Internal Party Democracy And Politics Of Candidates’ Nomination
Salihu Moh. Lukman
On Tuesday, November 9, 2021, the expanded APC Tripartite Consultative Committee meeting chaired by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo held at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Members of the APC Tripartite Consultative Committee include the Chairman of the APC Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), HE Mai Mala Buni, Senate President, HE Ahmed Lawan, Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum, HE Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, HE Kayode Fayemi, Deputy Senate President, Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege, Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Idris Wase, Chief of Staff to President Buhari, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami and Secretary of the APC CECPC, Sen. John James Akpanudoedehe.
The expanded meeting of Tuesday, November 9, in addition to these appointed members, was attended by Progressive Governors and all elected APC representatives in the two APC chambers of the National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives). The agenda of the expanded meeting was the proposed amendment to the Electoral Act, which specifically requires all political parties in the country to adopt direct primary for the nomination of party candidates for election. The decision to hold the expanded meeting was taken at a previous meeting of the APC Tripartite Committee with the aim of facilitating synergy between members of the National Assembly, Governors, and the party on the proposed amendment of the Electoral Act.
APC: Direct Vs Indirect Primary
The desirability for using direct primary to nominate party candidates is popular given that indirect method, which requires only delegates from among elected party executives at Wards, Local Governments, States and National levels is considered very corrupt and anybody who has money can buy his/her way to emerge as candidate. The belief is that delegates used during party primaries, who are few, relative to the size of party membership are loyal to governors and therefore end up doing the bidding of governors by electing only aspirants chosen by governors. In addition, the delegates are alleged to also be very corrupt, which makes party primary to be very expensive because aspirants must virtually purchase the vote of every delegate. Nigerians, especially members of political parties detest the indirect method, partly because it is believed that it is the cause of almost all the leadership challenges facing the country whereby wrong people emerge into leadership positions simply because they can buy the ticket to contest elections.
APC emerged in 2013 with the commitment to bring about political change in the country. One of the changes envisioned by the founding leaders of the party was the adoption of the direct method, which is to broaden the participation of members, not just few delegates, in the process of electing party candidates at all levels. Between 2013 and 2015, there were internal debates in the APC to develop the necessary infrastructural platforms that should allow all members of the party to elect both leaders and candidates of the party. Under the Chief Bisi Akande Interim Management leadership, substantial investment was undertaken towards establishing computerised membership data centre for the whole country, located at No. 10 Bola Ajibola Street, off Allen Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos. Sadly, PDP government, under former President Jonathan Goodluck, vandalised the Data Centre on November 22, 2014 based on the claims that the Department of State Security (DSS), which carrieed out the attack, acted on a petition, which alleged that the Data Centre was being set up to ‘clone INEC Permanent Voters Card with the intention of hacking into INEC database, corrupting it and replacing them with their own data’ (Premium Times, November 23, 2014).
Assembly highlighted in Chapter II – Party Funding and Scope for Internal Democracy, in the publication Power of Possibility & Politics of Change in Nigeria, published in July 2019, ‘the internal dynamics that pushed for the establishment of the Data Centre included challenges during the conduct of the party’s Congresses and Convention between April and June 2014. One of the projections before the Congresses was to expand the process of electing party leadership at all levels beyond the scope of a limited number of party delegates, which should cover all members of the party. Partly, on account of experiences during the conduct of Ward Congresses in April 2014, which exposed the problem of conducting all-members’ inclusive elections for party offices without authenticated membership records, the Chief Bisi Akande Interim Leadership initiated the establishment of the Data Centre.
Issues of maintaining verifiable membership register is a condition precedent for any new framework, which can allow credible election to be conducted within any political party based on the direct method. This is mainly because it is the membership register that is expected to be used to accredit members of the party during the election. This issue has been a major point of internal debate in APC since 2014. Ahead of every election, it always comes up. Since the time of the Interim Leadership of Chief Bisi Akande, the decision has been to use expanded delegates, involving majority members of the leadership beyond the few that are designated as delegates as provided in the APC constitution.
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It is believed that through direct method, involving all party members, problems of imposition of leaders and candidates, vote buying, rigging, manipulation, associated with indirect methods of the delegates system will be reduced. The expectation is that direct primary will bring political party leaders closer to members, and consequently citizens closer to elected representatives. Inability of APC to institutionalise the direct method as the preferred option for electing leaders and selecting candidates of the party for election is a major source of disappointment for many party members and leaders especially given the way all the problems associated with the indirect method has also manifested in the APC.
