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Dr. Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi: Women’s Rights Activist and Community Mobilizer



Dr bisi adeleye fayemi womens rights activist and community mobilizer


Toyin Falola

(Part 1 of the Pre-Interview Series)

Dr. Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is defined by her versatility, in addition to her compassionate dispositions in favor of altruistic humanitarian services. A woman always brimming with energy, Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi exemplifies a capability that is generally rare among her contemporaries— the ability to multitask with efficiency, commit herself to goal-driven objectives with fixated attention to success, and the tendency to show effervescence of brilliance.

For anyone unfamiliar with her life story, a brief expedition into her childhood trajectory and transition into adulthood would more exclusively reveal the underlying dedication and perseverance that she has demonstrated and the circumstances that fostered these qualities.

Born in Liverpool, England, on June 11, 1963, Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi had been exposed to a cultural and political tradition that places an important premium on every individual contribution to the advancement of their immediate society. To be raised in England within the temporality of her development engrained an ambition to build a worthwhile legacy because of the understanding that every human being has the potential to contribute to their community.

In translating this understanding to personal contribution, Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi asserts that the prospect of contributing to human society can only be secured when one is armed with knowledge so that the issues of life can be solved by reflective thinking rather than relying on other people.

In 1984 and 1988, respectively, Dr. Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi acquired her B.A. and M.A. in history from the then University of Ile-Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University). Studying history granted Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi a competitive edge by allowing her to gain an understanding of the complex relationships between past conflicts and present states.

Armed with her background in history, Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi gained the tools to become an effective historian, a sort of social scientist who could utilize her knowledge about the interrelations of the past to produce solutions and projections of modern conflicts. Using her degree as a foundation, Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi diversified her knowledge by procuring additional academic merits, further leading to her contribution as a social science researcher and advocate.

Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi went on to pursue studies in Gender and Society, and received an M.A. degree from Middlesex University, UK. Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi’s interest in gender studies influenced her decision to work toward the interrelationship and the interdependency of the disciplines she studied. Following her education, Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi has worked tirelessly to fulfill many roles. She is a writer, a feminist activist, and social entrepreneur.

All these engagements demonstrate her versatility and quest for social transformation so that distributive development can be ensured for people. The roles allow her to work toward voicing the struggles and needs of a marginalized community of women that have long been repressed.

Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi has impressive and undeniable records of her contributions to better society through her various acts of humanitarian service, leading to her being widely respected and revered in contemporary times.

In an irredeemably patriarchal system, the suppression of female voices and the subjugation of their identity have affected their confidence and victimized them, sometimes beyond what they are capable of bearing. As a feminist, she has represented women by lending her voice to issues and matters affecting women’s relationship with men, especially in terms of power.

She has deployed her intellectual resources and used her social relevance to project the agitations of diverse groups of women. It should be noted that advocacy for equal treatment is more than just raising one’s voice against injustices, it implies actively employing one’s beliefs in their cause in their daily lives.

When one’s life is a living example of the course one believes in, it erects a formidable knowledge in people’s minds and creates a sense of purpose. Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi, to this effect, does not only offer her voice to project the anomaly that is entrenched in human society for critical examination, but she also exemplifies to women the beauty of being intellectually independent.

As an entrepreneur, Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi was exposed to the material challenges of the society, and because she was well-groomed in her academic career, she was able to offer great advice to the government on how to build a fair society where the dreams of the marginalized can be achieved. Her actions have allowed to integrate aspects of intellectual, financial, and political equality for all members of her society.

She demonstrates that having financial freedom gives people the power to negotiate their space in society, sending a message to women that they must be ready to make some hard concessions in their quest to have an impartial society that allows them to maximize their potential. This shift in human thinking would make women understand the significance of work, as it forms the basis for the respect that they yearn for.

Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi is a philanthropist who offers financial assistance to individuals undergoing certain life challenges so they can achieve their life goals and objectives. This cannot be true of everyone because giving requires making the well-being of others a priority, though she has managed to inscribe her name into the hearts of many because of her generosity and kindness. Her compassion for people who are pushed to the margin wins her respect and admiration. Socially, Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi has rendered herself important in spearheading social movements that would benefit the oppressed.

She has become and developed support systems for many people through both her public and private endeavors through her indescribable determination.

