Heart of Arts

Professor Christopher Afoke Isike at 50: The Man, The Mask, and the Mystery

Toyin Falola


Behind the sophisticated quality of his intellection, which we see outside, is an unrivalled zeal to drive the necessary changes required in every association that aspires to develop. Professor Christopher Isike has continued to provide light in the academic world so much that his contributions every time strive to outdo the records he has set in previous times. He has raised the bar of quality intellection and leadership by creating a vibrant academic culture and environment that can be bequeathed to the coming generations.

Isike’s accomplishments in academia are themselves intimidating, but these productions are an accurate reflection of his eclectic approach to everything and his dexterity in educational engagements. For a man whose academic journey began in the streets of Nigeria, Edo State specifically, one is not surprised as to the level of commitment he has shown in nearly all his engagements. His versatility is unrivalled, and his enigmatic personality remains something to study very closely. From the beginning of his engagements as an academic, this talented Professor has never failed to produce exemplary performances that bring optimal transformation to the human world and family. He is the definition of passion, and one can argue that he exudes the confidence of great leaders whose unparalleled initiatives have introduced a new dimension to things generally. Isike is that African intellectual who can be confidently relied on as an instrument of change and transformation, for he believes strongly that the instantiation of epistemic struggles that alienate cultural imagination always produces negative results, and in challenging such possible problems, he has continued to remain his unapologetic Afrocentrist.

Let us begin by conducting an in-depth examination of some of his intellectual contributions. Isike co-authored the paper titled “Group Hegemonic Leadership as an Analytical Framework for Understanding Regional Hegemony in Africa,” where he conducted a systematic evaluation of the leadership conundrum that has become synonymous with the South African political system in recent and contemporary times. It is, for example, noted that the quest for group hegemony and internal colonialism strives and intentions to remain in the hierarchy of power that usually necessitates the form of political optics and antics that have dominated the country for several years. This interest, it is discovered, is underscored by the intention and desire to remain relevant and be generally involved in the determination of the destiny of the country. There has been a general (mis)conception that group domination translates to a good and fair lifestyle for everyone in power and their group identity. Of course, such orientation has been the basis for the mobilization of efforts and the reduplication of their interest in national politics.

Meanwhile, the political elites are apparently deliberate in weaponizing hegemonic politics to continue to remain in power regardless of the little or no results that can be shown of their imposed participation. The proliferation of such political ideology has continuously challenged the crucible of their togetherness, and it also casts some serious shadow on the essentiality of their nationhood. Nation-building remains one of the critical things which would assist many African countries to advance, but the need for internal domination has been a challenge.

The trajectory of Isike’s intellectualism is an organic one when one understands that his research has viewed African political problems from an insider examiner perspective, and he has demonstrated the ability to have a logical evaluation of events where and when necessary. For example, the publication he made in 2022 titled, “Rethinking the State in Africa: Perceptions of Nigerians on State Formation, State-Building, and a Negotiated Social Contract in the Nigerian Case” gives an impressive overview of accumulated problems that have engulfed Africa for a long time. He looks at the situation of state crisis that remains perpetual in many African nations and understands that the primary motivation for instability is the haphazard margin of cultures and groups as the basis of their nationhood, instead of allowing the evolution of states by themselves. He argues, for example, that individuals remain suspicious of their national identity given the fact that they have witnessed the display of erratic and unproductive leadership for a very long time. There are internal strives in Africa occasioned by the needs of groups to remain in control and power while pushing the powerless to the subaltern bottom. This problem has obviously stood in the way of the people and prevented them from making the necessary marks that generally define great nations in the world today. The scholar insists that the pogrom of leadership that has beleaguered the continent is initiated by the realization that different groups have their specific, different, and unique approaches to political, social, economic and ideological lifestyles and development, but the sudden combination of these states without sound framework has obviously brought about different problems that generally defy solutions. Without a doubt, Africa will always be challenged by these realities.

Impressive in one of the qualities of Professor Isike is his ability to delve into contemporary issues and, in the process, draw out very systematic ideas that could bring about a transformation of unprecedented magnitude. This stellar scholar has critically considered the area of gender importance and values. In one of his publications, where he examines the gender power dynamics, titled ‘Neglecting the ‘majority’: an overview of the economic plight of young females in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa”, Isike beams the light of quality intellection on the incessant problems faced by African females manifesting in the declination of their economic power and the impact such condition has on them as demography. KwazuZulu-Natal is an African society whose gender realities reflect the common experiences of the African people. First, it is apparent that, like KwazuZulu-Natal, the population of African women outnumbers that of their male counterparts, and to discover that a demography that has such numerical strength does not have enough economic opportunities invites some worry on the project of development which many of these countries have sworn to bed with. The female demography remains very large, and the most important way to reduce demographic problems is to provide the necessary atmosphere for them to thrive. In the occasion that a strong economic system that would empower them is not provided, they would become frustrated and, in the process, unable to contribute significantly to the development of the continent. The paper challenges the age-long economic imbalance that has been structured into existence by patriarchal culture.

This outstanding contribution of Professor Isike is consolidated by the examination of global issues, which is one of the core areas of contemporary intellectual engagements. Tagged “The Global Politics of Gay Rights: Straining Relations between the West and Africa”, this intellectual provides yet again a stellar contribution to address some of the issues that are carefully avoided by scholars who have low confidence. The issue of same-sex relationships is something very dominant in Western communities, but despite the strengthened interrelationship between Africa and Western society, the former have refused blatantly to incorporate such an idea into their social, moral, and cultural ideologies under the impression that it generally betrays a natural arrangement. Over this topic, there have been several protests from both sides, with each solidifying their arguments with necessary evidence. There is the West, on the one hand, that sees itself as the ultimate inspiration for revolutionary ideas and considers itself as the decider of civilization’s trajectory, to the extent that any group of people or culture that refuses to acknowledge Western perspectives and ideas or incorporate values that they introduce would be tagged uncivilized and primitive. Africans have embraced this tag with keen interest, remaining consistent with the belief that they cannot sacrifice what they consider as moral principles on the altar of civilizational initiatives. Apparently, they have been unable to come to terms and cannot accept the position of each other, a condition that has continued to strain their relationship. The contentions continue, and they have always been the basis for the back-and-forth relationship that defines their suspicion in recent history.

Professor Isike obviously is a success for he has produced an unending list of great students who are doing excellently fine in their chosen careers. For example, he has produced a good number of PhD graduates and a sizable number of other successful scholars at the postgraduate level. The inspiration that he has provided for them is believed to re-energize them, encourage them, and bring about the best in them. Coupled with the fact that he has mentored many in the academic business, we cannot underplay the constructive efforts he has made to ensure their transformation across strata. Where and when they need them, he provides moral and ideological support for his students, and many have used that to spring themselves to enviable heights in their lives. Professor Isike has served in different capacities where both academic and administrative achievements made changed the narrative of the environment. As the Acting Head Department of Political Sciences at the University of Pretoria, this outstanding scholar introduced very significant ideas to the leadership there and immediately improved the conditions of the students and staff.

Professor Isike can bring people together and galvanize their capabilities to produce the desirable changes needed. He harnesses the intelligence of people to bring about the necessary changes in the human world, and that remains a testament to the acceptability that he enjoys. He has attended several conferences in and outside of the continent and has also used that opportunity to transform anything that he is entrusted with. He has served in different capacities, enriching his leadership experience and changing the dynamics of representation.

Professor Isike remains a shining star in the academic world, and his consistency is an interesting sign of a better future. In saying happy birthday, I represent the voices of over a thousand others.


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