Army’s CSR: Examining Buratai/Farouk Yahaya
Few weeks back, I read in one of the obscure blogs about an event that ordinarily should have occupied the front pages of major newspapers in Nigeria because of the very rare and salutary nature of the scenario that took place in the centre of the war on terror in the North East of Nigeria.
I am talking about the very impressive act of human kindness that was done by some soldiers on the frontlines of the ongoing war on terror in which they were actually said to have assisted an internally displaced woman in the North East to deliver her of her baby.
The specific blog that carried this story did not actually explain to its audience that it was a routine charitable conduct of professional Nigerian soldiers which they are trained to do to benefit the civilian population around their zone of responsibility. Doing CSR is a universal practice especially in constitutional democracies.
Soldiers have also being seen administering medical assistance to the needy in the war-ravaged North East of Nigeria just as this kind of socially responsible duties were highly encouraged during the tenure of Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai and he effectively left his footprints in this area on the sands of time which subsequent army chiefs have built upon.
The current Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Farouk Yahaya has started boldly in carrying out legendary corporate social responsibility tasks with his men and officers.
This writer is highly impressed and inspired to do this piece by that photograph of soldiers who are at the war fronts but still found time to deliver a woman of her baby in Borno State.
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The reason for my repeated emphasis on this particular act of human kindness by soldiers is because even the United Nations has spoken so much about the plight of pregnant women in the different internally displaced people’s camps in the North East of Nigeria as can be seen from a report done few months back by UNICEF.
UNICEF wrote on the 17th October 2018 that Hauwa Bukhar and her newborn daughter, Aishat, sit quietly in a row of chairs at a health clinic in the Muna Garage displacement camp in Maiduguri, Nigeria. She is among a group of women waiting their turn to be seen. Many of them share the experience of being mothers, and all have endured the hardship of being forced to flee their homes.
The Muna Garage camp is home to over 35,000 residents. They are among at least 1.76 million people who have been displaced by the ongoing conflict in north-east Nigeria – their villages ransacked, their property lost and their lives changed forever. The majority of people who have been displaced are living in Borno State, the epicentre of the crisis, which is where Muna Garage camp is located.
Hauwa and her family were displaced a year ago, after an armed group raided their village, taking with them cattle and villagers, mostly young women. Hauwa managed to escape, but lost everything, including four of her children after they got separated. After four long months, she was finally reunited with her children and husband and they settled in Muna Garage Camp.
“That was the worst four months of my life, I did not know whether my children had been abducted or had been killed,” she says through tears.
Giving birth in crowded camps says UNICEF is traumatic because life in the overcrowded camp is hard, but it is especially difficult for pregnant women.
“It is not easy for these women but we give them the best we can. Pregnant women need space, comfort and peace of mind, but the women in the camp have none of that. It is even worse for them when they have to deliver at night,” says Aisha Mustapha Kolo, a midwife at one of the clinics.
“That was the worst four months of my life, I did not know whether my children had been abducted or had been killed.
“At night, there are no health services available in the camp because it is too dangerous for health workers to travel after dark. Women who go into labour at night must therefore give birth at home. Others decide to give birth at home due to traditional beliefs. But for most people in the camp, home is just one grass hut with shared toilets. This means that many pregnant women are forced to deliver their babies in a communal bathroom.
“Aisha has worked at the clinic for over a year, and says there were 600 births in the camp and 10 under-five deaths in 2017. Although there were no recorded newborn deaths in 2017, most mothers whose babies die at home soon after birth rarely report the cases to the health facility.”
UNICEF wrote about a particular happy ending for the subject matter aforementioned and informed us that Aisha is checking up on Hauwa’s newborn baby, who is “in perfect health”, according to the midwife.
“This is my sixth baby. But this pregnancy was the hardest, I was not sure my baby was going to make it,” says Hauwa. “I was lucky, my baby was ready to come during the day and I was delivered of her here at the clinic.”
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Hauwa’s story is one of the few with a happy ending. So many others have sad stories to tell.
UNICEF is supporting the government of Borno State by providing primary health care services in the two clinics located in Muna Garage Camp, and in about 50 other camps in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe – the states most affected by violence. This support includes training for health workers; providing emergency medicines, supplies and equipment; and paying monthly stipends for volunteers working in camps and in newly liberated areas. It also includes treating common diseases, immunization services, antenatal care, delivery, post-natal care, vitamin A supplements, distributing deworming tablets, hygiene promotion, community mobilization, referral services including maintenance of ambulances.
Across the world, 7,000 newborns die every day. Raise your voice to demand affordable, quality health care for every mother and newborn, concludes the UNICEF report.
Before delving further to specifically list just a few of these CSR landmarks made by General Buratai and then how so well the current army chief has begun, let us read from a piece dated June 29th 2021 written by Gordon Scott titled “Why Social Responsibility Matters to Businesses”. In our own case we can as well substitute the term businesses with the term Nigerian Army.
The aforementioned author says that companies are increasingly ramping up their focus on social responsibility, whether in championing women’s rights, protecting the environment, or attempting to obliterate poverty, on local, national, or global levels. From an optics perspective, socially responsible companies project more attractive images to both consumers and shareholders alike, which serves to positively affect their bottom lines.
CSR is key because customers (citizens) matter says the author and argued thus: “Embracing socially responsible policies goes a long way towards attracting and retaining customers, which is essential to a company’s long-term success. Furthermore, many individuals will gladly pay a premium for goods, knowing that part of the profits will be channelled towards social causes near and dear to them.