Her emotional and cultural association with Africa and its people, has inspired her work as a dedicated human rights advocate whose engagement of the political system does not have a physical boundary. She has played front-line roles in pushing for the enhancing and sustenance of African rights in Africa and the United Kingdom. She has often lent herself to movements advocating for racial equality and justice in the UK.

As a result, the international respect she commands continues to grow through her never-ending contributions to the general concerns of the people. Before she made herself relevant in the political negotiations and power dynamic of the United Kingdom, she constructed for herself an identity of a purposeful and goal-driven life whose ideals are admirable, even adaptable in many cases, because she was always willing to render her services to others. Working as an Administrative Officer in the Department of Health of the United Kingdom for example, she was able to represent the interests of many people through policy formulation so that all their expectations of public health would be reasonably achieved and the institution respected.

For a decade, Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi represented African women in areas where issues concerning them have been condemned to silence for ages. Serving as the Director of Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA), whose headquarters is domiciled in Kampala, Uganda, between 1991 and 2001, she promoted the African women’s agenda in the United Kingdom.

Her contributions to their immediate involvement in key areas speak volumes of her dedication to Africa, Africans particularly, and the human cause in general. Within this period, the number of projects executed under her leadership cannot be underestimated. For example, she was able to reaffirm their mission by educating them on their responsibility to the advancement of society and the government’s duty to them.

Since she served as the connection between the masses and those in power, she was able to fight for those who were underserved. With this, she restored their reputation and shaped them a great future, creating a monument of social and political importance for herself. She achieved an unprecedented economic recovery and psychological well-being for the women in the society within a decade of uninterrupted service. Making herself available for the people and increasing people’s access to her provided an opportunity for bonding and personal relationships

It is to her teatment that while she was still officially committed as the Director of AMwA, she was able to simultaneously create another group with a similar mandate to ensure that the goals of transforming the lives of the people and making them more valuable in the society were rapidly achieved.

The group, which she co-founded, is called African Women’s Leadership Institute (AWLI). Their impressive records of success within a short time indicate their sequential and captivating strategies designed to achieve their predetermined objectives. Nothing better captures the significance of AWLI to the collective course of women’s emancipation than their record of training approximately 6000 African women across the continent. Many of these trained women are vibrant front-liners in their respective fields of interest today, as Ministers, Members of Parliament, academics, civil society leaders, and more.

By implementing these training programmes, the exposure of women to knowledge and skills would emancipate them from the shackles of financial and economic challenges.

In the same spirit, Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi in the year 2000, co-founded the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), a fundraising and granting firm with a continent-wide influence. Since the women trained in these programmes and organizations understand the complex nature of their experience, AWDF was created to answer the questions of funds that would liberate the women accordingly. In fact, over 2000 women have been awarded funds in 42 African countries to help grow small businesses around them.

Beyond the empowerment of women in providing both intellectual and financial assistance to them is the demonstration of leadership gaiety in the course of their emancipation struggles. The contemporary political structure of the world dictates that the challenges facing a people must not be limited to their temporal and political space.

Therefore, what is usually needed is to get the world’s necessary political and economic powers to accord the necessary attention and concentration to tackle the challenges. This inspired Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi to get involved in women-related agitations, as women’s rights are in effect human rights, advocating for an all-encompassing approach.

As the Vice-Chair of the National Association of Women’s Organisations, England and Wales (1992-1994), she dedicated herself to lead a delegation of African women in Europe to the 1993 United Nations Human Rights Conference in Vienna, Austria, to push further the agitations of women across the global community. She would not be complacent with the achievement recorded there and became more instrumental to the course of women’s freedom and coordinated a 20-woman delegation from Africa and Europe to the UN World Conference on Women in Beijing, China. In all her manifestations of purposeful leadership, her selflessness makes her outstanding among her contemporaries.

Having someone with pioneering influence in rewriting women’s history should not be without the befitting recognition of her efforts. Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi’s efforts have significantly impacted society, and important groups observe her consistency in the process.

Due to her uncompromising commitment, waves of recognition greeted her performances as an advocate of gender equality and an ambassador of collective development. In 2005, she was recognized by Sigrid Rausing Trust (UK) with an award of outstanding leadership in promoting women’s rights, an encouragement for others to strive for the enormous contributions that Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi has made and continues to dedicate herself to. Interestingly, the award prize that is pegged around £100,000 is devoted to combating HIV/AIDs for African women, further demonstrating her dedication.

