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Olivet Heights And Wale Okediran: Rewriting The Fate Of Public Schools In Nigeria



Reformed Civil Service Commission: Comparative Lessons for Nigeria


Tunji Olaopa

In this piece, my objective is to celebrate the recent ascension of Dr Wale Okediran, medical doctor, public servant and writer extraordinaire, as the president of the Olivet Baptist High School (OBHS), Oyo, National Old Student Association (NOSA). For so many of us, Olivet Heights serves as a constantly unifying juncture that molded all those who attended that educational space and whose futures were somehow molded in one way or the other. Malcolm X once wrote: “My alma mater was books, a good library.” Olivet Heights for me is an alma mater of books. But it is also an alma mater of people. And Dr Okediran is one significant member of that space and remarkable old school that brought up all of us. And this is one choice I heartily applaud. With Dr Okediran, the national association of the OBHS has made the significant statement that the governance of old students’ association makes some fundamental addition to the understanding of the national context within which the association is situated. And this starts from the school itself that generated the association and the national space within which the association must operate. As the national president, Dr Wale Okediran, mediates this issue both as a writer and as a public servant who has a deep understanding of what reform requires.

Dr Wale Okediran was my senior at Olivet Heights, and his accomplishments as public servant, as a medical practitioner and most significantly as a writer, calls to mind the context of our intellectual and character development as students. And at a school whose fame then and now is founded on a firm educational and theological framework of a composite mental and moral development that seeks to make an individual useful both to the future of herself and others. The Olivet Heights that produced Dr Okediran and I is built on a triple heritage of character molding, spartan discipline and the instigation of productive ambition. Students at every level were stimulated into healthy competitions channeled through the quiz competition, the debating society and the competitive sports that gave Olivet Heights some of her glories in the Oyo environs and South-West Nigeria. Some of the significant names in Olivet Heights’ football achievements include notables as Lukula, Bajomo, and specifically in my set, the likes of Wale Odunayo, Willy Siyanbola, and Zege (the son of the famous Thunder Balogun), and Ajibola, his kid brother, Jagou Babayeju, Dipo Otegbade and Dipo Ojedeji. On the track and field, I remember a few names like Alloysius Egbakumeh, Bode Winsala, and Elizabeth Ajayi (now Oyedele) Nike Daramola (now Komolafe). No bona fide students of Olivet Heights in those days will ever forget the memorable chant on the field of football: “Olivet Heights, teach them soccer!”

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No one misses morning devotions at Olivet Heights. Anyone who does, does so on the pain of punishment. The singular motto of the school is direct: Cum Christo Progredere—Forward with Christ! Following the rigour of morning devotion was not a serious challenge for me. I came from a family of committed Baptists; my parents raised the children on a firm basis of Christian spiritual discipline, like the morning altar. While kneeling at the morning altar and invoking the name of Jesus Christ to guide our lives, many of us and our parents lacked the deep theological undertones that gave birth to Baptist beliefs within the heated cauldron on the nature of salvation, grace, and sin. The tenets of beliefs of the Baptist movement were forged in the theological disagreement between Calvinism and Arminianism. Both agree on the total depravity of humans and the substitutionary atonement of Christ, but both differ theologically on the nature of the election of the believers and of grace. While Calvinists hold on to the belief that election to eternal salvation is dependent on God and so cannot be earned, Arminians hold the belief that it is conditional on faith. And on the other hand, while Arminianism argues that God’s grace restores freewill to humans to achieve salvation, Calvinism insists that that grace is given only to those already elected. And yet, all this theological wrangling has nothing to do with the Baptist belief in living a good life in the light of Christ’s examples.