“Companies can likewise witness increased foot traffic if they enhance the local community. For example, banks that dispense loans to low-income households are apt to see an uptick in business, as a direct result.
“Socially responsible companies tend to attract employees who are eager to make a difference in the world—in addition to simply collecting a paycheck. With large companies, there is strength in numbers, where collective employee efforts can achieve substantial results, which increases workplace morale and boosts productivity.
Community-oriented companies often enjoy a leg up on their competition, as well, thanks to superior brand imaging. Socially responsible companies cultivate positive brand recognition, increase customer loyalty, and attract top-tier employees. These elements among the keys to achieving increased profitability and long-term financial benefits, he concluded.
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The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) implies positive, as opposed to negative, influence and contribution of an organization to society and its environment. It is the way in which a corporate body, group or body impacts its milieu by providing basic amenities or contributing to its host community or society outside its strict legal bounds or contract with such a community, individuals or society.
According to Nigeria Social Enterprise Reports Vol.2, CSR is generally understood to be the way a company achieves a balance or integration of economic, environmental and social imperatives while at the same time addressing shareholders and stakeholders expectations. This stems from the fact that organizations like businesses owe the society beyond the production of goods and services and making of profit.
While it is not news that in May 2008 Nigeria’s Federal Executive Council approved the development of a CSR policy for the country, to instill ethical behavior in Nigerian businesses, words used by the then Minister of National Planning Commission, Dr Sanusi Daggash, make it clear that the policy includes “beyond law commitment” and activities that would necessitate an expectation to ‘give back’ to the society by groups existing in society not merely limited to “companies”.
The theory is rooted in the humanity of man and the need for everybody or organization to act in accordance with that humanity or respond to the same irrespective of their core traditional role for which they were primarily set up to achieve. Thus the concept of corporate social responsibility extends to all organizations of human endeavor including such as the army. It is in this regard that the definition of the concept of CSR by the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) is quite appreciable because of its broad base. EFQM, in its Framework for Social Responsibility, 2004, defines CSR as: “A whole range of fundamentals that organizations are expected to acknowledge and to reflect in their actions. It includes among other things respecting human rights, fair treatment of the workforce, customers and suppliers, being good corporate citizens in the communities in which they operate and the conservation of natural environment.”
On the other hand, the Nigerian Army is established under section 217(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) which provides that there shall be an armed forces for the Federation which shall consist of an Army, a Navy, an Air Force and such other branches of the armed forces of the Federation as may be established by an Act of the National Assembly.
The functions of the armed forces are expressly provided in under section 217(2) thus: “The Federation shall, subject to an Act of the National Assembly made in that behalf, equip and maintain the armed forces as may be considered adequate and effective for the purpose of –
(a) Defending Nigeria from external aggression;
(b) Maintaining its territorial integrity and securing its borders from violation on land, sea and air;
(c) Suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do by the President, but subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly; and
(d)Performing such other functions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.”
The place of the army in society cannot be over-emphasized. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) under the Fundamental Objectives and Directive principle of State Police makes a correlation between security and welfare of the people by stating under section 14(1)(b) that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. It must equally be noted that it is not out of place that the subject of security and welfare is immediately preceded by the sovereignty of the people under section 14(1)(a).
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The point being made is that the sovereignty of the nation is only guaranteed and protected where the security and welfare of the people is prioritized. A most functional institution of the state involved in protecting the sovereignty, security and welfare of the people is the military and especially the army. The Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf is even called ‘Mr. Staff Welfare’ in his office because he is known for his passion for welfare of staff and services to the communities in form of CSR.
This role of the army in society is much more understandable in the light of section 218 (1) of the Constitution which confers on the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces with “power to determine the operational use of the armed forces of the Federation.”
The functions and use of the army are therefore not confined to the ones mentioned under section 217 of the constitution and could go beyond as far as the president considers it necessary. This role will better be understood in the light of its corporate social responsibility.
First the army is neutral, non-partisan and peaceful. Section 55 of the Armed Forces Act says: A person subject to service law who-
(a) Fights, quarrels or behaves a disorderly manner with any other person, whether subject to service law under this Act or not; or
(b) Uses threatening, abusive, insulting or provocative words or behavior likely to cause disturbance, is guilty of an offence under this section and is liable, on conviction by a court martial, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or any less punishment provided by this Act.
The army authorities continue to ensure that the neutral, non-partisan and peaceful role of the army in society is observed, any breach of which immediately gets a reciprocal response by summons to a court martial in appropriate circumstances.
Second there is another part of the CSR which defines its ability and efficiency in other respects, it is in taking care of its own workforce. Although there is no specific legal provision regulating CSR in Nigeria, section 279 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) has a guiding principle to the effect that the director of a company is to have regard in the performance of his functions to the interest of the company’s employees in general as well as in the interests of its members.
The concept of CSR in this regard has thus been identified to entail: provision of a conducive working environment in making available modern working tools and equipment, ventilated offices, good infrastructure, decent and official cars, health and safety equipment at the workplace; payment of competitive salary remuneration commensurate with the level of commitment and offer of opportunities for training and career development; maintaining equal opportunities among members of workforce; involving members of the workforce in decisions affecting them; establishment of clear-cut bargaining and grievance procedures known to and followed by members of the workforce.
In the case of Lt. Col. MF Komonibo v. Nigerian Army (2002) 6 NWLR (Pt.762) 2, it was held that an accused about to be tried by a court martial shall be entitled to object in any reasonable grounds to any member of the court martial or the awaiting member whether appointed originally or in lieu of another officer. The court went further to affirm that “for the purpose enabling the accused to avail himself of the right.
