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Dr. Obadiah Mailafia And The Nigerian Story Of Leadership Failure



Professor Ademola Dasylva At 70: A Labourer In The Vineyard


Toyin Falola

The interview with Dr. Mailafia during the Toyin Falola Interviews furnishes the audience with much information that helps to grasp the idea of failed leadership and state and problematize the concept of a failing state. The truth is laid bare for anyone confident enough to accept that the conversation around a failed state is a byproduct of the narrative of us versus them, civilized versus uncivilized, barbaric and modern, dated back to the 19th century as a prelude to the colonization of the less technologically advanced groups of people in Africa and other victims of colonialism. The binary prism generated around this characterization found the expansionist imperialists on the side of the coin where they are associated with modernity, civilization, and greatness, which, therefore, became the motivation for their expeditious colonialism embarkations on all of their colonies.

As it was then, the measures for civilizations and others did not have a universal appeal because it appeared that the moral and political requirements for being civilized represented a jaundiced view of the colonizers. Although this would help to drive an objective conversation when dealing with the mountainous challenges that have gripped the African, especially Nigerian, leadership by its jugular, it does not by any means undermine the importance of having common denominating factors with which it can be decisively concluded that a country is failing or has failed. In essence, one needs to address the issues of a failed state not exclusively by considering the factors erected by the Western world but by definitions given by the rational members of colonized societies who are impartial in their evaluation and examination of events.

One of the most compelling characteristics of a failing or failed state is a collapsed economy that is immediately trailed by widespread poverty. These two factors define the current topic of engagement because no civilization can claim modernization in its remote sense if its economy has collapsed. Therefore, it is challenging to avail Nigeria of this quagmire tagged “failed state” when one realizes that its economy has declined in recent years for reasons that are not unconnected to its excessive concentration on a single source of revenue. Such dependence, among other things, has killed the nation’s urge for creativity and diversification. And because the government has refused to be pluralistic in its economic approach, the political structure has been facing constant declination of values and worth.

It is difficult to compare the Nigeria of today and that of four or five decades ago. The declining economy has become the source of many existential challenges in which the country is currently circumscribed. Essentially, this has weakened its importance in the region of West Africa and Africa generally because not only has the country become the proverbial leaches of the international organizations that oversee the financial rescue of less economically viable countries and then serve donor countries that contribute to face-save them in time of crisis, the citizens have also been reduced to a diminished group of people who would retain no particular regard outside of their political and geographical outreach.

READ ALSO: Social Discourse And The Toyin Falola Interviews: Matters Arising

Various countries have emerged in recent years because they diversified their economies and concentrated intensely on ways to redeem their financial status in the comity of nations. However, Nigeria is stuck in the pit of economic debauchery because the government is too reliant on mono-economic sources of financial and economic income. This would not have been a problem if people’s economy does not affect their cultural and social systems. As Karl Marx argued in the past, when the economy, which is the basis for political engagement, collapses, there are usually devastating consequences that would be felt in other areas; hence the widespread poverty that Dr. Mailafia talked about in the Toyin Falola Interview Series.

Widespread poverty is one social problem that has faced Nigeria currently because its economy is in decline. The country’s economy is so weak that it cannot provide the necessary job security for the people, and the lack of employment opportunities has invariably increased the poverty level of Nigerians. Nigerians are embattled with the multiple problems of economic decline and poverty, which have inevitably increased the challenges they face day in and day out. Malnutrition and the inadequate health systems pervasive in the country are evidence that it has crossed the line and sunk into an abyss of terror. A few years ago, Nigeria was dubbed the world’s poverty capital because its citizens are said to live on a dollar per day. Such statistics are dumbfounding, not mainly because many people suffer from poverty, but also because Nigeria, which used to be the beacon of hope for the African continent, especially at the economic front, has now been labelled the poverty headquarters of the world in just four to five decades. This speaks to the lack of foresight in the political domain. The lack of visionary leaders at the echelon of power is a strong reason behind the accelerated increase in poverty and deprivation.

A failed state does not stop with these challenges. A famous proverb among the Yoruba people says that when big challenges overcome individuals, smaller ones would feast on them; the rising level of insecurity in the country is another signal of its serious condition. Nearly in all the corners of the country, there is no safe place for individuals to conduct their activities freely without nursing the fear that they may be rounded up by groups of criminals who believe in their guns as the decider of people’s fate. Insecurity is so widespread that people cannot be absolutely confident of their safety whenever they step outside their confines. Even in the comfort of their homes, there are growing instances of attacks on people. Insecurity in Nigeria is pervasive and deadly, and this is one of the reasons the country cannot escape the profiling it has experienced in recent times.

