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Professor Akinjide Osuntokun At 80: The Tour De Force Life

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Funmi Olonisakin: The Mainframe Of Global Success
Professor Akinjide Osuntokun At 80: The Tour De Force Life

Professor Jide Osuntokun

By Toyin Falola

As I see it, the Nigerian dream is to rise (through hard work) against the backdrop of harsh social, economic, and financial circumstances and reach the pinnacle of whatever height we set our sights on. Across cultures, ages, and fields, history is replete with stories of many great men who started from humble backgrounds. However, in the case of Akinjide Osuntokun, the indigeneity – the recency, the similarity of background, challenges, and the stories – confers a sentimental value on his story for me and, I believe, many other Nigerians. It gives off a sense of relatability, belonging, and hope.

Osuntokun’s life is the ideal metaphor for what Nigeria and Nigerians dream of daily. It is a realisation of hope: a proof that there is light at the end of the dark tunnel that Nigerians and Nigeria are in. It is also a testimony to the existence of a few sane intellectuals, individuals who still care about the nation and are hopeful for the restoration of its polity. To put it into the context of Osuntokun’s origin, his life exemplifies Joyce Meyer’s quote about small beginnings being launching pads for remarkable things. This piece tells the story of a true son of Oduduwa, a compatriot and a leader, a man who has indelibly engraved his name on the sands of time through his dedication and commitment to excellence.

Unlike most elites who have influenced history, Osuntokun’s background alone may not mirror his current achievements or his illustrious siblings. Of course, I do not mean this in condescension to his community of origin. Rather, I mean it as another factor to consider in appreciation of the trajectory of his career and consequential contributions to the state of Nigeria. Like he is always proud to say, Osuntokun was born in an Ekiti town in 1942 – a period when western education was trying to gain ground in the country, and many thought it did not amount to much. He did not come from a family especially endowed with generational wealth and fancy inheritances, but his lineage had a reputation for their determination, willpower, and physical prowess. A sixth child in a polygamous home, he was privileged to have formal education. This, however, did not spare him the rigours of work after he started schooling. He worked the ground, did domestic chores, and contributed in his little way to the family economy – as customary for male children of his age group in those days.

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As a young boy, his formal education gave him cosmopolitan and political exposure, the bedrock for what later developed to be nationalism and an unwavering sense of patriotism. From Holy Trinity School, Ilawe, he switched to Emmanuel Primary School in Ado-Ekiti, where his socialisation evolved. Ado-Ekiti was bigger and more cosmopolitan, and this transition began his exposure to the real world of people and their differences. He left primary school for his secondary school education at Christ’s School, where what evolved to be his diligent academic career started. As a promising young man under the eagle eyes of his teachers and his brother, he completed this phase of his education with a record of the highest number of distinctions in the West African School Certificate Examination.

In the absence of the right facilities and structures to guide their decision, Osuntokun, like most of his other colleagues, proceeded to study History at the University of Ibadan, leaving the offer to study Law in Lagos hanging. The primary reason for this choice, according to him, was his mother’s sentiments towards the legal profession and the advice of an older colleague. Quite a lot happened during his studentship at the university. For instance, he and his friends founded what evolved into the Eiye Confraternity today. The group, which was formed just for lively conversations, parties, and sometimes philosophical discussions, was hijacked and made into a secret society that mirrored Ogboni tradition. During his days at the University of Ibadan, Osuntokun also met his wife, whom he revers and openly talks about whenever he gets the chance.

Success, sometimes, they say, can feel like a curse. Even for someone like Osuntokun, life was not always fair despite the knowledge he wields and the reputation that precedes him. By predisposition, the Osuntokuns are present across different spheres of public service, politics, and academics. For instance, Professor Kayode Osuntokun (of blessed memory) was a pioneer in neuro-medical research in Nigeria and throughout the globe. His eldest brother, Akin Osuntokun, was one of the pioneer legislators in the Western Region of post-independence Nigeria. Abiodun Osuntokun was another of Akinjide’s siblings who lived and died as a military officer in service to the national course.

Professor Akinjide Osuntokun experienced first-hand what it means to be a victim of a great name. His exposure to politics came quite early due to his brother’s affiliation with the political elites in the Western region at the time. Through his brother, he was indirectly involved in the consequences of complicated political schisms that heralded the 1960s when the country was trying to find its feet in the republic. Some deep-seated intra-ethnic schisms rocked the political atmosphere of the Western region during this period. In fact, in his accounts of his life, he described how he was exposed to taunting, verbal abuse, fear, and hatred due to his brother’s involvement in the Akintola and Awolowo saga.