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The names of the members of the court martial and the waiting members shall be read over in the presence of the accused before they are sworn in and the accused shall be asked whether he objects to any of those officers.”
The military have organized structures to assist civil authorities in emergency situations. For instance, “Operation Second Eleven”, is an aid to civil authority initiative aimed at complementing civil agencies in the maintenance of essential services like telecommunications, petroleum product distribution and medical services in the event of strike by the “first eleven” employees. The Nigerian Army Signals, Supply and Transport and Medical Corps all have operational structures that can be activated at short notice to become “second eleven”.
The Nigerian Medical and other Corps within the military have equally rendered valuable services that have contributed to the socio-economic well-being of the nation. Retired Brig. Gen Ovadje of the Nigerian Army Medical Corps, of a ‘Blood Transfusion Set’, earned Nigeria international recognition.
Similar intervention programmes have been in the six geopolitical zones of the country. Four solar-powered water projects were inaugurated in different settlements in Obeititu autonomous community of Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo State by the Nigerian Army represented by General Officer Commanding of the division, Maj. Gen. Abubakar Maikobi in 2019.
Speaking on these interventions, the chief of army staff had said the projects were meant to strengthen the existing civil-military relations and turn the minds of Nigerians towards the positive actions of the Nigerian Army meant to provide security and development in the country. He said: “I want to believe that these water projects will serve the needs of this community and its environs. I wish to also appeal to us to see the projects as symbols of unity. Let these projects serve as symbols of peace, unity, tolerance and love to this community and the state at large….”
The Traditional Ruler of the Community, Eze Amadi Obo, in his response said:
“The entire community, which includes our children, youths, women and elders are very happy about the project coming from the Nigerian Army.”
It is reported that over ninety five percent (95%) of the Chief of Army Staff intervention projects has been successfully executed and inaugurated across the six geo-political.
Recently, as part of efforts to enhance civil-military relations, the Armed Forces often carry out free medical advocacy campaigns in their host communities.
A reporter with Thisday newspaper reports that for the military, they would often want the society to understand that they are more than their guns and that’s why they are often engaged in community services to the respective communities in their Areas of Responsibility (AOR).
While some might see such moves as corporate social responsibility (CSR), the underlying factor is that they help to enhance Civil-Military Relations (CMR). In essence, what this does is to strengthen the ties binding the military and civil populace.
So, for the armed forces, it’s become an act entrenched in tradition to regularly conduct medical outreach and grassroots social services for their host communities
The civil-military cooperation primarily serves as an interface between the Nigerian Army and the civil populace. For the Nigerian Army, the import of civil-military relations cannot be overemphasised. In fact, the army established the Department of Civil-Military Affairs (DCMA) in December 2010. Set up by the then Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General OA Ihejirika, it was positioned to serve primarily as an interface between the Nigerian Army and the civil populace and was also charged with the responsibility of underscoring the fundamentals of Civil Military Affairs as a strategic national institution The department is also charged with the introducing and transmitting of the core elements of effective civil-military relations in areas of human rights, rule of law, negotiations liaison and conflict management. All these are binding on all divisions and units of the army.
At the 81 Division Headquarters, it was in line with the vision of the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Faruk Yahaya to provide a platform to further strengthen relationship between the NA and civilian populace at the grassroots, that they recently held several medical outreaches in Ijebu North Local Government Area of Ogun State and Ajah- Ilaje Community in Lagos.
The first medical outreach took place at Ijebu North Local Government Area (LGA) of Ogun State where the General Officer Commanding, (GOC) 81 Division, Major General Lawrence Fejokwu, also assured the community of adequate security.
At the free medical outreach conducted by 35 Artillery Brigade Alamala as part of the formation’s Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC) activities, the GOC said the CIMIC was in line with the vision of the Chief of Army Staff to provide a platform to further strengthen relationship between the NA and civilian populace at the grassroots.He further enjoined the communities to be alert and report any breach of security within their vicinity immediately, while he charged personnel that the use of force should always be the last resort to solving issues.
Earlier, the Commander 35 Artillery Brigade Alamala, Brigadier General Adewale Adekoya during the flag off, noted that the CIMIC exercise was an integral part of 35 Artillery Brigade efforts to enhance civil/military relations and NA’s corporate social responsibility, adding that it was a tradition for the NA to regularly conduct medical outreach and grassroots social services for rural communities.
He further disclosed that the exercise provided an avenue to enlighten the communities on the implications of drug abuse, render free medical consultations and services and enlightenment on recruitment into the NA.
The 35 Brigade CIMIC exercise was extended to traditional rulers, staff of Ijebu North LGA, market women, less privileged, members of Community Development Association and students. The medical services included blood pressure check, eye examination and medication for malaria and fever.
Commemorating NADCEL in Ajah-Ilaje, the division also in commemoration of the Nigerian Army Day Celebration (NADCEL) 2021, last weekend offered free medical outreach to Ajah-Ilaje community in Lagos.
At the flag-off, the GOC 81 Division reiterated that the NA has a tradition of regularly reaching out to host communities as part of measures towards enhanced Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC).
Stating that the exercise was part of the activities lined up for NADCEL 2021 with the theme “A professional and ready Nigerian Army: A prerequisite for successful operations in a Joint Environment”, he further explained that the exercise was meant to offer public health services to the Ajah-Ilaje community.
The GOC also used the occasion to implore the community not to relent in offering assistance to the army by providing timely information on the activities of criminal elements within their communities. He further urged the people present to take their medications as prescribed by the doctors and ensure routine medical checkups as a follow up to the exercise.
