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2023 And Beyond: Unlocking The Binding Constraints To Policy Execution in Nigeria



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.

READ ALSO: The Nigerian Condition: Perspectives From A Nigerian Philosopher

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.

READ ALSO: How To Revive Public Schools – Tunji Olaopa

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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Las Las! (1)



Las Las! (1)

By Toyin Falola

E don cast
Last, last
Na everybody go chop breakfast
Have to say bye-bye, oh
Burna Boy, “Last Last”

Nigeria’s social decadence has been attributed to various issues, ranging from the family to society as a whole. Family problems brought on by unhappy marriages, divorces, and negligent parenting have been identified as contributing factors to Nigeria’s social dysfunction. Some claim that children inherit features from both parents, but what happens when a child’s parents are unable to give him or her a proper upbringing? These are the depressing truths about people’s perceived shortcomings as members of society. Do we keep saying, “las las we go dey alright”? What impact would this have on the nation?

Tobias was roused from sleep by the cockerel’s crow, an alarm system created by nature. The feed of his roommate’s transistor radio crept into the room, bringing him news headlines about the rising price of petroleum and food items. The news was interrupted by “E don cast, last last na everybody go chop breakfast.” That was the intro to the trending song on the streets, “Last Last” by Burna Boy, although he creatively added his own “t” to the people’s “las” ( His roommate and friend, Malik, who had allowed Tobias to squat at his place after leaving his parents, had been disgusted by the news and changed the channel. Ironically, neither of them had an idea where their breakfast for that day would come from.

READ ALSO: Adulthood Na Scam!

Inhaling a lungful of the hemp aroma that had seeped into his room through the window, Tobias noted that the boys outside had started smoking weed again. Welcome to the world of the living, Tobias. He always referred to himself as a part-time orphan. His father and mother had gone different ways before he clocked the age of ten, and he had only spent a couple of years with them together and separately. A drunk, pilferer, and a ball of brute anger was not someone he would like to point to as his father, nor a pathological liar and lady of the night his ideal woman whom he could call his mother. Hence, one day, he left his mother’s place and did not return to his father, instead resolving to carve a route to success for himself in a tough world.

This decision was made soon after completing his senior secondary school education. He was an average student with no family to finance his tertiary education, but, like the rest of his mates processing their admission into various universities, he began to make his moves with high hopes. His parents were in his past now, and he resided with his friend in the slums of Agege in Lagos, where he was able to secure a job as a waiter in a local beer parlour. The pay was not much, but he was motivated and could save up to purchase his Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) examination form.

A day before the exam, he notified his Madam that he would resume slightly late to work the following day. When she heard why he would come late, she looked at him weirdly and asked why he was taking the exams. He told her about his ambition to further his education in a tertiary institution. She listened calmly with rapt attention and let him finish before bursting into wild laughter. Tobias was perplexed by her reaction. She did not let him wonder much about the reason for her behaviour before asking him the million-dollar question that he had no answer to: “Who will pay your school fees and take care of you in the university?” Tobias stood there scratching his head till his Madam dismissed him with a wave of the hand and more thunderous laughter.

READ ALSO: ASUU’s Rightful Battle Of Moral Conscience Against Financial Realities

The exam day looked perfect. It was the right mood, a bright sky, and serenity that was rare for the kind of place he resided in. He arrived at the exam centre brimming with confidence and happiness. Those who have tertiary education will get good jobs and make big money in the future. He was about to take a big step toward securing that tertiary education; he would be so rich in the future.

Shortly after the examination commenced, Tobias realised the serenity that came with that day was nature’s way of mourning the fact that he had wasted his money on the exam. Every single question looked like it was written in Latin. He was perplexed when he scrolled to the last question, only to find out he did not understand even one. Tobias had expected some of the questions to be tacky because he did not have the time to study and depended largely on his knowledge from secondary school. But to his shock and amazement, some of the questions were not tacky—ALL of them were! He began to sweat profusely.

With only 15 minutes left on the clock, Tobias had not selected one answer at the time most of the other candidates were already leaving the hall after completing their exams. Now 10 minutes remaining, he decided to do the guesswork for his exams rather than submit a blank answer script. If he put his best into trying to select the options he felt were correct, he probably stood a better chance of scoring some marks. A few marks here and there were better than an outright zero.

Tobias dragged himself back to his workplace from the exam centre to put in his shift for the day. It was evident that something was wrong from his face, but no one cared enough to ask about his troubles. He wished he had good parents whom he could turn to for solace. At home, he told Malik his ordeal. After listening to his lamentation, Malik asked why Tobias worried himself over tertiary education that was obviously meant for rich kids. The poor ones who manage to get into the institutions are frustrated by strikes orchestrated by the government and the lecturers. After a short pep talk, his friend whisked him to a beer parlour, where Tobias downed shot after shot of local dry gin to make him forget his worries while he helped himself to two parcels of weed.

