Pompeo Pumping Truth To Our Consciences
For the greater part of his four-year tenure during which he encountered tumultuous and coordinated politically orchestrated campaign of calumny from his opponents of the Democratic party, President Donald Trump of the Republican party consistently took time to call for support for international religious freedom and entrenched this advocacy for religious pluralism in a new executive order.
On many occasions, the president called on administration officials to tackle religious persecution wherever it’s found.
He proceeded to sign an executive order to promote greater protection of religious pluralism all across the World.
In 2016 when the United States of America number 45th President came on board, he welcomed the then freshly inaugurated Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to the White House with a stern warning to put measures in place to tackle the rising state of attacks targeting Christians.
I think the warning by President Donald Trump did not yield the needed resolve on the part of President Muhammadu Buhari to enforce the rule of law in Nigeria and confront frontally the terrorists who are killing Christians systematically.
President Trump then followed up his stern warning by signing the Executive Order On religious freedom.
Then from Salt Lake City, a print journalist reported President Donald Trump as reiterating his support for international religious freedom in an executive order aimed at increasing the government’s outreach to persecuted people of faith around the world.
The order called on the secretary of state and other top officials to prioritize religious freedom in their work and requested that at least $50 million in foreign assistance funds be earmarked each year for programmes that serve and protect faith communities.
It also instructed government leaders to offer trainings on religion to American diplomats working overseas and to empower them to bring up international religious freedom issues when meeting with foreign officials.
“Religious freedom for all people worldwide is a foreign policy priority of the United States, and the United States will respect and vigorously promote this freedom,” Trump wrote.
The order’s release was timed to coincide with the president’s visit to a shrine honouring Pope John Paul II, who was widely celebrated for his work on behalf of persecuted people of faith. However, the event was overshadowed by Trump’s controversial Monday night appearance in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, which was only possible because police tear-gassed protesters gathered in front of the White House.
“Saint Pope John Paul II was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings,” said Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory in a statement provided to The Washington Post. “He certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate” protesters.
The 45th President of USA hosted two high-profile gatherings at the State Department on the subject and, last fall, he spoke about the need to protect religious communities during an appearance at the United Nations.
“Regrettably, the religious freedom enjoyed by American citizens is rare in the world,” he said during the UN event.
Although Trump is far from the first president to champion religious freedom both at home and abroad, his administration went above and beyond typical procedures, according to experts on religious persecution, so reports the American journalist.
The journalist then proceeded to state emphatically that before the Donald Trump’s administration’s gatherings on religious freedom at the State Department, it was almost unheard of to have high-level officials come together to discuss the needs of people of faith, said Kristina Arriaga, a former commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, to the Deseret News last year.
“Normally when you have international events associated with religious freedom, they’re (attended by) low people in the diplomatic echelon,” she said.
Leaders in the White House, State Department and other agencies are committed to doing everything they can on behalf of people of faith, said Sam Brownback, who serves as U.S. ambassador-at-large on international religious freedom, to the Deseret News last year.
“You had to get an administration that wanted to really push (religious freedom) and that’s what this one does and is,” he said.
“As president, protecting religious freedom is one of my highest priorities and always has been,” he said during his appearance at the United Nations last fall.
The then United States administration of Donald Trump did so much to critique the Nigerian government’s lack of interest to stop the attacks against Christians by all kinds of terrorists masquerading as Boko Haram terrorists, armed Fulani herdsmen and the so-called rebaptised armed Fulani bandits.
So it is not completely strange that the man who championed this executive order on religious freedom under Donald Trump has continued to drum up support for the international community to take special interest in the developments around the coordinated attacks against Nigerian Christians and the conspiratorial silence of President Muhammadu Buhari.
It is hoped that President Joe Biden who has not showed any interest in the Nigerian insecurity will be told to use his moral power to force the administration in Abuja to desist from providing what seems like logistical support to terrorists who are attacking Christians on a regular basis.
Presidentt Joe Biden is known to have quashed some of the executive orders his predecessor in office Donald Trump originated but it’s unclear if he will implement that of religious freedom which was at the centre of President Donald Trump’s foreign relations policies of which his cabinet level members worked on from different perspectives.
The immediate past United States Secretary of State, Mr. Mike Pompeo, has now authoritatively said that no fewer than 1,500 Christians have been killed in Nigeria since the beginning of 2021, while others are being held hostage.
Pompeo, who is also a former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, (CIA), in an article titled, ‘The Persecution of Christians in Nigeria Demands Our Attention,’ which was published by the American Centre for Law and Justice (ACLJ) on Wednesday, accused the federal government of not doing enough to protect religious freedom.
He said the Nigerian government had downplayed the attacks on Christians, by characterising them as conflicts between herders and farmers rather than as religiously motivated acts of terror.
“At least 1,500 Christians have already been killed in Nigeria during 2021, and even more, have been kidnapped and are either being held hostage or trafficked. The attacks are brutal. Armed radical Islamic groups arrive in a village during the night, kill the men, rape and murder the women, and kidnap the children. The Nigerian government thus far has sought to downplay the attacks, characterising them as conflicts between herders and farmers rather than as religiously motivated acts of terror,” he said.
He urged the federal government to hold terrorists accountable for such characterisations.
He stated that since “Nigeria has the largest Christian population of any African country – over 80 million, nearly half of its people – it is essential that this persecution is snuffed out before it becomes even worse.”
According to him, every single day in Nigeria, Christians are not allowed their right to religious freedom, and are being murdered because of their faith in Jesus.
He said no society that denied its people the right to worship according to their beliefs, or that allowed that right to come under attack without consequence could claim to be truly good.
