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Civil Service Commission As Catalyst In Repositioning Nigerian Public Service

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Professionals In Government: Issues In Navigating The Policy Space In Nigeria

By

Tunji Olaopa

Let me begin this piece with some form of syllogistic administrative argument. It has become axiomatic in the diagnosis of Nigeria’s post-independence predicament to point at the leadership lacuna in governance and policymaking. The need for a visionary and strategic leadership that will drive the whole development process cannot be overemphasized. In the whole of Nigeria, the example of Lagos State stands out firmly as the most exemplary in terms of the leadership succession that has impacted the culture of good governance. From Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to Babatunde Fashola. And from Akinwunmi Ambode to the incumbent Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Lagosians have been blessed with a leadership trajectory that has kept building good policies on good policies in a continuity loop that has kept Lagos State on top of the democratic governance game, and has made the state the best example of good governance so far.

However, leadership needs a strong institutional and structural basis around which its vision could become concretized. It is around these structures and institutions that the weight of governance and service delivery is laid. This is where we arrive at the crucial point that leadership is bare without an accompanying complement of structural and institutional frameworks around which the vision and strategy of leadership can be articulated in concrete terms. With this point, we critically undermine the agency-structure argument in the social sciences. We also undermine the strong man/strong institution dichotomy. This is because there is no point to that dichotomy. One is incomplete without the other. The further point of the institutional argument is that the public service is the institution par excellence that carries the weight of democratic performance and productivity. Indeed, the public service is the necessary complement to a democratic government. In the literature on developmental states, there is a strong axiomatic consensus that we cannot even begin to think of such a state outside of the administrative coherence provided by the structural framework of the public service and its capability readiness to deliver on intelligent policymaking made possible by the state and its functionaries and politicians.

READ ALSO: Prof. A. D. Yahaya In The Annals Of Public Administration Scholarship In Nigeria

And the strength of the public service must derive from a measure of public-spiritedness and professionalism of the public servants that the state has recruited and had committed to working with. Public service is a vocation that is more of a calling than a mere profession. A proper understanding of the spirituality involved in the public service is derived from likening it to the Levitical Order of the Jewish priesthood. A public servant is called to a deep and spiritual service of the public to which she is expected to dedicate all her capabilities and focus to the exclusion of every contrary emotion and desire that might undermine that commitment. As an administrative virtue, public-spiritedness places the responsibility of the professional within the context of a personal and public accountability that motivates the professional to personally hold him/herself responsible for the discharge of his/her duties to the public. It is this public spirit or civil virtue that instigates the public servants to an efficient, effective and equitable management of the civil service system.

  And of course, the quality of any public service at all, cannot be divorced from the professionalism and resilience of the Civil Service Commission (CSC). Given the spiritual significance of the professionalism and public-spiritedness of the public service, it becomes dangerous to leave the gateway into the profession unmanned. The danger of an over-bloated workforce is not only the lowering of the performance and productivity profile but much more the compromising of the professional remit of the public servants. The experience of Nigeria is telling. With independence, there was a dilemma with regard to the basis of recruitment into the public service. Representativeness was chosen over meritocracy due to Nigeria’s delicate multi-ethnic status. By the Second Republic, the public service was already so over-bloated as to be unable to achieve the capacity readiness to carry the weight of Nigeria’s development planning. In 1975, the hammer of brutal downsizing fell on the public service, and it crushed the system not just to size but with the professional confidence and esprit de corps which made it tick also lost.

  Thus, the locus of the modernizing imperative and professionalism of the public service has remained the CSC. This is crucial because the CSC is the interface that mediates between the government and the public service system itself in ways that facilitate a synergy of performance and productivity the state can work with for democratic governance that positively affects citizens. In this sense, the CSC needs to keep reforming its gatekeeping dynamics to be able to also properly gatekeep the professional requirement for repositioning the public service as a profession. In 1954, the Nigerian Public Service Commission was established, and the 1979 Constitution enshrined and changed the name as the Federal Civil Service Commission. The FCSC has the vision to “To build a core of highly focused, disciplined, committed and patriotic Civil Service totally dedicated to supporting the Government in the development of a strong, united and virile Nigeria.”

