Truth Spoken Before Its Time: Professor Bolaji Akinyemi At 80!
Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
Any man who has spent eighty long years on earth in good health would, ought to acknowledge longevity as God’s gift. Especially so in Nigeria where the average life expectancy is 54.69. Achieving the 80 year milestone is not by hard work. It is not because one had lived by the rules – nutrition rules, health rules, spiritual rules. Or engaged the best doctors. Employed the best nutritionists. Walked gingerly through good and bad roads. A long life as we now understand it is not by mathematical calculations. It is often outside the control of man. So, when a highly visible and iconic public figure as Professor Bolaji Akinyemi turns 80 on 4th of January 2022, we must roll out the flowers and drums with great panache in thanksgiving to God. As a man of faith, son of a cleric, my big mentor and public service model, Professor Akinyemi acknowledges the grace of God in his life!
His signature cute and ubiquitous bow tie which became the acme of the sartorial elegance of the iconic Professor Bolaji Akinwande Akinyemi as a public official in the 1970s has remained etched in our memory and consciousness some thirty-five odd years after he left formal public office. It is true that he has quit public office, first as Director-General Nigeria Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) under the Murtala/Obasanjo military administration and later as Minister of External Affairs under the Ibrahim Babangida administration. Yet, this eclectic public intellectual in the Henry Kissinger tradition has not quit the public space thanks to a very active media presence. He is an interviewer’s delight, often displaying a profound and historical if socio-scientific understanding of contemporary national and international political and social issues.
READ ALSO: Bullying And Violence In Secondary Schools: A Testimony (2)
Yet, to reduce our remembrance of Akinyemi to sartorial matters reduces, indeed profanes the gamut of intellectual contributions of this public intellectual to the development of policy framework in Nigeria. As a man who bubbled and still bubbles with big ideas on national development, foreign policy, interethnic relations, international relations, electoral reforms, and national security, Akinyemi straddles decades of public service. In all of this, Akinyemi comes forth as a man who spoke truth before its time! What else can we say of a man who in 1987 proposed the need for the ‘black bomb? Or a man who had the temerity to suggest the Technical Aid Corps idea to a military government and had the energy and gusto to see it implemented?
In the heady days of the military in government in Nigeria, one institution that stood out both in quality of activities and presence in the media was the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) where Akinyemi directed affairs from 1975 till 1983. He worked with military Head of State late General Murtala Mohammed whom he had access to on policy formulation and implementation. No one familiar with Nigeria’s foreign policy at the time in question would forget Murtala’s ‘African has Come of Age’ speech and the tough stance Nigeria took on South Africa and the liberation movement in southern Africa. The seminars, lectures, and conferences organised by NIIA were a regular in the academic space of Nigeria, a veritable town and academia dialogue. All events were highly visible, what with the presence of who-is-who in government at the time, from both the Executive and judicial arms of government. Generals, other army officers and public intellectuals made the NIIA a regular in the calendar of social engagements. Visiting Heads of State and Prime Ministers inevitably stopped by at the NIIA for public lectures. It was during the years when public officials dared to engage in academic discourse, entertaining a variety of ideas and strategies. What ever happened to that culture? The fecund mind and energetic man behind the foremost position of NIIA was the then Dr. Bolaji Akinyemi, a returnee from American and British universities located at the University of Ibadan. How was he able to pull such quality crowds to the lecture hall of the NIIA? That that institute has become a shell speaks volumes of the man Akinyemi.
READ ALSO: The Unknown Gunman – My Man of the Year!
At the Ministry of External Affairs where he held sway from 1985 to 1987, Akinyemi brought a high quality of thinking into diplomacy. It was during this period that he showed the charisma of a Kissinger in diplomatic and foreign affairs, attending and representing Nigeria in different international events. We had referred to the Technical Aid Corps (TAC) scheme which saw Nigeria exporting manpower to less fortunate countries. The purpose of the scheme was ‘to promote the country’s image and status as a major contributor to Third World and particularly African development’. Professionals such as medical doctors, engineers and teachers served in the programme and projected the image of Nigeria as a medium power in world affairs. He developed a principled framework which underpinned the trajectory of foreign policy at this time – the ‘Concert of Medium Powers’. It was dramatic to name his call for Nigeria to develop nuclear technology the ‘Black bomb’, with all the innuendos on the word ‘black’. Yet it resonated across the country and some thirty five years after, we still pine over lack of energy generation and supply!