After that night, God became the most sought-after entity for Tobias. He had heard the many miracles God had done for those who followed His teachings and kept His commandments. Tobias prayed earnestly about his exam results; he needed a miracle. He also fasted, and his hope gradually increased when he occasionally dreamt he had one of the best results. Tobias interpreted the dreams to be visions of his forthcoming examination success. As the day for results drew closer, his confidence increased, and his fear lessened.

The news that the examination results had been released got to Tobias at work. He was not in a rush. He patiently waited till he was home before checking his scores. 34. Nothing more, nothing less. Tobias was brought back to the harsh reality of his fantasy world. He had failed the exam woefully. This time, he did not wait for Malik and his “motigbesona” (a street derivative of “motivational”) speech. He went to their usual joint and ordered shots of gins before his friend joined him. That night, he smoked weed with Malik for the first time. After coughing repetitively, he gradually started to get the hang of it. On getting to bed, his head was free of worries, and sleep came for him like it had not been in months. From then on, Tobias faced life squarely. Weed and gin became his tools for clearing his mind.

He made up his mind to try JAMB again the following year. This time, he got textbooks from secondary school students around his place and wrote the exams. When the results came out again, there was no cause for joy because it was another woeful result. In the third year running, Tobias paid for a special centre—one of our “miracle centres”—that helped students with the exams and increased their chances of scoring high marks. This time, he was sure it would end on a good note. On exam day, he and a colleague, who had paid extra for special assistance during the exam, had no help. However, they were assured that their results would be doctored and they would have good grades. The results came, and again, it was terrible. He had been duped.

Las Las, Tobias gave up on taking another exam. His friend, Malik, also nailed the coffin when he said that many graduates are seeking non-existent jobs and that Tobias should just face his hustle squarely because, at the end of the day, the goal for both graduates and non-graduates is to secure financial stability. With this as his watchword, Tobias wakes every day to take on all the menial jobs he can lay his hands on to survive. Gin and weed became his go-to mediums for relieving the stress that comes with the struggle for survival.

READ ALSO: Excellence In Education In The Context Of Pan-Africanism And Digitization

Every evening, after returning from his daily hustling and bustling, he joins the boys smoking outside:

I need igbo and shayo (shayo)
I need igbo and shayo (shayo)
I need igbo and shayo (shayo)
Shayo (shayo) shayo (shayo)

*(This piece is dedicated to Dr. Yemi Ijaola, a cardiologist based at UCH, Ibadan, who has enriched my slang vocabulary, and to my street guys and “Area Boys” at my various joints in Somolu, Yaba, and Onigbongbo)

Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.


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ASUU’s Rightful Battle Of Moral Conscience Against Financial Realities



ASUU’s Rightful Battle Of Moral Conscience Against Financial Realities

Tony Afejuku
I am suspending my focus on your Speaker of House of Representatives. I hopefully will re-touch next week, barring the un-expected, the first among equals in our House of Polifoolicians (H of P). For now I am yielding space to a reader who introduced himself to me as an un-employed Nigerian graduate – a delightfully articulate fellow. He is Dele Owolowo. Enjoy his peculiar rhythm on the ASUU-FGN’s intangible and tangible battle of wits and bluffs.

Hearty greetings to you, Sir and thank you, for the excellent pieces on ASUU.

On the ASUU-FGN issue ASUU would remain on the back foot while the government calls the shots.

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The main reason our education sector can be belittled and seemingly betrayed is because it is a sector with few economic aces to play and for this reason it brings little to the economic table (kindly clip the education sector I sent to your WhatsApp). We are running a knowledge-based rather than a productivity-based education value chain with the tertiary sector at the top of this economically unproductive value chain.

To now beam our searchlight on our tertiary sector and their legacy and lasting economic contribution to their communities, how many of our tertiary institutions have financially buoyant alumni? How many of them are able to convince companies to invest in meaningful ventures with them? How many of them can attract substantial grants from NGOs, or are able to run commercially viable IGR ventures? And how many of them can charge realistic and reasonable student fees or can use government funds for mostly building infrastructure as opposed to simply paying salaries and pensions?

READ ALSO: Adulthood Na Scam!

In almost all the universities in Nigeria today, apart from accommodation, transport and commercial food activities, and some consulting jobs here and there, what else can they provide in their communities? UNIBADAN, our premier university, for instance, if I were to take it out of Ibadan today, what would Ibadan miss outside of the aforementioned sectors after domiciling there for more than seventy years?

