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Abiku Phenomenon: Nigeria As Cesspool Of Development Ideas



Toyin Falola At 70: The Reminiscing About A Scholar And Legend

By Tunji Olaopa
This contribution is a mix of a development prospecting post-2023, experience sharing and policy advocacy. In recent times, I have been reflecting a lot about the àbíkú phenomenon in Yoruba thought. And specifically, about how that metaphysical phenomenon could help make sense of the protracted opportunity for greatness that the Nigerian state has been forfeiting since it came into existence. The àbíkú myth narrates the pain and trauma associated with a child who dies at birth, and persistently returns multiple times to the same mother to be born anew in a process of renewed agony. Since the spirit of the àbíkú never really plans on staying alive, it keeps returning to shatter the aspiration of a fulfilled marriage. Once an àbíkú is born, the joy derived from the birth and the hope that attends seeing that child grow are extirpated in a short while. And the die is always cast, no matter the effort of the parents. Wole Soyinka poetically memorialized the haunting pain the àbíkú inflicts: In vain your bangles cast; Charmed circles at my feet; I am Àbíkú, calling for the first; And the repeated time

I can easily relate the mocking tone of the àbíkú in this poem to the ways by which the Nigerian state has defied all possible remedies to alleviate her governance and development predicaments. The àbíkú phenomenon becomes for me a metaphor for elusiveness—the deferred possibility that has attended Nigeria’s historical trajectory since independence. The question is why, like an àbíkú, the greatness that lies ingrained within Nigeria’s mandate of nationhood has remained perpetually delayed?

It is easy for me to relate with the traumatic pain of the parents of the àbíkú child. As an institutional reformer, I have witnessed for too long how fervent optimism around reform ideas, paradigms and blueprints have been undermined by several factors and variables that we now call the “Nigerian factor.” Reform is first a personal endeavor—the reformer is psychologically involved in the reform effort because she invests hope and optimism in ways that draw her into the processes. And successes or failures affect her continuing attachment to the reform. It seems axiomatic to say that when there is life, there is hope. However, when hope keeps getting deferred, especially in the protracted expectation that Nigeria will yield to governance reforms that will transform her institutions and her citizens’ lives, then hope seems to lose its capacity to inspire further actions.

This is a personal trauma for me, having been involved in the reform business on behalf of the Nigerian state for most of my adult life. And it feels similar to handling an àbíkú child. And I am already gripped by the premonition of another aborted hope with regard to the forthcoming election in 2023, and the prospect of another political dispensation for Nigeria beyond 2023. I, and so many others of my generation, have come a long way from those heady days of potentialities, highlighted by Nigeria’s nationalists and intellectuals. I refer, for instance, to the emergence of the discourse around the very idea of Nigeria itself. From Chief Obafemi Awolowo to Professor Billy Dudley, there was that patriotic concern to unravel the possibility of the Nigerian nation beyond being just a mere geographical expression. I was also within the context of my intellectual maturation when Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe contributed to the large prospecting for Nigeria’s future with his idea of diarchy that seeks to accommodate into the political sociology of the Nigerian state the emergence of military governance after the 1966 coup.

By the time Chief Obafemi Awolowo would commence his latter-day revision of the governance miracle in the Southwest in 1979, my reform lesson was taking another dimension under the joint tutelage of the late Professors Ojetunji Aboyade and Akinlawon Mabogunje. Both intellectuals explored their patriotic commitment to the development of the Nigerian state through an exploration of rural development via their Optimum Community (OPTICOM) concept. This concept pushes the boundary of social capital and subsidiarity as the basis for unraveling people-centered and bottom-up grassroots development as the foundation for enlivening Nigeria’s federalism. This would have served as the conceptual basis for Awolowo’s development blueprint had he become president in the second republic. He did not become president. That reform paradigm will, in part, be implemented with limited successes as policy initiatives by different administrations. But that historical accident did not stop me from incorporating that thesis into my doctoral investigation in the late ‘80s, and the search for strategic development communication OP-ED leverages that eventually led me into the IBB administration and its development policies through MAMSER, DFRRI, the community bank project that saw to the emergence of the People’s Bank, and the primary healthcare project. The IBB Political Bureau was a framework for ideological reflection that resonated with my emerging reform understanding of the path for Nigeria.