Despite demonstrating a high level of selflessness in this endeavor, Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi did not relent in her efforts to restore women’s dignity through negotiations of power and the education of the concerned. She founded the Ekiti Development Foundation (EDF), which is dedicated to promoting women’s affairs and youth emancipation. Though her contributions seem numerous and intimidating, there is no limit to the level of investment that can be dedicated to the course of women because the prospect of the marginalized people in a society is determined by the amount of motivation and interest they attract from the power base of their environment.

As a result of the programme organized by Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi, the annual Gender Summit was introduced, and it has gained much prominence in the society. Within Ekiti, for example, countless women receive medical attention, welfare packages, and empowerment funds meant to improve their lives and transform their poor economic conditions.

Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi has been recognized with awards and tributes by recipients of her hands of goodwill. In addition, as a general recognition of the impact she has made in human history, she has been bestowed chieftaincy titles such as Ochiorah of Imezi Owa, Ezeagwu Local Government, Enugu State; Erelu of Isan kingdom in Oye Local Government Area of Ekiti State; Ajiseye of Ado-Ekiti; and Iyalode of Ilafon-Ekiti. This is in addition to the different awards she has received on other occasions.

All of these are indications that this two-time First Lady of Ekiti State has persistently worked to improve the conditions of the people generally and the women especially, with a zeal that has not been equaled in recent time. She continues to fight for the causes she believes in—emancipation, freedom, and equality for everyone, regardless of gender or social class.

In the next Toyin Falola Interviews, Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi would be engaged on topics related to advancement of African women. The interview will be an opportunity to garner knowledge from her. Do please join us on:

Sunday, June 27, 2021
5:00 PM Nigeria
4:00 PM GMT
11:00 AM Austin CST
Register and Watch:

. Falola is a University Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

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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 non￾self, 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


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Reflection on The Unending Quest for Reform, Tunji Olaopa’s Memoir



Prof. Eghosa Osaghae

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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The Unending Quest For Reform – Tunji Olaopa’s Intellectual Memoir: A Commentary



BREAKING: Kukah’s Diocese Under Attack, Two Priests, Worshippers Kidnapped
Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah

By Matthew Hassan Kukah
It takes great courage for anyone to make the decision to write an autobiography. That is not something one does lightly. It is an act that opens one up to the public glare, and to lots of reinterpretations and misinterpretations . So, when I received the manuscript of Professor Tunji Olaopa’s memoir narrating his career as a scholar-bureaucrat, I had quite a rewarding intellectual experience reading it. It is really commendable that the tradition of documenting administrative career experience that was established by the icons of the civil service like Chief Simeon Adebo, Chief Jerome Udoji and Mr Allison Ayida, is being extended by a knowledgeable  policy worker and expert like Prof. Olaopa. This tradition derives from a duty I think they owe the public service profession and public administration scholarship: documenting their career experiences .The uniqueness of Unending Quest for Reform is that it brings together the career trajectory of someone who is both a scholar and  a bureaucrat; someone who brought the uniqueness of theory and scholarship to the peculiar profession of the public service. This great work closes the gap between the two.

When Tunji and I first encountered on the pages of the newspapers, I was amazed at the depth of his insights into policy issues. He shattered all the assumptions that some of us had about the civil service and those who inhabit that universe. I was forced to take more than just a reader’s interest in his articles. This is because I immediately connected to his mission as a governance and institutional reformer. Given that what he began to do reflected what I have been doing, it made sense that reformers must close ranks. He wrote with so much confidence and clarity drawing from a deep well of knowledge. There was a patriot committed to changing the tenor of public policy, making public service very attractive again to public intellectuals. I, therefore, started thinking of how we might work together. Sometime in 2013, when we reconstituted the governing board of the Kukah Centre, we did not hesitate to bring him on board as a formidable member. I had no little consternation when I heard the news of his untimely retirement by the Federal Government in 2015. It was one of those national decisions that one loses sleep and appetite over. But then, I was not disappointed that about three months
after his retirement, he announced the setting up of his pet project – the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP). I was pleased that this reformer was now determined to reposition himself and continue on the path he had set for himself.

