By Tunji Olaopa
My mission in this piece is to relive the vision of the founding fathers in establishing the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies – NIPSS, and this I put in perspective in my new book titled NIPSS: Conception, Operations and Framework for Repositioning. Indeed, the Nigerian Constitution, in all its iterations and versions is, in a sense, a document of vision. To the extent, at least, that it delineates not only the administrative hierarchies of the Nigerian state and its governmental orders on the one hand, and that it also outlines the fundamental philosophical basis by which the Nigerian state is determined to order its development and progress on the other, it remains a document of vision, in a manner of speaking. This vision is titled “Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy.” Its limiting factor is that the section is not justiciable in spite of its grand and embedded ideological possibilities. That’s however not my concern in this piece.
Unfortunately, and in spite of the series of other visionary principles espoused since independence, the significant attempts at qualitatively transforming the well-being of the citizens Nigerian state has made very little success. The immediate post-independence period was a period of immense development planning that conceptualized the thoughts and visions of the Nigerian leadership about moving the Nigeria project forward. That project is essentially that of national integration—of bringing together the diverse ethnic attachments into one strong and unified national patriotic front that will become the basis for national development.
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The palpable euphoria that attended the brilliant vision of the First Development Planning (1962-1968) was brutally cut short by the commencement of the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970), and a long night of military incursion into politics. This implies that Nigeria had been struggling to make sense of her independence and post-independence development since the colonialists left. A series of development planning followed the end of the civil war without any meaningful changes and shifts towards a national structural transformation. And yet, despite the misadventure of the military in Nigerian politics, the administration of General Olusegun Obasanjo was sufficiently motivated to commence the rethinking of the Nigerian state and her vision. This awareness of Nigeria’s greatness, and the need to instigate and establish the institutional basis for good governance and national development, led to the eventual founding in 1979 of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS).
Just like the Nigerian Constitution, the establishment of NIPSS was also motivated by a vision. This is captured by the motto of NIPSS: Towards a better society. And so, it would seem that the founding father of NIPSS, as well as the committee that initiated its emergence, were in tune with the fundamental philosophical principles enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution. This very fact alone transforms NIPSS not only into Nigeria’s preeminent think tank, but also a most crucial institutional plank in the transformation of Nigeria. Essentially, establishing NIPSS signaled the belief of the government that there is an institutional basis for making Nigeria better than it had been. This gesture towards institutionalism is in tune with the global recognition of the role of institutions in the transformation of nations and states. The role of institutions in the consolidation of democratic governance has become axiomatic in the attempt at making the state work for their citizens. The objective of the National Institute, as NIPSS is usually referred to, is stated simply in its originating Act: The Institute shall serve as high level centre of reflection, research, and dialogue where academics of intellectual excellence, policy initiators and executors and other citizens with high level of practical experience and wisdom drawn from different sectors of national life in Nigeria would meet to reflect and exchange ideas on the great issues of society, particularly as they relate to Nigeria and Africa, in the context of the dynamics of a constantly changing world.
In NIPSS: Conception, Operations and Framework for Repositioning, my new intellectual and administrative effort at placing a repositioned NIPSS within the ongoing reflection about the Nigerian project, I situate NIPSS as the median institutional framework between what Nigeria presently is and what it should become. Like all think tanks across the world, and especially government-owned think tanks, NIPSS is essentially mandated to research evidence-based policy recommendations that government will find useful in its policymaking process. Think tanks indeed exist mainly to inject policy intelligence into an otherwise politically motivated conception of policies by politicians and policymakers. And the advantage of the government-owned think tanks over other non-partisan ones is the close rapport that these unique entities have with the policymakers and the policymaking process. However, in the new critical study of NIPSS, I went beyond this traditional mandate of think tanks in the national policymaking process to reflect on the critical role that NIPSS could be reformed to play in the unfolding of a new Nigeria founded on a strong policy architecture and institutional framework. There is no other role that NIPSS could possibly play that transcends this.