A core part of my present sense of service and professionalism derived in large part from my observation of the dedication of the school faculty—the principals, teachers and administrators, all iconic educationists – from Rev. J.B.P. Lafinhan, 1962-1972; Chief R.F. Fasoranti, 1973-1975; Chief S.O. Omitade, 1975-1977; Chief J.I. Popoola, 1977-1982; to Mr. I.A. Adisa, 1982-1989, who took the different dimensions of their work as a ministry to mold our lives and those of all the others who passed through that citadel. All the curricular and extra-curricular activities had a central goal. It was not difficult for me to find myself in the debating and the quiz teams both of which I led to represent Olivet Heights. The discipline, and joy for me, revolved  around the extensive research regime that attended the debating competition. Literature was a delight, especially with my teacher, Mr. I.A. Adisa, who would later become the principal, as well as Mr. Tade Ipadeola, the father of the lawyer and famous poet, Tade Ipadeola. Mr Adisa would later recruit me to take his literature class when he moved to Awe High School. And it was at AHS that I committed the sacrilege of undermining Olivet Heights’ longstanding quiz reign with a resounding defeat by the AHS quiz team I groomed.

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So, the ascension of Dr Wale Okediran as the president of the OBHS National Old Students’ Association generates nostalgia for me, especially at the juncture of our shared dynamics. My formative years as a writer began at Olivet Heights when I started as a member and then later became the editor-in-chief/president of the Olivet Press Club. When Dr Okediran commenced the Ebedi Writers Residency at Iseyin, Oyo State, I was deeply fascinated with the concept, and I had toyed with the idea of a similar project simply for book reading as it explicates public policy discourse which would be an appendage of the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy but situated at Aawe. But then, Okediran’s presidency of the Old Students’ Association and my reminiscing about OBHS inevitably bring up a larger issue: what does the presence and educational dynamics of Olivet Heights spell for the state of public schools in Nigeria today? The existence of NOSA speaks to the enthusiasm and willingness by those who have been molded by its excellent educational and academic tradition to keep the tradition alive for other generations.

How many public schools have the tradition and trajectory of excellence that Olivet Heights possesses? Or how many of them have been able to sustain an erstwhile excellent tradition? Or even, how many public schools were ever able to take off excellently in order to be able to generate an excellent tradition? The public schools constitute the government’s foundational investment into the building of a human capital development that backgrounds the government’s development planning. However, if public schools have become so dysfunctional as to have been overtaken by private schools, whose primary objective is profit, then there are serious foundational problems with Nigeria’s development. Nigeria’s primary school education system is practically in shambles. I should know about this because I was once head of policy division in the Federal Ministry for Education and led the significant Education Sector Analysis that diagnosed Nigeria’s education dynamics. Indeed, the emergence of old students’ association goes beyond the need to give back to one’s alma mater. These associations have become the equivalents of the self-help strategy that Nigerians now adopt, in the wake of Nigeria’s galloping underdevelopment, to shore up what remains of the integrity of public schools in Nigeria. In plain language, old students’ associations are the signifiers of the failure of the Nigerian state to carry out her responsibility to Nigerians. Unfortunately, however, it remains to answer how many of such associations have the means and wherewithal to do what the government is meant to do. Or, even more pungent, how many of these associations are available relative to the number of public schools available to transform Nigeria’s human capital development need?

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This then becomes a clarion call for the Okediran-led administration of NOSA to buckle up about its responsibilities to Olivet Heights, and this more so within the context of a general rot in public schools in Nigeria. If I am permitted, one more matter needs to be added to the task of Dr Wale Okediran and the whole of NOSA—an advocacy campaign for the need to declare an emergency in Nigeria’s education sector. Dr Okediran is more than qualified to get this done. He not only possesses the creative imagination to outline the strategy that NOSA could pursue to achieve this. He also has the public service credentials as a former member of the National Assembly to understand the critical framework of power and its deployment, as well as the critical connections to get this done.

We can no longer continue with a piecemeal approach to individual development in Nigeria, from individual Nigerians to individual public schools. We need a better approach. And the starting point is to achieve consciousness building across the nation. This is my initial challenge to the OBHS-NOSA and its indefatigable leadership, and I shall return to make public their scorecard and to celebrate their achievements to boot. Olivet Height taught us to do good and to do well, and the Okediran-led NOSA should do no less than set standard for old school governance as vanguard for public school reform in Nigeria.

Olaopa is a former Federal Permanent Secretary , and Professor of Public Administration, National Institute for Policy & Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos.


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Toxic Dust On Orlu-Owerri Road



By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

Recently, I visited Imo State and was on the Orlu-Owerri road. It is heartwarming that the road is being rehabilitated because in August when I used it on my way to a wedding, it was in such a dilapidated state.