  Its objective is four-fold: (a) To appoint qualified candidates to man the different Ministries/Extra-Ministerial Departments in the Federal Civil Service; (b) To ensure that such appointments maintain/represent the federal character of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; (c) To make recommendations to the Federal Government on personnel policies aimed at improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the Federal Civil Service; and (d) To ensure that personnel decisions are taken objectively, promptly and competently in accordance with the policies and interest of the Federal Government. However, about six decades after its creation, we can legitimately worry whether the FCSC has put in place the necessary institutional mechanism to attract, retain and effectively utilize administrative skills and competencies on behalf of the Nigerian civil service. To what extent has the FCSC been able to protect the principle of merit in recruitment without buckling under political pressure, especially for representativeness? This is a good question to ask for one fundamental reason. There is a massive skill and competency flight away from the public service to the private sector or to other countries. The flight of Nigerian doctors to Saudi Arabia is a most recent and public instance.

READ ALSO: Akinlawon Ladipo Mabogunje At 90: A Measure of Grace Indeed

  Every CSC is confronted with the necessity of modernizing its structural, institutional, procedural and ethical frameworks. Reforming the civil service itself entails the reform of the CSC and its managerial dynamics and regulations. This derives from strategizing its own performance management system in ways that allow it to perform better at its gatekeeping responsibility. This is one of the imperatives of the managerial revolution that requires not only a technology-based public service, but also an efficient and effective workforce that is able to achieve a performance trajectory that services good governance. To grasp the importance of professionalism that undergirds the gatekeeping responsibility of the CSC, there is a need to situate that professionalism within the larger context of workforce dynamics and HR function in the twenty-first century.

  Such a reform at a general level entails the following critical issues. First, there is policy advice and analysis. New technologies demand that the CSC must be on the lookout for global best practices on the relationship between these technologies and policy analysis and intelligence, and their relationship in informing policy research. The second issue is service delivery and citizen engagement. The CSC needs to monitor what new skills and competence are demanded in transiting the civil service into the period of open government that leads to the co-creating of better services and engagements with citizens as customers. The third issue has to do with commissioning and contracting. The CSC must also be on top of the contracting of non-core functions of the public service, and the commissioning of third parties who have the requisite competences that complement the core functions and efficiency of the public services. The fourth issue concerns managing networks. The CSC must be aware of the urgent needs for collaborative need that brings the public service into communication and strategic relationship with governmental and nongovernmental organisations in ways that generate trust and commitment that leads to efficiency. It is therefore the responsibility of the CSC to regulate skills that lead to mutual understanding.

The fifth critical issue is workforce and HR. The advancement in artificial intelligence and robotics speaks to the necessity of reconstructing our understanding of what work entails. Most fundamentally, the fourth industrial revolution makes it imperative that work would be attended by the urgency of changing skills and competences that have to keep pace with the changing dynamics of work itself and the administrative context within which work must take place. Once technological innovations have taken over the workplace work dynamics, then employers and employees have to come to terms with how the existing skills and competence framework address the new challenges that technology introduces. The last significant issue to address is the urgency of a change management strategy and model. This is required by the mandate and challenges of professionalization and re-professionalization. The first issue here is for the FCSC to reflect on what change management model to adopt that will enable it to adequately engage with the urgency of re-professionalizing the civil service system. This is not an easy issue as the commission must adopt and adapt a model that best suits the peculiar administrative environment and dynamics of the administrative context. Indeed, a best option, rather than reaching out to some pre-existing models, is for the FCSC to generate its own model that best suits its administrative realities.

