Relationship: A Universal Lifelong Phenomenon
Grace Ego Omoni
Communication does not exist in a vacuum. Neither is it a one-man affair. It is a process between two or more people. People must interact with one another for events to happen among them.
Life is all about relationship. It is all about interaction. Communication between and among people coming in contact with others on a daily basis is all about relationship. The concept “Relationship” is broad and its definition varies from person to person. It refers to the close connections between two or more people or things that are bond or associated in one way or another. The concept in this sense states that two or more people or groups behave towards each other or one another in a cherished association. It could be a loving or romantic association between two people or a connection due to religion, business, profession, or blood ties.
Relationship has the following characteristics:
- It is a life-long process;
- It involves interaction between and among people;
- It involves communication;
- It must be well established in a solid foundation for it to last;
- It is a necessity in life;
- It borders on the emotion of people involved;
- It is based on respect and integrity of the individuals involved;
- The people involved make effort to maintain and sustain the purpose of the relationship;
- Relationship must be established on trust and understanding;
- Relationship is not for selfish purposes; and
- It is based on agreed cherished values.
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Benefits of relationships
- People relate with one another due to different purposes. Africans cherish relationships a lot. Our lifestyles are based on relationships because they have so many advantages. These benefits are not far-fetched and they include the following;
Relationships reduce stress because you gain practical help by receiving wise counsel and social support since people you are connected with will give listening ears to your problems. In other words, those in close contacts with you help to analyse the said problems putting you under distress and go all out to proffer solutions to the seemingly insurmountable problems;
- Relationships help the individual to feel valued among those one is associated with. You feel more positive about yourself since people who value and love you for who you are, are happy with you;
- Relationships gives a sense of well-being since you have the opportunity to care, love, cherish make others feel good as you make effort to meet their needs. Thus, relationships encourage healthy behaviours.
- They help the individual to build up his or her self-confidence, a sense of security and safety as he or she has the opportunity to share life experiences, passions, joy and pains. The realisation that problems are not peculiar to one alone helps one to carry on with life;
- Relationships bring about happiness, comfort, intimacy, respect, trust, honour and a feeling of positive emotions;
- Relationship is a facilitator. It helps one to share successes and failures;
- Relationship brings about development. Ideas and dreams are shared with the willingness to work together but recognising ones’ boundaries.
- Relationship makes one to understand that conflicts and difficulties may arise but not all problems can be solved easily. There might be disagreements.
- Love, fun, intimacy, romance, kindness, affection, loyalty, long life, satisfaction and self-fulfilment are part of the benefits of relationships.
Hazards of Relationships
Life is full of problems. Relationship has its own complications and challenges. These are the hazards or negative consequences of relationship. This implies that relationship carries with it unpalatable challenges. Many people have failed in life because of these excruciating challenges and have taken decisions not to be involved in any relationship. But like a Yoruba adage says: ” It is from a black pot that the white pudding pap comes out from.” Good and bad are intertwined in the process of relationship and the individual ought to know these before jumping into the phenomenon. Some of them include:
- Conflicts. Conflicts may arise in relationships because of individual differences and different personality traits. While some are introverts others are extroverts; some are sanguine while some others are choleric. As such, views may differ on issues that might arise. In other words, people may not have the same view on a particular issues. Thus, arguments may arise. No doubt, disaffection might creep into the relationship;
- Another hazard is psychological imbalance and emotional depression especially when the love between those involved is one-sided or dwindling. This will lead to quarrels, arguments and unhappiness;
- Intimidation. Relationships can bring about intimidation. The more powerful in the relationship in terms of the position he or she is holding, financial stand or educational qualification can make him or her take advantage of the other. Take for instance the relationship between a couple. The one whose love is less stronger in terms of the above points might intimidate the other and this could lead to depression, loneliness, regrets, anger and revenge on the part of the other;
- Relationship might lead to communication gap as a result of tale bearing , gossip, stagnation and disunity;
- Disloyalty, dishonesty, disrespect, double games, insincerity and engaging in lies can lead to strained relationships. These are the reasons for divorce, deaths, poverty, underdevelopment and a host of others.
Types of Relationships
It is important to take a look at the different types of relationships before talking about counselling tips for overcoming the hazards of relationship and sustaining it. People have identified different types of relationships. These include interpersonal, intra- personal, family, friendship and romantic relationships. Others include relationship with God, professional and business relationships.