But, sadly, the insensitivity of the firm handling the reconstruction work is turning what is otherwise a laudable project into a traumatic experience for the people. The dust that envelopes that road all day is so thick that even though most vehicles switch on their headlights on bright afternoons, it is still very difficult for drivers to see oncoming vehicles just a few meters away.

And because of this thick cloud of dust, the motorists practically “drive blind”. One wonders what it is usually like driving at night when the dust and darkness merge to compound the situation. I shudder to imagine the implications of this.

But this is not even the really scary part of the story.

On both sides of that road are many residential houses and stores where people stay all day and inhale the thick dust.  When you observe the new colour the houses have generously received, you will now appreciate the kind of toxic dust many of the people are inhaling all day, and what this might portend to their health soon.

People refer to it as “cement dust.” I guess this is because of the materials that have been sprayed on the road as part of the construction process which has now perfectly mixed with the natural dust to target the lungs of the hapless people residing in the area.

A report in Umuaka Times, an online newspaper, claims that due to the “cement or asbestos” substance contained in the materials sprayed on that road, those who inhale the dust are likely to contract “a strain of cancer known as asbestosis.”

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A google search describes asbestosis as “a lung disease resulting from the inhalation of asbestos particles, marked by severe fibrosis and a high risk of mesothelioma (cancer of the pleura)”.

On its website, Craneburg Construction Company boasts that it built its   “reputation on being the most responsive, client focused partner in the industry…” Now, where is the responsiveness and customer-friendly disposition? Can Craneburg allow this kind of toxic dust to torment and endanger the health of hapless people in another country without facing countless litigation?

Why does it not ensure it sprays water on the road regularly to control the menace of the dust? Why would the state government sit by and allow a looming epidemic hang over the people like the Damoclean Sword?

Yes, a good road is a commendable development but people must be healthy to enjoy it.

Along the road, I saw people who had set up tables to sell several edible items and different materials to earn their daily living. These and their wares are continuously decorated with this toxic dust just because a construction company and the government that engaged it have chosen to be callous.

And what is the implication of this to the health of those who purchase those items? Is this really the experience of all those who reside along roads that are under construction in Nigeria?

At Afor Umuaka which is the biggest market along that road, only an insignificant number of sellers and buyers wore nose masks. But the traders must come to the market daily to sell in order to be able to feed their families in this punitive economy.

On November 30, 2020, when Governor Hope Uzodinma flagged off the construction of the Orlu-Owerri road, he explained that although Julius Berger was once considered for the job, Craneberg was eventually chosen because the government “followed the procurement act.”

He declared: “Craneburg, I tell you, is even better; they will give us quality roads and get it delivered on a good time… they will work day and night to give us exactly what we want. These roads are important to our people”

Wonderful testimony! But where is their consideration for the health of the people, which include school children who follow that road to school and those whose schools are located along that road?

Please, something must urgently be done to avert the looming epidemic this toxic dust might usher in.

May I sign off by asking Governor Hope Uzodinma why he demolished the roundabouts at the Nworubi and Umuaka junctions on this same Orlu-Owerri road constructed by his predecessor, Rochas Okorocha?

Now, let me make it clear that I have learnt to avoid like a plague any “war” between two or more politicians, because they are mostly self-serving; the welfare of the people usually has nothing to do with it.

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Also, any day they discover that their personal interests would once again be served by their becoming friends again, you will see them enjoying each other’s company, after hurriedly jettisoning their bitter differences.

So, I am not interested in the sordid drama presently raging between Uzodinma and Okorocha in Imo State.

But the demolition of the roundabouts is in very bad taste and a monumental waste of state funds. From what I have heard from people, it has further depleted Uzodinma’s acceptance among the people.

Apart from the aesthetic value of those roundabouts, they served as speed-breakers which have eliminated the accidents that used to be witnessed at those spots, especially, at Umuaka where heavy traffic is usually witnessed due to the large Afor Umuaka market, and which gets even more complicated during festive seasons.

But the roundabout came as a big relief. It also added delicious beauty to the area. So, what reason can the governor possibly give for demolishing the roundabouts?

