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Tunji Olaopa’s Vision Of Nigeria As A Nation




By Isaac Megbolugbe

“Nigeria has refused to leverage her endowment to step into national unity and greatness.” Professor Tunji Olaopa

“The project of nation-building and development which Nigerians espouse is a journey without maps, undertaken in moral anarchy towards an uncertain destination.”  Professor Claude Ake 

“The Nigeria project is a simple one: there is a need to achieve national integration through a sustained effort to translate Nigeria’s ethnic capital into a framework of civic nationalism that brings everyone into a clear vision of what Nigeria is and what it could be.”  Professor Tunji Olaopa

Professor Tunji Olaopa declared in the concluding chapter of his fabulous memoir, The Unending Quest for Reform, that Nigeria has failed to become a nation as at 2022. Will 2023 be the turnaround year that we have longed for? A lot depends on what and how the tremendous political power in the hands of the incoming administration is used. Will the president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, inhabit the spirit of the late Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore who chose to make his country arise and join the constellation of first-world nations instead of putting his family on the Forbes list of the richest people in the world? Will he play for glory and an immortal legacy and be the historical leader who finally got it right for Nigeria? Olaopa offers him a tremendous gift in the form of his recent memoir. Professor Olaopa asked for a reset and return to the fundamentals. The foundations of every country that has joined the world of developed nations in the last and this century seem uniform; they all started with the establishment of a developmental state which then served as the platform leveraged to build the architecture of a nation-state. I agree with him. It is doable. It should work. Olaopa’s corollary to a capable developmental state is a functional and efficient public service. Here, he is superbly prepared to help the country realise this capability.

Going back to the fundamentals is akin to the post-independence expectations of Africans, including Nigerians, from their anticolonial nationalists. Olaopa captures this succinctly in his memoir: 

It was the hope that independence would be accompanied by the emergence of a capable developmental state that could deliver the strategic framework to (a) implement sound macroeconomic policies that could alleviate poverty, create employment, and grow a strong, sustainable and competitive economy that could facilitate the well-being of the citizens; (b) promote popular participation that can lead to the indigenous ownership of the development agenda; (c) build a sound institution of public administration that is professional, citizen-friendly, technology-enabled and meritocratic with a ready capability to efficiently achieve service delivery; and (d) mobilise state resources, administer budgets and manage public finances productively, transparently and accountably.

Olaopa’s vision of a functional and efficient public service involves the founding of a civil service system that is well-informed by the prompting of a comprehensive and coherent reform agenda. This reform agenda is impressively explained, justified, and described in professionally-laden terms in the memoir. He molded himself in the image of the late Professor Ojetunji Aboyade both in essence. Aboyade was the master and Olaopa was the apprentice. Abayode modernised Nigeria’s policy architecture and produced a master national development plan in the form of The Second National Development Plan (1970-1974). Olaopa wants to do a similar thing for Nigeria’s civil service system and thereby modernise the national development and governance management architecture which will complement Aboyade’s template for policy and planning for national development. Olaopa has also attained impeccable professional maturation and he is poised to lead his country into joining the rank of world-class public administration systems. 

Isn’t Olaopa amazing? He was initiated into Nigeria’s public service as a knowledge-driven bureaucrat. He became an expert-insider and later mastered the Aboyade scholar-practitioner model which embodies a distinct relationship between the personal and the professional. In a way, Olaopa’s memoir narrates the bricolage of his life, both personal and professional, that is marked by his unifying identity and commitment to the scholar-practitioner praxis of public administration. I believe that Professor Olaopa is a gift and a blessing for the country, a once in a generation talent that providence has superbly prepared for a time like this. It is ironic that a nation that holds a large assembly of such exceptional visionaries has undergone the immense rascality and depravity that postcolonial Nigeria has experienced in the area of public governance. Olaopa is not under any grand illusion. He worries about the reality facing the country and considers the challenges before her to be much more daunting and complicated. While his vision for the country is clear to him, he does find the journey confusing. Given the professional competence of his generation, the task of crafting a value proposition for the immediate transformation of Nigeria into a developmental state should not be too daunting to accomplish.

