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Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) In The Eye Of History

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Covid-19, Managing in Crisis Times And Public Administration

By
Tunji Olaopa

In the annals of contemporary Nigerian history, former head of state, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB), played a most significant role. Indeed, the history of modern Nigeria will be incomplete without a gesture to how his acts of commission and omission contributed to the structuring of the Nigerian state and its political landscape. With some sense of accuracy, IBB was nicknamed the evil genius by the observant creativity of the vibrant Nigerian media. In Nigeria’s political history, IBB has become infamously synonymous with the annulment of the June 12, 1993 general election that was adjudged to have been won by MKO Abiola. And that annulment demonstrated how a single negative act could undermine the legacy of any pubic figure. However, and not to put too much of a spin on a bad act of political misjudgment, the June 12 saga aptly brought into bold relief the fact—a reiteration—that there certainly was no love lost among the different “warring” nationalities in Nigeria, and that Nigeria has not moved significantly away from being a “mere geographical expression.”

As IBB clocks 80, we are drawn, willy-nilly, into a reflection about a man who has done a lot to structure and restructure the Nigerian project in ways that generate both approval and opprobrium in equal measures. While so many of the existing structural additions to the Nigerian governance dynamics—the decrees that bought into existence many institutions, from NDLEA and Federal Road Safety Corps, community banks, ECOMOG, MAMSER/NOA to the national planning commission and many other educational structures—are due to the policy insights of his regime, the singular annulment of the June 12 presidential election became the single most damning incident that overwhelmed every other good that IBB facilitated. In a recent interview with Arise TV, IBB opened up on a series of issues concerning his role in the definition of where we are now as a country and how we can transcend the predicament in order to move forward into national greatness. But there is an aspect of that governance legacy that surprisingly was not touched upon. Let me open it up as a means by which I could make some points about the reform of Nigeria’s governance dynamics through the perspective of leadership and political will.

READ ALSO: Why I Annulled Presidential June 12 Election – Babangida

For the sake of full disclosure, I have a dog in this game. Unknown to many, it was IBB that enabled my first time and momentous entry into the federal civil service of Nigeria. With what I later learnt to be his uncanny capacity to fish out talents, IBB had been brought to notice me through my Op-Ed pieces in the newspaper in the late 1980s. This is a passion that I had developed and sustained from secondary school which had grown while I was trying to make sense of what career direction I needed to make. It was as if Providence was working through IBB to invite me to the Presidency as part of his speech writing and policy analysis team in January 1992. The rest, as we say, is history. This narrative does not however obviate some fundamental questions. Even in the face of IBB’s critical intervention in my career positioning, why must I risk the suspicion and aspersion that would certainly be cast on any celebratory effort to whitewash one of Nigeria’s most derided and enigmatic figures? And do I even qualify to engage the trajectory of IBB’s actions in the annals of Nigeria’s political unfolding? These are legitimate questions.

Since I had been there from the commencement of what the Nigerian press dubbed IBB’s deft political maneuvers, I have been given the retrospective opportunity as an insider to assess IBB the man and the politician. And I have never failed to be amazed at how both IBB and the Nigeria he supervised as military president missed significant opportunity to transform each other. The Arise interview convinces me again about the deep humanity of IBB as someone who not only understands the significance of social relations, but refuses to instrumentalize them. IBB knows how to sacrifice in ways that demonstrate his love for his friends. The late Prof. Ojetunji Aboyade had such a story to tell about how IBB saved his life in 1988. I have such a story to tell too, and many dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, more. But this piece is not just about personal narratives.

READ ALSO: I’ve Found Buhari’s Successor – Babangida

My concern here is motivated by my interest as a policy analyst, a development worker and a student of governance in Nigeria. I have reflected on how IBB’s place in Nigeria’s history could be bent towards a retrieval of some significant elements in governance excellence and policy professionalism. As an “accidental civil servant,” I was brought face to face not only with IBB’s loyalty to people, but also his status as a president with a huge governance credentials, as well as a high-end policy intelligence and technical capacity that enabled a technocratic-administrative space within which the Nigerian state could have transcended its own dysfunctions and live out its post-independence promises and potential. Of course, we all lament that failed opportunity now. So, for me, the issue is neither to praise or to blame IBB, to parody Shakespearean Cassius at the burial of Julius Caesar. While the evil that men do live after them, and the “evil” of IBB still hangs on his neck like an albatross, fundamental legacies should not be interred with their bones. And this is all the more significant with IBB and policy implications of his governance profile and dynamics.