READ ALSO: Ali A. Mazrui, Abdulrazak Gurnah And The Swahili Moment

  At the specific levels, the FCSC of the future cannot overemphasize the significance of performance management in the determination of the staff appraisal and professional development of the public servants through the proactive activation of those dormant components of the APER, by deploying training- and activity-based assessment metrics. This would be determined around not just the idea of a performance-induced interviews like assessment center, but also the initiation of a performance-based contracting system backstopped by a commensurate pay and compensation incentive system that will ensure the attraction and retention of the brightest and the best into the public service. This will force the FCSC to begin to creatively juggle with some out-the-box leadership pipelining and talent management frameworks with strict guidelines that, first, enable the identification of star-performers within the system who, second, can be rewarded through special promotion that signals the system’s willingness to streamline creativity and innovation that push the public service into the dynamics of a state already moving into the technological and administrative frameworks of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This is important as a way of undermining the naturally occurring urge for institutional inbreeding.

  The FCSC, finally, must also not foreclose the possibility of staff exchange with industries and even the diaspora. This also involves the possibility of staff sabbatical leave that allows staff to strengthen their professional horizons through sharing and learning from other professional spaces. A proper recruitment framework must enable the effective involvement of the MDA line and personnel managers so as to be able to achieve a fit between skill and competency gaps and recruitment into the public service. This is one irreducible imperative of the Decree No. 43 of 1988 which failed in its professionalization remit, but provided a significantly understanding of a decentralized understanding of HR function for efficiency. Within the Nigerian public service system, these skills are mostly missing in the constitution of the senior executive service. This means that the office of the head of service would be required to revise the skills domains required to constituting the SES, while also collaborating with management development institutes (MDIs) and government training/tertiary institutions to mounting courses and designing curricula that speak to this skill sets. In all of this, CSCs will never be able to make significant impact unless the chairmen and commissioners are professionals and knowledge workers who could deploy the strategic advantage of the multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary to harness the strength of a professionalized high-end specialists’ strategic HR expertise of service commissions’ secretariat to change-manage the public service into a capability-enabled track, towards desired world-class status.

READ ALSO: Alaafin Adeyemi III: The Throne Of Numerous Authorities

Excerpt from a lecture delivered by Prof. Tunji Olaopa, retired Federal Permanent Secretary and Professor of public administration/Directing Staff, NIPSS, Kuru, Plateau State (tolaopa2003@gmail.com) as Guest Speaker at the Lagos State Civil Service Commission 2021 Annual Retreat on the theme ‘Changing the Narrative: The Civil Service Commission’s Role in Repositioning the Public Service’ held on 15-16 October, 2021 in Ikeja. Lagos State.

 

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Opinion

Who Needs Counseling In Nigeria?

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Witch Burning, Impunity And Abuses Linked to Witchcraft Beliefs In Benue State
Dr. Leo Igwe

By Leo Igwe

In January, I registered for a professional course in counseling at the Attitude Development Institute (ADI) in Lagos. After my doctoral program in religious studies, I thought I was done doing any other academic course. But I was mistaken. I recently noticed that something was missing in my academic and learning accessories. And I needed to rectify it. So I started this professional diploma program. I embarked on this course in my quest for a more competent way to assist people who contact me for help and support. Many contact me saying that they are tired of life and could not find anything meaningful to do or to earn a living. Many attribute their problems to ‘village people’, witches and wizards, generational curses, evil spirits, jinns, demonic attacks, etc. Many attribute their failures, setbacks and misfortunes to juju or harmful magic. I decided to do this diploma in counseling because I felt that something was lacking in my knowledge and understanding of human beings and human problems.

Last year, a lecturer on guidance and counseling at a college of agriculture in Ebonyi state invited me to come and talk to some of his students. Some of the students wanted to do money rituals and he was worried. This lecturer asked me to come and persuade them against engaging in this futile and criminal venture. But how could I do this professionally and effectively?

I wondered what else to tell these students apart from what I had repeatedly said in the past. That money ritual was a superstition, and the belief had no basis in reason or reality. But will that help? Will that be enough? Will the students be persuaded by that proposition? I asked. I felt that telling them that ritual money was a myth would likely be an exercise in futility. It would likely be inadequate and would not yield effective results. I felt that young people needed a more structured way to get them to change these thoughts and behavior. Anyway, I went to that college of education and met with some students and spent time talking to them, advising and persuading them not to indulge in money rituals. I urged them to try and complete their education and then seek out other evidence-based ways of making money. I do not know if my talk yielded any positive results.

