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A Conspiracy History: Unraveling The Puzzles In Nigeria’s Future



How To Revive Public Schools - Tunji Olaopa

Tunji Olaopa

In 1939, after the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, as dumbfounded as the rest of the world, characterized Russia as a “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”—an inscrutable state that defined her own international relations rules and played by them. Nigeria does not share anything in common with Russia in terms of her notoriety in world affairs. Russia’s political history, from Josef Stalin to Vladimir Putin, has been one long trajectory of aggressive foreign policy. Nigeria is a postcolonial state that has many crippling structural and institutional legacies to contend with in her attempt to make developmental progress. And yet, it is in these very attempts that Nigeria keeps confounding those who have invested thoughts, intellect, efforts and sagacity into making Nigeria realize her greatness. Since independence, sixty-one solid years, Nigeria’s ship of state has kept floundering, even with the best of the governance vision of succeeding governments and development planning.

To make matters worse, the inauguration and national progress of the Nigerian state has been further enmeshed in a series of conspiracies that seem to complicate the post-independence predicament and how to get out of it. And what we have come to know as the “Nigerian condition” or the “Nigerian Factor” is all the worse for it since it has been invested with some mysterious quantity that continues to undermine all that has been done politically to transform Nigeria’s fortune. For Dean Haglund, the Canadian actor, “The beauty of any conspiracy theory is that because it can’t be proved, that just makes it more ‘real.’ It’s not a question of believing or not believing, really; it’s more a question of just accepting a series of probabilities that lead to an undeniable conclusion.” In the case of Nigeria, the worry is the extent to which the conspiracies about the founding and development of the Nigerian state has occluded the real issues as to what we really need to do—what the political class needs to do—to get Nigeria out of her present condition.

READ ALSO: Narrow Politics And Questions Of Democratic Development

Colonialism and the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates is the most significant factor that defined Nigeria’s postcolonial reality. Outside of the historical narrative of how the colonial arithmetic strung together ethnic nationalities and infrastructural conditions for the sake of facilitating the development of the European metropolises, so many other conspiracies have been cooked up in the underbelly of colonization. Did the Nigerian nationalists betray the postcolonial future of Nigerians with backdoor negotiations? Were they led on a leash to do what the colonialists actually wanted for Nigeria? Were the nationalists, from Anthony Enahoro to Herbert Macaulay, and from Ahmadu Bello to Nnamdi Azikiwe, too eager to replace the colonialists that they failed to look deeper into the dynamics of independence and the encoded landmines? Indeed, the negotiations that brought independence for Nigeria, through the so many constitutional conferences, were too burdened by historical gaps to achieve certainties.

One of the other historical refrains, like British-induced conspiracies, is the idea about the Islamization of Nigeria. The Fulani Jihad war of 1804 to 1808, led by Uthman dan Fodio, not only defeated the Hausa kingdoms, but also led to the creation of the Sokoto Caliphate. The decline of the old Oyo empire also facilitated the foothold of the Caliphate into Ilorin. So far, so good. This is all historical fact. But there are those who still insist that the march of the Caliphate is not ended. Its endgame is the Islamization and Fulanization of the whole of Nigeria. When in 1986, the then military head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, took Nigeria into the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC), the conspiracy theorists had their “proof”! But then, the “proof” keeps getting stronger with the rising insecurity occasioned by the Fulani herdsmen and the hesitation of the Buhari administration to decisively intervene.

But then, it is not only the Hausa-Fulani that have generated conspiracies in Nigeria’s political development. In 1966, Gen. Aguiyi-Ironsi promulgated the notorious Decree 34 that unified Nigeria out of her former regional status. The Decree was supposed to put to rest the crises that regionalism supposedly plunged Nigeria into. There were several indications that conspiracy theorists identified as a secret plan to foster an Igbo take-over of Nigeria. First, Ironsi stocked very sensitive federal posts with Igbo functionaries—from his three-man advisory committee, all Igbo; to the Minister of Justice, Chief Michael Onyiuke, who replaced Dr Taslim Elias, a Yoruba. Second, out of the four regional military governors, two rejected the decree, one was noncommittal; only Lt. Col. Ojukwu, another Igbo, welcomed the decree. By July, 1966, a counter-coup had occurred, and the civil war, founded on the fear of Igbo domination and Biafra secession bid, was about to happen. From Ironsi to the present-day Biafra, nationalism seems like one connected trajectory for many conspiracy theorists. And, as the argument goes, it becomes a dangerous political game to allow an Igbo presidency given the possibility of using that pedestal to realize the vision of Biafra and Igbo self-determination!