Four types will be discussed.
This relationship is made up of parents, grandparents, children, siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, nephews and spouses. No human being is an island or fell from heaven. All things being equal, one must have been connected either by blood ties or by adoption. In this relationship, members maintain family rules and traditions; impact on one another physically, socially, spiritually and mentally. The relationship is based on love, intimacy, kindness, obedience, role modelling, loyalty, honesty, trustworthiness, togetherness and peace. Parents are under obligation to train and give the children food, shelter, clothing, education, love, good examples and good moral instructions. In other words, parenting or child-rearing is essential in this relationship.
In a family relationship, members share responsibilities, love, pains, sorrows and joy. Core values of the family and the cherished norms of the society in which they live are emphasized and maintained by all and sundry. Members also learn to value and respect one another’s idiosyncrasies. Anyone who does not abide by the code of conduct of the family is regarded as a black sheep and is liable to be punished for tarnishing the image of the family. Parent relationship is very important for it shapes the individual life for the future. Pro-social behaviours are inculcated in the children such as showing kindness and displaying empathy, generosity and interest in others.
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This is the relationship whereby someone is associated or connected to another who is not a blood relation. The relationship is based on one having similar or shared interest, beliefs, visions, commitments, values, history and principles. Friendship relationship borders on positive genuine feelings one has for another or other persons. Such a friend is one you can talk to about your feelings, about things concerning you; you enjoy each other’s company. Such a friend motivates and influences you positively and does not place your friendship before your principles. He or she shares and receives support in good and bad times and accepts you for who you are and is concerned about your well-being. It is interesting to know that there are categories of friends according to a popular motivational speaker, T D Jakes. He identified three types of friends. These are the confidants, the constituents and the comrades.
The confidants are the true friends who love you for who you are; stand with you through thick and thin: in bad and good times they are there for you and who are ready to seek solutions to problems affecting you. You can confidently depend on them by sharing your secrets and visions.
The constituents are those who love you when things are rosy but flee when things are down. They want to have what you work for but they are not for you. They can break your heart.
The third type of friends is comrades. They are not for you but for what you want. They are against what you are against and once victory is attained they are gone. When you share your dreams with them, they will not say anything but take advantage of it.
Apart from the above, acquaintance is a fourth kind of friendship relationship. It is a casual relationship. The relationship is not based on intimacy. You find them in the school, churches or gatherings.
This type of relationship involves passion. The individuals involved are intimately and are emotionally committed to one another. It is a voluntary relationship between two people of the opposite sex who intentionally see the other as a significant part of each other’s life. Permit me to categorically say that there are some others who engage in same-sex romantic relationship. This is not the opinion of this discussion. Decent people detest such relationship and it is an aberration in this society. It is condemned in this country in all its ramifications. Thus, a romantic relationship in this instance is that between a male and a female whether they are teenagers, adults or young people. It is a close mutual relationship. It plays an important role in the development of adolescents. Couples are sexually attracted to each other.
The relationship has the power of transforming into a higher level such as marriage but if not properly handled might culminate in premarital sex, unwanted pregnancy, abortion or health challenges. In this relationship, the couple may want to embrace each other physically, hug, kiss, hold hands, use love language or engage in sexual intimacy. Romantic Relationship plays an important role of fulfilling human needs for intimacy, social affection and sexual satisfaction according to Maslow’s theory.
Relationship with God
This borders on our association with God. This is spiritually inclined. This type of relationships revolves around how the individual interacts with God. Man does not exist in a vacuum. A supreme being is in control, hence we talk of religion. Individuals are either Christians, Muslims or traditionalists with codes of conduct to guide them in their daily living. How well one lives following these tenets will either make him or her a friend of God or an enemy. Walking with God gives you peace, wisdom and direction.
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- To reduce the hazards involved in relationship and to sustain it, the individual must endeavour to practise the following:
Show unconditional love to each or one another;
- Loyalty and trustworthiness are marks of a lasting relationship.
