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BOOK REVIEW: The Unending Quest For Reform: An Intellectual Memoir



Prof.Tunji Olaopa

By  Fatai Ayinde Aremu

An autobiography is a unique category of literature in that it contains an account of a person’s life written by the same person. A memoir is a special genre of autobiography in which the person (i.e. author) writes about a specific part of his/her life. In this literary masterpiece, The Unending Quest for Reform: an Intellectual Memoir, Professor Olaopa is giving us a bumper harvest of ideas, stories, theories, experiences and lessons drawn from his very rich personal database from cradle to date. Trailing the path blazed by Chief Simeon Adebo, Professor Ojetunji Aboyade, Jerome Udoji and Professor Akin Mabogunje, all legendary statesmen who documented their lived experiences in the worlds of intellect and practice, Olaopa set out telling his story to inspire a new generation of public managers on the need to understand the necessity and intricacies of institutional reform.

Carefully crafted in elegant linguistic style by an intellectual colossus, a philosophical giant and administrative icon, The Unending Quest for Reform was animated by Professor Olaopa’s desire to meet five obligations. One, generate narratives that highlight the contributions of frontline “public administrators to the understanding and amelioration of Nigeria’s postcolonial predicaments.” Two, sustain the legacy of intergenerational mentorship which the author benefitted from. Three, address the dearth of trans-generational manual to forestall the tendency of new reform managers reinventing the wheels. Four, present an account of his stewardship. Five, present a testimony of God’s benevolence as exemplified by the author’s miraculous recovery from loss of sight at the peak of his career as a permanent secretary in Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.

This takes me to major highlights of the book.

In order to meet the goals set by the autobiographer, the 258-page piece is structured into eighteen chapters with a coda in-between chapters four and five. Each chapter begins with a powerful philosophical quotation that captures the theme of the chapter followed by the content and a collection of pictorial evidence at the end of chapters five and sixteen.

Professor Olaopa’s obsession with books was the focus of chapter one aptly captioned as “Books and Becoming.” His love affair with books earned him sobriquets like “-isms,” “A-Level” and some friends and classmates called him “Azikiwe” because of his love for Philosophy. According to him,

“I was being defined by an inquiring introversion which focuses more on an inner world of insights, ideas, possibilities and thoughts sometimes to the point of being inflexible …Reading for me, facilitated an ongoing conversations with many unknown others in near and far-flung places who could stretch my learning capacities beyond what I learnt at home or in school.” (p.3)

But being an “Alakowe,” (a book person) didn’t come without a cost, which in addition to the unfavorable public perception of him being someone detached from reality of life, extends to periodic misunderstanding with his wife when the little apartment space got cluttered and littered with books. According to the autobiographer,

“I would dump my books near the bed and my wife would pack them all and take them to the study. And before she could take a breather, the books were back where she picked them from. Peace was restored when she made her peace with my obsession.” (p.4-5)

In the chapter devoted to Books and Becoming, Olaopa takes his reader on a fascinating trip into the evolution of a scholar-practitioner whose early life was defined and shaped by addiction to knowledge acquisition that went beyond mere fact-finding. Hence, his life and career as a staunch insider-expert champion of reform stemmed from his philosophical interrogation of the purpose of knowledge right from the outset.

In chapter two, the book takes us to the “Origin,” from Okeho to Aawe, the author’s birth and formative years. Born into the family of Pa Festus Adeyemo Olaopa who hailed from Ile Alaja compound of Aawe in Afijio Local Government of Oyo State and Mama Beatrice Okebola Olaopa from Sado Compound in Oyo town, the young Olaopa moved between Okeho and Aawe for his early education and socialization. By the way, Aawe is a community noted for its dedication to educational pursuits. Aside from its value for education, religious tolerance was also one of the hallmarks of the community. These virtues had influence on the maturing mind of young Olaopa. Above all, there were many Aawe personalities who served as role models for Olaopa. These include Dr. Adegbite, Professor Ojetunji Aboyade, and Professor Latunde Odeku. His early education took him from Aawe High School to Olivet Heights in Oyo where his latent endowments as a writer and debater began to manifest.

