Success Or Failure: APC And Campaign For 2023
By Salihu Moh. Lukman
The Africa Editor of US Financial Times, David Pilling, in an opinion article in the January 31, 2022 edition posed the question, ‘What is Nigeria’s Government For?’ With all the attributes of being a politically sponsored promo, campaigning against the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, Pilling’s article signposts what is to come in the months ahead leading to the 2023 general elections. Chock-full sentiments, laden with inauspicious interpretation of Nigerian reality aimed at influencing public opinion will dominate both local and international media. Very conveniently, indices of economic performance in the last seven years will hardly feature largely because the aim is to whitewash the government of President Buhari as a failure. With very harsh conclusions of ‘Nigeria has sleepwalked closer to disaster,’ there is no empirical evidence to support the claims of failure other than a poor attempt to appeal to the emotions of innocent Nigerians.T
To be fair to Pilling, the only two attempts to present indices of economic reality is that the federal budget is about $30 billion and ‘it takes estimated $2 billion to get a president elected.’ While he is right that the size of Nigeria’s federal budget is about $30 billion, the estimated $2 billion to get a president elected is largely speculative. It is simply aimed at rubbishing Nigerian democracy, which is why he made the insinuation that ‘those who pay will expect to be paid back.’ May be since the US is the model of democracy Nigeria is copying, Pilling should have volunteered information about the cost of electing a US president and how charitable organisations fund campaigns to elect US Presidents without expecting any pay back.
The disrespect for truth and common logic is very glaring. Otherwise, how can Nigeria be ‘sleepwalking’ under President Buhari but ‘if Yemi Osinbajo, the technocratic vice-president, were miraculously to make it through the campaign thicket and emerge as president, the hearts of Nigerian optimists would beat a little faster.’ What distinguishes Vice President Osinbajo from President Buhari that one can be good and the other bad? Is Vice President Osinbajo not discharging his responsibility based on approvals and directives of President Buhari? Isn’t his (Vice President Osinbajo) so-called success not simply a reflection of the confidence President Buhari vested in him, on the one hand, and his loyalty to the President, on the other?
It is simply very damaging to Vice President Osinbajo for anyone to seek to project him as a good person while President Buhari and the government he serves are bad. It is even more grievous to condemn Nigerian aspirants for the presidential race as ‘familiar candidates… mostly recycled old men.’ If we condemn presidential candidates in Nigeria as ‘recycled old men’, the world should celebrate the young presidential newcomers in the most successful democracies, including the United States. It is quite contemptuous and an abuse of privilege for anyone who claims to support the development of democracy in Nigeria to dishonestly make the kind of unhelpful remark made by Pilling.
Perhaps, it is important to admit that Pilling is only responding to the unfortunate reality that while President Buhari and other Nigerians in his government are busy initiating responses to Nigeria’s intractable challenges, many Nigerians, especially some leaders saddled with the responsibility of steering the affairs of APC have become overconfident to the point of imagining that there is no need to start strategising for the 2023 elections. So much time is being lost debating whether APC is ready for the February 26, 2022 National Convention. While as APC we have frozen ourselves, others have moved on and are already planning the defeat of APC.
Beyond, Pilling and his likes outside the country, PDP leaders are daily mobilising for 2023. A party, which performed so badly has suddenly found new voice that is very loud. As APC, with all that the government of President Buhari is doing and many of our state governments, most times, our voices are only louder when we are distressed. Sadly, most causes of our distress come from normal political contests, which suggests incapacity on the part of some of our leaders. Problems of capacity is largely a reflection of poor leadership recruitment strategy, which is not peculiar to APC. It is more pronounced now in APC because being the governing party at the federal level eludes part leaders and members with a strong self-belief of high probability for electoral victory. This was the case in PDP before 2015, which largely facilitated their defeat.
