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Reform As Learning Curve And Change  Management: A Policy Think-piece



Prof. Tunji Olaopa

By  Tunji Olaopa

This piece is a contribution to an emerging policy conversation around the management of development policy dynamics with commendable traction. This is a field that is now taking center point given the fact of the sundry expectations that Nigerians have about the Tinubu administration. It is a field larger than my core expertise around policy implementation and institutional reform through the capacitation of public institutions for capability readiness. And yet, this larger policy conversation is so multidisciplinary that it requires all hands to be on deck. Such a conversation is too significant to leave to public commentators, government functionaries and officials alone. It becomes an imperative for institutional memory and core public sector expertise to weigh in too. This is where this piece is coming from. 

A series of expert policy discussions  was ongoing as patriotic concern, as should be normal, before the inauguration of this administration, on the urgency of moving from election victory to agenda setting and policy design cum articulation and national change management. Indeed, the conversation organized by the Nextier group in April in Abuja on the theme of “From Election to Governance and Performance” was meant to aggregate opinions and arguments on what the Tinubu administration can and needs to do to be considered a successful administration compared to preceding ones. And in close to three months of the administration’s inauguration, President Tinubu has exceeded all expectations in terms of the rollout of diverse policy initiatives, from subsidy removal, taxation, student loan scheme and strategic communication as stakeholder engagement. Even the burst of commentaries and criticism in the public sphere attests to this. 

And yet, the overall demands for good governance transcend this initial burst. Yes, the new administration has hit the ground running. But Nigerians are already reacting to the consequences of the policies the government has rolled out. The shockwave rolling across the country signals that Nigerians are still not able to fathom what directions that policy architecture will take them. How then does one connect between the good intentions for the governance of Nigeria that the Tinubu administration has brought to its election into office, and the reality of the seeming policy disarticulation that is already causing untold hardship with just a few weeks in office? The idea is simply that policy design and articulation are not enough to articulate good governance that is facilitated by institutional and governance reform. The critical trajectory demands transiting from policy strategies to change management that brings the policy initiatives alive for qualitative changes to the lives of Nigerians.      

Thus, one way to come to a quick understanding of the discrepancy in the new administration is that governments often rely on technicist solution to the existential challenges of their citizens, when all this can achieve is to muddle up the relationship between policies, the policy implementation and the objective of making the citizens better. Reliance on technicist solutions weighs the dice in favor of technical appraisals and frameworks for institutional renewal and policy thrust as an end in itself, against the end of making the institution work for the betterment of the citizens.    

The meaning of good governance everywhere across the world is first about the well-intentioned policies of government meant to better the lives of the citizens. However, for good governance to even take off, the government must be well-prepared to embark on rigorous and comprehensive sets of institutional and administrative reforms around which policies can then have the dynamics of succeeding in improving the quality of life of the citizens. This automatically implies that no government can overlook or underestimate the importance of theoretical and conceptual issues in governance and the policy process. 

This immediately tells us that the ideas of development and reform are crucial concepts that ought to underlie the very policy efforts of government to transform the lives of their citizens. To ask the fundamental question of what development means is to interrogate the policy direction a state intends to take, and what ideological orientation would determine that development direction. Does a state want to toe the capability, income, welfare or basic needs approach to development? Dudley Seer, for instance, insists that development is measured by the extent to which a state ensures a steady decline in the levels of poverty, unemployment and inequality. When these are measured to have declined over time, then we can say the state is gradually developing. And whatever development path a state chooses hinges on the reform program of the government and how it is pursued. 

Reform, in simple terms, implies the readjustment or repositioning of an organisation (in this case, the policy space) in order to be able to effectively and efficiently meet the dynamism and challenges of its universe of operation. It often requires a trajectory of moving from a present but unfavourable state through a series of strategic and institutional stages of change towards a future state marked by efficient and effective improvements leading to better performance. It suggests that the country is going through a present phase of decay and dysfunction, and requires deliberate efforts aimed at changing its state systems, structures and processes in order to make them perform the designated function better and effectively. Thus, reforming the state system and the policy space involves the idea of improvement in the ways and manners in which government is managed and public goods and services are delivered effectively, efficiently, economically and with value for money.

