Prince Yemisi Shyllon: Different Slides Of Success
For years, I have heard a lot about Prince Yemisi Shyllon and his art collections, especially from Victor Ekpuk, Dele Jegede, Sylvester Ogbechie, Aderonke Adesanya, Kunle Filani, and Chika Okeke-Agulu. I also heard about his plans to consolidate his collections in one location. However, my current revival of interest in his museum is owed to Professor Bola Sotunsa, my Co-convener of the 2021 J. A. Atanda conference, who coordinated the invitation of guests for the opening ceremony on June 21st. She took it upon herself to invite HE Alhaja Salmot Badru, Deputy Governor of Ogun State, Dr. Toyin Taiwo, Honorable Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, HR Oba Abolarin Adedokun, the Orangun of Oke Ila, Oba Michael Mojeed Sonuga, the Olofin of Ilisan-Remo, Oba Adeleke Idowu Basibo, the Alaperu of Iperu, and Eng. Yemisi Shyllon.
My role, as the Co-Convener, was to thank all the guests for accepting and to thank Prince Shyllon for also agreeing to Chair the Keynote session. After that, he was gracious to send me the link to the Shyllon Museum located at Pan-Atlantic University. I was stunned. I immediately set out to interview him as part of the Toyin Falola Interviews.
My interest was renewed in the great collector and the museum he donated. It came when a new museum, the Pan-African Heritage World Museum (PAHW) is being built in Ghana. I had written about the ongoing PAHW (https://opinion.premiumtimesng.com/2020/09/06/a-past-reborn-the-pan-african-heritage-world-museum-and-our-renaissance-by-toyin-falola/), and I am equally excited to write about the Yemisi Shyllon Museum (YSM). To get to the Yemisi Shyllon Museum, we have to start with the man himself.
He is from Abeokuta. Considering the number of important personalities who have emerged from Abeokuta, one is usually left wondering if there is a connection between the Spatio-temporal setting of the city and the phenomenon of greatness. Often, success is linked to people’s dedication to their careers, businesses, and other engagements that produce values. This is necessarily so because input naturally determines a person’s output in life.
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However, one cannot but be enthused by the realization that the attributed success to a person shares various connections to their ancestral identity, as many individuals who come from their source always record a commendable feat of success in their endeavors. At this point, it does not only become a subject of intellectual consideration, but it also engenders critical engagement.
In the relatively recent history of the Yoruba people, Abeokuta as a sociocultural space has contributed and also continues to be an arrowhead of Yoruba evolving civilization and their general image in international politics. The Egba, a subgroup of Abeokuta, produced Sodeke, Lisabi, Wole Soyinka, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Ebenezer Obey-Fabiyi, M. K. O. Abiola, among many other people who have all made overwhelming contributions to the advancement of their collective courses and agenda. The influence of these people, across time, continues to make ways for the Abeokuta community in multiple ways.
The addition of Prince Shyllon to the crops of value-driven, goal-getting, and result-oriented ones that are already produced in the social group justifies the reason for our collective view and appraisal of the geographical setting. Across different demographics, genders, and ages, the general significance of the Abeokuta people, even to contemporary Nigeria’s, and by extension Africa’s, socioeconomic and sociopolitical conditions, invites the attention given to them.
Apart from being instrumental in establishing an economic system and structures for the Yoruba people since pre-colonial time, they have made substantial contributions to the growth of Nigeria, even in recent history.
One would wonder how this is connected to Prince Yemisi; thus, we will establish the connection between him and the greatness that Abeokuta represents in the general scheme of things. Abeokuta’s signature as the sturdy setting that shielded its people from the predatory environment has continued to make itself visible in the lives of its people. The versatility that Prince Shyllon represents, the productivity that he signals, the tenacity ascribable to him are evidence of the physical and spiritual essence of Abeokuta city.
Born on March 26th, 1952, to the family of Sogbulu and Ogunfayo, the Prince found a strong foundation to erect for himself a strong personality and the character of a victor. Although experts in the field of psychology have demonstrated that there is still a very strong relationship between the individuals’ formative experiences and what they eventually become in the subsequent years, not much has been said about how the ancestral identity, values, and virtues associated with a people have compellingly influenced who and what they can become, or have become. Sogbulu’s and Ogunfayo’s lineage in Abeokuta is generally identified as a group with extraordinary determination to turn things around.
They have demonstrated the ability to coordinate themselves even in the face of struggles and challenges that can frustrate people with weak resolves. No doubt, they have developed the necessary attributes and traits for themselves, which may not be said to be genetically transmissible but cannot be denied to have a historical impact on succeeding generations. Perhaps, this is one of the leverages used by those from that lineage, including Prince Shyllon, to achieve a feat so incredible that it makes one gasp for breath. As will be discovered soon, the feats associated with him are a depiction of superhuman qualities.