Essentially, Akinjide Osuntokun is not just a professor of history; he has lived through some of the historical moments in western and national politics. Despite this rather rough introduction to politics and public service, he still took on the mantle of service to the country later in his career – a feat considered quite impressive. For instance, aside from its historical relevance, his academic work sometimes incorporates an objective critique of the Nigerian polity and nationally relevant past and present decisions. He has also served as a public commentator, addressing administrative flaws and policy deficiencies in the country while in service and after his formal exit from the national diplomatic service. His appointment was terminated because he was a threat to the indiscriminate governance and ruthless dictatorship perpetrated by the late General Sani Abacha. It did not stop there. He was arrested, detained, and treated like a criminal for speaking the truth to power and standing up for the commoner.

I particularly consider this phase of his life to hold significant lessons for Nigerians and posterity. For one, despite his appointment as a stakeholder in the diplomatic affairs of the Nigerian state, he did not allow himself to be leashed by the benefits attached to it. In his exact words, his story is that of “a boy whom through hard work and humble beginnings made it to Olympian heights, dined with Queens and Kings, Presidents and Prime ministers without getting carried away by all the glitter.” Also, the threshold of challenges he has pushed through is surprisingly high, considering the trajectory of his personal life and his life in public service.

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It would not have been surprising if, due to his initial experience with national politics and his detainment, he stopped contributing openly to policy and administration in Nigeria. However, he has persistently and continually contributed to matters of national importance with the subjectivity of a compatriot using the different tools available to him. This includes his investment in the fourth estate and the numerous columns he writes for media houses across the country. At different points in Professor Osuntokun’s life, he has shown exemplary willpower and persistence. This attribute to persevere despite all challenges and to always stick to the fair side of the moral spectrum inspires me, and I hope it inspires posterity in Nigeria and Africa collectively.

Before any serious nationalistic involvements, Osuntokun has been involved in political activism (for racial equality) and an organised demand for administrative accountability. As a transfer student during his undergraduate days, he experienced ridiculous acts of condescension by white people. Later during his post-graduate studies in Canada, he discovered the effect of propaganda, policies, and education on identity, racial ideology, and self-awareness. In his observation in his autobiography, the education of the Black community, coupled with the situation of policies, governance, and economics, restricted the Black Canadians at that time within the mental prison of inferiority. They were not overly ambitious about education, career, or even a structured life in their psychology. Bound by duty, Osuntokun – like other African intellectuals at that time – developed an interest in racial liberation politics and dedicated a substantial portion of his time to it. This is yet another lesson for the intelligentsia today that change does not come through armchair criticism and self-pity. It only does this through knowledge and applying it correctly to challenge the status quo and create a new and more convenient reality.

My favourite part of Osuntokun’s life is his body of academic work and, by extension, his lecturing. This is not because of a compulsive inclination as his student, fellow academic, and historian, but due to three major things. First is his publications’ sheer depth and relevance, especially as sources for historical research. Two, the brilliance of these academic compendia even though he started when relevant resources were not abundant. Three, the expanse of his experience is mirrored in his teaching resume, his writings (academic and otherwise), and how he articulates his words (in speech). The bulk of his works (even his autobiography) served as objective primary and secondary sources for vital pre-and post-independence historical research in Nigeria and, by extension, Africa. Quite impressively, he has dedicated an ample chunk of his life’s work to researching and documenting Yoruba history and the evolution of its preservation over time.

At this point, I will like to reference some of his works and their contents that I consider exceptional. First are the different biographies he authored – The Merchant Prince and the Monarch, J. F Ajayi: His Life and Career (co-edited with Michael Omolewa), Festus Samuel Okotie-Eboh: In Time and Space, and Abidakun, his autobiography. These were not just accounts of the lives of these individuals; they were written in the context of their historical relevance. For instance, The Merchant Prince and the Monarch is a biography of a Soun of Ogbomoso. However, the account references an objectively accurate background history of Ogbomoso, the kingship, and the families of prominent figures mentioned. This professional compulsion (I presume) and scholarly elegance are particularly evident even in his autobiography, Abidakun: An Autobiography of Professor Akinjide Osuntokun, which starts with a summary of the history of the Ekiti people, particularly the Ajapo Ise, and their evolution. There are very few well-articulated summaries of indigenous Yoruba history like that.

The last on this list is his extensive research and publication on Chief S. L. Akintola, the controversial political stakeholder of the Western Region in the 1960s. This particular work has a sentimental value for Osuntokun; after all, he was a victim of the Akintola/Awolowo political controversy in which he had no hand. However, the most important thing is the courage it must have taken to publish the work and the amount of effort that must have gone into it. During the time in question, historical research was not just limited by the unavailability of resources but also by a conspicuous lack of documentation and records. The few available records in the academic repositories were lost due to the nonchalance of custodians or irrelevant political pettiness. Despite these challenges, Osuntokun did an impressively thorough job of research and documentation. This publication has been helpful to me and other people in our evolution as academics in the field of political and historical research.