While we can concede that Nigeria is a reforming state, it has now become unfortunate that reforms, going by historical data, hardly achieve the core of the policy, governance and development objectives they are meant for. Reforms are essentially historical and ideological; they answer to contextual demands and principles. In fact, they allow a state to frame the values that will best facilitate governance objectives. But rather than allowing reform to enable the framing of a democratic governance vision, Nigeria seems to have been “benchmarking failure,” to quote a graphic phrase by Prof. Francis Egbokhare. The lack of a solid and sustainable reform dynamic has made it so that a failed past government suddenly becomes better in the light of the failure of the present government and its inability to achieve what the past government also failed to achieve! 

One explanation is that institutional reform in Africa has often been designed in terms of redefining the role of the state. This is a highly ideological framework which speaks to the declining relevance of state-managed economies, especially in the third world, vis-à-vis the growing rate of progress recorded in the market economies of the Western societies. And this ideological constraint has been the source of the discourse on development paradigms that put Nigeria, like other African states, on two opposing sides of adherence to the neoliberal Washington Consensus, on the one hand; and the developmental state theory that sees the utility in neoliberalism even if it is modified and monitored as exemplified by Asian Tigers. Government must therefore make ideological assumptions that, in the case of Nigeria and the Tinubu administration, will jumpstart a democratic governance that is founded on a people-oriented development. 

The key therefore lies in the change management programme that the government can commit to and assiduously push through a messy trajectory that has the potential of yielding distinct successes. And such change management dynamics, hitched to development policy framework, are founded on several axiomatic principles and methodologies that the new government, as well as Nigerians, will do well to put in mind if it must make the urgent transition from policy articulation to implementation. First, and in layman’s term, it will most likely get worse before it starts to get better. In other words, there is no change management that comes easy. Thus, to be able to make the omelet of inclusive development outcomes, wealth creation, poverty reduction, infrastructural development, service delivery of public goods and global competitiveness, the government and the people must know that eggs must be cracked; no gain without pains. This realization derives, first, from the understanding that reform is essentially messy, non-linear and often deeply complex. It possesses a multidimensional nature because the casual relationship of sub-systems is usually complex. Since there are no single or predictable sets of cause for system’s dysfunction, there is hardly a simple formula (one-model-fits-all) or strategy for their resolution or for easy control to alter the behaviors of the national economy, its development institutional parameters and management systems. 

This understanding leads in several methodological directions. One, this nature of reform must create in the government the willingness to make tough decisions that is however undergirded by credibility, sincerity and exemplary leadership which invests in the famous national resilience that Nigerians are known for, supported by innovative frameworks of palliative support programmes to cushion the storms. Two, the government also needs a strategic communication framework—rather than silence—to convey to Nigerians the trajectory of moving from our present state to a better one. This enables a gradual change of national mental models from rampant cynicism to vibrant optimism once the people believe the government and its willingness to work on their behalf. And the message to pass across, with sincerity and credibility, is that fundamental policies with far-reaching development impact often take very long to gestate and mature. This is what accounts for why governments balance between short (the constraining 4-year tenure) and long-term development objectives.

Once the fundamental axioms are taken care of, the Tinubu administration then needs a further followup on the nature of reform that must underlie its change management. The first lesson the Tinubu administration must learn from the messy and complex nature of reform is to get the basic right. This translates into thinking through the sequencing and phasing of reforms. This demand an acute methodological creativity that balances between reform as continuous institutional learning and improvement and reform as a comprehensive big bang transformation. And in this regard, part of the juggling between short-term and long-term objectives might be the determination of what is of immediate value to Nigerians, i.e. “stomach infrastructures”, and what takes a while to accrue as development legacies and benefits that are capable of creating the quantum of transitions that ultimately ignite desired national transformation. 

