Opposition Politics And Campaign For New Nigeria
Salihu Moh. Lukman
With the successful conclusion of the PDP National Convention on Saturday, October 30, 2021, credit must be given to leaders and members of the party for being able to manage the process and elect a new leadership for the party. Those who are not members of the party should urge the newly elected PDP leaders to build on the new atmosphere to start a new beginning for the party based on honesty, respect for one another and above all recognising that politics is all about negotiations and agreement. Every negotiation should produce agreement based on majority decisions. Of course, people are free to disagree with decisions of the majority. But such disagreements should respect the rights of the majority to direct how parties, society and nation should be governed. When disagreement turn to rebellion, it is either that those who disagree are not democrats, or they lack the capacity to negotiate and through negotiations win support of majority, or they are very desperate to have their says and ways in dictating how organisations and the wider Nigerian society should be governed. It may also be a combination of all the above.
Ordinarily, the successful conclusion of the PDP National Convention should only be celebrated by PDP members. However, given the important role the party has played in orienting politics in Nigeria for 16 years between 1999 and 2015, during which Nigerian politics was made to be opposed to negotiations, it is important to acknowledge that the October 30 PDP National Convention is about the first time, since 1999 perhaps, that there is some semblance of negotiations to produce leaders of the party. Whether in the end, the new leaders will be allowed by the power blocs within the PDP to facilitate negotiations, is completely a different matter. By the way, the fact that the party can elect a young person, below 30 years as National Youth Leader means that PDP leaders have recognised that the old culture of arrogance and impunity must be avoided if they are to win the support of Nigerians, which is very positive. This is itself a confirmation that once processes are managed democratically; the right results would be achieved.
Every Nigerian should wish PDP, its leaders and party members well. Nigerians should hope that PDP leaders will build on the successes of the National Convention to re-orient their politics based on honesty and respect for one another. Being honest should be about taking responsibility. From all indications, PDP leaders have only moderated themselves and submitted to processes of internal negotiations up to the National Convention because they are out of power at the federal level. It can be predicted that had PDP been the ruling party in the country, the approach would have been different. Probably, as was the case with all previous PDP leaders, new leaders would have emerged without any negotiation and the National Convention would have been reduced to window dressing ritual, legitimising the instructions of a serving PDP president. Perhaps, everything leading to the PDP National Convention happened because there is no serving PDP president acting as the leader of the party. Good enough, being out of power, PDP leaders had to respect democratic process, which raises the hope of especially PDP members that the party is being reformed.
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The worrisome issue is that notwithstanding some of the departures from the old abrasive PDP, just as Nigerians would want to wish PDP well, it must be pointed out that many of the speeches of PDP leaders at the convention demonstrated lack of commitment to take responsibility. This is largely because, as far as PDP leaders are concerned all the problems facing Nigeria today are the creation of APC. Almost all the speeches of PDP leaders during the convention were about winning election in 2023 and returning to power. Sadly, there is no indication, at any point during the convention, showing how the party intend to solve Nigeria’s challenges. Not even a reference by any PDP leader during the convention to any provision of the party’s manifesto, which must have gathered dust in the cabinet of INEC. Perhaps, apart from the few founding members of the party, almost all the delegates to the National Convention have never seen the manifesto of the PDP.
Recall that the PDP, in November 2015, through Chief Raymond Dokpesi, then acting as the Chairman of the National Planning Committee for its then National Conference, admitted that it was ‘aware of the errors of the past 16 years, as human beings, we must have made mistakes and we could not meet the expectations of Nigerians, for that we tender an unreserved apology.’ Being honest is about taking responsibility. What were the errors and in what ways has PDP failed to meet expectations of Nigerians? Above all, how does PDP intend to govern Nigeria differently, if Nigerians are to elect them back to power? As much as it is rational for PDP leaders to campaign against the APC and its leaders, being a party that acknowledges its mistakes in 2015, PDP leaders should understand that mobilising Nigerians to vote them should take its bearing from how they want to govern the country differently from the way they did between 1999 and 2015. Anything short of that will be dishonest.