Outside government, Akinyemi forayed into national activism under the aegis of NADECO when the time came to challenge the fatal impunity of Maximum Ruler General Sanni Abacha. Sacrificing his comfort and safety he went on exile through the popular ‘NADECO route’, with all its hazards. The thrilling drama of a sudden exit from Lagos in full disguise, facilitated by coded actions and words and a small chain of helpers, to escape the murder squad of the Abacha days is story for another day, forthcoming in his biography. The academic became a hero in the fight for democracy. And when he returned to Nigeria after restoration of democracy, the Yar’Adua and Jonathan governments respectively appointed him to serve the nation in committee work – the Electoral Reform Panel, Committee on Boko Haram, and the 2014 National Confab in which he functioned as Deputy Chairman. He still gives lectures on policy making and implementation though in 1983, he gave a highly cerebral lecture on ‘A Farewell to Policy’!
READ ALSO: Bullying And Violence In Secondary Schools- A Testimony (1)
Professor Bolaji still carries the smile of youth in his old age, with the infinite capacity to laugh robustly when the need arises, with the appropriate anecdotes and jokes. I admire his ability to take on serious issues of national and international importance with remarkable aplomb and consummate dexterity, practically thinking on his feet. He still maintains the poise of yore, with the well-maintained afro-hair style. An ardent believer in the corporate existence of a restructured Nigeria, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi does not look 80, does not walk 80, does not work 80, does not think 80, and certainly does not think 80! His thoughts are lucid, his speech pattern measured as a statesman, sure and certain; and his power of recollection almost as sharp as it was thirty years ago! What else does one ask of God at Age 80?
In concluding this tribute at 80 to a distinguished scholar, father, and grandfather, academic, public intellectual, mentor, foreign policy adviser, team player in committee work, social-cum political activist and foremost visionary in the corridors of power I dare say that Akinyemi is a man who spoke truth before its time. At 80, it may not be creation morning; still, it is not an exit time for a man whose training in Igbobi College, Christ School Ado Ekiti, Temple University Philadelphia, Tufts University Massachusetts, and Trinity College Oxford prepared him for the world of ideas and service to humanity! And as we used to say at The Guardian Editorial Board, being 80 has implications!
Professor Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha can be reached on 08023220393
Read more authentic news on our social media platforms
Death At Dawn, Rebirth At Dusk
By Toyin Falola
Twilight-zone, Afterlife, What-Mays, and Whatnots;
Questions that transcend mortal thoughts.
Uncertainties plucked by the hands of certainty
pondering life beyond the galaxy.
Philosophies, religions, and sciences;
Ancient lenses to dissect and ponder.
Beliefs, opinions, and standpoints in their multiplicities;
Scalpels that open the heart of certain death
Blazing free the skins of uncertainty.
Science, a nobility I revere,
But it stammers answering to the afterlife.
For science is knowledge and knowledge from experience
But the dead neither speak, nor take records.
Their journeys, ordeals, triumphs or woes?
No one bears witness.
But as dead, we must all be witnesses;
witnesses that testify not.
So, for now, we survive the knowledge of death.
On my Agbàlàgbà head lies my Ọ́kpụ́ Ágwụ́
With eagle feathers, rare and honorable
Adorning it for three scores, a decade, and some more days.
I had flipped my Kente given by the Gaa
And danced to crescendos from Gàngàn drums
I have been celebrated and celebrating
For the miracles, I have worked with pen, paper, keyboard, and brain
I have taken the tales we tell in my village square beyond the Atlantic
Changed the songs that disdain us into appraisals
I have called my brothers not to point to our fathers’ house with their left hands
I have honed Africa and beyond
To answer the calls of the people’s need
I have reached the thinkable and done the unthinkable
So, I danced and keep dancing.
Suddenly, I felt a touch on my host?