The campaign therefore to get the APC return to its founding vision should be welcomed by every committed party member, which may have been responsible for why President Muhammadu Buhari continued to insist that APC must be controlled by the people, on account of which he continued to push the party to adopt direct primary. Recall that, ahead of the 2019 election, President Buhari chose direct primary method to confirm his emergence as the candidate of the APC Presidential candidate for the 2019 election. The party’s National Convention would have been sufficient to confirm his nomination through majority votes. Instead of limiting his emergence to only delegates at the National Convention, he requested that members of the party should also be allowed to participate in the process of endorsing his candidature as the presidential candidate of the APC for a second tenure.
Although, many may argue that such a decision was an academic exercise, it however influenced the decision of the National Executive Committee (NEC) in terms of the methods to be used to produce candidates of the party for the 2019 elections at all levels. This is because the decision of NEC of August 30, 2018, inspired by the position of President Buhari was that stakeholders of the party in every state should decide the method – direct, indirect or consensus – that will be used for the nomination of candidates in the states. Lagos, Kano and Niger States opted for the direct primary. Except for few states such as Zamfara, in virtually all the other states, the indirect method was chosen. Zamfara opted for consensus, which was partly responsible for all the acrimony against the choices of candidates’ that resulted in the electoral disaster that robbed the party of all the hard-earned electoral victories of 2019.
Expanded APC Tripartite Consultative Committee And Proposed Amendments
Noting that both the two chambers of the National Assembly have passed the proposed Electoral Act amendment bill on October 12, 2021, which among others require all political parties in the country to adopt the direct method of conducting party primary for the nomination of candidates and a conference committee involving representatives of the two chambers (Senate and House of Representatives) was working to harmonise the amendment, the expanded APC Tripartite Consultative Committee meeting of November 9 would have been expected to influence the final amendment to guide the work of the conference committee. Notice for the meeting was issued by the party, dated 4th November, 2021, signed by the CECPC Secretary, Sen. Akpanuduedehe. Certainly, all members of the APC Tripartite Consultative Committee, including the APC leadership in the National Assembly should have been aware of such expectation.
Interestingly, before the meeting, which was scheduled to hold, 5.00 pm Tuesday, November 9, on that very day, the plenaries of both the Senate and the House of Representatives considered the report of the conference committee on the Electoral Act amendment and adopted the report and passed the new Electoral Act amendment bill. With such development, the expanded Tripartite Consultative Committee was confronted with a fait accompli. The passed Electoral Act amendment Bill by both the Senate and House of Representatives contained the provision requiring that all political parties in the country should adopt direct method of conducting party primary for the selection of candidates. Section 87(1) of the bill provided that ‘A political party seeking to nominate candidates for elections under this Bill shall hold direct primaries for aspirants to all elective positions, which shall be monitored by the Commission.’
In addition, new Sub Sections 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 were inserted in the Electoral Act, which made the following provisions:
· Sub Section 3: The procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties for the various elective positions by direct primaries shall ensure that all aspirants are given equal opportunity of being voted for by members of the party and given opportunity to have agents for the purpose of monitoring the primaries.
· Sub Section 4: The procedure adopted for the direct primaries shall be spelt out in a guideline to be issued by the political party and filed with the Commission at least 14 days before the primary election.
· Sub Section 5: A political party shall maintain register of its members and provide in the guidelines for the conduct of the primaries that the register of its members shall be used for accreditation for the primaries.
· Sub Section 6: The Commission shall deploy personnel to monitor the primaries in all the centres where the direct primaries are held.
· Sub Section 7: Every aspirant cleared by the party to contest at the primary not later than fourteen days to the primary shall be entitled to a copy of the guidelines for the conduct of the primaries in which he or she is participating.