“Plato and the Intellectual Mentors” was the focus of chapter three. Here the author demonstrated the nexus between the political events of the time, the crises that rocked the Western Regional Government and indeed the entire nation to its foundation, and postulations of Plato and other philosophers. This was the period when the seed of his intellectual inquiry into the connection between social harmony and institutional reform was sown. Striking an analogy with Plato’s question, “how can we build a city on the foundation of justice?” he juxtaposes the socioeconomic reality of Plato’s Athens to postcolonial Nigeria. According to him,

“And from ancient Athens to modern Nigeria, it is the case that those who wield power maintain the status quo that sustains their interests and class preferences. This is where Plato’s blueprint for a republic founded on justice becomes reform dynamics that hold immense lessons for Nigeria.” (p.25)

Plato’s classic treatise, The Republic, left an indelible imprint on the philosophical trajectory of Olaopa’s thoughts and ideological inclination. Plato’s famous assertion that, “unless philosophers become kings or kings become philosophers no political community will know peace or even development” resonates with him.

The story of how the author’s journey to intellectual maturation took him to University of Ibadan was the focus of chapter four. His academic sojourn in political science department and accidental foray into student unionism led him to further interrogate the tenuous faultline between philosophical ideals and reality of politics, first in the skirmishes with Oyo State Government over unpaid bursary allowances and later his loss to a less competent candidate in the student union elections. It also got him close to the inner working of policy making when he was coopted into the strategic planning development committee of the university. In this chapter, the author made insightful statements on the future of higher education in Nigeria, thus,

“To return higher education to its original mandate of sound learning and character development requires an urgent return to policy dynamics that would rethink the task for the university in the unfolding 21st century Nigeria.”

Chapter four was quickly followed by an emotional interlude, “in the valley of the shadow of death.” This short piece (coda) shared Professor Olaopa’s close shave with attempted suicide. He was afflicted by a strange brain ailment which started in 1976 during his secondary school days in Aawe High School. It lasted ten years. Respite came when Dr. Aboyade got him tablets from England. In his words, “While I still do not know what caused it, I am glad I have never had to go through such an agonizing experience again.”

Family life was the focus of chapter five. In this chapter, the author took his reader on an exciting journey into how he met his heartthrob, Funlola, at Oyo State Secretariat in Agodi, Ibadan in Oyo State. How did it happen? Without much ado, Tunji went straight to the point in addressing Funlola,

“Both of us are young and probably have no time for preliminaries.” He continues, “you look every inch lovely in measures that fit everything I have conceived of a good wife-to-be. I am going to ask you for a relationship and I advise that you say no. But if you say ‘yes’ to my proposal, then you will be my wife.”

Long story short, Funlola and Tunji Olaopa are happily married with children and grandchildren.

But the chapter also contained interesting stories of their struggles with balancing Olaopa’s obsession with books and quest for knowledge alongside financial obligations to family upkeep which saw Funlola stepping in to foot the bills as a good and supportive wife. After a gripping narrative of their early struggles, the author concludes the chapter on a positive note when he said, “I strongly believe that the stability in our home, despite the various existential challenges was due in large part to our godliness and the constant reminder that we do not have to externalize whatever problems we encounter.”

Chapter six is of particular interest not just because of its caption, “Christianity and the Spiritual,” but because of the melodramatic experiences embedded in it. Of course the story of Ali Mazrui’s Triple Heritage and its manifestation in how Western Nigeria finds harmony between Christianity, Islam and traditional worship is not farfetched. And this was clearly illustrated by the author.