This is my hypothesis: IBB’s administration consisted of the most technocratically competent assemblage of Nigerians in governance ever in Nigerian history. And if Nigeria had gone beyond his “sins” and bashing to incorporate his talent for talent hunting and mobilization for governance, Nigeria’s governance profile might have been transformed. Is there a way that the persona and the administration of IBB allows us to question how the Nigerian state has denigrated meritocracy, professionalism and even humaneness in the context of state and party politics to the extent that Nigeria’s political destiny has been sidelined? We are where we are now because it seems that the absence of a professional and technocratic space, the like created by IBB, has sent professionals and statesmen into a “siddon look” cynicism that paved the way for all sorts of opportunists, rent seekers, political buccaneers, and sycophants to invade the governance space in ways that decimate the capacity of any political elite to achieve genuine transformation.

READ ALSO: Tokyo Olympics: Rethinking Sports Administration in Nigeria

There is a dimension of IBB leadership style that took research-based, meritocratic policymaking dynamics to a level that would likely not be reinvented in the Nigerian policy space for a long time. IBB helps us to push to the fore the question of whether policy and policy analysis can be saved from politics. Policy science presents us with the problematic of how to juxtapose between the need for independent expertise and pressures for politicization of policy formulation in the service of democratic accountability and good governance. Given the orientation demanded by the evolution of policy analysis, there is the pervasive technicist notion that public policy problems are technical questions that are resolvable by technical-rationalism and the application of specialized policy intelligence and technical expertise in a dynamic that exclude political interference. Unfortunately, such an idea remains wishful thinking because public policy exists in the context of politics from which it is impossible to extricate. And it is right within this simultaneously constricting and enabling context that policy analysis must strive to achieve research intelligence and creativity.

Policymaking is the very essence of the government. It is the means by which the intention of government is communicated on how it wants to facilitate infrastructural development that will improve the welfare of the citizens. And that process is unabashedly competitive, with significant bargaining involved that demands prioritization and opportunity lost and gained. In other words, policy preferences of one group are maximized against others i.e. no one group or constituent can be made better off without others being made worse. Thus, some interests are inevitably more satisfied than others, and whoever is most satisfied depends on who has most political clout and lobbying capacity. This therefore implies that the government must be concerned with how the policymaking process can be properly outlined in line with the aspirations of the politicians. Policymakers as bureaucrats are not left out of this mix because policymaking itself is a value-laden context, and so technical-rationalism does not immune technical experts from value and political biases that could sway policy decisions one way rather than the other.

READ ALSO: The Power Of Positive Difference: Dr. Obadiah Mailafia And His Nigeria

So, what I consider the IBB legacy is a leadership template that allows us to bring to mind, and critically consider, the policy analysis challenge that demands that we find a relative balance between policy intelligence and political farsightedness that will allow the policy skills and competences that bureaucrats deploy in policy design and the motivation for politicians to pursue cogent governance agenda and objectives with the most minimum of crippling politicization. The tragedy of the IBB administration is that with all the bright minds at his disposal, politics in its darkest form eventually trumped policy analysis. The future of the Nigerian state is to find a means by which politicians will come to respect sound policy intelligence for the sake of Nigerians.

Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary & Professor of Public Administration /Public Policy, National Institute For Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos tolaopa2003@gmail.com

 

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Opinion

The Menace Of Bullying In Hostels – The Sylvester Oromoni Tragedy

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The Menace Of Bullying In Hostels – The Sylvester Oromoni Tragedy

By

Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

Anyone who went through secondary school hostel/boarding house life knows that often, some seniors or some of the bigger boys or girls often bully the juniors. Yes, girls bully the junior girls too. Bullying comes in the different forms- in form of depriving the junior ones of their own ‘provision’, extortion, psychological torture, and/or physical beating. There  used to be the formal bullying, where all Form One students in the hostel went through what was dubiously called ‘fagging. On that day, often at night, all the kids in Form One would be assembled in a hall and subjected to all forms of indignities, from bathing them with cold water in a cold weather, pouring food remnants on them, and beating them. After that ritual, they would now say ‘Your tail has been cut off.  Sometimes, the young and the vulnerable ones continue to be bullied till they get to a senior class or till their tormentors leave the school. I don’t remember now whether that was how the notion of school father started, a senior student who would be one’s protector.

Bullying does not always cause death. But death sometimes occurs. And covered up by the school authorities. The trauma of bullying often lasts forever. Sadly, bullying continues every year even when the hostel authorities try to put a stop to it. Bullies thrive on fear, the fear of their victim. Often the victims tragically believe that silence and cooperation would save them from the evil hands of their predators or oppressors or extortioners. Sadly, some bullies are also victims of previous trauma or bullying.