APC leaders must wake up to the reality of preparing for 2023 campaigns. Without good preparations, APC campaign for 2023 will be reactive and defensive. PDP leaders and their international sympathisers such as Pilling will continue to set the tune for the 2023 campaigns, which will continue to present APC and its government under the leadership of President Buhari as a failure. We must appeal to APC leaders, especially the leadership of the APC Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) under the leadership of His Excellency Mai Mala Buni to free the party from the current high level of uncertainty surrounding the February 26, 2022 APC National Convention. It is important that the convention is allowed to produce the needed excitement around all the contests at the convention. Being the national convention, it should be the highest opportunity to celebrate the party and begin to mobilise every party member to recommit himself/herslf ahead of the 2023 electoral contests.
Without doubt, preparing for 2023 electoral contests for APC, being the governing party, come with a lot of challenges. As a party, APC must not put itself in a difficult position of campaigning based on propaganda, which in the end will seek to dismiss challenges facing the country and rationalise every action of governments controlled by the party. APC leaders must recognise challenges and objectively assess initiatives taken by governments. Where there are manifest weaknesses recognise and accept shortcomings as reflection of commitment to remedy the situation. It is only when there is such commitment that party leaders will be able to win the confidence of Nigerians and to that extent win their support. Winning the support of Nigerians should be the orientation of APC campaign for 2023. APC leaders must remove every illusion that being governing party will guarantee electoral victory. In fact, being governing party come with high disadvantage because power is always unpopular.
Part of what we need to remind APC leaders, ordinary members and by extension Nigerians, is that as a democracy that is gradually stabilising with more than twenty years experience, the question of issue-based campaigning should no longer be hypothetical. When PDP and their sympathers such as Pilling are broadcasting that APC and its government under President Buhari has failed, we must as loyal party members and patriotic Nigerians be able to prove that, to the contrary, we have succeeded with empirical evidence. For instance, what had been the size of the federal budget during the sixteen years when PDP ruled this country as compared to the $30 billion today? Has it stagnated, shrunk or expanded? What is the ratio of capital to recurrent budgets under PDP as compared to today? What is the success rate of budget implementation?
Specifically, what are the key projects successfully implemented both under PDP and today under APC? Critical reforms initiatives were implemented during the sixteen years of PDP such as Treasury Single Account (TSA), Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) and Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS), and landmark legislative frameworks were also put in place such as Public Procurement Act, Administration of Criminal Justice Act, Pension Reform Act, Freedom of Information Act, Pension Reform Act, and Electric Power Sector Reform Act. These are pieces of legislations that strengthened the capacity of government to manage challenges in the country.
Of course, in terms of poverty alleviation and job creation, there were YouWIN and NAPEP. And in infrastructural development, it is to the credit of PDP governments between 1999 and 2015 that they started and almost completed the Abuja-Kaduna Standard Gauge Rail Line and the Abuja Metro Rail. PDP governments also started the construction of Zungeru Power Plant, as well as new Airport Terminals in Lagos, Kano, Abuja and Port Harcourt. There was also the rehabilitation of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, which was initiated by the PDP governments. There are many projects initiated and executed by PDP governments in various sectors of the economy. How successful were these initiatives and what were the costs?
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For APC, in the last seven years, the key highlight of success is in infrastructure. Most of the projects started by PDP have either been completed or nearly completed. Beyond the ones that were started, project such the second Niger Bridge, which was conceived by the PDP is scheduled for completion. There is the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Rail conceived by the APC government of President Buhari and completed. There are many road projects at various stages of completion. The Petroleum Industry Act initiated by the PDP government of former President Olusegun Obasanjo is now a law.
Since November 2015, a large-scale agricultural intervention has been initiated by the government of President Buhari, which has supported over 3.1 million smallholder farmers of 21 different commodities. With the intervention, Nigeria is becoming increasingly self-sufficient in food production. There is also the ambitious social investment programme introduced since 2016. It is the largest safety net intervention programme in Africa and one of the largest in the world.
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How can we assess initiatives implemented under the APC as compared to the PDP? While it is convenient for PDP to campaign based on hypothetical estimation of the failure of APC, it is important that APC leaders, and, more importantly, Nigerians use empirical assessments of achievements of both PDP and APC to determine issues of success or failure. However, recognising that the insecurity inherited by the APC-led government of President Buhari remains a major national challenge and is largely the current source of national frustration, it is important that the assessment of performance of APC government is not reduced to opinions of individual politicians. The reality is that both President Buhari and all APC leaders acknowledged the enormity of the challenges of insecurity in the country. This is in recognition of the fact that notwithstanding all the achievements of the APC administration in other sectors of the economy, once the problem of insecurity persists, it means the government has failed.
