Grace Ego Omoni
Life is based on relationship and there can be no relationship outside human communication. In other words, the bane of any relationship is communication and no action takes place in a vacuum. Human beings make it to happen but the question that one needs to ask is whether the communication is of positive interest to the people involved and that of the society at large. Does the relationship bring harmony, peace, progress and development to man and society or it breeds conflict, violence and dissatisfaction?
The modern day Nigeria is replete with numerous social vices such as destruction of lives and property, banditry, terrorism, inappropriate sexual behaviour, bribery and corruption, indiscipline, lack of trust, violence, loss of integrity, dishonesty, cheating, lack of patriotism, lack of accountability by public officers, injustice, kidnapping, unemployment, lack of unity, and underdevelopment.
These social problems emanate from a lot of issues such as godfatherism and ethnicity. So much injustice has been done to the nation, organizations and to individuals as a result of these two phenomena going on in the black world especially Nigeria. These two social misdemeanors have truncated development, unity, peace, national security, trust and economic progress in this country. There is an escalation of corruption, poor leadership, political dishonesty, lopsided appointments, inconsistent award of contracts, erroneous admissions to higher institutions of learning, greed, colossal waste in the economy, conflicts and underdevelopment.
The prevalence and notoriety of ethnicity and godfatherism are issues of national concern with people giving diverse opinions on how to curb or totally wipe them out from the nation because the phenomena are cogs in the wheel of progress and development to man and society.
The two concepts shall be briefly discussed under these subheadings: meaning, factors, effects on man and national development and measures to stamp out the incidence of these menaces in our Nigerian society.
This concept or phenomenon is central in today’s Nigeria’s political leadership and administration and a serious threat to the democratization process. It is a major social and political malaise plaguing and destroying Nigeria by the day.
The concept of godfatherism has as its origin from church history especially among Catholics and Anglicans. In these churches, the doctrine of baptism for members is paramount. At the point of being baptized, the young Christian is given a mature godfather or godmother strong in the faith to nurture and monitor him or her to maturity when he or she is able to take responsibility for his or her actions. The godfather or godmother is expected to be role models in matters of their Christian beliefs and character moulding. From time to time, the godson or goddaughter is monitored and counselled on doctrinal matters while the young Christian reciprocates by giving skeletal services to the godfather. I vividly remember that during my younger days, my godmother would call me to counsel on how to behave as a Catholic child and I in return would fetch water for her when I pay her visits. Some others would wash clothes or go to farmlands to help their godfathers or mothers.
History also has it that the idea of godfatherism started in the U.S when kingpins of the criminal world played major political roles during elections by sponsoring political candidates financially, manipulated results to get these candidates elected and in return, these kingpins were awarded contracts by their political godsons. This indeed is the practice in Nigeria today. The rich, the powerful and business tycoons sponsor politicians during elections by providing money for campaigns, to buy forms from parties, registration, provide them with goons for their security and the intimidation of their opponents, buying of votes and outright rigging during the election period.
They also ensure that those sponsored are positioned as government administrators by whatever means. In return, contracts are awarded arbitrarily to these unqualified elements and appointments are given to unworthy individuals as compensations for the role they played in sponsoring them. These godfathers are the real problems and confusions in this country. They dictate what happens in administration, the economy, the appointments, decisions at the national, state and local government levels, in the passing of bills like the controversial PIB that has just been signed into law by President Buhari and the control of the economy to the detriment of national development, security and solidarity of the people. It is counterproductive to peace, progress and unity and encourages lopsided selection rather than election. It is characterized by abuse of power and appointments are not based on the qualified but rather on the instructions and wishes of the godfathers.
These godfathers assume the positions of warlords and preside over the sharing of the national cake thus technically vandalizing the economy and treasury of the nation with reckless abandon. This is so because they see the political sponsorship during elections as investments which must yield atrocious dividends immediately their candidates assume office and who must use the godfathers’ terms in governance. Any attempt by these political officers to exercise their own will power is vehemently resisted by their godfathers who can resort to violence and threats to gain control.
So the politicians must serve them and carry out their selfish interests, sow terror in the nation, perpetrate corruption in all its ramifications, engage in violence with all manner of impunity, loot public fund with no one to investigate their wicked activities, wield so much power in the society without anybody challenging them. In other words, these godfathers act through their surrogates, I mean the political godsons who are under pressure to obey them whether the actions are wrong or right.
Any attempt to question or resist their demands after assuming office as leaders often lead to a serious tussle to the detriment of the nation. They turn the entire environment into war zones, violence and insecurity. These political godsons become handicapped and are forced to operate against the interests and expectations of the people they are ruling.
Factors that promote godfatherism include limited party finances, lack of proper education, lack of faith in the electoral process, poverty, greed and the activities of the social media which give subjective and false presentations about incompetent candidates in the dissemination of information to the gullible society. Again the dependency and powerlessness of potential public political officers due to their commitment to their godfathers is also a factor.
The phenomenon of godfatherism is not only seen in the political sector. It is found in different organizations and institutions. Promotions and appointments in educational, health and secular institutions are part of this evil perpetrated without shame. For instance, the appointments of heads of schools, faculties, departments and units are often based on godfatherism.
Just a few months ago a potential candidate who came first in an interview to head a higher institution was denied the opportunity by giving the position to one who was third during the interview. It happens in different parastatals and this issue of godfatherism has led to lobbying, dangerous rivalry, disharmony in organizations, dissatisfaction, frustration, infighting, antagonism, sectionalism, violence, enmity, underdevelopment, and low productivity. In fact the effects of godfatherism cannot be overemphasized.
It breeds disloyalty, delinquent behaviour, lack of effective governance, inefficiency and abandonment of project. The basic welfare of the people suffers and there are delays in national development since money for projects is diverted by these godfathers without accountability.
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The concept of ethnicity is derived from the base word”ethnic” which implies tribe as it was formerly known. Ethnicity or tribalism is another phenomenon acting as a serious impediment to national development in present day Nigeria. Nigeria is a multi lingual cultural entity from time immemorial but brought together by the amalgamation of the Southern and Northern Protectorates during the colonial reign of Sir Frederick Lugard in 1914. Since then, instead of fostering unity, it has metamorphosed into myriads of hydra-headed monsters plaguing the country because each ethnic group is struggling to gain relevance and be part of the sharing of the “national cake.” Nigeria today has about 301 languages and about 1000 dialects with their distinct cultures, ideologies and challenges.
Out of these ethnic groups, three are said to be major while 298 groups are termed minor. The black man cherishes his existence and is never willing to allow his ego to be trampled upon. Ethnicity is a social phenomenon associated with interaction among members and distinguished by the communal character of their boundaries based on culture, language, values and belief system. It is behavioural in form with common objectives such as myths, beliefs, common descent, socio- political organization, religion and homeland.
Ethnicity is a belief in the superiority of one’s own cultural group and corresponding hatred or misunderstanding of other social groups according to Irukwe. Ethnicity exists in a heterogeneous society according to Nnadozie. It is a major source of societal and political conflicts in Nigeria. The inability of leaders to choose credible leaders and national outlook or acceptability is as a result of ethnicity.
Instead what we see or have are disconnected, self-centred, greedy mediocrities in governance, corrupt in all areas of life, breeding poverty and discontentment because they were planted there with this ethnicity mentality. No Nigeria will win an election without the support of his ethnic group. This is why politicians in public offices lead to give priority attention to their ethnic groups to the disadvantage of the nation’s interest.
The negative effects of ethnicity are obvious and disheartening. Oboh asserts that ethnicity practice is not so obvious in the Western World but well pronounced in Africa, Nigeria inclusive. Ethnic politics has always been the major source of tension in this country resulting in periodic outbreak of violence. It is characterized by cultural prejudices and social discrimination. The menace of Boko Haram sect and the Fulani herdsmen activities in the north and now spreading to the south is as a result of their obnoxious mentality that they have been “anointed to be rulers” of this country called Nigeria made up of diverse ethnic groups and people.
They therefore claim to own the land and can operate anywhere, anyhow with their cattle without any challenge. Someone is yet to convince me and many others when and where they sat to agree or constitute that law of ownership. Of course, the silence of those in government who are mainly breeds of the same ethnic groups is a way of asserting their claim of that supposedly superiority. Other ethnic groups are also asserting their superiority by agitating against this exclusive treatment to people who are violently encroaching on their fundamental human rights.
The recent signing into law of the Petroleum Industrial Bill by President Buhari despite the masses condemnation of some of the contents is another serious negative exercise that is not to the benefit of some ethnic groups especially those in the oil producing areas whose lands are being polluted by oil exploitation and exploration. In fact, ethnicity bias and favoritism has violated the principle of impersonality in governance. Instead it has caused resentment among the marginalized groups.
There is evidence of dissatisfaction in the award of contracts to unqualified bidders, selective payments to contractors who have completed their projects, selective appointments to public offices to favour a few ethnic groups, establishment of government projects to selected ethnic groups, treatment of citizens unequally as if they do not have qualified people to assume the positions. Again accountability is compromised in order not to indict a fellow ethnic member who has not shown competency in his area of jurisdiction.
This issue of selective ethnic appointment is condemned by Prof Joseph Richard. He coined the term “Prebendalism” a phenomenon in the political system in Nigeria which is the act of disbursing public offices and state resources to ethnic clients. It is an unconstitutional established pattern of political behavior that justifies the use of political offices for personal benefits of the office holders and their clients.
In like manner, Kessleman talks of “clienteleism, a prebendal political structure where public office holders compromise specific set of elites and ethnic clients to divert public funds for selfish private purposes. The effects are poverty, disharmony, dissatisfaction, unhealthy rivalry, selfish competition, violent conflicts, ethnic hatred, election rigging, faulty economy, social instability and insecurity,, civil, strife and total national undevelopment.
1) The different ethnic groups need intensive educational orientation. A literate society will bring the issues of ethnic infighting to the barest minimum;
2) Sensitization and seminars should be periodically organized for people holding public offices to know that they are for all and not for any selected group;
3) The curriculum content in schools should include issues of ethnicity , god- fatherism and conflict resolutions;
4) Appointments and promotions should be evenly distributed to all ethnic groups whether from the major or minority groups and based on the qualified. In other words, in prebendalism or clientelism should be totally abhorred ;
5)Passing of bills in the National Assembly after public hearing should be based on the opinion of the people and not on political party sentiment or ethnic mentality;
6)Priority should be given to national development that is beneficial to all. Awarding contracts to unqualified persons who are godfathers or ethnic brothers to compensate for help given should be stopped.
7) Courts should be established on human rights issues with a broad but well defined mandate that includes the effective protection of the marginalized ethnic groups! ;
8) Culprits who practise godfatherism and ethnicity syndrome to the detriment of the nation should be sanctioned and removed from public offices;
9) The dissemination of information by the media should be done in sincerity of purpose. Singing the praises of incompetent unqualified candidates during elections should be stopped. Integrity is far better done illgotten riches.
Ethnicity and god fatherism are two social problems that have similar characteristics and negative effects on man and society. They are cogs in the wheel of national development and are the main causes of violence, poverty, discontentment, deceits. dissatisfaction, agitations, corruption, evil activities, mindless killings, conflicts, sectionalism, lopsided appointments, unhealthy rivalries, destruction of other peoples’ and government property, failed governance, poverty level of the citizens, poor economy and national underdevelopment. Therefore, individuals, organizations, institutions, local, state and the federal governments should as a matter of urgency begin to imbibe the culture of national consciousness, patriotism, honesty and embrace fairness in handling matters of national interest.
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NADECO’s Bliss That’s No More
I have been doing some investigation on NADECO – National Democratic Coalition. At this point I do not want to go intoto into what I wish or need to say about this uniquely patriotic body of patriotically patriotic Nigerians (some of whom are dead) who were the original founders and members. But I should like to state urgently that NADECO, the original NADECO, was a movement – yes a movement, of intrepid men, real nationalists, of diverse political, professional and intellectual activities. They were generally public figures who were committed to establishing an imperial state – if I may use the term – of bliss for all our compatriots, an imperial state where no one would be discriminated against and barred from occupying the highest office in the land on account of his/her religious and ethnic background and status. In other words, their commitment was to a scientific welfare state where no form of oppression or any kind of ridiculous schemes for manipulating the people and opinion to serve any selfish interest and class would be allowed and tolerated. The conceived imperial state would discountenance any kind of revenge which would not be allowed to ring anywhere and in all observations and complaints; no malevolence was expected to be seen in any praise or words of praise that should bring bliss to all.
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Were these basic values of NADECO not ones of Utopia? Was the ideology of NADECO not suspect in view of the fact that some property-owners would still like to exercise colonial control over their property and their communities where they commanded considerable influence? And who among the original NADECO members and founders were prepared in the real sense of the word to be linked to a different kind of nascent political power as conceived by them? Were they real? Were they genuine? These were some of the questions I posed recently in a discussion I had with a NADECO insider and originator and which I wanted him to answer as simply and as truthfully as possible. Meanwhile, his towered up thoughts shall be in abeyance.
What inspired our discussion (which was part of my NADECO investigation) was primarily the fresh released report of the Lekki procession of last year’s October which was the subject of this column last Friday. Our discussion dwelt on what would have been if NADECO’s divine strive against inequality and predominance of one group or class had come into being. The tarantulas that went to Lekki to bite the EndSars protesters would not have had any place in the land. And your country my country our country would have since become your country my country our country that we always have beautifully yearned to have. All kinds of tarantism would have since bitten themselves out of here. And all our young chaps would have since seen that NADECO is the clearest parable of a pleasurable political body to legitimate acutely the status also of refined political authority to serve the people.
Today we would not have been talking of restructuring as latter-day NADECOists are basically doing. As I understood (and I still understand it) the original NADECO’s capital was that of the political and professional intellectual: oratorical skill as a politician of beauty and rhetorical proficiency as a writer on the ideological sphere of combat to bring to bay that which must be significantly brought to bay to avoid past errors of our politics. NADECO’s politics as originally conceived and planned was the politics of the Superhero, the politics of the Superman. Each original NADECO personage was expected to possess some doses of Obafemi Awolowo’s extraordinarily significant organic intellectual capability and political acumen. To all intents and purposes therefore every original NADECO member knew and understood the meaning and “closeness to real political power” to be employed as Awolowo intellectually did as an important humanist who was very conscious of the main current of our clime. His distinguished reputation was expectedly expected to flow invariably in the consciousness of each one’s own private and public mind.
Clearly, today’s NADECO – if it still exists – possesses a mind which has since changed from the conscious past of progressive politics and governance to the conscious present of political and administrative restructuring that is remote from the awareness of the past that the current NADECOists’ consciousness is not at all prone to develop.
Who are or were the original NADECO members and founders? Comrade Jonathan Ihonde, an original member and founder – a foremost one – who was highly instrumental to the coming into being of the organized organization committed to wiping out of our land the poison spiders of our politics, is writing a book on the subject. The book is detailing what I don’t want to detail here. For now it is suffice to say that on account of the late MKO Abiola’s plea to him when he purposely came to visit him in Benin City, Comrade Ihonde, the creator of the then very popular NTA Benin “Hotel de Jordan,” a high drama of politico socio-cultural dimension, went to the late Chief Anthony Enahoro to plead for MKO Abiola after contacting various interest groups from every region of our country. This was after IBB killed Abiola’s presidential electoral victory in 1992. Of course his SDP – Social Democratic Party – top guns and fellows had bitten him badly. He meant and vowed to survive the poison of his party’s tarantulas.
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NADECO was thus born in Benin City. The Soviet-trained Comrade Jonathan Ihonde became the organization’s revolutionary Vice-Chairman after Chief Anthony Enahoro was equally elected/appointed its chairman. Other patriots who were visible members/originators of NADECO were Mr. Mike Ehimah (Secretary), the late Senator Olu Akpata, Mrs. Nadena Emovon, Mr. Alex Ayatola (Enahoro’s PA of Igbo stock) and others I cannot immediately recall. Of course, the late Alfred Rewane was aware of the formation and was part of it from inception even though he was abroad at auspicious times of its meetings. But he was NADECO’s indisputable tower of financial strength. Eventually, it was agreed that Abiola’s Western Nigeria should champion the divine battle against the injustice which the northern juntos led by IBB master minded.
Chief Anthony Enahoro and Mr. Alex Ayatola were mandated to visit the late Chief Michael Ajasin at Owo to persuade him to take over the leadership and to gaze into the far field in the endeavour to give Abiola joyful splendour and to usher bliss post-Awolowo to our fatherland. Chief Ajasin had the full mandate to reach out to fellow like minds from his region and elsewhere to give daylight happiness to everyone in the land. The rest from my end is history. But how many of us now cannot but be giddy with pain – how many of us? Are the tarantulas still not poisoning our bliss and happiness? “There must be punishment and justice” (not revenge) to cleanse your country my country our country when our Superman appears. The consciousness of the original NADECO must be re-awakened in us. The real progressive leftists have been silent for too long. We must wrench our true daylight from the darkness and dark hands and dark grips of the current poison spiders that are worse and more than worse than pythons. And let me share this gem with you: the Supreme Spiritual Masters of Merit (SSMM) are seriously turning well in their deathless states.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059
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Covid-19, Managing in Crisis Times And Public Administration
The year 2020 would be remembered in the annals of world history as the year that the coronavirus visited the world and transformed every dimension of human endeavors, from eating and greeting habits to administrative frameworks and the way we see the human world. With millions already dead and many more infected, especially through many variants deadlier than the original virus, the pandemic has already defined a new normal in human relations and activities. It does not take any serious reflection to see that public administration becomes the most significant human endeavor to be challenged not only in dealing with the pandemic, but also in responding to the ordering of the human world in a post-COVID-19 world. All across the world, public administration has often been called upon to deal with wars, pestilences, development efforts, and state projects of all kinds. In Nigeria, for example, public administration had to contend with the task of prosecuting the Nigerian civil war as well as outlining an administrative framework for a post-war social rehabilitation and reconstruction.
The implication of this assessment of public administration and its confrontation with existing realities of each period in history is that public managers must always operate efficiently within what has been called a VUCA — volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous — administrative environment. In such an environment, public managers and the public service are tasked beyond what the traditional administrative machinery is able to take charge of. This is the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic. It has created a volatile situation determined by the unpredictable behavior of the virus. This makes the administration of human activities even more complex than it usually is. For instance, the lockdown procedures come with stringent economic realities that affect human freedom and well-being.
One of the greatest challenges of the public service, especially in a postcolonial administrative context like Nigeria, is the determination of what bureaucratic model could best enable a public service that is effective and efficient sufficiently to deal with the challenges of the VUCA environment while also smartly delivering democratic services. Max Weber, the German philosopher who did a lot to influence the emergence of the traditional administrative model, was also confronted with this kind of VUCA-situation in the early twentieth century. The crisis situation came as a result of the hostility between the German Emperor, Wilhelm II and his Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, over the content of foreign and social policies. The emperor’s erratic foreign policy has been considered to be one of the root causes of World War I. Max Weber was a very keen philosophical observer of the defeat of Germany in the first world war, as well as the bureaucratic implications of the power tussle between Wilhelm II and Chancellor Bismarck. For instance, he noticed how administrative dominance of the state consolidated in the absence of a strong political leader. This led him to reflect deeply on how to juxtapose political leadership with a bureaucracy that assists the state in terms of modernisation and development.
Weber’s understanding of the crisis led to a need to model politician-bureaucrat relationship in ways that determine the boundaries of power and authority around policymaking. For Weber, the way out was to generate a bureaucratic tradition that centralized legal-rational authority founded on hierarchical structure and a one-size-fits-all service-wide standardization of governance and operations. The command-and-control structure constructed the public servant as apolitical, loyal, neutral and anonymous. With the bureaucratic model, Weber achieved a crisis management dynamic in the aftermath of the first world war. The question, however, is whether that Weberian model is sufficient to handle the crisis occasioned by the COVID-19 and the myriad challenges of the new normal. This question resonates even more so in a postcolonial context like Nigeria considered one of the worst administrative settings in Africa. An even more fundamental question is how can public services become efficient in a time of crisis like the pandemic and its future variants?
Putting the questions like this speaks to the need for organizations like the public service to recognize the necessity of change as the most constant factor that demands of organizations a reform template made up of continuous learning, change management and iterative incremental improvements. In organizational development theory, organizations usually fall prey to three development traps that define what has been called the “first cycle” of the bureaucratic culture. First, organizational success leads to self-satisfaction and an unreflective defense of the status quo. Second, size brings the fragmentation of organizational procedures that takes the public managers far away from customers’ feedback which serves as the mechanism for innovative growth. Third, the age factor implies that the older an organization gets, the more it breeds tradition which over time tends to supersede innovative and creative handling of challenges.
The question of high-performing public service in a time of crisis also demands the emergence of astute public managers who see decision-making as the nerve of organizational efficiency. In other words, the smart public managers need to transform the public service into a bold, preemptive and high-performing organizations with the capacity to make fast and effective decisions in the time of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. However, decision-making must not be allowed to degenerate into groupthink that hinders individual and organizational creativity, information overload, analysis paralysis that leads to indecision, or overconfidence in the crisis management competence in ways that create tension at both the operational and strategic levels.
The efficiency of any CEO or public manager depends on three critical competences. The first is the capacity to effectively delegate authority in a way that prioritizes the discretion of a crisis manager to independently work in the organizational frontline within a framework of exceptions to the rules that do not however erode the normal regulations in ways that break down the organization. The second competence the public manager needs requires creating a balance between the command-and-control dynamic on the one hand, and participatory team-based decision-making approach on the other.
The third competence that a crisis period demands, is the need for intelligent public managers to be open to alternative scenario planning that anticipates both uncertainties and possibilities. This enables the public servants to bring multiple perspectives to policy challenges and public service delivery using foresight techniques to test different scenarios, and building resilience into policy design from potential shocks and unforeseen events.
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Fashioning new professional skills set involves several other requirements. First, it demands a human resources management architecture around which a new professionalism will be built. Second, this affects the way we reflect on the workplace, work structure and work dynamics that will affect the performance and productivity Nigeria needs. And thirdly, the professionalism must be undergirded by new culture and value changes that enable the public servants to focus on the new enabling values and ethos as well as helping them to think outside of the administrative box.
The idea of scenario planning speaks to the familiar four stages of “forming-storming-norming and performing” model of organization formation that enables any institution and organization to become efficiently formidable not only in dealing with a present challenge but also in anticipating future situations. A public service that wants to be efficient in the new normal created by the COVID-19 pandemic must, within the imperative of scenario planning, adopt a framework of strategic thinking that becomes strategic by challenging the status quo, challenging assumptions and framing strategic choices that allow the public service to not only wade through the difficult times, but also make the best of the situation for the benefit of the citizens.
Furthermore, such a public service must reorder its institutional and structural dynamics and frameworks through several processes, in organisational development trajectory, that must continually refresh the organisational dynamics and prevent it from going into institutional stagnation. These include: (a) Learning organization: An all-out effort is required on the part of managers to keep its employees educated on the latest technology, systems, knowhow and processes; (b) Total quality management: TQM involves employee involvement, teamwork, decision-making, problem-solving, high-level involvement, adopting a work culture aimed at growth and quality of product and services. TQM requires total commitment, removing fear psychosis due to failure at lower levels, development of successful work culture and continuous improvement; (c) Visioning: Visioning envisages as to what the organization would look like in the future. It is related to the shape in terms of which HR facilities, the growth and the needs of people it is likely to fulfill. Based on the vision, database is required to be built, leading to interpretation of information, arriving at suitable decisions and setting a course of action leading to growth. Visioning refers to looking at the organization in ‘totality’; and (d) Virtual organizations: Getting whole system in one room, evolving action plan and implementation.
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In the new normal, public administration is now doubly tasked to achieve an efficient service delivery to the citizens. This means that it cannot not be business as usual for public managers, not in terms of the traditional bureaucratic culture and definitely not in terms of the skills and competency sets. The new normal requires a new public service that is smart and decisive with regard to a decision that transforms the well-being of citizens who are struggling to make sense of their environment.
Prof. Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and Professor of Public Administration, the National Institute For Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos
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Ibadan: My City of Fame
I have searched; I have attempted, and I conclude that there are not enough words to quantify how much Ibadan the city of the brave and fierce means to me. Yes, I did attempt to describe my love for and affinity to the city in my memoir, A Mouth Sweeter than Salt, but I have since acquiesced that Ibadan is that indescribable lover. It is valid to say this love and affinity can be likened to what everyone feels towards their city of birth and origin. However, for me, it is beyond that.
Ibadan is my place of birth; the city of my forebears; and the place where I was raised. What I am today has its roots in where I was born and the receptivity of the environment in which I grew up. It is what psychologists call the nature-nurture continuum. A wise man reminisces, and in reminiscing, he is able to tell how circumstances interwove to produce a unique turn of events. For decades, I have researched and produced papers and studies in history, and at the heart of my scholarly works is African history. I am deeply interested in African history, and that interest can be traced back to Ibadan. As breastmilk to a neonate, Ibadan was my first taste of Africa. Thus, at the mention of Ibadan, or whenever memories of Ibadan surface, a fountain of happiness and contentment surges in my heart, so much so that joy flows through my veins and touches a smile upon my lips.
Culturally rich, historically blessed, full of resplendent human resources—Ibadan—the city of the brave! To be born of Ibadan parents is to be doubly smart in human dealings. To be born of Ibadan parents, in Ibadan, is to be triply knowledgeable on how to navigate this world of humans. Fortified with thrice as much knowledge and smartness, I ventured into the world. But not until I had learned at the feet of my people. But to love Ibadan goes beyond having natal affiliations to the historical city. Spread like a terrestrial mat across seven hills, Ibadan is famous for its bravery and the intelligence and dexterity of its warriors. Military strength and prowess were at the heart of the dealings of Ibadan people in the past. From the very beginning, the rulers of old Ibadan were warriors who had to prove their superiority by the number of wars they had successfully led their charges to win.
The evolution of Ibadan is worthy of aesthetic praises in itself. Ibadan, at inception, was just scattered war camps on an unmarked forested territory. Lagelu, touted as the founding father of the now extensive city, only wanted a common ground for warriors from Ijebu, Ife, and Oyo. What started as a haven of defense rose to become one of pre-colonial Oyo Empire’s most respected and famous cities. Ibadan went to wars, and Ibadan won wars. Ibadan military gurus were known to specialize in the art of going to wars and winning them.
Miniature industrialization sprang up in some focal cities in Nigeria Lagos, Kano, Ibadan, among others. With this miniature industrialization came amenities such as the railway, which strengthened the commercial and political importance of a city that was strictly a growing expanse of war camp settlements. Ibadan has greatly developed, and it is still developing. Three things are enviable about Ibadan: its large expanse of land that spreads so far; the boldness of Ibadan citizens to speak their minds, even at gunpoint; and the beauty of Ibadan’s historical aesthetics, better viewed from Layipo, which now houses Bower’s Tower.
The history of Oyo as a region and then as a state cannot be complete without the mention of Ibadan. Decades after the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates, there was the compartmentalization of the new Nigeria, resulting in the regional system of administration, which ran till the independence of the state. And, which other city in Western Nigeria would have become the regional capital, if not Ibadan? Ibadan was the regional capital of the Western region, from where the administration and development of the various extensions of the Western region took place. Today, we have Oyo, Osun, Ogun, Ekiti, Kwara, Delta, Edo, Lagos, and Ondo states whose development started from the days of the Old Oyo region, when Ibadan was the center of administration and developmental policy-making. Ibadan is, today, the capital of Oyo State.
Self-actualization comes for different people in different ways. For many scholars, self-actualization comes from the continual recognition of their works and a commitment to lifelong learning. I am among such academics and scholars who see these two phenomena as a means of self-actualization. Thus, this should help you have an inkling of how thrilled I am to be receiving the Doctor of Letters degree from Nigeria’s premier university, the University of Ibadan, domiciled in the city of history. I have received several Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) degrees, but this one, from Ibadan, my City of Fame, is a degree for which I went into an academic sojourn. My life and times have been principally about histories through studies, analyses, and extrapolations. And yet, another history is made as I am the University of Ibadan’s first graduate of the Doctor of Letters degree in the humanities. For this, I am grateful, and I am delighted to identify with one of the most prestigious universities in Africa and a citadel of learning for excellent and world-class education.
It feels amazing to be back home, to my City of Fame, and to receive this honor with the deepest gratitude to everyone who made this remarkable journey worth the while. I appreciate the support I received from the Provost and Deputy-Provost of the School of Postgraduate Studies, as well as my examiners and evaluators at various levels, and the Director of the Institute of African Studies. To those who facilitated the paperwork, payment of school fees, the assemblage of diplomas and essays, the heavy running around, I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Professor Adeshina Afolayan and Mr. Wale Ghazal. Professor Ademola Dasylva, in his relentless promotion of the University of Ibadan and what it stands for, paid for the elegant academic gown. I am grateful for the invaluable guidance and encouragement I received; all these spurred me on and made this day possible.
There is the affection, joy and fulfillment that come with us as humans and the humanities. This degree and other awards are testaments to the richness and importance of the work I have done and continue to do as an historian. My affinity with the Ibadan School of History is equally significant. All these culminate in a climax of deeply-seated emotions that I will embalm and keep with me for as long as I breathe.
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Again, I sincerely want to thank everyone who made this history-making occasion possible. Thank you all.
The above was Prof. Falola’s gratitude statement on the conferment of the D.Litt. degree at the University of Ibadan on November 17, 2021.
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