The educational disconnect of most of our outputs to our economic requirements is why ASUU are on the back foot in these ongoing negotiations. Until there is a measure of financial independence where the government’s contribution should ideally not be more than thirty to forty percent of university finances covering mostly infrastructure, the government would ceaselessly and mostly be calling the shots.

ASUU for now are in a rightful battle of wits pitting moral conscience against financial realities. Moral compass versus brutal financial dependence is why the government can call their bluff and hence the language and posture of the Ministers of Labour and Education. Who is holding who by the neck?

Nigeria, led by the tertiary education sub-sector, needs to realign itself to the economic requirements and advancement of the nation via its curriculum, and our universities need to increase their IGR ventures, partake in commercial partnership ventures (be they agricultural, agro-industrial, purely industrial, tourism and hospitality and entertainment – we are spoilt for choice basically) and then they can detach themselves from the wholly apron strings of the government. Only then can they truly have any worthwhile bargaining chips. UNILAG’s recent foray into automobile partnerships (thankfully after mostly just being domiciled for decades in Akoka) is a massive step in the productive direction beyond accommodation. Transportation, food provision activities and the consulting jobs within the Lagos environs it is geographically fortunate to have access to are to the advantage of the institution which the runners should put to its maximum benefit.

All other universities should borrow a leaf from this productivity-driven and employment-generating initiative. This same template should be cascaded down to the polytechnics, colleges of technical education, including the secondary and primary sub-sectors where our masters and doctoral research students could be of more productive use than the prevailing orientation geared towards producing countless theses and publications for citations in (usually foreign) journals. How this education template adds to Nigeria’s economic productivity is open to debate.

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Our education outputs should be driven more by creativity, independence, entrepreneurship and productivity values and ethos rather than the current majorly knowledge and theory-oriented graduates mostly tailored towards the management, administrative and professional streams of the economy. It is the surplus of these graduates that are the unemployed, underemployed or misemployed outputs of the current education template. One can almost make the claim that if no graduates come out of our university conveyor belts, we have enough graduates out there for a decade to run Nigeria’s current economic template which is overwhelmingly civil service and corporate sector-driven with minimal agro-industrial productivity.

Outside of the previously mentioned groups are those fortunate enough to be employed but now feel so overused or unappreciated that those of them who can afford it are increasingly japaing out the country in droves for greener pastures abroad. Ironically, many of them are doing well out there with the most notable of them being those from the health and information technology professions. Of what use then are they to us after our scarce educational resources have been invested in them? Beyond their diaspora remittances (thanks be to them for not forgetting us o…), the countries abroad get the best out of our investment in them.

Until a paradigm shift in the end-goals of our education orientation takes place, ASUU (and the whole education sector) would continually be fighting a morally justified and conscientious battle but devoid of the nation’s economic requirements and their own financially untenable realities.

The push-has-come-to-shove question we should endlessly be asking ourselves is, what would Nigeria lose, or to be more contemporary in thought, what has Nigeria lost economically with all the strikes to date outside of the accommodation, transportation and food marketing activities of the university communities? Whenever their economic impact starts becoming nationally fruitful, via more productive ventures, then universities can truly flex their economically oriented educational muscles.

Other than the above happening, with the post-strike ‘no work no pay’ agenda still playing itself out, it is impossible not to feel for ASUU – we are all human and with family members among them – but the brutality of economic realities portends otherwise and this determines (or rather has been determining) the language and posture, albeit downright unpleasant sometimes, of these negotiations.

I am deliberating withholding my real comment to this contributor’s daring message. His tangible and intangible dancing steps don’t move me; so also are his delightful rhythm and rhetoric. Why essentially? He is afraid to call a bad spade by its rightful name. And the bad spade is the current central government in particular. It is the wholesome woe of Mr. Owomolo and all those in his unwholesome category of the un-employed. Has this central government of wickedly wicked and maliciously malicious and vindictively vindictive officials, ministers and their supremely supreme Mr.-horrible-in-chief kept its pre-election promises to Nigerians? Has it kept all its agreements with ASUU? This vile central government of hollow tricksters and polifoolicians is the cause of our sorrowful sorrows and woeful woes. We must put the blame squarely where it belongs. ASUU’s moral battle against the unjustly unjust central government must be called by its rightful name. And we, dear compatriots, shall overcome those who are multiplying our pains day by day. ASUU forever!
Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! Thot! Thunder!!!!
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.


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Adulthood Na Scam!



Las Las! (1)

By Toyin Falola

Nobody go ask if you don chop
Nobody go send you free money
If you no get na you sabi
Adulthood na scam!