He disclosed that the areas being covered by the medical outreach include blood test, blood pressure screening, voluntary HIV counseling and dental consultations, deworming and general treatment.
Meanwhile, the Chairperson, Nigerian Army Officers Wives Association (NAOWA), Mrs. Oghenerukevwe Fejokwu and members of the excos donated a truck load of rice on behalf of the division to the community.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Baale of Ajah Ilaje land, His Royal Highness Murisiku Alani Oseni Ojupon ably represented by Honourable Chief Wasiu Olaosebikan Eshinlokun stated that the people of the community were delighted to have the NA in their midst to provide medical services and distribute palliatives.
At the 9 Brigade Army Cantonment, Ikeja, the Brigade Commander, Brigadier General MLD Saraso, also conducted a medical outreach at its host community, the Onigbongbo Kingdom. The commander said the outreach further strengthened the existing relationship between the army and the host community.
The Oba of Onigbongbo kingdom, Oba Oluwasegun Adeyemi Ajasa also commended the army for the outreach, as well as ensuring security of life and property in the area. His sentiments were echoed by Alhaji Tajudeen Irawo, the Jagunmolu of Onigbongbo Kingdom.
This is to encourage the Chief of Army Staff to maintain the tempo of CSR such as assisting communities with roads construction making use of the Army Corps of engineers. This can be done by mutual partnerships with state administration because the Nigerian Army has a good name in the area of building solid and sustainable road infrastructures if given the right support by the civil authorities.
Onwubiko is the head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and was a federal commissioner at the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria.
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A Savage Outing In The Name Of Electioneering
By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
It is in the nature of man, supposedly enlightened and exposed, to occasionally reveal the savage aspects of the homo sapiens. There is a beast in every man as evident in Lord of the Flies by William Golding where children trapped on an island reveal savagery unbecoming of apparently innocent kids. French novelist Emile Zola in la Bete humaine wrote about how ‘individuals are derailed by atavistic forces beyond their control’. Similarly, whole communities sometimes expose the savagery in their hearts in time of tension. When it is interethnic, interracial, or interreligious, that is, when it concerns group behaviour, it could have devastating consequences on society just as the xenophobia directed against Nigerians in South Africa led to deaths of innocent immigrants. This is the only way I can describe the last mob mentality and the ethnic hatred that seized Lagos last week Saturday before, during and after the governorship and House of Assembly elections. Sadly, this ugly spectacle occurred in some other parts of the federation, especially Kano and Rivers State. The Igbo are being profiled, vilified, and made a target of mass hysteria!
Whoever thought that we still harboured such a degree of ethnic hatred in our hearts some sixty-three odd years after independence? And the silence of the elite while savagery reigned was mindboggling. Was this orchestrated from the highest level of society? Did they, as the world did during the Rwandan massacres, look the other way? Is there ever going to be integration or cultural acceptance of the ‘other’ in our disparate polity? Add to these the deployment of a supposedly cultural rite of purity, the Oro festival, to drive fear into the hearts of potential voters on the night before voting commenced! It seems we are not ready, not molded, not fashioned for democracy. Hoodlums went round voting points and prevented anyone who did not look Yoruba or who had non-Yoruba names from voting.
Democracy manages diversity. It does not emphasize difference. Lagos and Kano exposed our dirty underbelly both to us and the rest of the world. In some states, governors, their surrogates, and political gladiators, seized the instruments of state to intimidate their opponents. Political exclusion is antithetical to the practice of democracy. By engaging persons of all backgrounds before elections, they court voters. To set hoodlums on innocent citizens because they have a different view is dangerous to the survival of the Republic. The experience last week calls for a reconsideration of the creation of State Police. State governors will unleash them on opponents without let or hindrance. If non-state actors could unleash terror on voters, it is left for us to imagine what uniformed officials could do in the name of the law.
It is instructive that while hoodlums attacked and harassed voters last Saturday, policemen and other security agents looked the other way. In some states, policemen openly snatched ballot boxes. Such acts make citizens lose faith in the state. It is a recipe for civil disobedience. If a state actor, elected by the people in any part of the federation decides to lead a sustained protest against the federal government, we would have a deadly situation in our hands. And that is how breakdown of law and order starts.
Persons of Igbo ethnic group who reside in Lagos must also refrain from making provocative statements which could generate hatred and rejection. To claim that Lagos is no-man’s land is provocative in our current circumstances. Lagos has been a good home to all, both good and bad. It has offered an opportunity for citizens who came to Lagos with a nylon bag exit as landlords and rich businessmen. All those who have found accommodation and a source of income in Lagos must respect the codes of social engagement. But state officials should not react to misguided statements from troublemakers in the land.
The people of Lagos and the State government must wake up to the realities of 21st century Lagos. No government has the power to exclude potential voters because they may support candidates that are not favoured by the establishment. And they must carry the mob of area boys and ethnic jingoists along in re-understanding their environment. In a truly democratic setting, governments initiate policies that could win them votes from certain demographic sections of society. In a multiracial society, the dominant class engages minorities with favourable policies as shown in the American experience.
What happened during the election was a form of coup against the people in a clinically arranged exercise by the state. Bullets and missiles were fired by non-military savages. Threats and intimidation restricted access to the ballot box. Some citizens who had access to the ballot box had their votes nullified. The so-called game changer BVAS was made a laughingstock. The young people watching the elections exercise are being encouraged to adopt dishonest means to achieve their goals in life. Yet, the victors have been pronounced. Cheating pays in this environment. It should be possible and indeed mandatory to order new elections to be carried out in any part of the federation where snatched ballot boxes prevented a conclusion to the exercise. This will reduce the criminal practice. The perpetrators must be brought to book. There is no report that those scoundrels who attacked innocent citizens last week have been arrested.
