Having intellectual capacity is associated with some people who have dedicated their time to the pursuit of knowledge, part of a process of building human capacity, evidence that efforts have been concentrated on something tangible. However, no matter how outstanding an individual is, having intellectual capacity does not equal being intellectually versatile. Intellectual versatility, matched with productivity, is a rare accomplishment.
Dr. Obadiah Mailafia remains one of the shiniest individuals who has committed himself to different tasks, demonstrating versatility and productivity. He has a multidisciplinary background in international relations, political science, development economics, and public administration. Across these fields, he has made outstanding contributions that reflect his continuous engagement in various fields. At the economic and finance fronts, he has participated in several programs where he lends his intelligence to promote reasonable collective objectives. For example, as the Chief Economist in the Planning and Budgeting Department of the African Development Bank (AfDB), this bright mind has initiated awe-inspiring ideas and strategies that artfully launched the institution to an enviable position.
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Dr. Mailafia made a difference with the levels of programs and projects that he initiated at AfDB, bearing in mind the cardinality of the institution to the progress of the continent, which has also given the AfDB the marks of excellence. It is by no coincidence that his services are usually sought after in various other areas where he shines brilliantly and without pressure.
Assuredly, when Dr. Mailafia has committed himself to the course of progress, not many people can match his level of concentration and focus. Between 2010 and 2015, Dr. Mailafia served as the Chef de Cabinet of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, Brussels, where he essentially coordinated different projects that facilitated the organization’s transformation. Serving as the arrowhead of very tasking departments in ACP, this eclectic man made outstanding contributions that are not easy to undermine. For example, while he served as the most senior adviser to the secretary-general, he arranged many diplomatic relationships with external bodies, especially the European Union (EU), with whom they eventually collaborated to enhance programs that would bring desirable outcomes.
Apart from establishing the relationship between ACP and the EU, he also negotiated on behalf of ACP with international financial institutions such as the IMF, the World Bank, and the African Development Bank. During all these, he was able to accomplish incredible feats, and his revolutionary contributions are in public memory. Dr. Mailafia has been very useful to humanity, and his efforts are testaments of this conclusion.
Dr. Obadiah Mailafia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics, Sociology, and Politics, which is no ordinary feat that can be disregarded. His ability to provide progressive ideas shines forth through the academic works and research reflected in his papers and other intellectual engagements. More importantly, his knowledge reverberates through all of his engagements, and it considerably influences how he approaches issues and the methodologies he employs to get results.
To understand the significance of the knowledge acquired in this direction, his success records in finance and economics cannot be underrated. For example, while working as the deputy to the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, several initiatives and programs that substantially impacted the nation’s economy were credited to Dr. Mailafia. It bears reiteration that working as a deputy in an organization involves political participation because administrative skills are usually required for the successful management of people and enterprise.
As an academic, Dr. Mailafia has made cutting-edge professional accomplishments, and there are numerous books and papers credited to his name. A cursory look at these intellectual productions would reveal a grounded understanding of economic issues and the various other disciplines with which he is associated. Consider, for instance, that he produced works that reflect contemporary global politics; we cannot deny him the accolades deserving of his feats, among many other things.
His paper, “The New Scramble for Africa: China, India and Turkey as New Actors in Africa,” gives a critical evaluation of the socioeconomic and sociopolitical trajectory of Africa about how they have succumbed to the pressure of colonizing forces; not from their erstwhile imperialists from Europe but from different players who are making headway in Asian countries. Evident from his critical assessment of the African situation is the exposition of the inherent rot that has percolated contemporary African politics and permeated all their institutional establishments.
Since greed and the quest for personal aggrandizement have overtaken the desire to lead by example, the resources domiciled in the African continent have been diverted to the advantage of the new “colonial lords,” namely China, Turkey, India, among others.
