UP EXPERT OPINION: The Rise and Fall of Professor Killmonger

Posted on December 12, 2022

In his final column for 2022, Professor Adekeye Adebajo uses a Black Panther inspired allegory to reflect on contemporary academia.  

In the ancient kingdom of Wakanda, the megalomaniac was crushed by his failed bid for power he had spent his entire career preparing for.

In the ancient vibranium-rich African hermit kingdom of Wakanda resided a Prof Killmonger at a leading university. Suffering from a “Napoleon complex”, he was a “D-rated” researcher leading “A-rated” researchers, which made him incredibly insecure.
He had grown up with his murdered father, N’Jobu, in the California suburb of Oakland before returning to Wakanda as a child to try to reclaim the throne of the country’s main ivory tower. Not the brightest spark, Killmonger always got his students to write articles he added his name to as a co-author.
His impact factor — measuring those who cited his publications — was extremely low, and he constantly sought dishonest ways to boost the number of readers, sometimes coercing his researchers and students to cite his articles. 
He created his own 50-page Wikipedia profile complete with a blown-up photo that made him appear taller, and designed a webpage with an  embellished 70-page CV.
A professor of robotics, some actually suspected Killmonger of himself being a robot due to a total lack of empathy and elementary people skills. He could scarcely make eye contact with the people he supervised. He was a bureaucratic bean-counter, and everything he did was geared towards enhancing his own key performance indicators to be able to raise his end-of-year bonus.
Often seeking to intimidate, Killmonger was actually a coward afraid of direct confrontation, and relying on ambitious and subservient Dora Milaje female warriors to enforce his highly questionable and inconsistent policies.
He lacked basic ethics, and many saw him as an epitome of venal corruption, rigging promotions to professorships by favouring compliant, clueless coteries, while blocking more qualified candidates. Killmonger was the very antithesis of meritocracy and the total embodiment of mediocrity.
He represented the “corporate authoritarianism” that was polluting Wakanda’s university sector. He constantly parroted phrases about “profits”, “return on investment” and “more bang for your buck”, even though he had little understanding of how finance actually worked, and could barely read a spreadsheet.   
An average scientist and grotesque, dwarfish figure, asked to define his university’s pan-African vision, Killmonger muttered incomprehensible incantations like a medieval alchemist. Questioned on the meaning of transformation, he drew algebraic equations, insisted on “growing your own timber”, and babbled rehearsed banalities about advancing more Wakandans, complaining that Jabaris from neighbouring countries were threatening to overwhelm the system, while advocating that their numbers be culled.
Though having ironically grown up in a foreign country, Killmonger was toxically xenophobic, even as he appeared frequently on panels to fight xenophobia in Wakandan universities. He was thus the classic wolf in sheepskin. Trying to present himself as radical at a student demonstration, Killmonger raised his fist to the protesters with the cry “viva!” to demonstrate his “struggle credentials.” Instead, he was embarrassed to see the gathered throng of learners burst into wild laughter, with some hysterically rolling on the ground.    
In the end, the inexperienced and over-promoted Killmonger met the same fate as Icarus, who had flown too close to the sun and suffered the inevitable crash to earth. Some unkindly compared his fall to Lucifer’s mighty crash to Pandemonium, having lost his Celestial rebellion.
Killmonger tried to steal the crown from Prof “Black Panther” T’Challa. He was eventually thwarted by Prof Ramonda, who had become incredibly popular with students through glamorous appearances on social media, which had earned her the sobriquet “The Dancing Queen” .
Though singularly unfit for the office he craved, the megalomaniac Killmonger was crushed by his failed bid for power he had spent his entire career preparing for, placing stooges in key positions through often dubious selection processes.
In the end, a chastened Killmonger decided to leave Wakanda and relocate to Oakland, vowing to return to launch another attempt at academic regicide.  

Professor Adekeye Adebajo is professor and senior research fellow at the University of Pretoria’s Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship.

This article first appeared in Business Day on 12 December 2022.

- Author Professor Adekeye Adebajo

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