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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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Toyin Falola: Foremost African Historian Wins Lifetime Achievement Award



Olusola Ogunnubi 

By Olusola Ogunnubi

On Wednesday, May 31st, 2023, US-based Nigerian renowned historian, Professor Toyin Falola, was awarded the distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award by the Canadian Association of African Studies (CAAS) for his contributions to African Studies. The entire hall was full of elevation, and the side talk was that this was one of the best decisions ever made by CAAS.

CAAS is the umbrella body for scholars and practitioners dedicated to promoting the study of Africa in Canada, and according to its website, the Lifetime Achievement Award is indeed the highest honour of the Association awarded to senior scholars who have been actively involved in CAAS and have retired or about to retire. In the words of Prof Nduka Otiono, President of the Association, “this esteemed accolade recognizes your exceptional contributions, unwavering dedication, and profound impact on the field of African Studies in Canada and beyond”. According to the CAAS website, the selection of Falola for this prestigious award was on the merit of three criteria: (1) a lifetime of sound scholarship, (2) accomplishments (research, teaching and mentoring awards, etc.) and (3) involvement in the activities of CAAS. The award was formally presented to him during the CAAS Annual General Meeting and Conference hosted at York University, where coincidentally, Toyin Falola had been a professor between 1990 and 1991. Prof Falola stands in the illustrious company of previous awardees, including Prof Paul Lovejoy. The CAAS Distinguished Lifetime Award was the first awarded to a scholar in over five years.  

Toyin Falola is a professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin, where he holds the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities. He was also previously The Frances Higginbotham Nalle Centennial Professor in History, a position he held from 1995 to 2012. His research is focused on African History since the nineteenth century, African Diaspora, Epistemologies, Theories and Methodologies. Professor Toyin Falola’s contributions to the field of African Studies and African History have continued to place Africa on the map of global recognition. Not only is Falola’s scholarship recognized globally, but he is also dedicated to mentoring a new generation of young and emerging scholars in the social sciences, arts and humanities. He also convenes the Annual Africa Conference, a platform for knowledge exchange between scholars from Africa and the diaspora. I had the honour of attending the Africa Conference in 2012, where Falola generously accommodated me in his house after the conference along with other guests from Africa. As a postgraduate student attending the conference from South Africa, this short period of interaction would eventually shape my resolve to aspire to greater heights within the academic space. 

In 1981, Prof Falola finished his doctorate in History from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), where he completed his thesis on “The Political Economy of Ibadan, c.1830-1900.” Remarkably, more than 40 years after his first PhD, professor Falola earned a D.Litt in African Studies from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, in 2020. Professor Falola receives 16 honorary doctorates and over 40-lifetime awards from several universities and countries. A brief list includes Monmouth University (2007), City University of New York (2013), Lincoln University (2015), University of Jos (2015), Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (2018), Redeemer’s University, Nigeria (2017) Federal University, Lokoja (2021) among others. Falola has also previously been appointed to several distinguished honours, honorary professorships and visiting fellowships at various universities, including the University of Cape Town, South Africa, Centre for African Studies (2018-2022), Olusegun Obasanjo Centre for African Studies, National Open University, Abuja (2019-2021), Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South, Library of Congress (2016), Pontifícia Universidade Católica De São Paulo, Brazil (2007); Humanities Research Council, Australian National University in 1995. 

Interestingly, Falola helped organize the CAAS conference at York University in 1991, where he started his career in North America. He had also previously delivered a keynote address at the CAAS Conference 1991 and again at the just concluded 2023 CAAS conference. In over 40 years since he left Canada for the US, Falola has continued to make an impact on the Canadian and the North American academic landscape in general through his invaluable contribution to CAAS, serving as external examiner to major Canadian universities, including Queen’s University, York University, Trent University, Dalhousie University and the University of Toronto, helping to shape the academic depth of the African Studies programs in Canada and being a mentor to Canada-based Africanist scholars. Notably, Falola has supervised over 100 Master’s thesis and Doctoral dissertations in History and African Studies and examined countless theses and dissertations. CAAS also acknowledges and recognizes Falola’s invaluable contribution as a reviewer for the Canadian Journal of African Studies and his longstanding role as a member of the editorial board of the Harriet Tubman Series on the African Diaspora at York University. 