There must be a restitution. There must be punishment. There must be consequences for brigandage and violence. By allowing such rigged elections results to stand, we are digging the grave of democracy. Any politician who rigs his way into office lacks legitimacy. The people are angry. The people are waiting for the opportunity to have their pound of flesh. BVAS may have been compromised now. In future we will have an INEC chairman who will firmly ensure that election processes and results are sacrosanct. This will be in an era where the INEC chairman is appointed and fired by the people through the National Assembly. There will be an INEC chair who is not partisan, who will be prepared to do right by the Nigerian people. Until we have a truly independent electoral commission, thugs and their masters will continue to rule over us.
Out there Nigerians are angry. Bitter. Disappointed. Almost in despair. They believe the INEC Chairman misled them into believing that the elections would be free and fair. That INEC in connivance with the federal authorities deliberately sabotaged the dreams of the people. We are not sure whether that perception can ever be erased. Whatever it is, INEC and the current political class have taken us back to the Stone Age! Which is sad! Discontent has been driven underground. And until there is a purgation, only God (not the many false prophets around) can tell us how this macabre drama will end.
Unending Passion For Reform: A Peep Into My Memoir And The Future Of Nigeria
By Tunji Olaopa
In 1976, Karl Popper, easily one of the greatest philosophers of the twentieth century, published his autobiography, the Unended Quest. It was the philosopher’s attempt to capture in graphic, simple and autobiographical form, the trajectory of his intellectual life—how his existence came to be circumscribed by a series of philosophical ideas that eventually defined not only his fame as a philosopher but also his existential fulfilment as a human person.
“An autobiography is the story of how a man thinks he lived,” says Herbert Samuel, the British liberal politician. Of course, for Karl Popper, the intellectual autobiography is a testament to a life that became philosophical at a young age. It was while working between 1922 and 1924 with a cabinetmaker, Adalbert Posch, that he first fell in love with epistemology and started wrestling with the dynamics of knowledge that derived from the early influences a book-filled house had on him.
By the time Popper published the Unended Quest in 1976, I was still in the process of my preliminary educational formation, with no clear clues as to what life held or in what directions I was headed. I was deeply enmeshed in the exuberances of a secondary school student who sees life in terms of the day to day excitements and rascality. But then, I had also began accumulating some specific life experiences in terms of social relations and unexplained incidences. Three are significant here for my intellectual, political and spiritual life formation. The first, my first brutal
initiation into Nigeria’s zero-sum politics, happened in 1965 when the horrific consequences of the political antagonism between Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief S. L. Akintola landed squarely in my little world in the South-West. I was right in its path. The terrible fact of a person being doused and burnt by thugs was kept indelibly in my confused and shocked mind that would later start groping for answers to human inhumanity to human.
The second encounter was more intellectual—I met Plato on a shelf in the personal library of my uncle, Chief Alfred Olaopa. His copy of Plato’s Republic became immediately fascinating to me because of its dialogic form. But then, my grasping mind got more than the dramatic form that gave form to Plato’s philosophical ideas, insights and arguments. By the time I had arrived at the University of Ibadan for a long immersion in political science and political theory, I had already found a way to connect between the degenerating democratic experiment of ancient Athens that instigated Plato into philosophic reflection when Socrates was killed, and the debilitating condition of post-independence Nigeria that I witnessed as a six-year old boy in a small corner of Oyo State, in modern Nigeria. My university sojourn gave me the theoretical framework with which to make sense of my groping for meaning of the Nigerian experience.
My third encounter was more spiritual. In 1976, after my witnessing thuggery and just about when I encountered Plato’s reform vision in the Republic, I suddenly developed an intense headache that snowballed into incessant migraines that lasted for ten years. There was not anything we did not try, from tablets to herbs; and from hospitals to churches. Of course, my parents concluded it was a spiritual attack. I took the mental pain to my days at the university before it was finally resolved well after my graduation and youth service. But I learnt a lot about spirituality and God from that trauma.
By the time I joined the Presidency in 1992, and eventually the civil service, I had come full circle in my introspection and reflection about my place in the world, my research focus and direction. All of what I considered to be Nigeria’s cogent predicaments, the fundamental problems with the public service, the role that the civil service can play in reconstructing the Nigerian project. And
at this point in my personal formation, I have developed a philosophy of reform in its administrative, technocratic and social dimensions.
This is where I found the uniqueness of my life trajectory—and the urgency of publishing a memoir: my intellectual and professional maturation is tied in with the concerted efforts to find resolutions for Nigeria’s postcolonial predicaments. And it is my desire to share my own little efforts with those who have similar
patriotic aspirations and would want to keep holding up the flag. This is the key import of The Unending Quest for Reform. I am in the forefront of the narration because I believe that providence had projected my being into the cauldron of the unfolding and unraveling of the Nigerian state at
the time I was born, just some few months before Nigeria came into politico-administrative existence via her flag independence.
As I narrated in all the pages of the memoir, the entirety of my intellectual development, from secondary school to the University of Ibadan, as well as the entire trajectory of my professional coming of age and maturity had been devoted to understanding the Nigerian project and assembling the credentials and competences to find ways and means by which to make Nigeria work positively for Nigerians. I consider myself to be a minor protagonist in a narrative that maps how the Nigerian state has evolved over the course of its independence, and how it has failed to keep up with the imperatives of her greatness. The Unending Quest for Reform is a narration about the historical unraveling of the Nigerian state, the great ideological conceptualization of its future, especially during the first republic, the operationalization of the colonial landmines, especiallyt through one of the greatest institutional inheritances (the civil service system), the weaponization of Nigeria’s plurality by those who would undermine Nigeria’s greatness for their greedy primitivec accumulation the struggle to get back on track, especially by the civil service and its effort to administratively redirect Nigeria’s infrastructural development—all from my perspective.