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With these provisions, once assented to by the President, it will be mandatory for every party in Nigeria to use direct method, involving every member of the party, to nominate candidates for elections. If the objective of compelling political parties to adopt the direct method is to ensure credible process of nominating party candidates, additional provisions covering issues of how membership records of political parties should be kept, and processes and procedure required under the Act to satisfy admissibility of members of the party during direct elections should be well outlined. For instance, in the case of national elections, Part III of the Electoral Act dealing with National Register of Voters and Voters’ Registration made comprehensive provisions specifying details of National Register of Voters and Voters’ Registration, Continuous Registration, Qualification for Registration, Transfer of Registered Voters, Powers to Print and issue Voters Register, Powers to Print and issue Voters’ Card, Custody of Voters’ Register, Display of the Copies of Voters’ List, among many other provisions.
The amendment being proposed takes many of these issues for granted. It is possible that these are matters for internal decisions of political parties, which may be why the new Sub Section 4 being proposed expect parties to adopt procedure, which ‘shall be spelt out in a guideline to be issued by the political party and filed with the Commission at least 14 days before the primary election.’ However, any commitment to affirm the right of political party members to participate in the process of electing party leaders and candidates for elections must be unambiguous. When for instance the only thing that exist as means of identification of party members is ordinary piece of paper and records of members exist only in hardcopies available perhaps to only Ward officials and National Secretariat of the party, it leaves much room for manipulation and extraneous practices.
Beyond the sentiments in favour of direct primary therefore, there is the need to properly outline a clear administrative framework under the law, which will guide the process and guarantee that all the bad practices associated with the indirect method are eliminated. Understandably, part of the sentiment informing the actions of members of the National Assembly is that Nigerians have little or zero confidence in the disposition of party leaders, who are alleged to be under the direct control of governors. Largely because of this perception there is ongoing media campaign blackmailing governors that they are the ones perpetrating all the bad practices associated with the indirect methods and therefore the reason why they are against the adoption of direct primary.
The truth however is that with the state of things in APC whereby in virtually all states with serving governors, they (governors) are in charge. The proposed amended law with all its ambiguities would instead strengthen the capacity of governors or any leader who is in control of structures of the party to manipulate the process of nominating candidates. In states such as Delta, Sokoto and Taraba, for instance, where there are no APC governors, leading members of the party in the National Assembly are the people in charge. There are other states such as Adamawa, Rivers and Bayelsa and at least eight other states where governors are not responsible for the possible undemocratic practices taking place.
Besides, the issue of using the indirect method as a means of imposing candidates through corrupt practices, almost all elected representatives in the National Assembly are as guilty as governors. From the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives to all the APC and House Representatives members, they must have all paid for every vote they got during internal party primary leading to their election. At that time, they must have been very good loyal partners of governors.
By the way, there are at least twelve former governors currently serving as APC senators. While negotiating to emerge as senators, they must have also been working to ensure the emergence of their preferred choices who are currently serving as governors through the dreaded indirect method. Could these former governors who are currently serving as senators claim to be innocent of all the undemocratic practices associated with the indirect method? Could the current serving governors be the only promoters of the bad undemocratic practices of imposition, vote buying, etc. through the indirect method?
Part of the underlying problems of Nigerian democracy is the problem of poor relations between members of the executive and legislative branches. There is always a constant fight between governors and members of the National Assembly of almost all states. Poor relationship between governors and members of the National Assembly from states is partly responsible for high turnover rates of elected senators and House of Representatives members. The turnover rate is estimated to be as high as 80%. Other factors that must be responsible for the high turnover rates would also include personal lifestyles of many elected representatives, which alienate them from their constituents. The relationship between most elected representatives and their constituents is largely transactional, which produce envy and, in many respects, undermined their electoral viability. On both the two issues of poor relationship between governors and elected representatives, on the one hand, and relationship with constituents, how can the adoption of direct primary address the problem of high turnover rates?
As things are, based on the proposed new Section 87 of the amended Electoral Act, which leaves many open spaces for manipulation in the law, problems of internal democracy within parties may only get worse. Resolution of all the challenges of internal democracy within political parties requires a high measure of honesty from political leaders at all levels. It will be highly insincere for members of the National Assembly to attempt to play the ostrich by pushing the blame of lack of internal democracy within parties on only governors. Once that is the case, instead of party leaders working as a united body to ensure that the adoption of direct method of electing party leaders and candidates for elections produces a truly new democratic framework, which eliminates problems of vote buying, imposition and all the vices associated with the indirect method, it can only potentially be another source of pains and disappointment for party members and Nigerians.