However, two stories are noteworthy. The first has to do with and encounter the author had in the dining hall as Food Prefect, the only prefect in lower six at Olivet Heights. He narrates his experience thus,

“One day, while in the dining hall, I had a reason to cane a tiny-looking boy. As I was flogging him, I suddenly felt a sensation went through me and I became instantly very uneasy. I had to stop the act of caning the boy and I left for my dormitory. Later that day, the same boy sought me out and asked for permission to speak with me. The boy’s first sentence shocked me beyond words. It was as if our positions were suddenly reversed and I was a boy being spoken to by an elderly person: ‘Senior Tunji, be very careful in life. This is because it’s not everyone you see or relate with that should be taken as an ordinary human… I am a mysterious child. Senior Tunji, even my parents will dare not beat me. But I have forgiven you because I love you dearly. You noticed the discomfort when you beat me, If I had been provoked and wanted to harm you, you would never have forgotten the experience all your life. So, please be careful!’” Olapoa concludes, “I cannot now remember how long I sat rooted in my bed after the tiny young boy left me”

In his characteristic display of naiveté, Olaopa ran into another ditch when again in the dining hall, one Wale Odunayo, a star footballer was pestering him for food having missed dinner. The tired Olaopa jokingly warned Wale, “Wale, if you do not stop troubling me, I will invoke an incantation and you will be in trouble.”

But Wale didn’t take it as a joke. According to the author’s narration,

“Wale took it seriously, went to the side of the dormitory and commenced some real incantations. Dipo Ojedeji and Dipo Otegbade who were also footballers and friends of Wale and I saw what had transpired. They immediately come to me and Dipo Ojedeji gave me a really serious slap. ‘Go kneel down before Wale right away and beg for forgiveness!’ As I hesitated, a second slap landed on my cheek from Dipo Otegbola who also screamed at me: ‘Go and beg Wale now!’ I went to Wale and pleaded with him to stop. He stopped”

The two experiences caused the author to reflect on the relationship between Christianity, mysticism and occultism. He asked, “is there a mystical side to God? Does God approve of Occultism?” True to his nature, whenever confronted with worries at an intellectual level, he turned to books for answers! The chapter went deeper into his spiritual evolution and unflinching commitment to Christian faith. He concludes, “Reforming the church requires that the priesthood must take its place on behalf of Nigerians and the Nigerian state.”

Chapter seven is an extension of the author’s spiritual journey spiced with further philosophical reflections

In chapter eight, he takes his reader into the transition from multidisciplinarity to professionalism. Here, the connection between the Optimum Community (OPTICUM) model championed by Aboyade and Mabogunje in Aawe and his early job description in MAMSER as well as his academic maturation in the field of political science and public policy were beginning to coalesce. Hence, his classic thesis,

“My initial assessment is that the postcolonial public service in Nigeria has reached a bureaucratic stage where it has been crippled by a debilitating bureau-pathology. My specific assessment of this administrative pathology is, too many people doing nothing, too many people doing too little and too few doing too much.”

This diagnostics paved the way for specific administrative deficiencies he itemized as policy gaps, capacity gaps, process gaps, performance gaps and resource gaps. He concludes the chapter with an emphatic statement that “it is only its structural and institutional reforms that could make the difference in Nigeria’s postcolonial and post-independence reconstruction.”

In chapter nine, the author invites us into “The Making of a Public Servant Reformer.” Drawing on his long-term frontline experience in reform management, the author admonishes his reader that the complexity of the reform process requires that a reformer is tasked with the responsibility of thinking politically and acting strategically. This requires a delicate balance between the need for reform to be technically sound and politically feasible. This becomes imperative because, according to the author, “a reformer is not only perceived as a traitor, she is also faced with so many temptations, doubts, second-guesses, hindrances and demotivation.” And in most cases when reform eventually happens, the reformer might not be around to be given the due recognition for thinking outside of the box.

Chapter ten chronicles the author’s quest for reform at the center of power in the Presidency while chapter eleven deepened the “Quest for Reform” by zooming in on his sojourn across various ministries departments and agencies. Here the reality dawned on him when he realized that contrary to his ardent enthusiasm about reform, people were more concerned with positions, postings and appointments than being compelled by larger ideal of transforming the service for improved delivery. A classic case was how he helped midwife the establishment of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) only for another person to be appointed Director General while he was made to serve as Director of Programmes, where he stagnated for many years as a Deputy Director. In his words: “What other way to punish me than to deprive me of the top post in the reform agency I had “conspired” to take out of the confines of the civil service.”

