Dangers of Acculturation In Our Contemporary Society: The Place of Counselling
Grace Ego Omoni
A little leaven leavens the whole body so say the scriptures and this is exactly what is happening to our nation Nigeria. Our rich culture has been totally bastardized by Western and Eastern Cultures, a phenomenon that has caused sorrow and shame to parents and the nation. Culture is no longer what it used to be because of the influence of another culture (acculturation).
While change is inevitable, the past especially the good one must also be respected and preserved. Hence, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation was created to identify cultural and national heritage and to conserve, preserve and protect it. Culture and acculturation are the concepts that will be the focus of this write-up up.
Culture: This refers to the cumulative deposits of knowledge, experiences, beliefs, values, attitudes, religion, material objects and notions of time, seasons and roles. Put in another way, culture is all about customs and social behaviour of a particular people or society.
According to the Wikipedia Dictionary, culture is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behaviours and norms found in human societies as well as shared patterns of behavior and interaction, cognitive, constructs and understanding that are learned by socialization. Simply put, culture encompasses our values, customs, language, dress, food, music, beliefs, how we sit, how we greet, how we behave before our loved ones, how we greet our visitors and a million of other things.
Acculturation: This is the assimilation to a different culture. It is the cultural modification of another culture by individual group or people by adapting to borrowing traits from another culture. It refers to the acquisition and adaptation to cultural values, attitudes and practices of a major culture. In other words as people socialise, they acquire behaviours, beliefs and attitudes that are similar to those of a majority cultural group.
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As we all know, as soon as a child is born in any human society, he or she begins to acquire the culture around him or her. Such include the beliefs, norms, customs, language, dress, religion, attitudes, knowledge, skills and values that enable them to be functioning members of the societies. Hence educationists, psychologists and counsellors are concerned about the kind of culture that the new generation is imbibing. This new culture from America, United Kingdom, China, India, North and South Korea is fast taking over our beautiful and rich African culture.
The coming of Christianity and education also brought with them Western culture which our people imbibed and have polluted our cherished tradition so much so that our children are now a shadow of our expectation. This is what we refer to as acculturation.
Acculturation is not bad in itself but the problem is that our children have totally adopted this Western culture over and above ours. One of the principles of guidance and counselling states that counselling is for the preservation of the cultural values of our society. It is however saddening to observe that our culture has been eroded. There are so many aspects of our culture but the discussion will look at dressing, attitudes, beliefs and values of the society.
Dressing: This is in relation to what we wear, what we should not wear, how we make our hair and how we adorn the body.
These were never part of our culture and should be frowned at in the society. Why do we wear clothes? The major reason for wearing clothes is to cover our nakedness.
What do we find today? We see all manner of dressings that are so awful, immoral and outrageous. Imagine our ladies exposing the vital parts of their bodies shamelessly. Boys sag and show off their dirty boxers especially conductors. I have had cause to challenge them even though some of them were rude. It is very indecent for boys to be going about with their trousers below their waists. It is an act of indiscipline which should be totally discouraged.
What we see in America is what is happening here in Nigeria. There, girls, young and old women on pants walk about. I saw this first in Honolulu, Hawaii. I just stood in awe until my professor friend dragged me away because she knew I was about challenging the old woman in pants, I mean pants not knickers.
When I was still doing part-time trading, I got to Lagos a bit late and on approaching Ojuelegba, what I saw gave me a shock. The girls were all over the road on pants and bomshorts soliciting for men. I was afraid and felt ashamed of womanhood. It was then I knew the meaning of the slogan, ” Ojuelegba girls.”
In the universities, we see crazy dressings! Boys and girls in tattered and torn jeans, transparent attire, very short skirts and gowns with sleeveless blouses that expose what make them to be called women. In the days gone by, women were taught to cover their bodies from the eyes of the public.
Again, today we see girls in men’s wears while the boys wear girls dresses. What an aberration! We can also talk of hair do. In those days when girls were girls, there was the plaiting of hair among the Urhobos, the Igbos, the Ijaws and weaving of hair among the Yorubas, Edos, Hausas and the Fulanis. The plaiting and weaving without artificial attachment qualified to be called the African Queens. Today, there are different colours of hair ranging from green, red, purple, lemon, yellow, blue, ash, brown and others; long hair from the head to the toes.
I am sure God will be very angry with our ladies trying to reorder what He has created. Just as they use attachment, so also they paint the natural hair with different colours making them to look like Jezebel in the bible. Added to this abysmal way of hair do, this new generation adorn their hair, nose, mouth and body with all kinds of accessories. Earrings and bangles that are supposed to be worn ladies on the ears are now worn on the nose and lips by boys who equally plait their hair and even use attachment. Apart from the boys weaving their hair using attachment, some of them either blow it or leave it as dreadlocks.
There is also the new trend of tattooing. Many of our youths have turned their faces and bodies to the map of the world. They design their faces and bodies with all types of patterns that you can’t even recognise them. Please permit me to ask: Of what use is this tatoo to them, recreating what God has created? This is not our culture at all. In the early days, tatoo was not permanent but used during special occasions like marriages, circumcion and during the birth of a new born using camwood.