Given his excellent and distinguished scholarship and its impact across disciplines, it is not surprising that this is not the first such prestigious lifetime award that Prof Falola has received. Some of his previous awards include the Distinguished Africanist Award in 2011 by the African Studies Association (ASA), which is the largest global Association by scholars of Africa, Nigeria’s highest National Merit Award – Member of Order of the Niger (MON) awarded by former President Muhammadu Buhari in 2022, Award of Excellence in recognition of support of tertiary education by Lagos State University in August 2022, Distinguished Award for Intellectual Contributions to Knowledge and Scholarship, University of Abuja, Nigeria (July 2021), Distinguished Award for Scholarship and Mentorship, Babcock University, (June 2021), Distinguished Africana Award, University of North Carolina, Charlotte (April 2011) among many others.

Several celebratory legacies and honours have also been named in recognition of Falola’s exemplary contribution and scholarship to African Studies. One such honour is the Toyin Falola Annual Conference on Africa and the African Diaspora (TOFAC), inaugurated in 2011 by the University of Ibadan Cultural Group (ICSG). TOFAC is a huge annual conference convened in an African university on different themes. Also, the Toyin Falola Book Award is administered by the Association of Global South Studies for the best book on Africa. Lunaris Review also awards the Toyin Falola Literary Prize, named after him for his contributions to advancing African cultures, people, and histories. Falola is also Series Editor for at least a dozen monographs and Encyclopaedias and has served on several Book Prize Committees.

Professor Falola has also led major academic associations, including as President of the African Studies Association (2014-2015) and the Nigerian Studies Association (2005-2007). He has also received several traditional titles, including the Bobagbimo of Ugboland in 2014, the Agbakin of Kusela-Ibadan in 2022 and Nii Kpani Ashaabla 1 of Adabraka Otukpai Palace, Accra, Ghana, among others. 

Receiving the Award at the ceremony held to round off the CAAS conference, Falola expressed his gratitude to the Board and Members of the Association, seeing the recognition as a responsibility to continue to do more to extend the frontiers of African epistemic traditions. Falola lauds the Association for leading the intellectual path for the advancement of African Studies globally through the creation of opportunities for critical debates, research engagements, knowledge exchange and interactive space between academia, government and other non-state actors to drive policies and a commitment to ensuring that the systemic issues that Africa and Africans face are confronted through meaningful scholarship. 

Professor Falola is today honoured because he’s been a solid and unforgettable part of CAAS’s contribution to African Studies. Prof Falola is humble to the core, and there’s a lot that old and new scholars in the field can learn from his humanity, simplicity and sincere concern for the academic well-being of everyone.   

Ogunnubi  writes from the Department of Political Studies, Queen’s University, Canada.


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Ama Ata Aidoo: A Gallant Intellectual



By Toyin Falola

Our encounters were not limited to knowledge sharing. Yes, this is important, as Ama Ata Aidoo and Ngugi wa Thiong’o were among those who read the draft of my first memoir, A Mouth Sweeter Than Salt. It was mutual, as she also gave me a few drafts to read. Then we met in Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, and the United States. The most memorable was at Smith College, where we spent a semester together, seeing twice a week. A great cook, I took delight in consuming her egusi soup. I felt emotionally sad to be one of the earliest to know of her death and had to announce it on several platforms. It was a privilege to do a short tribute on May 31, 2023, at the recently concluded Canadian Association of African Studies held at York University, Toronto.

Ama and I were on first-person name salutations. She musically pronounced my name, Toyyin, adding “y” and refusing to let go. I reciprocated and called her “Amami, Mamami” to return the musical song. She knew when to provoke me. I was also a master at teasing her by making a patriarchal statement, to which she would immediately respond. I knew the Ghanaian presidents she could not stand, the ministers she detested, and I would say, “Amami, Mamami, you know I miss President Dash!” 

Mamami reminds me that at several points in life, especially during childhood, most humans have lofty dreams and ambitions. For many, those dreams and ambitions will only come to represent “the good old days when life was simple,” never seeing the light of reality — especially if the dreamer is limited by one or several factors like poverty, country of birth, a lack of education, poor nutrition, and a limit in both exposure and cross-cultural experiences. For others, opportunity and preparation help them realize their dreams. This day, you’re stuck with your convictions, committed to your beliefs, and working to support the causes that align with your values. The next day, you have transcended into a realm larger than life — larger than a single lifetime that any human could have.