Electrifying my hand, leg, brain, and my whole
Telling me that my jur from the Dinka people awaits me.
That my hourglass tells of crossing the bar.
I thought I knew what it was like,
But my grasping convictions of approaching jur were perceptions
Just surviving the death of the knowledge of death
So, arms wide open ready to abound
What was there to fear?
No catacomb of secrets
No palm oil-drenched white garments
I have taken many to my gourmet
To feast and to see.
What was there not to fear?
With medicine men and women,
Syringes, lights, water, ECG, Oximeters, voices, and touches
Hovering around me like a sacred etutu
Making conversations with me and beyond
I was thrown into a pool of reminiscence
one leg and a part of me were already in the boat
It beckoned but I heard another.
A loud voice like my mother’s.
Who takes a journey without locking his home?
Who takes the jur with unpatched palm fronds on his hut?
While the thunder rages up the sky?
The walls are broken and Balogun journeys?
So, I left the sea to clear the cobwebs and light up the night lamb.
The past few weeks have opened new lights of understanding to me. I now see the world from different hills and have helped to reach new resolutions. I know I have written about “transitioning to nothingness,” but my emphasis was on the “nothingness” with lesser attention on “transitioning.” I think we need to continue to ask questions. Philosophies, religion, sociology, psychology, science, and other ramifications are mere perceptions and we are uncertain. The transitioning occurs when death becomes an angel to hug not a beast to fear. We do not know what it entails but one must always endeavor to go with clean hands.
My recovery from an illness may have offered me a fresh opportunity to shout some more, point to societal needs, and settle unfinished businesses. No, not those caused by my personal undoing, but rather those of the people who would be left unguided, and for matters untold about life, society, and individuals. I can say I have passed through the lessons of tantra transfiguration, to use an elegant phrase that I recently came across, to move from secular to sacred activism. No one survives death because of its finality, but when it seems that you did, it is a renewed quest, offering a new purpose.
Professors On INEC’s Will (3)
By Tony Afejuku
The debate has progressed well so far. Our professors, whose strokes have centred on their fellow professor’s manned INEC have tried as best as they could not to confine their impressions solely to the prism of subjectivity. Even when their impressions seem to be subjective, they still make allowance for contrary views, for opposing views. This obviously gives clarity, objectivity and logic to the subject at hand. Is the will of INEC of a professor minder and mincer of words’ control the will of the people or of the masses? On whose side are the Professors who are as concerned as almost everybody is with what is going – or with what has gone on – primarily about our Presidential 2023 elections? Our Professors who are debating the subject constitute the courageous and prophetic Nigerian voices of our day. Their authentic and responsible thoughts are not restricted to the local or regional. They are also not confined to electoral duties and responsibilities expected of the umpire and the will that belongs elsewhere. The truth about the quality of leadership about our country and elsewhere is also told in the debate of the literati.
Professor (Mrs.) Razinatu Mohamed in her submission, in her salvo-cum-explosion actually, drew attention to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s explosive explosion in the presidency. If Professor Osinbajo had provided the right vice-presidential leadership there would not have been the need for him to explode as he did as per a viral video Professor Razinatu Mohamed referred her fellow debaters to. “What has he been doing in the eight years of their administration? Irritated my foot; he is complicit.” Not done, Professor Razinatu drew attention to the kind of leaders that Nigeria and Africa need: “Leaders that understand the rudiments of modern socio-economic development and systems; Leaders that understand the crux of requirements for economic growth. Leaders that could demonstrate to the rest of the world that just as the world needs Africa, African countries need the world in a symbiotic relationship and partnership context where assistance becomes a dual role…..”
Razinata’s concern is clear. Nothing in Nigeria will climb out of its hollow hole. In fact, the will of the people will remain hollow so long as a hollow mincer and minder is in charge of its electoral affairs.
Professor Da Sylva perhaps responds better to Professor Razinatu Mohamed’s algebraic stroke. “Unfortunately, Nigeria’s democracy is trapped in its primordial self-made ethnic and religious sentiments and so, standards, merit, competence and pedigrees are measured by their curious divides of religion and ethnic inclinations. Until we all come to realize that heavens help those who help themselves, Nigeria ain’t going no-where – meeen!”
