Taking Lagos State Public Service Reform To The Next Level
By Tunji Olaopa
I am always fascinated with the consistent efforts by the Lagos State Government to keep pushing the boundaries of governance, policy, institutional, service delivery and regulatory reforms, that make government work better, for the well-being of the people. This is all the more so given the arid reform context and the difficulty that comes with getting not only the technical sophistication and the political will to push reform through to successful implementation in the policy spaces and public services all around the country. This is not the first time I would be intervening in the attempt to understand the reform framework within the institutional context of Lagos State, as well as her connection with the Nigerian development project.
My interest in Lagos State has many nodal points. The most significant is that Lagos State represents one of the pockets of effectiveness that, if benchmarked, have the capacity to jumpstart Nigeria’s development effort in terms of performances of states. And the second nodal point concerns the fundamental significance of Lagos State as a critical dimension of regional governance and development that is important for the Southwest as a critical point in Nigeria’s overall transformation. There is no doubt that the 9th Lagos State Economic Summit (Ehingbeti 2022) constitutes another mileage in the long trajectory of innovative programs lined up to keep unpacking how the quality of life of Lagosians can be better. And this Summit is all the more significant because it implicitly recognizes the role of the civil service in the successful implementation of the Lagos State Development Plan (2022-2052).
READ ALSO: New Thinking In Public Service And Administration
This intervention attempts some specific stocktaking of the governance and institutional reforms being implemented in the Lagos State public service. The objective is to undertake a critical assessment as a basis for articulating a reform agenda for reforming the reform through a set of proposals and recommendations to deepen and consolidate the significant achievements that the state has recorded, going forward. There is no state in the world that does not have the objective of establishing a world class and functional public service that will serve as the machinery for the implementation of democratic governance. When in 2005, Prof. Ladipo Adamolekun conducted a study about the reform experience of African countries, Nigeria was represented as a hesitant reformer based on her reform performance. On that scale that has four categories—advance, committed, hesitant and beginner/non-starter—Lagos State would easily qualify as a committed reformer, based on the series of reform innovation and performance metrics for many years. But that is not the end of the story. With all the enthusiasm and energies committed to continuously reforming the engine of governance, the state is gradually easing itself into the advanced reforming cycle, which indeed requires far much deeper, dimensioned and innovative paradigm shifting, reengineering and refinement cum modernization of the basics of the public administration system
The conversation around the reform performance of Lagos State, like most other reforming states across the world, and especially in Nigeria’s difficult administrative terrain, must factor the critical point that, like all other public services around the globe, the government implements its policies and programs in a wide variety of ways, with the civil service and other MDAs operating alongside other special purpose vehicles, and outfits that are operated largely like task forces. Including other non-traditional new public management innovation, from the public-private partnership to management contracting and consultancy services that enable the public service to achieve capability readiness to achieve democratic service delivery.
READ ALSO: Civil Service Commission As Catalyst In Repositioning Nigerian Public Service
Taken all together, Lagos State has achieved giant strides in the implementation of specific institutional reforms: a) the automation of an integrated systems that cleans up its personnel records; b) the implementation of a performance management system within framework of corporate strategic management that incorporate critical level of performance contracting for top management, as well as structured training linked to performance indicators, competency framework, etc.; c) the implementation of a professionalized HR function has advanced, and the institutionalizing of a competency-based HR policy; d) an impressive modernized and reprofiled workforce planning system meant to establish new manning requirements for MDAs, to remap hierarchies as basis for operations and succession planning, with job evaluation scheme driving planned regrading and new pay structure; e) progressing post-Covid work reconfiguration to institutionalize remote working, flexi-working hours, virtual meetings and online training and capacity development; f) a culture change programme designed to institutionalize the right values and cultures in the public service, and the mapping of an evolving new work culture dynamics that could factor Lagos State into the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
All these, especially the fifth point about culture change, are strenuously and competently being activated through networks of change ambassadors/innovation champions molded into a community of practice across different cadres, and structurally linked to a knowledge management system as well as myriad of intranet data bases. Within this frame of institutional reform successes therefore, Lagos State is becoming a smart twenty-first century economy that is making progress in seven areas specified in the reform literature: one, the most fundamental of the reform basics, especially with regard to the tightening of the size and cost of the public service, a feat that is steadily ongoing; two, a significant service delivery reforms with good and smart practices impacting six major domains—traffic management and transportation, health and environment, education and technology, transformation of the Lagos economy, entertainment and tourism, and security and governance; three, reforms to enhance good governance; four, decentralization and local government reform; five, harnessing of information technology for better governance; six, an ongoing incentives and pay reform; and seven, the modernization of the waste management and revenue collection machinery to enhance internally generated revenue.