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Direct Primary as a Cover
In several respects, the issue of compelling parties to use direct method for internal party elections as part of the Electoral Act is also popular perhaps because increasingly many political party members and leaders have lost confidence that parties can on their own adopt internal rules that can truly allow for direct primary. Otherwise, ordinarily the choice of direct primary should be decided internally within parties. To a large extent, it is also a matter that should define the ideological orientation of parties. There are political parties that operate as closed shops, implying that the process of decision-making is limited to some few interests. Under such a situation, parties would outline processes of qualification to be part of the decision-making process. Once the electoral law limits the choices of parties, it may undermine the provisions of the constitution with respect to freedom and political liberties. Lawyers and human right activists may want to cross-check all these.
It is worrisome that APC members in the National Assembly are the ones pushing for this amendment. Rather than leaders of the party negotiating among themselves on what needs to be done to produce internal agreement to resolve all challenges facing the party, increasingly structures of the party are being abandoned and other structures outside the statutory organs of the party are being used to attempt to address perceived problems. This creates problems of confidence in the capacity of structures of the party to address challenges facing the party. The whole scheming pushing party leaders to use structures outside the statutory organs of the party may not be even about addressing challenges facing the party but perhaps about realising political aspirations of some party leaders and power blocs.
The whole debate about adopting a direct method as part of the Electoral Act is mainly an APC agenda. There may be a calculated attempt by a section of APC leadership whose interest is to hoodwink APC members and Nigerians with the direct primary dummy. If the truth is to be told, direct method of selecting candidates within the APC began to be corrupted under the dissolved National Working Committee led by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. There were instances during 2019 elections, when the process of nominating APC candidates for election was manipulated using the direct primary, largely because no credible membership register existed since the November 22, 2014 vandalisation of the APC Membership Data Centre by the DSS. There was very little effort to re-organise and rebuild the APC membership record. It was only around February/March 2020 that the Comrade Oshiomhole-led NWC placed some newspaper advertorials inviting biddings from interested service providers to assist the APC to establish computerised membership data register.
Although no reference was made to the previous APC membership data centre of 2014 in the advertorial, the invitation for bidding suggested non-availability of a computerised membership register. There was of course occasional reference by Comrade Oshiomhole that the membership register of APC has been uploaded on the cloud. The question of access to such membership register has remained an unresolved puzzle, which was why the APC Caretaker Committee under the leadership of HE Mai Mala Buni had to undertake membership registration and revalidation . The major challenge of the new APC membership register is that it is manually stored. Interestingly, some of the promoters of the current amendment to the Electoral Act campaigning to include the direct primary of conducting party primary in the Electoral Act were against the decision of the APC Caretaker Committee to undertake membership registration and revalidation exercise.
It is quite suspect that isolated aggressive campaign to include the issue of compelling parties to adopt direct primary to nominate candidates for election is being promoted by respected APC leaders without a corresponding commitment of ensuring that the process of producing a verifiable membership register for the APC is finalised. Once direct primary is adopted without clearly unambiguously defined political party membership management framework, incidences of manipulation and crude practices leading to worse forms of imposition of candidates by leaders of political parties, will be the new order. In the piece Internal Party Democracy and Prospects for New Nigeria, some of the inflated results of direct primary in APC during the 2019 elections were highlighted.
The vulnerability of direct primary to manipulative intrigues of political leaders was further confirmed in the just-concluded Anambra governorship election. The APC candidate in the election, Sen. Andy Ubah, during the APC primary election was said to have emerged with 230,201 votes. But he only got 43,285 votes during the election. Some measure of honesty is required from all leaders to address problems of internal democracy with political parties in Nigeria. No doubt, Nigerian democracy needs to be deepened to broaden the participation of party members in the process of selecting party candidates. But given the way some APC leaders are desperately and aggressively campaigning for the adoption of the amended Electoral Act as passed by the two chambers of the National Assembly, with all its ambiguities, makes it suspect.
