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Remembering Professor J. A. Atanda



Remembering Professor J. A. Atanda
Professor J. A. Atanda


Toyin Falola

Many Africans have shown pioneering integrity in enhancing the formidable intellectual image that has come to be associated with the Black race. Specifically, Nigeria’s intellectual network has become so important to this movement that it is inescapable and impractical to dismiss the contributions of academics and thinkers from the country to human intellectual advancement when discussing knowledge production and intimation as related to Africa and the world generally.

The Nigerian intellectual mission produced outstanding historians such as Kenneth Dike, and J.F. Ade Ajayi, who did exceptionally well in restoring African dignity through their expansive African history research that not only challenged the body of unsubstantiated assertions about the African past but also about its essentialism.

Similar feats by many other scholars and writers such as Bolanle Awe, Adeboye Babalola, Amos Tutu, D.O.Fagunwa, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, J.P. Clark, and hundreds of others, effectively discountenanced the widely held misconception that the history of Africa was devoid of literary history or tradition through their literary knowledge and styles. J.A. Atanda, however, constitutes another significant bulk in this intellectual tradition as a member of the generation of African historians who have extensively expanded the intellectual coast of the people by expanding upon the work of his predecessors.

Born in 1932 to Eruwa parents, a community in the Yoruba society that falls under the current Oyo State of Nigerian, Dr. Joseph Adebowale Atanda enjoyed first-hand the cultural traditions of the Yoruba people, which exposed him to Yoruba knowledge and understanding. People who often make landmark impacts in their respective fields, such as J.A. Atanda, are habitually seen not as the product of their formative experiences but as individuals who struggle to improve themselves in the course of their journey.

However, while success, brilliance, quality delivery, and impact are not impossible to court in adulthood, the general truth is that formative education and exposure usually dictate people’s eventual dispositions as adults. Following this idea, the overwhelming success of Atanda as a public figure and intellectual maestro are attributed to the experiences that shaped his knowledge as a child raised in the Yoruba society, consolidating, in effect, a common assumption that there cannot be a river without a source.

For this, the source and the product have proven to be significantly symbolic; while celebrating Atanda, the Yoruba must also be granted the necessary accolades they deserve. After obtaining his B.A. (Hons) degree in History at the University of London, 1964, he received his Ph.D. in 1967 from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

Without a doubt, the exposure to different cultural and academic climates contributed immensely to the facilitation of his knowledge which would later be useful in driving African knowledge systems and productions to a greater height. Dr. Atanda took a keen interest in African history, believing that the degenerating and anti-intellectual generalizations of the Eurocentric knowledge episteme against the knowledge production of Africans are either motivated by a raging desire to undermine an otherwise vibrant and impressive intellectual system or to silence the body of works of prehistoric Africans.

However, to accept these generalizations without making sufficient efforts at the interrogation of facts and the cross-examination of evidence is unbefitting of a reasonable scholar. This dictated the almost overzealous dedication to exploring the African past, particularly the Yoruba of the Western part of Nigeria and Buganda in the East of Africa. With great determination he pursued this agenda, resulting in his success and those of other committed individuals.

It was through the pioneering works of Atanda that we are now aware of the immeasurable achievement of the Yoruba’s past, and through his analytical ability, we have come to know how substantial growth, culturally, politically, and economically are achievable when the materials of the past are used appropriately.

He joined others to open a line of intellectual discussion about the Yoruba to the extent that their prehistoric history and the histories of their exchanges with external civilizations are generally considered epochs in the evolution of the people’s cultural genealogy. Although a historian is expected to present the chronology of past events so that people understand and learn of their past and thus find a great way to their future, Dr. Atanda did more than that.

Atanda, in presenting his work, remained cognizant that the projection of a people’s image, especially negatively, can affect how they react and respond to their surrounding activities and be very intrusive in the way they perceive themselves. To internalize the story that Yoruba people, for example, sold their people into slavery, engaged in paganism, and paraded outrageous customs can be devastating on the people who carry that identity around, for they would believe that their past histories are predominantly malevolent. This would potentially impact their claiming and representing of the Yoruba identity continentally and internationally.