The anti-climatic story of how he became the Permanent Secretary and his sudden retirement from the federal civil service was the focus in chapter twelve. He summarized his experience poignantly thus,

“And yet, in retrospect, it seemed I was administratively naïve and I underestimated the system and its capacity to dig in structurally against reform efforts.” After serving in various ministries OHCSF, State House, Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, Federal Ministry of Youth Development and Federal Ministry of Communication Technology, “retirement came suddenly and without any warning on 10th November 2015,” just ahead of his 56th birthday.

Chapters thirteen and fourteen interrogate a reform philosophy for Nigeria by examining first the Socratic Imperative and subsequently setting the reform agenda. Both chapters dwell on the analogy of the Nigerian civil service being a Rolls Royce in the immediate post-independence era. However,  a series of policies including Nigerianization, regionalization and representation meant that the Rolls Royce eventually ran on Beetle engine

Administrative leadership and the politics of reform is the centerpiece of the discourse in chapter fifteen. Here the author, an insider-expert (or expert-insider), posed some thought-provoking questions. Can the civil service supervise its own reform? Can civil servants supervise the reform of their own institutions? Irrespective of the answers to these questions, according to him, “in the final analysis, the issue returns to the critical factor of leadership.” This highlights the responsibility of the OHCSF in ensuring coherence in the implementation of reform.

In chapter sixteen, the author shared his post-retirement experience with think tanking from Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP) to the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS). Taking a cue from the South African Centre for Public Service Innovation (CPSI), the foundation for the establishment of ISGPP started in 2011 as if he had premonition about imminent sudden retirement. No sooner had retirement kicked than he transited his first love, academics where he got professorial appointment at Lead City University, Ibadan.

Traversing the boundary between theory and practice and the promise of synergy for greater common good is the focus of chapter seventeen.

In the last chapter, the author embarked on a prognosis on the prospect of Nigeria as a nation. In his words, “Nigeria lacks a vision.” He put forward a thesis that Nigeria’s affairs have been piloted by two brands of leadership. The first one includes those who adopt wholesale the West’s Washington Consensus with neoliberal conditionalities attached to development assistance. The second set comprises those with neo-patrimonial vision whereby self-interests override public good. The absence of shared vision results in collapse of active citizenship with attendant consequences for effective social mobilization from below which is required for inclusive and sustainable development.          

This brings me to the next goal of this review; Evaluation

Beginning with the Strength of the book

  1. Only few writers can put together such a compelling piece based on primary data collected from over three decades of participant observation at close range. This will leave traditional ethnographers research methodology  green with envy!
  2. The author’s background as a philosopher, theorist, frontline practitioner, expert-insider, reform champion and advocate of social justice, is reflected in the deeply analytical content of the book.
  3. The logical sequencing of the chapters and vivid chronological layout of the events makes it easy for readers to connect the dots from beginning to the end.
  4. The boldness with which the author took on complex and controversial issues gives the reader enlightened perspectives on issues mostly misunderstood by the public and hardly voiced in the public domain
  5. The author brought to bear a rare combination of practical skills and intellectual endowments. In the book, I find the voice of a philosopher, political theoretician, a policy  anthropologist, a literary critic, a political scientist, and institutional ethnographer, a strategic communicator and above all, a spiritual enthusiast. 

I think you will all agree with me, Your Excellency, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen that Pofessor Tunji Olaopa, like his father mentioned to him that ‘Aboyade was a genius,’ ‘Einstein was a genius,’ he Olaopa is indeed a genius.

Are there additional pullouts from the review aside from the strengths? 

Well, in the second “Foreword,” Professor Eghosa Osaghae, Director General, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), drew attention to three important points. First, are there cultural and historical specificities to particular reform situations? Is there a need for instance to decolonize the civil service? Second, even though this was touched tangentially at some point in the book, is there a need to further interrogate the debate on the generalists versus specialists in the civil service? Third, given the federal nature of the Nigerian state, can we talk about a truly reformed civil service, even if we get it right, without bringing on board simultaneously or sequentially the state and local government services? These are issues the reading public might like the author to bring to bear his unique blend of towering academic credentials and superb frontline experience in reform management.  