It was like when the governor reportedly demolished a hospital built by Okorocha and announced that he will construct a market in its place. How exactly does this make sense to anyone? Is this not an example of chopping off the nose to spite the face?

Gov Uzodinma should just go and restore those roundabouts and the traffic lights! The long suffering people should not be punished and exposed to avoidable danger just because of his pointless and wasteful ego war with Okorocha.

Those structures gave the residents of the area immense joy each time they   beheld the beauty they added to their communities, plus the traffic problems they helped to contain and the accidents they reduced.

Ejinkeonye is a Nigerian journalist and writer. He is the author of the book, ”Nigeria: Why Looting May Not Stop” (available on (; twitter: @ugowrite)


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Super Eagles: Learning Not To Despair In Defeat



Super Eagles: Learning Not To Despair In Defeat


Tony Afejuku

Is it easy for anyone to de-populate the pains or series of pains he or she nurses or carries inside him or her anytime one is confronted with the concert of forces by which one’s engendered hope is despaired and dispersed? Let me answer the question: It is not easy at all but it is not impossible. We can always depopulate the discordant discordances of pains any or all disappointments or seemingly hopeless states engender in us anytime anywhere. Once we are aware of this we can always overcome any difficulty, any difficult situation, and extricate ourselves from the clutch and tentacles of the desperado. Any untoward thing can turn one into a desperado. And the desperado often falters.

Where is my destination here?

It is no longer news, good or bad, bad or good, that our mighty Super Eagles have crashed out of the Africa Cup of Nations Round of 16 last Sunday in Garoua, Cameroon. The loss, which is bad news to many of our compatriots has despaired them. Clearly, they did not see what was coming. The three over three wins the famed Super Eagles clinched immaculately in the group stages compelled positive attention from spectators and from their followers and supporters. And were the Super Eagles not going to meet Tunisia, one of the lucky third best losers in the group stages, in the Round of 16? And were the Super Eagles not the only team that secured three victories in the group stages? Who born dog? This question that many Nigerians in my part of the country clipped to their tongues and hearts embraced tightly their patriotism.

Of course, they did not care to take Daniel Amokachi’s advice, to wit: “Tunisia is like the British weather.” Amokachi, a high-flying eagle in his Super Eagles hey days and hey years, played in the English Premier League season in season out until he terminated his glorious soccer career. His likening the un-predictability of the Tunisian team to the un-predictability of the British weather fell on the deaf ears of our Super Eagles and their handlers. Or did they not know that Amokachi the former Everton of Liverpool star player said what he said and which I have just quoted on television (DSTV Channel 202 beamed in many parts of the world)? If they did, they were certainly too, too over-confident of devouring their fellow Eagles from Tunisia for dinner. After all, a very sizeable number and key members of the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia as well as their coach were already down and out of the match courtesy of Covid-19. This also explains why they did not listen to Jay Jay Okocha who similarly admonished them to be wary of Tunisia. Both Okocha (a former skipper of the Super Eagles) and Amokachi played against Tunisia in their delicious soccer years of patriotic value they gave to your country my country our country.

Before their last encounter, on head-to-head comparison, Nigeria had led Tunisia four to one of five past AFCON meetings on knock out basis. In my recollections, in 1978 Nigeria got the better of Tunisia at the 11th AFCON in Egypt. It won the bronze medal for the third best team when Tunisia abandoned the match between both countries after our right winger Baba Otu Mohammed’s equalizer in the 42nd or so minute.  The Tunisians stoutly and hotly contested Nigeria’s goal and discontinued play. Nigeria, in accordance with the rules, was awarded the match with a 2-0 score margin. In 2000 Nigeria beat Tunisia 4-2 in AFCON group stage. In 2004 AFCON semi-final in Tunisia between the two rivals Tunisia defeated Nigeria 5-3 on a penalty shoot-out. In 2016 AFCON/African Nations Championship (sportingly called CHAN 2016) Nigeria beat Tunisia in the quarter-finals 6-5 on a penalty shootout.