Nigerians have always been able to express their thoughts and views in the most straightforward and humorous ways. They accomplish this in terms of their actual conditions by using slangs, other gestures, or even dance moves. Slangs like “Adulthood na scam”, “Japa”, Sapa, Shege, and Las Las are sociolinguistic expressions that capture Nigerians’ thoughts and realities. When talented Lade created the “444” jingle for Airtel, perhaps only her close friends and family were aware that she was the composer of the catchy tune that had people bobbing their heads and lip-syncing whenever the commercial jingle played on the radio or television ( I love the song so much that I went in search of her!

In Adulthood na Scam, Lade, in her melodic voice, sang about how things are for grownups in the country, and the song quickly gained popularity among Nigerian young people and even adults. Being an adult includes the hustle and bustle, the need to have good financial standing, getting less attention from others, and eventually yearning to revert to childhood. Many individuals identified with the song and concurred with the singer that life as an adult is not as idyllic as they had imagined or would experience it, and they wish they could go back to being kids. The phrase “Adulthood na scam” was largely agreed upon by the populace.

READ ALSO: An Encounter With Toyin Falola: Between Celebration And Canonization Of Intellectuals

Mo gbe o!
My landlord wants my overdue rents
Baba Isola is dead!
I don’t have his number in heaven
I drank gari this morning
I smoked gari this afternoon
I don’t have gari left for the evening

Mama mi Isola is dead!
She gave me iresi for breakfast
Amala for lunch
Iyan for dinner
She does not pick my calls in heaven

My best friend at Unilag has sold his computer to buy rice.
He is a Lecturer 1
Better paid than Lecturer 2
Is 2 not greater than 1?
Mo gbe o!

I know Bose, a secondary school teacher at a high school that belongs to my friend. She only hopes for a meagre amount of thirty thousand naira at the end of each month. She is a graduate and a single mother, and also battered with enumerable responsibilities from her family, being the first child. From the N30,000 (taxable), she feeds herself and her innocent little boy. She pays her rent and struggles to do her duties as the eldest sibling of her low-income family. This is not only a sad story but one that tears the heart apart. Hurting, isn’t it? She begs friends and colleagues for money now and then. She is ashamed; her benefactors are tired.

Right on the Lagos highway in Ikorodu, Joseph lives in a one-bedroom apartment with three other roommates. I know him through a friend who hired his brother. He is well-paid. The joyful news is that Joseph is a very talented computer guru who works with a top tech company in Lagos. Recently, he was moved to one of their branches on the Island in Lekki. But the sad story is that the company has no plan to provide accommodation or transportation allowance. He earns N400,000 monthly but struggles to save N10,000 at the end of the month, so he goes from Ikorodu to Lekki every day, spending a lot of his salary on transport fares and nearly as much as the time he spends in the office to commute to work and back. He sleeps in his office from time to time. Luckily, or maybe not so luckily, for him, he impregnated his girlfriend, and now they have to live together. This means he will pay for the entire apartment if he asks the three other roommates to leave. He will also take care of his newly unwed wife and the baby. Sadly, the parents of this school-dropout girl have been demanding. Last week, he had to send N50,000 to his father-in-law, who is yet to make up his mind about the dowry list—all these responsibilities from a seemingly huge looking N400,000.

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You, reading this, know more people than I do. You know their incomes. You know their stories. These are the lucky ones with jobs!

The National Bureau of Statistics and the United Nations Office have been conducting the “Corruption in Nigeria Survey” since 2017, and they successfully did so in 2017 and 2019. This was done after receiving responses from 33,000 Nigerians at least 18 years old in the 36 states. In the study, they listed the main issues facing the country, which impact the realities of Nigerians. These include ethnic animosity, drug trafficking, corruption, high living expenses, unemployment, and issues with infrastructure, housing, health care, and education.

The slang Adulthood na scam! raises concern about how the low standard of living in the country affects citizens, as growing up means you will have to start taking responsibility amid a high unemployment rate and the low probability of getting a job that allows you to live comfortably. Unemployment is one of the most pressing problems in Nigeria. Thousands of youths with qualifications have to endure years at home doing nothing despite the responsibilities that come with age. According to Trade Economics, the youth unemployment rate in Nigeria increased to 53.4 per cent from 40.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2020. An increase like this impacts adulthood in the country; many youths are stranded or unable to shoulder the responsibilities and expectations of this stage of life.