READ ALSO: DCP Abba Kyari: Deconstructing Public Service In Its Degenerate Mold
There is no doubt that Lagos State has put in place a public service with a capability readiness to facilitate development all across the state. However, retaining the status of a committed reformer, and then gradually transiting into an advanced one requires more in terms of a focused commitment to consistently and constantly getting in tune with global reform developments that modify the state and its public service, will be much more demanding. One such recent development derived from the World Economic Forum, and its call for a FAST government that has the capacity to deal with a growing and more sophisticated citizenry with new expectations and demands that the state might not be able to deal with by using old tools and administrative dynamics. To meet these new demands, the government has to keep adapting in ways that keep creating public values in an environment that is quickly becoming VUCA—volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. To meet up, a government therefore needs to redesign its structures and processes in ways that capitalize on new technologies and improved tools. The government, in other words, needs to be Flatter, Agile, Streamlined and Tech-enabled (FAST). Thus, to measure government performance in the Fourth Industrial Revolution requires two correlated metrics. The first is that the government must be measured according to the FAST. This is how one gets to understand what has been called the “transformation readiness of the government”. Meaning, a government willing to achieve transformation must be FAST. The second metric and the second, is to benchmark improvements in service delivery of public values from the perspective of citizens through transparent dealing via e-government.
How can Lagos State connect with the future-of-government to jumpstart innovation that can carry forward the Lagos State Development Plan through capability ready Lagos public service? This requires efforts at moving forward the reform dynamics at several levels. The first is that the government needs to develop an overarching waste reduction strategy by containing the cost of governance through significant consolidation of duplicated and redundant institutions, treasury control of establishment, unbundling of expenditure structure through productivity audit to free resources to fund development projects, set productivity targeted for MDAs. There is also the need to deepen institutional restructuring that matches tasks with skills through job evaluation to enable regrading that drives pay and compensation reform in order to attracts scarce skills, high-end professionals, reduce consultancy services costs, and motivate and retain available talents, all within an installed technical-rational model indexed to productivity as well as a democratic industrial relation.
Given that it is one of the strongest states in Nigeria with its capacity to take advantage of the capital market to raise development fund, Lagos State must also capitalize on this by deepening the PPP framework allied to corporate good governance. This requires building institutions and expanding the capacities of her public servants to competently manage contractual relationships, especially grants to non-profit, co-production cum delivery models, social impact bonds etc. which together require a range of commercial and regulatory skills including knowledge of the working of market that enable a collaborative relationship between government and the private sector. In this context, Lagos State needs to establish a multidisciplinary corps of senior executive service (SES) that enables it to upgrade the IQ and intellectual bases of her public service. This implies recruiting high-end professionals from all strata of human endeavors, and even the diaspora. This will, for instance, enable the critical mainstreaming of innovation at agencies and task force levels to reengineer the civil service standard operating system. This will, in turn, entail first, de-bureaucratizing of the outdated administrative practices, and a deepening of project management practices.
READ ALSO: Olaopa Meets With Top Lagos Civil Servants, Speaks On How To Reposition State Public Service
Lastly, there is no way Lagos State can ignore the immense opportunity for wealth creation that lies in strategically utilizing the subsidiarity principle at the grassroots. This can be done through a critical decentralization of local governance via a local government reform. The LGAs require strengthening that enables them to mobilize and effectively manage the community resources and people. There is therefore a need for stakeholders’ effort that deepens citizens engagement and mobilize bottom-up platforms for inclusive development planning and programming, needs assessment and project implementation, reinforced with local accountability mechanism to harness community self-help service delivery system, from vigilante and waste collection to esusu and poverty reduction frameworks.
The next thirty years is a long stretch for Lagos State to get its strategic acts together to push her development plan and achieve success. It’s a long way from the Economic Summit to the realization of the Development Plan. And yet, Lagos State is blessed with a corps of brilliant leadership, political and administrative, to push the path of the plan beyond the brilliant analysis at the summit.