Meanwhile, through replicable research, Atanda was able to bring to the fore the knowledge of the Yoruba people that has always been marred by the narrative of darkness. The reconstruction of Yoruba history through generally accepted methodologies substantially helped to restore people’s cultural confidence and reclaim aspects of their identity. Atanda challenged, among other things, the revisionist history that Yoruba people clung to their traditional thinking.

For example, in one of his academic engagements, Atanda submits that marriage, contrary to outsiders’ views, was used to expand the socialization network of the families involved so that bonding is possible while simultaneously increasing the dependency of individuals on one another.

In viewing the way that the Yoruba family is structured, controversy over this idea is somewhat difficult as many are interconnected in the society. Additionally, Atanda challenged the dismissal of the Yoruba religious systems from the misguided generalization that they are particularly primitive and uncivilized. Atanda contested that the Yoruba moral, political and cultural systems should be viewed not as separate entities. For example, the discouragement of stealing that is inherent in the invocation of the spirit is meant to prevent people from mismanaging opportunities when given. In this manner, these systems are not dispassionately disjointed but are complementary systems seeking a common purpose.

Professor Atanda remains a shining armor whose accomplishments cannot be overshadowed by mere wishful thinking in academics. He continuously demonstrated similar capacity at different leadership levels. He was a Representative of the Faculty of Arts on the Board of Studies and the Faculty Board of Education at the University of Ibadan.

During his service in these highlighted capacities, he ensured that African knowledge productions should not be relegated because their social and cultural traditions are something of immeasurable importance. Besides his agitation and actualization of the native education agenda, especially in fighting for the domestication of the education system to accommodate several ideas, he also ensured that the administration of the people was discharged diligently.

Professor Atanda also functioned at the school in a management capacity. He served as a Senate member and was an integral part of the Senate Committee for the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. Throughout his time in all these capacities, the achievements he earned continue to speak for him even decades after his departure. To have a grasp of the depth of Atanda’s contributions to knowledge production in the field, one can begin by examining his academic achievements.

Apart from serving as the arrowhead for the promulgation of African knowledge epistemology, at a time that the general cultural and political traditions were circumscribed, he raised the bar for the enhancement of African knowledge essentialism. Dr. Atanda also became a compass for navigating the Yoruba and the Buganda peoples’ pasts in many respects.

The majority of the knowledge ideas today associated with these groups has been cast away with mindless abandon as something not worthy of human consideration, over the assumption that it was of low-quality intellection. But because he was bold and courageous, with a special dedication to his beliefs, Professor Atanda was able to make himself the Iroko tree of Yoruba knowledge systems so that others would draw inspiration and motivations from him. It is on this basis that he remains a celebrated individual while his records speak volumes of him. These testaments validate the assumption that the organization of conferences in his name is just a minor part of the celebration of his unusual ingenuity.

While he was alive, Professor Atanda was offered several awards to recognize his invaluable contributions to humankind generally. The Rockefeller Foundation gave him a Travel Grant as visiting Lecturer at Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda, which was granted in January–August 1969. He also received theLife Honorary membership from the Frank London Brown Historical Association, Chicago, llinois, U.S.A. These international awards are indubitable evidence that he achieved beyond the borders of his home country, Nigeria. Professor Atanda remains valuable to us all, as even theYoruba Studies Review names its annual best paper award after him.

Furthermore, a 7th lecture and conference will be held in his honor at Babcock University from June 21st to 23rd where The J. A. Atanda Distinguished Award for Yoruba Studies will be launched, to honor a scholar who is prominent in the field of Yoruba studies in Africa and the Diaspora.

.Falola is a Professor of History, the University of Texas at Austin .

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The 2023  Elections And The Newness Of Nigeria



The Futility Of A Marital Chase
Dr. Hope Nwawolo

By Hope Nwawolo   

Despite the hues and cries that greeted the results of the 2023 elections, what if the court’s pendulum stays or swings otherwise in the expected litigations?