In the development discourse, states especially in the third world are being called upon to reinvent themselves as a crucial player in the development dynamics. This role is often encapsulated in the concept of the developmental state. A developmental state is an institutionally aware state that backs its vision of good democratic governance with a reformist agenda of critical institutions around which evidence-based policies are implemented. It is in this sense that NIPSS becomes a significant plank in the government’s development agenda. And the idea is to look to NIPSS to furnish the policy options, backed by significant policy research and intelligence, that will facilitate government’s policy preferences and implementations. And it also behooves the National Institute to conscientiously deploy its strategic structural and personnel capacity towards providing the Nigerian government with the requisite inputs that will solidly weigh into the policymaking process.
But the issues involved in this development collaboration goes beyond what I have stated above. The idea of a new Nigeria must be understood beyond the mere reading of newness. COVID-19 new normal aside, all states across the world are already drawn willy nilly into the imperatives of the knowledge society. One of the implications of this new dispensation for governance is that it dispenses with the traditional understanding of the role and utility of a country’s comparative advantages. For Nigeria, for instance, and as for many other states, crude oil is fast becoming obsolete as a global economic factor. The telecommunication and digital technology revolution have shifted attention more to knowledge and technologies of knowledge than to traditional mineral resources. And countries like Japan, the United States and China with no significant resources are already the leader in the innovative development field. We should note the intense media campaign that is attached to the 5G network, and the furious race for who gets to it first. We should also note the alarming rate at which Nigeria’s crude oil is becoming irrelevant in the global economy.
The search for a new Nigeria, therefore, must be conceived in terms of a development agenda that is innovative and knowledge-based. This puts enormous pressure on the Nigerian leadership to focus on the dynamics of modernized policymaking protocol that will enable it to rethink its governance commitment to Nigerians. But much more than this, it places an onus on the government to critically begin to re-invest in NIPSS as a means of reinventing its conception and operational model. NIPSS came to life as a think tank whose mandate is to provide evidence-based research and policy analysis that will enable government to transform its policy conception and praxis. However, in a knowledge-based world, the tasks of think tanks themselves are getting reformulated at a rapid state. In other words, thinking is no longer sufficient for any think tank worth its salt; ‘doing’ has become the new imperative. And in a COVID-19 dispensation, the new imperative is critical for the new normal. It is quite significant that the search for a new Nigeria become heightened at this period when everything we used to know has become destabilized, and all our certainties have been undermined. Old administrative and governance practices can no longer suffice as the basis for development.
To reposition NIPSS is to rethink its capacity readiness to deliver on the new imperative of think-and-do tanking. This will be difficult because, first, it was conceived initially as a think tank. And second, its dependence on government limits its internal capacity to reinvent itself. This is the fate of most government-owned think tanks and research institutes. This therefore places the onus of institutional reform and repositioning on the government and the leadership of NIPSS. The imperative of the new Nigeria cannot be achieved through the principle of politics as usual. It requires innovative rather than extractive political reflection. And NIPSS constitutes a most fundamental focal point for such an innovative transformation of the Nigerian state. Essentially, it is an institutional context that is mandated to reflect on and dialogue about the institutional and infrastructural dynamics of democratic governance in Nigeria. And it has waited forty-one years to step optimally into that role.
Tunji Olaopa is aretired Federal Permanent Secretary
& Professor of Public Administration,
For Policy and Strategic Studies
(NIPSS), Kuru, Jos
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Professor Ayo Olukotun, My Eyuze
By Tony Afejuku
My bosom friend, Professor Ayo Olukotun, a man and personage for whom I placed considerable respect, who died recently, was committed to mother earth last Friday. The ever-delightful Professor Kayode Soremekun, the immediate past Vice Chancellor of Federal University Oye-Ekiti pointed my attention to this in his tribute to Professor Ayo Olukotun symbolically captured in The Punch newspaper of Friday, 27 January, 2023. After reading his tribute on the very day Ayo Olukotun normally appeared on the back page of The Punch as a five-star columnist, I nodded my head in painful pain. Kayode Soremekun’s tribute essentially captured aspects of our friend’s public life, and I gave some long thought to our departed humanist of humanists’ hurried committal to the brown earth of Ibadan which was not near his homestead, geographically speaking, in Egbe Yoruba of Kogi State. Was an injustice done to him in his prompt burial in Ibadan of cultural and poetic seven hills? Perhaps circumstances of his demise compelled his remains to be committed to mother earth in Ibadan of JP Clark’s “broken china in the sun.” (How my memory is failing me as a result of my emotional state!) The one who was supposed to get back to me for accurate information on and about the event did not when I was putting my words together. Another common friend and my friend’s course-mate at Obafemi Awolowo University (formerly University of Ife, Ile-Ife), did not divulge this information in his similarly public picture of my friend in his The Guardian’s roaring tribute of Tuesday, 31 January, 2023. I am of course referring to Barrister Alade Rotimi-John who was one of the early bringers of our gone hero’s demise to my poor attention. The other person was Suyi Ayodele, Tribune’s Tuesday ace columnist.