Additionally, Osuntokun’s intelligence covers a considerable expanse of spheres. Some of his books and scholarly publications were written in deference to specific national and international issues. He has done remarkable work in politics, diplomacy, foreign policy analysis, psychology, and even sustainable global development goals in Nigeria. His depth of knowledge, willingness to apply it and consistent demonstration of correct application are some of his most endearing attributes. It would be incomplete to reference Osuntokun’s academic achievements without properly recognising his contributions to consolidating African history as an academic interest in Nigeria and other parts of the world, especially the West Indies.

During his days outside the country’s shores, the icon pioneered structured teachings of African history at the University of West Indies. This act particularly kept the embers of the African cultural heritage burning among the Black community in the Caribbean. The foundation he laid through his peculiar style of imparting knowledge contributed immensely to the sustenance of a culturally conscious and self-appreciative diaspora. Outside of the classroom, Osuntokun was also instrumental in explaining the origins of some cultural practices of African origin widely practised in the West Indies. From that time in the 1970s till now, his influence on the African academic community is still recognised, especially in discourses spanning African history and cultural uniqueness. He was offered a long-term appointment because of his resourcefulness, teaching expertise, and overall warm disposition. However, he declined and returned home to contribute to the development of his own country, regardless of the surrounding circumstances. I consider this very thoughtful, especially since the country was just trying to recover from the civil war and evolve into a proper federation.

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Osuntokun’s experience in teaching, administration, and international relations later got him an appointment as a director of the National University Commission on an academic mission to Canada. Through diplomacy and diligence, he contributed to paving the path for academics, many of whom I know. Despite the non-substantial benefits attached to his portfolio, he worked hard to secure the future of foreign scholarships for Nigerian students – something a host of people benefitted from. Portfolios like his drew bureaucratic complications and similar disturbances; however, given his previous knowledge of navigating workplace issues, he again set a stellar record of excellent performance, which I believe was instrumental in his subsequent appointment as a diplomat to Germany. He was helpful in locating institutions in Canada and liaising productive partnerships between them and Nigerian institutions. From his observations and research in Canada, he also contributed to some of the progressive policy recommendations for university administration.

It would be thoroughly exhaustive to discuss Professor Jide Osuntokun’s service and achievements. His several decades of service include lecturing positions, editorial portfolios, directorship, diplomatic positions, administrative roles (especially in universities in Nigeria), and many more. His personal life and career have spanned continents like Africa, Europe, and South and North America. He has a list of awards and symbols of recognition to commemorate his un-paralleled efforts in public service, administration, and academia. Some of these include being an Emeritus Professorship, Redeemer’s University; an Emeritus Professorship, University of Lagos; a fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters; an Officer, Order of the Niger; a Fellow, Historical Society of Nigeria; a faculty role of honours awardee at the University of Ibadan; a Presidential Honour, Republic of Equatorial Guinea; an Irving and Bonar Graduate Prize awardee, and so on.

Nevertheless, this account would be grossly incomplete without reference to the professor’s family life, which he is especially proud of. Professor Osuntokun, despite the different demands of his occupation and travels, is a dedicated family man. In my little understanding of his personality, family is and will always be a core of Professor Osuntokun’s life. His family has been with him through the thick and thin of public and administrative life and after. Perhaps this was due to his upbringing; after all, people who grew up in stable families tend to value the sacredness of the institution. However, I believe the overall success of his family was also due to his late wife’s persona and the love they have for each other. Indeed, he who finds a wife finds a good life. After a series of not-so-successful attempts at dating, Akinjide met the bone of his bone, Dr. Abiodun Osuntokun, when she was a secondary school student in Saint Anne’s, Ibadan. Abiodun Osuntokun would later attend Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria and another school in Canada.

Abiodun and Akinjide got married in Canada in 1969, and they had a mutually beneficial relationship that produced children – Fola, Seyi, Yewande, and Tosin Osuntokun – who are excelling in their respective careers. Fola Osuntokun is a finance professional in the United Kingdom; Seyi is a successful engineer in Canada; Tosin is a renowned physician and cardiology expert in Dublin; Yewande champions diversity and inclusion as a strategy director at Novartis in Toronto.