READ ALSO: Yahya Jammeh: A Messiah Of African Dictatorship

Even the civil service is not left out of the conspiracy. When the war ended in 1970, Gen. Yakubu Gowon became the head of state, reinstated the federal system, and had enough petrodollar to facilitate the rehabilitation of the Nigerian state. He also had the technocratic and strategic policy intelligence backend instituted by the famous super permanent secretaries. But, as the conspiracy theory goes, when the Gowon administration was toppled in 1975 by Gen. Murtala Muhammed, it was time to get back at the civil service and the super permanent secretaries who stood between the war generals and Gowon in the chain of command! And the 1976 purge of the civil service was the get-back strategy to whittle down the service. Of course, the theorists had nothing to say about the genuine need to downsize a system that was already over-bloated as a result of the Nigerianisation Policy and the principle of representativeness. On the contrary, the deathblow to the civil service was a means of making the institution realize the significance of power politics, and Nigeria sure will live for some time to come with the seemingly irresolvable unintended consequences of that political misjudgment.

We can cap this trajectory with the Yoruba factor in Nigerian politics, and the litany of theories about the marginalization of the Yoruba. The story moves from Awolowo to MKO Abiola and the Obasanjo presidency via the betrayal of IBB. Again, as with the other grand theories, it was Olusegun Obasanjo, a willing stooge of the Northern cabal, that undermined Awolowo’s chance of becoming president in 1979. And the same Obasanjo harvested the gains of the Yoruba’s chance of the presidency when the June 12 victory of MKO Abiola was annulled by IBB.

The entire gamut of conspiracy theories both indicts the Nigerian political class while simultaneously projecting elite nationalism as a means by which the futility of conspiracy can be unmasked in outlining Nigeria’s path towards national development and progress. The fundamental issue is that of how to undermine these conspiracies by outlining a strategic theory of change and socio-political reengineering praxis that will take Nigeria out of the national doldrums. The conspiracy theories complicate Nigeria’s post-independence predicament. That is one complication we not only cannot afford, but that must be creatively deconstructed to create a new narrative compass for envisioning a better and more reassuring future. But it is also one that is fueled by the incapacity of the political class to proactively put in place governance frameworks and dynamics that will advance Nigeria’s real interests on behalf of the well-being of Nigerians. As it is, the failure of the political class constitutes the ready manure that feeds the growth of these theories.

READ ALSO: Nigerian Democracy And Challenges Of Nation Building

When we put together the Conspiracy History of Nigeria (CHoN), then we are confronted with a straightforward conclusion that Nigeria’s predicament is an irresolvable one—a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. However, this is one conclusion that is very far from the truth. And that truth is derived from the many iterations of political histories in the march of civilization. From the Greek city-states to the rise and fall of the Roman empire, and from the dynamics of the Ottoman dynasty to the old Oyo empire, we have tales and trajectories of how national elites became the game changers in the evolution of national predicament and transformation. Indeed, one of my most famous examples is the injection of philosophical reflections, by Plato in the Republic, into the crafting of the political future of ancient Athens. Political elites have always been significant in the visioneering of the future of any state and society. And this is not less so in the urgent need to rethink the future of Nigeria.

The crass vision in the CHoN can be transcended by a politically genuine appraisal of Nigeria’s plural situation and development failures that serve as the basis for engendering first, a sincere dialogue about what ails this great state; and second, how we can generate a national health and integrity system to commence a healing process. Heroic leadership consists in making the people believe in the impossible. But then, Nigeria and her greatness are possible. All that is needed urgently are leaders who believe in the possibility of Nigeria and are willing to stake their reputation on that possibility.

Prof. Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary , and Professor of Public Administration, National Institute
For Policy and Strategic Studies
(NIPSS), Kuru, Jos


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Toyin Falola: A Lifetime Achievement Honour For A Colossus



REVIEW: Musikilu Mojeed's The Letterman From Presidents To Soldiers To Nations (2)
Prof. Toyin Falola

By Temitope Oriola

The Canadian Association of African Studies (CAAS) has awarded the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award to Toyin Falola, a professor of History, University Distinguished Teaching Professor and the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas, Austin. CAAS is the preeminent association of Canadian scholars studying Africa. The Lifetime Achievement Award is the highest honour of CAAS. Therefore, it is rarely bestowed.

For context, no scholar received this honour in my three years on the board of CAAS as vice president, president and past president (2019-2022). The latest in Professor Falola’s constellation of global awards represents another acknowledgment of the worldwide status of the Bobapitan of Ibadanland. As a former president of CAAS, I know the painstaking process involved in the adjudication of CAAS awards. I am particularly delighted that Baba Falola, as we all call him, is recognised in this manner.