Even as a minor protagonist in Nigeria’s political drama, I consider myself to be significant in her search for greatness. The Unending Quest for Reform is my account of my diagnosis of my life
within the trajectory of Nigeria’s protracted search for nationhood. Therefore, I do not see this as self-indulgent in any sense. Eleanor Roosevelt got my intention quite right. For her, “Autobiographies are only useful as the lives you read about and analyze may suggest to you something that you may find useful in your own journey through life.” There is a generational and professional handholding gesture that I intend this memoir to concretize. Even though the memoir speaks about some dimensions of my life, it is meant to specifically outline my journey from the first encounter with Nigeria’s institutional dysfunctionality to the administrative philosophy that could transform her governance and institutional reforms.
I remember vividly that this is the clear mandate I received from Chief Simone Adebo, in one of those crucial encounters I had with him that clarified my incipient yearning for administrative and institutional transformation through research and praxis. He was worried that civil servants in Nigeria are often the butt of derogatory representations and scurrilous analyses that tied them to damage done to the Nigerian state. And yet, these civil servants fail to provide the insights into their professional intervention in the administrative dynamics of Nigeria, especially through personal narratives and systematic documentation. The Unforgettable Years, Chief Adebo’s autobiography, serves the grand purpose of outlining the critical years of the founding of the Nigerian civil service system and that was tied to the working of Nigeria’s plural unraveling. That autobiography had to have been written because Adebo himself constituted a legacy that represents the golden age of Nigeria’s public service. To read The Unforgettable Years is to not only understand how the civil service system came into existence and developed, it is also to understand the roles that the civil servants and politicians played in the first few years of Nigeria’s postcolonial existence. More than this, it is also to understand how the famous Awolowo-Adebo model of
politics-administration dichotomy was operationalized in ways that gave birth to the infrastructural wonders of the old Western Region. This is the same sense of immersion that one gets when reading Chief Theophilus Akinyele’s Beyond Pushing Files, or Prof. Akinlawon Mabogunje’s A Measure of Grace. It was partly what I wanted to achieve when I compelled the late Prof. Ojetunji Aboyade to approve the biographical narrative of his life and experience as an intellectual and civil servant. In A Prophet is with Honor, I narrated how Aboyade embodied the town-and-gown framework, and how the trajectories of his life and professional experience were connected with the deep desire to enhance the development of Nigeria. I am therefore hoping that this memoir will also be a part of the existing and excellent personal narratives of significant public servants that complement Nigeria’s political and administrative histories, and critically gesture at the fundamental place and roles of the public service in Nigeria’s development agenda.
The Unending Quest for Reform was written within the best tradition of memoirs. Caroline Knapp, the American writer, captures this essence beautifully: “By definition, memoir demands a certain degree of introspection and self-disclosure: In order to fully engage a reader, the narrator has to make herself known, has to allow her own self-awareness to inform the events she describes.” The self-disclosure that underlies this memoir is meant to point outside of myself and the experiences I have accumulated to a larger national context that facilitated most of these experiences and how the dynamics of governance and institutional reforms that define my professional and
philosophical endeavors could be turned towards the betterment of Nigeria and Nigerians.
In eighteen chapters, I wove a long story that began from my native town in Aáwé and ended within the trenches of institutional reforms within the public service space in the presidency and
other MDAs in Abuja. The contours of that intellectual and professional unraveling took me to several parts of the world and brought me in contact and engagements with several people. I was brought to critical points in my understanding of the trouble with Nigeria, to quote Chinua Achebe. Since, for me, the civil service represents the most crucial point in the developmental awakening of the Nigerian state—as a democratic and developmental state—I dare say I was brought to a fundamental understanding of what is wrong with that system and how it can be fixed. I did the rounds of all the significant institutional nodal point, and I researched theories and administrative practices across the globe that could shed light on the way forward. I have been a part of some of the fundamental attempts at administrative restructuring in the Nigerian civil service. I have also
partaken at some high-level and high-powered committees and sessions to hammer out some of the crucial documents around which institutional reforms have been anchored. By the time I became a permanent secretary, I had been able to harness all my knowledges and administrative competences, and formulated a three-pronged framework.
First: I was able to craft my objective around the need to understand and add value to the ongoing reform efforts geared towards strengthening the capacity base and professionalism of the civil service as a critical factor in national development. Second: I gradually commenced developing a reform philosophy and strategy premised on the need for the evolution of a productivity paradigm designed to generate a dynamic thinking process to resolve the crisis; which requires a workforce that is professional, confident and productive and a reform that effects critical structural and behavioral changes that motivate the redefinition of the Federal Civil Service in the pursuit of
performance and innovation at all levels. And third: from the objective to the reform strategy, I was able to formulate what I consider to be the fundamental role of my status as a permanent secretary. It became clear to me that my reform philosophy automatically places a huge responsibility on a permanent secretary as a change agent.From the Career Management Office to Information Technology ministry, I was presented with multiple opportunities to bring my reform philosophy to bear on the internal administrative limitations and possibilities of the MDAs. By the time it dawned on me that deep-seated systemic changes required far more strategic alignment of the administrative and political, retirement had already happened in 2015. Fortunately, I was not caught napping. One of the most significant lessons I learnt from my many years of mentoring by the late Aboyade was the critical link between Nigeria’s development agenda, the civil service system and think tanking. The business of reform cannot be understood in terms of insider dynamics alone. There must be a way to carry it on with patriotic fervor even right from outside the institutional frames of the civil service. This was the reflection that led to the emergence of the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP). The ISGPP is conceived to be an independent organisation devoted to research and executive education for those in government and other sectors of society in Nigeria and the rest of
Africa. Essentially, it is meant to function as a policy and research think tank whose fundamental objective is to address the skills and competence deficit that would transform public bureaucracies and the political arrangements of Nigeria and other African states in ways that will make them work even better for a responsive democratic governance and inclusive development.