Aside from this, all I can say to the autobiographer is that, the reward for a good work is more work! Please, we still need to learn more and future generations will appreciate additional documentation of his rich repertoire of knowledge and experiences. As he himself rightly surmised, “I take this autobiography to be without an end even when you reach the epilogue…An autobiography carries within its narrative a huge and lifelong trail of debts that cannot be adequately paid.” Hence, to the general public, please stay tuned….

The second point I would like to flag is, giving the compelling nature of the content, its analytical rigour and impressive rendition, in other climes, this amazing piece will be a strong candidate for enactment into a movie. Perhaps, this could be an idea worthy of consideration.

Your Excellency, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, kindly permit me to go spiritual here. Not to worry, I will not do incantations like Wale the footballer. Indeed, The Unending Quest for Reform  is an outstanding collection of real life stories of how God Almighty works in extraordinary ways. From beginning to the end, the reader will find several episodes in Professor Olaopa’s living history where one would say, it can only be God! His entire life is indeed a testament to the power of the Almighty, from his miraculous recovery from a strange brain ailment that almost led him to committing suicide to regaining his lost sights at the peak of his career. These are powerful testimonies. My third special message to the autobiographer therefore is taken from Book of Isaiah 60:15, “Although you have been forsaken and hated, with no one traveling through, I will make you the everlasting pride and the joy of all generations.” 

Concluding Thoughts

The Unending Quest for Reform: An Intellectual Memoir is not only a narration of Professor Tunji Olaopa’s life history, it chronicled the pathologies of the Nigerian state, its civil service and the society. It highlights the dilemma of postcolonial predicaments that continue to clog the wheel of progress at systemic, structural, institutional and attitudinal levels. In its unending quest for reform, the Nigerian civil service, rather than serve as the linchpin to a developmental state, continues to wallow in its own bureau-pathological meddlesomeness. 

Nevertheless, we must not fail to acknowledge the commendable efforts being made to ensure that those concerns expressed by reform enthusiasts of whom Professor Tunji Olaopa stands shoulder high, are already beginning to crystallize. The Federal Civil Service Strategy and Implementation Plan (FCSSIP25) appears to have incorporated the performance management system and other innovative ideas advocated for all through his career as shown in the autobiography. We can only wish for expedited implementation of all the pillars of FCSSIP25 in order to deliver  a civil service that is capable on the overarching goal of  of meeting the challenges of the 21st century.

For students of public administration, public policy, political science, political theory, philosophy, administrative history, development studies and anyone who is desirous of understanding the complexity of managing institutional reform, innovation and change in fragile and challenging contexts, I strongly recommend this memoir as a must-have and must-read.   

Professor Aremu, Executive Director,Research Enterprise Systems (RES), Abuja.

+234-703 277 9635 


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Toyin Falola, Citizenship And The Diaspora In The Digital Age: Farooq Kperogi And The Virtual Community



Citizenship and the Diaspora in the Digital Age: Farooq Kperogi and the Virtual Community (Africa: Past, Present, and Prospects) | © May 2023 | ISBN: 9781666933413 | By Toyin Falola

Book Details

Publisher‏: ‎ Lexington Books (May 2023)

Language‏: ‎ English

Paperback: ‎ 384 pages

ISBN: ‎ 9781666933413


• Acknowledgment

• Preface And Prologue

• Table of Contents

• Introduction


Chapter 1: Building an Online Audience

Chapter 2: Philosophical Foundations

Chapter 3: Black Cultures


Chapter 4: The Decay in Pre-Tertiary Education in Nigeria

Chapter 5: ASUU and the Decay in Tertiary Education

Chapter 6: Comparing Higher Education in Nigeria and America

Chapter 7: Politicizing: Media Communications in A Democracy

Chapter 8: The English of the Nation

Chapter 9: Comparative “Englishes”

Chapter 10: Societal Decadence

Chapter 11: A Nation on the Boil


Chapter 12: Assessment, Expansion and Evaluation

In Citizenship and the Diaspora in the Digital Age: Farooq Kperogi and the Virtual Community, Toyin Falola examines how the members of the Nigerian diaspora create a virtual community and instrumentalize the digital age to speak about the nation and its failures, possibilities, and promises. This book depicts individuals’ relationships with society and how the world’s progressive shift toward technology and globalization does not disregard the concept of society and its members. As a result of this shift, people have been migrating to new places without giving up their citizenship in their home countries. This book explores how migrants are focused on the idea of a virtual community, examines how citizens’ roles have evolved through time, and displays society’s essential principles in this light.