- Be willing to surrender your all for the good of the other;
- Create time for sharing, discussing issues pertaining to each other’s welfare, beliefs, successes, failures and challenges;
create time for relaxation, asking and answering questions;
- Learn to give listening ears to others and proffer solutions;
- Encourage one another and do not condemn nor indict others;
- Confidentiality is essential in relationship;
- Time and distance should not be a barrier but encourage constant and regular contact;
- Forgiveness and letting go are fundamental to lasting relationship
- Refrain from gossip, tale bearing and divulging secrets to others;
- Learn not to defriend when there is disagreement over an issue;
- Be sincere in your relationship and never base it on falsehood and deceit;
- Openness is required and eschew all manner of secrecy and jealousy;
- Do not engage in things that will make the other always suspicious of you;
- Take responsibility for your actions and learn to apologise when at fault;
- Be obedient.
For those into a romantic relationship you need the following to guide you:
- Watch for character not for colour;
- Let the purpose for the relationship be well defined;
- Know your partner, friends, family, social class, beliefs and religion, likes and dislikes;
- Understand that premarital sex has serious negative consequences such as unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS. Abstinence from sex before marriage is a better choice;
- Know that disappointment is part of life especially in the area of relationship. Therefore be conversant with strategies for coping with stress and visit a counselling centre.
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Iwuanyanwu And The ‘Political Rascals’ Rhetoric
By Promise Adiele
Samuel Beckett’s absurdist play Waiting for Godot avails itself of multiple interpretative tools with a compelling grip on the moral imagination of the audience. As a timeless drama, it thrives on the hopelessness of the human condition dramatized by two vagabonds, Estragon and Vladimir who waited for a mysterious, titular Godot that never came. One of the features of the absurdist literary tradition portrayed in the play is the failure of language in the verbal context as a means of communication. The verbal exchange between the two vagabonds is evident of misinterpretation. One says one thing, the other interprets it differently. Thus, it calls to question the potency of language in the verbal medium as a means of communication. The preceding analogy reminds me of Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu and his purported insult to the good people of the Yoruba ethnic group. Perhaps, misinterpretation currently manifests as an inexorable content of Nigeria’s absurd credentials.
Last week, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, philanthropist, accomplished businessman, the Balogun Babaguwan of Yorubaland, Ahaejiejemba of Igboland and elder-statesman, while reacting to events that happened in Lagos during the last election when many Igbo people were bloodied and harassed, assured the world that “the Igbo and Yoruba are not at war”. On the heels of that statement came another one “they are Yoruba political rascals”. A syntactic analysis of the two sentences affirms that the Chief never meant to insult the entire Yoruba ethnic group. Rather, he was referring to rascals in Lagos who maimed, killed, and vanquished Igbos, non-Yorubas, and even some Yorubas with Igbo semblance, stopping them from exercising their voting rights during the election. He also said “we know them and we will deal with them”. Language scholars know that Chief Iwuanyanwu did not mean to insult the Yoruba. Sadly, some social nitwits, victims of acute cognitive impairment, went on a rampage to misinterpret and manipulate his statement to suit their treacherous, mischievous purposes. It is absurd.
Anyone who knows Chief Iwuaynanwu’s antecedent will never ascribe offensive rhetoric to him. He is soft-spoken, conciliatory and peace-loving. Like every sensible person around the world, not just the Igbo, he was aghast with lurid photos and video evidence of harm against the Igbo in Lagos during the last election. Unfortunately, people who ordinarily frolic in the whirlwind of ethnic hate have seized the opportunity to insult the Igbo ethnic group while using acerbic words on the revered Chief. These people, in their degenerate and diseased mentality, are trying to install a wall of hate between the Igbo and Yoruba. Let me state categorically that the Yorubas are wonderful people whose spirit of brotherliness, conviviality, and tolerance speaks volumes across the world. I have maintained over time that the Igbo and Yoruba share a cordial, interwoven relationship in marriage, business, friendship, association and neighbourliness. The two ethnic groups can never be involved in a conflict. Many Yoruba people have helped many Igbo people to their destinies and many Igbo people have helped many Yoruba people to their destinies too. An attempt for one ethnic group to harm the other will result in serious harm for the two. It is as implicating as that.