Before outlining a portfolio of initiatives capable of constituting a transformative programme that could surely and quickly produce a developmental state for the country which the president-elect touched on during the recent presidential campaign, let us review how Olaopa discusses how we got here. One more thing. Olaopa is concerned that the debate among political elites concerning the future of the country has degenerated into choosing between restructuring and self-determination. The risk of Nigeria breaking up is no longer theoretical but a practical possibility. In the private sector, when a company is failing or has failed, the board of directors typically press the emergency button and bring in a turnaround team. This turnaround team puts the company on a sure footing, offer it up for sale or seek a merger. Similarly, the incoming administration needs two teams. First, a turnaround team that can focus on redirecting the nation and putting her on a sure footing as a developmental state is needed. The second is a governance team to attend to the business of governing the country and ensuring the well-being of citizens. Both teams report to the president-elect, each with its own focused agenda. In essence, the administration must turnaround the economy and clarify the essence of this country as a state to regain broad-based credibility and a mandate to resolve the Nigerian factor that has bedevilled the performance of the country for so long. With such a mandate, the administration will be well-positioned to transform the developmental state into a nation-state and put her on the road toward greatness among the league of first-world nations.

Back to Olaopa’s journey, Olaopa locates himself at the forefront of the narration about how Nigeria has struggled to emerge as a capable developmental state. He believes that providence had placed him at the epicenter of public governance in the Nigerian state. Professor Adeshina Afolayan, Head, Department of Philosophy, University of Ibadan, agrees with this position. In his commentary on Olaopa’s memoir, he observed that Olaopa’s self and the nation have indeed merged in a struggle for realisation. Olaopa’s quest for deep-rooted reform crystallised in 1992 when providence and reality fused to land him at the center of political gravity and seat of government in Nigeria. He was already prepared because of his research and the reform tasks that he had set for himself. His sense of mission is captured in the following statement in his memoir:

The new republic, to use my platonic metaphor, could only be rehabilitated and reconstructed right from within the center of the old one. I told myself, right from the beginning, that I had to walk as circumspectly as I could manage and that was not only in terms of knowing my way around the city alone but also knowing my way through the corridors of power. Abuja then became, for me, a metaphor for so many things, positive and negative. It became the very center of my reflections about Nigeria and what could go right for her.

                            Prof. Tunji Olaopa

Next, Olaopa was transported from the center of gravity when he was summoned by The Presidency during General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida’s administration to be right within the vortex of governance and government in Abuja. This was when Olaopa realised that the speechwriting skills he had could serve to facilitate strategic communication between the government and the governed. More importantly, he learned how speechwriting could be used as a tool for policy management and enhancement of leadership in public governance. It was at The Presidency that God’s favour located Olaopa through the intervention of his age-long mentor, Professor Ojetunji Aboyade, who was, at the time, the Chairman of the highly powerful and hugely influential Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC) and who promptly requested Olaopa’s redeployment to PAC.

Olaopa’s quest for the reform of Nigeria’s government got a substantial boost when he was posted to the Personnel Management Department of the General Services Office in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. This was where he served as the desk officer for the implementation of the 1995 White Paper Panel on Public Service Reform which was headed by Allison Ayida. Olaopa became the secretary of the White Paper Panel on Public Service Reform and he was also able to build his absorptive capacity to formulate a deep understanding of the public service that later enabled his doctoral research. Olaopa’s doctoral research reminded him of what he had perceived earlier in the course of writing the biography of Professor Ojetunji Aboyade. Substantial and deep understanding of policy and implementation comes from an integrated interrogation of both theory and practice. The complexity and difficulty of discerning the content and context of Nigeria’s civil service system demand a comprehensive, robust, and coherent understanding of the issues, concerns, workings and challenges of the civil service system in Nigeria.

As an aspiring reformer, he realised the need to build up his administrative management acumen so that his ideas and proposals could accurately correspond to the reality of the Nigerian situation.  A coherent and robust rejuvenation of the civil service system in Nigeria demands nothing less. Olaopa had numerous opportunities, both within and outside Nigeria’s civil service system, to accomplish his mission of personal and intellectual understanding about how the public service worked and how it could be redeemed from the weight of its own debilities. His memoir presents, in extensive details, elegant prose and beautiful poetry, cogent pontifications on his extensive experiences and insights.