Also, the APC administration is taking steps to equip the security agencies and build morale, promote community-led solutions, develop new security infrastructure and operations across land and maritime environments, and address the underlying drivers of insecurity (poverty and youth unemployment), encouraging reports are emerging from the various theatres of operation. Just on Thursday, February 10, 2022, His Excellency, Babagana Zulum, after a meeting with President Buhari informed journalists that over 30,000 former Boko Haram terrorists have surrendered to Nigerian armed forces. Based on all the evidence, Governor Zulum expressed the optimism that the war against Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East will come to end in 2023.
With incidences of banditry in the North-West and North-Central producing more cases of kidnappings and abductions of citizens, including schoolchildren, the capacity of Nigerian security agencies to prevent and arrest criminal activities of rebellious groups in all parts of the country is a legitimate concern of all Nigerians. There is also the challenge of preventing or managing conflicts arising from activities of herdsmen, which have provoked all manner of conflicts between Fulani herdsmen and other citizens, especially farmers, across every part of the country. Criminal activities associated with herdsmen also increased incidences of banditry, kidnappings and abductions of citizens.
The narrative around this, promoted by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and their supporters, including Pilling is that challenges of insecurity facing the country are a confirmation that President Buhari and APC have failed Nigerians. Citing campaign promises of APC in 2015, undertaking to end insecurity, fight corruption and build the economy, problems of insecurity in the country is being used to mobilise Nigerians against the APC and President Buhari as part of the politics is also aimed at mobilising support to defeat the APC in 2023 elections.
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Consequently, there appears to be some disconnect between politics and the need to unite Nigerians to work together to address the nation’s security challenges. Opposition politicians and their supporters are unreceptive to efforts to mobilise Nigerians to forge strong unity towards ending insecurity in the country. It is therefore a good mark of leadership, notwithstanding the desperate grandstanding politics for 2023 by PDP and its supporters for President Buhari to acknowledge that Nigeria is passing through period of momentous challenges. No doubt President Buhari is not in denial of Nigeria’s security challenges. Acknowledging the challenges is indicative of the commitment of President Buhari and by extension APC leaders to end the problem of insecurity facing the country.
Therefore, as part of the preparations for 2023 campaigns, based on strategic initiatives to win the confidence of Nigerians, APC leaders must be very proactive in providing information to citizens about progress being made and challenges.
It is our responsibility as the governing party to take every necessary step to depolitise the campaign against insecurity in the country. How can a party and its leadership, which diverted $2.1 billion meant for the procurement of arms to fight insecurity to their private pocket even have a voice about who has succeeded or fail? Such a party and its leadership should be hiding in shame.
Given all that is happening to our democracy, there must be independent initiatives to engage the debate about comparative review of Nigeria’s experiences under sixteen years of PDP and seven years of APC. There is the need to engage this review based on sectoral consideration to support the leadership of APC to develop the needed capacity to mobilise Nigerians to see beyond the opportunist strategy of PDP leaders and their sympathisers, which is to exploit the frustration of Nigerians to win their votes in the 2023 general elections. The review of achievements under sixteen years of PDP and seven years of APC is also to compel the PDP to go beyond propaganda in its campaign to win the 2023 elections. If PDP is to develop any capacity of defeating the APC in 2023 elections, it must be compelled to accept its failings, recognise the successes of APC and to that extent commit itself to proposing concrete initiatives beyond hypothetically false rendition of its successes before 2015.
All information regarding the assessments of both PDP and APC since 1999 will be verifiable. In this 21st Century age of super information highway, issue-based campaign must be the orientation of partisan politics!
Dr Lukman is a freelance APC campaigner.
