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Wanted: Baby’s Policy For Nigeria

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NYSC Not Death But Skills' Sentence

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Emmanuel Onwubiko

According to widely publicised data from unicef.org, Nigeria is a `country of the young with almost half the entire 180 million strong population, 46 per cent, currently under the age of 15.

Importantly, the current total for children under the age of 5 the statisticians insist,  stands at nearly 31 million while each year at least 7 million babies are born. From 2019 till yesterday, 17,000 babies were born by women and girls displaced by the Boko Haram terrorists attacks in the North East of Nigeria.

While a little over one in three of Nigeria’s whole population lives below the poverty line, among children this proportion surges to 75 per cent, so argues the UN.

The UN says too that when considering the low levels of birth registration, in some areas up to 62 per cent, known data about child health issues are likely to underestimate the true scale.

The UN says a 2016 national campaign linked to healthcare services resulted in the registration of about seven million children, but large population growth is impacting progress.

Nigeria’s 40 million women of childbearing age (between 15 and 49 years of age) it submitted, suffer a disproportionally high level of health issues surrounding birth.

While the country represents 2.4 per cent of the world’s population, it currently contributes 10 per cent of global deaths for pregnant mothers.

Latest figures show a maternal mortality rate of 576 per 100,000 live births, the fourth highest on Earth.

Each year approximately 262,000 babies die at birth, the world’s second highest national total. Infant mortality currently stands at 69 per 1,000 live births while for under-fives it rises to 128 per 1,000 live births. This writer had argued that under no circumstances should women bringing forth young lives be put in the way of mortal danger. Therefore, a clearer implantable national policy on babies in Nigeria must be introduced as an enforceable legal framework. This is the import of this piece.

The aforementioned statistics by the UNICEF on the stark existential issues affecting babies no doubt represent the hard core data that necessitated this reflection alongside the unmitigated hardships that faced millions of families as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The year 2020 will therefore inevitably remain symbolic for Nigerians not necessarily because it was one period that millions of families were forced into joblessness by the imposition of restrictions to movements due largely to the Pandemic of Covid-19 that came from China.  The year 2020 will be remembered as that which compelled the children of Nigeria to stay out of schools even as millions of babies passed through the pains, penury and cruelty of mass poverty generated by the inability of their parents to access their places of employments and therefore were not economically empowered.

READ ALSO: Preparing African School Children For Future Jobs and Challenges

In the year 2020, the stark reality of the consequences of the decades of marginalization of babies emerged with the sorry pictures of thousands of street children who are left with no option than to beg for their survival.

Stories were all over the newspapers about those street kid beggars particularly in Northern Nigeria and how the state governments tossed these less privileged children around from where they were to other states under the pretext of decongesting their states of street kid beggars.

The controversies generated by the decision of some or almost all northern governors to remove street kid beggars off their states, can be summed up by affirming that what those grim pictures of neglected and abused children who being taken off the streets shows is that Nigeria does not have a clear BABY’S policy as a nation.

Indeed, any nation that lacks a consensus around the theme of how to effectively support the upbringings of her kids or children’s population is doomed.

A nation that lacks clarity regarding a national blueprint on mainstreaming the human rightsghts of children in the  overall national planning strategy, will be a place whereby children are endangered species and if children are made to grow up in very uncertain and unstable environments, what it means  is that, the future of that nation is properly not assured but definitely also endangered.

Psychologists are of the view that children who go through spectacular abuses will turn out as unruly adults and abusers themselves.

With the lack of a clearly approved baby’s policy in Nigeria, children substantially are subjected to the vagaries and vicissitudes of physical crimes, psychological and emotional trauma, trafficking, and many other types of dehumanizing tendencies including being sold to rich patrons. Nigeria is about one place in the globe that there exists what we call baby’s factories whereby young girls are sexually exploited for them to take in and give birth for fees after which these children are sold. If there’s a national policy blueprint on Nigerian children made into a law of the federation with broad-based implementation strategy,  this social menace would be exterminated. Some believers in a school of thought argue that Nigeria has a national policy instrument on children just as these persons submitted that the extant child Rights Act represent its.

Honestly, I do not subscribe to the idea by the editors of The Guardian that the child Rights Act can be termed the National Policy on Nigerian Babies.