Furthermore, it evaluates social commentaries enhanced by the dynamics of the digital age, such as societal issues like education in Nigeria, the question of democracy, challenges facing the country, and the development of a national language. Many of these societal challenges are examined in this book from the perspective of Farooq Kperogi, who has conducted extensive studies and published on the above themes. This is balanced against emerging facts, Nigerians’ positions, and disregarded realities. Kperogi’s relentless writings on Nigeria make him a preeminent figure whose positions are valuable to the understanding of modern Nigeria.

Toyin Falola is a Professor of History, University Distinguished Teaching Professor, and the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin, USA. He has received over thirty lifetime career awards and sixteen honorary doctorates. He has written extensively on the African Diaspora, including The African Diaspora: Slavery, Modernity, and Globalization.

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BREAKING: After Subsidy Removal, NNPC Increases Petrol Price To Over N500



Senator Withdraws Support For Tinubu Over Choice Of Muslim Running Mate
President Tinubu

The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) on Wednesday adjusted the pump price of petrol by over 100% to between N488 and N557.

The development followed the announcement by President Bola Tinubu during his inaugural address on Monday that fuel subsidy was ‘gone’.

However, it was learnt that the president will meet with organised labour from 2pm Thursday (today) afternoon.

The prices have now been adjusted upward from between N189 to N194 to N537 per litre in Abuja and other North-central States.

For Lagos and other South-west states, a litre of fuel now sells for between N488 and N500 per litre.

In the South-east, the price will range from N515 to N520, while in the North-west, the price of the product was raised to N540. In the North-east, it moved from N199 to N557 per litre.

For the South-south, it is now from N511 to N525 per litre. Nigeria’s subsidy budget of N3.6 trillion for this year, expires in June, 2023.

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From The Mouth Of The Authoritative Bystander: Steve Ayorinde’s Commentary On The 30 Years Of The New Nigerian Cinema



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

By Toyin Falola

Anyone can choose to be an observer. Any observer can choose to document and publish their observations. However, what stands Steve Ayorinde’s recently published documentation of observations out is authority — hence my decision to title this piece “From the Mouth of the Authoritative Bystander.” Authority is earned: in Ayorinde’s case, he has earned the authority to comment on the emergence and growth of the new Nigerian cinema because he is unarguably one of Nigeria’s best and most celebrated film and art critics. 

Expertise and experience breed authority, and for Ayorinde, both have been in play in his life. Ayorinde has spent decades as a journalist, media critic, film judge, and international commentator whose takes have often been sought both within and outside the country. Furthermore, he has served Nigeria’s biggest economic state — Lagos State — as a Commissioner for Tourism, Arts, and Culture. All these, among many other achievements and strides, point to Ayorinde’s qualification to embark on the journey to document the evolution and growth of Nigeria’s Nollywood in the past 30 years, a movie and film industry that’s been adjudged as one of the world’s fastest-growing movie industries. 

Ayorinde is not new to Nigeria’s movie industry. In his foreword, Prof. Jonathan Haynes takes us back to 1996 — where Ayorinde and Okafor’s media piece introduced and critiqued the nascent Nollywood industry. For Ayorinde, watching this new Nigerian cinema start and grow from his earliest predictions must bring some fulfilment. And while it is still expected to grow in leaps and bounds, writing this book at this point is crucial — as crucial as the newspaper piece of 1996 — for it will serve as a means of taking stock, looking back, gauging achievements, measuring success, and highlighting aspects that need improvement.