Without blowing my own trumpet, I believe that with The Unending Quest for Reform I have created a narrative on the necessary imperative of keeping the business of reform always on the
front burner of administrative and institutional performance and productivity through change management and reform. That is what the title of the memoir is meant to address. The need to keep
modernizing the institutions of performance and productivity that will enable the public sector to keep delivering services efficiently never ends. And this unending imperative is frankly and bluntly juxtaposed with the protracted but not-so-successful reform efforts of consecutive Nigerian
governments since independence. The Nigerian reform landscape has never lacked genuine agenda and blueprints that critically diagnose and assess the imperative of reforms and what needed to be done. Unfortunately, they have all ended in the trash bin of haphazard implementation. And so, from the perspective of my reform experience, the discerning reader ought to have fathomed why I would think this memoir should matter within the transition to another republic in Nigeria. The Unending Quest for Reform sums the entirety of my experience, passion and reflections about transforming Nigeria, and the strategies and tactics by which I reckon the transformation could be achieved. We cannot afford to let the fifth republic be another wasted effort in governance and institutional restructuring. In the memoir, and as a framework that signposts the future of a revamped public administration
system that backstops the larger governance agenda that any new administration might want to leverage for national transformation, I set out a series of recommendations for reform. These could be taken to be part of the tangibles that my academic researches and professional experiences as a
scholar-practitioner have yielded over the years. The most fundamental logical reform step for the new administration in Nigeria to take, as a governance and administrative imperative, I noted, is the creation of a change space. This is a space that enables the new Nigerian leadership to harness competences, skills and strategies that enable it to push institutional and governance changes despite contextual circumstances and pressures. A change space is therefore the context that facilitates transformation through the committed efforts of several change agents, from the politicians and government functionaries to the civil and public servants. This automatically focuses on the fundamental role of a transformational leader as the moving force that catalyzes the change space into a domino effect of several innovative changes and reforms. The focus of the desired transformation to be initiated in the change space is the transformation of the policymaking
dynamic such that policy becomes strategic and motivated by policy intelligence and research
emanating from a technical configuration of town and gown institutional arrangements that bring the strategic offerings from the universities, think tanks and industries to bear on how the government make and implement policies. Reforming the public service system is meant to facilitate a deep-seated culture change that transforms professionalism and public-spiritedness. This is meant not only to improve the efficiency of the civil servants, but to also galvanize the system into optimal performance and
productivity. This must necessarily commence with a very high level of revamped gatekeeping dynamics through the civil service commission that not only streamline recruitment metrics, but also collaborate to facilitate the emergence of a critical and functional communities of service and practice, like the National Association for Pubic Administration and Management (NAPAM). Internal administrative reforms commence with the institutionalization of performance
management systems that are underpinned by competence-based HR function and practices, as well as the inauguration of a multidisciplinary platform that serves as the launch pad for the emergence of a senior executive service drawn from sectors of the Nigerian societies, including the Nigerian diaspora. The essence of the performance management framework is to serve as a precursor to a full-fledged modernization of the service delivery capacity of the public service
through the transformation of government business, transformation of corporate governance principles, and the undermining of the adversarial elements in labor unionism. The new administration cannot also underestimate the crucial significance of the public-private partnership protocol as the engine of efficient service delivery to Nigerians.
All memoirs hold some form of enlightenment for the assiduous readers. I want to believe that The Unending Quest for Reform possesses the same possibility. The advantage of reading it is that it provides three levels of engagement. For those interested in the pure narrative of my coming of age within a Yoruba Christian home, chapters two, four, five and the coda are your starting point. If your forte is an understanding of my intellectual becoming, then chapters one, three, four and seven are critical. I outlined my spiritual trajectories in the coda, and chapters five, six and seven .My professional development, administrative challenges and achievements, and reform philosophy are the subject of chapters eight to eighteen. But then, since no narration of a complicated life can be that seamless and smooth, an immersive reading of The Unending Quest for Reform is required for full noenjoyment. I hope you will be able to pick a copy to get an insight into how my life intersects a vision of Nigeria as a democratic and developmental possibility.
.Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, Professor of Public Administration and Founder, Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP),Bodija, Ibadan.
By Toyin Falola
“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” – Galileo Galilei
Religion remains a much-debated issue, especially in Africa. It is one of the determining factors of our identity. It determines who we are, our beliefs, actions and reactions, and even our thought processes. Africans had their own culture and traditional religion until the advent of western civilization, which brought with it the ‘gift’ of Abrahamic religions—,Christianity and Islam—and judged African traditional religious practices as evil, pagan practice and witchcraft. The missionaries did a thorough job of making people believe that their religion was superior and righteous. Africans accepted these imported religions, and their traditional beliefs began to fade. Christianity and Islam are now the new order, and people are extremely devoted to these newly found Gods.