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In 2019, that is, three years ago Nigeria won the bronze medal encounter at the expense of Tunisia in Egypt at the 32nd AFCON. Aside from their AFCON contests the Carthage Eagles and our dear Eagles either as Green Eagles or as Super Eagles had met at different times in FIFA World Cup fixtures. The matches were often and always ding-dong battles between both sides. Our Eagles always gave the Carthage Eagles delirium tremens. In Australian slang our Eagles would be said to always give the Carthage Eagles the dingbats no matter how our Eagles fared in the FIFA World Cup fixtures against them. In 1978 Tunisia triumphed over Nigeria in Lagos to get to the final round of the FIFA World Cup African Series. A painful own goal by our ever reliable defensive midfielder Godwin Odiye after  our  patriotic lads made mince-meat of the Carthage Eagles that did not soar on that day will always be told and re-told in our soccer lore. That November 12th 1977 when Godwin, the master-class defender, scored against himself and his and our great squad will remain ever green in my football memory. In 1980 our Eagles beat the Carthage Eagles in another FIFA World Cup qualifying fixture to partake in FIFA Espana ‘82. After a 2-2 aggregate score Nigeria’s lads were through to Spain after a penalty shoot-out which our gems won.

I have gone far back into our encounters with Tunisia to show that despite our series of defeats of Tunisia the Tunisians never allowed the failures against us to cause them despair. We should learn from them. Their recent defeat of the Super Eagles that almost everybody (that, however, excluded yours sincerely) banked on to win the AFCON 2022 trophy should teach us a lesson on how not to be un-critically hopeful and on how not  to be downcast in defeat.

On the Nigeria-Tunisia match I will briefly state as follows: Our boys and their handlers were disappointingly naïve throughout the time the game lasted. They essentially played gidigidi football thinking erroneously that the Tunisians would be intimidated and tired out of contention. They piled pedestrian pressure in their brainless, luckless play-less play. And everything plus everything minus nothing conspired against them and their officials and Buhari their famed telephoner before the ungracious match. All the corner kicks we had especially in the early period came to nothing. The Tunisians played a simple game that enabled them to contain our boys and keep them at bay. They simply played tactically simple football that was not devoid of sophistication. In other worlds, they taught our team that there is sophistication in simplicity. Their solitary goal was a sophisticated goal from a long distance of distance. It was from a simple play couched in a seemingly innocuous sophistication. Our goal- keeper did not know the bang that hit him. It was more than a simple shot with a bang that was a bang.

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I don’t want to grade each player on our side. But Kelechi Iheanacho had no business staying that long before he was benched. Despite his massive experience the young chap is bereft of the niceties of how to trap and control a ball. And Alexander Iwobi, who substituted him, what came over him? What bad football spirit charmed him to do what he did that earned him a RED barely five minutes when he entered the field? And Moses Simeon, our pearl in the absence of Victor Osimen – why did the coach, Augustine Eguavoen, not  compel him to alter his style and pattern in that match? Why was his play or position not switched ceaselessly since at least three Tunisians were always at him at the same time? And why did our lads not compel the obviously biased centre referee to do a VAR check when there was a clear penalty in the early minutes of the match when a goal-bound shot was obviously palmed? And .… And…. And… I won’t go on and on. Our defeat should teach us how to lose spiritually, physically and gallantly. Perhaps it should teach us, more importantly, not to despair in defeat. We will rise again. We will.

Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.


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Adedotun Phillips And The Unfinished Business Of Reform In Nigeria



Adedotun Phillips And The Unfinished Business Of Reform In Nigeria


Tunji Olaopa

In the annals of public administration scholarship in Nigeria, and most especially with regard to the specifics of the dynamics of institutional reforms in getting the Nigerian state into shape, the name of Professor Adedotun Phillips stands out as a gigantic institutional memory. Adedotun Oluwole Phillips—husband, father, academic, scholar, statesman—was a public servant par excellence. His entire life was defined around service. In the long line of the public service giants around whom the profile of the Nigerian public service is configured—Simeon Adebo, Jerome Udoji, Sule Katagum, Joseph Imokhuede, Ali Akilu, Allison Ayida, and many more, the name of Dotun Phillips is a fundamental star. When mourning the passing of Prof. Phillips, on 13 December, 2020, President Buhari said pointedly: “The history of the Nigerian Civil Service cannot be complete without reference to the contributions of Prof. Phillips.” He is right. Phillips represents the best that a public servant could be and give the nation in terms of the best that her professionalism and credentials can afford. And Prof. Phillips’ contribution is even much more cogent because it is situated within the trajectory of public service reform in Nigeria. In other words, Prof. Phillips’ immense contributions to the public service in Nigeria tie into Nigeria’s effort to make sense of the state and future of her public service as a backstop to her development and progress.