Undoubtedly, if the situation of a country mirrors that of Nigeria, its challenges would grow in leaps and bounds. For example, the security crisis has taken a comfortable seat in the country, which scares potential investors away for obvious reasons. Business investors worldwide are known to pick interest in places where they are confident of financial returns. When this is threatened, they will look elsewhere to invest. To this extent, insecurity is a disease that silently kills people and provides them with no actual possibility of an antidote that may give them the relief needed from time to time. Candidly, there are limitless opportunities in Nigeria so much that if they had been confronted with increased unemployment, there would be an opportunity to turn the situation into something desirable through investments in the economy. But when insecurity is added to the challenges facing the people, they have little chance of attracting the right business people who would elevate their status by investing in their moribund economy.

READ ALSO: Is Nigeria A Failing State?

One would think that Nigeria has demonstrated the highest of its shortcomings in its failure to function as a great country until one realizes that it is embroiled in many struggles. In essence, Nigerian problems are interwoven and interconnected. Apart from the fact that attracting the right people is problematic where the security challenges are pervasive, the realization that individuals are too psychologically weak to pursue any economic dream adds to the said problems. Sadly, the combination of these factors is grossly affecting Nigerian citizens in the contemporary world.

READ ALSO: People Who Should Be In Jail Or Exile Are The Ones On Campaign Posters – Banky W

More appalling is that the Nigerian state cannot deliver the essential public goods expected of a state. One of the public services expected of a functional government is protecting human rights; however, it is more benumbing that the Nigerian government has been unable to protect these fundamental human rights. Now the country seemed to have slipped into anarchy in some states, notably in Zamfara and Borno. The freedom of communication, on which mandate the government of the day rode to power, has been carefully and methodically infringed upon so much that the people exercise conscious restraint in discussing issues that affect them in public or social spaces. The gross disrespect for human rights and the abuse that comes from such attitudes give the impression that the protection of the citizens no longer takes a particular interest in the hearts of emerging political leaders.

Positions of power have been ambushed by individuals using power to enhance their selfish interests. The media houses responsible for the government’s victory are now feeling the heat of totalitarian policies targeted at their operations. For example, the ban placed on Twitter reflects only one thing–the absolute disregard for human rights. Including, but not limited to this, is the clampdown on the freedom of association that is getting to the heart of the political system. Free association with others has experienced similar treatment. One cannot associate with groups without feeling insecure because the ongoing security challenges that have engulfed the country continue to scare people from being involved with others on issues that affect their social networking. If these are part of the indices used to measure a failing state, Nigeria cannot be exempted from the list. The country has failed to protect its citizens, which is a major contribution to the pervasive insecurities in the land. While the government continues to increase the level of funding dedicated to the procurement of arms and ammunition, the results do not complement the monies spent. Budgetary allocation for security increases annually with little or no results to show for it. In other words, people have taken the insecurities pervasive in the country as an opportunity to perpetuate corruption on a larger scale. Meanwhile, the administration of justice has equally been complex.

At the interview session, Dr. Mailafia hinted that although everyone believes that peace can follow the absence of all violent activities and criminal engagements, the fact remains that when there is no justice, there can be no claim to peace, primarily as the current state of affair in the country does not support justice. For instance, it is readily impossible to have justice in situations where security operatives have constituted themselves as a parallel government where they carry out activities that naturally defy the ethics of their calling. On an occasion where the representatives at the political system are siphoning the public resources for their provincial gains, displaying an opulence got from the sweat of the public, it is difficult to ascribe any form of justice to such a political behaviour. Thus, there would be problems in collectively advancing the objectives and goals of such a country. In a recent exposition by the United States of America, the scandalous involvement of Nigeria’s Deputy Commissioner of Police with a popular cybercriminal, Hushpuppi, demonstrates how institutions in the country have been taken over by overzealous individuals who would pursue their ambition even at the expense of the state. This is corroborated by the actions of Nigerian politicians with unexplainable wealth, who gallivant the globe on the citizens’ wealth.