What will it teach our inquisitive young children?

What will it do to the hopes and dreams of the youths?

What will it do to the mind set of those in diaspora, waiting and hoping to return?

How will it affect our heroes still alive and yearning for the good old times?

One basic fact is that no matter where the pendulum swings, something new has started in the political sphere of Nigeria. And because it was unexpected, it has become almost impossible to strangulate it.  

In every competition, there is an expectation that the best man will win. That may not always be in politics, particularly, in Nigeria…where the winner may not be the best man or even the better man. And when it is said that politics is a game of numbers, sometimes, the actual numbers may not be visible to determine the end result. It becomes a case of the more you look the less you see; until interpreted by respected learned men with high integrity.

Politics, they say is a dirty game, where money speaks and promises made are broken without an iota of guilt. Where the gullible minds of the masses are deceived, with as little as a box of indomie. Where some vibrant but jobless youths are brainwashed to risk their lives to snatch ballot boxes for the politicians who do not know them beyond giving them stipends through some third parties. Where market women are forced to come out for rallies and campaigns because they cannot afford the fine that will be imposed on them if they failed to participate. They also do not want the harassment of the market leaders. 

In politics, fear is palpable in the air, before, during and after elections. The 2023 elections recently carried out, depicted these more than expected in both the politicians and electorate. What started like the usual political pattern took a drastic turn about nine months to the first elections and though it was said to be only a social media affair, it got everyone sitting upright and tightening his seat belt, particularly after the first elections.

Now, there is a generational shift, a new awakening, a new dawn and a new political birth, waiting to happen. To wherever the pendulum turns; where the court stands, it will make a turnaround in Nigeria. It may be turbulent at the beginning, it may be emotionally draining and psychologically traumatizing, but it will point to light at the end of the tunnel.

There is a new hope backed by a high spirit of determination. An unexplainable faith in many people for that newness of existence and purpose. An unprecedented emotional and psychological strength in the youths not to give up on their dreams. An unquenchable desire to keep praying. Soon a newness will break forth to calm all nerves and dry all tears.

A newness that will permeate conflicts and hatred,

A newness that will dissipate unnecessary anger,

A newness that will usher in unquestionable and transparent political systems in future elections,

A newness of freedom to choose a candidate without coercion or molestation

A newness of jubilation after the announcement of election results.

This is the new Nigeria that is awaiting delivery…

Nwawolo, PhD, writes from Lagos.




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Overcoming Policy Execution Trap As Nigeria’s Development Challenge



Prof. Tunji Olaopa

By Tunji Olaopa

If I am asked to give a succinct and apt summary of the entire challenge faced by the Nigerian state in terms of her policy architecture and development management, in spite of contestation in the development literature, I will not hesitate in stating clearly and unambiguously that it is the challenge of policy implementation; the whole dynamics of getting things done. By elimination, the implication is that the challenge cannot be located as that of the dearth of development ideas, insights, models and paradigms. Right from her independence, Nigeria has been inundated with several ideas, both local and global, about development policy and frameworks. And yet, policy outcomes keep getting bogged down in the murky waters of political shenanigans. This means that the new administration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu has its challenge mapped out, in red, for it.

There is no shying away from this postcolonial predicament that has limited and kept limiting Nigeria’s capacity to honour the terms of her social contract with Nigerians. Hence, the Tinubu government will soon be inundated with the impatient agitations of Nigerians for a quick and tangible fix that will address their sufferings. And they are justified since they have not been given any real deal for the past sixty-three years of sovereign independence. And the new administration is obligated because that is the reason for seeking office in the first place.