Before and after this incident I encountered many who strongly believed in ritual money, and who, given the opportunity could kill, or use human body parts for rituals. Last year, someone contacted me from Kwara state. He inquired how he could do money rituals. I offered similar advice. Some people have contacted me seeking some other forms of help and support. Someone called from Imo state asking how he could stop gambling. That it was ruining his business and that his friends were pointing accusing fingers at his landlady. They said the woman was a witch and was responsible for his dwindling fortune. I offered him some words of advice. Also, in advocating against witch persecution, I have come across people who had anxiety, and mental and emotional disorders but who attribute these psychological problems and other existential challenges to witchcraft. I have been looking for competent ways to manage witchcraft believers and suspecters. I have been searching for more professional ways to support traumatized victims and survivors. I have been seeking a skillful mechanism to empower, guide and enable entertainers of witchcraft fears and sufferers of witch persecution to heal, recover and take control of their lives.

Beyond that, there are personal reasons. I am the first son in my family. I started dealing with family issues at a very young age without any knowledge of human psychology. I was socialized to help my younger brothers and lead even when I barely knew my left from my right. I was made to manage and resolve family-related issues even when I was a child with barely an understanding of how life worked. I was not self-aware or socially aware. I did not know human personalities and temperaments. I was not allowed to grow like every other child. I was pressured to behave like the first son, the deputy head of the family, and to intervene in family issues including my parents’ marital issues. Even now my father has passed away, I manage family issues and deal with members with personality disorders and untreated traumas, including my siblings who engage in micro/transferred aggressions and other negative behaviors rooted in childhood experiences. They intentionally make life miserable for me; they complicate matters to settle childhood scores, to punish or deal with me for some real or imagined privilege that they thought I had enjoyed as a first son.

In addition, I started teaching at 17 years, I taught at a local seminary and helped in nurturing children. I did not know children and educational psychology. It was like a child teaching children. It was while studying for my bachelor’s in philosophy that I did some psychology courses. I learned about Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Ivan Pavlov and their explanations of human behavior. But it was all theory. Then my focus was on getting good grades and passing examinations, not applying the knowledge to real life and issues. In the course of my humanist work and campaign, I have come across people suffering from religious trauma, and victims of religious oppression and persecution.

I would like to offer them effective help and support. As a humanist celebrant, I help families that are grieving, couples who are getting married, or those celebrating the arrival of a new baby. To provide effective help and services, I realized that I needed some professional training in counseling. I searched online and got some information about one Counseling Association of Nigeria. I contacted them and registered. But I realized that the focus was mainly on guidance and counseling in schools. That is important. But that was not what I wanted. My impression was that the association was mainly for teachers and lecturers. I needed some training that could qualify me as a professional counselor. I went online and saw some information about two counseling institutes in Lagos. They offer professional training.

One is in Ikeja, which is the ADI, and the other is in Victoria Island. I spoke to some counselors and one recommended ADI. After some telephone conversations and WhatsApp exchanges with the director of the Institute, I enrolled in its diploma class. The classes are held once every week. I joined the second week. After my first class, I realized that I was in the right place and that the program that they offered was what I was looking for. It was a twelve-week program, very intense. The courses included the foundations of counseling, counseling theories, and skills, children/teenage counseling, marriage/family counseling, and crisis/trauma counseling. Some of the courses focused on Christian counseling, grief counseling, sex therapy, and mental health. When I started I was worried that the lectures would be bland, another monotonous exercise in issuing handouts, but they were not. The lectures were interesting. And the lecturers were engaging and entertaining. They were very articulate and used so many examples to illustrate their points. The program occasioned some intellectual shocks and dissonance. It has helped me to correct some misconceptions about counseling and counselors. First I realized the importance of counseling and counselors. Look, human beings suffer both physical and emotional injuries. Both injuries are treatable. While medical doctors help treat physical wounds, counselors as therapists help treat emotional and psychological injuries. Again, counseling is widely understood to mean advice. We were told several times that counselors were not advisers. They do not advise their clients. A foremost counselor, Irvin Yalom whose book, Love’s Executioner, we reviewed throughout the course said the task of a counselor was to make himself or herself obsolete. Yes, it is tacitly saying that for the counselee to live, the counselor must die. He noted that the counselor’s role was to help the client take responsibility for making himself or herself better. Instead of advising, counselors support counselees to take control of their healing and living.