It was unusually fitting that York University, Toronto, was the venue of the conferment. Falola was a professor at York University between 1990 and 1991. He had also previously delivered keynote addresses at the CAAS signature annual gatherings and helped to organise the conference in 1991. The president of CAAS, Nduka Otiono, a professor and director of the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Ottawa, noted that the “esteemed accolade recognises (Falola’s) exceptional contributions, unwavering dedication, and profound impact on the field of African Studies in Canada and beyond.”

The United States took Falola from Canada but his influence is very much like he never left. The University of Texas, Austin has somehow managed to hold on to Professor Falola. I am curious about how Texas has done that since 1991.

I met Professor Falola at the 2016 Africa conference at the University of Texas, Austin. I was immediately struck by his fine magnetic personality. You immediately felt an instant connection as you would a family member. The annual conference convened by Falola is an excellent gathering and for some young scholars, their first international conference outside Africa. The conference also attracts senior scholars and university administrators across Africa and the diaspora.

Toyin Falola received his B. A. (Honours) in History in 1976 from the University of Ife (later renamed Obafemi Awolowo University). His PhD in history was awarded by the same university in 1981. Falola wrote his doctoral dissertation on “The Political Economy of Ibadan, c.1830-1900.” Always on a quest to learn and chart new grounds, Falola received his D. Litt. in African Studies from the University of Ibadan in 2020 (i.e. 42 years after his first doctorate). This is the stuff of extraordinariness.

Professor Falola has received 16 honorary doctorates from universities across the globe. The roll call includes the University of Jos; Lincoln University; Olabisi Onabanjo University; Monmouth University; Federal University, Lokoja; and Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.

A Member of the Order of the Niger (MON), Falola has held fellowships, professorships and distinguished scholar status at various universities and other institutions globally. For example, he was visiting professor at the Olusegun Obasanjo Centre for African Studies, National Open University, Abuja (2019-2021) and honorary professor, Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town, South Africa, from 2018 to 2022. Professor Falola was also Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South, Library of Congress in 2016; visiting professor, Pontifícia Universidade Católica De São Paulo, Brazil in 2007; and fellow at the Humanities Research Council, Australian National University in 1995. He is a life member at Clare Hall, University of Cambridge.

Traditional institutions have also bestowed high honours on Professor Falola. He is Nii Kpani Ashaabla 1, Adabraka Otukpai Palace, Accra, Ghana; the Agbakin of Kusela-Ibadan; the Bobagbimo of Ugboland; and the Mayegun of Auga, Akoko.

Being a globally recognised scholar and an excellent human being are not necessarily mutually inclusive. Falola is an iconic scholar, a mentor to generations of scholars and a humane person. His devotion to the success of others is astonishing and uncommon. Falola is intentional about creating opportunities for others. He derives great satisfaction in seeing others thrive. Falola’s accomplishments require a truly exceptional intellect, fine analytical mind, perspicacity and a strong work ethic. His long list of accomplishments speaks to a lifetime of devotion to investing in others and expecting nothing in return: World class brilliance meets humaneness.

.Oriola is professor of criminology and associate dean at the University of Alberta. He is president-elect of the Canadian Sociological Association and former special adviser to the Government of Alberta on Police Act Review.

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10th National Assembly: Nigeria’s Last Chance



Mon-Charles Egbo

By Mon-Charles Egbo

In a few days, the presiding officers of the Senate and the House of Representatives would be elected upon the inauguration of the 10th national assembly. This event, typical of every contest, would throw up two categories of people: those who are pleased with the outcome and the ones who feel otherwise.

Understandably, the wishes of both sides are interests-driven though it cannot be immediately established whether the interests are about the country or individuals.

But on the belief that it is about nationalism, then head or tail, it is a win-win for Nigeria. This is because logically, both divides mean well for the nation only that their perceptions differ. And again, while spirited attempts, largely motivated by multi-dimensional sentiments, are made to externally influence the choices of the legislators-elect, the decision as to who would become their presiding officers begins and ends with them. Whether by consensus or merit, they are the ones that make the choices in the final analysis. It is within their exclusive rights and privileges and also, the election is a process that has strict conventions. So the outcome, like the two sides of a coin, coincides or is at variance with the wishes of the outsiders, once again, depending on whether their interests are broad or narrow.

Therefore as the 10th national assembly comes on stream, the basic public expectation is a sustainable dispensation of good governance delivered by a legislature that is people-oriented and under a leadership that is defined by dexterity, creativity and absolute loyalty to the people. For emphasis, Nigerians today deserve a responsive parliament driven by a deliberate commitment to regular citizens’ engagement.