I was then juggling my embryonic reform frames with lots and lots of ideological readings in my political science and theory class at the University of Ibadan. The ideological discourses were conditioned by colonialism, postcolonialism and neocolonialism, with large dose of exciting volumes to read, from Walter Rodney to the dependency theory in our attempt to understand Africa’s place in the international political economy. Marxism was a fixation in those days, while Nigerian intellectuals, Ola Oni to Bade Onimode to Peter Ekeh, and from Billy Dudley to Claude Ake to Bala Usman provided the scholarly framework within which we could reflect around the possibility of a revolutionary transformation that could push the Nigerian state into a truly developmental dynamics within which, for instance, a civic public could emerge from the primordial loyalty of the ethnic nationalities that make up amalgamated Nigeria.

And this was how my governance and institutional reform teeth were cut within the combination of theoretical political reflection and policy professionalism that fed my expertise in implementation research. And this was what I deployed as the fundamental reform competence that took me from the policy architecture of one administration to the other, in the attempt to cobble together a solid governance and institutional framework that could transform Nigeria into a democratic and developmental state. Success was far from assured due to several and serious negative binding constraints, the most fundamental of which is the lack of political will to see implementation through to its logical conclusion. From 1999 and before my eventual retirement, providence landed me in a series of significant positions, starting with the education sector as a commencement point, and through the Management Service Office and the culmination into the crafting of the fundamental reform document, the National Strategy for Public Service Reform (NSPSR). I eventually became a permanent secretary, and started the campaign for national productivity as the culmination of all governance and institutional reform processes that transform the public service into a performing, efficient and functionally optimal machinery for democratic service delivery. When retirement happened in 2015, I switched tacking by establishing the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP) to continue the task of reform advocacy.

READ ALSO: Can Any Development-Good Come Out Of Nigeria’s Bethlehem, Post-2023?

My reform efforts over the years have focused on two correlated themes. The first is the emergence of a transformational leadership that is able to create a change space which not only harness the capacities and competences of a select set of game changers, but also the foresight to create the vision and strategy that takes the civil service through the VUCA—vulnerable, uncertain, complex and ambiguous—environment into a synchronized mode for optimal productivity. The second theme is that of a cultural adjustment programme that demands a value reorientation which brings the citizenry to heel on significant behavioral and attitudinal changes that connect everyone to the leadership on the need to transform the Nigerian state. This carries the fundamental message that institutional reform hangs on the dynamics of value reorientation. In other words, widespread vices among the leadership and the populace, that coalesce into political and bureaucratic corruption, will consistently undermine the power of reforms to transform.

Cultural adjustment requires that we put religious and ethnic affiliations in their proper place that will not displace due respect for institutional integrity. For example, we cannot always set up God as the focal point for our individual and collective lack of responsibility. With the leadership in the land, showing example through their lifestyles and those of their family members as well as what they value, it demands that the unproductive investment in owambe parties be redirected to cooperative efforts to create jobs and self-help. This moderates our collective belief that it is only the government, federal, state and local, that we must always look up to for relief from our socioeconomic predicaments. The consumptive malaise, at the expense of a productive economy, must be dispensed to facilitate an industrialized and growing economic base. Here, vocational and non-vocational education must take its place at the core of government’s budgetary investment, while emphasis on R&D as driver of innovation and global competitiveness is not downplayed.