It gets exciting when we realize that Nigeria is a heterogeneous country with different people and varying cultural orientations who, upon the understanding that there is a perceived lopsided nationalist treatment, could consider seceding from the country to become independent. When Ms. Bamidele Ademola-Olateju asked Dr. Mailafia if the country truly deserves to remain a corporate entity or has the potential to remain one in the nearest future, we should understand more about the political possibilities of the country remaining indivisible. Dr. Mailafia considered the question a two-fold one, and he approached them differently yet educatively. He answered the first part of the question in the negative, not being preposterous in his prediction but by considering several trends that have become synonymous with the country. The first is the country’s demographic which doubles its numbers every thirty years. Coupled with the diminishing social and infrastructural services, pervasive insecurities, rising injustice, and widespread corruption, the possibility of the country surviving the next phase of its national identity is uncertain. Nearly all the countries that have dissolved their colonial identities have experienced what Nigeria is going through in the current time. The fact that they eventually broke up to form new states explains why a similar condition awaits Nigeria.

On the second question about if Dr. Mailafia would want the country to collapse so that different nations would emerge from its decay, he responded that it is not his wish to see the collapse of Nigeria. He argued that one of the reasons for his position is that apart from his nationalist spirit, he has grown so fond of the country and believes it can achieve an incredible potential if only the leaders take very decisive steps to salvage it. Whether the country deserves to survive or not is another thing entirely. Dr. Mailafia was unpretentious when he said he does not, in good conscience, think that the country deserves to survive, considering the numerous evils that have been perpetrated by the people in whose hands the country’s management is kept. This evil persisted beyond the corridors of power. The people who are nudged on by the leaders’ silence committed grave crimes and misgivings that are naturally irreconcilable and incompatible with progress. Civil strife in the 1960s and 1970s led people to kill others who were considered different from their ethnic identity. This civil war in the country between 1966 and 1970 was another offence against humanity. The fact that the blood of the innocent was used as the sacrifice to keep the country as one contradicts natural order, and for this reason, it is difficult to say if the country is deserving of remaining indivisible. Ethnic cleansing, religious killings, banditry, among others, characterize the Nigeria of the current time, making it difficult to say it deserves to remain one.

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

Security challenges and the political theatre that prepared the stage for the proliferation of violence cannot be dissociated from the socioeconomic conditions that necessitated the horrible development in the first instance. Suppose by luck, a country is given a pass mark of credibility irrespective of the pervasive and constant violence and hostilities. In that case, there cannot be redemption for countries that have failed in their economic prosperity, for they would be vulnerable to all manner of threats that would potentially come their way. The Nigerian situation is exemplary of this condition strictly because the decline of its economy in recent years has reached an unprecedented scale.

To understand the relationship between a failing state and those whose financial oxygen has been infiltrated by particles and pebbles that are disastrous to the country’s health, a question was raised about the causes and effects of the continually reduced value of the country’s currency. By his age and experience, Dr. Mailafia qualifies as a historian on issues that border on Nigeria’s past events, especially from the 1960s onwards. His mind-opening input would enthuse us. According to him, the devaluation of the Nigerian currency is a product of many factors that need to be studied or appropriately contextualized for us to grab the knowledge of its status. For a currency that was far ahead of the American dollars in the 1960s and that was giving the British pounds a run for its money in the same period, one needs to address emerging situations that suddenly led to the surprising displacement of the values less than seven decades after.

However, the point of waterloo to the Nigerian Naira came in 1985 during the regime of General Ibrahim Babangida, under whom the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP) sapped the values that the currency had managed to enjoy for a considerable number of years. As argued by a technocrat, the program was geared towards the de-industrialization of the country and the despoliation of their economic systems. The Nigerian currency began to drastically lose its values against the European and American currencies from that period. As if it was in a self-competition to outdo itself in the areas of value erosion, the Naira has been witnessing rapid declination from that period to the current time. This, according to Dr. Mailafia, is caused by several factors.

First, the high inflation rate in the country has predominantly affected the way the Naira presently stands, among other currencies. Also, the excessive dependence on importation accounts for the devaluation of the Nigerian currency. This particular variable resulted in a deficit in the country’s account balance and a trade deficit. Misguided economic and financial policies created by people unaware of how their government’s activities influence the Naira and thus act rashly also harm the country in this area. It is nauseous to be educated on the devaluation of the currency and then know the people who brought the calamity on their people. For example, the dollarization of the Nigerian economy, apart from the oil industry that was not covered by the sanction of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), also contributes to the devaluation of the nation’s currency. Coupled with the fact that some top politicians in the country have also been engrossed in the cultural tradition of using dollars above their currency, the devaluation of the country’s money does not always concern them. They have made a substantial amount of money through their deliberate act of disobedience to the standard regulations by the government. As such, they have more purchasing power when the Naira loses value.