Intellectuals like Dr. Mailafia are exceptionally foresighted and can predict future actions by looking at current ideas and issues. It takes a critical mind to understand the underlying politics that these Asian countries are playing with the African continent. Many developed countries consider Africa indispensable to their economic and financial transformations because the continent is blessed with numerous natural resources and sufficient human resources that can translate all unrefined resources to significant results. China’s role in the continent is therefore significant and an indication that they may be on a long journey towards the re-colonization of Africa.
Unlike the European Scramble for Africa of the late nineteenth century, the contemporary scramble by these countries is not as organized as we have in all other situations. Their diplomatic relations with countries in Africa is informed by the attraction they get from the people themselves. This means that unlike the previous scramble by the Europeans, this contemporary scramble is based on mutual concession. Therefore, the paper is an indictment of the political class in Africa who are not only blind-sighted because of their greed but who have also refused to see how their lack of political will has impeded the continent from achieving its potential.
Despite his immersion in academic and maybe political activities, Dr. Mailafia does not lose touch with reality and current trends. In 2019, he produced another trailblazing intellectual work called “Global Megatrends and Nigeria’s Future,” where he demonstrated his understanding of the trendy issues and how they affect Nigerians and their future. Without dragging it, the wake of globalization has seen an unprecedented increase in technological innovations that created a parallel world where people of diverse cultural and religious backgrounds interact and exchange ideas. Because the internet, which is a byproduct of this technological innovation, has the capacity to welcome netizens in their great numbers, the exchange of cultural values and traditions has become extremely easy.
This means that people now have direct access to other people’s cultural traditions and the lack of appropriate means of sieving the cultures which they come in contact with, to understand aspects of it that are very encouraging, and know the areas that are detrimental to their collective cultural safety, now allow them to accommodate these different cultures. Cultural osmosis, therefore, is the foundation for a different identity that has permeated the world today.
From this sudden transformation, every civilization has its positive additions and its shares of negative consequences. For many African countries, the cultural clash that they experienced has become the reason for their shift in traditional engagements. Africans’ virtues have become so complex that they find it challenging to locate their traditional identity. At the political front, options are so surplus that even the political leaders continue to mix political philosophies in their leadership assignments. This is the era when democratic leaders, without respect for democratic ethos, would use their positions of power to witch-hunt people considered an impediment to their ambitions.
In the same way, the increase in obscene engagements cannot be overemphasized, especially in the wake of the internet lifestyle. Sadly, as Dr. Mailafia has noted, the underlying downside of the internet age is the proliferation of a morally condemnable engagement that manifests in internet fraud, cyberbullying, cyber criminality, and others. It has eaten deep into the fabric of the African world and caused the quick deceleration of moral principles. What then would be the African future, considering the fact that this trend continues? These are the issues Dr. Mailafia addresses in the paper.
We talk about versatility and productiveness concerning Dr. Mailafia, not because he demonstrates unparalleled zeal for making a difference, but because there are growing numbers of literature that he publishes even in the current time, without losing his focus on what matters. He has given numerous lectures, devised various systems, and identified different ways through which humanity would flourish, and Nigeria would become the cynosure of all eyes. It is more rewarding that this bright scholar has dissected challenges facing Nigeria at the economic front and has provided state-of-the-art solutions that would facilitate instant upward and speedy mobility when adopted.
For instance, a compelling academic work credited to him looks at the country’s problems and how they have defied solutions in recent years. Considering that he is not unfamiliar with how the world is evolving, he has provided appropriate strategies for rejuvenating the country’s dying economy. The paper, titled “Towards the Post-Oil Economy in Nigeria: Imperatives of Diversification for Sustainable Development,” gives a scientific explanation to the myriad of economic challenges facing the country, using his experience to predict the possible ways of salvaging the country from imminent doom.
In the paper mentioned above, Dr. Mailafia posits that the snail pace of Nigeria’s development is informed by the obstinacy of Nigerian leaders who are mono-dependent on oil. The obsessive concentration on oil as the source of income for the Nigerian government has not only reduced the creativity of the country to devise alternative measures of standing up to the fast-growing global economic system but has also permeated the social bloodstream of the people who now have great disrespect for diversity and plurality, especially in their financial and economic lifestyles.