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Iwuanyanwu And The ‘Political Rascals’ Rhetoric
By Promise Adiele
Samuel Beckett’s absurdist play Waiting for Godot avails itself of multiple interpretative tools with a compelling grip on the moral imagination of the audience. As a timeless drama, it thrives on the hopelessness of the human condition dramatized by two vagabonds, Estragon and Vladimir who waited for a mysterious, titular Godot that never came. One of the features of the absurdist literary tradition portrayed in the play is the failure of language in the verbal context as a means of communication. The verbal exchange between the two vagabonds is evident of misinterpretation. One says one thing, the other interprets it differently. Thus, it calls to question the potency of language in the verbal medium as a means of communication. The preceding analogy reminds me of Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu and his purported insult to the good people of the Yoruba ethnic group. Perhaps, misinterpretation currently manifests as an inexorable content of Nigeria’s absurd credentials.
Last week, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, philanthropist, accomplished businessman, the Balogun Babaguwan of Yorubaland, Ahaejiejemba of Igboland and elder-statesman, while reacting to events that happened in Lagos during the last election when many Igbo people were bloodied and harassed, assured the world that “the Igbo and Yoruba are not at war”. On the heels of that statement came another one “they are Yoruba political rascals”. A syntactic analysis of the two sentences affirms that the Chief never meant to insult the entire Yoruba ethnic group. Rather, he was referring to rascals in Lagos who maimed, killed, and vanquished Igbos, non-Yorubas, and even some Yorubas with Igbo semblance, stopping them from exercising their voting rights during the election. He also said “we know them and we will deal with them”. Language scholars know that Chief Iwuanyanwu did not mean to insult the Yoruba. Sadly, some social nitwits, victims of acute cognitive impairment, went on a rampage to misinterpret and manipulate his statement to suit their treacherous, mischievous purposes. It is absurd.
Anyone who knows Chief Iwuaynanwu’s antecedent will never ascribe offensive rhetoric to him. He is soft-spoken, conciliatory and peace-loving. Like every sensible person around the world, not just the Igbo, he was aghast with lurid photos and video evidence of harm against the Igbo in Lagos during the last election. Unfortunately, people who ordinarily frolic in the whirlwind of ethnic hate have seized the opportunity to insult the Igbo ethnic group while using acerbic words on the revered Chief. These people, in their degenerate and diseased mentality, are trying to install a wall of hate between the Igbo and Yoruba. Let me state categorically that the Yorubas are wonderful people whose spirit of brotherliness, conviviality, and tolerance speaks volumes across the world. I have maintained over time that the Igbo and Yoruba share a cordial, interwoven relationship in marriage, business, friendship, association and neighbourliness. The two ethnic groups can never be involved in a conflict. Many Yoruba people have helped many Igbo people to their destinies and many Igbo people have helped many Yoruba people to their destinies too. An attempt for one ethnic group to harm the other will result in serious harm for the two. It is as implicating as that.
Since the presidential elections, keenly contested by different candidates from different ethnic groups in Nigeria, some people have desperately sought to reduce the entire development to an ethnic affair. It is myopic and at once condescending. Does Peter Obi represent the Igbo? Does Bola Tinubu represent the Yoruba? Does Atiku Abubakar represent the Hausa/Fulani? These candidates all have supporters across the country. Of course, they will have a preponderance of support from their ethnic base. That is the way of politics. Unfortunately, ethnic jingoists have, in the inerrancy of their bleak convictions, reduced the entire political discourse to an ethnic affair especially Yoruba vs Igbo. These people, stranded in the realm of ethnic hate and communal intolerance, have done everything within their powers to inflame ethnic tension to crucible dimensions. It is wrong for anyone to insult a whole ethnic group in whatever guise. In Chief Iwuanyanwu’s case, he has put the records straight by clarifying what he meant, insisting that he was quoted out of context. But the morbid and decadent will not hear of it. They insist that Iwuanyanwu and all Igbo should be roasted alive. As far as these simpletons are concerned, the Chief spoke the mind of all Igbos. How idiotic and harebrained can anybody be?