The Way Forward
The whole insertion of the provisions requiring political parties to adopt the direct method in the Electoral Act would appear to be an afterthought. This is because, the original bill, which was subjected to joint public hearing by both the Senate and House of Representatives on Wednesday, December 9, 2020, at the National Assembly complex in Abuja didn’t contain the insertion of Section 87 Sub Sections 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. There was only the insertion of Section 87(1 and 2), which provides that:
Sub Section 1: It seeks to enact a new section 87 on the nomination of candidates by parties for elections by prescribing maximum fees payable by aspirants and restricting nomination criteria strictly to relevant provisions. Specifically, the bill states that total fees imposed by a political party shall not exceed N1million on a House of Representatives aspirant; N2 million on a senatorial aspirant; N5 million on a governorship aspirant and N10million on a presidential aspirant.
Sub Section 2: ‘compels a political party not to impose nomination qualification or disqualification criteria, measures or conditions on any aspirant or candidate for any election, except as prescribed under sections 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 177 and 187 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).’
It was during the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill after the public hearing in July 2021 that the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila moved a motion for the amendment to allow direct primaries to be part of the amendment.
In the case of Senate, after passing an amendment bill, which did not include the requirement to compel parties to adopt direct method for election of candidates, following a ‘motion for Re- Committal of some Clauses of the Electoral Act No.6 2010 (Repeal and Re- enactment) Bill, 2021 (SB. 122) to the Committee of the Whole as sponsored by the Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, All Progress Congress, APC, Kebbi North’ on October 12, 2021, Sections 87 (3, 4, 5, 6, 7) were inserted and passed.
It will be important therefore to appeal to both the Senate President, HE Ahmed Lawal and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and all the leaders of the National Assembly to provide the needed leadership for the country to have the right legal framework, which can guarantee the administration of direct primary by political parties in the country as a means of entrenching internal democracy during the process of nominating party candidates for elections. The proposal passed by the two chambers of the National Assembly on November 9, 2021 is highly inadequate and leaves more room for manipulation, which may produce more disaster for the country beyond what the nation is going through under the indirect method.
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Accordingly, it is strongly recommended that given that the whole controversy about the proposed Electoral Act amendment is limited to the new insertions in Section 87, the National Assembly should consider reworking issues under Section 87 to make it unambiguous. The reworked new provisions should go through all the legislative processes including public hearing to enable Nigerians to also contribute to making the law. This is a very sensitive issue, which no Standing Order of the National Assembly should be used to block the democratic rights of Nigerians in contributing to the law.
While the reworked Section 87 is being processed as recommended, the National Assembly may wish to adopt all the other amendments and transmit them to the President for assent. Unless leaders of the National Assembly are interested in blocking the possibility of amending the Electoral Act and want to shift the blame on President Buhari, it would be very inappropriate politically to expect the President to assent to the Electoral Act amendment with the provisions in Section 87 and all its ambiguities. The leadership of the National Assembly should take responsibility and not pass the buck.
Finally, all APC leaders must be appealed to, so that they are able to understand and appreciate that the challenges facing both the party and the nation require strong unity, especially among leaders. No leader should have the illusion that old methods of imposition of candidates by any means – direct or indirect – can guarantee electoral victory. As much as APC members and Nigerians want the internal process of nominating candidates for elections to be broadened to engender wider participation of party members, no political leader should attempt to introduce loose arrangements so that figures can be produced in the name of results for party primary. APC worked hard in 2015 and 2019 to earn the confidence of Nigerians. No APC leader should take that for granted.
Dr Lukman is the Director-General of the Progressive Governors Forum, Abuja. This position does not represent the view of any APC Governor or the Progressive Governors Forum.
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Iwuanyanwu And The ‘Political Rascals’ Rhetoric
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.
Olaopa: The Self As A Patriotic Reformer – The Tales Of A Memoirist
By Adeshina Afolayan
Autobiographies and memoirs are very difficult to write. One of the reasons is that they place the autobiographers and the memoirist in a very difficult position that draws the attention, and even the ire, of the public. Once the volume is written and presented before the public, the writer can no longer control its reception. And some or even all of her certainties and verities are shredded by those who must approach the book from different perceptions. But there is an even more daunting challenge. Writing an autobiography or a memoir dances at the very edge of hubris and vanity. This is what Michel de Montaigne thinks. His understanding of the human self is dark and gloomy. According to him, “If others were to look attentively into themselves as I do, they would find themselves, as I do, full of emptiness and tomfoolery…. Our self is an object full of dissatisfaction: we can see nothing there but wretchedness and vanity.”Now, imagine an act of self-portrait emerging from such a dark view of the self.
