Intelligent looking Nigerian students in class
These two intelligent-looking students from Nigeria studied economics at London’s North Western Polytechnic University. Photo: NNP

Intelligence is the extent to which an individual can think, manipulate objects and solve problems. As discussed by Obemeta of the University of Ibadan in 1989, a person is said to be intelligent in the traditional Yoruba society if he makes spontaneous responses or positive reactions to unexpected situations or stimuli. Mathematics professor, L.O. Adetula, asserts problem solving is the specific achievement of intelligence. The validity of intelligence tests constructed in Europe and North America was challenged by Obeamata who argued that the structure of one’s language and partial language deficiency were probably the most important single factor affecting scores in tests of intelligence.

The tendency to translate problems from cultural prism glasses, coupled with the relative ability of the Nigerian to think quickly in English language is found to have a clear bearing on the formal measurement of his intelligence. An openly racist newspaper in 1894 which depreciated Africans as intellectually incapable of creating fine arts exemplifies this complication. Aina Onabolu, the man whose work would establish as Nigeria’s first modern artist, saddened by this, as a twelve year old, had been charged by John Randle, an older friend and medic, to prove prejudices such as this wrong by becoming an artist, practicing fine arts in a western sense.

In Nigeria, an often used model which Dessart condemned as a questionable instructional procedure to teach “word” problem is the Behaviourist approach. This model is the most widely adopted among teachers and it entails the subdivision of mathematical content into objectives or bits of mathematical knowledge that must be mastered sequentially. Students are therefore not encouraged to think through the problem. Mathematics professor, L.O. Adetula notes that many developing nations, especially Nigeria are guilty of forming a mindest in students that there are ready made answers to problems even when those problems are not really examined. This, he said, is exemplified by the problem of technology transfer.

The holistic approach, on the hand allows for a fabric of understanding to be developed. While the behaviourist approach tend to be successful when applied to an incredibly narrow spectrum of problems, the heuristic strategy, an holistic approach, which serves to discover, not offering such guarantees, is applicable to wide spectrum of real-life problems. By drawing diagrams, separating information, reasoning backwards, recognizing and using analogies, searching for patterns, a wining attitude in intelligent problem solving, as advised by Adetula, is created.

Participants of the Lagos Business School Young Talent Program (YTL) in a photo session. Some of the nation's brightest are selected.
Participants of the Lagos Business School Young Talent Program (YTL) in a photo session. Some of the nation’s brightest are selected. Source: LBS Website

The largely vague concept of the aptness of humans towards cerebral activities is summed up quaintly in the submission of one Mr. Ola, which he made during the Jan 18 1952 Western House of Assembly debates. There he had expressed what he thought was intelligence in his advocacy of Mr. Odunjo to the position of the regional minister; “If Mr. Odunjo could sit down in a little corner of his study and translate his imagination to reality, if he could sit down in a little corner of his study and reach the young Westerners in their respective junior schools, I think if Mr. Odunjo is placed in position of authority , since he has been able to reach the juniors while sitting in a little corner, he will be able to reach the masses of Nigeria while he sits on a ministerial chair.” This legislative submission of S.O. Ola during the debates that returned Obafemi Awolowo as leader of the region, corresponds greatly to the generalization of a researcher who says that the Yoruba considers the reserved person as most likely to be intelligent, as it is believed that still waters run deep.

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer