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Yahya Jammeh: A Messiah Of African Dictatorship

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The Comfort Of Faith, The Insurgency Of Hope, And The Promise O Success

By

Toyin Falola

Africa, a continent noted for its immense natural wealth and potential—symbolized by vast arable lands, precious minerals, and a young vibrant population—has failed to fully utilize these assets in achieving progressive socio-economic transformation after sixty years of self-rule. One central reason identified for this misfortune is the prevalent cases of bad leadership. Except for few occasions of exemplary stewardship from the likes of Julius Nyerere, Nelson Mandela, and John Kufuor, Africa’s post-independence leadership history has comprised a litany of sit-tight despotic and kleptocratic regimes—both military and civilian. This tragedy of Africa’s leadership situation is even more apparent when one considers that, about half-a-century or so ago, the indigenous political forces of then nascent African nation-states rallied around ideals of freedom, equality, and good governance to protest against the injustice of colonial rule and demand independence.

The unfortunate post-independence tradition of tyrannical leadership in Africa has followed a pattern where, after independence, a charismatic figure from a politically (sometimes numerically) dominant ethnic group of a typical multi-ethnic post-colonial African state becomes president and assumes complete control of economic and political power through a network of patrimonial/client-patron relationships, and the use of state’s instruments of coercion. Firmly in place, such leaders then initiate constitutional reforms which accord them extensive powers and provide a cover of legitimacy for undemocratic draconian practices. Consequently, protests from politically and, most times, numerically less privileged ethnocultural groups, who are alienated and subjected to deprivation and abuse through the self-perpetuating intrigues of the incumbent, provide the basis for a military coup (take-over), the only other means (after death) of changing such sit-tight leaders.

With military governments, the experience is also mostly similar. Taking a leaf from the ousted dictator’s book, the “interim” military government promises to hand over power after righting the political mess of the ousted government. As such, it schedules transition/handover dates that are repeatedly post-postponed until such a time when its head can, with some confidence, arrange for a transition process—complete with a constitutional coup—that guarantees his/her emergence as president. Such a government, with its military background and extensive constitutional powers, becomes nearly impossible to replace through ballot. It deploys every option available to remain in power, and even when, by some chance, it does lose at the ballot, it voids the election.

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However, from the 1990s, Africa has recorded significant transformations in the political systems of many of its countries. These changes involved the collapse of several military and civilian dictatorships, as well as the emergence of rule-of-law-based governments, such as South Africa’s non-racial democracy. Notwithstanding these (democratic) gains , many countries in Africa have continued to struggle with deepening and institutionalizing democracy. As such, there is yet very little check on government impunity, especially in the areas of the abuse of executive power and human rights violations.

At the far left are countries like Togo, Uganda, Cameroon, Chad, and until recently, the Gambia, which are still under the despotic regimes of sit-tight “leaders.” These countries have remained notorious for their hostile political environments, economic hardship, poor records of human rights, and an ever-present threat of conflict. They not only symbolize the threat to Africa’s blossoming democratic culture, but also stand as an inspiration for other despotic ambitions yet lying fallow. As constant reminders that Africa yet faces the possibility of sliding back to the pre-1990s levels of authoritarianism, the event of a political transition in any of these countries mentioned above represents hope; as another vital step away from Africa’s leadership albatross.

One country where recent political developments best capture this patent threat to Africa’s democratic gains is The Gambia. A small, English-speaking, West African country with at least ten different ethnic groups, the Gambia (named after the Gambia River) won its independence from Britain in 1965. And in the more than five decades of its independent existence has had only three presidents! The Gambia’s venture into what has become a long and perilous post-independence leadership history began with the tenure of Dawda Jawara, the country’s first president who went on to rule for almost four decades between 1965 and 1994. Under Dawda Jawara, the country was, for all appearances, a liberal democracy. The political atmosphere was, in principle, one of competitive politicking, complete with regular elections into five-year tenures. However, it was a one-party monopoly state where power was centered around the dominant figure of President Jawara and his People’s Progressive Party (PPP).

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With monopoly control over government resources and a dictatorial communications regulations policy, the president’s party maintained an undue advantage over the opposition, which was left weak and in constant danger of being declared subversive. Jawara’s government also imposed strict restrictions on civil society and the activities of political organizations. It was embroiled in numerous allegations of misconduct, including vote-buying, opposition intimidation, and election tampering. And with no limit set for terms, Dawda Jawara was able to perpetuate himself in office as president of the Gambia for thirty-nine years until the Yahya Jammeh-led military coup of 1994.
Twenty-nine-year-old Yahya Jammeh, lieutenant officer and leader of the Armed Forces Provisional Council (AFPC), seized power through a bloodless coup d’état in 1994. Having assumed power, Jammeh, as military dictator (1994-1996), set out to consolidate his power.

Beginning with a suspension of the constitution, Jammeh went ahead to round up and detain some of his superiors in the military. He also placed Jawara’s ministers under house arrest, banned political activities, and announced a four-year transition period to democratic civilian rule. The four-year transition period was later reviewed and reduced to two years in January of 1995 by the National Consultative Committee (NCC). In April, three months after, a Constitutional Review Commission was established. The resultant constitution, which was drawn up to accentuate Jammeh’s economic and political power, allowed for multi-party elections, a limitless number of five-year tenures, and allowed the president to appoint judges directly. Then, Jammeh tactfully retired from the military at the rank of colonel, just a month before the presidential elections of September 1996. He contested during the elections and was declared the winner by an electoral commission of his own selection.

As civilian president, Yahya Jammeh ruled the Gambia with an iron fist. His reign of terror was enacted through a litany of draconian laws and anti-people policies that infringed on the people’s rights to information, expression, and interaction. Typical of a brutal authoritarian regime, Jammeh’s government sought to control information coming in and going out of The Gambia. It reduced state-owned communication networks (both television and radio) to government (Jammeh’s) propaganda outlets and moved to suppress the “independent” press by enacting laws that undermined their operations. Some of these laws included the 1994 Newspaper Act (reviewed again in 2004), which made it mandatory for news agencies’ owners to pay expensive registration fees yearly; the National Media Communication Act, which required journalists to divulge confidential information to the police and judicial authorities; and the 2004 Criminal Code (Amendment) Bill, which stipulated prison terms for defamation and sedition.

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Following the enactment of these laws, there were several attacks on the country’s independent press and its personnel. As the years passed and Jammeh successfully influenced the outcome of election after election, his hold over The Gambia’s grew even more resolute. With the aid of armed groups like the defunct “Green Boys,” some state security agencies such as the Police Intervention Unit of the Gambian’s police force, the Serious Crimes Unit, and the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Jammeh enacted his diabolic reign of terror. Individuals and journalists who criticized his government were picked up to undisclosed locations, never to be heard from again. Before long, it became a practice for Jammeh’s rivals at the polls to seek refuge outside the country. Yahya Jammeh gradually reduced The Gambia to his personal fiefdom and started to equate any criticism on his person as sedition, disturbing the nation’s peace.

After a botched coup attempt in 2006, Jammeh became even more resolute in his oppressive strategies against the Gambian populace. People were jailed without trial, there were allegations of extrajudicial killings, and journalists disappeared without traces. Famous amongst his victims were the April 2000 student massacre; the over fifty West African migrants from Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, Ivory Coast, and Senegal murdered by the NIA; the one thousand Gambian citizens arrested and tortured on allegations of witchcraft; journalists Deyda Hydara and Ebrima Manneh; and the victims of Jammeh’s fictitious HIV/AIDS cure. These do not include other allegations of rape, embezzlement, and cases of summary detentions for indefinite periods. By and large, Yahya Jammeh became a symbol of all that was wrong with democracy in Africa.

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Hence, when in 2017, the ECOWAS and its member countries decided to defend the outcome of the Gambia’s elections, that action was welcomed across Africa as a win for democracy and a move towards the future of respectable and responsible leadership in Africa. To all supporters of democracy, another ruthless dictator had been removed, a cause to celebrate, and the celebrations were heard even beyond the shores of the Gambia and Africa.

Imagine, therefore, the amount of shock and disbelief that greeted the news that Yahya Jammeh has formed some coalition with the incumbent president with the possibility of a return from exile in Equatorial Guinea. Is there even a small chance of this materializing barely four years after his removal? Where is the justice for Jammeh’s victims? What is the message being communicated to other dictatorial regimes and ambitions? What does this portend for the future of democracy in Africa? Should donor agencies continue to support the current government? These and other issues haunt the minds of serious Africans. For the Gambian people, on whose behalf I am writing, the horror can be imagined. With the memories yet fresh and the inquisitions having not yielded the whole truth, whatever faith the people have in the principles of democracy and government stands a good chance of being lost forever, which can also produce a multiplier effect in other African countries.

Whatever other speculations as to the consequence of Yahya Jammeh’s return to the Gambia might be, it is, without doubt, a reinforcement of the position of dictators in Africa. Apart from the fact that a Jammeh return would undermine all the democratic efforts and gains already recorded in the Gambia, there is a chance of a Jammeh revenge campaign that can spark off deadly conflicts between pro- and anti-Jammeh factions. The fragility of ethnic divisions will escalate into full-blown hostilities. About this “second coming” for Yahya Jammeh, Africa must have a rethink, especially for the sake of the long-suffering Gambian people and for the future of peace and democracy in Africa. This unholy alliance between Adama Barrow, who publicly stated that hypocrisy defines democracy, and Jammeh, who demonstrated that the purpose of power is to destroy institutions, is the foundation of what may end up as the greatest calamity to befall The Gambia since 1965.

 

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Toxic Dust On Orlu-Owerri Road

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By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

Recently, I visited Imo State and was on the Orlu-Owerri road. It is heartwarming that the road is being rehabilitated because in August when I used it on my way to a wedding, it was in such a dilapidated state.

But, sadly, the insensitivity of the firm handling the reconstruction work is turning what is otherwise a laudable project into a traumatic experience for the people. The dust that envelopes that road all day is so thick that even though most vehicles switch on their headlights on bright afternoons, it is still very difficult for drivers to see oncoming vehicles just a few meters away.

And because of this thick cloud of dust, the motorists practically “drive blind”. One wonders what it is usually like driving at night when the dust and darkness merge to compound the situation. I shudder to imagine the implications of this.

But this is not even the really scary part of the story.

On both sides of that road are many residential houses and stores where people stay all day and inhale the thick dust.  When you observe the new colour the houses have generously received, you will now appreciate the kind of toxic dust many of the people are inhaling all day, and what this might portend to their health soon.

People refer to it as “cement dust.” I guess this is because of the materials that have been sprayed on the road as part of the construction process which has now perfectly mixed with the natural dust to target the lungs of the hapless people residing in the area.

A report in Umuaka Times, an online newspaper, claims that due to the “cement or asbestos” substance contained in the materials sprayed on that road, those who inhale the dust are likely to contract “a strain of cancer known as asbestosis.”

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A google search describes asbestosis as “a lung disease resulting from the inhalation of asbestos particles, marked by severe fibrosis and a high risk of mesothelioma (cancer of the pleura)”.

On its website, Craneburg Construction Company boasts that it built its   “reputation on being the most responsive, client focused partner in the industry…” Now, where is the responsiveness and customer-friendly disposition? Can Craneburg allow this kind of toxic dust to torment and endanger the health of hapless people in another country without facing countless litigation?

Why does it not ensure it sprays water on the road regularly to control the menace of the dust? Why would the state government sit by and allow a looming epidemic hang over the people like the Damoclean Sword?

Yes, a good road is a commendable development but people must be healthy to enjoy it.

Along the road, I saw people who had set up tables to sell several edible items and different materials to earn their daily living. These and their wares are continuously decorated with this toxic dust just because a construction company and the government that engaged it have chosen to be callous.

And what is the implication of this to the health of those who purchase those items? Is this really the experience of all those who reside along roads that are under construction in Nigeria?

At Afor Umuaka which is the biggest market along that road, only an insignificant number of sellers and buyers wore nose masks. But the traders must come to the market daily to sell in order to be able to feed their families in this punitive economy.

On November 30, 2020, when Governor Hope Uzodinma flagged off the construction of the Orlu-Owerri road, he explained that although Julius Berger was once considered for the job, Craneberg was eventually chosen because the government “followed the procurement act.”

He declared: “Craneburg, I tell you, is even better; they will give us quality roads and get it delivered on a good time… they will work day and night to give us exactly what we want. These roads are important to our people”

Wonderful testimony! But where is their consideration for the health of the people, which include school children who follow that road to school and those whose schools are located along that road?

Please, something must urgently be done to avert the looming epidemic this toxic dust might usher in.

May I sign off by asking Governor Hope Uzodinma why he demolished the roundabouts at the Nworubi and Umuaka junctions on this same Orlu-Owerri road constructed by his predecessor, Rochas Okorocha?

Now, let me make it clear that I have learnt to avoid like a plague any “war” between two or more politicians, because they are mostly self-serving; the welfare of the people usually has nothing to do with it.

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Also, any day they discover that their personal interests would once again be served by their becoming friends again, you will see them enjoying each other’s company, after hurriedly jettisoning their bitter differences.

So, I am not interested in the sordid drama presently raging between Uzodinma and Okorocha in Imo State.

But the demolition of the roundabouts is in very bad taste and a monumental waste of state funds. From what I have heard from people, it has further depleted Uzodinma’s acceptance among the people.

Apart from the aesthetic value of those roundabouts, they served as speed-breakers which have eliminated the accidents that used to be witnessed at those spots, especially, at Umuaka where heavy traffic is usually witnessed due to the large Afor Umuaka market, and which gets even more complicated during festive seasons.

But the roundabout came as a big relief. It also added delicious beauty to the area. So, what reason can the governor possibly give for demolishing the roundabouts?

It was like when the governor reportedly demolished a hospital built by Okorocha and announced that he will construct a market in its place. How exactly does this make sense to anyone? Is this not an example of chopping off the nose to spite the face?

Gov Uzodinma should just go and restore those roundabouts and the traffic lights! The long suffering people should not be punished and exposed to avoidable danger just because of his pointless and wasteful ego war with Okorocha.

Those structures gave the residents of the area immense joy each time they   beheld the beauty they added to their communities, plus the traffic problems they helped to contain and the accidents they reduced.

Ejinkeonye is a Nigerian journalist and writer. He is the author of the book, ”Nigeria: Why Looting May Not Stop” (available on Amazon.com) (scruples2006@yahoo.com; twitter: @ugowrite)

 

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Super Eagles: Learning Not To Despair In Defeat

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Super Eagles: Learning Not To Despair In Defeat

By

Tony Afejuku

Is it easy for anyone to de-populate the pains or series of pains he or she nurses or carries inside him or her anytime one is confronted with the concert of forces by which one’s engendered hope is despaired and dispersed? Let me answer the question: It is not easy at all but it is not impossible. We can always depopulate the discordant discordances of pains any or all disappointments or seemingly hopeless states engender in us anytime anywhere. Once we are aware of this we can always overcome any difficulty, any difficult situation, and extricate ourselves from the clutch and tentacles of the desperado. Any untoward thing can turn one into a desperado. And the desperado often falters.

Where is my destination here?

It is no longer news, good or bad, bad or good, that our mighty Super Eagles have crashed out of the Africa Cup of Nations Round of 16 last Sunday in Garoua, Cameroon. The loss, which is bad news to many of our compatriots has despaired them. Clearly, they did not see what was coming. The three over three wins the famed Super Eagles clinched immaculately in the group stages compelled positive attention from spectators and from their followers and supporters. And were the Super Eagles not going to meet Tunisia, one of the lucky third best losers in the group stages, in the Round of 16? And were the Super Eagles not the only team that secured three victories in the group stages? Who born dog? This question that many Nigerians in my part of the country clipped to their tongues and hearts embraced tightly their patriotism.

Of course, they did not care to take Daniel Amokachi’s advice, to wit: “Tunisia is like the British weather.” Amokachi, a high-flying eagle in his Super Eagles hey days and hey years, played in the English Premier League season in season out until he terminated his glorious soccer career. His likening the un-predictability of the Tunisian team to the un-predictability of the British weather fell on the deaf ears of our Super Eagles and their handlers. Or did they not know that Amokachi the former Everton of Liverpool star player said what he said and which I have just quoted on television (DSTV Channel 202 beamed in many parts of the world)? If they did, they were certainly too, too over-confident of devouring their fellow Eagles from Tunisia for dinner. After all, a very sizeable number and key members of the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia as well as their coach were already down and out of the match courtesy of Covid-19. This also explains why they did not listen to Jay Jay Okocha who similarly admonished them to be wary of Tunisia. Both Okocha (a former skipper of the Super Eagles) and Amokachi played against Tunisia in their delicious soccer years of patriotic value they gave to your country my country our country.

Before their last encounter, on head-to-head comparison, Nigeria had led Tunisia four to one of five past AFCON meetings on knock out basis. In my recollections, in 1978 Nigeria got the better of Tunisia at the 11th AFCON in Egypt. It won the bronze medal for the third best team when Tunisia abandoned the match between both countries after our right winger Baba Otu Mohammed’s equalizer in the 42nd or so minute.  The Tunisians stoutly and hotly contested Nigeria’s goal and discontinued play. Nigeria, in accordance with the rules, was awarded the match with a 2-0 score margin. In 2000 Nigeria beat Tunisia 4-2 in AFCON group stage. In 2004 AFCON semi-final in Tunisia between the two rivals Tunisia defeated Nigeria 5-3 on a penalty shoot-out. In 2016 AFCON/African Nations Championship (sportingly called CHAN 2016) Nigeria beat Tunisia in the quarter-finals 6-5 on a penalty shootout.

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In 2019, that is, three years ago Nigeria won the bronze medal encounter at the expense of Tunisia in Egypt at the 32nd AFCON. Aside from their AFCON contests the Carthage Eagles and our dear Eagles either as Green Eagles or as Super Eagles had met at different times in FIFA World Cup fixtures. The matches were often and always ding-dong battles between both sides. Our Eagles always gave the Carthage Eagles delirium tremens. In Australian slang our Eagles would be said to always give the Carthage Eagles the dingbats no matter how our Eagles fared in the FIFA World Cup fixtures against them. In 1978 Tunisia triumphed over Nigeria in Lagos to get to the final round of the FIFA World Cup African Series. A painful own goal by our ever reliable defensive midfielder Godwin Odiye after  our  patriotic lads made mince-meat of the Carthage Eagles that did not soar on that day will always be told and re-told in our soccer lore. That November 12th 1977 when Godwin, the master-class defender, scored against himself and his and our great squad will remain ever green in my football memory. In 1980 our Eagles beat the Carthage Eagles in another FIFA World Cup qualifying fixture to partake in FIFA Espana ‘82. After a 2-2 aggregate score Nigeria’s lads were through to Spain after a penalty shoot-out which our gems won.

I have gone far back into our encounters with Tunisia to show that despite our series of defeats of Tunisia the Tunisians never allowed the failures against us to cause them despair. We should learn from them. Their recent defeat of the Super Eagles that almost everybody (that, however, excluded yours sincerely) banked on to win the AFCON 2022 trophy should teach us a lesson on how not to be un-critically hopeful and on how not  to be downcast in defeat.

On the Nigeria-Tunisia match I will briefly state as follows: Our boys and their handlers were disappointingly naïve throughout the time the game lasted. They essentially played gidigidi football thinking erroneously that the Tunisians would be intimidated and tired out of contention. They piled pedestrian pressure in their brainless, luckless play-less play. And everything plus everything minus nothing conspired against them and their officials and Buhari their famed telephoner before the ungracious match. All the corner kicks we had especially in the early period came to nothing. The Tunisians played a simple game that enabled them to contain our boys and keep them at bay. They simply played tactically simple football that was not devoid of sophistication. In other worlds, they taught our team that there is sophistication in simplicity. Their solitary goal was a sophisticated goal from a long distance of distance. It was from a simple play couched in a seemingly innocuous sophistication. Our goal- keeper did not know the bang that hit him. It was more than a simple shot with a bang that was a bang.

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I don’t want to grade each player on our side. But Kelechi Iheanacho had no business staying that long before he was benched. Despite his massive experience the young chap is bereft of the niceties of how to trap and control a ball. And Alexander Iwobi, who substituted him, what came over him? What bad football spirit charmed him to do what he did that earned him a RED barely five minutes when he entered the field? And Moses Simeon, our pearl in the absence of Victor Osimen – why did the coach, Augustine Eguavoen, not  compel him to alter his style and pattern in that match? Why was his play or position not switched ceaselessly since at least three Tunisians were always at him at the same time? And why did our lads not compel the obviously biased centre referee to do a VAR check when there was a clear penalty in the early minutes of the match when a goal-bound shot was obviously palmed? And .… And…. And… I won’t go on and on. Our defeat should teach us how to lose spiritually, physically and gallantly. Perhaps it should teach us, more importantly, not to despair in defeat. We will rise again. We will.

Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.

 

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Adedotun Phillips And The Unfinished Business Of Reform In Nigeria

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Adedotun Phillips And The Unfinished Business Of Reform In Nigeria

By

Tunji Olaopa

In the annals of public administration scholarship in Nigeria, and most especially with regard to the specifics of the dynamics of institutional reforms in getting the Nigerian state into shape, the name of Professor Adedotun Phillips stands out as a gigantic institutional memory. Adedotun Oluwole Phillips—husband, father, academic, scholar, statesman—was a public servant par excellence. His entire life was defined around service. In the long line of the public service giants around whom the profile of the Nigerian public service is configured—Simeon Adebo, Jerome Udoji, Sule Katagum, Joseph Imokhuede, Ali Akilu, Allison Ayida, and many more, the name of Dotun Phillips is a fundamental star. When mourning the passing of Prof. Phillips, on 13 December, 2020, President Buhari said pointedly: “The history of the Nigerian Civil Service cannot be complete without reference to the contributions of Prof. Phillips.” He is right. Phillips represents the best that a public servant could be and give the nation in terms of the best that her professionalism and credentials can afford. And Prof. Phillips’ contribution is even much more cogent because it is situated within the trajectory of public service reform in Nigeria. In other words, Prof. Phillips’ immense contributions to the public service in Nigeria tie into Nigeria’s effort to make sense of the state and future of her public service as a backstop to her development and progress.

Adedotun Phillips And The Unfinished  Business Of Reform In Nigeria

Prof. Adedotun Oluwole Phillips

Since the inauguration of the Nigerian public service in 1954, Nigeria had been experimenting with administrative and institutional reforms that were meant to put the civil service in shape for the challenge of nationhood. Starting with the reform of wages, remuneration and compensation that characterized the colonial service, it graduated to the need for the Nigerianisation of the core echelon of the public service especially after independence in 1960. The Phillipson-Adebo Commission of 1953 kickstarted the series of reform commissions that culminated in the emergence of the Nigerian public service system, and the other post-independence reform efforts that were meant to essentially complete the organizational development dynamics of the civil service, convert her structural frameworks into institutional frame, and strengthen its capability readiness for the task of national integration and development.

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However, independence brought with it its own unique sets of challenges that the public service system was not quite ready for. The first was the challenge of plurality. The Nigerianisation Policy confronted the thorny issue of how to recruit Nigerians of different ethnocultural orientations into the civil service. Representativeness became the criterion that most suited Nigeria’s ethnic composition. And then gradually, the over-bloatedness that was the consequence of the misuse of this principle led to not only a gradual debilitation of the system but also the overshadowing of its initial efficiency by a crippling bureaucratic culture. When the 1971 Adebo Commission was set up, the civil service was already caught up in the restructuration of the federal constitution under a unitary logic marked by increased centralisation of political authority, ascendancy of federating forces, greater structural differentiation of the constituent states, increases in the Federal Government largesse, and expansion of the policy-making and execution functions of the Federal Civil Service. The implication of this “new federalism” on the civil service was the gradual evolution of a structural pattern that consistently whittled down the capacities the civil service has to promote good governance. For instance, the allocation of functions to the ministries was influenced more by political factors than by the standard criteria for the allocation of such functions i.e. the functional principle, the process principle, the clientele principle, and the area principle.

The corruption of the governance and accountability framework of the public service was simultaneous with the emergence of the managerial revolution which Britain was already contending with, especially with the Fulton Report of 1968. Thus, the 1971 Adebo Second and Final Salaries and Wages Review Commission was caught in the larger managerial concern of transforming the civil service system in ways that transcended its original remit of wage. It however passed the buck of that concern to the Udoji Commission, constituted in 1972. The commission, under the full influence of the UK Fulton Report, argued that the civil service of a development-oriented society must be one that is suffused with change and reform if it must be able to effectively meet the challenges of its context. And the Nigerian public service system, in its bureaucratic conditions, was not that amenable to those changes. The Udoji Commission then recommended a new style public service infused with “new blood” working under a result-oriented management system operated by professionals and specialists in particular fields. The government of the time however made a mess of this commission’s report, and so forfeited a significant opportunity to set the civil service on a path of institutional transformation.

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Thereafter, successive Nigerian governments became embroiled in the contestations to make the system compliant with the managerial revolution, new public management (NPM) and its reform imperatives. By the time the Murtala/Obasanjo regime took over in 1975, the civil service was already too systemically dysfunctional to matter any longer in development consideration. Indeed, the purge of the service by Obasanjo in 1975 was long overdue even though it turned out to negatively undermine the little shred of professionalism remaining. The Second Republic was truncated by the Buhari-Idiagbon regime in 1983. And then, enter Professor Dotun Phillips. One of the fundamental legacies of the regime was the constitution of the Dotun Phillips Study Team in 1985, with the objective of undertaking an interrogation of the structure, mode of operation and strategy of the civil service in the light of contemporary administrative situation, as well as finding means by which the eroded professionalism of the system could be restored.