Here are the positions of The Guardian: On July 6th 2018, the Guardian wrote:
“When the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on November 20, 1989 and in July 1990, the African Union Assembly of Heads of States and Governments adopted the African Union Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (CRWC) which Nigeria also signed and subsequently ratified on 23rd July 2003, it was assumed that humanity was appropriately committed to securing its own future.

” The uniqueness of the African Charter is that it enjoins State Parties to embrace not only the rights of the child but also the responsibilities towards the child.

Nigeria also did well to have enacted the principles in these international instruments into law on 31st July 2003 as the Child’s Rights Act (CRA), 2003.

“However, having been enacted at the national level, the states were expected to formally adopt and adapt the Act for domestication as state laws because issues of child rights protection are on the residual list of the Nigerian Constitution, giving states exclusive responsibility.

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“State laws inimical to the rights of the child are also to be amended or annulled as may be required, to conform to the Act and to the CRC.

Available data show that by now, the Child Rights Act 2003 has been promulgated into law in 26 states.

“The states yet to pass the bill into law are Sokoto, Adamawa, Bauchi, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Borno, Gombe, Yobe, and Zamfara.”

Whilst not accepting that the child Rights law encapsulates the National Babie’s Policy there is a policy blueprint close to that.
It is called the National Policy on infant and young child feeding in Nigeria.

“The overall goal of the National Policy on Infant and Young Child Feeding in Nigeria is to ensure the optimal growth, protection and development of the Nigerian child from birth to the first five years of life.

“The Specific Objectives are; i. To promote, protect and support exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life; ii. To create and sustain a positive image for breastfeeding throughout the society; iii. To empower all women (including women who work outside their homes) to adopt and practice optimal infant feeding; iv. To promote the timely introduction of appropriate and adequate complementary foods while continuing breastfeeding up to 24 months and beyond.

“Other objectives are: v. To ensure the provision of specific feeding recommendations for all infants and young children irrespective of their circumstances of birth and health status; vi. To promote the provision of appropriate information for nutrition counselling and support for households in the prevention of malnutrition in children; vii. To develop and strengthen activities that will protect, promote and support adequate infant and young child feeding practices; viii. To raise awareness on issues affecting infant and young child feeding in Nigeria.

Other goals are: ix. To provide an enabling environment for mothers, family members and communities to make and implement informed decisions on optimal feeding of infants and young children; x. To support and enhance the provision of enabling environment without any form of discrimination for working mothers, fathers and other care-givers including those in part-time and domestic occupation to practice optimal infant and young child feeding.

The remaining objectives are: xi. To promote the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV through appropriate and safe measures that ensure optimal infant and young child feeding; xii. To ensure that health workers and other care providers have adequate skills and information to support optimal infant and young child feeding including in emergency situations; xiii. To support and enhance the national capacity to address issues of infant and young child feeding in different situations and circumstances.and other care-givers including those in part-time and domestic occupation to practice optimal infant and young child feeding; xi. To promote the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV through appropriate and safe measures that ensure optimal infant and young child feeding;

xii. To ensure that health workers and other care providers have adequate skills and information to support optimal infant and young child feeding including in emergency situations; xiii. To support and enhance the national capacity to address issues of infant and young child feeding in different situations and circumstances.

READ ALSO: Dr. Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi And The Institutionalization Of Feminist Power

Before finally proposing a merger of the National Policy on infant and young child feeding in Nigeria with the child Rights Act to form the National Baby’s Policy, we need to highlight key issues to be captured therein.

Basic thematic areas that should be included in any national policy on Nigerian children must look at ways and means of providing for stringent sanctions and penalties to adults who fails comply with the provisions of the policy so it does not turn out as a mere paper tiger.

Babies in Nigeria face many social issues around the area of poverty. Only yesterday, we learnt from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) that 17,053 babies were given birth to by Internally Displaced Persons in 18 locations in Borno state alone.

The UN agency told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the figure represents information of babies who have been registered between 2019 to May 2021.

Mr Frantz Celestin, the IOM Chief of Mission, IOM, said that the agency collaborates with the National Population Commission and UNICEF to issue birth certificates to the children.