In 185 pages, Ayorinde serves his authoritative verdict on the altar of six sub-parts, focusing on feature films, directors, actors, actresses, and landmark events. Through this breakdown, we can quickly examine the evolution through Ayorinde’s parameters.

Ayorinde’s bystander’s verdict opens with a seemingly chronological strip-down of in-depth commentaries on 30 of the most era-defining movies and films produced by the Nollywood industry. These 30 works of art, grouped under the sub-section titled Feature Films, include movies from the days of the early cinema and the VHS cassette player to the days of the VCD to the days of the new cinema and online streaming platforms like Netflix. Ayorinde’s expository commentaries on the films of the first decade of the new Nigerian cinema featured Awada Kerikeri’s Asewo To Re Mecca, NEK Video Films’ Living in Bondage, Mainframe Film and Television Prodcutions’ Ti Oluwa Nile, NEK Video Films’ Glamour Girls, Andy Amenechi’s Mortal Inheritance, Gab Okoye’s Battle of Musanga, Zeb Ejiro’s Domitilla, Cinekraft’s Owo Blow series, Femi Lasode’s Sango, Amaka Igwe’s Forever, Rainmaker 70’s King of My Country, and Andy Amenechi’s Igodo. Through these twelve films, Ayorinde shows us the birth and earliest developmental traits of the Nollywood industry. These films also serve as proof that literature mirrors life and society, as the themes of these movies and many like them that were made in the 1990s reflect the preoccupations of the then Nigerian society — kidnapping, ritualism, prostitution, education as the means to livelihood, the migration to greener pastures in the city, among many other concepts. 

Kingsley Ogoro’s Osuofia in London, Jeta Amata’s The Amazing Grace, Niji Akanni’s Aramotu, and Chineze Anyaene’s Ije were Ayorinde’s selected films for the expository commentaries on the new Nigerian cinema’s second decade. Through his commentaries on these feature films, Ayorinde makes us understand that the early 2000s to 2010 marked the era during which Nollywood started to gain global traction and attention. During this period, filmmakers in the industry began to tap into collaborations with foreign producers. Similarly, this period marked an increase in the involvement of female directors and producers in Nigeria’s fast-rising Nollywood industry, as well as the game-changing effects of newer technological equipment to help shoot and project more glossy and flashy films.

Kenneth Gyang’s Blood and Henna, Obi Emelonye’s Last Flight to Abuja, Biyi Bandele’s Half of A Yellow Sun, Kunle Afolayan’s October 1, Ayo Makun’s 30 Days in Atlanta, Izu Okukwu’s ‘76, Steve Guka’s 93 Days, Kemi Adetiba’s Wedding Party and King of Boys, GDN Studios’ Eyimofe, Hassan Giggs’ Sadauki, Funke Akindele’s Omo Ghetto: The Saga, Desmond Ovbiagele’s The Milkmaid, and Izu Ojukwu’s Amina serve as the feature films spotlighted by Ayorinde for the third decade of the new Nigerian cinema. Through these films, Ayorinde showcases the evident changes in the evolutionary trajectory of the Nollywood industry, including massive advertising and influencer marketing made easily through social media platforms and the gross followers industry stars have amassed on social media platforms; collaboration with streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Showmax, and increasing national and international award nominations. 

In reviewing the feature films spotlighted by Ayorinde in the first part of his verdict, one would notice recurrent categories such as comedy, epic, thriller, and drama — enough to posit that these are the most defining and popular film categories that have yet existed in the Nigerian Nollywood space for the past three decades.

In the second part of the book dedicated to directors, Ayorinde profiles 30 of Nigeria’s most iconic film directors — 32 if one chooses to consider two couples separately — a pattern that doesn’t fail to drive home the point that the selection is continued deference to the symbolism of 30, being the number of years for which the new Nigerian cinema has existed. Ayorinde’s profiling ramps up directors from the contemporary to the pioneer directors of the new Nigerian cinema — from Tunde Kelani to Kunle Afolayan, to Okwo Mildred, to Ojukwu Izu, Obi-Rapu Chris, Kenneth Gyang, Kemi Adetiba, Steve Gukas, Obi Emelonye, Ishaya Bako, and Andy Amenechi, among other prolific directors that have worked to place Nigeria’s films on the global map. The profiling includes the directors’ filmography, nominations and awards, the education of these directors and how their education has shaped their work.

