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Joseph Makoju: A Patriot Extraordinary And Professional Exemplar



Professionals In Government: Issues In Navigating The Policy Space In Nigeria

Tunji Olaopa

My more than twenty-seven years in the Nigerian civil service was one long and continuous trajectory of educationand learning. My learning curve began at the University of Ibadan where I had teachers, committed mentors, who not only straddled academic and public services, but who also ensured that those they teach would also be introduced into the dynamics of public life outside of the university setting. From Profs. Ojetunji Aboyade, Akin Mabogunje to Busari Adebisi, Tunde Adeniran and Ladipo Adamolekun, I had teachers who had to serve the government, and who brought their experiences back into the classroom to illuminate issues and problematic of the social sciences. It was at this level that I began to deepen my mentor-mentee relationship with these scholar-practitioners whose trajectory of academic-public service is exemplary.

And in the public service itself, I met with several bosses and colleagues, good and not-so-good whose professional attitude and personal character traits all contributed to my understanding of the working and dysfunction of the public service and its critical connection to the functioning of the Nigerian state. From one post to other postings, and from one office to several other sectors of the service, I picked up hints, advice, managerial acumen and professional strategies on not only how to survive a tough system but also how to strengthen my own objective of institutional reform. From Chief Simeon Adebo to Allison Ayida, Dr. Michael Omolayole to Dr. Christopher Kolade, Prof. Adebayo Adedeji to Prof. Claude Ake, I was solidly grounded in the ethics and professionalism of the public service by seasoned men and women who encoded the public spirit that made the service a calling.

I will never forget Engr. Joseph Makoju. When the news of his untimely demise filtered into the national space, to say that I was devastated was an understatement. Death is always untimely, especially when it comes to those figures and personalities who have given so much and who still have so much to give in the service of their nation and humanity. Uncle Joe is too dear and valuable to lose at this moment, not only for his dear family, the corporate management community, but also for me and the reform space in Nigeria. Death frightens us significantly by its indiscriminate and arbitrary choices. There is often no sense to it. There is just no reason for some people to die just yet. And least of these people is Engr. Joseph Makoju—father, husband, mechanical engineer, private administrator, public official and mentor extraordinaire.

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My first meeting with Engr. Joseph Makoju was in 1992 when I served as Chief Policy Analyst in the office of the president, C-in-C, Aso Villa, Abuja. I got appointed at the time as secretary to a technical committee set up by IBB to review the cost of housing and come up with alternative policy options to bring down the cost and to recommend strategies for affordable housing for the rank and file of Nigerians. Elder statesman, Dr Michael Omolayole, was the chairman of the committee. Engr. Joe Makoju, then MD/CEO of Portland Cement Plc, was a member. Our relationship picked up from the series of meetings the technical committee had especially while the back-end action research that fed the process was on-going, and became solidified with a number of trips I made to his office in Lagos in the course of finalizing the committee’s report. These meetings and visits were not just sufficient for me to be introduced to a rare corporate chieftain cum public official with a sense of commitment that counts among the most astonishing I had seen. In Uncle Joe, as I later started calling him, we had a personality that successfully made a commitment to public service from a private sector management background.

From a very distinguished secondary school academic excellence where he won two awards from Government College at Kaduna and Warri, Uncle Joe went on to earn a BSc, first class honors, and an MPhil, degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom. His life is a track record of private and public services. Indeed, it was a most distinguished and corporate boardroom service record that brought him to the attention of consecutive Nigerian governments under which he served as special adviser. And this was the first set of lessons I learnt while cultivating the friendship of a man who loved to serve. As at the time I met him, my critical study of the Nigerian public service was getting right underway. And with Engr. Makoju, I had an opportunity for a close comparative study of the administrative and managerial styles that differentiate the public from the private sectors.