All these factors combine to tell us that Nigeria is failing the test of being a solid state. To Dr. Mailafia, Nigeria lacks the power to control its profound contradictions and infractions. Where does Nigeria go from here?

(This is the first report on the interview with Dr. Obadiah Mailafia on August 15, 2021. Well attended, the number of a live audience was 1.3 million on six platforms. For part of the transcript, see Facebook Or YouTube:

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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Dele Jegede In Conversation With Prince Yemisi Shyllon
Prof. Toyin Falola


By Toyin Falola


Idán no dey read but Idán de pass.” 

“Idán no dey work but Idán dey eat.” 

“Idán no dey stress himself.”

“Idán no dey talk but na idán dey make sense pass.” 

“Idán fit dey sick, but idán no go die.

“Idán no dey watch car for road, na cars dey respect Idán. “


    Surfing through the internet in the past few days, you might have come across the various uses of Idán by the youth in Nigeria, especially my boys and girls on street corners, my adopted home. Idán would directly mean mystical magic and its adaptation to describe a person’s position as an extraordinary, outstanding, non-conformist in some instances, outliers or other forms of descriptions that the Nigerian youth use to eulogize themselves. 

“Idán ni Toyin, Baba Toyin

Falola Idán gangan! “

Recently, the internet has seen different waves and versions of Idán. From the Idanship on the streets to the crowned Idáns in the four walls of any institution and the silent Idáns making moves and strategies like Sabinus. The Idáns are truly sabi and have proven to be the uncrowned Kings in their games over time. A masterpiece of their idanship is multifaceted as it cuts across borders into different spheres. It would have been interesting to see these sets of individuals line up to get awards or recognitions, but that would go against the creed and the essence of the sayings. After all, Idán no dey find awards, na awards dey find Idán.  Curiosity might pick one interest in understanding how and why this term became attributed to define Nigerian youth’s doggedness and resilient spirit. Nigerians and Nigerian youths are Idáns; everyone needs to start acknowledging that.

The role of the youth in the country’s development and its projections and potential cannot be underestimated. With over 57 million youths and the Idán potential each of them possesses, Nigeria could be on the path of regaining its position as the heartbeat of the continent and setting the standard for many other nations in the world. Hence, while we discuss the degeneration of many African countries and the level of development and then consider the potential of the African and Nigerian youth, there is a confidence that with the right channels and explorations, the nation and the continent might be the global focus of development.

    Nigerian youth are idáns largely because of their ability to survive any situation and still become outliers when the odds dictate possible failures. Hence, they have managed to successfully, against all odds, to keep the country in the limelight. Their abilities to survive make them the very adventurous Idáns that put them in direct competition with other youths of other countries they have found themselves, despite the limitations of being in a foreign land and policies that favor home countries. In 2017, the Nigerian government stated that the population of Nigerians in the diaspora is not less than 17 million. That was 6 years ago. In March 2023, the National Identity Management Commission stated that the Nigerians in the diaspora had an increase in the number of NIN by 563.57%. Jápa is idán; to survive in Chicago is idán!

There is a projection of a massive increase in the number because of the high influx of Nigerians into other countries in the past four years. Most Nigerians in the diaspora are youthful, and there is a high tendency that most old folks got in their respective countries at a young age. Nigerians are in virtually all countries, so, country wey Nigerian Idáns no dey, no dey, or e no get level. Na idán dey run things, dey make am get levels. The Nigerian Idáns do not mind if the country is a conflicted region or the negativities predominant there; they adapt and seize available opportunities no matter the hardship. Idán no dey run from challenges, na challenges dey run from Idán.

It is no news that despite being Africa’s largest economy, the Nigerian economy’s reflection on the Nigerian youth has been problematic. The high poverty rate, weakness of the Naira, infrastructural challenges, poor social service delivery, limited job opportunities, ethnic conflicts, terrorism, and other social troubles have created great challenges to the nation’s growth. These shortcomings have continued to deal a blow to the country’s different aspects of human and material growth. Hence, to have large numbers of mediocre, less dynamic, and unenterprising youths in such a society in the face of these challenges would not be surprising. I mean, there are readily available excuses. Despite this, a very encouraging percentage has outworked and outwitted the system to create a meaningful life for themselves. So, when we talk about their triumphs in other nations, you must know that there are millions of Idáns back home than positive outliers in the face of de-capacitating challenges. They have grown to be experts and skillful fellows that have drawn the international markets, hence, the comfort of national development. The idâns can be found across all fields doing what they know best and surviving in even things they do not know. 