Again, throughout the program, the lecturers made it clear that one of the characteristics of a good counselor was listening. A counselor must be a good listener. He or she must have good listening skills. Also, counseling was not meant for some people, some psychologically troubled and maladjusted people. Instead, the lecturers made it clear that counseling was for everyone, for both the counselors and the counselees. In the course of the lectures I kept flashing back and recalling so many people that I have met in life who needed counseling. Everyone is grappling with some trauma or emotional issue at one time or the other. They encouraged the trainees to go for counseling. Each class was indirectly an exercise in group counseling and therapy because the classes provided opportunities for members to pour it out, to draw from their life, work, and family experiences in discussing the topics.

Yes, I realized that everybody needed counseling. And nothing illustrated the need better than a particular incident that happened during the program. Due to some miscommunication, one of the counselors managing the program communicated the wrong date for the class graduation to the management. When she came and informed the class, she was told that she communicated the wrong date. And this counselor became furious(meanwhile her name is also Fu…something). Discussions became quite heated and tense because she continued to insist that she communicated the correct date. The room became very noisy and rowdy because some people were trying to correct her but she refused. At some point, a member of this class set that calls itself, Ignite, raised her voice. She is in this class of women with a huge and imposing stature, looked quiet from the outside, and could be mistaken as phlegmatic. She said emphatically while pointing her five fingers at this counselor and swinging the hand up and down: “You are not listening”, “You are not listening”. At that point, the counselor tried to calm down. A senior management colleague intervened and urged the counselor to leave the room. As soon as she left, another class member said: “She needs counseling”. And some class members chuckled.

So, everybody needs counseling in Nigeria.

Igwe,PhD, is a trainee counselor at the Attitude Development Institute, Lagos.

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Opinion

Professors On INEC’s Will (4)

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Readers’ Showers Of Encouragement
Prof. Tony Afejuku

By Tony Afejuku

    These past three weeks have been three supreme weeks of supreme value to all of us who have been gluing ourselves to this column for the right reasons: No room for lying; no room for deceits; no room for propaganda; no room for vanity. No room, no room, no room for what should not be here. Thoughts of the streams, thoughts of the spheres, music of the streams, music of the spheres enhance the column in diverse ways. 

    Our debaters for the past three weeks have demonstrated this. Each of the professors (all of them, in fact) has demonstrated this in the geometry of their presentations, in the minds of their geo-biographies, in the arithmetic of their convictions and persuasions. They in varying degrees did not support the will of INEC in the presidential election, even though the INEC chair is one of them, a fellow professor in the sphere of the humanities. In going over the longitude and latitude of the flow of our professors, of our debating professors, in their authentic and responsible sphere of spheres the clarity and precision of the geo-biography and nature of patience moved towards me. This may not be the right way of putting it, but I found and still find each debater to be a patient debater. Goodness! How a patiently patient listener and presider over the debate Professor Olu Obafemi was/is! The rhetoric of his ears or of his eyes or of his tongue was/is the rhetoric of the sage. If I imagined this, I imagined it well. His rhetoric was/is not the creation of this recorder, but it is the rhetoric of the music of the shaping of the debate and the words of the debaters who like him are fellow writers and creators. 