At the government level, the excessive concentration on oil has killed the urge to explore limitless opportunities that abound in other sectors of the economy. For example, the agricultural industry has suffered careless abandonment from the government since the oil sector has proven itself reliable in generating income. In essence, the country, which used to export agricultural products in the years of old, does not have diversity to cling on today that can be said to be produced internally. Therefore, this has exposed the consumerist and import-dependent culture of the country.
Meanwhile, the high dependence on products that are made from other civilizations reduces the worth of their values. More and more, the country is going down at a speed that has not been known hitherto. The paper, therefore, suggests that the consequence of the nation’s overdependence on oil is devastating. At the individual level, the potential of the people is made the sacrifice because the country has chosen to depend exclusively on oil as its source of income. People have the challenge of getting the right audience for their intellectual and professional services because they have not gained the required attention from their political leaders, who appear to be unbothered by the situation of things.
Since there is no international value for the agricultural industry in the country because the people do not export products that are needed in other places, the youths are not motivated to consider a career in mechanized farming. Instead, they make themselves available for all manner of morally reprehensible engagements that soil their names and the nation’s reputation. This awareness inspired Dr. Mailafia to consider pursuing the agitation for the future that does not centralize oil as the mainstay of its economy. There is a level of truth to his conclusion and argument.
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The country has suffered greatly because it has refused to show creativity to its economic system. Countries concerned about development take diversification and plurality very seriously and with a greater level of importance. Without a nation being excessively diverse in its economic approach, the stability of the people’s economy will be tricky.
As much as he has demonstrated an exceptional intellectual capacity in evaluating issues that border on the nation’s economy and contemporary issues, Dr. Mailafia has also not failed to give insightful input as far as the nation’s security system and administration is concerned. No one can claim ignorance of the pervasive insecurities that have engulfed the country in the current time, and the fact that the destructive effects of the conditions are felt by every individual, irrespective of their political or cultural orientation, pushed him to research on how to secure the country from the predatory hands of the criminally minded ones in the society.
In his work, “The Challenges of Security and Development in Nigeria,” this bright and excellent intellectual shows the world the critical challenges that confront the country, the impediment it has become for the development of the country, and the potential ways through which the ongoing security problems can be overcome. One of the principal reasons for the ubiquity of violence and insecurity is because the perpetrators are idle hands who are not positively involved in the nation-building process. It would eventually be of interest to anyone who reads the material to realize that the security challenges happening in the country have corresponding solutions if the government is genuinely serious about cutting the perpetrators to size.
Additionally, insecurity directly impacts the country’s development in ways not often seen from the surface. Dr. Mailafia educates his readers about the devastating effects of insecurity on the nation’s economy, particularly the inability to attract the right investors. Investors worldwide have a penchant for serenity and tranquillity and a place where their interests would be protected at all costs.
In the occasion that there are many terrorists’ actions, insurgent groups and offensive people fomenting problems and causing mayhem in the society, investors would be discouraged to invest their money and time in such an environment because they would be uncertain about its ability to bring about the transformation needed both at the economic front and at the social level; whereas, terrorists are usually carefree about what happens to the economy of their target enemies or countries as long as they can get their daily bread. Such orientation endangers everyone within the community because as long as they continue with their destructive engagements, the more they scare potential investors away and the more they endanger their lives.
Nearly all human aspects and social life have experienced Dr. Mailafia’s academic input. His ideas cannot just be discarded. This gentleman has functioned in different capacities and at different academic and political spectrums. He has written his name in gold while also earning numerous awards for his impressive service to humanity. Mailafia has functioned as an erstwhile Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, and his contributions in that regard cannot be undermined.
