to incorporating the rich legacy of Lincoln in their respective classes to help reignite the Lincoln Mystique as President Jennings dubbed it. This constant reminder must constitute the regular medication to sustain the health of our university. When Dr. Button and I attended the co-directors conference in Washington DC in February this year, we were nearly overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the grant awarding agency about Lincoln University. They were so proud to spend the nation’s money on this noble project. We are determined to show similar and commensurate enthusiasm about our Lincoln University, as a way of reclaiming our past and advancing our future in the unique Lincoln tradition.

Thank you all.