READ ALSO: Nembe Oil Spill: Let’s End This Affliction Now

The sad and tragic death of Sylvester Oromoni (Jnr) last week, a student of Dowen College Lekki Lagos has once again brought the menace of bullying to the fore. Dowen College is a ‘co-educational and boarding school with over twenty years record of excellence’, according to a statement on its website. But with the death and the spilled blood of Sylvester, I have no doubt that that claim to excellence is gone forever. When I watched the video of the poor boy moaning in what turned out to be the throes of death, I could not stop the tears in my eyes. I wept for the boy. I wept for his parents. No parent should lose a child; no parent should watch their child go through the circumstances that led to Sylvester’s death.

The father of the deceased Mr. Sylvester Oromoni’s narrative is a serious indictment of the management style of Dowen College. I will produce a summary of Mr. Oromoni’s narrative. According to him, the events which culminated in the painful death of Sylvester started in October when it came to light through the 12year old’s elder sister that some bullies wanted to know if he had seen the nakedness of his elder sister. The same boy who had bullied Sylvester into admitting that he had seen his sister’s nakedness reported to her that the latter claimed to have seen her nakedness. This ought to have been a strong alarm bell for all involved. Then a week before the calamity, a call from the school summoned the father to Lagos from his Warri home because, according to the school, his son fell while playing football and was sick. Mr. Oromoni took his son home for special care. At death point Sylvester revealed that he did not play football and could not have sustained any injury while playing football. He then narrated how he was tortured and beaten up by five senior boys because he refused to join their cult. He named the murderers as Benjamin Favour, Anselm Temile, and Michael Kasamu. Tragic. Wicked.

The school Principal Mrs. Adebisi Layiwola issued a statement and stated among other things that ‘we immediately commenced investigations and invited the students allegedly mentioned for an interview. His guardian was also present during the interviews, which revealed that nothing of such happened’. The State government through the Ministry of Education has responded by shutting down Dowen College till further notice. Obviously, the school did not do a thorough investigation and the State Ministry of Education headed by a former school Principal, Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo must have smelt a rat. Sylvester Oromoni was killed while pursuing the harmless dream of educating himself in an expensive private school in Lagos. WHO KILLED SYLVESTER OROMONI JUNIOR? The public demands an answer. The family demands an answer. Every parent who watched the video or who has heard the story demands an answer to all the questions. What transpired in the hostel that night that made Sylvester ill? Have the boys whose names were mentioned been invited by the police? Would there by high-powered connections to try and kill the case? The blood of Sylvester demands justice. May Heaven visit anyone who tries to kill the case with raging fury!

READ ALSO: Nigeria As A Movie

I have shed tears for Sylvester. I didn’t know him. I don’t know his father. I have connected with the story as a father, grandfather, and a human being. He could have been anybody’s child, anybody’s nephew or cousin or grandson. A grieving mother told me after reading the story that she would not allow her only daughter go to the boarding house!

Schools need to do more on stopping bullying and molestation. As we write, bullying is ongoing in some schools. It is not only students in the hostel that are bullied. Day students are also exposed to bullying. Does your child look sad every time he returns from school? Does he look thin? Does he refuse to eat? Have nightmares? Listen to your child. Insist. If a child as much as suggests that they should be taken to another school, TAKE IT SERIOUSLY UNTIL YOU FIND THE TRUTH EVEN IF THE CHILD SAYS NEVER MIND DADDY!

Schools need to do more to protect kids in their custody. There is need for intelligence gathering in schools, both at night and in the day. As Senior Prefect of Baptist High School Port Harcourt in the late 70s, I had some junior students who fed me information routinely. I protected their identity. Let there be a specially selected teacher or teachers who all exploited students can confide in. My mental health NGO Mind and Soul Helpers Initiative (MASHI) once visited some schools to educate them on mental health. When it was question time, we received a few innocuous questions. But from the notes they sent anonymously, a postgraduate student could do a project on the trauma which some of our children go through while going through secondary education.

All reports/complaints by our children, wards must be taken seriously by parents, guardians, and school management. Managers of schools should realise that the life of one student is more important than the reputation of the school. As parents in loco, Heaven will ask them to account for the death of any child who dies in their care!