May be the last leader of PDP who was honest and was able to take responsibility was the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. This is because after acknowledging that the election that brought him to power in 2007 was fraudulent, he set up the Justice Mohammed Uwais Election Reform Committee, which laid the foundation for the reform of INEC. In addition, after more than six years of denial by the PDP-controlled Federal Government of former President Olusegun Obasanjo that Nigerian army wasn’t responsible for the massacre of innocent citizens in Zaki-Biam, Benue State, which took place on October 20 – 24, 2001, in November 2007, the late President Yar’Adua visited Benue State and personally apologised. Had the killing of 19 soldiers in Zaki-Biam of October 12, 2001, taken place during the present PDP administration of Governor Samuel Ortom, which led to the retaliation by the Nigerian military resulting in the massacre of innocent villagers, Fulanis, and President Buhari would have been accused by the Benue State Government as those responsible for both the killing of 19 soldiers and the massacre of innocent people of Zaki-Biam.
Without doubt, there are certainly leaders in PDP who are honest. The worrisome issue is that such leaders are few and face a lot of frustrations, which partly explains the exodus of many courageous political leaders out of the party. Instead of recognising this reality, the mainstream PDP leaders are in denial, which is why the party continue to delude itself with the belief that it can mobilise Nigerians to elect them back to power by simply claiming that all the problems facing the country are a creation of the APC. Unfortunately, somehow, the APC Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee led by His Excellency Mai Mala Buni has allowed someone like Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode, who is among the dishonest category of PDP leaders to cross over from the PDP to APC without any initiative to reform him (Mr. Fani-Kayode).
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The liberal disposition of APC, combined with in the inability of some of the appointees of the APC-led Federal Government to manage issues of communication based on the strategy of contracting partnership with Nigerians in responding to national challenges, allowed a false and misleading narrative of failure against APC government and President Buhari to dominate public debate. Consequently, some of the PDP leaders had the audacity to shamelessly accuse APC of being corrupt while addressing delegates during the National Convention at a time when the country is passing through the shock that some of the recovered ‘property’ from a former Minister of Petroleum under former President Goodluck Jonathan (2009 – 2015), Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke include under wears (bras and pants), estimated at $12.5 million, more than N6 billion.
If the value of under wears bought with looted resources of the Federal Government by a PDP political appointee is more than N6 billion ($12.5 million), it can only be imagined how much Mrs. Diezani alone has stolen. This is not to talk of the $2.1 billion funds for the procurement of arms to fight insurgency diverted by Col. Sambo Dasuki, former National Security Adviser under former President Jonathan, which were allegedly used to fund PDP campaigns for 2015 elections. In fact, the new PDP National Chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu is alleged to have collected N345 million out of the diverted $2.1 billion. Other mindboggling disclosures of corruption during the sixteen years of PDP such as cases of subsidy payments fraud, Police Pension Task Force racket, Halliburton, Malabo scandals, etc. are still fresh in the minds of Nigerians.
It may be necessary to also request the newly elected leadership of PDP under Dr. Iyorchia Ayu to perhaps investigate the management of funds mobilised for the construction of the 12-storey PDP National Secretariat located on Muhammadu Buhari Way, Central Business District, Abuja, which is now abandoned as a demonstration of commitment to rescue Nigeria. Having mobilised close to N30 billion and expended over N16 billion, a born-again PDP leadership committed to rescuing Nigeria should be able to fix its internal problems first. Like it is often said, charity begins at home. A party that is committed to rescuing Nigeria should first and foremost rescue itself from its internal adversaries.