The Toyin Falola Interviews recently played host to music composer and songwriter, Beautiful Nubia. The question of Beautiful Nubia’s stance on religion pops up during the interview. He is known to promote African spirituality but has also defended foreign religions as advantageous. In response, he talks about his ancestral line: his paternal family were Olu Orogbo devotees (the Yoruba god of letters), and his maternal family were Ifa priests and Esu devotees. He said, “religion has always fascinated me like it gets people’s minds.” He opines that spirituality ties into what gets people so much into religion. Although he no longer practices religion, he affirms that these religions have positively influenced people to do good and show kindness to their fellow human beings.
He states, “Any organized religion has a set of dogma or doctrines they use to guide you to put you in there. You are there; it is like a strait jacket to keep you on the straight and narrow. Why I said religion is a good thing is because the purpose of this is to ensure that you stay on the straight and narrow, that you do good things.” We can agree that religion has contributed to the rise of morals to a certain extent, as the fear of God keeps many people from doing evil. It has curbed wickedness and negative traits inherent in humans and made many people see the world in a new light. Religion has spread the message of doing good and becoming a better human being.
The issue, however, is not the practice of these religions but the ability of leaders to sway people easily. Although imported religions have helped to stop the extremities of African religious practices, it has only accentuated people’s gullibility. Beautiful Nubia further states, “What is wrong with religion is that it gives certain people the power to use their followers. It is not the religion itself; it is the human beings who run these religious organizations who use their power to extract money from them and push them in the wrong direction.” Owning a church is one of the easiest and quickest ways to get rich, particularly in Nigeria. All that is needed to succeed in this business is to be a good actor, have nice clothes (suits, particularly), can win people over with words and give yourself an extraordinary title such as Rabbi.
It is common knowledge that the major reason why people attend church and Jumat services religiously are that they seek solutions to their problems. As much bad governance is enough to seek God’s intervention for various human issues ranging from terminal illnesses, protection, promotion, unhappiness, barrenness, unemployment, and marital problems, to poverty, which is an average African’s motivation to seek God’s face, also cause people to become staunch believers. To get swift, miraculous answers to these problems, many people fall prey to the traps of “men of God”, who only look to fill their pockets and bellies. This explains why a “pastor” would shut down his church after winning a 100 million Naira bet.
Pastors and Muslim clerics are considered mini gods who can do no wrong. The Bible verse, “touch not my anointed and do my prophet no harm,” is an ever-ready response by Christians in defense of their highly revered pastors who would not think twice before taking advantage of their desperation to get their problems solved. They forget that a “man of God” is first a man. Religion has rendered humans gullible to the extent that they excuse things their religious leaders do that are not even in tune with what is written in the Holy books. How do you explain a pastor who sleeps with a woman looking for the fruit of the womb and says his sperm is the anointing that will cause her to have her child? What do we say to a pastor who instructs his congregation to bring a greater percentage of their salaries to him so that God can answer their prayers? Should the man who claims to be an alfa but has exploited so many people in the name of being a ‘wonder healer’ be left alone? Churches and mosques nowadays see the desperation of people and feed off it. Many people come to church for prosperity and get ripped off the little they have, all in the name of miracles, signs and wonders. You could be in a church service and then suddenly hear the pastor say, “I see seven stars. I need seven people who will give the Lord Seven Hundred Thousand to come out now at the count of seven. One, Two…Seven!” You will be amazed at the number of people who will run to the altar to give the ‘Lord’ that amount of money in this present economy. Unsurprisingly, some borrow money to give to their pastors to receive blessings, then struggle to pay back the borrowed money. Monkey dey work, Baboon dey chop.
These men of God add false doctrines to their fraudulent, shady activities. Beautiful Nubia quotes his mother, a Christian singer, as saying, ” any church where they are a lot of people there, you know there are telling them lies there.” He made an example of a Muslim cleric who tells his followers that every other person is evil, an infidel and a pastor who tells his congregation that their Jesus is not a Jesus of poverty, that He died for them to be wealthy. It is now rare to find churches that preach about the kingdom of God and how to live a life that pleases God. Churches today entice and then mislead people.
Sometimes, people realize all these things are wrong but lack the courage to question these atrocities. According to Beautiful Nubia, “…as a child, you are fully indoctrinated, and as an adult, you are scared to question these beliefs.” Asking a pastor why he preaches only prosperity and how to get rich as a Christian would be considered as seeking the wrath of God because the pastor can call down fire to consume his ‘enemy’. Questioning an Imam on why he sleeps with young girls will only attract curses from the Quran on such a person, followed by “who are you to question God’s prophet? The ways and dealings of God are mysterious”. Really, who dares question these men of God? The fear that has been unconsciously programmed into your mind from a very young age holds your voice and makes you look away from the evils of these religious leaders.
This is not to say that there are no genuine men of God, but there is a plague of greedy religious leaders who, because of their power over their members, influence them to bend to their will while satisfying their greed and lust. “We should not focus too much on religion being our enemy. We need to focus more on ourselves, fix ourselves, and we can use traditional wisdom to do that”, says Nubia. The way we question and demand accountability from the government should be the same way we question our religious leaders. Not every “God says” is true. The Bible in 1 John 4:1 says, “Beloved , believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” Many religious leaders are gods of their bellies and are only out to exploit people to put food in their fat stomachs and live expensive lifestyles with their poor congregation’s money. Child of God, shine ya eye!
This is Part 1 of the report on the interview with Beautiful on March 19, 2023. The extensive interview, which has received millions of views across different platforms, talks about the role of music in society. For the transcripts, see:
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