In addition to this, he has served as a Fellow at Ahmadu Bello University, and at the same time, he has worked as a coordinator on different projects nationwide. His influence is intimidating, and his records are excellent. He has travelled far and wide, contributing to how he sees things, making sure careful considerations and critical evaluations inform his decisions. Within the period of his ascension into academic stardom, he has kept his very ideological ground intact, and his morals have not suffered any damage. Upright and forthright, dedicated and celebrated, Dr. Mailafia has created an image for himself capable of withstanding pressures and that can also stand the test of time.
Nigeria has produced numerous great people, and Dr. Obadiah Mailafia stands firm as one of its celebrated citizens. This explains why he has continued to make himself relevant despite the numerous happenings, indicating his capacity to endure challenges. The world is aware of his impact. To listen to the ideas of Dr Mailafia, do please join us on:
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Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.
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NADECO’s Bliss That’s No More
I have been doing some investigation on NADECO – National Democratic Coalition. At this point I do not want to go intoto into what I wish or need to say about this uniquely patriotic body of patriotically patriotic Nigerians (some of whom are dead) who were the original founders and members. But I should like to state urgently that NADECO, the original NADECO, was a movement – yes a movement, of intrepid men, real nationalists, of diverse political, professional and intellectual activities. They were generally public figures who were committed to establishing an imperial state – if I may use the term – of bliss for all our compatriots, an imperial state where no one would be discriminated against and barred from occupying the highest office in the land on account of his/her religious and ethnic background and status. In other words, their commitment was to a scientific welfare state where no form of oppression or any kind of ridiculous schemes for manipulating the people and opinion to serve any selfish interest and class would be allowed and tolerated. The conceived imperial state would discountenance any kind of revenge which would not be allowed to ring anywhere and in all observations and complaints; no malevolence was expected to be seen in any praise or words of praise that should bring bliss to all.
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Were these basic values of NADECO not ones of Utopia? Was the ideology of NADECO not suspect in view of the fact that some property-owners would still like to exercise colonial control over their property and their communities where they commanded considerable influence? And who among the original NADECO members and founders were prepared in the real sense of the word to be linked to a different kind of nascent political power as conceived by them? Were they real? Were they genuine? These were some of the questions I posed recently in a discussion I had with a NADECO insider and originator and which I wanted him to answer as simply and as truthfully as possible. Meanwhile, his towered up thoughts shall be in abeyance.
What inspired our discussion (which was part of my NADECO investigation) was primarily the fresh released report of the Lekki procession of last year’s October which was the subject of this column last Friday. Our discussion dwelt on what would have been if NADECO’s divine strive against inequality and predominance of one group or class had come into being. The tarantulas that went to Lekki to bite the EndSars protesters would not have had any place in the land. And your country my country our country would have since become your country my country our country that we always have beautifully yearned to have. All kinds of tarantism would have since bitten themselves out of here. And all our young chaps would have since seen that NADECO is the clearest parable of a pleasurable political body to legitimate acutely the status also of refined political authority to serve the people.
Today we would not have been talking of restructuring as latter-day NADECOists are basically doing. As I understood (and I still understand it) the original NADECO’s capital was that of the political and professional intellectual: oratorical skill as a politician of beauty and rhetorical proficiency as a writer on the ideological sphere of combat to bring to bay that which must be significantly brought to bay to avoid past errors of our politics. NADECO’s politics as originally conceived and planned was the politics of the Superhero, the politics of the Superman. Each original NADECO personage was expected to possess some doses of Obafemi Awolowo’s extraordinarily significant organic intellectual capability and political acumen. To all intents and purposes therefore every original NADECO member knew and understood the meaning and “closeness to real political power” to be employed as Awolowo intellectually did as an important humanist who was very conscious of the main current of our clime. His distinguished reputation was expectedly expected to flow invariably in the consciousness of each one’s own private and public mind.