A walk around markets like Alaba, Onitsha, Ladipo, Ariaria, Computer Village, Katangua, Balogun, Osodi, Dugbe, Bódìjà, Oil Mill, Kasuwar Kwari, Sabo n’Geri, and Zaki Biam Yam markets, one would see the hustling spirit, creativity, the resourcefulness and Idán moments of the Nigeria youths. For instance, the Alaba and Computer Village markets in Lagos State have gained an international reputation as they stand as the home of solutions to all electronics and electrical problems. Thirteen young Idáns established Alaba, becoming a huge international space for performing Idán. The computer village, largely populated by youth, has become Africa’s version of the Silicon Valley. These markets have become the country’s starting points for many millionaire Idáns.

Politically, the youths have also demonstrated the tough spirit to withstand pressure and spearhead a movement that campaigns against corruption, bad government policies, and mismanagement of public authorities and funds. The early post-Covid period brought together a movement that changed the course of the country’s political voyage. The movement started amidst the cry for a reform that would lay the foundation for a new Nigeria as was hoped. Despite the fallout at the initial stage, an offshoot of this movement became apparent months before the just concluded general elections. A political movement that many never expected could last rose to threaten the ranks of opposition parties in the country. Even in defeat, as it later turned out, the exploits within two years affirmed to many Nigerians that change was possible. The Idáns of the no-structure party convinced Nigerians that the youths truly are a force to reckon with. The EndSARS movement also brought about reforms that have started the foundation for youthful participation in politics and manners of governmental relationships with the people. Now, the youths have dared to contest and have started occupying public positions as elected officials; they are also gradually becoming the pillars of the political determination of the nation. These feats would have remained a fairy tale if strong-hearted ones had not taken the initiative. Idán no dey tire, Idan presses on!

Another famous show of Idanship in Nigeria by the youths could be attributed to the excellent dispositions towards the entertainment and hospitality industries. Young Nigerian musicians, actors, writers, and even chefs have plied the path of greatness in their careers, beating all marks to achieve greatness and setting the nation on reputable global maps. These laudable acts became possible due to the multifaceted factors employed. Through its divisions, including film, music, comedy, fashion, and literature, the industry explored the borders of creativity well by encompassing innovations with rich African history to promote their Craft. The need for a digital revolution and the use of social media has helped bridge the goals between local audiences and their international counterparts. 

These, coupled with partnerships with existing industries from other parts of the world, raw talents, creativity, and individual perseverance, have propelled it to a global powerhouse. The industry can boast confidently of young enterprising entertainers with numerous awards to their names and international reputation. The face of global music has been changing with the promotion of Afrobeats and the adoption of African music cultures. Tems, Burna Boy, Wizkid, Sikiru Adepoju, Jenn Nkiru, and others in the diaspora like Henry Olusegun Adeola Samuel (Seal), Helen Folasade Adu (Sade Adu), Lekan Babalola, Hakeem Seriki (Chamillionaire), and Kevin Olusola have all won the Grammy Awards with several others having been nominated. Several of them have performed on international stages with tens and hundreds of thousands of audience, even more than local musicians in those countries could pull. 

Davido’s live performance at Fifa World Cup, Tiwa Savages’ King Charles III Coronation performance, and several other songs from Nigerian artists have become some of the most streamed globally. Aside from these musicians, performing artists like Lateef Adedimeji, Kunle Afolayan, Mr. Macaroni, and Taooma are Nigerian entertainers who have broken the mark in their trade, adding to the long list of those making the continent proud. Most importantly, these Idáns are influencing cultures across the world. I must also commend the achievements of Nigerian sportsmen and athletes like Victor Osimhen, Asisat Oshoale, and Tobi Amusan in contemporary global sport, without forgetting those that have set the marks in the past. 

One might have wondered what fate Nigerians have in the academic world. Have the youth been able to go against all odds despite failing systems and challenges like the ASUU strike? Nigerians keep setting the standard among their counterparts around the world, and there are various reports of their possibilities of doing well when they get to the midst  of students from other parts of the world. “Idán too sabi”

    However, before you fall for phrases like “Idán no dey read but Idán de pass,” “Idán no dey work but Idán dey eat,” “Idán no dey stress himself,” “Idán this,” and “Idán that,” you must know that what characterizes these Idáns is their hard work and low-key efforts that have made them stand out. While those statements might just be comic expressions by the youth, they are understatements of Idán’s huge efforts to disguise. Else, you run the risk of becoming Àdánwò.

