In-Between Rogue State And Cow State
I was drawn into reading a small beautifully designed book that treated dangerous themes. Then I saw an entry on the Tokyo Earthquake (1923) that occurred on Sunday, 2 September 1923, whereupon the author confessed that on the said date, a news report came via Shanghai from Osaka, Japan. It read: “Yesterday, Yokohama and most of Tokyo totally destroyed in devastating earthquake followed by fire. Heavy loss of life.”
For some days, because of shattered communications, news of what had happened reached the outside world only in fragments.
On 3 September, more reports trickled through: “100,000 people reported killed, 200,000 buildings destroyed, including all Tokyo’s business quarter and most government offices. A power station collapsed, killing 600. Tokyo arsenal exploded. Water system completely destroyed. Food warehouses burned to the ground. Fires still raging.”
On 4 September: “Casualties mounting, possibly 150,000 killed. Railway station in ruins; Japan’s longest tunnel at Sasako caved in, suffocating a trainload of passengers. Sumida River burst its banks, drowning hundreds.
All bridges down. Almost all schools, hospitals, factories wrecked. Summer resorts on Sagami Bay (20 miles south-west of Tokyo) obliterated.”
On 5 September: “Many passengers and goods trains derailed with heavy loss of life. Tidal waves, 40 feet high, swamped Sagami Bay, causing massive destruction, then receded, baring the ocean floor. Oil-storage tanks at Yokohama exploded. 40,000 people burned to death by fire cyclone in Tokyo Park. 1,600 crushed, then burned in subsequent fire when Fuji cotton mill collapsed.” (The World ’s Worst Disasters of the Twentieth Century by Hamlyn).
I read with trepidation and considerable shock the above summation of the Tokyo 1923 Earthquake which in the scientific estimation of record keepers turned out to be one of the worst disasters in recorded history to have occurred to humanity.
Well the one disaster that is nearer to us locally would definitely be the thirty months fratricidal civil war between the then breakaway Eastern region and Nigeria in which a considerable genocide occurred with nearly three million civilians slaughtered in the then Biafran Republic which actually tried to secede from the newly Independent British Colonized territory known as Nigeria.
In that war, it was said that the Federal Forces imposed food embargo against the Eastern region then called Biafra and this apparent War Crime led to the death of millions of children.
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In the context of our reflection today, we can also say that Nigeria is currently undergoing one of the worst forms of human disasters because in most parts of the country as we speak, children cannot go to school in safety without being attacked by terrorists that President Muhammadu Buhari have chosen to only address as armed bandits just as most of these terrorists are Fulanis with the same ethnicity with the president.
The live disaster that is taking place in Nigeria also has to do with the fact that the political authority in Abuja has prioritized the welfare of cows much more than those of human beings.
This tendency offends both natural law and the Nigerian Grund Norm which clearly states the sanctity of life in many sections including section 33 (1) that says: “Every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.”
It is indeed a thing of unfathomable worry that President Buhari talks more about how to protect cows and the seemingly lawless herders who share the same ethnicity with him than about human beings who are at the receiving end of different kinds of terror attacks.
Recently, he decided after a long while to speak to Nigerians via the media of mass communication.
First, he spoke with Arise television before he also spoke to the publicly owned Nigerian Television Authority.
In all of these interactions characterized by negative assertions and threats targeting the South East of Nigeria because of the raging agitation for self- determination by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), the president devoted a substantial part of those monologues to talks about cows.
He categorically made a statement insisting that open grazing of cows is the only option he would accept. His conclusion on open grazing contradicts the democratic decision of both the Northern and Southern governors.
But President Buhari stood behind his kinsman who is his justice minister to direct that grazing routes be demarcated and handed over to Fulani herdsmen even without saying how his government will handle the many cases of mass killing of farmers by Fulani herdsmen who wield Ak- 47 but he faintly asserted that the Fulani that bear and brandish assorted weapons are from Mauritania and central African Republic.
Imagine a President whose primary lawful duty is to protect lives of citizens and their property now abdicating from that constitutional role under the guise that those doing the killings of his citizens are not his kinsmen from Nigeria but his Kinsmen from outside Nigeria.
This is outrageous and reprehensible.
Over and above all, the president spoke about cows and concluded with cow business by saying that he would be retiring to his farms to tend his cattle in Katsina.
Another disaster being inflicted on Nigeria is the demolition of all values that seek to defend free speech just as the Federal Government has consistently deployed armed security force to crush civil protests and has used full force against only the South East-based Indigenous Peoples of Biafra whom he categorized as terrorists by obtaining exparte order of Abuja federal High Court declaring them (IPOB) as a terrorist group just as the matter challenging that proscription has never been heard and the lawyer representing IPOB has been physically attacked thrice by armed security forces and two of his brothers assassinated by the Nigerian State just for being a legal representative of IPOB in the law courts.
