The Literature/Theory-Driven Global Conversation Scholar of Communication

By Nwachukwu Egbunike

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops – Henry Brook Adams (1838-1918)

Professor Anthony A. Olorunnisola

Uniquely Unusual

Professor Anthony A. Olorunnisola was a visiting scholar in the department of Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan, for three months and I was privileged to be his student – Research Methods and Theories of Communication. Like all teachers his approach was different, however, what was unique was the radicalism of his ‘teaching’ style.  From day one, it was obvious that he desired to ignite an analytical consciousness that drives us to questions and by so doing develop solutions.

We got a shock on his first day in class. After a brief introduction by the head of department, Dr Ayobami Ojebode; the global conversation scholar announced that he is collapsing two different modules – Research Methods and Theories of Communication – into one course. While we were still grappling with the significance of this move, he informed us that the sitting arrangement has to change. We had to rearrange the seats to look more like a group conversation, with the aisle free – so that he can walk through and fro. And instead of the lectures we had anticipated, Olorunnisola went into the kernel of his mantra: why research has to be driven by literature and theory. He made it clear that he has no pretension of giving us lectures; rather we will work individually under close supervision. He will moderate the projectile of our discoveries as we peer into journal articles and with our discoveries move us to ‘discover’ the beauty of research in communication studies.

Consistently Inconsistent Journal Reviews

Prof Olorunnisola (left) with his host Dr A. A. Ojebode (right). Photo Credit: Ojebode.blogspot.com

Our Gentle-Giant (a nick name he acquired after a telephone incident…) gave us the first slam jam: he told us to choose five journal articles from our area of interest. Then we should read, review and critique these articles. In addition, craft research questions from them and see if they are consistent. In the conversations in class, each student would discuss his/her review while he moderates the discussion.

Personally, I have a passion for new media – especially social media. Naturally I took up a journal article that discussed how twitter was used as a public square in a situation in a country in Europe. To my shock, no sooner had I started my presentation, Prof Olorunnisola, pointed out that the journal article was trash. According to him, the research questions were neither driven by literature or theory. Although the theoretical framework was mentioned, it had no effect on the study. As such, the methodology is substantially flawed. If that is the case, the findings were isolated and did not cohere with other parts of the paper. My protest that this was not an Agbowo journal but a scholarly publication from the almighty US, did not help my case – Prof was adamant.

However, his explanation on his position – using the Arab Spring – made a bit of sense. This was the first time I was encountering someone who held the position that the revolt in Egypt or Tunisia was neither an exclusive “Twitter” nor a “Facebook” revolution. Rather it was a combination of offline and online means. The more I poured into literature, on the subject, the more I became converted. Bearing in mind that this flow of thought would significantly shape my graduate thesis, it was a discovery.

By the time I started the second journey of reviewing/critiquing another batch of five journal articles, I discovered how little I knew and how much more I had to study. I had more questions than answers. I had to streamline my search in understanding the theoretical concept that will drive my research. This means that a review of journals on that theory and its history was unavoidable.

Synthesizing the conversation in the ten consistent reviewed articles; tracing the trend of conversation, identifying the various camps and finding your voice by pitching your tent, identifying the theoretical propositions was the next hurdle to clear. After that, we had to prepare a research proposal for our graduate thesis – justifying your working title, showing the methodology, theory, etc. This signified the end of the journey with our global scholar.

What Professor Olorunnishola Taught Us

Professor Olorunnisola changed our world views. He may not have realized it, since some of us had difficulties beating his deadlines or showed some inertia in following his pace. However, he achieved one thing: which is to impress it upon us that there is no short cut to hard work. That to change a system, you have to be brave and willing to work: and in this he led by example. While the d-day for the project proposal drew near, Prof had to sit in his office till about 10.00 pm reading the late submitters reviews with the light from his mobile phone.

Our gentle giant aroused our appetite to be more critical. Even the worse student in class can now easily distinguish a good journal from trash. The effect is already obvious, as those who presented their seminars after the “global conversation” had already given us some stuff, had it tough.

Facebooking the Global Conversation?