Finally, past governance experience has taught us that there is no way to reach the goal of national productivity without first nipping the cost of governance tragedy in the bud. This therefore demands a national waste management framework that can contain the unbridled chains of redundancies and unnecessary institutional multiplications that burden our fiscal accountability. And this is a reform move that cannot be achieved without bringing the labour unions into a developmental journey whose aim is to undermine the existing adversarial industrial relations and substitute it with a developmental one.   

By going back to the basics in terms of governance and reforms, the Tinubu government will not only be ensuring it will not be repeating the mistakes and errors of the past, it will also be laying a solid foundation for a better Nigeria—after sixty-three years of trying. 

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




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Where Are Secular Lawyers?



Witch Burning, Impunity And Abuses Linked to Witchcraft Beliefs In Benue State
Dr Leo Igwe

By Leo Igwe

This question has agitated me over the years, and it persists. At a recent event in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, a participant introduced herself as a member of the Christian Lawyers Association of Nigeria. Christian Lawyers Association? I wondered, Why Christian lawyers? Why should lawyers associate based on faith? Do we have a traditional religious lawyers association? Jehovah Witness Lawyers Association? Bahai Faith lawyers? Hindu Lawyers? I mean, why the religionization of everything in this country?

In northern Nigeria, the Muslim Lawyers Association exists. This organization is active. It features prominently in cases, especially those that concern religion, Sharia, or Islam. I guess there would be Sunni and Shiite Muslim lawyers associations. In 2022, over 30 Muslim lawyers came forward to defend those suspected of murdering Deborah Samuel in Sokoto. Meanwhile, no member helped prosecute the suspects. Muslim lawyers have strongly supported the execution and imprisonment of suspected blasphemers. They constitute the legal wing of Islamic separatism in Nigeria. This religious slant in practice, profession, and association of lawyers is disturbing and needs to be critically examined.

Look, a lawyer is a person trained to offer legal services. A lawyer is trained to represent an individual or organization in legal matters. S/he applies the law to specific cases, religious or nonreligious. The legal profession should be carried out without religious bias or favor. The law should be practiced to further justice, equity, and fairness, not in defense of a particular faith or belief. In practice, the law should be faith/belief blind. Unfortunately, this appears not to be the case in Nigeria. The tendency of lawyers to associate along religious lines is entrenched. As in other sectors of the society, religion has hijacked the legal profession and association. Lawyers practice and are pressured to practice law along religious lines. That is the raison d’etre of the religious (Christian/Muslim) lawyers association. And it is worrisome.

It has become pertinent to ask, where are secular lawyers? Put differently, where are lawyers beyond belief? By secular lawyers, I mean lawyers who are not religious, that is, lawyers who are atheists or agnostics; lawyers who do not take religion seriously. Secular lawyers include those who think that religious and spiritual matters are strictly private affairs and should not be the basis for legal practice, profession, and association.

Nigeria needs secular lawyers for the following reasons. First, based on section 10 of the constitution, Nigeria is a secular state, although not explicitly stated. Nigeria has no state religion. But theocrats often contest Nigeria’s secularity and openly propose that sharia and their religious books are superior to the constitution. The country needs lawyers to defend and uphold its secular character and help prevent the slow undoing of the secular gains and progress that Nigeria has made. Nigeria needs lawyers who can champion secularism. And secular lawyers can fulfill this need.

Second, Nigeria needs secular lawyers to professionally and constitutionally handle cases linked to faith or belief, such as witchcraft, blasphemy, and apostasy allegations. Lawyers who practice or associate on grounds of faith cannot be trusted to handle these cases because they are likely to compromise. They are likely to sacrifice their profession on the altar of their faith. For instance, it is a challenge to find lawyers to defend victims of witchcraft accusations because most lawyers, as people of faith, believe in the reality of witches and demons. Even though witchcraft accusations are against the law. Religious lawyers cannot be trusted to render professional services to victims of witchcraft branding. The same thing applies to cases of blasphemy and apostasy accusations. These accusations are linked to religious beliefs. Many lawyers do not want to profess law in ways that violate their faith. So, faith is a factor in hiring an attorney or getting a reliable solicitor.