In conclusion, Olaopa’s doctoral research into the public service system and his practical experience of its inner workings have prepared him intellectually and professionally. He got validation of his ambition and mission to reform Nigeria’s civil service system from both the late Professor Emeritus Akin Mabogunje and President Olusegun Obasanjo. President Obasanjo actually gave him an order in one instance as follows: “Go there and give the required technical support to get the best institutional reform strategy for the country. Good day”. Also, the head of the civil service of the federation approved the establishment of the Bureau of Public Service Reform (BPSR) that was proposed by Oloapa. The BPSR was tasked with the responsibility of coordinating and reporting on ongoing reforms and their implementation. It was designed to be an engine room institutionally positioned to foster the required linkages with concurrent reforms. The BPSR was in the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation for overall strategic oversights.

On the task of building a developmental state, Olaopa’s vision of what he called the Nigerian national project in his memoir has the stated purpose of integrating Nigerians into one integral whole and facilitating their well-being. This project is at three levels: a vibrant economy, a world class civil service system and a vigorously dynamic civil society. In his memoir, Olaopa outlines the three components of the Nigeria Project as follows:

  1. the material/infrastructural level which include the system of production, distribution, consumption and exchange;
  2. the institutional dimension involving the system of institutions, organisations and procedural mechanisms underlying democracy; and
  3. the social relations, cultures, values, beliefs and attitudinal orientations of the people.

We here briefly outline a program of initiatives that can address the first component for the realisation of the country as a developmental state. This is the foundational platform for any authentic nation-building, a sort of Promised Land. This will imply that the country has indeed crossed the metaphorical Jordan River. Nigeria left Egypt in 1960 but has been wandering in the wilderness since then. From 1960 to the present-day Nigeria, various military regimes and civilian administrations established and implemented their own economic development policies to mixed degrees of success and failure. With each regime came a new programme or initiative to transform the national economy. It was not until the Obasanjo administration, beginning in 1999, that the first effective framework to manage the economy took effect. Known as the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategies (NEEDS), it incorporated value-based governance and institutional reforms as crucial part of the process for achieving wealth creation, employment generation and poverty reduction. Before the President Buhari’s Administration, the importance and wide acceptance of NEEDS was evidenced in its use by the subsequent administrations within their own policy and programme reforms for managing the economy.

Unfortunately, the desired outcomes for the national economy have not been fully achieved. We summarise the drivers behind these missed expectations using the acronym, ‘13 cs’, below (the first 3 were from the Goodluck Jonathan administration):

  1. As asserted by President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, “Nigeria’s development efforts have, over the years, been characterised by lack of continuity, consistency and commitment.” 
  2. Concentration: There has been a lack of concentration of efforts over time, place and people to achieve the critical mass needed to transform the economy and impact a group of people.
  3. Coordination: Lack of coordination across policies, people and places to achieve a targeted objective or objects of development also accounts for policy failure.
  4. Collaboration: There has also been a lack of collaboration among the relevant stakeholders within a community of development.
  5. Community: There is also a lack of specific focus on places or regions as objects of economic development, not welfare.
  6. Comprehensiveness: There is a dearth of comprehensive policies, programmes and projects to accomplish the holistic task of developmental transformation. Too much emphasis is placed on partial lists of problems, with the set of problems to be solved changing from administration to administration. All aspects of a problem must be addressed until development takes place.
  7. Cooperation: A lack of cooperation among stakeholders such as the government, private sector, civil society and communities is also present.
  8. Convergence: Lack of a pathway toward the convergence of efforts and processes in the total development of places or their economies also distracts from development. Policies must be in place to ensure that development is considered and addressed across all sectors of the socio-economic environment.
  9. Concurrency: There is no dedicated orchestration of policies, programmes and projects based on a structured understanding of what it takes to unleash development on the different targets of development.
  10. Consolidation: Mechanisms to achieve consolidation and prevent leakages of development’s benefits are not put in place. Consolidation is essential for the accumulation and agglomeration of efforts to induce development.
  11. Capitalization: There is a lack of socially constructed markets to ensure the capitalisation of development efforts into different categories of wealth such as community, market and financial capital.