Finally, I would like to remark that Osuntokun’s life and the inherent lessons are materials for books and extensive studies; hence, I cannot capture everything. However, let me put things into perspective with a little summary. He stands as a house set upon a hill; he has built a legacy of hope and uprightness and has created many opportunities for others to take up the mantle. He stands resolute by the circumstances of his birth, the family name, and the big shadow of his sibling’s greatness. He carves a path for himself and posterity and leaves lessons for us on how to navigate life. Professor Akinjide Osuntokun’s name is material in the halls of fame. I am certain that history will continue to remember the intellect whose hands carved it even in the coming decades.

Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.

 

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An Open Letter To President Muhammadu Buhari

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An Open Letter To President Muhammadu Buhari
Dr. Stella Omonigho

By Stella Omonigho
Your Excellency Sir,
I am writing this letter with so much pain in my heart because of the state of our dear nation Nigeria under your leadership and watch. You will recall that when you came into power on the 29th of May 2015 Nigerians were hopeful that your administration was going to strengthen our young democracy and ensure that the dividends of democracy accrue to all Nigerians irrespective of their ethnicity, religion or party affiliations.

Before I continue Sir, kindly permit me to define the term democracy under which Nigeria is supposed to operate politically as a democratic country so as to remind myself constantly to remain within the scope of democracy as I address this letter to the Father of the Nation in order not to be faulted or accused of being undemocratic.

According to Pennock (1979:7), Democracy is: The government by the people where liberty, equality and fraternity are secured to the greatest possible degree and in which human capacities are developed to the utmost, by means including free and full discussions of common problems and interests.

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Weale (1999:14) opined that in a democracy, important public decisions on questions of law and policy depend directly or indirectly upon public opinion formally expressed by citizens of the community, the vast bulk of whom have equal political rights. Lastly, the common definition even known to a neophyte is that of Abraham Lincoln that democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people. Lincoln went on to express his idea on the subject matter by saying: “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master”. Therefore Mr President, based on the freedom of expression provided by our constitution and by the system of government Nigeria has adopted, I write to you to express my fears, my pains, my disappointments and my suggestions on the state of the Nation.

Before you finally emerged the President of Nigeria in 2015, you were once the military head of state between December 31, 1983 and August 27, 1985, then you contested for the Presidency under the All Nigeria People’s party (APP) in 2011 and then migrated to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2013 where you obtained the party ticket for presidency and won in the general elections in 2015. This means that you are a man of great knowledge and experience in leadership, in political matters especially as it obtains in Nigeria. With this wealth of experience as a retired Major General, Nigerians voted for you massively hoping you will be the messiah to save them from insecurity and insurgency as you promised in your electioneering . We all believed in you Baba, that a young man Hashimu defiled all odds and trekked from Lagos to Abuja for 18 days to demonstrate his love, admiration and hope in you. Sir, below are some of the promises you made to woo us to vote for you in 2015 and since we saw you as a man with integrity, we believed every word you said despite some red flags being flown by some elders. These promises were extracted from some of your campaign videos and posters:

Ban on government officials from going abroad for medical treatment.
Public declaration of assets and liabilities.

Introduction of National Gender Policy and offer of 35 per cent appointment to women.

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Increasing the number of doctors from 19 per 1000 population to 50 per 1000 .
Upgrading all Federal Government-owned hospitals to world-class facilities within five years .

Ensuring that political office holders earn salaries and emoluments as determined and approved by the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission (RMFAC).
Creating a Crime Squad to combat terrorism, kidnapping, armed robbery, militancy, ethno-religious and communal clashes in the country.
Amending the Constitution to remove immunity from prosecution for elected officers in a criminal case.
One dollar to one naira.
Constant and uninterrupted power supply.

NSir, contrary to the first promise made, I am aware that you have been going on medical vacation in the United kingdom. more frequently than any other President this country has ever had. On the 5th February, 2016, you took a medical trip to the United Kingdom where you spent 10 days. On the 6th of June you returned to the UK for medical examination and you spent 13 days, on the 15th January, 2017, you went again and spent 50 days, then on 7th May, 2017, you went on another medical trip where you spent 104 days without handing over governance to the Vice President in your absence as provided in the constitution. The medical trips have gone so frequent that Nigerians have lost count and interest in the numerous trips which we believe are not free or cheap. So many people in your cabinets also took various medical vacations sometimes announced but most times unannounced. This was totally the contrary of what you promised before coming into power. While the poor Nigerian cannot afford health care in Nigeria where you promised to improve on our health services, you Baba and members of your cabinet proceed on these trips even at the slightest health challenge.