Since Aidoo shed her robe of the human hood and took on the next adventure in existence, the news headlines that made the rounds about her death seemed to have some common words: Ghana, Ghanaian, literary icon, author, and feminist. However, Aidoo can be qualified by more than those words that made up the news headlines of her death. For one, I chose to describe her as Africa’s gallant intellectual and literary general because although she is proudly Ghanaian, her life, works, and impacts transcend one country — they have been for Africa, from within Africa’s Golden State. It’s understandable that the reporters, especially those of foreign media houses, might have chosen to be specific about her country to avoid backlash on the Western world not doing enough research to report African news contextually. But in the case of this eminent scholar and what she has lived for, she is our collective heroine.

Professor Aidoo knew what it meant to have a purpose, define existence, and stay true to one’s causes, so much so that a legacy is built, intentionally or not. She lived for Africa; she lived for the rights of African women; she dedicated her life to documenting African realities and deconstructing erroneous notions of what Africa is, who Africans are, and what the realities of Africans and their continent are. She lived a wholesome and fulfilled life — an 81-year-old is old enough to join the sacred ancestors in many African cultures and societies. Nevertheless, no matter how old our loved ones are at the time of death, our insatiable human nature and the prospect of their absence, our loss, and our longing will always douse our mood at the reception of the news. 

Nature and nurture come to play in forming the formidable intellectual and literary general that Aidoo was. Grounded in the history and exploits of her people from early on, Aidoo envisioned the life of an author for herself— seeing it as the best way to document histories and put the stories she had heard and was living into the hands of many others to make impacts. She was one of Africa’s generals, not on the battlefield during the world wars but on the intellectual battlegrounds of academic and literary imperialism. While staying vocal through her writings and words, Aidoo fought for Africa and did so proudly. She was instrumental in spotlighting some of the biggest issues African women have faced in decades. In so doing, she drew the admiration of Africans, especially African women, who came to see her as a mother, mentor, and idol. 

Aidoo made great impacts, and they reverberate so much so that death is not finality for her. From her poems to her novels and plays, the literary world will continue to make reference to, discuss, critique, and base other works on the foundation of what Aidoo did during her lifetime. That is her legacy, which has inherently conferred on her the goddess status. She might have left her mortal body, but she lives on and among us through her works.

Although she was better known for her writings, activism, advocacies, and feminism, Aidoo’s life was an excellent demonstration of walking the talk and living one’s words. She will be remembered back home in Ghana as a literary heroine and a patriotic countrywoman with a deep desire to help catalyze her country’s development. Convinced that the Minister of Education role would afford her that opportunity, she accepted her appointment by the government in 1982. However, like several of the recently independent African states then, she soon discovered that the people in power mostly wanted the best hands without wanting those hands to go to work in a way that would benefit the country. Seeing as her lofty visions for the Ghanaian education system would never materialize because of the Council, Aidoo resigned from the position and dedicated herself to excellence in teaching in the Ghanaian tertiary education system, which she served assiduously for decades. 

Aidoo never minced words about her criticism of the Western world and its role in the colonization of Africa, which has metamorphosed into colonialism and is being continuously modified to withstand and survive the agitations of intellectual and well-meaning, patriotic Africans. She is famously known for commenting on how Europe has been tirelessly milking Africa of its human, mineral, natural, artificial, and artistic resources for over 500 years. Aidoo’s vocal nature in decrying the covert and subtle neocolonialist efforts from the West earned her transgenerational reverence among her peers and even the younger generation.

One of the distinguishing traits of her feminism is adapting the African communal and tight-knit nature of pre-colonial communities into the formation and interactions of the women communities on the continent. This manifests in how renowned feminists like Aidoo and Professor Bolanle Awe take several other women under their wings and groom them. As the mother hen readily spreads her feathers to protect her children, Aidoo supported the feminist communities and female writers and authors. This is evident in her many engagements with these communities, as recently as 2021, at the Kwame Nkrumah Festival in Ghana. Aidoo’s life has inspired many of these young women in academia and the literary world. It has helped them understand that they can also dream and aim for their dreams. 

Many of those she assisted, whether they had only met her through her work or had the opportunity to meet her physically, shared a special bond with her, so much so that until her death, she was popularly known as (m)Ama Ata Aidoo — the bracketed “m” signaling a prefix to form “Mama,” the African name for mother. Aidoo lives on through the many people she’s inspired with her work. Many found meaning through her work; they found reasons to be conscious as Africans, appreciate their African identity, deconstruct erroneous notions of colonialism, and recognize the ills of the colonial system and its impacts on Africa. She was a fierce and vocal general in her advocacy against the misrepresentations of African women and African stories, but she was a soft and accommodating mother to many.