    Now I present to our readers the summation of Professor Olu Obafemi who presided over the reported affairs of the literati:

“This debate has gone on very well and quite enlightening. I have learnt quite a lot from the various positions eloquently proffered here. I like to chip in this bit: (1) there will not be much ideological departure from PMB to BAT. We will still operate a neoliberal economy, fraught largely with parasitism and consumerism. It is very likely, from his experience in investment, creative commercialism/commodity consciousness and cosmopolitanism in governance, Tinubu will be a lot more distribution-prone, more productive, and more people friendly than his predecessor; (2) having operated in comprador praxis in the US, Tinubu will engage globalization with discretionary envisioning (these are loaded, unconventional concepts that may require greater elucidation in future; (3) having not operated unitarist governance strategy that we have had since Ironsi till date, and with his governance experience in Lagos, including standing up to OBJ to run a well-structured State in Lagos, BAT will be more of his own man who will surround himself with talent rather than a cabalistic instinct (I am talking here about power delegation as opposed to power relegation); (4) we have good reason to believe that Tinubu will not go for a winner-take-all, conclave-prone governance and will strive to deliver goods and services— democracy dividends more generously/humanely. May the future be better and more tolerable for our people and all of us in this country, and all our fellows and compatriots in foreign lands, that is, the diaspora.”

But the pastor-spirit as well as the track of traditional culture in him elicited from Professor Ademola Da Sylva what amounted to a kind of vote of thanks to Professor Olu Obafemi and the co-debaters in the literati.

“Many thanks, Baba O.O., for your thoughtful, clinical and lucid interventions; and IBK’s, (and others’) too! So palpable and infectious are the feelings of hope, and delight of the innocent, that you have demonstrated in your concluding postings, and my silent response was a loud A-m-e-n! Then I turned to God the Almighty, and said, “Baba-God, these genuine feelings expressed by these great minds, aggregate what is uppermost in the mind of the Nigerian people at this point of our history. Can you, please, do this one last favour for the masses of this country? I believe it is not beyond what you as the Almighty can do for an otherwise potentially great country like Nigeria! Simply protect BAT, from the powers that have constituted themselves into human principalities in the corridor of power; completely and permanently seal the mouths of those demonic lions labelled as Cabals in Aso Rock that have, thus far, truncated Nigeria’s destiny! AMEN!” Perhaps we should remind ourselves that our hope was this high when many Nigerian voters, including yours truly, trouped out to vote in Buhari as President! Now, I remember, “demonic forces” written about by Reuben Abati during the Presidency of GEJ, unfortunately, like some nameless hydra monsters they always rear their ugly heads with every new administration, these Aso Rock principalities. PMB has his good share of them in the Abakyaris, and very familiar ones, for obvious reasons, like the Ngiges, et al, never for once did they allow PMB to be! They took advantage of his visibly infirm state, to take over the reins of governance in what could be described as a “civilian coup” and ran-over the ship of the country crashing against the Aso rock! The reason we are where we are, right now! BAT like PMB, also has a visibly infirm visage/characteristic unless we pretend to not acknowledge it, a new set of cabalistic demons would join forces with the existing ones, after all, it is still the same Political Party, to take advantage of BAT’s current clinical status! BAT of 20 or 10 years ago, isn’t the same BAT today on account of age and health. Yes, unless God Almighty does something about these principalities through His human agents, they might yet soon take over the affairs of Nigeria under BAT too, to do what they know best: to steal, to kill and to destroy, and ensure that the status quo remains as it has always been, in the spirit of Ted Hughe’s very famous poem, ‘The Eagle’!”

Well, well said, O debaters. But let the columnist-terminator and terminator-columnist have the last word. The time won’t be long to ask INEC this simple question: Did INEC lavish allegedly over three hundred billion naira to register the paltry figure or number of voters for the 2023 elections? Did the very small number (below ninety or so million) match the more than very huge sum of money that INEC got for registration of voters and for other election related matters, duties and responsibilities? How much money in millions upon millions did not allegedly go under and distributed to “principalities” and “demonic forces” hovering over Aso Rock and the Presidency of the presidencynologists? Any clear or unclear answers to these questions cannot or may not but tell us that the presidential election in particular was INEC’s will. Our debating Professors will not say on oath that they did not know. Did the presidential and other elections meet the expectations, wishes and will of the people generally? INEC has the answer. And our debating professors will bluntly tell the chairman of INEC this.                                                   