And so, it was from the likes of Joe Makoju that I learnt one of my numerous lessons about what it takes to become an A-grade manager and professional. And the more I interacted with him, the more I became enlightened and came to the conclusion about the enormous gap that existed between the public and private sectors managers and managerial capacities and competences. Of course, my studies have already demonstrated how Nigeria keeps struggling, since the failed attempt of the Udoji Reform Commission in 1974, to exploit the administrative recommendations of managerialism and install a performance management mechanism that will transform the efficiency of the public service from a private sector efficiency template. Outside of the many deep interactions that I had with corporate gurus and international public servants and private managers, Uncle Joe fundamentally influenced my conclusion about the need to include in my institutional reform model the crucial element of the imperative need to build a new breed of public managers and policy professionals with the responsibility of getting the basics of national reconstruction right by committing to an overarching goal of building a new national productivity paradigm.

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When Uncle Joe became the managing director and CEO of NEPA (later PHCN), I began to learn some other critical sets of lessons, especially with regard to change management, managing complex reform dynamics and the negative impacts of what we have come to know as the “Nigerian Factor” as the undercurrent. Engr. Joseph Makoju embodies a change agent who struggled against the system to enable his vision of a public service as a space of transformation and productivity. One could only imagine what Engr. Makoju, as a special adviser to two Nigerian governments, would have been able to achieve in recommending managerial insights and best practices to politicians who have other objectives in mind. It was not too long after when the restless change agent teamed up with Alhaji Aliko Dangote, the relentless entrepreneur, to transform productivity in cement production, power and the management of refineries, by technically engineering a transformation journey that delivered the industrialization benchmarks that the government sector kept frustrating.

With Engr. Makoju, as with countless other patriotic Nigerians of his kind, we come face to face with how the Nigerian factor—a set of contextual, bureaucratic and procedural practices, rules and protocols—undermines the aspiration to transform Nigeria for Nigerians. With someone like Uncle Joe, we are further convinced that Nigeria has in abundance talents and competences that are sufficient to grow the national economy and the supportive institutional and policy infrastructures for the task of increasing productivity and reengineering service delivery that will demonstrably and positively affect the well-being of Nigerians. When I joined the faculty of NIPSS in 2020 and began to research NIPSS to sufficiently benchmark it as a significant signifier of high-end competence, I then came to better understand how Engr. Joseph Makoju, mni, reinforced his mix of engineering and managerial capacities with policy-engaged research, strategic policy thinking and problem-solving indescribable expertise. He was definitely an exemplar of the new crop of public managers that I believe hold the key to bringing the public service system in Nigeria into the twenty-first century. Unfortunately, these professional-heroes and heroines have been frustrated either back into the private sector or out of Nigeria. This is one reason why I lament the demise of Uncle Joe.

To his credit, and as a gesture to his relentless energy as a change agent, it was not surprising that he would endorse my choice of public discourse and advocacy as the avenue by which I could ventilate my frustration, hope and reform ideas about the public service. This choice became inevitable when I began to come face to face with the same Nigerian factor that limited Makoju’s reform enthusiasm. The channel of public education enables me to lay bare my ideas, strategies and models for institutional reform as an expert-insider who has struggled continuously to not only fathom the systemic dysfunction of the public service but to also iterate the possibilities of transforming the system itself. Thus, through my various publications, from public commentaries to academic books, and from lectures to seminars, I hope to be able to leave a stream of solid documentation about governance and institutional reform for the benefit of upcoming reformers and change agents and the larger stakeholders who could also pick up the baton in the race for the reconstruction of the public service as a complement to democratic governance in Nigeria.

READ ALSO: Nigeran Civil Service Bureaucratic Corps From A Generational Lens

My relationship with him was not strictly professional. He was seriously interested in my private life and family. When he was the CEO of West African Portland Cement Company, he heard from my late brother and friend, Mr. Dayo Aiki, that I was struggling to erect my first building at Aawe, my home town. Even though he questioned the wisdom in making that my first house, he wholeheartedly supported the effort that led to the completion of the building. I met his wife, Dr Gladys Makoju, who later became my deputy and eventual successor as the Coordinator, Education Sector Analysis (ESA), in the Federal Ministry of Education. Both of them were classmates at Government College, Warri before going their different ways to distinguished educational and career trajectories.