PDP leaders must always remember the saying in law, he who comes to equity must come with clean hands. Having presided over the affairs of Nigeria for sixteen years between 1999 and 2015, what were the specific achievements of the PDP? How many times for instance was the contract for Second Niger Bridge awarded before 2015? How much was disbursed? And what was the level of work done before 2015? These questions can also be asked in respect of Lagos – Ibadan Road project and many other abandoned projects, which were inherited by the APC government of President Buhari. Today, the Second Niger Bridge is more than 50% completed with guaranteed funding and scheduled to be commissioned in 2022. So far, progress has been made by the APC-led government of President Buhari on abandoned or stalled projects that were inherited, like the Loko-Oweto Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Sagamu-Benin Expressway, the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway, Onitsha-Enugu Expressway, Kano-Maiduguri Expressway, Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Expressway, Obajana-Kabba Road, Ilorin-Jebba Road, Apapa-Oshodi-Oworonshoki Road, and several others are in progress, with some already close to completion.
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There are over 900 active road contracts, covering the construction, reconstruction or rehabilitation of more than 13,000km of federal roads and highways across the country. In addition, the Federal Executive Council meeting of Wednesday, October 27, 2021, approved another set of road projects covering 1,804.6 kilometres across the country, estimated to cost N621.2 billion to be executed by the NNPC. Outside road projects, the railways have returned. Acknowledging that both the 168km Abuja-Kaduna Rail and the 42.5km Abuja Light Rail commissioned by President Buhari in 2016 and 2018 respectively were inherited from the PDP, the 156km Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Rail, the first double-track Standard Gauge Rail project in West Africa was started and completed by the APC-led government of President Buhari and has been commissioned. In addition, the 327km Itakpe-Warri Standard Gauge Rail, was completed by President Buhari’s administration 33 years after construction began. This means all the different administrations of PDP between 1999 and 2015 met the project and left it uncompleted but the APC government of President Buhari completed it. Other rail projects commissioned by President Buhari include Ibadan – Kano, Port Harcourt – Maiduguri, Port Harcourt – Calabar and Kano – Maradi standard gauge lines, all with guaranteed funding.
Once the attitude of PDP leaders is to mobilise Nigerians without acknowledging this reality, it means nothing has changed in PDP. It should therefore be expected that PDP campaigns for 2023 will be oriented to mislead Nigerians into voting them into power. To achieve that every problem of the country will continue to be politicised and leaders of PDP such as Governor Ortom would continue to propagate hatred against APC and President Buhari based on so-called ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ agenda. This is a variant of ultra-right-wing politics campaign, which is neo-fascist and neo-Nazist, which is being gradually adopted by PDP. Once PDP allowed its politics to be based on ultra-right-wing politics, its capacity to regulate the conduct of its elected leaders will be further weakened.
Part of the disturbing reality is that there are leaders in APC who unfortunately are also fascinated by politics of ethnic hatred, partly because it has become a way of demonstrating their disappointment. While, unlike in the case of PDP, those APC leaders and supporters attracted to politics of ethnic hatred may be angry because they are unable to access elective and appointive opportunities in government, especially at federal levels, to the extent that there are APC leaders and supporters who accuse APC and President Muhammadu Buhari’s of ‘imposition of Fulani hegemony on Nigerians,’ is indicative of the vulnerability of APC to ultra-right-wing politics. There are many leaders of the APC, who on account of not being appointed into any position in government are angry with President Buhari. On the other hand, there are also supporters of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole led-NWC who are unable to reconcile themselves with the decision of APC NEC of June 25, 2020 to dissolve the NWC. All these create some unhealthy internal dynamics within the APC, which contribute to weakening the capacity of the party to appropriately respond and correct all the false narratives against the APC and President Buhari.
A major issue, which should unite all Nigerians irrespective of ethnic, religious, political and all other differences, is the issue of insecurity in the country. Recognising that the issue of insecurity remains a major national challenge, it is important that efforts to critically engage government to address the challenges should not be politicised. Where the government get it right, it should be acknowledged. Given that the APC administration is taking steps to equip the security agencies and build morale, promote community-led solutions, develop new security infrastructure and operations across land and maritime environments, and address the underlying drivers of insecurity (poverty and youth unemployment), require some acknowledgement especially given that under 16 years of PDP, these were never the case. No doubt, serious challenges still exist, but acknowledging victories and successes recorded in fighting insecurity is a critical indicator of the commitment of any political party towards addressing all the challenges of insecurity facing Nigeria.