Prof. Olaopa’s new book on public policy and development challenges

How then can we begin to understand this policy execution challenge? It is simple: how can an administration in Nigeria transition from governance vision and policy intention to policy outcomes that elevate and transform the quality of life of its citizens? Failure to understand and give critical and political attention to this question lies at the heart of the governance failures of successive Nigerian administrations. The new Tinubu administration cannot afford such a glaring mistake. And so, a fundamental case must be made out of the question of how policy intentions get circumscribed in the dynamics of policy execution that occasions policy failures in past administrations.

Modern states all across the world are distinguished by the traditional four functions they discharge as part of their administrative responsibilities—security i.e. securing the sovereign territory against lawlessness, policy formulation and implementation, governance regulation and service delivery.The capacity to perform each and all of these functions very well within an integrated framework in the governance context is what delivers the dividends of democratic governance to the citizens, and it enhances the state’s competitive and human development rating in global reckoning. With these functions, we have the metrics to differentiate between high-performing states like China, India, the United States,Botswana, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirate, Germany, Rwanda and the Asian Tigers (Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea), and low- or even under-performing countries like Nigeria that is still cluelessly stuck within a dysfunctional vicious cycle within her arrested development.

From the perspective of governance, there must be something these states are getting right in the connection between leadership, politics, and policy articulation. For instance, there is a trajectory of relationship that links elite bargains to development bargains. In other words, development is a
function of elite nationalism and the extent to which the political class of a state can commit elite suicide and gamble on development on behalf of the people they are leading. In Nigeria, low
manifestation of elite nationalism has made it really difficult for the political class to set aside their personal and egoistic class interests in ways that enable them to clearly and ideologically discern and navigate the deadly developmental landmines strewn all over our governance landscape by the
neoliberal implication of ideological apparatuses and frameworks to which Nigeria is beholden. And here, the factor of development gamble of the Asian Tigers’ elites comes into bold relief. From within the ideological ambit of the developmental state, the leadership of the Asian Tigers were able to define a policy space that consciously and critically weighed the benefits and shortfalls of external influences, especially the type that came from the World Bank, IMF and the other cohorts of the neoliberal policy dynamics. Their developmental circumspection paid off!

Since we cannot argue that Nigeria has been stumped by the lack of vision documents, development plans and blueprints, or even policy expertise, the locus of the new administration’s focus  must be directed at the possibility of mustering the political will to undermine the mystified Nigerian Factor, and face the global neoliberal consensus in order to begin the crafting of an enabling policy architecture to drive development. And to achieve this translates to creating the delicate balance between ‘doing the right things’ (a function of decision making quotient) and ‘doing it right’(project and change management effectiveness), and overcoming the various political, cultural, structural and systemic constraints that trapped past well-meaning policies and intentions of Nigerian leaders in the dynamics of implementation.

There is first the conspiracy of elitist interest that ensures there is a poor resource allocation that focuses on elite bargain than development calculations and taking care of the national interest. Other constraints follow: (a) the disconnect between policy design and implementation due to  weak  implementation planning, risk assessment and incompetent change management strategies; (b) unstable and poorly managed macroeconomic policies; (c) policy and project discontinuity; (d) public service low capability readiness; (e) political interference; and finally (f) deep-seated political and bureaucratic corruption. In essence, development has failed not because Nigeria lacks the blueprint or paradigms to make it happen, but due to the dynamics of the politics that the political elite plays with Nigeria’s development potential.

Let me outline what we can regard as the “politics of policy implementation” that Nigeria has played for many years, a politics the new administration must take into serious consideration if it
does not want to fall into the category of failed administration right before it commences. This politics throws Nigeria’s development and policy non-performance right into the frame of the 2005 World Bank review findings about policy and development projects in Africa. According to the finding, 29% of development projects ever get completed, 45% of on-going projects are rated as satisfactory, while 26% of such projects invariably get cancelled. Such a review can never backstop a solid development project of a developmental state.