We propose a bifurcated approach, one for the long-term and one for the short-term. The short-term is for the duration of the first term of the incoming administration. The long-term is for the governance team to figure out. We expect that there will be a convergence once the developmental state is established and a mandate is secured from the Nigerian people. Meanwhile, the turnaround team should be tasked with simultaneously formulating and implementing four initiatives that constitute a portfolio of development projects in the service of Nigeria’s transformation into a developmental state. Two will be designed to connect Nigeria to the global economy as a participant and contributor, not only as a consumer. One will be anchored by an economic base of financial services, innovation and technology. It will transform Lagos into a global city and the financial hub of Africa directly connected to a network of global financial centers including Wall Street, London, Tokyo and Singapore. The other will be to accelerate and enhance the Calabar Deep Seaport, otherwise referred to as the Bakassi Deep Seaport. This is to be built in Idua-Inwang village in the Esighi community of Bakassi Local Government Area of Cross River State downstream of the existing Calabar seaport. It would be the deepest seaport in Africa upon completion. It will have a 16-meter draft and a key wall of 680 meters that would allow all sizes of vessels to berth. The project is still in the pre-project implementation stage so the opportunity still exists to enhance the project and make the proposed seaport the port city capital of Africa capable of serving the whole of Africa and the Middle East. The biggest ships will be able to come from Europe and Asia to berth so that lighter ships can come from different parts of Africa to serve Africa and the Middle East. 

The other two projects will anchor regional economies. The first is to bring back the Lake Chad Basin as a vibrant regional economic footprint. Lake Chad of today is a shadow of and a far cry from its magnificent origin and size at its apogee about 7000 years ago. The Chad Basin with the Lake Chad, as we know it today, as its focal point, extends over the area covered by its primordial inland sea and beyond and is estimated to be about 2,434,000 square kilometers. Lake Chad is a freshwater inland lake, a large oasis in a part of Africa’s northern semi-arid Sahel zone. It is well-endowed with huge reserves of groundwater, crude oil and gas, and mineral resources, including salt, gold, uranium, titanium, and bauxite. Nigeria can provide the innovative leadership, under the auspices of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, to recharge the basin with a transfer of water from the Congo River basin, via a 2400-kilometer long canal. Obviously, there are major political, economic, financial and technical challenges, and the political will and executive capacity to execute such a huge project are also possible obstacles. But that is the kind of project management capability that a turnaround team can deliver in the service of the president-elect to project courage and leadership capability toward the transformation of the Lake Chad Basin into a vibrant regional economy covering many of the countries that are members of the Lake Chad Basin Commission and even those that are not.  

The second is to choose a state to serve as a prototype of how to develop a regional anchor economy.  The late Professor Mabogunje once illustrated the need for every region or state within the country to build her own economic base on its own resource endowments or ingenuity. He compared the State of Texas to the State of Nevada. Texas has oil resources. Neveda is in the desert but chose to build her economy on entertainment and gambling. Both states are flourishing based on their different economic base.  In the 21st century, every state should be able to build an anchor regional economy. Nevertheless, first things must be considered first. The state must establish a robust social overhead capital through the development of natural resources, the capacity for processing resources, manufacturing of products and optimal service delivery. Then, it must seek the application of knowledge across sectors and evolve into a knowledge economy. This way, such a state will be able to transform her local economic base into an anchor regional economy. An anchor regional economy can be compared to a rocket economy. It is a regional economy that is operated in the orbit of economically advanced regions in both national and continental contexts.