In The Essays, Montaigne pens a paradoxical opening statement addressed to the readers of the volume who are not supposed to read it because it is a work of vanity: “Reader, I myself am the subject of my book: it is not reasonable that you should employ your leisure on a topic so frivolous and so vain. Therefore, Farewell.” If the self is locus of emptiness and wretchedness, then any attempt at a self-portrait is doomed already; the autobiographer or memoirist thinks more highly of herself than she should. And yet, Montaigne subtly invites the reader to peruse the volume through a strategy of dissuasion.
In The Unending Quest for Reform, Tunji Olaopa faces the charge of hubris head-on , and persuades us to plunge into a narrative that connects the self with a larger space of meaning, struggle and fulfilment. This is an even more difficult endeavor since it goes beyond the self-portrait that embroils the self in its own dynamics of maturation. On the contrary, a memoir like the The Unending Quest for Reform, like Wole Soyinka’s The Man Died, connects the self to nonself, or to its Other. The autobiographer or the memoirist then invites the reader to weigh the significance of the self in relation to its other. Only those who have a strong sense of inner worth and significance can ever achieve such a courageous level of self-ascription.
I think a reformer deserves his memoir or autobiography. I have read the late Professor Akinlawon Mabogunje’s autobiography — A Measure of Grace. It details not only birth, historical trajectories and intellectual maturation, but also the agonies of a public servant eager to see some of his best ideas and insights inserted into the policy architecture of the Nigerian state. He met brick walls at every turn. In The Unending Quest for Reform, Olaopa typifies a more enduring courage to serve and confront the dysfunction of a system that had been rigged to be inefficient since independence.
The public service is not just another vocation. It embodies a double imperative. First, it is a service that transcends any consideration of self-interest. Within the service and its accountability dynamics, the self cannot be placed in contradistinction to what is required of it. The service is therefore a
selfless one that demands that the servant serves. Second public service is a service to public, the public. It therefore requires a different kind of spirit—public-spiritedness—that insists that the public servant must bow to certain logic of service that bend the will of the public servant to the will of the citizens. The task of a public servant therefore becomes a very arduous one: she must bend the self to serve the others. However, serving others becomes very onerous when the system that enables the service is inefficient and dysfunctional. When Olaopa first confronted this dysfunctional system, his first human instinct was to flee. But he did not. This was where his scholarly instinct—to learn, to reflect, to research, to rethink, to reorganize—kicked in. And he had a background in Plato and a mentoring acquaintance in Professor Ojetunji Aboyade to trim his fears and fuel his reform thinking.
The Unending Quest for Reform details the long trajectory that took an Aáwé boy to the Presidency and then the very height of public service status as a permanent secretary. But in each of the fifteen chapters that make up the memoir, you are compelled to encounter and reflect on how ideas and insights emerged from Olaopa’s interaction and engagement with intellectual and administrative forebears, and how both
the forebears and the ideas molded his own original philosophy of reform—with a huge dose of providential intervention.
While Plato’s Republic maps the boundaries of the ancient Athenian city-state and its utopic possibilities, Olaopa’s
The Unending Quest for Reform delineates the circumferences of a
dysfunctional public service, and how it could be rehabilitated within a comprehensive institutional and governance reform blueprint that took years to design, and even many more years to attempt mounting for the benefit of making Nigeria work better. This is where he joins the community of suffering that Mabogunje, and many others, once belonged. At every turn, the system itself frustrated all his well-being intentions and yearning.
Olaopa carries the burden of a man driven by God’s purpose. Or how else does one understand the passion that
drove and still drives him to dedicate his research and professional life to a system that seems too dense to allow self-examination? As an expert-insider, he had to face the fundamental significance of whether the public service can reform itself. That query, for Olaopa, could not have been just an academic exercise; he must have had to face the suspicions and stubborn resistance of those who could have considered him “too know” and obnoxious. There are ways by which a
debilitated system punishes those who would claim diagnostic knowledge. There are several means by which those who benefit from the status quo impede the progress of a reformer. And yet, Olaopa kept at this onerous task, even after retirement,with a single-mindedness that belies any logical understanding.