Tattooing among celebrities is even an eyesore. Many of them have so designed their faces, hands and the whole body that you cannot easily know the natural colour God has endowed them with. They actually look like a masquerade called “ochu” that usually appears during “ukwata” festivals in my village. The sight of them is quite pitiable and I am sure some of them would have regretted ever engaging in such cultural assimilation.
Associated with dressing is the issue of make-up. What is in vogue now is the use of long nails like those of owls with different colours, long eye lashes, and different colours of powder on the cheeks and eye brow. The girls, women and brides are guilty of this. When culture was culture, ladies applied light make up on the face. Any woman seen with heavy make-up was regarded as a person of easy character. There is a popular saying that people should dress the way they want to be addressed.
Another area of our culture that is of concern is the issue of our value system such as greetings, respect for elders, the way we comport ourselves and preservation of our morals. At very young age, children are taught how to greet their parents and older adults in the homestead.
In Yoruba land, boys prostrate while the girls kneel down to greet. In Urhobo land both boys and girl kneel down to greet. Greeting parents has its own advantage especially in Yoruba culture. As soon as the child sees the father or mother in the morning, he or greets by prostrating or knelling and the parent will turn start singing the praises of the child by attaching him or her to the family’s cognomen. With that, the child grows up to understand the kind of family he or she is born into and strives to maintain the status quo.
Today, it is no longer so. Children and the younger ones throw greetings at parents and elders without respect. Many children do not know how to greet using the practice of where they originated from. Instead, you hear them greet in the English Language ( good morning Ma or good evening Sir instead of “migwo” or “ekaaro” ). It happens in homes. This is as a result of acculturation.
Language especially the mother tongue is another aspect of our that should be taught to our growing children. Today we see children in homes who can communicate very well in English but cannot say a word in their mother tongue because their parents use English as the first Language. I was guilty of this while my kids were growing up until my father in law visited.
He observed that the children could not interact with him so he scolded my husband and myself. I am glad my children are now very versed in their mother tongue. Sincerely I commend the Igbos and the Yorubas in diaspora for this. many of them teach their children the mother tongue.
Again, women are taught to kneel down to serve their husbands food but today that culture has gone into oblivion. The food is either served by the children or the house help. This ought not to be so. Not only that, wives were expected to kneel down to greet the husband’s relatives that she met when she was married into the home. I know too that in Yoruba tradition, the wife does not have the right to call the husband’s relatives’ names that she met in the family.
Instead, she is permitted to coin her own pet names to identify them. I still remember a friend of mine who used to call her husband’s younger brother, “Energy” and sister in-law” Iya- oko mi” as sign of respect for them Today it is not so. Wives even call their husbands by their names or use the term “baby”! Who is the baby, the husband or the child born into the family? In the old traditional system respect was paramount and non- negotiable.
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However, today people hardly show respect. In those days, teachers for example were well respected by their pupils and students. I vividly remember that while entering the school compound in the morning, students would run to you, greet and help in carrying your bag to your office but they hardly do that today. This is as a result of modernism where they talk of the right of the child. Children even challenge their parents and elders which was seen as being disrespectful in those days.
Lastly is the issue of immorality. This is so rampant as a result of the different types of media that have flooded the society. Children are exposed to all sorts of immoral acts on the television, phones and obscene books and literature. Parents can no longer control what their children should or should not watch and read.
The entertainment industries have worsened the situations with all manner of films on the different channels. Obscene books are sold everywhere without any control. These were not in our society before because morality was highly cherished. Today virginity is no longer valued by girls in the society. What they do not know is that men still look for decent girls to marry. During my days in the university, we had a lecturer who was fond of sampling girls but at the time he was ready to marry, he got a girl who was very decent.
One other area is the way people sit especially our girls. Girls today sit any how with the legs wide open. This is very shameful and disgraceful. They feel that wearing “tight”is a criterion for sitting anyhow anywhere. This is so absurd.
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Acculturation has not helped in bringing out the best behaviour in our children. The time has come for us to go back to the roots.
- Parents should endeavour to teach our children to maintain our culture.
- Dressing, courtesy demands that both boys and girls should dress decently and appropriately. Girls should wear dresses that cover areas of their body that make them women. Exposing the body is never part of our culture.
- Secondly, the use of make-up should be done with moderation. The use of all manner of attachments should be discouraged.
- Parents and teachers should teach our children respect for constituted authority. They should be taught to respect elders starting from parents, siblings and adults.
- Greetings in our tradition and knowing how to talk to elders should be inculcated into the minds of our children.
- They should also be taught the value of keeping themselves from immorality.
- Virginity is still in vogue. Watching of television, reading of obscene books and accessing/ sourcing and browsing of the phone should be monitored.
- Parents should monitor what their children watch on the television and the government should enact laws on what should be shown.
- Parents should compulsorily teach their children their mother tongue and the values of their people.
- The entertainment industry must also be given direction on what should be in the market.
- Obscene films and books should be banned.
- Foreign ways of living that are not proper should be discouraged.
- Lastly, our children should be taught how to sit, stand and walk gracefully like ladies.
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Iwuanyanwu And The ‘Political Rascals’ Rhetoric
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.
Olaopa: The Self As A Patriotic Reformer – The Tales Of A Memoirist
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 nonself, 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
Reflection on The Unending Quest for Reform, Tunji Olaopa’s Memoir
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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