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Therefore, commitment of political parties towards strengthening the current security structure in the country through radical reforms should not be subject of speculation. Issues of amending the laws to enable state governments to establish state police for instance, should clearly be outlined in the party’s manifesto and other campaign documents. To the extent that none of these featured in the PDP Convention is indicative of PDP’s lack of commitment to change its approach to politics. If anything, PDP is only interested in getting back to power to continue its extravagant governance style, which converts the public treasury to private accounts of elected and appointed leaders. In other words, because PDP failed to address all these issues at the October 30 National Convention, the party and its leaders lost a golden opportunity to demonstrate to Nigerians that they are indeed a reformed party capable of resolving the problems of the country, which they have either created or were unable to effectively address during their 16 years rule between 1999 and 2015.
This reality presents a good opportunity for APC and its leaders to demonstrate readiness to continue to manage the affairs of the country. Being a party founded through negotiations, more than anytime, the commitment of leaders and members of the party to negotiate the support of Nigerians is being called to question once more. The capacity of APC leaders and members to honestly respond to national challenges is being contested. The ability to apply knowledge to effectively mobilise Nigerians to endorse or support initiatives of APC and its government towards resolving national security challenges, is now being handled very defensively. Coordination among many leaders of the party in making public statements is weak. To a large extent, this account for the illogical and defensive approach by some senior officials of the Federal Government to attempt to argue that bandits operating in the North-West are not terrorists. With proper coordination in communicating initiatives of government, the explanation of the Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Bashir Magashi to the effect that the procedure to declare bandits as terrorists is yet to be completed would have guided all official communications on the matter.
As APC prepares for its National Convention, issues of the unity of the country and responses to national security challenges should be priorities. Just like the election of leaders, how APC wants to continue with the task of responding to challenges of insecurity should be part of the agenda of the APC National Convention based on which a decision is taken at the convention by way of adopting an amendment to the party’s manifesto through majority votes by delegates. Once that is done, it will assist the APC, its leaders and especially candidates for 2023 elections to mobilise Nigerians to vote the party. At the same time, it will potentially prepare the party to be capable of neutralising PDP’s toxic politics of promoting hatred with the high probability that it can produce ultra-right-wing candidates for 2023 elections.
As much as it should be recognised that PDP was able to open itself to negotiation leading to the emergence of new leadership, to the extent that it failed to take advantage of the National Convention to simulate some internal negotiation within the party about how challenges facing the country should be responded to by a PDP government suggest the babsence of any commitment to work for a new Nigeria. May be as part of the efforts by the new PDP leadership to start a new beginning, they will initiate new processes of negotiating these issues. If that is to be the case, it will be necessary that the new PDP leaders take their bearing by taking responsibility in terms of honestly accepting their errors when they had the opportunity to rule Nigeria between 1999 and 2015. Anything short of that will expose the PDP and its leaders as being dishonest.
APC must therefore use its National Convention to demonstrate its commitment to change Nigeria. Apart from electing leaders, the manifesto of the party should be subjected to amendment debate. As part of the commitment to change Nigerian politics, APC must unambiguously commit itself to the unity of Nigeria based on governance initiatives founded on the principles of fairness and equitable access to resources and opportunities by all Nigerians from every part of the country. In addition, APC must commit itself to developing the productive potential of every Nigerian and every part of the country. The issue of national development must be oriented based on clear strategies to develop the economy of every part of the country. Issues of industrialisation, human capital development through correspondingly aggressively high public and private investment in education and health sectors of the country must be prioritised. This should mean that the commitment of political leaders to issues of development planning must be strengthened, and the Nigeria public service must be appropriately reformed and rebuilt to manage initiatives for national development.
Dr. Lukman is the Director-General of the Progressive Governors Forum, Abuja. But this position does not represent the view of any APC governor or the Progressive Governors Forum.
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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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