Using Ondo State for illustration, one sees a state which local economic development practices tend to follow standard protocols for regional economic development. There has been limited creativity and opportunity for value creation. What Ondo State seems to have done to date is seek economic growth through investment promotion that will create jobs. Consistent with other economies that receive large revenues from national resource endowments, there has been less emphasis placed on expanding the local tax base as incoming investors are provided with all kinds of tax incentives. The state seems to have been partially behaving like the industrial developers of the US South during the 1950s and 1960s whose main preoccupation was to sell the locality and its industrial sites to prospective investors seeking locations for manufacturing facilities. The developers use various analytical tools and techniques not so much to understand the economic base but to advertise, market and sell locations to industrial prospects. The developer focuses on promotion and recruitment efforts in lieu of the long-term economic development picture. Modern economic development practices encourage a macro-strategic view of the regional economy in all development actions. It requires comprehensive analysis and creative problem-solving skills in conjunction with marketing and salesmanship efforts. The turnaround team, under the direction of the president–elect and led by a master economic developer, can study Ondo State as a prototype and develop a tailored methodology to be employed as a guide for the practice of economic development at the national level and in other states of the federation. Master economic developers have concerns for the entire economy, not just for the agricultural, mining, manufacturing or healthcare sectors. This implies that the master economic developer must be equipped with state-of-the-art analytical skills as well as access to modern and creative problem-solving capability to be able to create a programme of investment opportunities that could be communicated in a manner that will attract global capital into the locality.

To transform Nigeria into a developmental state, I have briefly outlined a few strategies in which the incoming administration must invest its political capital. The size and scope of the proposed project portfolio are necessary to yield the kind and scope of development dividends that would make a difference. From what many said were impossible, possibilities that have attained the height of confounding and breathtaking successes have emerged. What we have witnessed to date is a parade of troubled and failed ventures at attaining national development. I know that the late Professor Claude Ake once affirmed that “The project of nation building and development which Nigerians espouse is a journey without maps, undertaken in moral anarchy towards an uncertain destination.” Olaopa, in his wonderful memoir, has offered the nation a map and a compass. The incoming administration must not present itself as a politically diffident team. It must rather have courage and display a high level of dexterity in its deployment of political power and the strategic utilisation of talents and human capital.  May God grant the wisdom required to turn the country around to the president-elect. Amen.

 . Megbolugbe is a former practice leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers. He is also a retired professor at the Carey Business School, Johns Hopkins University, and a fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. He resides in the United States of America.


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The Black Tax: Family Charges And Mandatory Payment 



Dele Jegede In Conversation With Prince Yemisi Shyllon
Prof. Toyin Falola

By Toyin Falola

    You cannot be one rich man among your poor siblings and relations and not become poor. After all, you stole the destiny of six others to add to yours. Having made them poor, you must cater for them. Ogunde, my friend, built a house for his father and mum. You did well. On the day of house-warming Mama Ogunde called my friend to her room for a private discussion, advising him to buy a plot of land for his junior brother. The first tax has been paid, then the imposition of the second. Three months later, his sister called him to announce her wedding ceremony. Ogunde had to pay the third tax. Each time he calls me, Ogunde is lamenting the never-ending tax. Those payments, the mandated gift, and the exchanges are now what we call the “black tax”: it is the price you pay for knowing someone. Kinship was invented in an agricultural age for collective bonding and survival. Today, it is for purposes of tax collection with delivering public services. As you read this, you are either paying the tax or collecting it. Confess!

The African social system is unarguably built on the premises and strength of family and responsibilities. Society is built on collective responsibilities that spread even to every member of the society at large as a unit. This is why persons from the same village, like Umuahia, would always refer to their kinsmen as brothers or sisters merely because they have come from the same village or area. It is the sense of responsibility that bonds the African society that has been spelt out so eminently. But the question in this piece is not about the collective nature of the African communities but the responsibilities that follow from the family relationships, either for those within the same blood or the “village family.” The issue is of “black” tax; black here is not a racialized category.

    Black tax is a phenomenon that has been brought to bear in the African society of today; the modern exposure has allowed questions raised on whether the cultures are of necessity or mere subjections that have resulted in the slow pace of individual developments or castigated some Africans’ invisible slavery. African men and women give, and they take care of theirs. But then there is just one successful person in an extended family: the act of giving moves from mere social responsibilities to social burdens.