I have asked this question before, and it bears asking again: why would a Nigerian professional or expert in the United States or Germany be five times more productive than an equally talented counterpart who chose to remain in Nigeria? The answer, I argue, is because those abroad operate within a capacity context buoyed by an enormous per capita wealth worth per person. It is this kind of system that incapacitates professionals like Engr. Joseph Oyeyani Makoju, and makes their death more painful even at old age.

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


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The 2023  Elections And The Newness Of Nigeria



The Futility Of A Marital Chase
Dr. Hope Nwawolo

By Hope Nwawolo   

Despite the hues and cries that greeted the results of the 2023 elections, what if the court’s pendulum stays or swings otherwise in the expected litigations?

What will it teach our inquisitive young children?

What will it do to the hopes and dreams of the youths?

What will it do to the mind set of those in diaspora, waiting and hoping to return?

How will it affect our heroes still alive and yearning for the good old times?

One basic fact is that no matter where the pendulum swings, something new has started in the political sphere of Nigeria. And because it was unexpected, it has become almost impossible to strangulate it.  

In every competition, there is an expectation that the best man will win. That may not always be in politics, particularly, in Nigeria…where the winner may not be the best man or even the better man. And when it is said that politics is a game of numbers, sometimes, the actual numbers may not be visible to determine the end result. It becomes a case of the more you look the less you see; until interpreted by respected learned men with high integrity.

Politics, they say is a dirty game, where money speaks and promises made are broken without an iota of guilt. Where the gullible minds of the masses are deceived, with as little as a box of indomie. Where some vibrant but jobless youths are brainwashed to risk their lives to snatch ballot boxes for the politicians who do not know them beyond giving them stipends through some third parties. Where market women are forced to come out for rallies and campaigns because they cannot afford the fine that will be imposed on them if they failed to participate. They also do not want the harassment of the market leaders. 

In politics, fear is palpable in the air, before, during and after elections. The 2023 elections recently carried out, depicted these more than expected in both the politicians and electorate. What started like the usual political pattern took a drastic turn about nine months to the first elections and though it was said to be only a social media affair, it got everyone sitting upright and tightening his seat belt, particularly after the first elections.

Now, there is a generational shift, a new awakening, a new dawn and a new political birth, waiting to happen. To wherever the pendulum turns; where the court stands, it will make a turnaround in Nigeria. It may be turbulent at the beginning, it may be emotionally draining and psychologically traumatizing, but it will point to light at the end of the tunnel.

There is a new hope backed by a high spirit of determination. An unexplainable faith in many people for that newness of existence and purpose. An unprecedented emotional and psychological strength in the youths not to give up on their dreams. An unquenchable desire to keep praying. Soon a newness will break forth to calm all nerves and dry all tears.

A newness that will permeate conflicts and hatred,

A newness that will dissipate unnecessary anger,

A newness that will usher in unquestionable and transparent political systems in future elections,

A newness of freedom to choose a candidate without coercion or molestation

A newness of jubilation after the announcement of election results.

This is the new Nigeria that is awaiting delivery…

Nwawolo, PhD, writes from Lagos.




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Overcoming Policy Execution Trap As Nigeria’s Development Challenge



Prof. Tunji Olaopa

By Tunji Olaopa

If I am asked to give a succinct and apt summary of the entire challenge faced by the Nigerian state in terms of her policy architecture and development management, in spite of contestation in the development literature, I will not hesitate in stating clearly and unambiguously that it is the challenge of policy implementation; the whole dynamics of getting things done. By elimination, the implication is that the challenge cannot be located as that of the dearth of development ideas, insights, models and paradigms. Right from her independence, Nigeria has been inundated with several ideas, both local and global, about development policy and frameworks. And yet, policy outcomes keep getting bogged down in the murky waters of political shenanigans. This means that the new administration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu has its challenge mapped out, in red, for it.

There is no shying away from this postcolonial predicament that has limited and kept limiting Nigeria’s capacity to honour the terms of her social contract with Nigerians. Hence, the Tinubu government will soon be inundated with the impatient agitations of Nigerians for a quick and tangible fix that will address their sufferings. And they are justified since they have not been given any real deal for the past sixty-three years of sovereign independence. And the new administration is obligated because that is the reason for seeking office in the first place.