Finally, I commiserate with the Oromonis. Sylvester was a hero, a strong character for refusing to join a cult despite threats and intimidation. His death must not be in vain. There must be justice to reassure victims of bullying that all bullies will ultimately face the law. If it is true that the culprits have been flown abroad by their parents, such parents must be compelled with the force of law to produce them for proper interrogation and punishment if found culpable. Shutting down the school should be temporary because the careers of innocent children in the school are in jeopardy. Open the school and punish the guilty.

READ ALSO: NADECO’S Under-ground And Open-ground Patriots (1)

What words can one tell the Oromonis that could reduce the trauma of a painful but avoidable death? No words! No words! No words!  Yet, condolences we have, and condolences we must give. I hope to meet the parents personally and let them know that we all stand by them in their moment of grief.

Professor Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha can be reached on 08023220393

 

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NADECO’S Under-ground And Open-ground Patriots (1)

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NADECO’S Under-ground And Open-ground Patriots (1)

By

Tony Afejuku

As I write this, I look forward to the day, the beautiful day, the historic day and historic time and historic prospect which we shall hail with fitness and firm firmness of joyful coo of patriotic liberty of NADECO and of poetry as conceived by the originators and all sincere joiners of the movement. Now why am I still dwelling on the subject I sincerely meant not to hurl furthermore into the magnificent river of our public opinion after the hint I gave last Friday? Several communications, verbal and written, I got have compelled me to say one or two or three or four things I deliberately allowed my reticence to keep in check. But rather than the full consciousness of my pen to do so, I am yielding for now the column to two readers from across the Atlantic.

Before I do so, however, let me divulge this pertinent information. It was the late Chief Michael Imoudu our country’s universally acknowledged foremost Labour Leader, who asked MKO Abiola to go to Comrade Jonathan Ihonde to request him to plead his case and cause before Chief Tony Enahoro (and other patriots awaiting the historic opportunity we are still waiting to hail). The late Festus Iyayi also played his own dazzlingly revolutionary part as an under-ground patriot of the movement. The late Abubakar Rimi and Balarabe Musa (both of the Aminu Kano school of politics) were top guns who similarly played their parts of positive dialectical patriotism in the Nigerian project and vision as conceived by the original NADECO.

READ ALSO: NADECO’s Bliss That’s No More

As is well known, both of them were respective governors of Kano and Kaduna States under Aminu Kano’s People Redemption Party (PRP). Zamani Lekwot, an ex-military governor of Rivers State, Commodore Dan Suleiman, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, the late General MusaYar’Adua, Mr. Fred Agbeyegbe and several others were lights of the movement. And I must underscore this point: M.K.O. Abiola became an authentic comrade who sacrificed his life for the NADECO cause – meaning that created situations can always alienate one from a reactionary pattern of life and turn him or her in the richest moments of his or her life to be a patriotic rebel and revolutionary. MKO Abiola’s open rejection by his former fellow reactionaries turned him into a comrade and rebel positively in the house of patriotic thunder.

Let me now open the minds of some NADECOists still on voluntarily patriotic exile.

“Good day, my dear Brother. Your piece on NADECO resuscitates memories of past opportunities and possibilities. NADECO was, as you correctly observed, a movement.  But it was a movement of a special type peopled mostly by several left-wing leaning political activists. The intent in certain constituencies was for NADECO to metamorphose into a political party housing the Awoists and the talakawas of Aminu Kano, etc., into a new progressive entity.  As is known in Political Science, a political party is a party when it survives its leader. Unfortunately, after the demise of Chief Obafemi Awolowo on May 9, 1987 (you and I stopped at Ikenne to pay our last respects to him on our way to Ibadan to watch Flash Flamingoes versus Leventis), his political party began to disintegrate systematically.

“ ‘Pro-democracy’ is an elastic conglomerate of competing ideological prisms. I recall meeting with Chief Tony Enahoro and Mr. Mike Ehimah in his hotel in Hull (now Gatineau) across the River Ottawa from the city of Ottawa. I accepted the invitation to accompany him to the Canadian House of Commons where he addressed members of Parliament on the atrocities of the Abacha regime. Several NADECO stalwarts, including Senators Cornelius Adebayo and Femi Ojudu, sought refuge in Canada during this period.

“That NADECO was conceived as a movement to restore the victory of MKO at the June 1993 Presidential Elections fostered an internal contradiction of political philosophies. Thus, NADECO was born prematurely by the need to honour the results of June 12 and not to propagate the ideals of left-wing or progressive politics epitomized by Awolowo. This, in my view, explained why Chief Tony Enahoro got involved in NADECO.

Viewed from this perspective, therefore, NADECO was a consortium of anti-military and pro-democracy activists. Chief Enahoro’s decision to establish the Movement for National Reform (MNR) was a product of the internal ideological contradictions in NADECO.”