In cases where Christians are accused of blaspheming Islam or insulting the prophet of Islam, Christian lawyers volunteer. They offer to help. Religious (Christian or Muslim) lawyers consider it a duty to defend their members. Christian lawyers defended Rhoda in Bauchi or the Christian barber, Elijah, in Kano. Muslim lawyers defended the suspected murderers of Deborah Samuel. But it is more challenging when the accused is a nonbeliever, an atheist, or a nonreligious person. Religious lawyers are reluctant to take up the cases. Religious lawyers cannot be trusted or entrusted with these cases because of concerns over religious bias.  Christian lawyers are guided by their christian faith and muslim lawyers are guided by their Islamic faith in their legal practice and representation.
So secular lawyers are needed. They can be trusted to represent in these cases because, in principle, they are free from the faith baggage that encumber legal representations by christian/muslim lawyers. Nigeria needs secular lawyers to keep church, mosque and state separate, and to ensure state neutrality on religious matters. It needs secular lawyers to tackle religious oppression, persecution and tyranny. Nigeria needs secular lawyers to uphold the rule of law and defend the freedom of religion or belief of all.
 Igwe, PhD,  is a board member of the Humanist Association of Nigeria.

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Minister Dangiwa Versus Cement Cabals



Felix Oboagwina

By Felix Oboagwina

Wednesday, 31st October 2023, CEO of BUA Cement, Abdul Samad Rabiu, paid a visit to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in Aso Rock. As he walked out of the President’s office, journalists swarmed round Rabiu. To cut this narrative short, the billionaire businessman said he had come to assure the President that by March 2024, a bag of BUA Cement would start selling at N3,500 instead of N4,500 for which it then sold. The market leader, Dangote Cement, retailed for between N5,000 and N7,000 per bag. The hike not only alarmed but frustrated users because just two months earlier, Dangote Cement sold for a lower price of N3,500 max. The jump in price annoyed Nigerians. Thus, when the media went to town with Rabiu’s assurance of crashing the price, the news provoked much happiness nationwide.

Easier said than done, however, Rabiu’s optimism quickly evaporated into thin air. Mysteriously, thereafter, the price of cement went crazy and bizarre. The popular 50kg bag of cement flew to N10,000, then N12,000 and landed at N15,000. This year, Dangote Cement PLC reported a profit of N166 billion for first quarter of 2024.

In Nigeria, the dominant cement brands are Dangote, BUA, Lafarge and Elephant. For a country of 250 million, being serviced by four brands sounds like a monopoly or oligopoly, when a few companies exert significant control over a given market and together control prices by colluding with each other to promote uncompetitive prices. Today, manufacturers blame the skyrocketing rates on the falling value of the Naira. From the N700 per dollar pre-May 2023, the Naira had gone to exchange for N1,600 to the dollar, although it has now dropped to about N1,200. In addition to using the unhealthy Naira as scapegoat, cement makers blame the high cost on expensive gas and manufacturing equipment.

However, in the midst of the darkness, a silver lining appeared to appear from the midst of Tinubu’s cabinet ministers.

There are 46 ministers, although 13 of them wear the title of Junior Minister or Minister of State and 33 substantive ones. Suddenly, two substantive ministers called cement manufacturers to a meeting. The meeting by Dave Umahi, Works Minister, took place first on Monday, February 19, 2024. At that meeting, the minister and manufacturers fixed the price of cement at between N7,000 and N8,000 max.

The following day Tuesday in Abuja, Ahmed Dangiwa, Minister of Housing and Urban Development, also met representatives of the Cement Manufacturer Association of Nigeria (CEMAN). And there things exploded. Dangiwa displayed uncommon knowledge of all the tricks and shenanigans. He told the producers the implication of their pricing: “This is a crisis for housing delivery. An increase in essential building materials means an increase in the prices of houses.”