Clearly, today’s NADECO – if it still exists – possesses a mind which has since changed from the conscious past of progressive politics and governance to the conscious present of political and administrative restructuring that is remote from the awareness of the past that the current NADECOists’ consciousness is not at all prone to develop.
Who are or were the original NADECO members and founders? Comrade Jonathan Ihonde, an original member and founder – a foremost one – who was highly instrumental to the coming into being of the organized organization committed to wiping out of our land the poison spiders of our politics, is writing a book on the subject. The book is detailing what I don’t want to detail here. For now it is suffice to say that on account of the late MKO Abiola’s plea to him when he purposely came to visit him in Benin City, Comrade Ihonde, the creator of the then very popular NTA Benin “Hotel de Jordan,” a high drama of politico socio-cultural dimension, went to the late Chief Anthony Enahoro to plead for MKO Abiola after contacting various interest groups from every region of our country. This was after IBB killed Abiola’s presidential electoral victory in 1992. Of course his SDP – Social Democratic Party – top guns and fellows had bitten him badly. He meant and vowed to survive the poison of his party’s tarantulas.
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NADECO was thus born in Benin City. The Soviet-trained Comrade Jonathan Ihonde became the organization’s revolutionary Vice-Chairman after Chief Anthony Enahoro was equally elected/appointed its chairman. Other patriots who were visible members/originators of NADECO were Mr. Mike Ehimah (Secretary), the late Senator Olu Akpata, Mrs. Nadena Emovon, Mr. Alex Ayatola (Enahoro’s PA of Igbo stock) and others I cannot immediately recall. Of course, the late Alfred Rewane was aware of the formation and was part of it from inception even though he was abroad at auspicious times of its meetings. But he was NADECO’s indisputable tower of financial strength. Eventually, it was agreed that Abiola’s Western Nigeria should champion the divine battle against the injustice which the northern juntos led by IBB master minded.
Chief Anthony Enahoro and Mr. Alex Ayatola were mandated to visit the late Chief Michael Ajasin at Owo to persuade him to take over the leadership and to gaze into the far field in the endeavour to give Abiola joyful splendour and to usher bliss post-Awolowo to our fatherland. Chief Ajasin had the full mandate to reach out to fellow like minds from his region and elsewhere to give daylight happiness to everyone in the land. The rest from my end is history. But how many of us now cannot but be giddy with pain – how many of us? Are the tarantulas still not poisoning our bliss and happiness? “There must be punishment and justice” (not revenge) to cleanse your country my country our country when our Superman appears. The consciousness of the original NADECO must be re-awakened in us. The real progressive leftists have been silent for too long. We must wrench our true daylight from the darkness and dark hands and dark grips of the current poison spiders that are worse and more than worse than pythons. And let me share this gem with you: the Supreme Spiritual Masters of Merit (SSMM) are seriously turning well in their deathless states.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059
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Covid-19, Managing in Crisis Times And Public Administration
The year 2020 would be remembered in the annals of world history as the year that the coronavirus visited the world and transformed every dimension of human endeavors, from eating and greeting habits to administrative frameworks and the way we see the human world. With millions already dead and many more infected, especially through many variants deadlier than the original virus, the pandemic has already defined a new normal in human relations and activities. It does not take any serious reflection to see that public administration becomes the most significant human endeavor to be challenged not only in dealing with the pandemic, but also in responding to the ordering of the human world in a post-COVID-19 world. All across the world, public administration has often been called upon to deal with wars, pestilences, development efforts, and state projects of all kinds. In Nigeria, for example, public administration had to contend with the task of prosecuting the Nigerian civil war as well as outlining an administrative framework for a post-war social rehabilitation and reconstruction.
The implication of this assessment of public administration and its confrontation with existing realities of each period in history is that public managers must always operate efficiently within what has been called a VUCA — volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous — administrative environment. In such an environment, public managers and the public service are tasked beyond what the traditional administrative machinery is able to take charge of. This is the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic. It has created a volatile situation determined by the unpredictable behavior of the virus. This makes the administration of human activities even more complex than it usually is. For instance, the lockdown procedures come with stringent economic realities that affect human freedom and well-being.