The politics of policy implementation in
Nigeria is founded on the following assumptions and practices. One: there is that dangerous presumption, that the new administration must resist, that once policies and development plan are designed, they are automatically implemented by the public service. And such a presumption is against the background of a scant investment in implementation analysis and planning, as well as the failure to facilitate the capability review, determine public
administration system’s capability readiness, and strengthening of the MDAs as the powerhouse of government administrative functionality. The MDAs, that is, are not working according to any
specific theories or praxis of change that can guide the functional integration of blueprints or paradigms. This kind of policy inattention draws attention to the policy contradiction: launching a
national development plan and strategy that are not implementation- ready in terms of adequate capability review of the MDAs integral to ensuring implementation success. Two: this
presumption is compounded by the uncritical reliance of past governments on policy experts and consulting firms who are tasked with designing high-end policies that are then dumped on MDAs whose capability reviews and implementation readiness have been neglected in the first place. The
extroversion of the policy design is then compromised by poor functional integration. The truth is that most of these consulting firms lack the appropriate deep content and solution frameworks that are in tandem with the context of policy dysfunction they are supposed to work with. Three: governance policy or project are hardly subjected to feasibility test determined in terms of scope and expectation that are captured by their framework of time, cost and risk assessments before
they are pushed into implementation. This makes it very difficult to benchmark funding projections for these policies and projects against revenue estimations, as well as facilitating in-built flexibilities that enable the policies and projects to adjust to volatilities and contingencies.

All the issues raised above constitute binding constraint that will undermine any governance possibilities the new administration requires to make a success of democratic governance. Undermining the binding constraints demands returning to the fundamentals. The first and most significant is that the new administration needs to interrogate the framework of how government business is currently being conducted. Governance successes are necessarily a function of how government business engages the complexities of the policy design and execution processes within a results-oriented frame. And that entails undermining the structural gaps between policy objectives, development strategies and policy outcomes. This demands second, setting the public service on a performance curve with the institution of a performance management system. This means that the public service must, for example, unfailingly now deploy KPI-based metrics to replace the cumbersome annual performance evaluation report (APER). And at the backend, it becomes imperative to have a monitoring and evaluation system supported by databases that enable staff and program continuous assessment, human resource development rooted in iterativep performance gap identification, supervisors-staff dialogue and multisource feedback mechanismsf for overall national development policy tracking and reporting.

The governance mantra must be on getting the balance between doing the right things and doing it right. And this cannot be achieved through the wanton multiplication or even duplication of
governance plans, programs and blueprints. What is needed is sequencing the blueprints into a coherent and feasible implementation programme, with the right amount of political will behind it. This gives the success of democratic governance a 95% chance of succeeding. The new administration  needs that fighting chance!

. Olaopa, a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and Professor of Public Administration .

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Rigged Elections And The Moral Burden Of Illegitimacy



Prof. Hope Eghagha

By  Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

Adamu: A man who rigs his way to power carries a moral burden!

Orezime: A moral what?

Adamu: You heard me, didn’t you?

Orezime: I’m not sure I heard you right. Moral what you said?

Adamu: A moral burden, I said!

Orezime: Hahahahahahaha! You make me laugh! Are you from the moon?

Gani: Or Mars?

Emeka: In which country? In Nigeria? That principle does not apply in Nigeria! There is no moral burden on anybody in this country! The election which produced Bubu in 2015 was rigged. Where are the two million voters from Kano State who voted in 2015? Was an INEC official not burnt alive after that election? The one which brought Obj to power was also rigged by the forces which wanted him to ease the tension of the Abiola tragedy on the Yoruba people. Yet those men had the temerity to preach against corruption!

Orezime: The international community winked at the whole exercise.

Gani: Yes! That’s why those two could only preach; they couldn’t really act decisively. A moral burden? They spoke from both sides of their mouths on the issue of corruption. The late President Yar Adua confessed that the election which produced him was compromised. An honest man, he didn’t live long enough to right the wrong of the period!

Orezime: That’s why I laughed when Adamu talked about a moral burden arising from rigged elections.

Bankole: In the ideal world, any power that is stolen and acquired through a dubious means imposes a moral burden on the power holder. No matter what the person does, that power remains stained.