It was not just Plato and philosophy that gave him inspiration. All through The Unending Quest for Reform, one sees him holding onto a deep understanding of the place and role of the divine in human understanding and trajectories. If God could save him from blindness, as he narrated, then he would dedicate his life to service, spiritual and institutional;
he would commit his expertise to Nigeria and her quest for a world class public service that will be able to transform the quality of life of Nigerians. He has not faltered in that commitment.
But we need to highlight the role of philosophy in Olaopa’s professional and intellectual maturation. Right from discovering Plato and the capacity of philosophy to reconstruct, Olaopa had
remained fixated on the potential of philosophy to both enlighten and enable. He had taken Plato’s Republic far more seriously than I have seen anywhere. The Republic gave him the basis
from which to reenact the possibility of reflecting on dysfunction and reconstructing the parameters for
utopia. While Plato’s Republic was entirely a thought experiment about what could have been, Olaopa’s philosophical, intellectual and administrative exertions were right within the context of an actually existing Nigerian state that combines what he calls “bureau-pathologies” and possibilities for greatness.
The Unending Quest for Reform is therefore not only a paean to the existential exertions and Sisyphean achievements of the self, but also a testament to what reform can make possible for the transformation of the
Nigerian administrative entity. With the memoir, Olaopa is reaching out to
Nigerians, and especially fellow public servants and aspiring institutional and governance reformers,with a manual for technocratic action. The memoir bristles with pain and optimism about the ascent of a self from the obscurity of a small town in Oyo State to the convoluted
bureaucratic spaces of the Presidency, from a struggle to master political science and political theory at the University of Ibadan to the urgency of deploying a range of ideas and ideologies to the understanding and operational optimality of the public service system. In The Unending Quest for Reform, the self and the nation merge in a struggle for realization. And the denouement of that titanic struggle is a finale that is yet to happen. And we will know it when
it happens because that would be the end the reformer has been waiting for. With the new administration, may we not arrive at a tragedy to the high drama of hope and possibilities Olaopa’s memoir has treated us to.
Prof. Afolayan is the Head of Department of Philosophy, University of Ibadan
Reflection on The Unending Quest for Reform, Tunji Olaopa’s Memoir
By Eghosa E. Osaghae
Intellectual autobiographies come as absorbing and engaging as other profound academic works tend to be. Professor Tunji Olaopa’s intellectual memoir is not different and certainly ranks as one of the more profoundly intellectual autobiographies to come out of Nigeria. The reflections on the nexuses among public policy, public administration, civil service and governance on the one hand, and how these can be transformed along the paths of the reforms that seek to address the pathologies of bureaucracy – or bureau-pathology as Professor Olaopa calls them – are done in the best traditions of rigorous scientific analysis, normative and empirical. And given the relative leanness of analytical and theoretical scholarship in the field of public administration in Nigeria and Africa, it is obvious that this book, even as an autobiography, has all that is required to be a major contribution to the discipline, especially on the subject of reforms, which is a central theme of the memoir.
From the story of his progression through life as told in the memoir – from being a scholar-in-the-making since the
age of five, to earning the alias, Azikiwe, at the highest level of ‘-isms’ in secondary school, to finally becoming an expert-insider in the federal civil service and professor at Lead City University, only a knowledgeable, visionary, and activist-reformer like Olaopa, with the zest of patriotism and nationalism has the qualifications and credibility to say the kinds of things he has said in this book. His premature and unexpected retirement from the federal civil service in 2015 seemed to have halted the leading roles Olaopa played in the complex arena of reforms; these were roles that his academic pursuits and engagements with The Commonwealth , The World Bank, the UN system, and reforms institutions and processes in Australia and South Africa,continental and global professional institutions, amongst others, prepared him for; but this book documents the hows and whats of those roles and sets a well-reasoned rationale and template for continued reforms. The concluding chapters of the book, which are addressed to the reforms the leadership expected of the Office of the Head of Service of the Federal Civil Service in particular, fill the gap of what might have been. That is, if the unexpected retirement – another
painful reminder of the insecurity of tenure that has plunged the civil service in Nigeria deeper into the recesses of instability, demotivation and corruption, did not happen.