For Dangiwa, the reasons for the price hike were insufficient to justify such outrageous pricing. He confronted them with the bare facts, that the government stopped cement importation to enable local companies to increase output and lower prices.

Then he dropped the banger: “Government can open the borders for mass importation of cement, the price will crash, but you will have no business to do.”

When CEMAN said the association “does not interfere with the pricing of cement,” Dangiwa hit back with, “One person cannot be selling at N3,500 per bag and another selling at N7,000 per bag and you cannot call them to order. The association is expected to monitor price control; otherwise, the association has no need to exist.”

Where the President and the Works Minister pacified and appeared to have lost touch with reality, Dangiwa spoke to manufacturers in the language they understood. He threatened them. Government, Dangiwa said, could fling open the borders to tame prices.

He told them: “We know that some of the key components of producing building materials, especially cement, are locally sourced, so the recurring disproportionate increase in the price of cement is unacceptable and unreasonable. Key input materials such as limestone, clay, silica sand, and gypsum within our borders should not be dollar-rated.

“You cannot continue to give excuses and blame it on the dollar all the time. The worst part is that other building materials manufacturers take a cue from cement manufacturers, and once they see that you increase your price, they do the same. Recently, this is happening almost every week, and it has to stop.”

Fact is Nigeria has been hijacked by cartels. They have the country by the jugular mercilessly. Like cartels the world over, the Nigerian business profiteers nurse the motive of profiteering at all costs. Governments have been unwilling to confront them and break that hold today. Past pro-people regimes behaved otherwise.

General Murtala Mohammed imported Argentinean beef to force down the price of meat in the market.

General Gowon goes down in history for the Cement Armada. Ships upon ships upon ships of cement harboured at the Apapa Lagos port and crashed the price of the product.

In his own time, when the price of cement rose astronomically and the country complained, Goodluck Jonathan, in May 16, 2011, invited producers to Aso Rock and gave Dangote, BUA and others 30 days to crash cement price to N1,000. They succumbed.

While that drama played out, four cement manufacturers in February 2013 wrote to Jonathan to demand import licences, calling themselves “Cement New Entrants Stakeholders.” They each wanted to be granted papers by Jonathan to import 5 million metric tons of cement. According to them, granting import licences was a sure way of forcing down cement price to between N500 and N1,000 per bag and breaking the current monopoly of the “cartel” in the industry.

There is much to learn from this engagement. Monopolistic profiteering dictates cement pricing in Nigeria. The monopoly flaunts every excuse to justify the high price, which the proposed independent importers told Jonathan was “making Nigeria to be classified as the country with the highest price of cement in the world” with the ex-factory price then fixed between N1,400 and N1,800 per bag.

That is the way to go. Good history ought to repeat itself. Open the borders. Grant licences to import. Create competition. It will amount to a win-win for Nigerians because cement imports will create a new line of businesses as well as jobs through the value chain of importation, ports, clearing, re-bagging, warehousing, marketing, advertising, distribution and retailing. This the Housing Minister Dangiwa knows as a professional architect, a player in the building industry and a politician who wants to deliver pocket-friendly housing to the masses.

He had similarly maintained this humane stance when, as Managing Director of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN, 2015–2022), he packed several human-faced, pro-people policies into his tenure. He processed N39.5 billion worth of refunds to 247,521 retired Federal housing contributors. Under him, FMBN made available NHF mortgage loans to 5,900 beneficiaries as well as home renovation loans to 77,500 people. He, also, led efforts to develop the Diaspora mortgage loan. This innovative scheme specifically aimed at assisting Nigerians living abroad to own homes without the weeping tales of getting duped by relatives or friends in Nigeria.