Mamami, you earned your position among Africa’s most revered and respected literary icons, and now, you have donned the cloak of immortality through the body of your work. Beyond your existence, you live on. In that instance, death as the finality we have come to know ceases to be the end. A literary icon would then have attained the status of a god. You will be sorely missed. Africa’s academia will feel the void of the inputs you could still have made if you were here. However, our solace lies in the fact that no one can ever do enough and that, taking your exploits and achievements in the context of the impacts they have had and continue to have, you did your best. For that, we are grateful. 

Farewell, Amami Mamami! May your journey in the next phase of life be easier!

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TB Joshua: Remembering Exit Of A World Changer



Pastor TB Joshua

By Dare Adejumo

The month of June is a significant month in the annals of Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN). It is the month of the birth and passing of its founder, Prophet TB Joshua, that great world changer.

Its fifth day makes the second year of his glorious exit from earth and on the twelfth, the great man of God who cherished marking his birthdays would have been 60 years old.

Nations across the world would have been agog for an extraordinary prophet of God whose footprints of wonderful deeds touching the lives of millions across the globe remain in the sand of time. TB Joshua came to revitalize the face of Christianity and made the physiognomy of practical Christian living as given by Jesus Christ already in abeyance real to mankind once again.

There’s no hide and seek in his life. He was love personified. The humbliest human being I have ever come across. Firm and stern, even in his moment of severity, you would still find love encapsulated. You could not offend him. He’s extra sensitive with propulsively radiating wisdom, unfathomable knowledge of life, charming and a paragon of magnetically illuminating character. He was completely acidic to vanity, envy, jealousy, human comparison, imitation, vulgarity and wonton desires. He described them as some of those “foolish things” not to be entertained for a moment in one’s life.

Pastor TB Joshua

TB Joshua was a divinely self-made man. Here was a man with little elementary education. Yet with your degrees, erudition and western exposure, you would be humbled by the self-discovery of your personal hollowness or quasi- emptiness when you sat to discuss or share a view with TB Joshua, a shy village man. TB Joshua was an attestation to God’s omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence and greatness that lay in simplicity.

I personally witnessed several cases of some other so-called men of God who out of ignorance and envy were once persecuting him but after receiving the touch of God in different dimensions including mere touching of EMMANUEL TV while praying came to weep before God for forgiveness. Joshua would only say to them: ” I didn’t fire one single arrow back from all your arrows against me; otherwise you won’t be here today to talk. One thing we should always know is this: I did not choose myself to do God’s work. He in His wisdom just chose me and I know He is with me. God would never give anybody this kind of power He gave me if the person would use it for selfish purposes or against his perceived enemies. No!”

TB Joshua was a puzzle, an enigma. He was the light shining in darkness that many couldn’t comprehend. He looked too simple and ordinary having not been commissioned by the earthly papacy or religious authorities of the day and for him to be performing miracles of diverse kinds like breathing. This was clearly indescribable, incomprehensible, a mystery and shocker to the spiritual ignoramuses and empty flamboyant oratorical, motivational preachers with big congregations.

That great English thinker and philosopher John Locke once said: “New opinions are always suspected and usually opposed without any other reason but because they are not already common”. In God’s adamantine and inscrutable will, TB Joshua came to the scene when the acts of Christianity seen in Jesus Christ and His early desciples and apostles as captured in the Bible were gradually becoming moonlight tales to this generation. Religious leaders had already metamorphosed to careerism and polarised with pervasive unhealthy cacophonous standards. It was obvious that these religious leaders no longer knew what they were doing then even till today in several quarters without any tangible impacts in the lives of atrophied worshippers!

That was the turning point.There was no way TB Joshua could have had it easier. He faced satanic conspiracies and persecution galore, but the man remained focused with unmitigated perseverance, vision and mission of his divine assignments which he tenaciously upheld victoriously till the last.
He took his persecution joyfully and that conspiracy against him at home launched him to the outside world in God’s agenda and design for his mission on earth.