There are three stages to life; first, you are a child, then you become an adolescent, and later an adult. According to an Encyclopaedia, childhood begins at age one and ends circa age 12-13, after which adolescence begins, where individual transitions from childhood to adulthood. This Encyclopaedia puts adolescents between 10 and 19 years; it is the shortest of the three stages of life. Adulthood takes a larger share of one’s life. In many countries, individuals are considered adults when they reach the age of 18. Wahala arrives!

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As a child, one lives a relatively easy life, and the major difference between most rich and poor children lies in the care they receive. At this stage, you can play as much as you want. Your parents would be happy to have you away so you can have fun, and as long as you do not suffer bodily harm, everything is fine, and you can always come home to ready-made meals. During this stage, you earn ridiculous amounts of money, material gifts, and love, especially if you are a cheerful, smart, and witty kid. Children are unconditionally loved, and their only nightmares would be the lack of freedom of speech, thought, and choice, as well as the numerous errands they are made to run.

During adolescence, youngsters try to prove to others around them that they are no longer children but are now grownup. This is where the suffering begins. You are put in many rough situations to demonstrate that you are no longer a child and can face life’s challenges. At this stage, your wants and needs increase geometrically, and the rate you get free money and other gift items decrease arithmetically, putting you in a tight angle. Also, the unconditional love you receive as a child reduces gradually, and the love you get will now be determined by your looks, behaviour, and efficiency. However, the joys of being an adolescent lie in the fact that you can now access more freedom of speech, choice, and thoughts, and most of the time, you are in charge of younger people and can lord over them like a real adult.

The adulthood stage is the last. It begins around 18 to 20 years of age and is maintained for the rest of one’s life, making it the longest stage. This time, you are as free as the birds in the sky; there is total freedom of speech, thought, and choice. At this age, you either receive love or hate, depending on what kind of grownup you are. This age can be tasking as adults like you, adolescents, and children expect you to make things happen. Your finances will largely depend on how you earn, how much, and how you spend. Your wants and needs, which now include that of the children, adolescents, and adults under your care, will never end. Do not expect material or monetary gifts at this period of your life because they will reduce geometrically.

An average child wants to leave the childhood stage and be an adult. They envy the adults’ freedom. One of the biggest pains for a child is waking up early when school is in session while the adults relax and do their things at their own pace and time. Children want to grow quickly to that level and be free of the school burden. They envy adults who are rich and long to get to this stage of life where they have their own money (not as gifts). However, these children fail to realise that adulthood comes at a steep price. Adults only give out money after taking care of a long list of bills and responsibilities, and being present when their children go to school is also part of their duties as parents. Since no one explained this to the young ones, adulthood looks like a paradise to them, so when they get to that stage and face the reality that adulthood is not what they thought it would be, frustration sets in.

This type of frustration inspired Lade’s “Adulthood na Scam,” which means being an adult is a fraud. Lade sings about how adults do not get free money, how no one cares about an adult’s well-being, how they have to hustle all day to make ends meet, and that they must manage their finances and pay bills. If we are being realistic, is adulthood a scam? Or is it that some adults do not know how to manage their affairs? Or is it the environment that has made life torrid for adults?

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Firstly, the hustling part of adulthood is non-negotiable. It is the backbone of adulthood. As an adult, you need a source of income, if not several, to sustain your life. This does not make adulthood a “scam,” as it is just normal. As an adult, you become the giver rather than the receiver; therefore, you should expect the rate at which you receive freebies to reduce significantly, and you should start giving more. This is another reason the hustling part of this stage of life cannot be negotiated.

Secondly, how adults manage their finances will determine whether they consider adulthood a scam. Many people cannot make a scale of preference or even differentiate between wants and needs; they just spend on anything and everything. Most times, people spend on things that do not add value. Expensive clothes, jewellery, alcohol, and so on, all on a relatively small budget that would cover their needs and take care of their younger ones. This means they must work extra hard to tick all their boxes, and surely, this set of people will believe that adulthood is a scam.

Lastly, society or the environment plays a major role in this matter. More developed societies like the United States of America and China have better economies, unlike Nigeria; therefore, it will be easier for adults to survive in these societies than in Nigeria. In America, for instance, one may get a job and a car at 18 (a fresh adult), even if it is on loan. Sadly, such is not the case in Nigeria, where adults in their late twenties struggle to secure a job that does not take care of their needs, let alone secure a loan for a car.

“Adulthood na scam” is largely based on the adult’s perspective and the realities of their localities. To some, adulthood is the survival of the fittest! They have chosen to kala and daju, ignoring every responsibility of being an adult. Instead, they adopt the stance that las las everybody go dey alright!

Adulthood is not a scam; scamming is for adults! I still have space for adoption if you want to end adulthood and become my baby. Not babe!

Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.


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