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My Country Our Country Called Nigeria



Readers’ Showers Of Encouragement
Prof. Tony Afejuku

By Tony Afejuku 

    My country called Nigeria which is your country their country our country is an extraordinary country of evasions. We don’t need to prove or disprove this as the fact everywhere on the ground, in the sky and on and in the waters and on the underground carefully and easily formulate this claim that is more than a claim. The position or truth of the matter of my claim is that my thought and mind and head and heart are on a common platform with the movement of what you might or should accept as a point of view that is a point of view that is obviously and really more than a point of view yearning for a revolution. And do I really mean a revolution? And to what end and purpose is the revolution? To prove that Nigeria does not belong to the bigwigs, the top bureaucrats, the Aso Rockists, the presidencynologists and the rest of the exploiters and oppressors of  the people, the masses, the middle classes, the academics, professors, teachers, students and workers of all shades and colours generally.

    When I saw what I saw and which you definitely and probably saw a few days ago on telly, our blood, your blood and my blood, certainly boiled and craved for the blood of our oppressors and deceivers – all of them. Of course, I am referring to the spectacle of the inauguration of the new president, yes, of the new president, the sixteenth president or President the 16th, of Nigeria. The Abuja Eagle Square event beamed live in our rich television stations showed our elegant oppressors in their rich and real measure of oppressive and exploitative value. And your blood was pierced and wounded to the extent that you wanted immediately counter-measures of the severest and worst kind to take over your country from the decadent personages of decadence, who have ruined and are still ruining your country my country and our country they desperately want to own as their personal country and property.

    My spirit of populism rebelled against itself and its allied spirits when the deceiver and dissembler of a military general of Daura was being given his final respect as president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Nigeria that were significantly armed warriors against the people and masses in a manner that confounded even their sensibilities and sanity. The general was getting his final military salute and was leaving us to rot and perish in our annihilated states after a presidential election that our exquisite justices are now presiding over on the grounds or no grounds of petitions of petitioners from APC’s rival political parties and their presidential candidates.

    Buhari was nothing but a killjoy. His regime in the main was a call to arms and decadence and hatred. Man against man. People against people. Ethnic group against ethnic group. Section against section. Clan against clan. Rank against rank. Brother against brother. “Class against class” – as Jean-Paul Sartre would put it. Under Buhari there was quarrel everywhere. There was warfare everywhere. “With a patient, mortal enemy, no quarter can be given: it is kill or be killed, there is no middle way. And no time for sleep.” I remember this quote which I am lifting from Jean-Paul Sartre’s essay on Paul Nizan. Buhari rekindles this in my mind that is thumbing through articles and essays and books of all regimes of decadence and of tyrannical tyranny and despotic despotism which Buhari is an exquisite essence of. May Buhari and his kind of flatulence never see the light of day again in our land – this land of lands and lands that must remain our own forever and forever. I call upon all of us who are ready to formulate now a forever programme of populists and populism to keep us on the alert and programme of populists and populism to keep us on the alert and stimulate our streaks and vitality of dissent any time any day anyone with the propensities of Buhari and his team of crushers dares to emerge again in my country your country our country which they do not own because it is not theirs to own.

    Our ethical and moral populists must be prepared to plant in themselves deliberate hardness against the strongest inclinations that will compel any future president of Nigeria to trample on the autotherapy of any Nigerian. It is important to stress this point. Each populist must be prepared as never before to challenge any negative and anti-people policy and feature in the physical and mental make-up of our president, this president or any other president.

    In his inaugural speech on Monday, May 29, 2023, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu whose presidential fate and destiny are still distinctly un-settled and unstable dared the people with his arrogant declaration that oil “subsidy is gone.” At the time of my doing this column in the deep night of Tuesday, May 30, 2023, the negative effect of the declaration had already sent wrong or malicious signals about his less than one-day presidency everywhere in the land.  The Jagaban must not be a killjoy like the Daura personage of malicious hatred for the generality of the people of our country. If I was in his shoes (but I won’t because I can’t because of my calling), I would have garlanded myself in the wish to be soothed by the people by, for instance, warming towards our university egg-heads by releasing to them their seized salaries of eight months or so on account of their legitimately legitimate strike. President Tinubu must realise that the people and masses up to now still feel a profound mistrust of him and his political party following what Buhari did to them and the way and manner INEC conducted the presidential election and declared Tinubu the winner. The Jagaban must give thought to this. By the way, I have in my possession his 11th January, 2012 well thought-out essay when ex-President Jonathan dared to excise oil subsidy. Let me quote the Jagaban: “By this sly piece of paper, the federal government breached the social contract with the people. This government, which owes its existence to the people’s desire to be governed by someone more humble than elitist, has turned its back on the collective will.  By bureaucratic fiat, government made the most fateful economic decision any administration has made since the inception of the Fourth Republic and it has done so with an arrogant wave of the hand as if issuing a minor regulation.” The point I am making here is that he who has become our sixteenth president must encourage the people and masses not to lack enthusiasm in his presidency no matter how short or how long it may be. And our acceptance of him must be based on his shining presidential policy that must not be short of patriotism that should give us recuperative strength and powers. 