Pompeo said: “Where religious freedom is denied or ignored, you can be sure that tyranny and oppression are soon to follow. That is why a foreign policy that takes seriously the issue of ensuring religious freedom around the world is critical to serving America’s interests. It is why the ongoing persecution and martyrdom of Christians in Nigeria demands our attention and action.”
He said in 2018, 110 schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram, and when a deal was sealed to free most of the girls, only one was held back, Leah Sharibu.
“This unbelievably brave and faithful girl refused to renounce her faith as a Christian; and for that reason, Boko Haram refused to release her and condemned her to slavery. Three years later, she is still being held as a slave by this cowardly terrorist cell in North-east Nigeria,” he said.
Pompeo described Sharibu’s story as tragic, infuriating, and emblematic of a troubling trend of Christian persecution in Nigeria.
Citing Open Doors’ Country Report, Pompeo said more Christians were murdered for their faith in Nigeria than in any other country in the world.
According to him, the number of Christians murdered in Nigeria increased by 60 per cent in 2020.
He said he had personally met with Christian Nigerian leaders and heard their tragic stories of those who had been persecuted because of their faith.
Pompeo stated that the Trump administration took the important first steps toward dealing with this serious issue in December 2020, when it added Nigeria to the State Department’s “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC) list.
He said the work done by the ACLJ was informative for the State Department when it began to evaluate whether or not to designate Nigeria as a CPC.
He said the team at the State Department recognised that the “Nigerian government was tolerating the systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of the religious freedom of its people, allowing them to suffer at the hands of radical Islamic terror.”
Pompeo said the designation signaled to the Nigerian government that swift action on their part was needed to end the persecution, or there would be further consequences in the form of sanctions and increased diplomatic pressure.
According to him, such a designation was part of the broader Trump administration’s approach to take seriously violations of religious freedom around the world, which also included declaring the brutal policies of the Chinese Communist Party toward Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang as genocidal.
“Unfortunately, the tragedy in Nigeria persists,” he added.
Pompeo said the ACLJ was actively engaged in the effort to raise awareness of and demand action regarding the ongoing atrocities committed against Christians in Nigeria.
The ACLJ, according to him, has filed its 18th written submission and made critical oral interventions at the UN Human Rights Council regarding the plight of Christians in Nigeria.
He said: “I’m eager to engage in this work with them as we seek to put a stop to these ongoing tragedies. What is happening to Christians in Nigeria warrants serious action. America has always stood as a beacon for freedom, and we can only back up that responsibility if we take seriously our obligation to stand up for the rights of religious believers around the world. American civil society and the American government need to hold the Nigerian government accountable for its inaction in allowing terrorist organisations like Boko Haram to fester in their nation.
“If the problem is allowed to persist, it will only spread and become worse throughout Africa and around the world. The killing must end.”
Incidentally, as Pompeo was pumping out these sets of hard truths about the incessant terror attacks against Christians in Nigeria, President Buhari was busy granting staccato interviews with some television stations in Nigeria but not without even mentioning this critical matter of the violence unleashed by armed terrorists and armed Fulani herdsmen against Christians. President Buhari has consistently denied this obvious truth that Christians are specifically targeted and as the former US secretary Pompeo pointed out, President Buhari has continued to encourage his media minders to try to twist the obvious fact of the attacks against Christians and to portray these attacks to look like a conflict between farmers and pastoralists. This is very far from the truth that has now been unveiled by Pompeo.
The truth is that until we as a country accept the truth that Christians are specifically targeted for elimination by a range of Islamic and armed Fulani herdsmen and then take steps to bring these killings to an end and arrest, prosecute and punish these terrorists, we will continue to live a lie and pretend that the violence against Christians doesn’t exist.
This attitude which is what President Muhammadu Buhari has played up is dangerous to the wellbeing of Nigeria as an entity. The government’s cabinet level officer in charge of public prosecution has manifested deep unwillingness to be a patriot but has chosen the path of defending his kinsmen the Fulani and his fellow Moslems who are accused of masterminding these senseless attacks against Christians.
So as long as Abubakar Malami remains the justice minister, the thousands of Christians massacred by Islamists and terrorists including armed Fulani herdsmen will not get justice. However, one thing is sure and that is the universal truism that TRUTH remains constant and at the appropriate time those who killed Christians will have their day in court if not in Nigeria then before the International Criminal Court in The Hague Netherlands for these crimes against humanity that they are committing right under the nose of President Muhammadu Buhari.
. Onwubiko is the head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and was a federal commissioner of the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission. He firstname.lastname@example.org, www.emmanuelonwubiko.com, email@example.com, www.thenigerianinsidernews.com.
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.
NEW TIMES CULTURE
22nd Africa Conference 2023 Holds At University of Texas
Iwuanyanwu And The ‘Political Rascals’ Rhetoric
BREAKING: PDP Crisis Worsens As Chairman Ayu Steps Aside, Deputy Takes Over
Why GOFAMINT General Overseer Demoted His Deputy
BREAKING: UK Suspends Work, Study, Family Visas For Nigerians Over Ukraine War
BREAKING: First Nigerian Female Vice Chancellor Alele-Williams Is Dead
Opinion3 days ago
Unending Passion For Reform: A Peep Into My Memoir And The Future Of Nigeria
Opinion3 days ago
The Unending Quest For Reform – Tunji Olaopa’s Intellectual Memoir: A Commentary
Opinion3 days ago
A Savage Outing In The Name Of Electioneering
Opinion3 days ago
Reflection on The Unending Quest for Reform, Tunji Olaopa’s Memoir
Arts & Culture14 hours ago
22nd Africa Conference 2023 Holds At University of Texas