Recently, some people have also indulged in ethnic slurs. Unlike Chief Iwuanyanwu that clarified himself, Bayo Onanuga offered no apology and insisted on standing by his words. Onanuga spoke for himself and couldn’t have insulted the Igbo on behalf of the Yoruba. MC Oluomo, while registering his socio-political disorientation, spoke for himself when he threatened the Igbo on an election day and went on to make good his threat which the police shamelessly called a joke. FFK has also made inflammatory remarks which were his personal opinion and not the opinion of Yoruba. It is therefore, a function of disabled, primitive awareness for anyone to insult an ethnic group based on the comment of one person. Such insults and abuses expose the quiddity of phenomenal foolishness which, hitherto, was concealed in some people by the façade of education. No, these hate mongers belong to the stone age. Nobody should be deceived by their pretentious liberalism.
The question is, are there political rascals in Nigeria? Definitely yes! These are the particular people Chief Iwuanyanwu referred to concerning what happened in Lagos during the last elections. Of course, all parts of the country have their share of political rascals. It is not peculiar to one ethnicity. Political rascals are those who walk the streets, snatch ballot boxes, stab people due to their ethnic origin and prevent them from exercising their civic rights. They are not educated. They are thugs, street urchins and never-do-wells employed by politicians to advance nefarious objectives. There are also some educated political rascals. They don’t walk the streets, but demonstrate humane deficiency of unimaginable proportions using social media and sundry news outlets. They spread hate, provoke enmity and fan the embers of war. They incite the uneducated, urging them to bay for the blood of ordinary citizens. Their social media handles are replete with expletives and insults. Abusive engagement allows them to flourish. Another category of political rascals populate government establishments like INEC, the Police and different security agencies. These people compromise the electoral process in exchange for financial inducement and material gains. They are unconscionable, desperate and invidious. Are these people from another planet? No, they are among us. We know them.
The ethnic hate narrative is a device enunciated by the political class to keep the people divided, breaking their rank and file to unite and fight a common enemy. The opposition LP and PDP are convinced that the election was marred by sharp, underhand practices and therefore have gone to court. Is going to court to challenge the outcome of an election a legitimate practice? If it is, why can’t detractors of equitable process allow the law to run smoothly? The call by some decidedly frustrated fellows in search of relevance and pecuniary patronage for the arrest of the opposition presidential candidates is from the pit of purgatory. The propaganda that there is a plan to disrupt the handover ceremony is a bundle of falsehood from the depths of Hades. Although many Nigerians regard the judiciary with a pinch of salt, people of goodwill should advocate for a peaceful resolution of Nigeria’s political challenges. Ethnic rhetoric should stop immediately. People should sheath their swords. Let us all close the road to Rwanda.
Adiele, PhD, writes from Mountain Top University.
Olaopa: The Self As A Patriotic Reformer – The Tales Of A Memoirist
By Adeshina Afolayan
Autobiographies and memoirs are very difficult to write. One of the reasons is that they place the autobiographers and the memoirist in a very difficult position that draws the attention, and even the ire, of the public. Once the volume is written and presented before the public, the writer can no longer control its reception. And some or even all of her certainties and verities are shredded by those who must approach the book from different perceptions. But there is an even more daunting challenge. Writing an autobiography or a memoir dances at the very edge of hubris and vanity. This is what Michel de Montaigne thinks. His understanding of the human self is dark and gloomy. According to him, “If others were to look attentively into themselves as I do, they would find themselves, as I do, full of emptiness and tomfoolery…. Our self is an object full of dissatisfaction: we can see nothing there but wretchedness and vanity.”Now, imagine an act of self-portrait emerging from such a dark view of the self.
In The Essays, Montaigne pens a paradoxical opening statement addressed to the readers of the volume who are not supposed to read it because it is a work of vanity: “Reader, I myself am the subject of my book: it is not reasonable that you should employ your leisure on a topic so frivolous and so vain. Therefore, Farewell.” If the self is locus of emptiness and wretchedness, then any attempt at a self-portrait is doomed already; the autobiographer or memoirist thinks more highly of herself than she should. And yet, Montaigne subtly invites the reader to peruse the volume through a strategy of dissuasion.