Before Soremekun’s and Rotimi-John’s well-crafted tributes found me, Professor Olu Obafemi’s great elegiac poem of immortal diamond had galloped and gasped to me. The poem by our National Laureate, a Nigerian National Order of Merit winner, clearly made its mark on my mind. The privately circulated poem to a select audience was one in which Professor Olu Obafemi tried successfully to crowd Olukotun’s career with conquest in Olukotun’s years and years of eventful events. I never knew that Obafemi knew Olukotun until I read his afore-said poem entitled “Ayo, Omo Olukotun, Odabo!”
Professor Olukotun’s “Yagba homestead” and ancestry and scholastic biography right from “Titcombe College, Egbe in Kogi State” up to the “forest of Knowledge” in Ile-Ife and beyond as “hero of the Globe” were/are movingly and movingly rendered in the poem. But why was the dazzling adventurer “Okun, Son of Jege” committed to the red soil of Ibadan when his eyes finally and eternally closed? I tried in vain to reach Professor Obafemi, another worthy friend, and my friend’s close kinsman, for an answer. All I got was prophetically rendered in the poem as follows: ”It is doubtful that this adventurer into/the forest of knowledge/Shall return to these shores again.” Another common friend, Professor Ademola Da Sylva, who knew Ayo in their Ife days, was similarly moved by Obafemi’s elegy.
Professor Ayo Olukotun was no Professor Ayo Olukotun to me. He was simply to me – until he breathed his last breath Eyuze as I was to him Tone Baba. We first met in 1977 in Zaria now in Kaduna State. We were lecturing colleagues (Graduate Assistants – later Assistant Lecturers) at Ahmadu University. He was my tightest pal. Our other tight friend was the sociologist/criminologist Basil Owomero (a fellow Graduate Assistant) from Ozoro town in Isoko-land in Delta State. Basil died a pretty long time ago after earning a doctorate in Criminology. Of the three of us I am the only living one now. As I am reflecting on this confusion of thought, emotion, and vision of our then years a void stares at me pitilessly. The vastness of the then years of youthful youthfulness up to when we left Zaria at different times blurs and time becomes hollow. I am in the moment of writing remembering only one or two or three things of the happy and unhappy events we shared.
I remember that Eyuze Baba brought Adebayo Williams and me together. Adebayo Williams is now a Professor of Literature and a novelist and columnist of no mean repute. He and Eyuze were together as under-graduates in those years of tempestuous student unionism of patriotic patriotism when Eyuze made hay and held sway in Ife as President of the Students’ Union. But it is not this I am recalling and remembering. I am recalling and remembering… I am recalling and remembering Bayo Williams’ visits in his ever-faithful Passat to Eyuze (and then eventually to us) from Kaduna (where he was teaching at Federal Government College and at the same time working on his Master’s degree in Ife as we were doing in Zaria) when we dreamed dreams of Nigeria and our tempestuous love affair with your country my country our country. We dreamed the dreams of writing and of how to help this country to constitute ethical or moral or whatever science and knowledge of growth to shape it and humankind. Each of us endeavoured to adopt the method which would make him the peerless master of positive criticism of our country. Then we really had and held lofty dreams of enlightened patriots as young as we were with the whole world before us. Until he died Eyuze did not betray the dream and did not deviate from its anatomy. Our man was a stammerer and stutterer in private conversations but in his public speeches and lectures he was a brilliant and very brilliant orator and analyst of acute dialectical proportions who always was an orator’s orator. He always reminded me of the late famous socialist novelist Professor Festus Iyayi of the University of Benin (who famously led the Academic Staff Union of Universities in the military era that in hindsight is hundred percent better than this civilian democratic regime of rotten rottenness). And in Professor Olukotun’s shining and shiny writings you would not notice any stammering and stuttering. Let me refrain from citing numerous examples. Eyuze was simply and more than simply audaciously brilliant and courageously courageous. He stood on a very high moral ground which his elegant writings are evidence of.