When the Babangida regime took over the reign of government, it inherited the study group and reconstructed its report into the foundation of the 1988 Civil Service Reforms through a Civil Service Re-organisation Decree No. 43 of 1988. The basis of the Decree is the establishment of a virile, dynamic and result-oriented civil service. The Babangida administration was also seriously concerned about the gains and benefits of managerialism and of a professionalised civil service. The added objective was the alignment of the service with the form and spirit of presidentialism.

Professionalism goes to the very heart of what it means to be a public servant; what it means to be public-spirited. It is the sum total of the competences, knowledge, attitude, spirituality and ethical sensibility that a public servant requires to perform her responsibility to the public with all accountability, transparency and commitment. A professional public service, in other words, is circumscribed by three actions-moulding value frameworks: ethical values (i.e. integrity, honesty, respect); democratic values (i.e. responsiveness, representativeness, rule of law); and professional values (i.e. excellence, innovation). To seek the restoration of professionalism is to attempt a restoration of the pride and ideals of the public service. It is to seek the reinvention of the public service as a noble calling, a vocation in the manner of the Levitical order of priesthood. This was the philosophical foundation of the Philips’ reform agenda. The re-professionalization strategy is meant to reposition the civil service through a rebranding of its critical ethos and virtue. Thus, if the civil service system in Nigeria must overcome its dysfunctional bureaucratic culture, the best way is for it to reconnect with its inherent value as a vocation that is spiritual and spirited. And managerialism was just the perfect structural mold within which to achieve this reconnection. The managerial revolution was founded on the urgency of re-articulating what makes a public servant accountable, effective and efficient. Since the old Weberian system has collapsed under the burden of administrative rules and regulations, a managerial reform becomes the next best thing to recreate the public service in the image of an efficient machine.

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In its attempt to lay the foundation of a professionalised civil service, the 1988 reform emphasized the need for specialization. Civil service officers were required to undergo regular training and retraining. This led to the creation of a new bureaucratic structure made up of assistants, officers and directors. The assistant does not require any university or professional qualification to function. The officer, on the other hand, requires a university degree or a professional qualification while the director was reserved for professionals who had been given general management functions as heads of a department, branch or division.

But then, the Dotun Phillips reform carried the professionalization mandate beyond the bound of administrative reason and necessity. It was rather too ambitious of the reform to attempt the professionalization of everybody in the civil service. In other words, it was a profound mistake to think that the service could be handled by professionals all alone, to the exclusion of other non-professionals and generalists. Unfortunately for the reform agenda, the professionalizing move turned into a politicizing one that, for instance, turned permanent secretaries into political appointees, contrary to the politics-administration dichotomy on which public service integrity depends. The idea of professionalism suffered a conceptual-reality deficit in the sense that it was seen as a function of how long a public servant spent in any particular ministry.

And yet, the Phillips reform was not in any sense a failure, despite its fundamental assumptions and reform errors. The reform agenda, apart from the Udoji Commission report, was the next fundamental advocacy for managerialism and performance management in Nigeria. Indeed, both reform agenda and their recommendations are still fundamental to achieving a world class public service in Nigeria. Prof. Philips’s recommendation of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system as a significant plank in the performance management system, and a decentralized HR are sine qua non for any functional public service. Management controls through organization, operations and management research (OOMR), critical for propelling policy implementation praxis, is a feature of the Phillips agenda we need to revisit. In revisiting the Phillips reform recommendations, we will be able to retrospect on two fundamental issues in Nigeria’s reform necessity. The first has to do with the imperative of creating and incentivizing professionalized planning, research and statistics departments in the MDAs that should take responsibility not only for sector plans, but also for monitoring and reporting on their implementation. The second issue derives from the first: the departments of planning, research and statistics serve as the institutional template for a structured and recurrent engagement between policy researchers and policy workers; a hub of policy intelligence and action research that the MDAs can strategically deploy.

Prof. Adedotun Oluwole Phillips’ engagement with the Nigerian public service system is not yet done. Even in death, he is still awaiting fulfilment that will derive from the government recognizing the deep reform fundamentals that remain untapped within his reform dynamics. In returning to the Phillips reform, Nigeria would have taken a significant managerial reform step forward. And we would have given Prof. Phillips a posthumous reason to rest in the knowledge that he served Nigeria well.

Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and  professor of public administration, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos .  tolaopa2003@gmail.com

 

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