Hear him: “I began discovering the good life when I was only 15 years. My objectives and motives were determined at once. I wanted what God wanted and I wanted it for the reason God wanted it”. That’s prophet TB Joshua for you. Till the end he carried his childhood with him, with malice to no one but love, charity and firmness to all in God’s righteousness. To him love is pure. Take good care of your heart because that is your communicating point with God and must ever remain pure to know and flow with Him. You can never love God if you don’t love your neighbours and your neighbours include your percieved enemies, those not in the same faith with you, the poor and those in need who you must give love unconditionally.

This Godly character often made TB Joshua to be misrepresented by low spiritual human beings whenever they saw him attend to other people who were not Christians just as his Master, Jesus was accused of dining with republicans and sinners which made the religious authorities persecute Him.

The truth of humanity as once put by that foremost existentialist Italian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard is that history would always repeat itself because man would never learn from history. Many never discovered Joshua not until he had departed! What a painful loss.

You could never find TB Joshua criticizing or talking about other men of God. He moved on quietly on his own even though he lamented the pervasive discrimination and disunity in Christendom.

Several people from other churches who received healings and miracles in his church, Synagogue Church Of All Nations SCOAN wanted to come and do thanksgiving in his church but Joshua would not allow them. “Go back to you church and do your thanksgiving and give your offering there. We are the same. God had already answered your prayers there before you came here” for you to see how selfless he was in all his dealings.

TB Joshua was more interested in the quality of your Christian life and character. He would ask you: “Do you hear from God? Do you listen to Him? Does He speak with you? Do you know how much you need Him? Do you have a relationship with Him?” The God’s general believed that your highest achievement on earth was to hear from God.

To TB Joshua, Christianity is not a religion but a relationship with God. If you don’t have that relationship with Him you have missed it and you are worshipping in vain. “How can you be worshipping God you don’t know?” He would jerk up his congregants to move away from spiritual docility, complacency and indolence.

TB Joshua was never an academic preacher. He spoke words of life that transformed lives of ardent and fervent seekers of God and salvation.

I remember a female nurse I once encountered when she came to treat a patient as she stood looking at EMMANUEL TV. On enquiries whether she knew of the television station, she said that she used to attend SCOAN. “I was a nurse and member of the church’s medical team. Then the church was not rich, just managing to survive. It was what happened during the man of God’s birthday that made me stop going and besides I had relocated to a farther distance. We all on our own contributed money to give TB Joshua as a present. When we got there to present it, the man just asked us to put all the money in one sack. He asked us to choose some people among us to take the whole money to the disabled people’s home at Oko Baba. He instructed that one of us should just dip his or her hand in the sack and be distributing the money to them one by one with whatever the hand could gather at once like that to the less privileged living there and nothing should be left in the sack. I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked that the man could take everything there like that not minding that the church itself was very poor”. This woman completely missed the beauty of life and essence of humanity the prophet symbolized. TB Joshua believed your giving is only meaningful when you give what you cherish most. He would never give in half measures. He was extraordinarily generous and at home in humility with all categories of people as a friend however commonised other people may look at them. Every human being is unique and important to TB Joshua and must be treated with dignity.

TB Joshua was never a burden to anyone but carried all human burdens that crossed his paths. He was the only man of God holding crusade abroad without asking for any donations or collecting offering from worshippers. He would rather go there with loads of charity works for people and the country. There was a time in Cameroon when the airwave was jammed with announcements that TB Joshua would be coming to hold a crusade in Yaounde, asking for people to donate money. This was a scam because the scammers were capitalizing on Joshua’s popularity and the perceived pressure of the country’s request for his crusade program in Cameroon. TB Joshua in holy anger countered the announcements saying: ” That cannot be my TB Joshua of Synagogue Church Of All Nations SCOAN. I have no plan to go to Cameroon. God has not directed me to go there. Have you ever seen my pictures or envelopes asking for donation of money from anyone or anywhere? Please disregard this announcement. When God gives you an assignment He would also send to you what you would need through His chosen vessels”. This is a symbolic message for you to differentiate the chalk from the cheese in the religiously distorted world. He never allowed himself for a moment to be carried away by anything.

The lofty principles and legacies of TB Joshua remain enduring and a high watershed in Christendom. The joy today is that SCOAN is in the capable hand of a down-to-earth and visionary successor, Pastor Evelyn Joshua, a woman who had gone through the spiritual mills and rigorous discipline of TB Joshua the spiritual mentor extraordinaire who strongly believed that life’s biggest decision is what you do with Jesus.

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