    Mikel Obi, a Nigerian footballer and a legend in the English Premier, recently lamented the plight of an average African. When you reach out to success and strive hard, you probably might face limited help from some of your family members. In fact, everyone is supposed to have his or her problems, and the contemporary conditions of African countries would actually justify their excuses. However, you could strive and become something without anything, but when that success comes, you have not achieved it for yourself or your immediate family; you have done so for almost everyone who carries the same last name as you, related by any measure of distance and acquaintances. The black tax must be paid.

    The concept of the black tax probably originated from South Africa; it was seen as the returns black workers, in the past, sent to their families and relatives for upkeep. It should be understood that the apartheid South Africans were such that Africans and blacks were discriminated against and had only a few opportunities to contend with. Hence, the few of them who had the opportunity to work were seen, to some extent, to have been in such a position for their families that they could not have similar opportunities. I have been in the company of people from Lesotho in South Africa, returning home with the Black tax. Many people from Zimbabwe living in South Africa pay it. In my heavy luggage to Lagos, only the contents of the carry-on belong to me; the rest is black tax. I pay it routinely. Recipients even now include chefs, drivers, and Malam the Gateman.

    Like the Brown Tax in the Latino communities, the Black Tax spread across Africa as a general description of family relations for every black. It is seen as an obligation, and the person who sends it must do something as a necessity. Those who are the beneficiaries sometimes develop a sense of belonging and claim over the income of the individual.

    Let’s address the culture. African cultures are beautiful, and the idea of taking responsibility for one’s immediate family, at least, is born out of the many philosophies that formed the foundations of the African society, from Ubuntu to Omoluabi to the collectivism orientations that have cut across the African societies; one would understand why the contemporary society should not quickly run into the mistake of casting the habit as a forbidden practice. 

We must understand that new cultures and the contemporarily subscribed behaviours born out of overbearing cultural diffusions gotten from excessive universalism have been gradually killing the bonds that the African societies have for each other. It has increased selfishness and made the act of philanthropism, which was initially a social necessity, become out of the ordinary.

    At what point should one say that the black tax is bad, and to what extent would the African circumstances create the limit? Are African parents truly entitled to the success of their children? Often than not, an average African parent assigns a primary purpose of nurturing and sacrificing their lives for their children. It is an African thing for parents to forego what they need the most in order to allow their kids a needed opportunity or resources that would put them in the right positions. In the pre-European interference era in Africa, what was paramount was to ensure that a child had the right skill as well as the right behaviour, but the parents were always on the watch to ensure that akosejaye, the written destiny, of a child is fulfilled to the fullest and they were ready to make any type of sacrifices. This mentality was carried on when the new order of definition of what success meant arose across Africa. Education and other resources must be attained, and the mothers would not mind selling their biggest clothes or properties to ensure that these voids were filled. The culture prevailed over time and is still predominant in the African society of today. Children in every African household became an ambition and duty that nothing would negotiate the commitments to them. Many African parents have continued working in toxic environments; many have lost their health or become disabled from the wares they sell in traffic jams and the hustles and bustles of places like Oyingbo Market.

    Basically, to an African parent, a child is an investment and future insurance for old age and moments where one’s effort would not be enough to feed or meet necessary needs. The African family institutions are different from many other parts of the world. One would then ask whether the “wokeness” conceptions would justify taking such future expectations wrong. For anyone a parent has sacrificed for, there is a level of expectation from them, and I do not think contemporariness should be reason enough to remove that responsibility. This goes down to immediate family like siblings who have followed the rough paths with one.

    My point is not that one must give without control or that every ‘ask’ should never be met with a ‘no’; otherwise, one would never move to the point of self-actualization. However, the first condition to be put to black tax is the measure of sacrifice the potential beneficiary had made. This separates responsibility from mere philanthropy. It is a measure to keep one’s circle small and reduce unnecessary ‘billings.’ Young Africans who are growing must understand that what comes first is themselves, the means to secure their future, and after all personal or immediate needs have been covered, those that we owe come in, but it should never be at the expense of one’s development. One must know that the greatest responsibility owed is that that guarantees growth.