Since the presidential elections, keenly contested by different candidates from different ethnic groups in Nigeria, some people have desperately sought to reduce the entire development to an ethnic affair. It is myopic and at once condescending. Does Peter Obi represent the Igbo? Does Bola Tinubu represent the Yoruba? Does Atiku Abubakar represent the Hausa/Fulani? These candidates all have supporters across the country. Of course, they will have a preponderance of support from their ethnic base. That is the way of politics. Unfortunately, ethnic jingoists have, in the inerrancy of their bleak convictions, reduced the entire political discourse to an ethnic affair especially Yoruba vs Igbo. These people, stranded in the realm of ethnic hate and communal intolerance, have done everything within their powers to inflame ethnic tension to crucible dimensions. It is wrong for anyone to insult a whole ethnic group in whatever guise. In Chief Iwuanyanwu’s case, he has put the records straight by clarifying what he meant, insisting that he was quoted out of context. But the morbid and decadent will not hear of it. They insist that Iwuanyanwu and all Igbo should be roasted alive. As far as these simpletons are concerned, the Chief spoke the mind of all Igbos. How idiotic and harebrained can anybody be?
Recently, some people have also indulged in ethnic slurs. Unlike Chief Iwuanyanwu that clarified himself, Bayo Onanuga offered no apology and insisted on standing by his words. Onanuga spoke for himself and couldn’t have insulted the Igbo on behalf of the Yoruba. MC Oluomo, while registering his socio-political disorientation, spoke for himself when he threatened the Igbo on an election day and went on to make good his threat which the police shamelessly called a joke. FFK has also made inflammatory remarks which were his personal opinion and not the opinion of Yoruba. It is therefore, a function of disabled, primitive awareness for anyone to insult an ethnic group based on the comment of one person. Such insults and abuses expose the quiddity of phenomenal foolishness which, hitherto, was concealed in some people by the façade of education. No, these hate mongers belong to the stone age. Nobody should be deceived by their pretentious liberalism.
The question is, are there political rascals in Nigeria? Definitely yes! These are the particular people Chief Iwuanyanwu referred to concerning what happened in Lagos during the last elections. Of course, all parts of the country have their share of political rascals. It is not peculiar to one ethnicity. Political rascals are those who walk the streets, snatch ballot boxes, stab people due to their ethnic origin and prevent them from exercising their civic rights. They are not educated. They are thugs, street urchins and never-do-wells employed by politicians to advance nefarious objectives. There are also some educated political rascals. They don’t walk the streets, but demonstrate humane deficiency of unimaginable proportions using social media and sundry news outlets. They spread hate, provoke enmity and fan the embers of war. They incite the uneducated, urging them to bay for the blood of ordinary citizens. Their social media handles are replete with expletives and insults. Abusive engagement allows them to flourish. Another category of political rascals populate government establishments like INEC, the Police and different security agencies. These people compromise the electoral process in exchange for financial inducement and material gains. They are unconscionable, desperate and invidious. Are these people from another planet? No, they are among us. We know them.
The ethnic hate narrative is a device enunciated by the political class to keep the people divided, breaking their rank and file to unite and fight a common enemy. The opposition LP and PDP are convinced that the election was marred by sharp, underhand practices and therefore have gone to court. Is going to court to challenge the outcome of an election a legitimate practice? If it is, why can’t detractors of equitable process allow the law to run smoothly? The call by some decidedly frustrated fellows in search of relevance and pecuniary patronage for the arrest of the opposition presidential candidates is from the pit of purgatory. The propaganda that there is a plan to disrupt the handover ceremony is a bundle of falsehood from the depths of Hades. Although many Nigerians regard the judiciary with a pinch of salt, people of goodwill should advocate for a peaceful resolution of Nigeria’s political challenges. Ethnic rhetoric should stop immediately. People should sheath their swords. Let us all close the road to Rwanda.
Adiele, PhD, writes from Mountain Top University.
Olaopa: The Self As A Patriotic Reformer – The Tales Of A Memoirist
By Adeshina Afolayan
Autobiographies and memoirs are very difficult to write. One of the reasons is that they place the autobiographers and the memoirist in a very difficult position that draws the attention, and even the ire, of the public. Once the volume is written and presented before the public, the writer can no longer control its reception. And some or even all of her certainties and verities are shredded by those who must approach the book from different perceptions. But there is an even more daunting challenge. Writing an autobiography or a memoir dances at the very edge of hubris and vanity. This is what Michel de Montaigne thinks. His understanding of the human self is dark and gloomy. According to him, “If others were to look attentively into themselves as I do, they would find themselves, as I do, full of emptiness and tomfoolery…. Our self is an object full of dissatisfaction: we can see nothing there but wretchedness and vanity.”Now, imagine an act of self-portrait emerging from such a dark view of the self.