Secondly Sir, there is a great upsurge of insecurity in the nation that killings, kidnapping, rape, bombings and various attacks are now so common that the media are almost getting embarrassed to report all and the police are now so ashamed to admit to which led to the denial of the recent bomb blast at Sabon Gari in Kano where the police claimed it was a gas explosion whereas eye witnesses saw the suicide bomber yet nobody was prosecuted or warned among the police force for misleading the whole country by this false claims. Parents sold their property, borrowed and some died to save the lives of their children who were kidnapped in boarding schools and on campus. Kidnapped victims of the Kaduna-bound train are still with the abductors. Innocent people are being slaughtered by the day in the name of religious clash and nothing is being done to stop it. Baba, this was not your promise to us in 2015.

Mr President, the cost of food has gone up drastically over 300% since you came into power as a result of insecurity. Farmers are being killed and the females raped and ripped to death hence most of them stopped going to the bush for fear of being victims. In some cases, some of them were kidnapped in their farms, tortured until friends, families and fellow farmers contributed to pay the ransom. Travelling on the highway especially in some places like Abuja-Kaduna way, Benin-Abuja, Lagos-Ibadan among others is a nightmare as travellers are kidnapped almost on a daily basis. This has affected productivity of traders so badly in the country.

Thirdly Sir, power supply has been so epileptic despite the increment in the electricity tariffs. Businesses folded up as some traders could not afford to run them with the high cost of diesel and other petroleum products.

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On the fight against corruption which was your main focus Sir, it has become an open secret that Nigeria has recorded so many cases of corruption in your time more than any other especially among your appointees and cabinet members. These ones have graduated from stealing millions into stealing billions and no tangible sanction has been meted out to them. What we see is a drama show either in court or during interrogation and at the end the cases are swept under the carpet and these thieves come back to contest for other political positions. Under your watch Sir, an individual carted away with 80 billion naira, another 1.5 trillion, another 117million and so on. This is so painful to us the masses who find it difficult to eat 2 square meals a day not to talk of three. Baba, all these looted funds would go a long way in reviving our economy and possibly pay back a part of our foreign loans. How can it be said that Nigeria was borrowing almost on a monthly basis in 2021, yet individuals in your cabinet are carting away such huge amounts of money under your watch? What will the world say about us?

Mr. President Sir, the story about public universities being underfunded, poor remuneration of varsity workers and fraudulent payment platform (IPPIS) is no longer new even in the global sector. While political leaders and appointees earn more than 50million naira monthly, a university professor which is the apex of academic qualification in the world does not earn half a million naira. No wonder some of your ministers talk to professors with so much scorn and disrespect, no wonder an individual in your cabinet asked professors to go and farm. It is so sad that not much value is placed on education in Nigeria. Incessant strike and industrial actions by varsity workers because of failure of your government to fulfil agreement reached with the unions have led to constant closure of the university campuses and unrest of the youths in recent years while we see on social media pictures of graduation of the children of our political leaders who schooled in foreign universities while the children of those who voted for you are perpetually at home.

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In line with the aforementioned Sir, while reminding you of areas where seeming failure has been recorded, permit me to make some suggestions on how to correct some of these anomalies before it is too late if not too late. As the adage says, “it is better late than never” . Mr. President Sir, posterity will remember your tenure for either good or bad. There is therefore an urgent need for a restructure in your cabinet; political appointments into various public offices must be reviewed based on merit and not sentiments irrespective of the person’s political, religious or ethnic affiliation. There is a great need to put a round peg in a round hole, that is to say that only those who are genuinely qualified and concerned about the developments and security of the nation should be appointed or remain in office.

As the father of the nation Sir, the time is long overdue to rake all parastatals of every corrupt director, minister, manager, desk officers e.t.c. in order to save not only public funds that are being looted on a daily basis but also the face of our nation. Agencies established to fight against corruption must do so with all sincerity irrespective of whoever is found wanting (there must be no sacred cow).

Furthermore, security agencies such as the police, the army and the civil defence must not hesitate to prosecute any defaulter of the law, nor deny the reality of the state of insecurity o the nation.

Lastly, with the recent acrimony and misunderstanding between the two major religions in the country, there is an urgent need for you Sir to address the nation on religious tolerance and harmonious living among all Nigerians irrespective of any provocation. On no account must anyone take laws into his or her hands by taking the life of any Nigerian.

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In conclusion, dear father of the nation, President Muhammadu Buhari, save our public universities by meeting directly with the aggrieved unions especially ASUU, and meet their demands in order to resolve the long-ignored issues because the students are suffering, deprived and delayed in life.

I hope Sir, that you will graciously look into all these points raised with genuine concerns for our nation Nigeria and act with dispatch to save our country from sinking any further.
Long live Nigeria!
God bless Nigerians!
God bless our nation!

.Omonigho, PhD, is a public affairs analyst.