Granted, these aspirations are as non-negotiable as they are core dividends of democracy. Yet, they are not automatic. They can only happen with the active involvement of a vigilant citizenry as researches show that strong democracies the world over are characterized by robust citizen participation. In other words, there can never be effective leadership without effective followership. This is the reason every well-meaning Nigerian should urgently pause and ponder on the prevailing sorry state of the country.

This is imperative because except for ignorance or mischief, it is glaring that we cannot hand over to our children, the same country that we inherited from our fathers. The signs are there yet we seem indifferent. Or, are we not alarmed by the grim prospects of losing things and persons very dear to us, including innocent children, if Nigeria fails? What about the mental agony of losing personal liberties and becoming captives in our own land, irrespective of status? Are the masses not yet seeing the damning consequences of their age-long prejudice and hostility towards the national assembly? Are we not yet persuaded that certain things should either not have happened in the first place or should have happened differently if only we were actively involved in the goings-on in the national assembly since 1999? Could we have been this mercilessly impoverished and short-changed sequel to leadership deficit? Truly, every heart should bleed over Nigeria’s precarious situation because when it rains, no roof is spared.

However, there is good news. There is a ray of hope. A new beginning is possible. Nigeria can still work. But once again, it is a function of our actions now. Yes, our future is in our hands. Before us right now is an opportunity, possibly the last, to act, lest Nigeria slides into absolute failure.

So, if what informs our concerns and interests regarding the choice of the presiding officers are really borne out of patriotic and nationalistic ideals, despite the eventual outcomes, then we are morally liable for the success or failure of the 10th national assembly. Yes, what it becomes depends on what we do or fail to do now.

Hence if we wish not to bungle this last chance, then we should right away stand up and be counted. We must embrace this 10th national assembly as truly our own. We should seek to be fully abreast of its scheme of things. We have to accord it all the necessary support and cooperation for it to excel. It is no longer about short-term benefits but about what unites us and aids our journey to nationhood. Everyone should immediately remove their togas of ethnicity, religion and partisanship and think Nigeria first! The media, civil society organizations, professional bodies, labour unions, youth, women and community-based groups, the political class, as well as the clergy, should put on garments of activism in championing a legislature that derives its legitimacy and relevance from the people. Every mouth should loudly speak against bad governance whenever and wherever it occurs.

With an open mind, we should pay attention to how the legislature supervises the other arms, especially the executive. Specifically, we should demand explanations from the 10th national assembly as to why the country’s refineries are not operational and what they hope to achieve in the face of Nigeria’s dire situations, particularly the raging petroleum subsidy questions, poverty index, youth unemployment, insecurity, rising debt profile, health, education and power sectors, budget performance, federal character principle and then, why the federal executive council is awarding contracts without the public procurement council in place. We should clamour for legislative agenda with timelines and whose deliverables can translate to tangibles in the immediate, instead of high-sounding achievements that would exist only on paper and make no meaningful impacts in the lives of the people in the long run.

Then dispassionately, in pursuing these programmes of action, we should be seen to be fair, right and just always. We should be considerably articulate, skilful, objective and law-abiding. We should be alert, probing and listening and then be guided by reciprocal respect for these leaders. We should reject every form of confrontation, rumour-mongering, mutual suspicion and hate.

Equally, we should vehemently resist the divisive instrumentalities of religion, tribe and politics. We should seek to build social bridges always by being at the right places, saying the right things and then doing the right things at all times. We should commend and condemn when necessary. Where we stood before the election and subsequent inauguration of the assembly should not matter to us again. Rather, we should be anxious to see the 10th national assembly succeed by working through our representatives for issue-based engagements with the institution towards the attainment of a Nigeria where democracy and good governance reign supreme.

Using our periodic interactive sessions or town hall meetings with them, and their feedback channels, we should consistently demand accountability from the individual representatives while also availing them of useful information. Any lawmaker that is not accessible, principally through their functional constituency offices, should be called out respectfully. And while we keep records of our engagements with them for future reference, we must not distract or blackmail them with self-serving burdens of demand.

For the umpteenth time, if we live above board in our conduct this national assembly would always reflect the truism that “to whom much is given, much is expected” and also that as leaders, they are merely fellow citizens elected by loyal citizens and entrusted with the popular mandate. Also, the legislators would demonstrate indeed that they are agents and trustees of the people, and as such should always embody our wishes and desires. Furthermore, through our sustained advocacy, they would always draw a line between politics and governance in their actions.