    The above is also not to say that we should kill the African culture of giving. There are many individuals to be lifted out of poverty. The continent today is positioning itself as a proper headquarters of poverty and as such, it cannot afford to stop all the help it could get. However, one must ensure that giving should be out of abundance. Abundance is indeed the remainder from excesses and should never affect fundamentals, secondary, and even tertiaries. It is an act out of comfort. So, the black tax may not be an unnecessary social responsibility, but instead, some level of necessity and discharge of appreciation to those who have made tangible sacrifices in our lives. Evaluate your black tax; instead of complaining to me as Ogunde does every other day, he should review the list and delete the names of several recipients. As I told him yesterday, why not use part of the tax to take me out?

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Obama, Clooney, And Gates Should Include Witch Persecution InTheir Campaign



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

By Leo Igwe

The Advocacy for Alleged Witches (AfAW) welcomes the collaboration between the foundations of Michelle Obama, Amal Clooney, and Melinda French Gates to end child marriage in Africa. These foundations have committed to ending this practice within a generation. This initiative, announced during their recent visit to Malawi and South Africa, demonstrates the urgency that such a harmful traditional and cultural practice demands. Child marriage is a sore on the conscience of humanity. It violates the health, rights, and well-being of women and girls. Culture, tradition, or religion should not be used to excuse or justify practices that undermine the humanity of women and girls. So it was a great relief to know that these influential women would be working together to combat this menace.

At the same time, AfAW wants to draw the attention of Obama, Clooney, and Gates to another practice that is undermining the rights of women in Africa: witch persecution. Witchcraft accusation is pervasive in Malawi and other parts of the region. Witchcraft accusation is a gendered phenomenon that predominantly targets women and girls. Those accused of witchcraft are tortured, banished, or murdered in cold blood. In Malawi and other parts of the region, accused women are raped, stoned to death, or lynched. Many accused women are banished and forced to live in make-shift shelters called witch camps in Ghana’s Northern region. In Malawi and the Central African Republic, the accused are imprisoned, or flee to live in prisons to avoid being killed. Rooted in traditional and cultural beliefs, witch hunting is another vicious phenomenon which they said would not be eradicated.

This misperception should be rejected and discarded. This mistaken assumption has prevented international organizations including the UN from treating the problem of witch persecution with the urgency that it deserves. This misrepresentation has made the world ignore and look away while women and sometimes girls are accused, abused, abandoned, or savagely killed in the name of witchcraft. As in the case of child marriage, the Advocacy for Alleged Witches believes that witch persecution can end within a generation. The problem can be solved or resolved in a matter of years. AfAW is working and campaigning to rally national and international political will against witch hunting. That was why the organization announced in 2020 a decade of activism against witch persecution in Africa.

AfAW urges Obama, Clooney, and Gates to join efforts in stopping witch persecution of women and girls. They should know that the girls they are trying to save from being married away as children could end up being stoned to death or buried alive for witchcraft. Obama, Clooney, and Gates should include witch-hunting in their campaign because the practice is rooted in gender injustice and misogyny. The foundations should know that women are likely to suffer child marriages when they are young and witch persecution when they are growing old. So they should not focus on one and ignore the other. To effectively protect and defend the rights of women and girls, they should tackle both child marriage and witch-hunting . The foundations should commit to ending practices that violate the rights of women, whether they are young or old, children or adults.

Dr Igwe directs the Advocacy for Alleged Witches, which campaigns to end witch persecution in Africa by 2030.

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Powering Prosperity: Unlocking Nigeria’s Potential Through U.S. Partnership



Greene is Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. United States Embassy Abuja.

By David Greene

Nigeria is on track to be the world’s fourth-most populous country by 2050. It already has the largest economy in Africa and, with 60 percent of its population under the age of 25, it stands on the threshold of a demographic dividend that can dramatically transform its economy for the better. Nigeria’s strategic partnerships are essential in harnessing this potential, and the United States is playing a leading role. As we near the six-month mark of President Tinubu’s administration, our relationship has emerged as a key for success. One year ago, at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC, President Biden renewed our commitment to deepening engagement across the continent. Here is how we are doing that in Nigeria – working in areas that matter most to everyday citizens, such as growing the economy, strengthening democracy, improving health outcomes, ensuring security, and addressing the climate crisis.