In The Essays, Montaigne pens a paradoxical opening statement addressed to the readers of the volume who are not supposed to read it because it is a work of vanity: “Reader, I myself am the subject of my book: it is not reasonable that you should employ your leisure on a topic so frivolous and so vain. Therefore, Farewell.” If the self is locus of emptiness and wretchedness, then any attempt at a self-portrait is doomed already; the autobiographer or memoirist thinks more highly of herself than she should. And yet, Montaigne subtly invites the reader to peruse the volume through a strategy of dissuasion.
In The Unending Quest for Reform, Tunji Olaopa faces the charge of hubris head-on , and persuades us to plunge into a narrative that connects the self with a larger space of meaning, struggle and fulfilment. This is an even more difficult endeavor since it goes beyond the self-portrait that embroils the self in its own dynamics of maturation. On the contrary, a memoir like the The Unending Quest for Reform, like Wole Soyinka’s The Man Died, connects the self to nonself, or to its Other. The autobiographer or the memoirist then invites the reader to weigh the significance of the self in relation to its other. Only those who have a strong sense of inner worth and significance can ever achieve such a courageous level of self-ascription.
I think a reformer deserves his memoir or autobiography. I have read the late Professor Akinlawon Mabogunje’s autobiography — A Measure of Grace. It details not only birth, historical trajectories and intellectual maturation, but also the agonies of a public servant eager to see some of his best ideas and insights inserted into the policy architecture of the Nigerian state. He met brick walls at every turn. In The Unending Quest for Reform, Olaopa typifies a more enduring courage to serve and confront the dysfunction of a system that had been rigged to be inefficient since independence.
The public service is not just another vocation. It embodies a double imperative. First, it is a service that transcends any consideration of self-interest. Within the service and its accountability dynamics, the self cannot be placed in contradistinction to what is required of it. The service is therefore a
selfless one that demands that the servant serves. Second public service is a service to public, the public. It therefore requires a different kind of spirit—public-spiritedness—that insists that the public servant must bow to certain logic of service that bend the will of the public servant to the will of the citizens. The task of a public servant therefore becomes a very arduous one: she must bend the self to serve the others. However, serving others becomes very onerous when the system that enables the service is inefficient and dysfunctional. When Olaopa first confronted this dysfunctional system, his first human instinct was to flee. But he did not. This was where his scholarly instinct—to learn, to reflect, to research, to rethink, to reorganize—kicked in. And he had a background in Plato and a mentoring acquaintance in Professor Ojetunji Aboyade to trim his fears and fuel his reform thinking.
The Unending Quest for Reform details the long trajectory that took an Aáwé boy to the Presidency and then the very height of public service status as a permanent secretary. But in each of the fifteen chapters that make up the memoir, you are compelled to encounter and reflect on how ideas and insights emerged from Olaopa’s interaction and engagement with intellectual and administrative forebears, and how both
the forebears and the ideas molded his own original philosophy of reform—with a huge dose of providential intervention.
While Plato’s Republic maps the boundaries of the ancient Athenian city-state and its utopic possibilities, Olaopa’s
The Unending Quest for Reform delineates the circumferences of a
dysfunctional public service, and how it could be rehabilitated within a comprehensive institutional and governance reform blueprint that took years to design, and even many more years to attempt mounting for the benefit of making Nigeria work better. This is where he joins the community of suffering that Mabogunje, and many others, once belonged. At every turn, the system itself frustrated all his well-being intentions and yearning.
Olaopa carries the burden of a man driven by God’s purpose. Or how else does one understand the passion that
drove and still drives him to dedicate his research and professional life to a system that seems too dense to allow self-examination? As an expert-insider, he had to face the fundamental significance of whether the public service can reform itself. That query, for Olaopa, could not have been just an academic exercise; he must have had to face the suspicions and stubborn resistance of those who could have considered him “too know” and obnoxious. There are ways by which a
debilitated system punishes those who would claim diagnostic knowledge. There are several means by which those who benefit from the status quo impede the progress of a reformer. And yet, Olaopa kept at this onerous task, even after retirement,with a single-mindedness that belies any logical understanding.