Orezime: What does that amount to in our country? Even the brigands who shot their way to power in the notorious days of military misadventure in Nigeria soon became legitimate.

Emeka: You are going too far in our history. See what happened in Lagos State in the governorship elections of March 18. Ethnic jingoists went about preaching hatred against Igbo people and warned them against coming out to exercise their constitutional rights. Security officials looked the other way when ballot boxes were snatched in broad daylight in places where the opposition was leading.

Gani: A serving state governor personally went about snatching ballot boxes and threatened to shoot whoever got in his way. The same governor declared somebody wanted without recourse to the Inspector General of Police! He worked against the party on which platform he won the seat to spite the party hierarchy!

Adamu: And to think that this is the President-elect’s state. He kept mute through the horrendous attacks on Igbo people in Lagos State just the way the incumbent president has looked the other way when herdsmen went on the loose!

Bankole: Rigged elections are so familiar yet notorious in our land. It was the main trigger to the crisis in the Western Region in the First Republic because the people reacted when they saw a rape of their rights and wishes! It soon snowballed into a conflagration that consumed the nation in the late 1960s. Already, the youths are talking about a protest in the ENDSARSNOW# manner. I hope it doesn’t result in disaster. We have lost too many lives already!

Orezime: What I fear is the rise of ethnic profiling in a supposedly democratic society. To be sure, Governor Sanwo-Olu and the party hierarchy did not single out any ethnic group for verbal attacks. They even courted them. Yet they didn’t caution their followers to stop the degeneration into ethnic hatred. It is a dangerous curve what is happening in Lagos. I don’t subscribe to the Lagos is no man’s land nonsense which some misguided fellows are spewing, but threatening anybody not to vote their candidate is a new low! Can a Sanwo-Olu victory be said to be legitimate if a significant percentage of the electorate is disenfranchised?

Emeka: Good question. They did not stop there. They rolled out the culturally dreaded Oro rituals on election night. Come on! Who is fooling who? The Oro festival was designed to drive fear into non-Yoruba in Lagos. In the 21st Century?

Gani: I am sure the reports from election observers will be damning.

Bankole: I don’t care about those biased observers.

Adamu: Where are we headed in this country?

Orezime: We are on the road to Kigali!

Bankole: May we not travel that route!

Orezime: It’s a good prayer. But what are we doing to avoid the descent into anarchy? Nothing. Those monkeys are simply interested in acquiring power.

Gani: The Obedient Movement seems to have lost steam once it was misbranded as an ethnic agenda to grab power at the national level. Peter Obi needs to tread carefully so he doesn’t become another June 12! Some people are egging him on to challenge INEC through protests.

Orezime: If he decides to lead a protest, it would be within his constitutional right to do so, especially as INEC is stalling on the issue of inspecting elections materials despite an order from the courts. Peaceful protests are guaranteed by the Constitution.

Adamu: No one can be sure whether a peaceful protest will remain peaceful after it starts. That’s the experience the ENDSARS people had.

Gani: It’s not enough to stop people from taking to the streets. Protests are fundamental to democracy.

Adamu: We do not want dead heroes! Mark my words.

Bankole: That’s ominous!

Emeka: It means nothing. Nigeria must change. We cannot go on like this forever! Things are just going down. No cash. No fuel. No power supply. No security. No nothing.  Peter Obi gave a glimmer of hope. Now that has been dashed to the ground.

Adamu: Rigging will remain a moral burden each time our President-elect travels outside the country, each time he meets foreign observers, especially those ones who have a dossier on him. History will also judge him and assess how he came to power. This applies to all the states as well where some politicians have turned themselves into demigods and have compromised poor INEC officials with mouthwatering sums. This is not how to build a democracy. The votes must be counted and must count. Seventeen people have their lives during the governorship and House of Assembly elections. We are supposed to count ballot papers, not bodies. Sad!

Bankole: The moral burden of rigged elections is on all of us. Without our connivance there would be no rigging. We can only hope that this will end some day!

Emeka: Tough luck!


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