Prof. Olaopa’s new book on public policy and development challenges

How then can we begin to understand this policy execution challenge? It is simple: how can an administration in Nigeria transition from governance vision and policy intention to policy outcomes that elevate and transform the quality of life of its citizens? Failure to understand and give critical and political attention to this question lies at the heart of the governance failures of successive Nigerian administrations. The new Tinubu administration cannot afford such a glaring mistake. And so, a fundamental case must be made out of the question of how policy intentions get circumscribed in the dynamics of policy execution that occasions policy failures in past administrations.

Modern states all across the world are distinguished by the traditional four functions they discharge as part of their administrative responsibilities—security i.e. securing the sovereign territory against lawlessness, policy formulation and implementation, governance regulation and service delivery.The capacity to perform each and all of these functions very well within an integrated framework in the governance context is what delivers the dividends of democratic governance to the citizens, and it enhances the state’s competitive and human development rating in global reckoning. With these functions, we have the metrics to differentiate between high-performing states like China, India, the United States,Botswana, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirate, Germany, Rwanda and the Asian Tigers (Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea), and low- or even under-performing countries like Nigeria that is still cluelessly stuck within a dysfunctional vicious cycle within her arrested development.

From the perspective of governance, there must be something these states are getting right in the connection between leadership, politics, and policy articulation. For instance, there is a trajectory of relationship that links elite bargains to development bargains. In other words, development is a
function of elite nationalism and the extent to which the political class of a state can commit elite suicide and gamble on development on behalf of the people they are leading. In Nigeria, low
manifestation of elite nationalism has made it really difficult for the political class to set aside their personal and egoistic class interests in ways that enable them to clearly and ideologically discern and navigate the deadly developmental landmines strewn all over our governance landscape by the
neoliberal implication of ideological apparatuses and frameworks to which Nigeria is beholden. And here, the factor of development gamble of the Asian Tigers’ elites comes into bold relief. From within the ideological ambit of the developmental state, the leadership of the Asian Tigers were able to define a policy space that consciously and critically weighed the benefits and shortfalls of external influences, especially the type that came from the World Bank, IMF and the other cohorts of the neoliberal policy dynamics. Their developmental circumspection paid off!

Since we cannot argue that Nigeria has been stumped by the lack of vision documents, development plans and blueprints, or even policy expertise, the locus of the new administration’s focus  must be directed at the possibility of mustering the political will to undermine the mystified Nigerian Factor, and face the global neoliberal consensus in order to begin the crafting of an enabling policy architecture to drive development. And to achieve this translates to creating the delicate balance between ‘doing the right things’ (a function of decision making quotient) and ‘doing it right’(project and change management effectiveness), and overcoming the various political, cultural, structural and systemic constraints that trapped past well-meaning policies and intentions of Nigerian leaders in the dynamics of implementation.

There is first the conspiracy of elitist interest that ensures there is a poor resource allocation that focuses on elite bargain than development calculations and taking care of the national interest. Other constraints follow: (a) the disconnect between policy design and implementation due to  weak  implementation planning, risk assessment and incompetent change management strategies; (b) unstable and poorly managed macroeconomic policies; (c) policy and project discontinuity; (d) public service low capability readiness; (e) political interference; and finally (f) deep-seated political and bureaucratic corruption. In essence, development has failed not because Nigeria lacks the blueprint or paradigms to make it happen, but due to the dynamics of the politics that the political elite plays with Nigeria’s development potential.

Let me outline what we can regard as the “politics of policy implementation” that Nigeria has played for many years, a politics the new administration must take into serious consideration if it
does not want to fall into the category of failed administration right before it commences. This politics throws Nigeria’s development and policy non-performance right into the frame of the 2005 World Bank review findings about policy and development projects in Africa. According to the finding, 29% of development projects ever get completed, 45% of on-going projects are rated as satisfactory, while 26% of such projects invariably get cancelled. Such a review can never backstop a solid development project of a developmental state.