. Being a paper delivered at the Ehingbeti 2022 Lagos State Economic Summit with the theme: “Lagos 2022-2052: Charting the Paths to Sustainable Development – the 30 Year Plan”, held on 11-12 October, 2022.
Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and Professor, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies
(NIPSS), Kuru, Jos .
Read more authentic news on our social media platforms
Iwuanyanwu And The ‘Political Rascals’ Rhetoric
By Promise Adiele
Samuel Beckett’s absurdist play Waiting for Godot avails itself of multiple interpretative tools with a compelling grip on the moral imagination of the audience. As a timeless drama, it thrives on the hopelessness of the human condition dramatized by two vagabonds, Estragon and Vladimir who waited for a mysterious, titular Godot that never came. One of the features of the absurdist literary tradition portrayed in the play is the failure of language in the verbal context as a means of communication. The verbal exchange between the two vagabonds is evident of misinterpretation. One says one thing, the other interprets it differently. Thus, it calls to question the potency of language in the verbal medium as a means of communication. The preceding analogy reminds me of Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu and his purported insult to the good people of the Yoruba ethnic group. Perhaps, misinterpretation currently manifests as an inexorable content of Nigeria’s absurd credentials.
Last week, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, philanthropist, accomplished businessman, the Balogun Babaguwan of Yorubaland, Ahaejiejemba of Igboland and elder-statesman, while reacting to events that happened in Lagos during the last election when many Igbo people were bloodied and harassed, assured the world that “the Igbo and Yoruba are not at war”. On the heels of that statement came another one “they are Yoruba political rascals”. A syntactic analysis of the two sentences affirms that the Chief never meant to insult the entire Yoruba ethnic group. Rather, he was referring to rascals in Lagos who maimed, killed, and vanquished Igbos, non-Yorubas, and even some Yorubas with Igbo semblance, stopping them from exercising their voting rights during the election. He also said “we know them and we will deal with them”. Language scholars know that Chief Iwuanyanwu did not mean to insult the Yoruba. Sadly, some social nitwits, victims of acute cognitive impairment, went on a rampage to misinterpret and manipulate his statement to suit their treacherous, mischievous purposes. It is absurd.
Anyone who knows Chief Iwuaynanwu’s antecedent will never ascribe offensive rhetoric to him. He is soft-spoken, conciliatory and peace-loving. Like every sensible person around the world, not just the Igbo, he was aghast with lurid photos and video evidence of harm against the Igbo in Lagos during the last election. Unfortunately, people who ordinarily frolic in the whirlwind of ethnic hate have seized the opportunity to insult the Igbo ethnic group while using acerbic words on the revered Chief. These people, in their degenerate and diseased mentality, are trying to install a wall of hate between the Igbo and Yoruba. Let me state categorically that the Yorubas are wonderful people whose spirit of brotherliness, conviviality, and tolerance speaks volumes across the world. I have maintained over time that the Igbo and Yoruba share a cordial, interwoven relationship in marriage, business, friendship, association and neighbourliness. The two ethnic groups can never be involved in a conflict. Many Yoruba people have helped many Igbo people to their destinies and many Igbo people have helped many Yoruba people to their destinies too. An attempt for one ethnic group to harm the other will result in serious harm for the two. It is as implicating as that.
Since the presidential elections, keenly contested by different candidates from different ethnic groups in Nigeria, some people have desperately sought to reduce the entire development to an ethnic affair. It is myopic and at once condescending. Does Peter Obi represent the Igbo? Does Bola Tinubu represent the Yoruba? Does Atiku Abubakar represent the Hausa/Fulani? These candidates all have supporters across the country. Of course, they will have a preponderance of support from their ethnic base. That is the way of politics. Unfortunately, ethnic jingoists have, in the inerrancy of their bleak convictions, reduced the entire political discourse to an ethnic affair especially Yoruba vs Igbo. These people, stranded in the realm of ethnic hate and communal intolerance, have done everything within their powers to inflame ethnic tension to crucible dimensions. It is wrong for anyone to insult a whole ethnic group in whatever guise. In Chief Iwuanyanwu’s case, he has put the records straight by clarifying what he meant, insisting that he was quoted out of context. But the morbid and decadent will not hear of it. They insist that Iwuanyanwu and all Igbo should be roasted alive. As far as these simpletons are concerned, the Chief spoke the mind of all Igbos. How idiotic and harebrained can anybody be?