24 Hours before Deadline!

Trust students: Olorunnisola got names: Gentle giant, consistently inconsistent, incoherently co-erred, thematically isolated… Below is a snap shot of some of the conversations we had on our Facebook page from beginning to the end of the journey with our global Prof:

The fear of Prof’s consistency is the beginning of wisdom: discuss.

Research, a global conversation, is robust lit review that produces research questions driven and baptised by theories, with appropriate methodology(ies), which will test the propositions of the relevant theories and speak back to the theories to expand the horizon of knowledge by concurring or disagreeing! But beyond this beautiful definition, research, in the real sense is doing it. So go & search 4 ur ten qualified consistent papers if u want 2 join d global conversation & not Agbowo conversation. Lol!

Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan, Ibadan is out with another neck breaking journal review episode! TITLE: Continuing d conversation… PRODUCER: Gentle Giant… INTRODUCING: sleepless nights to graduate students… FEATURING: Disjointed journals….. For enquiries visit http://www.theorysearch.paimo.cla.ui.brainstorm……. GRAB UR COPIES NOWWWWWWWW!!!!!!

I couldn’t laugh out when Paimo’s phone rang in class. I never knew Prof would do what he did to Paimo’s phone. Thank God it was a Nokia phone. What if the phone was a blackberry phone or one extremely expensive phone? Na so Prof for throw am?

These are the days when I ditch pepper soup for Facebook/ the days I decline the club to find “consistency” on the hub/ the days I back my bed and chew sugar-free gum…/SALUTE COMRADES! / The end will justify these means

Cohere or Co-err

I realise that we recently communicate on this page in the late hours of the night and early hours of the morning. I can bet it’s the assignments that have been keeping us awake. I pray we all enjoy the benefits of this rigorous cistern from which we all applied to drink from!

BREAKING NEWS: Prof has just added five more articles, making it 15. This is because we now have an additional one week. However, bear in mind that the proposal deadline still remains August 10th…. Hmmmm, IT’S A LIE OOOO! August fool!!!!

Em………… Beware! Now in class, it’s either U cohere or “co-err”! Who has seen the handwriting on the wall?

This msg is “strictly” meant 4 those who are stuck/ confused/ inconsistent in their bid 2 survive Prof’s deadline. I advise any1 who fits into this picture should please take a bow 4 at least 12 good hrs, minus sleeping time. In other words, kindly withdraw actively from all activities that point U to Prof’s assignment. Here’s d secret: so far U have an idea, just an idea of what U wanna work on, an idea that has become your heart beat, like d air that U breathe in, like the damsel in our class that hunts Lérè Pàímó’s hilarious heart, so far that idea is there, something will pop up out of somewhere – you! That thing is the insight U need to beat d deadline. I was confused about Prof’s assignment till d early hours of Sunday when that insight popped up in me! Yes the insight just popped up! I started gathering new materials on Sunday, got more-than-enough consistently consistent papers, & I’m now getting close 2 completing my race. Ha…ha…ha… (Gasping for breath) b’cos è no easy ó. A pertinent research question to ask now is, “to what extent can an inconsistent MA/MCA CLA student wait before the insight pops up?” Well, after being informed by my methodology, here’s my finding. If that thing, d insight, pops up in U after the deadline Looong announced by d Gentle Giant, [I mean our theory-driven Prof], don’t U worry. Just get some cash from d PG School to go 2 d U.S to submit your own proposal… Good luck!

And FINALLY!!! August 10 is here. Its either you are consistently consistent or consistently inconsistently ‘co-erred’… There is fire on the mountain

Appreciation

A million thanks to Professor Anthony A. Olorunnisola for coming back to your Alma Mata and to the department for inviting him. We thank you for the great work you did within three months – teaching graduate students, facilitating seminars for lecturers, delivering lectures in numerous schools of communication and generally inspiring hope.

You demonstrated that saving Nigeria from the grip of an inept and unrepentant corrupt oligarchy is not impossible. By igniting this passion in graduate class of the “Ibadan School of Communication”, you set up a counter revolution. This singular act has shown that the grime and pungent odour that seem to characterise everything Nigeria can be reversed. All it takes is a few courageous men/women who believe in themselves and are determined to make a change. We cannot thank you enough! I only hope that many will be influenced to come back, give back, create a ripple and give hope to many. May your tribe increase and may the lamp you’ve lit in our lives never grow dim!

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