Adedotun Phillips And The Unfinished  Business Of Reform In Nigeria

Prof. Adedotun Oluwole Phillips

Since the inauguration of the Nigerian public service in 1954, Nigeria had been experimenting with administrative and institutional reforms that were meant to put the civil service in shape for the challenge of nationhood. Starting with the reform of wages, remuneration and compensation that characterized the colonial service, it graduated to the need for the Nigerianisation of the core echelon of the public service especially after independence in 1960. The Phillipson-Adebo Commission of 1953 kickstarted the series of reform commissions that culminated in the emergence of the Nigerian public service system, and the other post-independence reform efforts that were meant to essentially complete the organizational development dynamics of the civil service, convert her structural frameworks into institutional frame, and strengthen its capability readiness for the task of national integration and development.

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However, independence brought with it its own unique sets of challenges that the public service system was not quite ready for. The first was the challenge of plurality. The Nigerianisation Policy confronted the thorny issue of how to recruit Nigerians of different ethnocultural orientations into the civil service. Representativeness became the criterion that most suited Nigeria’s ethnic composition. And then gradually, the over-bloatedness that was the consequence of the misuse of this principle led to not only a gradual debilitation of the system but also the overshadowing of its initial efficiency by a crippling bureaucratic culture. When the 1971 Adebo Commission was set up, the civil service was already caught up in the restructuration of the federal constitution under a unitary logic marked by increased centralisation of political authority, ascendancy of federating forces, greater structural differentiation of the constituent states, increases in the Federal Government largesse, and expansion of the policy-making and execution functions of the Federal Civil Service. The implication of this “new federalism” on the civil service was the gradual evolution of a structural pattern that consistently whittled down the capacities the civil service has to promote good governance. For instance, the allocation of functions to the ministries was influenced more by political factors than by the standard criteria for the allocation of such functions i.e. the functional principle, the process principle, the clientele principle, and the area principle.

The corruption of the governance and accountability framework of the public service was simultaneous with the emergence of the managerial revolution which Britain was already contending with, especially with the Fulton Report of 1968. Thus, the 1971 Adebo Second and Final Salaries and Wages Review Commission was caught in the larger managerial concern of transforming the civil service system in ways that transcended its original remit of wage. It however passed the buck of that concern to the Udoji Commission, constituted in 1972. The commission, under the full influence of the UK Fulton Report, argued that the civil service of a development-oriented society must be one that is suffused with change and reform if it must be able to effectively meet the challenges of its context. And the Nigerian public service system, in its bureaucratic conditions, was not that amenable to those changes. The Udoji Commission then recommended a new style public service infused with “new blood” working under a result-oriented management system operated by professionals and specialists in particular fields. The government of the time however made a mess of this commission’s report, and so forfeited a significant opportunity to set the civil service on a path of institutional transformation.

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Thereafter, successive Nigerian governments became embroiled in the contestations to make the system compliant with the managerial revolution, new public management (NPM) and its reform imperatives. By the time the Murtala/Obasanjo regime took over in 1975, the civil service was already too systemically dysfunctional to matter any longer in development consideration. Indeed, the purge of the service by Obasanjo in 1975 was long overdue even though it turned out to negatively undermine the little shred of professionalism remaining. The Second Republic was truncated by the Buhari-Idiagbon regime in 1983. And then, enter Professor Dotun Phillips. One of the fundamental legacies of the regime was the constitution of the Dotun Phillips Study Team in 1985, with the objective of undertaking an interrogation of the structure, mode of operation and strategy of the civil service in the light of contemporary administrative situation, as well as finding means by which the eroded professionalism of the system could be restored.