The politics of policy implementation in
Nigeria is founded on the following assumptions and practices. One: there is that dangerous presumption, that the new administration must resist, that once policies and development plan are designed, they are automatically implemented by the public service. And such a presumption is against the background of a scant investment in implementation analysis and planning, as well as the failure to facilitate the capability review, determine public
administration system’s capability readiness, and strengthening of the MDAs as the powerhouse of government administrative functionality. The MDAs, that is, are not working according to any
specific theories or praxis of change that can guide the functional integration of blueprints or paradigms. This kind of policy inattention draws attention to the policy contradiction: launching a
national development plan and strategy that are not implementation- ready in terms of adequate capability review of the MDAs integral to ensuring implementation success. Two: this
presumption is compounded by the uncritical reliance of past governments on policy experts and consulting firms who are tasked with designing high-end policies that are then dumped on MDAs whose capability reviews and implementation readiness have been neglected in the first place. The
extroversion of the policy design is then compromised by poor functional integration. The truth is that most of these consulting firms lack the appropriate deep content and solution frameworks that are in tandem with the context of policy dysfunction they are supposed to work with. Three: governance policy or project are hardly subjected to feasibility test determined in terms of scope and expectation that are captured by their framework of time, cost and risk assessments before
they are pushed into implementation. This makes it very difficult to benchmark funding projections for these policies and projects against revenue estimations, as well as facilitating in-built flexibilities that enable the policies and projects to adjust to volatilities and contingencies.

All the issues raised above constitute binding constraint that will undermine any governance possibilities the new administration requires to make a success of democratic governance. Undermining the binding constraints demands returning to the fundamentals. The first and most significant is that the new administration needs to interrogate the framework of how government business is currently being conducted. Governance successes are necessarily a function of how government business engages the complexities of the policy design and execution processes within a results-oriented frame. And that entails undermining the structural gaps between policy objectives, development strategies and policy outcomes. This demands second, setting the public service on a performance curve with the institution of a performance management system. This means that the public service must, for example, unfailingly now deploy KPI-based metrics to replace the cumbersome annual performance evaluation report (APER). And at the backend, it becomes imperative to have a monitoring and evaluation system supported by databases that enable staff and program continuous assessment, human resource development rooted in iterativep performance gap identification, supervisors-staff dialogue and multisource feedback mechanismsf for overall national development policy tracking and reporting.

The governance mantra must be on getting the balance between doing the right things and doing it right. And this cannot be achieved through the wanton multiplication or even duplication of
governance plans, programs and blueprints. What is needed is sequencing the blueprints into a coherent and feasible implementation programme, with the right amount of political will behind it. This gives the success of democratic governance a 95% chance of succeeding. The new administration  needs that fighting chance!

. Olaopa, a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and Professor of Public Administration .

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Rigged Elections And The Moral Burden Of Illegitimacy



Prof. Hope Eghagha

By  Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

Adamu: A man who rigs his way to power carries a moral burden!

Orezime: A moral what?

Adamu: You heard me, didn’t you?

Orezime: I’m not sure I heard you right. Moral what you said?

Adamu: A moral burden, I said!

Orezime: Hahahahahahaha! You make me laugh! Are you from the moon?

Gani: Or Mars?

Emeka: In which country? In Nigeria? That principle does not apply in Nigeria! There is no moral burden on anybody in this country! The election which produced Bubu in 2015 was rigged. Where are the two million voters from Kano State who voted in 2015? Was an INEC official not burnt alive after that election? The one which brought Obj to power was also rigged by the forces which wanted him to ease the tension of the Abiola tragedy on the Yoruba people. Yet those men had the temerity to preach against corruption!

Orezime: The international community winked at the whole exercise.

Gani: Yes! That’s why those two could only preach; they couldn’t really act decisively. A moral burden? They spoke from both sides of their mouths on the issue of corruption. The late President Yar Adua confessed that the election which produced him was compromised. An honest man, he didn’t live long enough to right the wrong of the period!

Orezime: That’s why I laughed when Adamu talked about a moral burden arising from rigged elections.