The government and the governed are both implicated in either the successes or failures of reform exercises. And as we keep focusing on the electoral year just around the corner, I have arrived at a familiar point of anxiety: will Nigerians do right in critically and vigilantly electing an administration which they will then monitor and press into reform service for the sake of good governance? The reformer in me is very apprehensive due to experiential variables. And yet, the incurable optimist in me also remains eternally hopeful that Nigeria will eventually get it right. This àbíkú child might yet stay this time around.

.Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and  Professor, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies 
(NIPSS), Kuru, Jos .


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Poisoning And Witchcraft Accusations In Africa



Witch Burning, Impunity And Abuses Linked to Witchcraft Beliefs In Benue State
Dr. Leo Igwe

By Leo Igwe

A recent incident in Malawi illustrates the link between witchcraft accusations and poisoning. A lot has been said about how allegations of witchcraft manifest in various African communities, but enough attention has not been paid to how these accusations lead to the poisoning of the accused. It has been reported that two women, Tilise Kapaya, 55, and Stelia Kapaya, 64, have died after being accused of witchcraft in Malawi. The two women were not beaten to death or lynched. They took some poisonous concoctions following the allegations. The two sisters took the harmful substance because they could not bear the shame and stigma of being accused. The Police Spokesperson, Jacob Khembo, said the women went to a funeral in a nearby village, and while at the event people accused them of witchcraft. Some attendees started calling them witches. In response to this disturbing and embarrassing development, Tilise and Steila went home and took some local concoctions believed could cleanse them of witchcraft. They started vomiting and died before they could get some medical help.

Witchcraft accusation is a form of death sentence. The accused are often attacked and killed. As this case has illustrated, the accused poison themselves or are poisoned. Alleged witches are forced to drink poisonous concoctions, which lead to their death or health damage. The belief is that this concoction removes, or disables witchcraft powers. The concoction supposedly cleanses suspected witchcraft. The taking of this substance is an exoneration process to establish the guilt and innocence of the accused. Some local medicine men or women administer the concoctions. The recipe for preparing these concoctions is known in many communities. As in this case, alleged witches do not wait to be given the concoctions, they prepare and take the substance themselves. 

In many cases, family members pressure the accused to take these substances, to cleanse themselves, to free and exonerate themselves. The belief is that if they took the concoction and died, then they were witches. The concoction could make them vomit, and the belief is that the vomiting helps expunge witchcraft particles and powers. Sometimes, the concoction makes suspected witches hallucinate and begin to make utterances often mistaken as confessions. Most often those forced to take this concoction are elderly women and men who can barely resist the process. Poor people in rural communities, widows, and aging persons living alone with limited social support are usually the target.

This form of witch-hunting is pervasive in the villages. It is difficult to know the number of alleged witches who poison themselves, or are poisoned each year. They would be in their tens of thousands because these poisonous concoctions form part of the witch-hunting accessories. In witch hunting, the motivation is to eliminate the suspected witches, to murder and get rid of them. Cases of alleged witches who were poisoned have been reported not only in Malawi but also in Nigeria, Liberia, and Gambia.

The Advocacy for Alleged Witches condemns the poisoning of these two women in Malawi and calls for an end to the process of administering concoctions to alleged witches anywhere in the region. There is no link between witchcraft imaginaries and these concoctions. The administration of these concoctions is rooted in superstition-based socializations. As is usually the case, these women could not have taken these health-damaging concoctions without the involvement of family members. The police should investigate and ensure that those implicated in the murder of these women are brought to justice. The government should sanction the community head in the Ntcheu district where this incident occurred. The authorities should punish any person, traditional healer, or witch hunter who recommends or administers any harmful substance to suspected witches.
Dr. Igwe directs the Advocacy for Alleged Witches.

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Self-esteem Of The Male Child, A Tool for Peaceful Marriage



The Futility Of A Marital Chase
Dr. Hope Nwawolo

By Hope Nwawolo

Self-esteem determines how much you value yourself and believe in your ability to succeed. If you feel confident in being yourself around others, then you likely have high self-esteem. Having high self-esteem is related to increased happiness, relationship satisfaction, and resilience in the face of adversity. Some men went through bullying in childhood or adolescence, grew into men with deflated self-esteem. 