 

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New Thinking In Public Service And Administration

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New Thinking In Public Service And Administration
Prof. Tunji Olaopa

By
Tunji Olaopa

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has already become definitive of the twenty-first century, and the Nigerian civil service system cannot afford to keep struggling to key into the fundamentals of a new age that has transformed human sensibilities and ethos in many radical ways, from the way we work to the ways we organize our lives and existence. The public service is one of the fundamental institutions, across the globe, that has been significantly affected by the massive and radical digital transformations of human administrative endeavors. The challenge, however, and especially with a public service in a difficult administrative environment like Africa, is how easy it is for the public service to be caught up in its bureaucratic rules and processes in ways that deeply circumscribed its efficiency and service delivery mandate. This is all the more so for the Nigerian public service and her struggle to reprofessionalise as a functional institution while undermining her bureaucratic credentials.

This is not a light assessment given the predilection for an institution like the public service to be taken in by administrative traditions, and be fixated on a procedural mindset that is firmly opposed to change. Such a mindset becomes trapped unfortunately in yesterday’s ways of thinking and is immune from exploring the new possibilities available for making the public service a better institution for complementing the capabilities of the state to improve the well-being of humans. The vocation of the public service—the administrative principles, codes of practice, ethical values and knowledge systems—constitute all that shapes the future of the profession. However, what happens if the professionals are not looking up, and defining the conditions and circumstances that make for the continuous transformation of the profession? What happens, that is, if we refuse to conduct regular environmental scanning, deploy scenario planning, follow global trends, or interrogate the intellectual assumptions and theories undergirding administrative practices? Thus, with the shifting demographics, constantly evolving technologies, and environmental sustainability challenges, the way we lead, the way we administer, the way we solve problems or manage change, etc., are changing so dramatically now that any institution not willing to key into the innovative sensibility will be left behind. And, of course, the Nigerian public service cannot afford to be left behind.

The way forward is straightforward: it involves investing in new thinking. The idea of new thinking speaks about the capacity of an individual, an organisation or a state to assess and reassess current situation and future possibilities through a strategic framework that will enable the individual, organization or state function better and more efficiently. The idea of new thinking is conditioned by a reform program that is strategic. In other words, new think for any organization or institution combines strategic thinking and strategic planning to be able to face the future. It is this strategic thinking that allows an institution like the public service to rethink and reengineer its modus operandi and business model to become better.

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The notion of new thinking presupposes an old one. And with regard to the public service, this old thinking template is represented by the traditional, “I-am-directed” Weberian framework that defines administrative business before the advent of the managerial revolution. This Weberian structure required from civil servants the requisite characteristics of anonymity, neutrality and impartiality, and an overall profile circumscribed by efficiency, effectiveness, integrity, accountability, responsiveness, representativeness, loyalty, equity, fairness, and so on. However, it is a system that is essentially hierarchical, cumbersome and acutely bureaucratic to effectively fulfil the mandate of good governance. As a migrated structure, the Weberian system arrived in Nigeria without its value foundation. This made it impossible for the Weberian structure to organizationally mature into fully formed and value-oriented institution. Thus, it eventually became a bureaucratic paradigm that became ultimately a bureaucratic culture that contributed to the underdevelopment narrative in Nigeria. This made it possible for the system to be hijacked by various personalities for selfish and short-term ends.

Transforming the public service in the grip of this old business model demands also that the reformer must put in mind that the transition into the fourth industrial revolution must also occur within what has been called the VUCA environment. The public service is immersed in a VUCA environment, characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. These are four elements that are defined by the state of the world, decisions of government, and national dynamics. The VUCA environment is one that confronts the functioning of the public service and demands an engagement that enables the public service to confront the challenges and achieve administrative excellence in the process. This implies that such a public manager who will steer the public service through the challenges of the VUCA environment cannot be merely transactional, and operating with a twentieth century administrative mindset. It also means that the public service must always aspire to become capacity ready in meeting the challenges of governance and administration that the social, political, cultural and economic environments might throw up.

The public service, within a VUCA environment, is faced with the challenge of transforming itself within what is called a scenario. In administrative reform, a scenario consists of a starting point (an initial or alpha state), a trajectory (chain of steps or events) and a future (omega) state. A reform agenda or scenario therefore takes a state from the alpha point though a trajectory to an omega point. Within a VUCA environment, therefore, the public service is always finding itself in an alpha point as the environment keeps getting complex and challenging, and is always oriented towards an omega that is better able to serve the needs of the citizens. The burden of the VUCA environment, together with the imperative of the fourth industrial revolution, requires that the public service in Nigeria must be constrained by the demand of strategic thinking and planning. While strategic thinking is conceptual and initiates the search for imaginative strategies, strategic planning is more programmatic in the ways it formalizes the steps involved in transforming the public service.