READ ALSO: Nembe Oil Spill: Let’s End This Affliction Now

These are pleasant words on NADECO that any investigator or researcher on the movement will or may find intelligently and persuasively instructive. They are theoretically and critically honey words – “sweet to the taste” and good for the well-being of all who want this country to always be blessed with the odour of all genuine activists and patriots like wine that sparkles.

Professor Igho Natufe’s words as quoted at length above are those of one under-ground NADECO patriot and good weigher of the movement’s weighable divinable morning and midnight dreams. And be it known that Professor Igho Natufe is a first-rate Political Scientist and a staunch Awoist. He has been under-ground in exile for centuries. Pardon my hyperbole. We share the same outlook about your country my country our country. But I have always insisted that I will never go on exile.

The words of another NADECO exile are particularly intriguing.

To be continued.

 Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.

 

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Nembe Oil Spill: Let’s End This Affliction Now

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Nembe Oil Spill: Let’s End This Affliction Now

BY

‘TIMI ALAIBE

Nembe, an otherwise quiet, beautiful kingdom in Bayelsa State, populated by a peaceful, enterprising people, has been in the news these past weeks, for the wrong reason. Dozens of already neglected communities and the people are soaked in crude oil—the same oil that has made such communities in Europe and America economic hotspots and development centres of the world. It begs the question: why do bad things happen to good people?

Suddenly, the oil that is supposed to help develop the communities and decorate them with skyscrapers, has become the reason for generational afflictions. Nigeria’s Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor, captured it unquestionably well last week, when she was quoted as describing the oil spill on the communities as massive and an equivalent of the atomic bomb that wasted Hiroshima—the Japanese city, during the Second World War.

No description could have been more appropriate than when she said: “What I saw in terms of pollution… The devastation of the Niger Delta is massive. As we are cleaning up, what we are cleaning up is minute compared to the devastation going on.”

Other official reports revealed that as at Tuesday last week, over 5, 000 barrels of emulsified crude oil had been recovered from the waters and held in a recovery barge. That figure must have more than doubled by now. The people of Nembe do not deserve this avoidable environmental affliction. The question is: when will this leakage be put under control?

READ ALSO: There Is Hope For Bayelsa State

There is no doubt that this oil spill has the capacity to result in health hazards that would eventually lead to loss of lives. Let me repeat that the good people of Bayelsa State, the oil-bearing centre of Nigeria, do not in any way deserve this catastrophe.

Irrespective of numerous reasons cited by industry experts for the spill, the affected communities are dead economically and socially. The land has turned infertile. Nothing can grow there any longer. The rivers are polluted forever. Our fishermen are out of work. Our hard-working farmers have been rendered jobless. In the absence of clean, pipe-borne water for the people, a commodity that is taken for granted in other climes, today, with this oil spill, not even the river water is worth any domestic use any longer.

In other words, the peoples’ sources of livelihood have been completely destroyed; even their lives are in danger. This is no exaggeration. We have seen it happen repeatedly all over the Niger Delta. For the oil exploring and exploiting companies, it’s business as usual. Soon, the noise will end. Attention would be diverted to other pressing state matters. The people would be left to suffer and die in silence.

The director general and chief executive officer of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Idris Musa, has confirmed that “Government is aware that the rivers and streams where oil is flowing into will likely affect the lives of the living creatures in the rivers and streams, including the trees, and the rivers are sources of livelihood for the community.”

READ ALSO: Nigeria As A Movie

Now that these rivers and streams have been polluted, the big question is: where and what would the people turn to? Again, the trees and farmlands have been destroyed and nothing can grow again eternally, so, what happens to our people? Are they going to be relocated? With certain health hazards unconsciously unleashed on these people, what are the options before them? These questions need answers, now!

However, the difference this time is that for the first time, a government minister, Ikeazor, has spoken strongly in support of the need to protect the oil-bearing communities. In her words, this goes beyond oil companies giving palliatives to the communities. It requires putting measures in place to prevent such accidents from happening at all. She has called for stiffer penalties for those responsible for these acts of sabotage.

To my fellow citizens of Nembe, words are not enough to describe your agony and hopelessness. Be assured that you are not alone. My appeal to you is that in spite of this, please stay calm as we join hands with the appropriate authorities to seek the way out of this mess.

No blame game can reverse what has happened. No act of violence can bring back what we have lost. We all share in your pain. This is no time for dirty political grandstanding. This situation needs a practical solution. The people in charge of policy must rise and act now. God bless Bayelsa people.

 

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