Minister Dangiwa knows that ONLY the cartels’ insatiable greed propels the price of cement sky-high. Exorcising this evil begins with taming the profiteers and making them sell cement to Nigerians at the N3,500 per bag that CEO of BUA Cement, Abdul Samad Rabiu, promised Tinubu at Aso Rock.

Oboagwina is an author, journalist and publisher, reachable via

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Money Without Family Relationship: A Time Bomb!



The Futility Of A Marital Chase
Dr Hope Nwawolo

Money Without Family Relationship: A Time Bomb!

By Hope Nwawolo

Recently, l came across a trending post of a 72-year-old pensioner, who was said to have worked all his life to raise his kids. The writer of the post claimed the man was abandoned by his children whom he trained in expensive schools, at home and abroad.  It was further disclosed that his 65-year-old wife, had relocated to live with her children abroad, on the excuse of taking care of their grandchildren. The writer went on to paint the gloomy picture of the man as a bachelor once again and battling with high blood pressure and other old age ailments. He cautioned men that women love their children more than their husbands, so they should plan for their future. He erroneously put the number of such women at 97%.

This piece is in response to the above biased claim which is also capable of causing friction in homes striving for unity and togetherness. He may just succeed to plant a negative seed of distrust and discord in the minds of fickle-minded men, who before reading the article were enjoying a blissful relationship with their wives. It may also be possible that the writer is a disgruntled person who did not succeed in marriage or relationship and believes the same must be for all men.

When we see people like the writer portrayed, we should ask a pertinent question. What was the man’s relationship with his wife and children when he was ‘struggling’ to fend for them? Unfortunately, some men fail to realize that there is so much more in family life than money. In as much as money ‘answereth’ all things, it cannot be exchanged for lasting family relationship. 

Some men literally shove their wives aside while making the money without realizing the children see the treatment of their mothers. When some of these children become independent and financially stable, they feel obligated to compensate their mothers for the loveless treatment received from their fathers. In other cases, some men do not value family time, no matter how short, and would not understand the emotional craving of the wives and children when they really need it. Often, it is these women, that stay in the  gap in their absence, making the children bond more with  them. And instead of appreciating such women for filling in their physical vacuum, some men rather get jealous of the bond and further drift away from the children, while blaming the wife. 

Today, wise men make out time to pray, discuss, and have family outings with their families. This is called relationship building, which cannot be broken by distance in the future. The children from these homes grow up with memories of fun and family laughter. The women from such homes, have strong relationship with their husbands and will not stay more than one month when they go to visit their children. You will hear them say to the children, “Please, l want to go back to my husband.”  Why is nobody talking about them?

There are also couples who travel together to visit their children from time to time. So what stops a man from also going to visit his children whom he struggled to train? Is it that they did not invite him, and why? Perhaps they have no relationship! 

The claim of 97% women who abandon their husbands for their children is not empirical, cannot be scientifically proven, and is unfair to women. It also has the tendency to put fears into innocent men who are building strong relationships with their wives and children. I pray such men do not abandon their effort after reading such a biased write-up…for their own good! Every marriage and family is unique and should have values and principles that will bind its members together today, tomorrow, and in the future. This should override the quest for money if it cannot be combined with building lasting relationships with every member of the family.

Nowadays, while many men believe their provision of money for the home is the answer to family issues, the women sacrifice key factors that cannot be monetized, and build lasting relationships with the children. These vital factors are their tears and worries, emotional support, and constant prayers, among many others. Observably too,  some women are also contributing financially to feeding and sometimes, schools fees, as well as other necessities of the families. Despite these, they  find time to ensure that the family bond is maintained as best as possible. Unfortunately, the ego rather than complex of some men will not allow them acknowledge or appreciate the effort of these women and which the children obviously witness as they grow into independence and financial stability.

Therefore, instead of blaming women for the unpalatable fruit of old age loneliness as a result of early years of family emotional neglect, men should attempt to juggle their quest for money with building relationships that will see them through the evening of their lives, with members of the families. 

 Nwawolo, PhD, writes via


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