    Because our professors are fellow writers, I must terminate the discourse by drawing their attention to the following poem “For the Consideration of Poets” by Haki R. Madhubuti (original name Don Luther Lee), the 81 years old African-American poet, author and publisher, and a native of Little Rock, Arkansas:

where is the poetry of resistance, 

the poetry of honorable defiance 

unafraid of lies from career 

politicians and business men, 

not respectful of journalists who write 

official speak void of educated thought 

without double search or sub surface questions 

that war talk demands? 

where is the poetry of doubt and suspicion 

not in the service of the state, bishops 

and priests, 

not in the service of beautiful people 

and late night promises, 

not in the service of influence, 

incompetence and academic 

clown talk?

The above lines speak volumes. Let them stay glued to our memories day by day. And may INEC’s chairman become the poet and historian of resistance after finding time to read this!

Terminated for now.

Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.

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Opinion

Iwuanyanwu And The ‘Political Rascals’ Rhetoric 

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Nigerian Destiny: In The Hands Of The People
Dr. Promise Adiele

By Promise Adiele

Samuel Beckett’s absurdist play Waiting for Godot avails itself of multiple interpretative tools with a compelling grip on the moral imagination of the audience. As a timeless drama, it thrives on the hopelessness of the human condition dramatized by two vagabonds, Estragon and Vladimir who waited for a mysterious, titular Godot that never came. One of the features of the absurdist literary tradition portrayed in the play is the failure of language in the verbal context as a means of communication. The verbal exchange between the two vagabonds is evident of misinterpretation. One says one thing, the other interprets it differently. Thus, it calls to question the potency of language in the verbal medium as a means of communication. The preceding analogy reminds me of Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu and his purported insult to the good people of the Yoruba ethnic group. Perhaps, misinterpretation currently manifests as an inexorable content of Nigeria’s absurd credentials.

Last week, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, philanthropist, accomplished businessman, the Balogun Babaguwan of Yorubaland, Ahaejiejemba of Igboland and elder-statesman, while reacting to events that happened in Lagos during the last election when many Igbo people were bloodied and harassed, assured the world that “the Igbo and Yoruba are not at war”. On the heels of that statement came another one “they are Yoruba political rascals”. A syntactic analysis of the two sentences affirms that the Chief never meant to insult the entire Yoruba ethnic group. Rather, he was referring to rascals in Lagos who maimed, killed, and vanquished Igbos, non-Yorubas, and even some Yorubas with Igbo semblance, stopping them from exercising their voting rights during the election. He also said “we know them and we will deal with them”. Language scholars know that Chief Iwuanyanwu did not mean to insult the Yoruba. Sadly, some social nitwits, victims of acute cognitive impairment, went on a rampage to misinterpret and manipulate his statement to suit their treacherous, mischievous purposes. It is absurd. 

 Anyone who knows Chief Iwuaynanwu’s antecedent will never ascribe offensive rhetoric to him. He is soft-spoken, conciliatory and peace-loving. Like every sensible person around the world, not just the Igbo, he was aghast with lurid photos and video evidence of harm against the Igbo in Lagos during the last election. Unfortunately, people who ordinarily frolic in the whirlwind of ethnic hate have seized the opportunity to insult the Igbo ethnic group while using acerbic words on the revered Chief. These people, in their degenerate and diseased mentality, are trying to install a wall of hate between the Igbo and Yoruba. Let me state categorically that the Yorubas are wonderful people whose spirit of brotherliness, conviviality, and tolerance speaks volumes across the world. I have maintained over time that the Igbo and Yoruba share a cordial, interwoven relationship in marriage, business, friendship, association and neighbourliness. The two ethnic groups can never be involved in a conflict. Many Yoruba people have helped many Igbo people to their destinies and many Igbo people have helped many Yoruba people to their destinies too. An attempt for one ethnic group to harm the other will result in serious harm for the two. It is as implicating as that. 