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Few hours after he spoke about cows and what he intends to do using Abubakar Malami to protect the business interests of private cow owners, the government unleashed the police who brutally attacked protesters who gathered in Abuja and Lagos on June 12th 2021 to demand good governance and accountability.
A typical media representation of the repressive state of the Nigeria of today is going viral on social media. There is a photographic depiction of armed police operative brutalizing a peaceful protester on June 12th and another photo showing a police man admiring armed Fulani militia member who attended one of the many meetings staged by Katsina and Zamfara governors to try to win the terrorists that Muhammadu Buhari has so far refused to call terrorists, over to embrace dialogue.
What we then see is a tyrant who is in Abuja making use of armed security forces to clamp down on peaceful protesters but has failed to crush armed Fulani herdsmen who have continued to kill and maim citizens all across Nigeria.
Now let us return to the speech by President Buhari in which he apparently was communicating to the world that all he cares about as president is the welfare of cows and his Fulani kinsmen who tend these cows.
Already his threat to revive the so-called cattle routes has unleashed intellectual battles on two fronts.
President Muhammadu Buhari said he plans to revive cattle grazing routes and grazing areas set across the country in the 1960s, suggesting an opposition to the open grazing ban announced by the 17 southern governors.
The southern governors had in May declared a ban on open grazing, asking the mainly Fulani herders to practise a settled form of livestock production to control their incessant violent conflicts with farmers and host communities over resources.
But in the wake of that declaration, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami, controversially challenged the governors and set an equivalence between banning open grazing and banning auto parts trading in the north.
Malami’s comparison was as reported by an online medium seen as a false equivalence and disguisedly targeting the Igbo group, who are known for auto parts trading, prompting protests on the social media.
After Mr Malami, Garba Shehu, presidential spokesperson, also said the ban by the southern governors was lawless and his principal had a better plan.
“I have asked to dig up gazettes of the First Republic,” Mr Buhari said in his Arise TV interview aired on Thursday morning, referring to the documents that in the 1960s set hundreds of routes and areas for free range cattle grazing across the country.
The routes traverse Nigeria’s states and neighbouring countries, thereby allowing foreign herders to seasonally explore Nigeria for pasture. But the foreigners have been blamed for being particularly violent, a point the president also made in his interview. However, indigenous herders also fight with farmers over access to shrinking resources amid growing population and need for land, so reports the press.
“There are cattle routes and grazing areas,” the president further said. “You have to stay there and if you allow your cattle to stray into another person’s farm you will be arrested.”
He added that “the routes and the areas are known,” and warned that encroachers “will be dispossessed.”
Immediately he made the above remarks, governors kicked and maintained that there was no going back on their ban on open grazing.
Also, the Senator representing the Osun Central senatorial district, Dr Ajibola Basiru, said that President Muhammadu Buhari lacked the powers to revive the old grazing routes, anywhere in the country.
The lawmaker also said he wondered if the president had been receiving correct legal advice from the attorney-general of the federation, Abubakar Malami.
Basiru, who holds a doctoral degree in property law, said he spoke to The Punch in his capacity as the senator representing the Osun Central Senatorial District, and in his personal capacity because the upper chamber had yet to take a position on the matter.
The lawmaker said the issue of grazing routes was not known to the Nigerian constitution and that Buhari did not have any power to direct the implementation of any law that was alien to the country’s legal books.
He explained that the gazette that Buhari was referring to was a product of a decree promulgated in the northern Nigeria in the 1960s.
He argued that the Land Use Act, which is recognised by the Nigerian constitution, had rubbished the so-called grazing routes gazette.
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He explained that the Land Use Act had transferred to state governments, the sole power to legislate on the use of land for any purpose, including grazing.
Basiru said it was only governors of the northern part of the country that could individually make laws to identify grazing routes because the gazette, which Buhari referred to, had become obsolete.
He said : “Nigerians do not need to criticise the president for making that statement, rather, they should find out whether the president has actually been properly advised by his attorney general and the legal team.
“Nigerians should be concerned over whether the Nigerian president is actually getting the correct legal advice from his attorney general and the legal team.
“As far as I am concerned, as a legal practitioner, there is nothing like grazing routes or grazing reserve law, in the laws of the Federation of Nigeria. There is nothing like that.
“There is no federal legislation that the president can implement over such matter.
“The executive powers of the president merely rely on the powers of the National Assembly to make laws, when you look at Section 5 of the Constitution.
“Any area where the National Assembly cannot make laws, and there are no express grants of powers to the president under the Constitution, a purported exercise of power by the president in that regard, will be null and void because it is inconsistent with the Constitution by Section 1(3) of the 1999 Constitution.