One of the greatest challenges of the public service, especially in a postcolonial administrative context like Nigeria, is the determination of what bureaucratic model could best enable a public service that is effective and efficient sufficiently to deal with the challenges of the VUCA environment while also smartly delivering democratic services. Max Weber, the German philosopher who did a lot to influence the emergence of the traditional administrative model, was also confronted with this kind of VUCA-situation in the early twentieth century. The crisis situation came as a result of the hostility between the German Emperor, Wilhelm II and his Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, over the content of foreign and social policies. The emperor’s erratic foreign policy has been considered to be one of the root causes of World War I. Max Weber was a very keen philosophical observer of the defeat of Germany in the first world war, as well as the bureaucratic implications of the power tussle between Wilhelm II and Chancellor Bismarck. For instance, he noticed how administrative dominance of the state consolidated in the absence of a strong political leader. This led him to reflect deeply on how to juxtapose political leadership with a bureaucracy that assists the state in terms of modernisation and development.
Weber’s understanding of the crisis led to a need to model politician-bureaucrat relationship in ways that determine the boundaries of power and authority around policymaking. For Weber, the way out was to generate a bureaucratic tradition that centralized legal-rational authority founded on hierarchical structure and a one-size-fits-all service-wide standardization of governance and operations. The command-and-control structure constructed the public servant as apolitical, loyal, neutral and anonymous. With the bureaucratic model, Weber achieved a crisis management dynamic in the aftermath of the first world war. The question, however, is whether that Weberian model is sufficient to handle the crisis occasioned by the COVID-19 and the myriad challenges of the new normal. This question resonates even more so in a postcolonial context like Nigeria considered one of the worst administrative settings in Africa. An even more fundamental question is how can public services become efficient in a time of crisis like the pandemic and its future variants?
Putting the questions like this speaks to the need for organizations like the public service to recognize the necessity of change as the most constant factor that demands of organizations a reform template made up of continuous learning, change management and iterative incremental improvements. In organizational development theory, organizations usually fall prey to three development traps that define what has been called the “first cycle” of the bureaucratic culture. First, organizational success leads to self-satisfaction and an unreflective defense of the status quo. Second, size brings the fragmentation of organizational procedures that takes the public managers far away from customers’ feedback which serves as the mechanism for innovative growth. Third, the age factor implies that the older an organization gets, the more it breeds tradition which over time tends to supersede innovative and creative handling of challenges.
The question of high-performing public service in a time of crisis also demands the emergence of astute public managers who see decision-making as the nerve of organizational efficiency. In other words, the smart public managers need to transform the public service into a bold, preemptive and high-performing organizations with the capacity to make fast and effective decisions in the time of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. However, decision-making must not be allowed to degenerate into groupthink that hinders individual and organizational creativity, information overload, analysis paralysis that leads to indecision, or overconfidence in the crisis management competence in ways that create tension at both the operational and strategic levels.
The efficiency of any CEO or public manager depends on three critical competences. The first is the capacity to effectively delegate authority in a way that prioritizes the discretion of a crisis manager to independently work in the organizational frontline within a framework of exceptions to the rules that do not however erode the normal regulations in ways that break down the organization. The second competence the public manager needs requires creating a balance between the command-and-control dynamic on the one hand, and participatory team-based decision-making approach on the other.
The third competence that a crisis period demands, is the need for intelligent public managers to be open to alternative scenario planning that anticipates both uncertainties and possibilities. This enables the public servants to bring multiple perspectives to policy challenges and public service delivery using foresight techniques to test different scenarios, and building resilience into policy design from potential shocks and unforeseen events.