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In thinking and planning strategically, therefore, care must be taken to distinguish between creating a strategy and being strategic. On the one hand, creating a strategy is a process of translating a plan into a set of results. On the other hand, the act of being strategic is a competence that involves critical thinking. The argument is that an institution, like the public service, requires strategic thinking to generate a reform strategy that will move the institution forward into more optimal functionality and productivity. Both must be channeled institutionally to the most central process of strategic decision making. This is what allows the institution to either think outside of the box or even without a box to structure institutional imagination. Strategic decision-making is ultimately tied to an institution’s capacity to maneuver through the VUCA environment in order to perform better. Thus, to move the Nigerian public service system forward to an omega point of cutting-edge optimality that creates performance, public value and productivity, there is the need to bring strategic thinking to bear on the institutional parameters, processes and values in ways that generate strategies for efficiency and effectiveness. Here, we survey the significant areas that constitute the locus of new thinking for the public service and the transformation of its efficiency and service delivery capacity.

Since strategic decision-making is key to the adoption and deployment of new thinking in Nigeria’s public service, then strategic policy intelligence emanating from the irreducible developments in contemporary decision science becomes inevitable. Decision science has become a critical field that has integrated cognate developments from artificial intelligence, organisational psychology, systems thinking, machine learning, probabilistic modeling, scenario analysis, big data analytics, and many more to become a key area that the public service must buy into to push forward its policy intelligence that strengthen decision-making. Modern policy making that has taken cognizance of decision science will most likely possess nine fundamental features: (i) forward-looking; (ii) outward-looking; (iii) innovative, flexible and creative; (iv) evidence-based; (v) evaluation; (vi) review; (vii) joined-up; (viii) inclusive; and (ix) learned lessons.

Strategic decision-making in turn demands that we rethink the nature of government and of the governance space where this strategy would be deployed. This is the occasion for the open government initiative to create a Public Service 2.0. Open government is founded on the principle that government—not just its laws and policies, but the reasons and processes of decisions that generated those policies and the flows of money that fund their implementation—should be open to the citizens and nongovernmental agents. The idea of open government aligns the public service with the necessity of (re)creating public value(s) that will transform the quality of life of the citizens. Indeed, the joint production of public value(s) by the government, nonstate actors and the citizens places the public service squarely within the ambit of the New Public Governance approach, the New Public Administration, and the New Public Service approaches that place the active citizens at the core of democratic governance, and the center of service delivery by the public service.

READ ALSO: DCP Abba Kyari: Deconstructing Public Service In Its Degenerate Mold

No public service can operate within the imperatives of the fourth industrial revolution without transforming its idea of human resources management and the dynamics of the workplace. For example, the idea of remote working and specialist contractors provide an institution like the public service the capacity to recruit a global workforce and create incentives that increase employee loyalty and commitment, and collaborations that generate productivity. This gives room for the achievement of a better work-life balance deriving from freer time and flexibility to work. And facilitates the acquisition of “twenty-first century literacies”: (a) interpersonal skills: facilitation, empathy, political skills; (b) synthesising skills: sorting evidence, analysis, making judgements, offering critique and being creative; (c) organising skills: group work, collaboration and peer review; and (d) communication skills: better use of new media and multi-media resources.

Thus, even though institutional reform is inevitable within the public service system in Nigeria, such a reform must be constrained by the imperatives of new thinking that arms the public service system with the wherewithal by which it must facilitate its own transformation. This is how the public service can become not only world-class, but compliant with the fourth industrial revolution and the challenge of national development in Nigeria.

. (Being a paper presented at a seminar held at the Public Service Institute of Nigeria – PSIN, Abuja, recently).
. Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and Professor, National Institute For Policy and Strategic Studies
(NIPSS), Kuru, Jos .
tolaopa2003@gmail.com

 

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Letter From A Falsely Accused Accountant-General

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Letter From A Falsely Accused Accountant-General

By Omoh Giwa

Dear Ms Giwa,
For dread of your scathing and satirical remarks on political issues, I have decided in anticipation of your nosy weekly missives, to respond in like manner just as you are known to run your mouth like a diarrhoea-plagued bowel.

There comes a junction in a man’s life, when he acknowledges he has bitten off more than he can chew. Such a man is left with a choice; choke or vomit but the real question is how do I vomit N80 billion? You might wonder why I cannot just cough it up or use a morsel of Eba or Fufu to get rid of this fish bone stuck in my throat? Things are never as they seem.