It was not just Plato and philosophy that gave him inspiration. All through The Unending Quest for Reform, one sees him holding onto a deep understanding of the place and role of the divine in human understanding and trajectories. If God could save him from blindness, as he narrated, then he would dedicate his life to service, spiritual and institutional;
he would commit his expertise to Nigeria and her quest for a world class public service that will be able to transform the quality of life of Nigerians. He has not faltered in that commitment.
But we need to highlight the role of philosophy in Olaopa’s professional and intellectual maturation. Right from discovering Plato and the capacity of philosophy to reconstruct, Olaopa had
remained fixated on the potential of philosophy to both enlighten and enable. He had taken Plato’s Republic far more seriously than I have seen anywhere. The Republic gave him the basis
from which to reenact the possibility of reflecting on dysfunction and reconstructing the parameters for
utopia. While Plato’s Republic was entirely a thought experiment about what could have been, Olaopa’s philosophical, intellectual and administrative exertions were right within the context of an actually existing Nigerian state that combines what he calls “bureau-pathologies” and possibilities for greatness.
The Unending Quest for Reform is therefore not only a paean to the existential exertions and Sisyphean achievements of the self, but also a testament to what reform can make possible for the transformation of the
Nigerian administrative entity. With the memoir, Olaopa is reaching out to
Nigerians, and especially fellow public servants and aspiring institutional and governance reformers,with a manual for technocratic action. The memoir bristles with pain and optimism about the ascent of a self from the obscurity of a small town in Oyo State to the convoluted
bureaucratic spaces of the Presidency, from a struggle to master political science and political theory at the University of Ibadan to the urgency of deploying a range of ideas and ideologies to the understanding and operational optimality of the public service system. In The Unending Quest for Reform, the self and the nation merge in a struggle for realization. And the denouement of that titanic struggle is a finale that is yet to happen. And we will know it when
it happens because that would be the end the reformer has been waiting for. With the new administration, may we not arrive at a tragedy to the high drama of hope and possibilities Olaopa’s memoir has treated us to.
Prof. Afolayan is the Head of Department of Philosophy, University of Ibadan
Reflection on The Unending Quest for Reform, Tunji Olaopa’s Memoir
By Eghosa E. Osaghae
Intellectual autobiographies come as absorbing and engaging as other profound academic works tend to be. Professor Tunji Olaopa’s intellectual memoir is not different and certainly ranks as one of the more profoundly intellectual autobiographies to come out of Nigeria. The reflections on the nexuses among public policy, public administration, civil service and governance on the one hand, and how these can be transformed along the paths of the reforms that seek to address the pathologies of bureaucracy – or bureau-pathology as Professor Olaopa calls them – are done in the best traditions of rigorous scientific analysis, normative and empirical. And given the relative leanness of analytical and theoretical scholarship in the field of public administration in Nigeria and Africa, it is obvious that this book, even as an autobiography, has all that is required to be a major contribution to the discipline, especially on the subject of reforms, which is a central theme of the memoir.
From the story of his progression through life as told in the memoir – from being a scholar-in-the-making since the
age of five, to earning the alias, Azikiwe, at the highest level of ‘-isms’ in secondary school, to finally becoming an expert-insider in the federal civil service and professor at Lead City University, only a knowledgeable, visionary, and activist-reformer like Olaopa, with the zest of patriotism and nationalism has the qualifications and credibility to say the kinds of things he has said in this book. His premature and unexpected retirement from the federal civil service in 2015 seemed to have halted the leading roles Olaopa played in the complex arena of reforms; these were roles that his academic pursuits and engagements with The Commonwealth , The World Bank, the UN system, and reforms institutions and processes in Australia and South Africa,continental and global professional institutions, amongst others, prepared him for; but this book documents the hows and whats of those roles and sets a well-reasoned rationale and template for continued reforms. The concluding chapters of the book, which are addressed to the reforms the leadership expected of the Office of the Head of Service of the Federal Civil Service in particular, fill the gap of what might have been. That is, if the unexpected retirement – another
painful reminder of the insecurity of tenure that has plunged the civil service in Nigeria deeper into the recesses of instability, demotivation and corruption, did not happen.