On 1st February, 2016, Olaopa convoked the inaugural international conference of ISGPP, which brought together eminent personalities like Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the late Prof. Akin Mabogunje (who was the chairman of the ISGPP Governing Board), Prof. Richard Joseph, the global scholar and distinguished professor fromNorthwestern University, Evanston, along with virtually all known social scientists and governance-cum-development practitioners and scholars in Nigeria and the Diaspora. That, for me
, was the stuff that a scholar-practitioner of stature is made of.I would later be invited to feature in the ISGPP Book Readers Series when my 2011 book, Witness to Justice: An Insider’s Account of Nigeria’s Truth Commission, was subjected to a seminal discussion at the school’s imposing premises in Ibadan. Thereafter, the Kukah Centre and ISGPP brokered an agreement,and subsequently  worked on a number of collaborative projects. That agreement is, of course,still exploring how the institutional collaboration might be deepened now and in the future.

Permit me to just reflect on a few fascinating things about Tunji. The first, of course, is what I want to recall as his spiritual tenacity. I am a Christian who has taken the pulpit to the public sphere and I know what that means. It has put me right in the eye of the storm and attracted curiosity and interest. And Nigeria is a very stormy place to be a Christian and a public person. Public office has made a mess of most people’s spirituality. But here is someone who does not hide his spiritual orientation. Indeed, here is a bureaucrat who not only sees the public service as almost akin to a calling in the priestly Levitical order. He also sees spirituality as a critical dimension of what makes a public servant committed to public service. I was delighted to read about the impact that his parents and his Baptist background had on his spiritual maturation.For me, the home and that heart made warm by the love, care and discipline of dutiful parents contribute a lot to who we eventually become. Tunji brought a lot of solid character traits from that warm heart kept alive by his parents to his public engagements.

Prof Olaopa clearly has drunk from the springs of wisdom of Plato, Max Weber, Chief Awolowo and Simeon Adebo; Olaopa practically learnt at the feet of these giants. He had the best of intellectual and moral grounding that would contribute to his making as a scholar￾bureaucrat. And I should know this: a reformer must always keep up the delicate act of transcending the fray, of always being above board. I could feel Tunji’s pain and frustration when I read the narration of his encounters with the deep-seated dysfunction of a system that ought to make critical impacts on the lives and well-being of Nigerians. And yet, this is a system that keeps foiling the best intentions, not only of the government, but also of well-intentioned reformers like Prof. Olaopa. And so, in 2015, retirement arrived at the doorstep of someone who had laboured for twenty-seven years trying to find the means and ways by which this civil service system could work better. And I wondered and still wonder at the paradox that is Nigeria. What country that wants to grow regularly dabbles in the wastage of her talents or even undermines the very best efforts of her heroes and heroines – patriots who dare to hold up the country’s image to her? How does a country that urgently wants to reform its institutions throw out her institutional reformers untimely on the altar of bad politics?

With Unending Quest for Reform, Prof. Tunji Olaopa is making a two-point contribution.The first is that the volume provides a documentary encouragement to those who would take up the onerous task of institutional reforms in the public service. The challenge is simple: this is a worthy and patriotic life aspiration that makes one’s existence fulfilling.Reform is a spiritual task, as far as I am concerned. It is like Nehemiah rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. The book is both a challenge to the civil servants to pick up the gauntlet and an encouragement that it is something that can be done. I guess Olaopa sees his reform contributions, not with reference to the heights they could enabled him to attain, but in the context of the experiences he had garnered and could now document for those who must carry forward his space-clearing efforts. The second point Unending Unending Quest for Reform makes is that reforms do not and cannot end. The volume points at missteps and reform errors and, critical junctures and possible directions to take to keep carrying the business of institutional reforms forward for the sake of transforming Nigeria into a template of democratic governance worthy  to die for.

Unending Quest for Reform is a solid testament. It is a testament to patriotic
commitment from an unbending spirit that is still fired by the will to keep up the business of reflecting on the best way to do public service and to serve himself until the spirit leaves his body. I hold up Prof. Tunji Olaopa as the essence of a public servant and institutional reformer.And I recommend the memoir as a book all public servants should keep on their shelves as a constant reminder of what is possible when reflecting about Nigeria and her future.Our nation owes him a debt of gratitude even as he continues to serve his country with diligence.

Kukah is Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sokoto.

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