In more recent times, the society is veering off the mindset of training only the girl child. This is because the disturbing experiences of ladies, who were trained to be submissive to their untrained husbands, have changed the dynamics of child training. Eyes have opened to realize that if you train your girl child to be an angel in marriage, she might end up with a male child who grew into a monster in the same marriage because he was not trained. 

Training has different dimensions and the common one being offered the male child is that of having a caring heart and respect for his wife in future. This is highly commendable but not all encompassing. One aspect of training that is silently being ignored is that of development of self-esteem in the male child.

Nowadays, the girl child is encouraged to look at herself as one who is wonderfully made and should not be trampled by anyone, particularly, the opposite sex. This is helping to build the confidence and self-esteem of many girls who can now stand their ground on who they want to be as they grow older. These girls grow into ladies with confidence, taking on different challenges they come across as they aspire to reach the zenith of their careers. Observably, many successful ladies are able to balance their careers with demands of the home, and succeed. Now, women have their voices and demand to be heard, instead of only being seen as it was the case in the past. 

Unfortunately this new trend seems to be breeding a counter reaction in some men. There is the growing tendency for these men to become uncomfortable in the face of the obvious confidence of their wives. Unknowingly, some of the men sabotage their marriages because they fail to value themselves as persons to match their wives’ self-esteem. This is the crux of the article, and for the need to inculcate high self-esteem in the male child to balance the training of the girl child, if and when they come together for marriage, instead of seeing her as a threat because of her self-esteem. 

Expectedly, a woman with dignity and high self-esteem, will stand out anywhere and anytime. This has nothing to do with pride and does not even give the woman the right to attempt to usurp authority from the man. In fact, such  a woman may go an extra mile to clothe herself with humility, particularly, in the presence of her husband, at home or functions. Unfortunately, many men cannot just manage the success of their wives. They would rather see them as threats. Some expect the women to be seen and not heard, forgetting that silence in dignity can attract attention from those around. Of course, men with high self-esteem, are proud to have such women as their wives.

Furthermore, it is unnecessary, particularly in the present economic hardship where the woman is almost sharing responsibilities with the man. For such a woman with financial independence, the man must be ready to witness some temper flings. And if the general admonition to women is that they should study the men and know when to talk to them, the man should also understand that the woman might be on the wrong side of her temper, due to pressure at home or work, sometimes, rather than seeing her when she is in a bad mood, as insulting him, because of his low self-esteem. 

A man with low-esteem, often finds it hard to believe that he is lovable or worthy of being respected, particularly, if he sees the woman as one who is independent to some extent and capable of taking care of herself, and sometimes, the children . Such mindset can suffocate a relationship, as it may become almost impossible to please him. Understandably, the behaviour may not even be reflective of his character but symptoms of an internal struggle, and can indeed be a cause for concern, if left unaddressed. Unfortunately, there are cases of such marriages that went sour.

However, this can be checked in adolescence or teenage years before it gets full-blown in adulthood, especially in marriage. It takes an intentional stance by parents to ensure regular self-expression by the male child, as a way of building his self-esteem to go through the rigours of life. He needs to understand that marriage should be that of partnership and not absolute subjugation of the woman, no matter her level in career and society. The man remains the head of the woman, and the home!

 Nwawolo, PhD, writes via   

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Mohbad: When Love And Light Are Not Enough



Dele Jegede In Conversation With Prince Yemisi Shyllon
Prof. Toyin Falola

By Toyin Falola

    I did not want to write about Mohbad until a student of the University of Babcock contacted me, asking me to lend my voice to it. The seventeen-year-old student emailed me in sentences that come with anguish and pain. I was moved by them. Nothing I write can restore the damaged emotions of this teenager, but I am glad to run this errand. The purpose of old age is to restore the broken fabric of society.