What else am I remembering? When I was leaving Zaria finally, with my all-what-not, Eyuze accompanied me to the Mid-West. This attests to the measure of our tight friendship. We spent three days together in Sapele and Warri before we travelled back together in order for me to tidy up my disengagement from Ahmadu Bello University. I can write a treatise on the pure geometry of our healthy relationship. But it is immaterial now. Yet let me say this. In later years, in much later years, after we were fully committed to marital duties – with the vagaries of our politics and economy not helping matters – the cruel wind and breeze of boisterous Nigeria roped, wrestled, beat bare our friendship but we never ignored the generosity of our closeness through ample calls. In one of those calls I related the gloriously memorable one night I spent with him in the Lagos Daily Times estate/quarters he was staying in then as an editorial staff member of that once famous global newspaper before he was a faculty member of University of Lagos. He enjoyed it all then. I can imagine how he and our elderly GG Darah, who is also now a Professor, cordially and graciously – and very warmly, welcomed me to the editorial office when I visited Kakawa! Or is memory failing me again? No, no, no.
Is there anything further I want to recall about Eyuze? Of course, there are many more things to say about my kind and joyfully-minded Eyuze. But I must hold my breath here. In despair, of course. And my despair is not the vigorous pleasure of despairing. Our gone revolutionary humanist was every revolutionary’s humanist. He should not have left us now. But his time was surely up. I say this as a revolutionary mystic and peace activist – if you permit me to say so.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
Witch Persecution And Dream Experiences In Nigeria
By Leo Igwe
The Advocacy for Alleged Witches welcomes the arrest of a young man, Joseph Friday, who allegedly murdered his father for witchcraft in Akwa Ibom. The development represents some of the best ways the police could help end impunity and beat back the tide of witch-hunting in the country. The suspect told the police that the father used to appear to him in a dream. He said that the father would hypnotize him before depositing a spell in his body. Mr. Friday said, “My Father used a charm on me; he appeared in my dream and hypnotized me. Whenever he appeared, something like a tortoise entered my body, and I would start to behave abnormally”.
Akwa Ibom is one of the states in Nigeria where witch persecution is pervasive, and abuses linked to witchcraft beliefs are widespread. As in this case, many cases of witchcraft accusations are linked to dreams, mystical interpretations of dreams. It will take more than arresting suspects and perpetrators to end these savage acts.
In Akwa Ibom, people are taught to take their dream experiences seriously. They believe or are made to believe, that those who appear in dreams are witches or agents of the occult. People are taught that dream experiences are revealing; they disclose potential harm and harmers. So people believe that their dreams point to what would happen to them or their families. So, whenever a person sees someone threatening or attacking them in a dream, they confront, attack, or kill the person when they wake up. Some people have noted cases where they have seen people pursuing them with a machete, or pressing their chest in the dream. And they felt horrified upon waking up. People who see others in a dream prefer to expose and kill them before they wreak further havoc. People take the dream experiences as real-life experiences. Incidentally, this mistaken idea of dreams is real and dangerous. And as this case has illustrated, the mystical idea of dreams leads to horrific abuses.
To end witch persecution, Nigerians need to change their attitudes towards dreams. Nigerians should understand that dreams are natural, not supernatural phenomena. Dreams are a stream of images and sensations that well up in the mind whenever a person is asleep. They have nothing to do with witchcraft or magic as popularly believed. People dream because their brains are not dead. Dreams are rooted in thoughts and imaginations that the mind entertained while awake. It is grossly mistaken to attack or kill someone based on another person’s dream experiences.