    The Populist Movement consisting of selfless veterans and non-veterans of the same selfless hue is absolutely alive. Nigeria must remain your country my country our country in the true spirit of your country my country our country. In this wise our pleasure must be full of patriotic perplexity. And we must luxuriate in the intoxication of this perplexity. The expectedly measured grace of the new landscape which you must lead and inspire us to recreate must be part of the substance of it – and should extend beyond that. The rest will be captured in my fresh patriotic poetry in the making. 

Afejuku can be reached via +2348055213059.

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Remembering The Aworeni Clan Of Ile Ife: Connecting Educational Experiment And A Philanthropic Spirit



Mr. Abimbola Aworeni

By Tunji Olaopa

This piece, for me, is an exercise in hagiographic historical reconstruction, as well as a celebration of friendship. There are so many gaps in our sociocultural histories and trajectories that require intellectual attention and cultural curiosity in ways that increasingly fill out the history of ideas, figures and issues in our social history. I believe the Aworeni clan of Ile-Ife constitutes one of these  critical points of history that require filling out. And with most sociocultural histories, one can only keep putting the puzzles together without ever achieving a perfect and coherent fit. One can only hope that a significant dimension of the objectives of journalism and media reporting in Nigeria will be diverted to the excavation of such histories that serve as the foundation of a people’s sense of self and of cultural knowledge. 

Anyone familiar with the educational trajectory of the 1970s and 1980s in the Southwest would immediately remember the name of the ‘notorious’ Chief Johnson Adedapo Aworeni of the Adesola High School fame. I came into the knowledge of his notoriety as a student of Awe High School, where Chief Aworeni was once a principal. Chief Aworeni, as I will narrate in a moment, was an educationist and philanthropist of the sort whose activities had a most unintended consequences that seemed to undermine his objectives of allowing so many children to achieve educational advancement. This endeavor cast Chief Aworeni in a bad light as someone who bastardized the essence of education, something that the Awe people—from many of my pieces about my hometown—take very seriously as a sacred issue. 

Chief Johnson Adedapo Aworeni

And so, in 1989, while I was at the Lagos State directorate of the Mass Mobilization for Self-Reliance, and Economic Recovery (MAMSER), I met one Abimbola Aworeni at the Thorburn Avenue, Yaba office. When he introduced himself as “Bimbo Aworeni,” that last name struck a historical chord immediately. I was quick to pose the next logical question: “Are you related to the Chief Aworeni of the Adesola High School, Ibadan fame?” Of course, he was! He was one of the sons of the great and “notorious” chief. And in a typical lively and jovial manner that I would grow used to, Abimbola owned up and made fun of the extreme qualities of his father. But then, he celebrated him as “a unique philanthropist and a kindhearted lover of the downtrodden who will give all to give others a better life.” 

My curiosity about Abimbola’s father eventually led both of us into a lifelong relationship that ensured that we always were readily available to attend to each other’s need when the occasion arose. The past tense I have used for Abimbola Aworeni is indicative and tragic: he passed away on the 15th of May, 2023, and quite so untimely. This news is painful because no one should ever lose a dear one—Abimbola was a brother and a friend after my heart; and one of my regrets is that I was not able to keep up with his joyful philosophy of existence and relationship given that I was too taken in by the necessity of juggling critical professional and research responsibilities that prevented me from socializing and keeping up with equally critical relationships. And what best way to celebrate my friend than to begin a preliminary historical protocol of excavating the significance of the Aworeni family in the history of the educational and philanthropic dynamics of the Southwest. 