A degree from the University of Ibadan, another from the University of Lagos, and another remarkable one from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) are substantial reasons to be enthused by the man as these achievements are exemplary of any individual. Many people find it quite challenging to acquire a single degree, especially because the asking price for knowledge acquisition is too high for them. Therefore, having three degrees to one’s name in a sociocultural setting like Nigeria attests to the progressive movement and the determination to keep the system going.
The Prince obtained a certificate in engineering, and this set his pathway on an enviable trajectory. The acquired education from this pursuit provided him with the opportunity to develop his creative ability. Apart from encouraging him to progress in his determination to become a producer of facilities that are demanded in the contemporary world, it also helped to make him valuable enough for his economic transformation, with little help from external parties.
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Prince Shyllon was lucky to grow up in Nigeria at a time when the dignity of labor was emphasized as a general operating principle. This gradually helped him in his life pursuits because the economic market suitable for individuals like him can become a burden when potential is not maximized appropriately.
His accomplishments marvel us because after acquiring adequate knowledge to earn a degree in engineering, the Prince decided to pursue a philosophically and ideologically different career. He made impressive landmarks as an engineering graduate, but it is more intriguing that someone whose mind had been configured in the engineering field would also succeed as a law student.
More importantly, the career path demanded a new “him,” and despite the inherent intellectual demands required to make him a success in that endeavor, he gave it a worthwhile try.
He enrolled in the Faculty of Law at the University of Lagos to obtain a degree in the noble profession. Prince Shyllon made a Second-Class Upper-division in Law just as he did in Engineering, reinforcing that he is a determined individual. It cannot be overemphasized that success is non-negotiable for individuals with this level of zeal and orientation in the academic environment.
After graduating as a law student from the University of Lagos, the Prince continued his studies in business at the University of Ife, where he achieved another outstanding success. It was here that his story becomes more interesting. Due to his brilliance and dedication to professional development and excellence, one can imagine how eclectic he would be and how his presence in firms and organizations would command maximum respect.
It is common knowledge that during his time as a youth, they had access to the kind of education that provided them with limitless opportunities and fulfilled many of their desires as graduates. This condition naturally gave the Prince an edge, but because he was always hungry for impact and success, pursuing other careers became a tasking but necessary passageway to success. Thus, after leaving the four walls of the schools, he began to make notable impacts almost immediately.
Organizations needed his wide knowledge, firms were waiting for his input and impact, and institutions were hungry for his contributions to promote their brands. Deciding was naturally a thorough exercise, especially when an individual has many things to offer in different areas and capacities and when numerous institutions seek one’s hands. By December 1980, Prince Shyllon completed his MBA degree, and by the January of the following year, 1981, he started his career with Tractor & Equipment Nigeria Limited (a caterpillar USA Dealership division of UACN PLC, a Nigerian conglomerate).
As a result of his contributions to the firm, the instant turnaround of Prince was pleasurable. As a market research and market development manager, the business transformation that Yemisi Shyllon added to the firm introduced him to many important figures in the company’s rank who celebrated the potential the young man had become and encouraged him to continue in that upward direction.
Through field works, Prince Shyllon drove many business organizations to Tractor Equipment, which brought great business deals to the company because of their awareness of the mutual growth that would result from their business relationship. On several occasions, businesses and organizations that went into partnership with Tractor & Equipment did so not only because of the company’s capacity but also because they had employees like Prince Shyllon, whose dedication to work was a good reflection of the work ethics of their employers.
He rose speedily to the zenith of his career with this organization. Within two years, he was promoted to Marketing Manager, proving that he was exceptionally smart and outstanding among the people working in the company. Good organizations value delivery and impact, and so, Prince Shyllon was given appropriate recognition that corresponded to the exceptional contributions he was making at the company. He remained persistent, focused, and consistent in the giant strides he pulled for the company and, by extension, himself. The more he added values to the system, the higher he went, and he was soon made the Executive Director of the marketing department.
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While Prince Shyllon was making significant contributions as the marketing director of Tractor & Equipment, he combined the additional task of the legal adviser to Nigerite Limited, where his professional input impacted the organization in amazing ways. He was not deterred by pressure and responsibility, and the more he got them, the better he became.
This is where the story of Abeokuta’s significance in the modeling of people who desire great things becomes connected. Since overwhelming records have followed numerous accomplishments by people from the city, those who have access to those records see these people as sources of inspiration for them to do more.
In the case of the Prince, despite making admirable progress in all of his professional endeavors, he had a greater vision that makes one wonder how he tries to achieve his lofty plans.
As an undergraduate, he decided on the pathway he was going to take, and despite the emerging challenges that characterized studentship experience in Nigeria, he scaled the hurdle, made records, and laid down a foundation upon which he was going to erect his social image in the long run.
During his study at the University of Ibadan, he started collecting artworks and simultaneously investing in the Nigerian stock market. It is practically impossible for someone of this dedication to not eventually record worthwhile success in life, as this honorable man is doing.
Having got used to multitasking, he found relative ease handling similar responsibilities as an adult. This is underscored by the fact that currently, he manages several activities that continue to make economic and social landmarks. Even if he chooses to function as a legal icon now, he has not failed to make milestones in other areas where he has committed his attention and strength.