According to him, the identity of the children was very important and also falls within its Displacement Matrix data which it shares with other stakeholders intervening in the North East.

“We do biometric data collection so that we know exactly the number of people who have been displaced so that the service we provide to them can be effective.

“This is important for food distribution, for non-food items distribution, it is also important for medical provision.

“Some of the work that we do on our displacement matrix data is to work with the population commission and UNICEF to provide birth certificates to those under five who were born in the camps.

“On the number of children that were born in the camps, I know last time I checked, those we had taken the biometrics and issued with birth certificates between 2019 and May 2021 were 17,053,” he said.

The IOM’s chief said the data help it to identify those who have been displaced, adding that “if you don’t have an identity you do not exist in the eyes of the government and the law”.

He said that it was important for the IOM that in spite of the conditions that they find themselves, the children were identified. A key element of the Child Rights that ought to become binding is the right to education for all children and a measure of enforceable national and states wide legal framework be put in place to check the menace of out of school children.

Around March this year, The Guardian said contrary to the optimistic impression recently given by the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu that more children in Nigeria are being enrolled into schools, there may be no cause to cheer after all, going by the more current declaration, this time by the Minister of State in the same ministry, Mr. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba that the country still holds the continental record of children who are out of school.

READ ALSO: Egypt Moves To Flush Out Civil Servants With Links To Terrorists

Specifically, The Guardian said Mr.  Nwajiuba lamented, “… that Nigeria has more than 10 million out-of-school children, the highest in sub-Saharan Africa.”

This the newspaper said “contrasts sharply with Adamu’s declaration, about a month earlier, that many more Nigerian children are in school than ever before..

“Adamu in fact stated that the number of out-of-school children (OOSC) in the country had dropped to 6.946 million from 10.1 million; claiming that as at December 31, 2020, a total of 3,247,590 children, who were not in school, were enrolled within the space of a year and seven months, due to several activities undertaken by the Federal Ministry of Education, particularly, Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA) being implemented in 17 states of the Federation,” The Guardian concluded.

Incidentally, the emerging scenario of terror attacks targeting schools in the North which are yet to be tackled by the federal and state governments has added to the crises afflicting the Nigerian children. This could have been mitigated if Nigeria has enforceable national policy on children and babies.

Another social crime is trafficking of children for sex and cheap labour.

Last year, U.S State department reports: “The Government of Nigeria does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included continuing efforts to train government officials and raise public awareness, collaborating with international organizations and NGOs to establish anti-trafficking task forces in Borno and Ekiti states, using new technologies to enhance collection of victim testimony, prosecuting three government officials complicit in human trafficking, and drafting memoranda of understanding (MOUs) to improve coordination between government agencies.”

The USA further stated that: “However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. Nigerian security forces recruited and used at least two children in support roles during the reporting period.

In addition, there continued to be reports of security officials sexually exploited, including through sex trafficking, IDPs in government-run camps in and around Maiduguri.”

The government it said did not hold criminally accountable any military officials for exploitation of IDPs in sex trafficking or recruitment and use of child soldiers. In addition, the government did not hold any Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) members criminally accountable for sex trafficking of IDPs or past recruitment and use of child soldiers.

The Nigerian military, the USA said, did not always provide trafficking victim protections to female and child trafficking victims allegedly associated with insurgencies and the government convicted fewer traffickers. Therefore Nigeria was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List.
My submission is that Nigeria deserves a national blueprint on mainstreaming the human rights of children and babies. The Ministry of Women Affairs needs to be renamed the Ministry For Babies And Families. These calls are necessary so Nigerian babies are protected and raised in a safe environment.

Onwubiko is the head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and was a federal commissioner at the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria.

 

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Opinion

Iwuanyanwu And The ‘Political Rascals’ Rhetoric 

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Nigerian Destiny: In The Hands Of The People
Dr. Promise Adiele

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.

Promee01@yahoo.com

 

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Olaopa: The Self As  A Patriotic Reformer – The Tales Of  A Memoirist

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Prof.Afolayan

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 non￾self, 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

 

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Opinion

Reflection on The Unending Quest for Reform, Tunji Olaopa’s Memoir

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Prof. Eghosa Osaghae

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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