Olaopa engages the more substantial and critical issues elicited by public servicee reforms including those that constitute formidable obstacles in highly perceptive ways. “The public service”, he writes, “was not a place where mere ideas are sufficient to achieve significant transformation. Those ideas have to be immersed in the deep and dirty crevices of bureaucratic dead weights. As a public servant, it increasingly became clear to me that reading was not enough for the reformation of the public service. Ideas and knowledge had to be consciously adopted, creatively adapted, and deliberately owned and domesticated to achieve optimal results”. This was the lynchpin of reforms and transformations buoyed by Olaopa’s continuous research and development opportunities offered by the strategic positions he held especially in the Ministry of Education and the Office of the Head of Service. But the high expectations and ideals are easily brought down by the limits of realistic possibilities: “As an expert-insider”, he also writes, “I was equally confronted by a limitation: Can the civil service supervise its own reform? Can civil servants supervise the reform of their own institution?” Which all goes back to perhaps the greatest puzzle faced by reforms and their drivers: “In a situation where administrative dynamics have already congealed, can we expect the publice servantsto oversee the reform of their institution? How can reforms be jumpstarted by the very people who have vested interests in operating the bureaucratic culture? The obvious answere seems negative. And experience has revealed that most reforms failed because they were undermined by vested interests”. This is the essence of ‘bureau-pathology’ – “a state of stagnancy in which the civil servants protect themselves against any attempt to reform the very system with in which they operate. In this terrible situation, reform becomes the exception rather than the rule”. The pathology also leads to “too many people doing nothing, too many doing too little, and too few people doing too much”.
But these obstacles – and frustrations – which Olaopa experienced firsthand in hugeo tons thanks to the complexities, intrigues, treacheries and politics that climaxed with his premature retirement, do not diminish Olaopa’s conviction, enthusiasm and unending quest for reforms .The decision to set up the Ibadan School of Governance and Public Policy (ISGPP),take up the professorship at Lead City University, become a directing staff member at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, and this memoir (just in case the other platforms are necessary but not sufficient to actualise his vision) represent important milestones in this quest. Olaopa’s analysis also shows that the journey of reforms requires a lot more thanh the individual motivation; that motivation emanates from several other reinforcing anchors: expository reading, such as is found in his reading of Plato’s The Republic and other texts; the benefit of sound education and good peers, such as he encountered in Aawe, Olivet, and UI; the sheer boldness, such as is demonstrated in his forays into radical student unionism; the strategic opportunities that come through postings such as those to MAMSER, Ministry of Education, Office of the Secretary of Government of the Federation and Head of Service; and, perhaps, most importantly, the mentoring, reassurances and confidence-building such as he had from Professors Ojetunji Aboyade and Akin Mabogunje (these two had the OPTICOM modelt that provided a foundation for participatory reforms), Professor Tunde Adeniran and many more.
Although Olaopa engages public service reforms in an intellectually robust and engaging manner, there are issues that he has either left out or not engaged sufficiently. One of these is the cultural and historical specificities of particular reform situations. Surely, reforms have not grown to the level of a science of universals. Is there a need to decolonise the civile service for example? Another is the omission of the age-long debate between generalists and specialists in public service. Is it possible that the decision to bring specialists into the core of the civil service in Nigeria – that led to the appointment of engineers, medical doctors andc accountants for example, as permanent secretaries – has created problems of a different kindf for the civil service? Thirdly, for all the points raised about a purpose-driven public service with substantial federal restructuring, it is a little curious that very little consideration, if any,was given to the subnational spheres of the public service. Would the public service be trulyr reformed if the state and local government domains are not reformed? Should the federal public civil service be the federalist empire/colonial service?
Knowing Professor Olaopa as well as I do, I am sure that these issues will be taken up in his next volume on public servicee reforms– after all, the present volume is strictly a memoir and should not be read as an academic treatise, irrespective of all that I have tried to say.
Although the scholarly insights of Olaopa’s Unending Quest for Reform have the upper hand in this foreword, the memoir is far more extensive and encompassing. It covers his historical progression and, in the process, the several lessons to be learnt from his interesting experiences and discussions on familyhood, marital relations, religion, the role of God in humanl lives, mysticism and human relations in their adversarial and friendly forms. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this memoir and digesting its deeper and very reflective lines. They show that Olaopa’s initial and continuous love for philosophy has crystallised into a way of life.
Professor Osaghae is the Director-General, Nigerian Institute of
International Affairs (NIIA), Lagos.
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