Since the presidential elections, keenly contested by different candidates from different ethnic groups in Nigeria, some people have desperately sought to reduce the entire development to an ethnic affair. It is myopic and at once condescending. Does Peter Obi represent the Igbo? Does Bola Tinubu represent the Yoruba? Does Atiku Abubakar represent the Hausa/Fulani?  These candidates all have supporters across the country. Of course, they will have a preponderance of support from their ethnic base. That is the way of politics. Unfortunately, ethnic jingoists have, in the inerrancy of their bleak convictions, reduced the entire political discourse to an ethnic affair especially Yoruba vs Igbo. These people, stranded in the realm of ethnic hate and communal intolerance, have done everything within their powers to inflame ethnic tension to crucible dimensions. It is wrong for anyone to insult a whole ethnic group in whatever guise. In Chief Iwuanyanwu’s case, he has put the records straight by clarifying what he meant, insisting that he was quoted out of context. But the morbid and decadent will not hear of it. They insist that Iwuanyanwu and all Igbo should be roasted alive. As far as these simpletons are concerned, the Chief spoke the mind of all Igbos. How idiotic and harebrained can anybody be? 

Recently, some people have also indulged in ethnic slurs. Unlike Chief Iwuanyanwu that clarified himself, Bayo Onanuga offered no apology and insisted on standing by his words. Onanuga spoke for himself and couldn’t have insulted the Igbo on behalf of the Yoruba. MC Oluomo, while registering his socio-political disorientation, spoke for himself when he threatened the Igbo on an  election day and went on to make good his threat which the police shamelessly called a joke. FFK has also made inflammatory remarks which were his personal opinion and not the opinion of Yoruba. It is therefore, a function of disabled, primitive awareness for anyone to insult an ethnic group based on the comment of one person. Such insults and abuses expose the quiddity of phenomenal foolishness which, hitherto, was concealed in some people by the façade of education. No, these hate mongers belong to the stone age. Nobody should be deceived by their pretentious liberalism. 

The question is, are there political rascals in Nigeria? Definitely yes! These are the particular people Chief Iwuanyanwu referred to concerning what happened in Lagos during the last elections. Of course, all parts of the country have their share of political rascals. It is not peculiar to one ethnicity. Political rascals are those who walk the streets, snatch ballot boxes, stab people due to their ethnic origin and prevent them from exercising their civic rights. They are not educated. They are thugs, street urchins and never-do-wells employed by politicians to advance nefarious objectives. There are also some educated political rascals. They don’t walk the streets, but demonstrate humane deficiency of unimaginable proportions using social media and sundry news outlets. They spread hate, provoke enmity and fan the embers of war. They incite the uneducated, urging them to bay for the blood of ordinary citizens. Their social media handles are replete with expletives and insults. Abusive engagement allows them to flourish. Another category of political rascals populate government establishments like INEC, the Police and different security agencies. These people compromise the electoral process in exchange for financial inducement and material gains. They are unconscionable, desperate and invidious. Are these people from another planet? No, they are among us. We know them. 

The ethnic hate narrative is a device enunciated by the political class to keep the people divided, breaking their rank and file to unite and fight a common enemy. The opposition LP and PDP are convinced that the election was marred by sharp, underhand practices and therefore have gone to court. Is going to court to challenge the outcome of an election a legitimate practice? If it is, why can’t detractors of equitable process allow the law to run smoothly? The call by some decidedly frustrated fellows in search of relevance and pecuniary patronage for the arrest of the opposition presidential candidates is from the pit of purgatory. The propaganda that there is a plan to disrupt the handover ceremony is a bundle of falsehood from the depths of Hades. Although many Nigerians regard the judiciary with a pinch of salt, people of goodwill should advocate for a peaceful resolution of Nigeria’s political challenges. Ethnic rhetoric should stop immediately. People should sheath their swords. Let us all close the road to Rwanda. 

Adiele, PhD, writes from Mountain Top University.

Promee01@yahoo.com

 

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