2023 And Beyond: Unlocking The Binding Constraints To Policy Execution in Nigeria
By Tunji Olaopa
2023 is significant in the annals of Nigerian history because it does not only signal a change of government, but more fundamentally, it signals a year that Nigeria could potentially get her bearing right, especially in terms of a seamless transition from election, to governance, to performance, and to national economic transformation. Given the dismal state of governance and development in the country, it seems sufficient for the incoming leadership, going by current excruciating experience of poverty and underdevelopment that Nigerians are going through, to hold itself to an objective of absolute commitment to transforming the Nigerian state. Every successor government is often confronted with a possibility of making history, by putting in place structures and processes that facilitate good governance, rather than conforming to the expected mold of failure. And so that opportunity might meet preparation, it behooves the ever-optimistic governance and institutional reformer scholar-practitioner in me, to keep outlining the templates and frameworks that any incoming government with the political will might require to really achieve the necessary changes that Nigerians have been waiting for. And there is no better platform than the //NES28 where I shared platform with an erudite panel made up of, HE Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan, Mrs. Ifueko Imoigui-Okauru and, Mrs. Ofovwe Aig-Imoukhuede as session moderator, which interrogated the sub-theme: “Unlocking the Binding Constraints to Execution”.
Unfortunately, the success of any administration in Nigeria is a factor of the extent to which such an administration could engage with the complexities involved in the policy process that feeds into governance and development. Since independence, Nigeria has been plagued with acute policy failure resulting from the structural gap between policy objectives, development strategies and policy outcomes. And this structural gap implicates other fundamental issues from change, program and project management to sustainable talent and knowledge management, as well as the all-pervasive productivity problem.
One important way of opening up this discussion is to apply a diagnostic lens to Nigeria’s policymaking and implementation dynamics and trajectories in the light of current expectations about governance and development, as the basis for explaining past successes and failures, and then to use this as the platform for extrapolating future possibilities. It is from this diagnostic lens that we can then outline a framework of binding constraints, especially in terms of what have been identified as gross impediments to reforms and transformation, elements that needed strengthening and consolidation, as well as the solution framework around new and potential drivers of national performance improvement and change management programme. Binding constraint is a technical term. It references a situation where an optimal solution to a problem is circumscribed or conditioned by a constraint. This means that the optimal solution would not be feasible if the binding constraint were to change even so slightly. In linear programming for instance, binding constraints constitute limitations to the feasibility of optimal solutions. Non-binding constraints, on the other hand, are equally limitations which have no effects whatsoever on the feasibility of optimal solutions. In administration, a constraint is binding if changing it also changes the optimal solution in terms of getting policy objectives translated into development dividends. What then are those issues that are really crucial for achieving an optimal understanding of reforming governance and development reforms in Nigeria, issues that are critical for putting 2023 and beyond in proper perspectives? I will identify and briefly discuss six of these binding constraints.
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The first, and most inevitably, is leadership. All over the world, leadership sophistication is required to build a change space that put together a coalition around which reform and transformation of politics is facilitated. In other words, it is the first governance responsibility of the government to assemble the cabinet and other supporting teams with the requisite IQ, credentials, commitment and wisdom to get the task of realizing the governance and development objectives done. This remains the first condition for good governance and development everywhere, and it is more so in a country like Nigeria. It is the leadership factor, with the necessary political will, that then further provides the backing authority, conducive environment, accountability framework and performance metrics that make it difficult for the cabinet and support teams to focus on the tasks ahead without undue interference by, chiefly, the Nigerian factor, located around ethnic and religious shenanigans or outright prebendalism, another word for corruption.
The second constraint is the tendency, especially in practice, to separate between policy design and implementation process. Thus, despite an increasing managerial sophistication in program and project management, backed by change and performance management instruments and metrics, as well as the M&E system with the attendant feasibility and modelling dynamics that have become standard practices for monitoring execution traps and landmines, attention is paid to all this more in theory than in real policy and program protocols for policy implementation in Nigeria. There is therefore lack of clarity on the complex reality of the policy space and the understanding of the iterative process involved in getting the policy process, from design to implementation right, through strategic intelligence and the capability to deliver the policy objectives through the tracking and removal of performance obstacles. Such tracking also involves the identification and prioritizing of possible sources of implementation failures that needed to be appropriately managed, and the gathering of preliminary evidence on possible challenges that are likely to arise and create most serious barriers to successful implementation. On the contrary, and unfortunately, policy makers often operate with the assumption that laws, plans, policy and projects automatically get implemented after they are designed or passed. Lots of available but scarce resources are then invested in policy development and strategy articulation, while implementation planning and analysis are neglected. This generates the implication that the contextual mapping of the implementation force-field is rarely done nor capability review of MDAs made an integral part of development planning and programming.