A sea of shimmering lights dotting the darkness of an evening sky is not a common sight anywhere in the world. In Lagos, Nigeria, it holds even more significance. It seems only a few months since a peaceful demonstration of young Nigerians was interrupted at the Lekki Tollgate in October 2020. As though the tragedy that would follow was scripted, solemn protesters who held out candlelights in their numbers in memory of fallen comrades were dispersed by live rounds and coercive military actions.

This time around, on the evening of September 21, 2023, the collegiate crowd, candle lights, and stars you saw were not to mourn the youths who had fallen to SARS’ brute force. This was the candlelight procession in honour of Ilerioluwa Aloba, popularly known as Mohbad, a young Afrobeat singer in his prime whose death and the events leading up to it have been controversial.

But these two nights have more than one thing in common. Just like in 2020, the concerned fans of the late music artiste had chosen Muri Okunola as their rendezvous, a park along Ozumba Mbadiwe Avenue, Victoria Island, Lagos, which is only a few minutes from the venue of the 2020 #EndSARS demonstration. Also, the candlelight procession featured youths, some with their placards with the inscription: “JusticeforMohbad,” bringing back memories from that fateful night. Just like three years ago, the candlelight procession for Mohbad ended with police action, the police dispersing “unruly protesters” off the scene. At least, the singular observation that some ill-trained, trigger-happy policemen did not kill Mohbad brings some solace. Nevertheless, murder is murder regardless of who pulls the trigger is an aphorism that admits very few exceptions.

At this point, one would imagine how a solemn event like a candlelight procession could have transformed into a protest that would warrant a dispersal of the “unruly crowd” by men of the Nigeria Police. In the defence of the Police Force, dispersing the procession was in the interest of ensuring the safety of lives and properties. For one thing, an exodus of young people with dread, tattoos, exuding palpable deviance is enough danger to the lives and properties in the surrounding communities; talk more of a rampant exodus of youths bearing weapons of mass destruction like naked fire and placards.

This is why the police had to think up their best initiative to nip the danger in the bud—quench the fire, whether candle lights or flickers of agitation. This is not unusual, especially in a country like ours where the primary security company has an unyielding aversion to demonstrations and an uncanny penchant for forceful responses to demonstrations, no matter how peaceful. Pardon me for this segue; it was necessary.

But will the young, towering late musician ever get justice? Would the enemies, frenemies, and evil conspirators he talked about before his death be brought to book? If anything, Ilerioluwa would take solace in the candlelight procession organized to send his soul home to his maker, as this symbolizes what he stood for. Shortly after announcing his departure from his former record label, Marlian Music, Mohbad announced his label titled “Imolenization.” In the Yoruba language, Imole means light or illumination. So, despite having had his light snuffed out in his prime, his soul would journey to the heavens buoyed on by an array of lights and love.

To many young Nigerians, Mohbad was a leading voice on the street. His songs, K.P.K., Feel Good, Peace, and Ronaldo 

(,vid:wB9Vym8SWmU,st:0), are not merely hits but have become street anthems. For many whose lives revolved around the trenches and suburbs of Lagos, Mohbad was also an emblem of hope. Like most of his contemporaries, Mohbad’s discography showcases deviance, survival, internet fraud, high life, and the never-say-die hustling spirit of the average Nigerian youth.

Mohbad’s music career took a different turn when he joined his former record label, Marlian Music. On the back of the label’s popularity, Mohbad’s stock rose exponentially, even attaining stardom with two successful albums and an E.P. Without dwelling much on what may have gone wrong between the musical art and his label, it was clear that his departure was not well received. In most departures of this kind, bad blood and legal skirmishes are not uncommon.

However, when bad blood brews into assaults and unending threats to life, and parties take laws into their hands rather than ply the legal route, the assailing party would be said to have crossed the line. As the elders would say, a fight is already set in motion when the handshake goes beyond the elbow. Mohbad, upon leaving Marlian Music in 2022, premised his departure on the failure of the label management to remit his music royalties and other entitlements. Months later, the late musician had severally released materials on how his ex-boss, Afeez Fashola, had been after his life. This leads to the question, what more would tilt the suspicion of the police towards a suspect than the declaration of a deceased person before his death?