In The Unending Quest for Reform, Tunji Olaopa faces the charge of hubris head-on , and persuades us to plunge into a narrative that connects the self with a larger space of meaning, struggle and fulfilment. This is an even more difficult endeavor since it goes beyond the self-portrait that embroils the self in its own dynamics of maturation. On the contrary, a memoir like the The Unending Quest for Reform, like Wole Soyinka’s The Man Died, connects the self to nonself, or to its Other. The autobiographer or the memoirist then invites the reader to weigh the significance of the self in relation to its other. Only those who have a strong sense of inner worth and significance can ever achieve such a courageous level of self-ascription.
I think a reformer deserves his memoir or autobiography. I have read the late Professor Akinlawon Mabogunje’s autobiography — A Measure of Grace. It details not only birth, historical trajectories and intellectual maturation, but also the agonies of a public servant eager to see some of his best ideas and insights inserted into the policy architecture of the Nigerian state. He met brick walls at every turn. In The Unending Quest for Reform, Olaopa typifies a more enduring courage to serve and confront the dysfunction of a system that had been rigged to be inefficient since independence.
The public service is not just another vocation. It embodies a double imperative. First, it is a service that transcends any consideration of self-interest. Within the service and its accountability dynamics, the self cannot be placed in contradistinction to what is required of it. The service is therefore a
selfless one that demands that the servant serves. Second public service is a service to public, the public. It therefore requires a different kind of spirit—public-spiritedness—that insists that the public servant must bow to certain logic of service that bend the will of the public servant to the will of the citizens. The task of a public servant therefore becomes a very arduous one: she must bend the self to serve the others. However, serving others becomes very onerous when the system that enables the service is inefficient and dysfunctional. When Olaopa first confronted this dysfunctional system, his first human instinct was to flee. But he did not. This was where his scholarly instinct—to learn, to reflect, to research, to rethink, to reorganize—kicked in. And he had a background in Plato and a mentoring acquaintance in Professor Ojetunji Aboyade to trim his fears and fuel his reform thinking.
The Unending Quest for Reform details the long trajectory that took an Aáwé boy to the Presidency and then the very height of public service status as a permanent secretary. But in each of the fifteen chapters that make up the memoir, you are compelled to encounter and reflect on how ideas and insights emerged from Olaopa’s interaction and engagement with intellectual and administrative forebears, and how both
the forebears and the ideas molded his own original philosophy of reform—with a huge dose of providential intervention.
While Plato’s Republic maps the boundaries of the ancient Athenian city-state and its utopic possibilities, Olaopa’s
The Unending Quest for Reform delineates the circumferences of a
dysfunctional public service, and how it could be rehabilitated within a comprehensive institutional and governance reform blueprint that took years to design, and even many more years to attempt mounting for the benefit of making Nigeria work better. This is where he joins the community of suffering that Mabogunje, and many others, once belonged. At every turn, the system itself frustrated all his well-being intentions and yearning.
Olaopa carries the burden of a man driven by God’s purpose. Or how else does one understand the passion that
drove and still drives him to dedicate his research and professional life to a system that seems too dense to allow self-examination? As an expert-insider, he had to face the fundamental significance of whether the public service can reform itself. That query, for Olaopa, could not have been just an academic exercise; he must have had to face the suspicions and stubborn resistance of those who could have considered him “too know” and obnoxious. There are ways by which a
debilitated system punishes those who would claim diagnostic knowledge. There are several means by which those who benefit from the status quo impede the progress of a reformer. And yet, Olaopa kept at this onerous task, even after retirement,with a single-mindedness that belies any logical understanding.
It was not just Plato and philosophy that gave him inspiration. All through The Unending Quest for Reform, one sees him holding onto a deep understanding of the place and role of the divine in human understanding and trajectories. If God could save him from blindness, as he narrated, then he would dedicate his life to service, spiritual and institutional;
he would commit his expertise to Nigeria and her quest for a world class public service that will be able to transform the quality of life of Nigerians. He has not faltered in that commitment.