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Another major constraint is the public service application of a service-wide, one-size-fits-all, operating protocol, that effectively achieves regulatory control at the expense of limiting discretion and creativity in project management. This constraint harks back to the issue of leadership sophistication that opens up a change space for competent change agents, located in the cabinet and supporting management teams, to operate efficiently. However, it stands to reason that even if the government is able to assemble such efficient teams, their capacity to achieve performance would immediately be circumscribed by a system that discourages administrative discretion and governance creativity that allow thinking out of the box. This allows us to identify another major constraint: the palpable absence of a reward and motivation template that could enable high-performance in government, in general. The public service system lacks performance management protocols and machineries, like performance agreement or contract, together with dynamics of incentives and rewards, for pushing the boundaries of performance and productivity. It is within the systemic crack that labor unions institute their adversarial industrial relations culture that further undermines the capacity of the system to become performance- oriented, and hence efficient in technical-rational terms.
All these binding constraints only reiterate the familiar narrative about how Nigeria’s policy landscape is littered with beautiful plan documents and projects blueprints launched with fun fare. In pursuit of its effort to genuinely facilitate governance reform and transformation, government spends enormous resources hiring management consulting firms and policy experts to also brainstorm about the technical strategies that support policy programming and implementation. Unfortunately, all these efforts eventually end up being consigned to desk drawers and animated PowerPoint. Or else, the next government commissions a new set of feasibility studies and generates new blueprints and plans. All this inevitably culminated in gloomy statistics for the Nigerian economy and development efforts in almost all indices of human development. One suffices: the 2022 Multidimensional Poverty Index Survey, released by the National Bureau of Statistics, says that over 130 million Nigerians are multidimensionally poor. This figure represents a whooping 63% of the Nigerian population, and the highest poverty figure in Africa.
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And here we return to the fundamentals: the real issue in the entire policymaking and governance challenge reside in the urgent need to balance between doing the right things (decision making quotient) and doing it right (getting things done or execution). Policy execution is the critical step fundamental to transforming the policymaking and governance challenge in Nigeria. The days to keep multiplying governance plans, programs and blueprints are definitely over as we get closer to 2023 and the general election. The incoming administration really requires to get its act together on doing it right! Visioning, planning and programming can no more be discrete sequential tasks, done at the detriment of one another. It must rather be conceived as an integrated and holistic one rooted in assumptions about the operating environment, public service capability readiness, and performance management of the whole dynamic, among other necessities.
And the starting point on the way forward is to scrutinize the current reform implementation strategy of the present administration. The National Strategy for Public Service Reform (NSPSR), since 2007, has set the frame for reflection about transforming the Nigerian public service system into a world class institution delivering efficient goods and services to Nigerians. And under the current Head of Civil Service of the Federation (HCSF), the iterations of the NSPSR deserves some loud applause for their foresights. Two key dimensions of these iterations involved professionalization and deepening of performance management process. First, there is the deployment of KPIs-based metrics to replace cumbersome APER system. This is meant to enable results-based and M&E-rooted assessment of public officers through the critical utilization of the elements of continuous assessment, dialogue and multi-source feedback mechanisms. The envisioned critical shift will be underpinned by a robust M&E reporting system undergirded by the dynamic of performance agreement, with job evaluation cum restructuring enabled new pay and incentive structure firmly indexed to productivity.
The Nigerian public service is equally digitizing work processes across all MDAs by capturing and storing documents and outputs of the civil service activities in a digital repository. This is a critical advancement given the evolving nature of administration 2.0 in a rapidly digitalizing world instigated by various disruptive technologies that are aiding the modernizing desires of administration all across the world to achieve open government. There is also the ongoing professionalizing of HR function across the service. This is manifest, most famously, through the HR component of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). The system is also taking a path towards investing in a robust community of practice through capacity development that instigates a service-wide emergence of a network of experts and technocrats. This serves to beef up the service IQ, especially through the senior executive service, as concession to the wisdom to wit, the fish gets rotten from the head.
Of course, more effort is required to get Nigeria to a point where the cumulated bad governance of the past could be canceled by a concerted effort at ensuring good governance. We have gone too far in the wrong direction to think we could be satisfied with just the barest reform successes. We must keep pushing the bounds of reform effectiveness before we can dare to rest a bit on our oars. In the rest of this piece, I will outline five significant reform think points that could generate discourse around the condition of Nigeria’s governance and development objective, post-2023. These think pieces should also be seen as a means by which we could unbundle the binding constraints that have undermined Nigeria’s optimal reform solution for far too long.