“I have painstakingly looked at the laws of the Federation of Nigeria and I did not see a copy of any law that is called federal grazing law, or grazing Act or any other title relating to the issue.
“I am aware that there is a northern Nigerian law on reserve and grazing routes which was promulgated by a 1964 decree by the premier of the defunct northern Nigeria region.
“It is not a federal law unless the legal adviser to Mr President is equating a northern Nigerian law, which is not applicable in the West, Mid-West, and Eastern region or in anywhere in the southern part of Nigeria, to be a federal or a Nigerian law.
“The president does not have the power to implement that law because it is not a federal law.
“He can only implement federal legislation made by the National Assembly or deemed to have been made by the National Assembly.
“The grazing routes law is not a National Assembly law, so there is nothing for the president to implement.
“It is regrettable that the president has not been properly advised by his attorney general and the legal team.
“If anybody will implement any law, it is the states where those routes are applicable that could do so.
“Grazing routes law is not applicable in any state in the southern Nigeria. The southern Nigeria has its own law on cattle.
“It is unfortunate when we have a situation whereby the president of Nigeria is being misadvised by his legal and policy team, for whatever reason it is.
“There has been informed legal opinion on this issue. So there is no federal law regarding grazing routes.
“Even by the allocation of power, under the Nigerian legislation, the National Assembly and by virtue of that, the president does not have power to do anything about grazing routes.
“This is because the management of land in the entire territory of a state, by Section one of the Land Use Act, is vested in the governor.”
There is also another research circulating on social media which says that the cattle routes are mostly in Northern Nigeria and do not affect Southern states.
The author told fellow Nigerians, that following President Buhari’s decision to reclaim all officially gazetted grazing reserves/routes, that he “decided to conduct my own findings as to where exactly these gazzeted cattle routes are located. What I found was rather interesting and I will present it here for the purpose of enlightening the public.”
He said: “My research focused only on the gazzeted cattle routes as that was what PMB said he would reclaim.
Do you know that in the entire south, it is only Oyo State that has 2 gazzeted cattle routes/reserves? The rest don’t have. See below the breakdown of the officially gazzeted cattle routes in Nigeria;
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There are 140 gazetted grazing reserves (Adamawa—31; Bauchi—27; Borno—15; Gombe—4; Jigawa—2; Kaduna—2; Kebbi—1; Kogi—1; Kwara—1; Nasarawa— 7; Niger— 2; Plateau— 1; Sokoto— 8; Taraba—9; Yobe— 17; Zamafara— 6, FCT— 4 and Oyo— 2.
I am not very sure PMB is aware of this distribution. He may be aware that there are gazzeted grazing reserves, but if he now discovers that what is officially gazzeted does not even include almost the entire south, I am not sure he will still pursue the agenda of reclaiming these reserves.
“I also found out that as far back as the time these reserves were created, the committee recommended the adoption of a more sedentary method of cattle rearing or ranching.
In a paper written by S.A. Ingawa, C. Tarawali and R. von Kaufmann, ILCA Subhumid Research Site(1989) available at: https://www.google.com/url sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://cgspace.cgiar.org/bitstream/handle/10568/4349/x5516e.pdf%3FisAllowed%3Dy%26sequence%3D1&ved=2ahUKEwjM99OqvZbxAhXKEWMBHRnaCEEQFjAAegQIAxAC&usg=AOvVaw1y8BFWlPYpvbgFx53pnwIZ, the authors listed some of the problems with open grazing of cattle and the need to implement a solution that is both beneficial to the pastoralists and the farmers.
“The research is an eye opener and also a deep revelation as to how government can indeed resolve any problem if they intend to, with honesty and fairness.
” As for the gazzeted grazing reserves in question, there are only 140 which I have listed. Although, there are some that were never officially gazzeted, I have excluded them from this post because the focus is on the officially gazzeted ones.”
Unfazed by the controversies he generated the president say he will return to look after his cows. His words: “I have never abandoned my farm. I still have a number of cattle. I will go to my farm daily. I will try to keep myself busy,”
My honest plea to Nigerians is to stay away, stay vigilant and campaign vigorously for the government to prioritize human beings and lives of citizens much more than cows. Government officials have the legal obligations to take steps to keep Nigerians safe.
The president must not be allowed to continue to give us all kinds of excuses on why Nigerians are killed and who is doing the killings.
The job of the president is to prevent these killings from ever happening and to bring the perpetrators to justice swiftly. Government must not be permitted to continue to run Nigeria like a ROGUE and police state whereby the lives of Nigerians are sacrificed on the altar of satisfying the needs of private cow owners.
Onwubiko is the head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and was a federal commissioner at the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria.
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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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