When the Babangida regime took over the reign of government, it inherited the study group and reconstructed its report into the foundation of the 1988 Civil Service Reforms through a Civil Service Re-organisation Decree No. 43 of 1988. The basis of the Decree is the establishment of a virile, dynamic and result-oriented civil service. The Babangida administration was also seriously concerned about the gains and benefits of managerialism and of a professionalised civil service. The added objective was the alignment of the service with the form and spirit of presidentialism.

Professionalism goes to the very heart of what it means to be a public servant; what it means to be public-spirited. It is the sum total of the competences, knowledge, attitude, spirituality and ethical sensibility that a public servant requires to perform her responsibility to the public with all accountability, transparency and commitment. A professional public service, in other words, is circumscribed by three actions-moulding value frameworks: ethical values (i.e. integrity, honesty, respect); democratic values (i.e. responsiveness, representativeness, rule of law); and professional values (i.e. excellence, innovation). To seek the restoration of professionalism is to attempt a restoration of the pride and ideals of the public service. It is to seek the reinvention of the public service as a noble calling, a vocation in the manner of the Levitical order of priesthood. This was the philosophical foundation of the Philips’ reform agenda. The re-professionalization strategy is meant to reposition the civil service through a rebranding of its critical ethos and virtue. Thus, if the civil service system in Nigeria must overcome its dysfunctional bureaucratic culture, the best way is for it to reconnect with its inherent value as a vocation that is spiritual and spirited. And managerialism was just the perfect structural mold within which to achieve this reconnection. The managerial revolution was founded on the urgency of re-articulating what makes a public servant accountable, effective and efficient. Since the old Weberian system has collapsed under the burden of administrative rules and regulations, a managerial reform becomes the next best thing to recreate the public service in the image of an efficient machine.

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In its attempt to lay the foundation of a professionalised civil service, the 1988 reform emphasized the need for specialization. Civil service officers were required to undergo regular training and retraining. This led to the creation of a new bureaucratic structure made up of assistants, officers and directors. The assistant does not require any university or professional qualification to function. The officer, on the other hand, requires a university degree or a professional qualification while the director was reserved for professionals who had been given general management functions as heads of a department, branch or division.

But then, the Dotun Phillips reform carried the professionalization mandate beyond the bound of administrative reason and necessity. It was rather too ambitious of the reform to attempt the professionalization of everybody in the civil service. In other words, it was a profound mistake to think that the service could be handled by professionals all alone, to the exclusion of other non-professionals and generalists. Unfortunately for the reform agenda, the professionalizing move turned into a politicizing one that, for instance, turned permanent secretaries into political appointees, contrary to the politics-administration dichotomy on which public service integrity depends. The idea of professionalism suffered a conceptual-reality deficit in the sense that it was seen as a function of how long a public servant spent in any particular ministry.

And yet, the Phillips reform was not in any sense a failure, despite its fundamental assumptions and reform errors. The reform agenda, apart from the Udoji Commission report, was the next fundamental advocacy for managerialism and performance management in Nigeria. Indeed, both reform agenda and their recommendations are still fundamental to achieving a world class public service in Nigeria. Prof. Philips’s recommendation of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system as a significant plank in the performance management system, and a decentralized HR are sine qua non for any functional public service. Management controls through organization, operations and management research (OOMR), critical for propelling policy implementation praxis, is a feature of the Phillips agenda we need to revisit. In revisiting the Phillips reform recommendations, we will be able to retrospect on two fundamental issues in Nigeria’s reform necessity. The first has to do with the imperative of creating and incentivizing professionalized planning, research and statistics departments in the MDAs that should take responsibility not only for sector plans, but also for monitoring and reporting on their implementation. The second issue derives from the first: the departments of planning, research and statistics serve as the institutional template for a structured and recurrent engagement between policy researchers and policy workers; a hub of policy intelligence and action research that the MDAs can strategically deploy.

Prof. Adedotun Oluwole Phillips’ engagement with the Nigerian public service system is not yet done. Even in death, he is still awaiting fulfilment that will derive from the government recognizing the deep reform fundamentals that remain untapped within his reform dynamics. In returning to the Phillips reform, Nigeria would have taken a significant managerial reform step forward. And we would have given Prof. Phillips a posthumous reason to rest in the knowledge that he served Nigeria well.

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


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