Recently, some people have also indulged in ethnic slurs. Unlike Chief Iwuanyanwu that clarified himself, Bayo Onanuga offered no apology and insisted on standing by his words. Onanuga spoke for himself and couldn’t have insulted the Igbo on behalf of the Yoruba. MC Oluomo, while registering his socio-political disorientation, spoke for himself when he threatened the Igbo on an election day and went on to make good his threat which the police shamelessly called a joke. FFK has also made inflammatory remarks which were his personal opinion and not the opinion of Yoruba. It is therefore, a function of disabled, primitive awareness for anyone to insult an ethnic group based on the comment of one person. Such insults and abuses expose the quiddity of phenomenal foolishness which, hitherto, was concealed in some people by the façade of education. No, these hate mongers belong to the stone age. Nobody should be deceived by their pretentious liberalism.
The question is, are there political rascals in Nigeria? Definitely yes! These are the particular people Chief Iwuanyanwu referred to concerning what happened in Lagos during the last elections. Of course, all parts of the country have their share of political rascals. It is not peculiar to one ethnicity. Political rascals are those who walk the streets, snatch ballot boxes, stab people due to their ethnic origin and prevent them from exercising their civic rights. They are not educated. They are thugs, street urchins and never-do-wells employed by politicians to advance nefarious objectives. There are also some educated political rascals. They don’t walk the streets, but demonstrate humane deficiency of unimaginable proportions using social media and sundry news outlets. They spread hate, provoke enmity and fan the embers of war. They incite the uneducated, urging them to bay for the blood of ordinary citizens. Their social media handles are replete with expletives and insults. Abusive engagement allows them to flourish. Another category of political rascals populate government establishments like INEC, the Police and different security agencies. These people compromise the electoral process in exchange for financial inducement and material gains. They are unconscionable, desperate and invidious. Are these people from another planet? No, they are among us. We know them.
The ethnic hate narrative is a device enunciated by the political class to keep the people divided, breaking their rank and file to unite and fight a common enemy. The opposition LP and PDP are convinced that the election was marred by sharp, underhand practices and therefore have gone to court. Is going to court to challenge the outcome of an election a legitimate practice? If it is, why can’t detractors of equitable process allow the law to run smoothly? The call by some decidedly frustrated fellows in search of relevance and pecuniary patronage for the arrest of the opposition presidential candidates is from the pit of purgatory. The propaganda that there is a plan to disrupt the handover ceremony is a bundle of falsehood from the depths of Hades. Although many Nigerians regard the judiciary with a pinch of salt, people of goodwill should advocate for a peaceful resolution of Nigeria’s political challenges. Ethnic rhetoric should stop immediately. People should sheath their swords. Let us all close the road to Rwanda.
Adiele, PhD, writes from Mountain Top University.
Olaopa: The Self As A Patriotic Reformer – The Tales Of A Memoirist
By Adeshina Afolayan
Autobiographies and memoirs are very difficult to write. One of the reasons is that they place the autobiographers and the memoirist in a very difficult position that draws the attention, and even the ire, of the public. Once the volume is written and presented before the public, the writer can no longer control its reception. And some or even all of her certainties and verities are shredded by those who must approach the book from different perceptions. But there is an even more daunting challenge. Writing an autobiography or a memoir dances at the very edge of hubris and vanity. This is what Michel de Montaigne thinks. His understanding of the human self is dark and gloomy. According to him, “If others were to look attentively into themselves as I do, they would find themselves, as I do, full of emptiness and tomfoolery…. Our self is an object full of dissatisfaction: we can see nothing there but wretchedness and vanity.”Now, imagine an act of self-portrait emerging from such a dark view of the self.
In The Essays, Montaigne pens a paradoxical opening statement addressed to the readers of the volume who are not supposed to read it because it is a work of vanity: “Reader, I myself am the subject of my book: it is not reasonable that you should employ your leisure on a topic so frivolous and so vain. Therefore, Farewell.” If the self is locus of emptiness and wretchedness, then any attempt at a self-portrait is doomed already; the autobiographer or memoirist thinks more highly of herself than she should. And yet, Montaigne subtly invites the reader to peruse the volume through a strategy of dissuasion.