The events surrounding the death of Mohbad raise many questions. First, could there be any connection between the frenemies he lamented and his death? Why was his burial hurried, even by his kin? Are the police doing a good job of arresting and interrogating prime and remote suspects? Was the government of Lagos right to have exhumed his remains to conduct an autopsy? Going by the Coroner’s System Law of Lagos State, “a report of death shall be made to the office of the Coroner and be subject to post-mortem examination where there is reasonable cause to believe that the cause of death was violent, unnatural, or suspicious”.

Matter-of-factly, even in this cruel world, the death of a 27-year-old is presumably unnatural except where the circumstances reveal otherwise. In Mohbad’s case, the circumstances seem to agree that a post-mortem examination is more than necessary. It becomes even more suspicious when the allegations of hostility, threats to his life, trespass on his person, and unending battles, as lamented by the late musician, are put into context.

Admittedly, the law books teach that suspicion and subjective opinion are not a sufficient basis for proof of facts. Hence, the need for empirical examination will further drive us to the point of certainty, at least for the sake of the deceased, whose life may have been cut short by unnatural forces. Maybe this would also provide context or answers as to why his burial was hurried.

When an unnatural or suspicious death occurs, the police ordinarily conduct a post-mortem examination, interrogate close associates, and scour through correspondence, recent contacts, and perceived enemies. This information becomes even more relevant if the deceased claims to have been bullied, threatened, or attacked.

Mohbad’s death has provoked commentaries and opinions from different quarters. While some have been more cautious in pointing fingers, others have thrown caution to the wind and have demanded the arrest of individuals like Afeez Fashola and Samuel Balogun. One salient issue that must be addressed before this momentum dies down is the need to redefine lost values in light of the infiltration of foreign values. In foreign climes like the United States, it is not unusual for bad blood of this kind to brew into assassinations. A case in mind is that of Tupac Shakur, who was murdered exactly 27 years ago in Nevada, United States 1996. Six months later, Christopher Wallace, Notorious B.I.G., was murdered similarly.

While Mohbad may not have died from gun violence, his death was no less violent, given the circumstances that culminated in his untimely demise. When viewed in light of his industry, we begin to see the impact of foreign elements in the Nigerian music world. A look through the boards shows artists with criminal histories ranging from assault, internet fraud, marijuana abuse, and sexual violence to homicide. It would seem that Nigerian pop artists have not only taken music inspiration from the West but have also taught their dark penchant for vices.

The cause of death might have been speculative, and the range of agitation could also have been built on unsubstantiated emotional outbursts on circumstantial evidence, a little bit shy of mathematical accuracy. Even at that, they have established the undisputed need to chase the issue to the root and also raised a disturbing concern that a lot has been overlooked in our complacency. Unfortunately, the police, in their usual brutes, have dispersed away such voices that would keep them on their toes like in the EndSARS period.

It begs the question that the current continuous show of love and a thousand sessions of candlelight will not fill the societal lacuna that might have occasioned his death or brought about the ugly incidences that built momentum before it. An enabling system has nourished the powers that have pressured Mohbad for months before his death and have continuously caused the demise of many of our fallen heroes, even if they are social stimulators like Mohbad.

To the young Babcock student, let me close as an elder: When someone else dies with similar circumstances, the same love and light will fall along with them. We have seen it continuously in recent history. We have seen brutality on helpless individuals and the government being continuously inconsiderate, but we have not seen an end to the circle. The love and lights are insufficient, but the nation has been too sleepy to fill the void they could not cover. May your fate be different, and may you live past 100 years. Amen. I will come to your campus and speak with you in person, sharing my story of survival as a teenager in the bush.

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