But below is Professor Da Sylva’s sledge hammer response to Professor Razinatu Mohamed’s Osinbajo hammer blow:
“Prof Osinbajo’s office demands he does what he did. Besides, it shows maturity and spirit of sportsmanship on his part. Every loser in a game “healthily” contested, is naturally expected to do the same. The only difference which again shows Osinbajo’s magnanimity is that in this context, the contest under reference was neither healthy nor just. The umpire seemed compromised and merely worked to a prepared answer. Yet the gentleman did the needful. I guess, brothers and sisters, that we should put all that behind us, and work for our common good, and the wellbeing of the country, provided the mythical Aso cabal will let the President-elect be, and let the masses be, and as such, they should not create any cause for us to think otherwise, lest they provoke our sense of patriotism to take appropriate action! I guess that those were the reading or feelings of the dirty-minded Aso Villa cabal. People that kill with sword never wish that any folk should pass a sword over their heads, a wise saying goes in Yoruba. The human principalities simply suspected that should they allow PMB to give the VP the intended latitude, they might not be able to control him. I remember on his return from London, he commended the efforts of his VP while he was away. He said he would still continue acting while he would still have some more rest at home. The following day everything changed, PMB decided to take charge as the President. I suspected some back door politics was playing out. My co-debaters, quite naturally, you’ll agree with me that, it is not over-ambition or sheer opportunism as you might insinuate for any deputy in an office to aspire to the next higher office, in a legitimate manner, there is nothing really unusual about it, and it would amount to killing a mosquito with a sledge hammer, should Oshinbajo be crucified for that, if at all. And as for his wishing Buhari’s non-recovery, I think that, again, like my Sister R, is a little unkind and not fair to the gentleman who I know to be a servant of God. He knows as much as I do, by our true Christian orientation and Biblical injunctions that, should he ever wish Buhari’s death or wish him any form of misfortune in those trying periods of the President, God Almighty who we serve would deal mercilessly and ruthlessly with him. That is what Psalm 41:1-13 is all about. So rule that out, because it is not, and could never be in his character. I can vouch for him. Rather, I saw him in those times that he acted for his principal, as someone zealous and appreciative of the trust his principal invested in him, and as such he tried to do his very best to merit the trust and the opportunity! I know and I am also sure that this is what an IBK, or a Razinat, would have done too had they found themselves in a similar situation! It does not amount to wishing one’s principal any evil, not at all. Not everyone can be like Chief Obafemi Awolowo who resigned his position under Gowon when the regime became financially reckless shortly after the civil war. Awolowo also gave very profound argumentation to justify convincingly his actions. He also turned down some other appointments including the “49 Wise Men of the Constitution Drafting Committee.” Oshinbajo couldn’t have resigned, normally, and naturally his principal, PMB should have supported him as a capable successor, but again, the President’s ethnic and religious bigotry took the better part of the President. Besides, PMB’s mind was long poisoned against his VP, a clean job by the Aso Villa cabal. IBK, Lady R, until the faceless cabal is permanently silenced the wheel of Nigeria might continue to go round in a circle, and to nowhere in particular”.
And Professor IBK takes the floor: “Prof. DAO, yours is a powerfully convincing submission, at least in a large measure. Now I am willing to hold a slightly different opinion about Osinbajo. Yet, I cannot fathom why he chose to run against Tinubu, days or weeks after the latter had begun his campaign in the party primaries. There’s much we don’t know about why OSBJ decided to run against BAT. Nothing is wrong with that politically but a little problematic from an Ethical or, at least Moral, point of view. Osinbajo did a poor job of it and came out a distant 4th in the primaries. I think he didn’t read the situation correctly and was probably misled by some cabal of sorts. Either way Osinbajo made a politically fatal error in this regard. Perhaps he must have sensed, or was told, that BAT was not the anointed candidate, or that BAT would be crippled by some ill-health or a medical condition. I remember the party’s screening committee publicly recommending that only younger contestants would be recommended to the NWC or such. Clearly there was an attempt to sideline BAT. Whatever the explanation, Osinbajo make the error in his campaign of promising to be more Buhari than Buhari. A man despised by whole sections of the northern population, a man whose reputation for laziness and incompetence was on the ascendant. Anyway, all is now history and Osinbajo has not given a good account of himself in this particular case. Prof DAO, I think your concept of the Trickster should account for Osinbajo’s situation here. FULL DISCLOSURE: a very close family member of mine was drafted to head Osinbajo’s campaign effort in Kano. We discussed extensively about Osinbajo’s pledge to carry on with Buhari’s policies. There was bewilderment and shock within the members. A week later half of the membership resigned on account of Osinbajo’s increasing identification with Buhari’s policies. Many mistakenly thought that Osinbajo was Buhari’s anointed one! I could go on…”
Interestingly interesting and intriguingly intriguing, dear, dearly dear readers: this debate.