Then above all and because equity demands clean hands, the first step in achieving all these is to have a fair knowledge of the workings and core mandates of the legislature. It is important also that we understand some operational challenges being faced by the national assembly. For instance, the 1999 constitution is not reasonably protective of the legislature, especially in its supervisory roles on the executive. Serially, there are no definite consequences for acts of disregard for the powers of the legislature by the executive. The former apparently exists at the mercy of the latter. Even more pathetic is the case of the state governors. But in the interim, it is only when we operate from an informed perspective that we can be factual and objective in our expectations and engagements with lawmakers.

And so in conclusion, this is just an early warning! The occasion calls for rapid and decisive actions. This is the last chance to redirect the ship of the country from the brink of collapse following the failure of governance, insecurity, corruption, unemployment and poverty.

As such, we the people, as the ultimate owners should immediately rise and take back the legislature. And in this, we have to let enthusiasm, patriotism, resilience and diligence guide us, so that “the labours of our heroes past shall never be in vain”.

Egbo is a public relations practitioner and can be reached at

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Dokpesi: His Legacy Lives



It's Flood, Flood Everywhere
Chief ‘Timi Alaibe

By ‘Timi Alaibe

Again, death has left us breathless with another devastating blow. It has claimed one of our best—an amiable fellow, a friend, a brother, an uncle, a visionary, an innovator, a man of unimpeachable value.

When the news hit the airwaves in the early hours of May 29, it had the eerie touch of the worst thing to be heard in quite a while.

High Chief Aleogho Raymond Dokpesi was different things to different people. He was someone so fully committed to the Nigerian Project, an exceptional African with respect for our beliefs and values, an inspiration and a patriot. 

To the broadcast industry in Africa, he was the doyen—a pathfinder, an optimist, he never gave up on his convictions. His mind was always fertile with fresh and fruitful ideas.

At a time when it was forbidden for individuals to set up and own radio and television stations in Africa, he blazed the trail by establishing the Ray Power Radio and African Independence Television.

Suddenly, we savoured a refreshing experience—always tuning-in and listening to news, ideas and opinions or watching entertainments that were different from what we were eternally condemned to on government broadcast stations. 

Everyone wanted to identify with these innovations. Their jingles, signature tunes and the dress styles of presenters were unique and purely African. Something new was in the air. We loved it.

He did the uncommon. When it was fanciful for Nigerians and Africans to bear foreign names and parade same on radio and television, he insisted that On-Air-Professionals must promote Africaness by using their native names.

Then he gave the staff free hands to practise what they knew in line with global best practices. High Chief Dokpesi never pretended to know it all. He appreciated professionalism in every aspect.

As these broadcast stations grew in prominence, he gradually started withdrawing his control and influence and handed over the management to young people with fresh ideas and required experiences.

I cannot vividly recall when we first met. But my eternal impression of him was that of a disciplined fatherly figure, a global businessman and someone who was not afraid of experimenting with new ideas irrespective of where such came from.

A first-class entrepreneur and lover of intellectual excellence, Dokpesi had useful connections in high places. He was an unequalled mobiliser of people and ideas.

High Chief Dokpesi was committed to the Niger Delta Dream. He supported and personally participated in discussions and negotiations meant to advance the cause of the Niger Delta region.

When we started the NDDC, he afforded us unqualified access to his mass media outlets to publicize our activities, prospects and challenges.

During my era as the Managing Director of the NDDC, High Chief Dokpesi was always there to offer advice. We had a shared vision on the implementation of the Niger Delta Development Master Plan.

Shrewd in business and inspiring in leadership, the Ezomo knew how to create and keep friendships. He stood by his friends, no matter the threats to his person. He never ran away from taking bullets for his friends.

In politics, as in business, he played by the rules. He was daring but straightforward. He was never afraid of telling the truth to power.     

Then death knocked at a very unexpected time. It swept everyone off their feet and kicked us senseless. 

It would be difficult to resolve this riddle: Why should such a man die—so suddenly? What happened? Many questions. No answers.

The huge irony is that Ezomo Dokpesi left us on the day a new President was sworn in to office. A true democrat, he left us on our democracy day.

Here was a man who fancied democracy and enmeshed himself in the emergence of a people’s President for Nigeria.

He dreamt it. He lived for it. He worked for it—until the day he took his last breath. That was what pushed him into partisan politics.

It is difficult to conclude that we will never see our High Chief again. It’s unthinkable. How would life be without his towering presence? But then, this is the truth we must learn to live with.

The death of High Chief Aleogho Raymond Dokpesi is not the end of his story. It actually marks the beginning of an endless reflection. His life was a history yet to be written.

To his family, I wish you God’s strength. To the Daar Communication community, you have to keep the flag flying higher and higher. To his friends and associates, we will surely miss him.

Adieu, Ezomo of Weppa-Wanno Kingdom.




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