For example, apart from being a legal practitioner, he is also an investor in real estate, and he has also established himself as a consultant for people in asset management, business management, and start-ups. Perhaps because he discovered that he was born to be a force to be reckoned with, he started to reestablish himself in another dimension that would eventually contribute to his general image. He created an art museum, the Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art. The Foundation has become synonymous with success.
We can imagine the Prince’s impact not only on the country’s socioeconomic system but also on cultural development. Anyone who has a solid foundation in artworks and art collection will understand the importance of cultural preservation, and when people begin to demonstrate hazy ideas about particular cultural traditions, they become public memory because they have created a physical monument that would preserve the people’s culture and their identity, by extension.
Omooba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Art Foundation (OYASAF) has been acknowledged by many people as one of Nigeria’s outstanding private art museums, evidently because of the wide-ranging artifacts in the museum. The museum is credited to have held 7000 artworks of all genres, and Prince Yemisi also has in stock over 55,000 photographic images of Africa’s fast-declining cultural objects, which means he has created an alternative space for the promotion of the African cultural value in ways that they can be retrieved by interested bodies now and in the future. Prince Shyllon’s significance to the Nigerian society transcends the economic additions that he has made for himself and the society; he has also invented himself in admirable ways in the cultural world.
Although the Prince has advanced himself personally with all the achievements associated with him since he attained maturity, it is magnanimous to link him to deeds of humanitarian services he has rendered to society ever since his emergence as a social and economic figure. His Foundation, career, and all other engagements have been used positively to improve the social conditions of people and develop individuals in ways that they could equally become useful for the collective aspirations of their environment.
OYASAF has sponsored scholars, artists, and art curators to help them achieve their career dreams and gather useful data from society to improve the quality of education and knowledge available about Africans. This act of philanthropy propelled him into the public sector, where his presence is associated with anything and everything good. From Port Harcourt to Lagos, Abeokuta to Abuja, and from there to other places in the country, the recognition accorded to the Prince is legendary, and he has demonstrated an unequaled humility, despite having made substantial achievements in his career.
This is part of a series on The Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art. Toyin Falola is a Humanity Chair and University Distinguished Teaching Professor, The University of Texas at Austin.
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With Us, Not For US
By Ijeoma Fynecountry
The 21st of March of every year is international day for the celebration of persons living with down syndrome. The advocacy and push for communal and political recognition of the basic fundamental rights for persons living with various types of disabilities, particularly intellectual disability, just as enjoyed by their peers who do not have any form of challenge – physical or intellectual has recorded a substantial success around the globe, especially in more developed climes.
While the same cannot be said of the situation in Africa and Nigeria in particular, scanty breakthroughs have also been seen over the years, with the consistent and dogged efforts by some specialized organizations such as Down syndrome Foundation, Nigeria (DSFN).
The theme for this year’s celebration is “With us, Not for us”. This theme is apt particularly in the current era where the push for inclusion has taken a center stage in the campaign worldwide. While it is comforting to know that people, government and communities alike are now becoming more empathetic to the plight of persons living with disability, it is also necessary and most important that their rights as human beings deserving of not just empathy but actual concrete benefits accruable to other citizens without disability, is massively taken into consideration and actually provided for.
Therefore, it is not enough for the government to map out and create as in Lagos state and few other states, sections in the public schools to admit children or persons with intellectual disability, it is necessary to adequately equip these special schools with the needed “specialized” manpower, infrastructural and educational aids to attain the targeted educational goals for these persons. Likewise in the provision of better healthcare, economic, social needs of persons with disability etc.
Persons with intellectual disability do not just need to be specifically educated in accordance with his or her type of disability, but MUST also necessarily be able to aspire to or expect to be employed according to his or her learned ability. That way, a full right, befitting of a person, be him a person with disability or not, is assured. For what is the need of going through a learning process, acquiring a specialized knowledge about a craft or handiwork and eventually still not being given the opportunity of gaining employment as supposed, not due to lack of knowledge but for having a disability? No human being should be subjected to such. Our government should do better. The society at large should do better.
The theme for this year is enjoining all stakeholders – the government, communities, corporate organizations, religious bodies/organizations, individuals to open up their hearts, and recognize the very urgent and important need to help in the actualization of these basic human needs, rights of persons living with intellectual disability as we are all human. No human rights or needs should be prioritized over the other no matter the state of their health, mental and physical capacity. Stand with us by taking actual intentional steps towards uplifting and elevating the humanness of persons living with disability. It is not enough to say that you are for persons living with disability, your specific, intentional, targeted actions toward ensuring the practical applicability of these rights matters.
Fynecontryis a Lagos-based legal practitioner and the legal resource person for the Down Syndrome Foundation Nigeria.
The 2023 Elections And The Newness Of Nigeria
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.
Overcoming Policy Execution Trap As Nigeria’s Development Challenge
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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