But we need to highlight the role of philosophy in Olaopa’s professional and intellectual maturation. Right from discovering Plato and the capacity of philosophy to reconstruct, Olaopa had
remained fixated on the potential of philosophy to both enlighten and enable. He had taken Plato’s Republic far more seriously than I have seen anywhere. The Republic gave him the basis
from which to reenact the possibility of reflecting on dysfunction and reconstructing the parameters for
utopia. While Plato’s Republic was entirely a thought experiment about what could have been, Olaopa’s philosophical, intellectual and administrative exertions were right within the context of an actually existing Nigerian state that combines what he calls “bureau-pathologies” and possibilities for greatness.
The Unending Quest for Reform is therefore not only a paean to the existential exertions and Sisyphean achievements of the self, but also a testament to what reform can make possible for the transformation of the
Nigerian administrative entity. With the memoir, Olaopa is reaching out to
Nigerians, and especially fellow public servants and aspiring institutional and governance reformers,with a manual for technocratic action. The memoir bristles with pain and optimism about the ascent of a self from the obscurity of a small town in Oyo State to the convoluted
bureaucratic spaces of the Presidency, from a struggle to master political science and political theory at the University of Ibadan to the urgency of deploying a range of ideas and ideologies to the understanding and operational optimality of the public service system. In The Unending Quest for Reform, the self and the nation merge in a struggle for realization. And the denouement of that titanic struggle is a finale that is yet to happen. And we will know it when
it happens because that would be the end the reformer has been waiting for. With the new administration, may we not arrive at a tragedy to the high drama of hope and possibilities Olaopa’s memoir has treated us to.
Prof. Afolayan is the Head of Department of Philosophy, University of Ibadan
Reflection on The Unending Quest for Reform, Tunji Olaopa’s Memoir
By Eghosa E. Osaghae
Intellectual autobiographies come as absorbing and engaging as other profound academic works tend to be. Professor Tunji Olaopa’s intellectual memoir is not different and certainly ranks as one of the more profoundly intellectual autobiographies to come out of Nigeria. The reflections on the nexuses among public policy, public administration, civil service and governance on the one hand, and how these can be transformed along the paths of the reforms that seek to address the pathologies of bureaucracy – or bureau-pathology as Professor Olaopa calls them – are done in the best traditions of rigorous scientific analysis, normative and empirical. And given the relative leanness of analytical and theoretical scholarship in the field of public administration in Nigeria and Africa, it is obvious that this book, even as an autobiography, has all that is required to be a major contribution to the discipline, especially on the subject of reforms, which is a central theme of the memoir.
From the story of his progression through life as told in the memoir – from being a scholar-in-the-making since the
age of five, to earning the alias, Azikiwe, at the highest level of ‘-isms’ in secondary school, to finally becoming an expert-insider in the federal civil service and professor at Lead City University, only a knowledgeable, visionary, and activist-reformer like Olaopa, with the zest of patriotism and nationalism has the qualifications and credibility to say the kinds of things he has said in this book. His premature and unexpected retirement from the federal civil service in 2015 seemed to have halted the leading roles Olaopa played in the complex arena of reforms; these were roles that his academic pursuits and engagements with The Commonwealth , The World Bank, the UN system, and reforms institutions and processes in Australia and South Africa,continental and global professional institutions, amongst others, prepared him for; but this book documents the hows and whats of those roles and sets a well-reasoned rationale and template for continued reforms. The concluding chapters of the book, which are addressed to the reforms the leadership expected of the Office of the Head of Service of the Federal Civil Service in particular, fill the gap of what might have been. That is, if the unexpected retirement – another
painful reminder of the insecurity of tenure that has plunged the civil service in Nigeria deeper into the recesses of instability, demotivation and corruption, did not happen.