In The Unending Quest for Reform, Tunji Olaopa faces the charge of hubris head-on , and persuades us to plunge into a narrative that connects the self with a larger space of meaning, struggle and fulfilment. This is an even more difficult endeavor since it goes beyond the self-portrait that embroils the self in its own dynamics of maturation. On the contrary, a memoir like the The Unending Quest for Reform, like Wole Soyinka’s The Man Died, connects the self to nonself, or to its Other. The autobiographer or the memoirist then invites the reader to weigh the significance of the self in relation to its other. Only those who have a strong sense of inner worth and significance can ever achieve such a courageous level of self-ascription.
I think a reformer deserves his memoir or autobiography. I have read the late Professor Akinlawon Mabogunje’s autobiography — A Measure of Grace. It details not only birth, historical trajectories and intellectual maturation, but also the agonies of a public servant eager to see some of his best ideas and insights inserted into the policy architecture of the Nigerian state. He met brick walls at every turn. In The Unending Quest for Reform, Olaopa typifies a more enduring courage to serve and confront the dysfunction of a system that had been rigged to be inefficient since independence.
The public service is not just another vocation. It embodies a double imperative. First, it is a service that transcends any consideration of self-interest. Within the service and its accountability dynamics, the self cannot be placed in contradistinction to what is required of it. The service is therefore a
selfless one that demands that the servant serves. Second public service is a service to public, the public. It therefore requires a different kind of spirit—public-spiritedness—that insists that the public servant must bow to certain logic of service that bend the will of the public servant to the will of the citizens. The task of a public servant therefore becomes a very arduous one: she must bend the self to serve the others. However, serving others becomes very onerous when the system that enables the service is inefficient and dysfunctional. When Olaopa first confronted this dysfunctional system, his first human instinct was to flee. But he did not. This was where his scholarly instinct—to learn, to reflect, to research, to rethink, to reorganize—kicked in. And he had a background in Plato and a mentoring acquaintance in Professor Ojetunji Aboyade to trim his fears and fuel his reform thinking.
The Unending Quest for Reform details the long trajectory that took an Aáwé boy to the Presidency and then the very height of public service status as a permanent secretary. But in each of the fifteen chapters that make up the memoir, you are compelled to encounter and reflect on how ideas and insights emerged from Olaopa’s interaction and engagement with intellectual and administrative forebears, and how both
the forebears and the ideas molded his own original philosophy of reform—with a huge dose of providential intervention.
While Plato’s Republic maps the boundaries of the ancient Athenian city-state and its utopic possibilities, Olaopa’s
The Unending Quest for Reform delineates the circumferences of a
dysfunctional public service, and how it could be rehabilitated within a comprehensive institutional and governance reform blueprint that took years to design, and even many more years to attempt mounting for the benefit of making Nigeria work better. This is where he joins the community of suffering that Mabogunje, and many others, once belonged. At every turn, the system itself frustrated all his well-being intentions and yearning.
Olaopa carries the burden of a man driven by God’s purpose. Or how else does one understand the passion that
drove and still drives him to dedicate his research and professional life to a system that seems too dense to allow self-examination? As an expert-insider, he had to face the fundamental significance of whether the public service can reform itself. That query, for Olaopa, could not have been just an academic exercise; he must have had to face the suspicions and stubborn resistance of those who could have considered him “too know” and obnoxious. There are ways by which a
debilitated system punishes those who would claim diagnostic knowledge. There are several means by which those who benefit from the status quo impede the progress of a reformer. And yet, Olaopa kept at this onerous task, even after retirement,with a single-mindedness that belies any logical understanding.
It was not just Plato and philosophy that gave him inspiration. All through The Unending Quest for Reform, one sees him holding onto a deep understanding of the place and role of the divine in human understanding and trajectories. If God could save him from blindness, as he narrated, then he would dedicate his life to service, spiritual and institutional;
he would commit his expertise to Nigeria and her quest for a world class public service that will be able to transform the quality of life of Nigerians. He has not faltered in that commitment.
But we need to highlight the role of philosophy in Olaopa’s professional and intellectual maturation. Right from discovering Plato and the capacity of philosophy to reconstruct, Olaopa had
remained fixated on the potential of philosophy to both enlighten and enable. He had taken Plato’s Republic far more seriously than I have seen anywhere. The Republic gave him the basis
from which to reenact the possibility of reflecting on dysfunction and reconstructing the parameters for
utopia. While Plato’s Republic was entirely a thought experiment about what could have been, Olaopa’s philosophical, intellectual and administrative exertions were right within the context of an actually existing Nigerian state that combines what he calls “bureau-pathologies” and possibilities for greatness.