It is ironical that the self-acclaimed gatekeepers of integrity and discipline; after ousting and labelling the previous administration, corrupt and embezzlers of public funds, should be caught with our pants down. The irony is not in our criminal and ridiculous show of greed or the hypocrisy of our actions but in our gate-keeping. If you consider our allegations against my predecessor who was disgraced for the alleged misappropriation of 2.5 billion naira and my alleged crime, you’d be incensed all over again but you must allow me defend myself before you crucify me.

READ ALSO: Accountant General Ahmed Idris Suspended Over N80b Fraud

Though my compadres have not saved me from this show of shame, I refuse to sing like a canary or a certain director of the NDDC whose microphone was turned off forcefully over a meagre sum of 40 billion naira. My refusal to sing is two-pronged; firstly, I do not know if this is a test of my resilience and trust in my benefactors and secondly my accusers brought before the world, an 80 billion-count charge that I cannot seem to shake off or defend. I am saddened however, by the silence of my patron especially as it seems he is more interested in picking his successor to evade disgrace than saving me. Do you think I have been thrown under the bus and left for you vultures to pick my bones clean?

The wind of change that swept the nation and engineered the political awakening of the Lazy Nigerian Youth especially during the EndSARS saga is worrisome and I fear a threat to my political career. Will this be the end of my career that began after my Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University of Zaria in 1984 because some pesky meddling Crime Watchers cannot do the bidding of Number 1?

I have held several key positions post-BSc including Assistant Director of Finance and Accounts with the Petroleum Trust Fund and have never been caught or ousted with my fingers in the cookie jar as being ridiculed because I challenged the gang of self-righteous University Lecturers. To say I am thoroughly embarrassed is an understatement. Although I know this means nothing to my current position or even future ones (I must admit that my career is at stake if my mentor does not get his wish of replacing himself with a stooge hence I had to line my pockets for the rainy day) but I admit it looks bad on my resume and might hinder my back-up plan of international waters like certain Ministers of Finance and Agriculture.

You might wonder what my motive is with this communiqué but do not count me above rolling in the mud with pigs. I will not tolerate any slander to my name and legacy therefore; I intend to expose my detractors. This group of intelligent mafia, ASUU, is responsible for unveiling my misdemeanour as there are obviously worse cases of embezzlement schemes in this same country. I do not hear the same outrage I received for a mere 80 billion payout compared to the bigger fraud in Port Harcourt that has been fingered for 117 billion naira. What the syndicate of lecturers do not know is that those in glass houses do not throw stones (this does not apply to what we did to our predecessors as they were deserving of every aspersion cast against their names. Greedy and unrighteous Lots!).

You might think I am falsely accusing this cabal of lecturers but why is my name being smeared after I rightfully insisted (dogmatically if I might add) on the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System? These supposedly intellectuals are after my hide because I caught them at their attempt to become ghost workers. They want to eat their cake and have it (which is ridiculous in itself because the average professor cannot earn half a million despite their claim of intelligence and brilliance) and we cannot allow people to eat where they have not sown hence our desperate desire to gate-keep the looting and restrict it to the inner circle. Imagine if lecturers were financially comfortable, who would play the role of the Independent and Impartial Electoral Committee?

READ ALSO: EFCC Arrests Accountant-General Over Alleged N80bn Fraud

If you think this is my only evidence against the wickedness of this mafia, consider that I also introduced Treasury Single Account, a pivotal bid to curb wastefulness and excesses (do not ask politrickians to cut down their excesses as you have no idea how difficult it is to be a public figure. We refuse to be poor like our counterparts in First World countries) especially in Federal Universities. These men intend to hold us by the balls and demand fair remuneration as if they were as conscientious as politicians. Ask these men if they can stay up all night (deliberating on money making schemes)? Do you think theorising and philosophising is on the same wavelength as politricking?

The impossible lots! So unreasonable! If only our inferiors will know their place and stay there, the world will be better for it. When they began their warning strike, they thought we would cave. They had no idea we had weightier matters of politics and power to consider so we mocked them privately especially when Baba said he was unaware that ASUU was on strike. So gullible they would believe anything. Issuing warning strikes as though they hold the real power. Like us, their weak spot is playing gods for a few weeks when they can collect their meagre share of the national loot, yet pretending to play hardball. We have not paid them since February when their warning strike began, the same way we didn’t pay them during the Lockdown when they also went on strike (they will learn to respect their superiors).

Anyway, there is a Nigerian proverb that says a child determined to frustrate its mother, will suffer too but I am struggling with the tumultuous choice of continuing my vendetta against the gang of educated rebels or accepting the slight. It is important to note that this might affect my international plan B. Let me know what you think.
Yours in Service,
Falsely accused, Disgraced yet Proud Accountant.

. Giwa writes from the University of Lagos.
victoriagiwa12@gmail.com

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