Nigeria’s economic potential is vast, and with the right macroeconomic framework, a sound fiscal strategy, and a strong commitment to rooting out corruption, it can become a preferred destination for foreign direct investment. American investors and companies are eager to engage with Nigeria, and the United States government is doing its utmost to build our bilateral trade and investment ties.
Consider these examples: We have joined forces to accelerate Nigeria’s digital transformation, with investments from U.S. tech giants such as Microsoft, Cisco, Meta, Google, and Starlink. This partnership has built a platform to train unemployed and underemployed women and youth. Moreover, it has been a catalyst for quality investment, accounting for more than a quarter of all venture capital flowing into Africa.
Collaborative efforts in agriculture further underscore our commitment. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently dedicated $22 million to strengthen Nigeria’s cocoa value chain, supporting more than 60,000 cocoa farmers, processors, marketers, and other agribusiness service providers in what is Nigeria’s #2 foreign exchange-earning export. From tech to agriculture, these steps go beyond statistics. They translate into tangible outcomes: good jobs, seed money for new ventures, and higher-value agricultural exports.

The United States is also a steadfast partner in strengthening Nigeria’s health sector. With World AIDS Day – December 1 – approaching, it is worth recalling that over the past two decades, PEPFAR, the leading U.S. initiative to address HIV/AIDS, has invested nearly $8 billion in Nigeria, providing more than 1.6 million individuals with life-saving HIV treatment. In response to COVID-19, the United States donated more than 44 million vaccine doses, helping the Nigerian government approach its target vaccination rate of 70 percent of the eligible population. Partnerships like the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative, with an annual budget of more than $71 million, have reduced child death rates and strengthened health systems.
Those investments are just part of our overall development assistance to Nigeria. In fiscal year 2022 alone, the U.S. government allocated over $1.2 billion dollars in such support. These funds provide humanitarian assistance, and improve health, economic development, education, social services, democracy, human rights and governance, and peace and security.
In the latter two areas – democracy and security – we aim to support an inclusive future where Nigerian citizens’ votes count and translate into responsive governance, and where they can live in peace. We are a steadfast partner in seeking to strengthen election processes that will enhance accountability to meet citizens’ expectations, and pursuing innovative projects to help communities resolve differences without violence. Through cooperation with and training of Nigeria’s military and police, we are building more capable forces. Collaborating with civil society, law enforcement, and the judiciary, we are confronting the security challenges that stand in the way of economic growth while upholding a shared commitment to human rights. Initiatives include building Nigeria’s counter-terrorism capacity, bringing technology to courtrooms and case-management systems to help in the administration of justice and reduce pre-trial detention, and supporting efforts to enhance accountability and transparency in police forces.

Our partnership to address the climate crisis reflects our mutual recognition of this challenge, and our respect for Nigeria’s role as both an energy producer and a country profoundly impacted by the effects of climate change. In the leadup to COP28 – the 28th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change, which begins this week – the United States and Nigeria are aggressively seeking solutions. For example, U.S. support for Nigeria’s leadership as a Global Methane Pledge champion has led to action that is reducing greenhouse gas emissions for the benefit of all.
These programs and cooperative efforts advance a joint agenda that is built and driven by the highest levels of our leadership. President Biden met with President Tinubu in September, and numerous senior U.S. officials have come to Nigeria in recent months to confer on meeting Nigeria’s energy needs, driving U.S. trade and investment in Nigeria, and strengthening our law enforcement cooperation. These engagements strengthen our ties, address Nigeria’s pressing needs, and tackle shared challenges.

Ultimately, realizing Nigeria’s potential hinges upon enhancing its fiscal and economic health – and capitalizing on its strategic partnerships to build on that foundation. The opportunity has never been greater. Nigeria, with its youth, energy, and entrepreneurial spirit, is poised to seize this moment. We commend the government for its bold actions thus far to try to move the economy to a more solid footing. The United States is your partner in that effort – through investment, better security, a stronger workforce, and resilient institutions – that benefits all Nigerians and expands prosperity for both our peoples. Our journey ahead has its obstacles, of course. But together we will find a path toward a shared prosperity.

. Greene is Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. United States Embassy Abuja.

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