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Fashioning new professional skills set involves several other requirements. First, it demands a human resources management architecture around which a new professionalism will be built. Second, this affects the way we reflect on the workplace, work structure and work dynamics that will affect the performance and productivity Nigeria needs. And thirdly, the professionalism must be undergirded by new culture and value changes that enable the public servants to focus on the new enabling values and ethos as well as helping them to think outside of the administrative box.
The idea of scenario planning speaks to the familiar four stages of “forming-storming-norming and performing” model of organization formation that enables any institution and organization to become efficiently formidable not only in dealing with a present challenge but also in anticipating future situations. A public service that wants to be efficient in the new normal created by the COVID-19 pandemic must, within the imperative of scenario planning, adopt a framework of strategic thinking that becomes strategic by challenging the status quo, challenging assumptions and framing strategic choices that allow the public service to not only wade through the difficult times, but also make the best of the situation for the benefit of the citizens.
Furthermore, such a public service must reorder its institutional and structural dynamics and frameworks through several processes, in organisational development trajectory, that must continually refresh the organisational dynamics and prevent it from going into institutional stagnation. These include: (a) Learning organization: An all-out effort is required on the part of managers to keep its employees educated on the latest technology, systems, knowhow and processes; (b) Total quality management: TQM involves employee involvement, teamwork, decision-making, problem-solving, high-level involvement, adopting a work culture aimed at growth and quality of product and services. TQM requires total commitment, removing fear psychosis due to failure at lower levels, development of successful work culture and continuous improvement; (c) Visioning: Visioning envisages as to what the organization would look like in the future. It is related to the shape in terms of which HR facilities, the growth and the needs of people it is likely to fulfill. Based on the vision, database is required to be built, leading to interpretation of information, arriving at suitable decisions and setting a course of action leading to growth. Visioning refers to looking at the organization in ‘totality’; and (d) Virtual organizations: Getting whole system in one room, evolving action plan and implementation.
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In the new normal, public administration is now doubly tasked to achieve an efficient service delivery to the citizens. This means that it cannot not be business as usual for public managers, not in terms of the traditional bureaucratic culture and definitely not in terms of the skills and competency sets. The new normal requires a new public service that is smart and decisive with regard to a decision that transforms the well-being of citizens who are struggling to make sense of their environment.
Prof. Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and Professor of Public Administration, the National Institute For Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos
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Ibadan: My City of Fame
I have searched; I have attempted, and I conclude that there are not enough words to quantify how much Ibadan the city of the brave and fierce means to me. Yes, I did attempt to describe my love for and affinity to the city in my memoir, A Mouth Sweeter than Salt, but I have since acquiesced that Ibadan is that indescribable lover. It is valid to say this love and affinity can be likened to what everyone feels towards their city of birth and origin. However, for me, it is beyond that.
Ibadan is my place of birth; the city of my forebears; and the place where I was raised. What I am today has its roots in where I was born and the receptivity of the environment in which I grew up. It is what psychologists call the nature-nurture continuum. A wise man reminisces, and in reminiscing, he is able to tell how circumstances interwove to produce a unique turn of events. For decades, I have researched and produced papers and studies in history, and at the heart of my scholarly works is African history. I am deeply interested in African history, and that interest can be traced back to Ibadan. As breastmilk to a neonate, Ibadan was my first taste of Africa. Thus, at the mention of Ibadan, or whenever memories of Ibadan surface, a fountain of happiness and contentment surges in my heart, so much so that joy flows through my veins and touches a smile upon my lips.
Culturally rich, historically blessed, full of resplendent human resources—Ibadan—the city of the brave! To be born of Ibadan parents is to be doubly smart in human dealings. To be born of Ibadan parents, in Ibadan, is to be triply knowledgeable on how to navigate this world of humans. Fortified with thrice as much knowledge and smartness, I ventured into the world. But not until I had learned at the feet of my people. But to love Ibadan goes beyond having natal affiliations to the historical city. Spread like a terrestrial mat across seven hills, Ibadan is famous for its bravery and the intelligence and dexterity of its warriors. Military strength and prowess were at the heart of the dealings of Ibadan people in the past. From the very beginning, the rulers of old Ibadan were warriors who had to prove their superiority by the number of wars they had successfully led their charges to win.