One, and once again, we return to the irreducible challenge of leadership, and in this case, the need to create a change space for pushing the required governance change. Leadership serves as a regulatory and harnessing framework that not only generates a governing and governance vision that all can own, as Nigerians. But it must also crucially build a coalition of change agents and strategic teams all across the geo-political zones at the political, technocratic and bureaucratic levels. This readiness to create the change space already critically approximates the key points in arriving at a democratic developmental state. But even more, the cabinet and collaborative teams must not only be highly strategic, it must also be guided by performance agreement and contracts, circumscribed by a change management program, communication strategy, and monitoring and evaluation system that is strong enough to progressively identify and remove obstacles to performance, and configured to enable the different points of operations to work in harmony to achieve overall results and outcomes. This has the distinct advantage of preventing political jobbers and yes-men from undermining the resolve of the government. This way, the government can immediately identify the core functions and responsibilities that must be manned by high-end professionals in ways that cascade down the entire government. The performance agreement and accountability frameworks, grounded within dynamics of authority and incentivized support, are meant to guide the cabinet and strategic teams towards mediating the balance between “doing the right thing” and “doing it right.”
The second critical issue, which reinforces the transition of the Nigerian state into a developmental one, concerns the reengineering of the bureaucracy into a technically-reinforced institution that can achieve implementation capability readiness. Transforming Nigeria’s governance framework requires a public service that is intelligent, flexible, technology-driven, adaptable, forward-looking, entrepreneurial and accountable. Such a public service will: (a) work to deepen an evidence-based policymaking dynamic; (b) enable a policy management protocol that enhances collaborative sharing among MDAs, inter-sectoral synergy and inter-governmental relations; (c) better workforce and workplace planning that undermine hierarchies and remove red tapes, as well as manage talents and succession planning; (d) expand the post-COVID new normal work configuration through the institutionalization of remote working, flexible working hours, virtual framework for operations, and so on; (e) launch a rigorous waste reduction program that will instigate and enhance the national productivity paradigm shift through, for instance, the implementation of the Oronsaye report , productivity audits that free up resources for development projects, setting productivity targets for MDAs, and installing a technical-rational model for wage bargaining that is indexed to productivity, and that drives a democratic and developmental industrial relations.
Following the above as a correlation is the urgent need for Nigeria to develop, through its performance-oriented public service, a national service delivery model. Four years, from 2023 to 2027, are too little and too many to achieve great governance objectives if the incoming administration gets a better handle on time. The question is: what type of changes in four (4) years will translate to significant outcomes and dividends in the lives of the people? For instance, how many jobs can be created on an annual basis in the space of four years? What institutions will deliver these jobs, and how? What governmental procedures and processes will hamper the delivery of these jobs? These questions raise three critical issues. The first has to do with the administrative model the public service deploys in doing government business. The second concerns unbundling the cost of governance situation that disarticulates government’s capacity to deploy resources productively. The third issue is that of the requisite institutions that should be targeted to deliver jobs and create wealth. These institutions fall into three categories—those that implement national priority project; those that regulate rules-based market players like the SMEs; and the rule of law.
Restructuring the Nigerian federation is a fundamental issue that has gone through several thorny and controversial iterations and discourses. I presume, without going into the entire issue, that there are three significant areas that are indispensable to any restructuring framework. One, the idea of resource control. The question is how to stay true to the content of the 1963 Constitution, section 140(i), which provided for the regional control of minerals resources and recommended a 50% royalty to the central government. Two, the issue of state police cannot be wished away in the light of the degenerating levels of insecurity. Three, there is the crucial matter of how the sovereign wealth fund should be reconstituted to aid Nigeria during the rainy days.
Lastly, there is the issue of local government reform that harnesses grassroots governance through the principle of subsidiarity and the deployment of social capital dynamics. The shift from local government to local governance not only enriches Nigeria’s federal experiment, it also mobilizes a people-centered development that deepens citizens’ engagement and mobilizes bottom-up platforms for inclusive planning and programming, needs assessment, and project implementation reinforced with local accountability mechanism rooted in community development charter.
2023 is fast becoming Nigeria’s political, governance and development threshold; a critical point that defines Nigeria’s sixty-three years of nation-building. The incoming administration cannot afford to fritter the opportunity of four solid years away on the usual business of patronage and primitive accumulation that will not only further impoverish Nigerians, but also heat up the polity in ways that further drive Nigeria to the precipice. There are ways to achieve institutional and governance reforms. All that is wanting is the political will to make them happen.
Being Paper Presented at the 28th Nigerian Economic Summit – NES28th – on the theme 2023 & Beyond: Priorities for Shared Prosperity which held at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja on the 14-15 November, 2022)
.Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and Professor, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos .
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Who Needs Counseling In Nigeria?
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.
Professors On INEC’s Will (4)
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
not in the service of beautiful people
and late night promises,
not in the service of influence,
incompetence and academic
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.
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.
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