Dr. Igwe is an executive director of the
Advocacy for Alleged Witches.
Where Did All The Money Go?
By Mike Hunder
For eight straight years, the Buhari administration had been turning up the “no money” rhetoric. Added to the puzzle, at a time when oil-producing countries were reaping sustained windfalls from high oil prices, at above $100 per barrel on average in 2022, following the Russia-Ukraine war, the NNPC made zero remittance to the federation account for most of the year.
Now, a series of striking revelations have contradicted the administration’s “no money” claim, at a dramatic speed.
First, the Auditor General, in a 2022 letter to the Senate revealed that “a total of 17,877,705 barrels of crude oil valued at $1,020,969,281.12 (over one billion, twenty million dollars), were exported between 2016 and 2020, without proper records. This perhaps explains the non-remittance of funds by the NNPC into the federation account that characterized the administration.
Second, things got so bad that, the then Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, locked horns with NNPC over shortchanging the government on several occasions. In one instance, in June 2018, there was a standoff between the National Economic Council and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), when the then Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, pointedly accused the NNPC of short-changing the government. She declared NNPC’s account to the federal accounts allocation committee (FAAC), “unacceptable” and asked that they render the full account of the “missing billions”!
What happened there after? The “deep state” clipped her wings, with allegations that she forged her NYSC certificate. Three months later, she resigned, and life went on.
Another revelation came to fore on the floor of the Senate in December 2022. That about 100 federal MDAs failed to account for the sum of #1.9 trillion naira from 2017 to 2021, despite several invitations. More shocking, most of the agencies involved, report to the presidency. This included the State House, Presidential Fleet, Ministry of Finance, the armed forces, Police, Accountant General office, NEMA, Ministry of Defence, Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs and many others.
The fourth was a bigger problem than many first thought. The CBN embarked on unfettered “printing of money” for the Buhari administration since 2015, in repeated disregards of the laws. Under the CBN Act, “ways and means” facility (a code for printing money for government), should not exceed 5% of the previous year’s revenue of the government and must be paid within the financial cycle. Then again, Section 38 provides that, “ways and means”… must be refunded before the collection of another one.” Yet, the Buhari administration kept collecting “ways and means” from the CBN, without making a refund, in a zeal not seen before, hitting #23.7 trillion by December 2022.
When the Edo state governor, Godwin Obaseki, first spilled the beans about CBN’s printing of money for the federal government back in April 2021, the government denied it. Now, realizing that the “ways and means” account, cannot possibly be kept way from the public beyond May 2023, the president has sent a request to the Senate to give it a second life. Asking for a legislation to restructure it, and pass the repayment to future generations over a period of 40 years! Added to the puzzle, the request contained no records of how, when and what the #23.7 trillion was spent on.
Until recently, the administration claimed that Nigeria does not have a debt problem, but a revenue problem. Then, it embarked on constant external borrowings, increasing external debts by 300% between June 2015 ($10 billion) and June 2022 ($40 billion), without a corresponding increase in foreign currency earnings. Now, Patience Oniha, the director general of the Debt Management Office, when appearing before the House of Representatives to defend the 2023 budget, revealed that Nigeria does have an external debt problem. To the extent that Moody’s and Fitch downgraded Nigeria to a Category ‘B’ economy in 2021, the international market has closed its doors of borrowing against Nigeria, making it difficult for the country to borrow.
On top of this, fell the huge national debt stock, at seventy-seven trillion Naira.
Thus, an ugly spiral has developed: huge sums of money that are unaccounted for, constant external borrowings without a corresponding increase in foreign earnings – and a gigantic national debt of seventy-seven trillion Naira, completes the circle!
In the current climate, what is puzzling to people is, where did all this money go? Many who have defended the administration on financial prudence, now say they cannot go beyond this caricature. Then again, post-May 2023, things will probably get worse, before they get better. So, now comes the hangover!
*Mike Hunder, an economist and business-training consultant based in Lagos, is a former General Manager at Union Bank Plc and Oceanic International Bank, respectively. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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