Let me complete the story of Abimbola’s renowned father. Chief Aworeni was practically a self-made man who started climbing the educational ladder with distinction from a very early age. The doggedness that saw him through secondary school equally kept him pursuing distinction all through a first degree in economics, a second degree in history, a postgraduate diploma in education, and a law degree all from the Universities of London and Ibadan. We will probably not know what turned Chief Aworeni’s attention to education, but he not only made the rounds of the most famous secondary schools in the southwest—Ibadan Boys High School, Oduduwa College, Ile-Ife, MacJob Grammar School, Abeokuta, Ijebu Ode Grammar School, Awe High School, Awe, etc.—as a teacher and principal, he also probably picked up, along the way, his populist orientation that made him one of the most influential philanthropists in the Southwest in his days. 

The Aworeni Scholarship came to signify the emergence of a spirit of unrestrained giving that was tied to the Ile Ife root of the Aworeni, but that transcended that cultural boundary to encompass all indigent students who qualified by simply demonstrating a need to learn. He demonstrated a cultural patriotism that was determined to lift all indigenes of Ile Ife beyond the limitations of ignorance into the sublimity of education and enlightenment. And his open-minded philanthropic philosophy would ensure that he threw wide the net of empowerment to as many as would be willing to learn. And it was only logical that Chief Aworeni would eventually establish a school to accelerate the realization of his desire to encourage many less privileged candidates to pick up a pen and get an educational foundation. The Adesola High School, Ibadan was the institutional embodiment of the Aworeni scholarship and the philosophy of empowerment that he stood for. 

And this is where the zeal to shine the light of enlightenment on many dark minds led to the opening of the floodgates that would burden quality education with the deadening quantity of overloaded classrooms. Chief Aworeni was not careful to measure his populist philanthropy with the realistic assessment that one school cannot take all comers. And this is not just about the available infrastructures; it was also about the quality of education such students can be provided with. A perceptive reader would have made the connection between Chief Aworeni’s educational experiment and Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s free education project. Unlike the former, the latter was founded on a well-laid out educational policy that also involved taxation to achieve a level of required funding that made the project a success. Chief Aworeni’s enthusiasm was simply borne aloft by his populist eagerness. It was as if Chief Aworeni was too impatient to countenance any hindrance—including educational planning—to his ultimate goal of adding values to people’s lives, especially the underprivileged whom the state had abandoned to themselves, and to a life of indistinction. 

This is where Chief Aworeni’s educational philosophy and philanthropic spirit should first be applauded. Azim Premji, the Indian businessman, aptly summarizes Chief Aworeni’s philanthropic sense: “The responsibility of philanthropy rests with us. The wealthier we are, the more powerful we get. We cannot put the entire onus on the government.” Philanthropy complements the efforts of the government in transforming the lives of the citizens; and hence, this made Chief Aworeni a significant part of the rendering of the educational history of the Southwest. Unfortunately, populist philanthropy does not always serve the objective of an education that is functional and optimal, especially the type that a citizen requires to become a good member of society. It would seem that this was the point at which people of Awe took exception to the educational “philosophy” of the great man. 

But then, maybe Chief Aworeni was just not well understood. This was definitely a man that was deeply motivated to domesticate his philanthropic spirit to the service of his community. That, all by itself, is a worthy contribution to the well-being of the community members, and makes the initiator of the community service programme an ambassador to note. It would seem however that the weight of attention has been focused more on the negative side of Aworeni’s populist philanthropy rather than on the larger picture of what he did and why he did it. We only have the collective appreciation of those who scaled through the overload of the Adesola High School, and the many others who benefitted from the Aworeni Scholarship, to thank for representing the success of the unsung philanthropist. 

At a deeper level, Chief Aworeni calls into play the relationship between education and philanthropy, especially in a postcolonial context like Nigeria where the state seems to have abdicated its responsibility towards the creative harnessing of the human capital that could be deployed towards communal and national development. It likely will be a difficult research endeavor to determine the extent to which the beneficiaries of the Aworeni scholarship and goodwill have contributed to the developmental dynamics of the Southwest. But there is no denying the fact that he did the best that he could within the constraints of his time and context, as well as the limited resources he had which he distributed with all joy to the needy.

No wonder my departed friend—his son—Abimbola Aworeni, who goes by such  nicknames as Bambo and Skolobi could be very proud of his “notorious” but unique father who damned every consequence to be relevant in his own way. He loved his cultural root; and he loved people even more, wherever they could be found who needed help to make their ways in life. And that was what he directed his entire life attending to. I am glad I met the scion of such a large heart. May the gentle soul of my dear friend, Bimbo, rest in peace.       

  . Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and  Professor of Public Administration.


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