Olaopa engages the more substantial and critical issues elicited by public servicee reforms including those that constitute formidable obstacles in highly perceptive ways. “The public service”, he writes, “was not a place where mere ideas are sufficient to achieve significant transformation. Those ideas have to be immersed in the deep and dirty crevices of bureaucratic dead weights. As a public servant, it increasingly became clear to me that reading was not enough for the reformation of the public service. Ideas and knowledge had to be consciously adopted, creatively adapted, and deliberately owned and domesticated to achieve optimal results”. This was the lynchpin of reforms and transformations buoyed by Olaopa’s continuous research and development opportunities offered by the strategic positions he held especially in the Ministry of Education and the Office of the Head of Service. But the high expectations and ideals are easily brought down by the limits of realistic possibilities: “As an expert-insider”, he also writes, “I was equally confronted by a limitation: Can the civil service supervise its own reform? Can civil servants supervise the reform of their own institution?” Which all goes back to perhaps the greatest puzzle faced by reforms and their drivers: “In a situation where administrative dynamics have already congealed, can we expect the publice servantsto oversee the reform of their institution? How can reforms be jumpstarted by the very people who have vested interests in operating the bureaucratic culture? The obvious answere seems negative. And experience has revealed that most reforms failed because they were undermined by vested interests”. This is the essence of ‘bureau-pathology’ – “a state of stagnancy in which the civil servants protect themselves against any attempt to reform the very system with in which they operate. In this terrible situation, reform becomes the exception rather than the rule”. The pathology also leads to “too many people doing nothing, too many doing too little, and too few people doing too much”.
But these obstacles – and frustrations – which Olaopa experienced firsthand in hugeo tons thanks to the complexities, intrigues, treacheries and politics that climaxed with his premature retirement, do not diminish Olaopa’s conviction, enthusiasm and unending quest for reforms .The decision to set up the Ibadan School of Governance and Public Policy (ISGPP),take up the professorship at Lead City University, become a directing staff member at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, and this memoir (just in case the other platforms are necessary but not sufficient to actualise his vision) represent important milestones in this quest. Olaopa’s analysis also shows that the journey of reforms requires a lot more thanh the individual motivation; that motivation emanates from several other reinforcing anchors: expository reading, such as is found in his reading of Plato’s The Republic and other texts; the benefit of sound education and good peers, such as he encountered in Aawe, Olivet, and UI; the sheer boldness, such as is demonstrated in his forays into radical student unionism; the strategic opportunities that come through postings such as those to MAMSER, Ministry of Education, Office of the Secretary of Government of the Federation and Head of Service; and, perhaps, most importantly, the mentoring, reassurances and confidence-building such as he had from Professors Ojetunji Aboyade and Akin Mabogunje (these two had the OPTICOM modelt that provided a foundation for participatory reforms), Professor Tunde Adeniran and many more.
Although Olaopa engages public service reforms in an intellectually robust and engaging manner, there are issues that he has either left out or not engaged sufficiently. One of these is the cultural and historical specificities of particular reform situations. Surely, reforms have not grown to the level of a science of universals. Is there a need to decolonise the civile service for example? Another is the omission of the age-long debate between generalists and specialists in public service. Is it possible that the decision to bring specialists into the core of the civil service in Nigeria – that led to the appointment of engineers, medical doctors andc accountants for example, as permanent secretaries – has created problems of a different kindf for the civil service? Thirdly, for all the points raised about a purpose-driven public service with substantial federal restructuring, it is a little curious that very little consideration, if any,was given to the subnational spheres of the public service. Would the public service be trulyr reformed if the state and local government domains are not reformed? Should the federal public civil service be the federalist empire/colonial service?
Knowing Professor Olaopa as well as I do, I am sure that these issues will be taken up in his next volume on public servicee reforms– after all, the present volume is strictly a memoir and should not be read as an academic treatise, irrespective of all that I have tried to say.
Although the scholarly insights of Olaopa’s Unending Quest for Reform have the upper hand in this foreword, the memoir is far more extensive and encompassing. It covers his historical progression and, in the process, the several lessons to be learnt from his interesting experiences and discussions on familyhood, marital relations, religion, the role of God in humanl lives, mysticism and human relations in their adversarial and friendly forms. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this memoir and digesting its deeper and very reflective lines. They show that Olaopa’s initial and continuous love for philosophy has crystallised into a way of life.
Professor Osaghae is the Director-General, Nigerian Institute of
International Affairs (NIIA), Lagos.
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