The evolution of Ibadan is worthy of aesthetic praises in itself. Ibadan, at inception, was just scattered war camps on an unmarked forested territory. Lagelu, touted as the founding father of the now extensive city, only wanted a common ground for warriors from Ijebu, Ife, and Oyo. What started as a haven of defense rose to become one of pre-colonial Oyo Empire’s most respected and famous cities. Ibadan went to wars, and Ibadan won wars. Ibadan military gurus were known to specialize in the art of going to wars and winning them.
Miniature industrialization sprang up in some focal cities in Nigeria Lagos, Kano, Ibadan, among others. With this miniature industrialization came amenities such as the railway, which strengthened the commercial and political importance of a city that was strictly a growing expanse of war camp settlements. Ibadan has greatly developed, and it is still developing. Three things are enviable about Ibadan: its large expanse of land that spreads so far; the boldness of Ibadan citizens to speak their minds, even at gunpoint; and the beauty of Ibadan’s historical aesthetics, better viewed from Layipo, which now houses Bower’s Tower.
The history of Oyo as a region and then as a state cannot be complete without the mention of Ibadan. Decades after the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates, there was the compartmentalization of the new Nigeria, resulting in the regional system of administration, which ran till the independence of the state. And, which other city in Western Nigeria would have become the regional capital, if not Ibadan? Ibadan was the regional capital of the Western region, from where the administration and development of the various extensions of the Western region took place. Today, we have Oyo, Osun, Ogun, Ekiti, Kwara, Delta, Edo, Lagos, and Ondo states whose development started from the days of the Old Oyo region, when Ibadan was the center of administration and developmental policy-making. Ibadan is, today, the capital of Oyo State.
Self-actualization comes for different people in different ways. For many scholars, self-actualization comes from the continual recognition of their works and a commitment to lifelong learning. I am among such academics and scholars who see these two phenomena as a means of self-actualization. Thus, this should help you have an inkling of how thrilled I am to be receiving the Doctor of Letters degree from Nigeria’s premier university, the University of Ibadan, domiciled in the city of history. I have received several Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) degrees, but this one, from Ibadan, my City of Fame, is a degree for which I went into an academic sojourn. My life and times have been principally about histories through studies, analyses, and extrapolations. And yet, another history is made as I am the University of Ibadan’s first graduate of the Doctor of Letters degree in the humanities. For this, I am grateful, and I am delighted to identify with one of the most prestigious universities in Africa and a citadel of learning for excellent and world-class education.
It feels amazing to be back home, to my City of Fame, and to receive this honor with the deepest gratitude to everyone who made this remarkable journey worth the while. I appreciate the support I received from the Provost and Deputy-Provost of the School of Postgraduate Studies, as well as my examiners and evaluators at various levels, and the Director of the Institute of African Studies. To those who facilitated the paperwork, payment of school fees, the assemblage of diplomas and essays, the heavy running around, I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Professor Adeshina Afolayan and Mr. Wale Ghazal. Professor Ademola Dasylva, in his relentless promotion of the University of Ibadan and what it stands for, paid for the elegant academic gown. I am grateful for the invaluable guidance and encouragement I received; all these spurred me on and made this day possible.
There is the affection, joy and fulfillment that come with us as humans and the humanities. This degree and other awards are testaments to the richness and importance of the work I have done and continue to do as an historian. My affinity with the Ibadan School of History is equally significant. All these culminate in a climax of deeply-seated emotions that I will embalm and keep with me for as long as I breathe.
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Again, I sincerely want to thank everyone who made this history-making occasion possible. Thank you all.
The above was Prof. Falola’s gratitude statement on the conferment of the D.Litt. degree at the University of Ibadan on November 17, 2021.
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