The Unending Quest for Reform is therefore not only a paean to the existential exertions and Sisyphean achievements of the self, but also a testament to what reform can make possible for the transformation of the
Nigerian administrative entity. With the memoir, Olaopa is reaching out to
Nigerians, and especially fellow public servants and aspiring institutional and governance reformers,with a manual for technocratic action. The memoir bristles with pain and optimism about the ascent of a self from the obscurity of a small town in Oyo State to the convoluted
bureaucratic spaces of the Presidency, from a struggle to master political science and political theory at the University of Ibadan to the urgency of deploying a range of ideas and ideologies to the understanding and operational optimality of the public service system. In The Unending Quest for Reform, the self and the nation merge in a struggle for realization. And the denouement of that titanic struggle is a finale that is yet to happen. And we will know it when
it happens because that would be the end the reformer has been waiting for. With the new administration, may we not arrive at a tragedy to the high drama of hope and possibilities Olaopa’s memoir has treated us to.
Prof. Afolayan is the Head of Department of Philosophy, University of Ibadan
Reflection on The Unending Quest for Reform, Tunji Olaopa’s Memoir
By Eghosa E. Osaghae
Intellectual autobiographies come as absorbing and engaging as other profound academic works tend to be. Professor Tunji Olaopa’s intellectual memoir is not different and certainly ranks as one of the more profoundly intellectual autobiographies to come out of Nigeria. The reflections on the nexuses among public policy, public administration, civil service and governance on the one hand, and how these can be transformed along the paths of the reforms that seek to address the pathologies of bureaucracy – or bureau-pathology as Professor Olaopa calls them – are done in the best traditions of rigorous scientific analysis, normative and empirical. And given the relative leanness of analytical and theoretical scholarship in the field of public administration in Nigeria and Africa, it is obvious that this book, even as an autobiography, has all that is required to be a major contribution to the discipline, especially on the subject of reforms, which is a central theme of the memoir.
From the story of his progression through life as told in the memoir – from being a scholar-in-the-making since the
age of five, to earning the alias, Azikiwe, at the highest level of ‘-isms’ in secondary school, to finally becoming an expert-insider in the federal civil service and professor at Lead City University, only a knowledgeable, visionary, and activist-reformer like Olaopa, with the zest of patriotism and nationalism has the qualifications and credibility to say the kinds of things he has said in this book. His premature and unexpected retirement from the federal civil service in 2015 seemed to have halted the leading roles Olaopa played in the complex arena of reforms; these were roles that his academic pursuits and engagements with The Commonwealth , The World Bank, the UN system, and reforms institutions and processes in Australia and South Africa,continental and global professional institutions, amongst others, prepared him for; but this book documents the hows and whats of those roles and sets a well-reasoned rationale and template for continued reforms. The concluding chapters of the book, which are addressed to the reforms the leadership expected of the Office of the Head of Service of the Federal Civil Service in particular, fill the gap of what might have been. That is, if the unexpected retirement – another
painful reminder of the insecurity of tenure that has plunged the civil service in Nigeria deeper into the recesses of instability, demotivation and corruption, did not happen.
Olaopa engages the more substantial and critical issues elicited by public servicee reforms including those that constitute formidable obstacles in highly perceptive ways. “The public service”, he writes, “was not a place where mere ideas are sufficient to achieve significant transformation. Those ideas have to be immersed in the deep and dirty crevices of bureaucratic dead weights. As a public servant, it increasingly became clear to me that reading was not enough for the reformation of the public service. Ideas and knowledge had to be consciously adopted, creatively adapted, and deliberately owned and domesticated to achieve optimal results”. This was the lynchpin of reforms and transformations buoyed by Olaopa’s continuous research and development opportunities offered by the strategic positions he held especially in the Ministry of Education and the Office of the Head of Service. But the high expectations and ideals are easily brought down by the limits of realistic possibilities: “As an expert-insider”, he also writes, “I was equally confronted by a limitation: Can the civil service supervise its own reform? Can civil servants supervise the reform of their own institution?” Which all goes back to perhaps the greatest puzzle faced by reforms and their drivers: “In a situation where administrative dynamics have already congealed, can we expect the publice servantsto oversee the reform of their institution? How can reforms be jumpstarted by the very people who have vested interests in operating the bureaucratic culture? The obvious answere seems negative. And experience has revealed that most reforms failed because they were undermined by vested interests”. This is the essence of ‘bureau-pathology’ – “a state of stagnancy in which the civil servants protect themselves against any attempt to reform the very system with in which they operate. In this terrible situation, reform becomes the exception rather than the rule”. The pathology also leads to “too many people doing nothing, too many doing too little, and too few people doing too much”.