Olaopa engages the more substantial and critical issues elicited by public servicee reforms including those that constitute formidable obstacles in highly perceptive ways. “The public service”, he writes, “was not a place where mere ideas are sufficient to achieve significant transformation. Those ideas have to be immersed in the deep and dirty crevices of bureaucratic dead weights. As a public servant, it increasingly became clear to me that reading was not enough for the reformation of the public service. Ideas and knowledge had to be consciously adopted, creatively adapted, and deliberately owned and domesticated to achieve optimal results”. This was the lynchpin of reforms and transformations buoyed by Olaopa’s continuous research and development opportunities offered by the strategic positions he held especially in the Ministry of Education and the Office of the Head of Service. But the high expectations and ideals are easily brought down by the limits of realistic possibilities: “As an expert-insider”, he also writes, “I was equally confronted by a limitation: Can the civil service supervise its own reform? Can civil servants supervise the reform of their own institution?” Which all goes back to perhaps the greatest puzzle faced by reforms and their drivers: “In a situation where administrative dynamics have already congealed, can we expect the publice servantsto oversee the reform of their institution? How can reforms be jumpstarted by the very people who have vested interests in operating the bureaucratic culture? The obvious answere seems negative. And experience has revealed that most reforms failed because they were undermined by vested interests”. This is the essence of ‘bureau-pathology’ – “a state of stagnancy in which the civil servants protect themselves against any attempt to reform the very system with in which they operate. In this terrible situation, reform becomes the exception rather than the rule”. The pathology also leads to “too many people doing nothing, too many doing too little, and too few people doing too much”.
But these obstacles – and frustrations – which Olaopa experienced firsthand in hugeo tons thanks to the complexities, intrigues, treacheries and politics that climaxed with his premature retirement, do not diminish Olaopa’s conviction, enthusiasm and unending quest for reforms .The decision to set up the Ibadan School of Governance and Public Policy (ISGPP),take up the professorship at Lead City University, become a directing staff member at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, and this memoir (just in case the other platforms are necessary but not sufficient to actualise his vision) represent important milestones in this quest. Olaopa’s analysis also shows that the journey of reforms requires a lot more thanh the individual motivation; that motivation emanates from several other reinforcing anchors: expository reading, such as is found in his reading of Plato’s The Republic and other texts; the benefit of sound education and good peers, such as he encountered in Aawe, Olivet, and UI; the sheer boldness, such as is demonstrated in his forays into radical student unionism; the strategic opportunities that come through postings such as those to MAMSER, Ministry of Education, Office of the Secretary of Government of the Federation and Head of Service; and, perhaps, most importantly, the mentoring, reassurances and confidence-building such as he had from Professors Ojetunji Aboyade and Akin Mabogunje (these two had the OPTICOM modelt that provided a foundation for participatory reforms), Professor Tunde Adeniran and many more.
Although Olaopa engages public service reforms in an intellectually robust and engaging manner, there are issues that he has either left out or not engaged sufficiently. One of these is the cultural and historical specificities of particular reform situations. Surely, reforms have not grown to the level of a science of universals. Is there a need to decolonise the civile service for example? Another is the omission of the age-long debate between generalists and specialists in public service. Is it possible that the decision to bring specialists into the core of the civil service in Nigeria – that led to the appointment of engineers, medical doctors andc accountants for example, as permanent secretaries – has created problems of a different kindf for the civil service? Thirdly, for all the points raised about a purpose-driven public service with substantial federal restructuring, it is a little curious that very little consideration, if any,was given to the subnational spheres of the public service. Would the public service be trulyr reformed if the state and local government domains are not reformed? Should the federal public civil service be the federalist empire/colonial service?
Knowing Professor Olaopa as well as I do, I am sure that these issues will be taken up in his next volume on public servicee reforms– after all, the present volume is strictly a memoir and should not be read as an academic treatise, irrespective of all that I have tried to say.
Although the scholarly insights of Olaopa’s Unending Quest for Reform have the upper hand in this foreword, the memoir is far more extensive and encompassing. It covers his historical progression and, in the process, the several lessons to be learnt from his interesting experiences and discussions on familyhood, marital relations, religion, the role of God in humanl lives, mysticism and human relations in their adversarial and friendly forms. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this memoir and digesting its deeper and very reflective lines. They show that Olaopa’s initial and continuous love for philosophy has crystallised into a way of life.
Professor Osaghae is the Director-General, Nigerian Institute of
International Affairs (NIIA), Lagos.
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