To be terminated by the columnist-terminator and terminator-columnist next week after Professor Olu Obafemi’s summation of the debate he presided over.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
With Us, Not For US
By Ijeoma Fynecountry
The 21st of March of every year is international day for the celebration of persons living with down syndrome. The advocacy and push for communal and political recognition of the basic fundamental rights for persons living with various types of disabilities, particularly intellectual disability, just as enjoyed by their peers who do not have any form of challenge – physical or intellectual has recorded a substantial success around the globe, especially in more developed climes.
While the same cannot be said of the situation in Africa and Nigeria in particular, scanty breakthroughs have also been seen over the years, with the consistent and dogged efforts by some specialized organizations such as Down syndrome Foundation, Nigeria (DSFN).
The theme for this year’s celebration is “With us, Not for us”. This theme is apt particularly in the current era where the push for inclusion has taken a center stage in the campaign worldwide. While it is comforting to know that people, government and communities alike are now becoming more empathetic to the plight of persons living with disability, it is also necessary and most important that their rights as human beings deserving of not just empathy but actual concrete benefits accruable to other citizens without disability, is massively taken into consideration and actually provided for.
Therefore, it is not enough for the government to map out and create as in Lagos state and few other states, sections in the public schools to admit children or persons with intellectual disability, it is necessary to adequately equip these special schools with the needed “specialized” manpower, infrastructural and educational aids to attain the targeted educational goals for these persons. Likewise in the provision of better healthcare, economic, social needs of persons with disability etc.
Persons with intellectual disability do not just need to be specifically educated in accordance with his or her type of disability, but MUST also necessarily be able to aspire to or expect to be employed according to his or her learned ability. That way, a full right, befitting of a person, be him a person with disability or not, is assured. For what is the need of going through a learning process, acquiring a specialized knowledge about a craft or handiwork and eventually still not being given the opportunity of gaining employment as supposed, not due to lack of knowledge but for having a disability? No human being should be subjected to such. Our government should do better. The society at large should do better.
The theme for this year is enjoining all stakeholders – the government, communities, corporate organizations, religious bodies/organizations, individuals to open up their hearts, and recognize the very urgent and important need to help in the actualization of these basic human needs, rights of persons living with intellectual disability as we are all human. No human rights or needs should be prioritized over the other no matter the state of their health, mental and physical capacity. Stand with us by taking actual intentional steps towards uplifting and elevating the humanness of persons living with disability. It is not enough to say that you are for persons living with disability, your specific, intentional, targeted actions toward ensuring the practical applicability of these rights matters.
Fynecontryis a Lagos-based legal practitioner and the legal resource person for the Down Syndrome Foundation Nigeria.
NEW TIMES CULTURE
Death At Dawn, Rebirth At Dusk
Professors On INEC’s Will (3)
BREAKING: PDP Suspends Anyim, Fayose
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
Rigged Elections And The Moral Burden Of Illegitimacy
Opinion2 days ago
The 2023 Elections And The Newness Of Nigeria
Opinion3 days ago
Overcoming Policy Execution Trap As Nigeria’s Development Challenge
Opinion19 hours ago
With Us, Not For US
Latest News3 days ago
Why We Won’t Congratulate Oborevwori On Delta Gubernatorial Victory – Deta APC