But these obstacles – and frustrations – which Olaopa experienced firsthand in hugeo tons thanks to the complexities, intrigues, treacheries and politics that climaxed with his premature retirement, do not diminish Olaopa’s conviction, enthusiasm and unending quest for reforms .The decision to set up the Ibadan School of Governance and Public Policy (ISGPP),take up the professorship at Lead City University, become a directing staff member at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, and this memoir (just in case the other platforms are necessary but not sufficient to actualise his vision) represent important milestones in this quest. Olaopa’s analysis also shows that the journey of reforms requires a lot more thanh the individual motivation; that motivation emanates from several other reinforcing anchors: expository reading, such as is found in his reading of Plato’s The Republic and other texts; the benefit of sound education and good peers, such as he encountered in Aawe, Olivet, and UI; the sheer boldness, such as is demonstrated in his forays into radical student unionism; the strategic opportunities that come through postings such as those to MAMSER, Ministry of Education, Office of the Secretary of Government of the Federation and Head of Service; and, perhaps, most importantly, the mentoring, reassurances and confidence-building such as he had from Professors Ojetunji Aboyade and Akin Mabogunje (these two had the OPTICOM modelt that provided a foundation for participatory reforms), Professor Tunde Adeniran and many more.
Although Olaopa engages public service reforms in an intellectually robust and engaging manner, there are issues that he has either left out or not engaged sufficiently. One of these is the cultural and historical specificities of particular reform situations. Surely, reforms have not grown to the level of a science of universals. Is there a need to decolonise the civile service for example? Another is the omission of the age-long debate between generalists and specialists in public service. Is it possible that the decision to bring specialists into the core of the civil service in Nigeria – that led to the appointment of engineers, medical doctors andc accountants for example, as permanent secretaries – has created problems of a different kindf for the civil service? Thirdly, for all the points raised about a purpose-driven public service with substantial federal restructuring, it is a little curious that very little consideration, if any,was given to the subnational spheres of the public service. Would the public service be trulyr reformed if the state and local government domains are not reformed? Should the federal public civil service be the federalist empire/colonial service?
Knowing Professor Olaopa as well as I do, I am sure that these issues will be taken up in his next volume on public servicee reforms– after all, the present volume is strictly a memoir and should not be read as an academic treatise, irrespective of all that I have tried to say.
Although the scholarly insights of Olaopa’s Unending Quest for Reform have the upper hand in this foreword, the memoir is far more extensive and encompassing. It covers his historical progression and, in the process, the several lessons to be learnt from his interesting experiences and discussions on familyhood, marital relations, religion, the role of God in humanl lives, mysticism and human relations in their adversarial and friendly forms. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this memoir and digesting its deeper and very reflective lines. They show that Olaopa’s initial and continuous love for philosophy has crystallised into a way of life.
Professor Osaghae is the Director-General, Nigerian Institute of
International Affairs (NIIA), Lagos.
NEW TIMES CULTURE
22nd Africa Conference 2023 Holds At University of Texas
Iwuanyanwu And The ‘Political Rascals’ Rhetoric
BREAKING: PDP Crisis Worsens As Chairman Ayu Steps Aside, Deputy Takes Over
Why GOFAMINT General Overseer Demoted His Deputy
BREAKING: UK Suspends Work, Study, Family Visas For Nigerians Over Ukraine War
BREAKING: First Nigerian Female Vice Chancellor Alele-Williams Is Dead
Opinion4 days ago
Unending Passion For Reform: A Peep Into My Memoir And The Future Of Nigeria
Opinion3 days ago
The Unending Quest For Reform – Tunji Olaopa’s Intellectual Memoir: A Commentary
Opinion4 days ago
A Savage Outing In The Name Of Electioneering
Arts & Culture23 hours ago
22nd Africa Conference 2023 Holds At University of Texas
Opinion3 days ago
Reflection on The Unending Quest for Reform, Tunji Olaopa’s Memoir