Bankole: In the ideal world, any power that is stolen and acquired through a dubious means imposes a moral burden on the power holder. No matter what the person does, that power remains stained.

Orezime: What does that amount to in our country? Even the brigands who shot their way to power in the notorious days of military misadventure in Nigeria soon became legitimate.

Emeka: You are going too far in our history. See what happened in Lagos State in the governorship elections of March 18. Ethnic jingoists went about preaching hatred against Igbo people and warned them against coming out to exercise their constitutional rights. Security officials looked the other way when ballot boxes were snatched in broad daylight in places where the opposition was leading.

Gani: A serving state governor personally went about snatching ballot boxes and threatened to shoot whoever got in his way. The same governor declared somebody wanted without recourse to the Inspector General of Police! He worked against the party on which platform he won the seat to spite the party hierarchy!

Adamu: And to think that this is the President-elect’s state. He kept mute through the horrendous attacks on Igbo people in Lagos State just the way the incumbent president has looked the other way when herdsmen went on the loose!

Bankole: Rigged elections are so familiar yet notorious in our land. It was the main trigger to the crisis in the Western Region in the First Republic because the people reacted when they saw a rape of their rights and wishes! It soon snowballed into a conflagration that consumed the nation in the late 1960s. Already, the youths are talking about a protest in the ENDSARSNOW# manner. I hope it doesn’t result in disaster. We have lost too many lives already!

Orezime: What I fear is the rise of ethnic profiling in a supposedly democratic society. To be sure, Governor Sanwo-Olu and the party hierarchy did not single out any ethnic group for verbal attacks. They even courted them. Yet they didn’t caution their followers to stop the degeneration into ethnic hatred. It is a dangerous curve what is happening in Lagos. I don’t subscribe to the Lagos is no man’s land nonsense which some misguided fellows are spewing, but threatening anybody not to vote their candidate is a new low! Can a Sanwo-Olu victory be said to be legitimate if a significant percentage of the electorate is disenfranchised?

Emeka: Good question. They did not stop there. They rolled out the culturally dreaded Oro rituals on election night. Come on! Who is fooling who? The Oro festival was designed to drive fear into non-Yoruba in Lagos. In the 21st Century?

Gani: I am sure the reports from election observers will be damning.

Bankole: I don’t care about those biased observers.

Adamu: Where are we headed in this country?

Orezime: We are on the road to Kigali!

Bankole: May we not travel that route!

Orezime: It’s a good prayer. But what are we doing to avoid the descent into anarchy? Nothing. Those monkeys are simply interested in acquiring power.

Gani: The Obedient Movement seems to have lost steam once it was misbranded as an ethnic agenda to grab power at the national level. Peter Obi needs to tread carefully so he doesn’t become another June 12! Some people are egging him on to challenge INEC through protests.

Orezime: If he decides to lead a protest, it would be within his constitutional right to do so, especially as INEC is stalling on the issue of inspecting elections materials despite an order from the courts. Peaceful protests are guaranteed by the Constitution.

Adamu: No one can be sure whether a peaceful protest will remain peaceful after it starts. That’s the experience the ENDSARS people had.

Gani: It’s not enough to stop people from taking to the streets. Protests are fundamental to democracy.

Adamu: We do not want dead heroes! Mark my words.

Bankole: That’s ominous!

Emeka: It means nothing. Nigeria must change. We cannot go on like this forever! Things are just going down. No cash. No fuel. No power supply. No security. No nothing.  Peter Obi gave a glimmer of hope. Now that has been dashed to the ground.

Adamu: Rigging will remain a moral burden each time our President-elect travels outside the country, each time he meets foreign observers, especially those ones who have a dossier on him. History will also judge him and assess how he came to power. This applies to all the states as well where some politicians have turned themselves into demigods and have compromised poor INEC officials with mouthwatering sums. This is not how to build a democracy. The votes must be counted and must count. Seventeen people have their lives during the governorship and House of Assembly elections. We are supposed to count ballot papers, not bodies. Sad!

Bankole: The moral burden of rigged elections is on all of us. Without our connivance there would be no rigging. We can only hope that this will end some day!

Emeka: Tough luck!


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