In profiling actors, Ayorinde’s selection cuts across several sides of the Nollywood industry (indigenous-language and English films) and different generations of contemporary and pioneer actors. This selection spotlights 30 actors, including Abdullahi Sani Musa, Femi Adebayo, Odunlade Adekola, Gabriel Afolayan, Fred Amata, Ekpeyong Keppy Bassey, Sam Dede, Pete Edochie, Desmond Elliot, Timini Egbuson, Richard Mofe-Damijo, Jideo Kosoko, Olu Jacobs, Osita Iheme, and Chinedu Ikedieze. Like the profiling of directors, this also includes the filmography, industry experience, awards and nominations of each of these actors, and how their work and accolades have shaped the industry and strengthened its relevance.

Trail-blazing Toyin Abraham, Sandra Achums, Taiwo Lycett-Ajai, Funke Akindele, Halima Atete, Hilda Dokubo, Rita Dominic, Adesua Etomi, Kate Henshaw, Nse Ikpe-Etim, Patience Ozokwor, Genevieve Nnaji, Joke Silva, Sola Sobowale, and Mercy Johnson, among other prolific Nigerian actresses, have the spotlight for the third part of the authoritative bystander’s tales. The commentaries on these actresses cut across their filmography, education, work experience, entry into the industry, awards, and influence on the overall Nollywood industry. If not anything, Ayorinde’s careful selection of 30 actresses in a way that diversely and inclusively represents the three decades and the evolutionary milestones of the industry while highlighting the growth and development of these actresses — especially those that have been around since the earliest years — is worthy of applause.

The creative industry burns bright with stars and talents. In the same vein, uneasy lies the heads that wear the crown, and the industry is also the abode of some of the most troubled people. In the fourth chapter of his book, “The Unforgettable Thirty,” Ayorinde pays tribute to some of the best minds and most influential people who have shaped Nigeria’s new cinema — albeit they are no longer alive. Among these “Unforgettable 30” are legendary Hubert Ogunde, Moses Olaiya Adejumo, Adeyemi Afolayan, Sam Loco Efeeimwonkiyeke, Francis Agu, Biyi Bandele, Felicia Mayford. Sadiq Daba, Nura Mustapha Waye, and Chico Ejiro. Given that Africa is a place where we don’t speak ill of the dead and hardly even speak of the dead at all, Ayorinde’s recognition of the “Unforgettable 30” is a bold and commendable act — especially as these actors, actresses, directors, and producers immensely contributed to the birth and growth of the industry.

In “Landmark Events,” the last part of the book, Ayorinde maps out stand-out events that primarily affected the growth of the new Nigerian cinema. These events, which he categorized into three — Decade 1 (1990 – 1999), Decade 2 (2000 – 2009), and Decade 3 (2010 – 2019) include film festivals, conferences, major acquisitions, collaborations in the industry, the exposure of Nollywood to global audiences, the growth and expansion of Nollywood, awards, the birth of the African Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards, and the selection of Nigerians as Academy voters, among other landmark events that have come to prove how far the Nollywood industry has grown and the influence stakeholders in the industry and the industry as an entity has amassed so far. 

In the opening paragraph of this piece, I defined authority and the parameters through which I adjudged Ayorinde as an authority on the new Nigerian cinema. If there were to be any doubt about the authoritativeness of this book — and if the sheer amount would not clear those doubts of information shared in the expository profiling of the first four chapters — the “Landmark Events” chapter is a solid proof of how close Ayorinde has been to the source, how closely he has followed and monitored the growth of the industry, and how deeply invested he is in it. 

This book is a gift whose value and worth will appreciate as generations pass — it is a goldmine of information that will shape how future generations of researchers, scholars, and critics will view, understand, study, and critique the Nigerian film and movie industry. A product of passion and dedication, the book will remain of considerable value in the decades ahead and will surely become a treasure to behold in our understanding of Nigerian cinemas.

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