Author: Tunji Olaopa

I just must do this essay as tribute to a man whose creative and rare talent I admire so much. I must confess, given the job that I now have, this essay was herculean. When one surveys the sociocultural history of Nigeria, and especially from ethnic and regional perspectives, like the South-West Yoruba people, one unmistakably will not fail to register the abiding presence of those—cultural propagators, promoters, producers and sustainers—whose critical efforts in long and unending and crosscutting trajectories have served as the touchstone to our cultural realities. Now this is a very crucial point for me. And I…

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On Saturday, 13th of January, 2024, exactly one month after the new leadership of the Federal Civil Service Commission that I now have the fortune of leading was inaugurated by His Excellency President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR, my monarch, HRH Oba Cornelius Abiola Taiwo, FCCA, FCA, the Alaawe of Aawe in Council, organized what turned out to be a grand reception at his palace at Aawein my honour. The occasion and my statement of appreciation afforded me yet another opportunity to reflect on what I have called the Aawe Mystique. Indeed, with the benefit of the wisdom and clarity of…

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Over the course of my sojourn in the public service and my consistent advocacy for governance and institutional reforms, I have come to deeply appreciate the fundamental difference between seeking a position that allows for transformation and actually occupying such a position and using it to transform reform objectives into tangible achievements. This was what raced through my mind as I was inaugurated as the Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And my apprehension was (and still is) all the more serious given the fact that Nigerians have started…

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I had started to write this piece before I became the subject of national news. This tribute is therefore a convenient point to sign-off OP-EDs, which has been a pastime extension of my life mission as a governance cum institutional reformer and scholar. Indeed, Nigerians had by now reconciled to the demise of Alhaji Adamu Fika, Wazirin Fika, former secretary to the federal government, and an extraordinary public servant. My reaction to his death, at a good old nonagenarian age of ninety, is to reminisce not only on my perception of his status as a public servant (bolstered by the…

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When a scholar combines a mentoring frame of mind, and educational energy and a philosophical bent of mind, what you have is a Socratic orientation; what you have is Professor Otonti Nduka. I just met Professor Nduka some months ago, and in that short period, I have had moments of epiphanies and humility in equal proportion. When I think of Prof. Nduka, my mind resolutely revisits Woodrow Wilson’s admonition: “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope…

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Changing “Public” in Public Services and Implications The public service has long been central to public administration theories and practices, serving as a critical barometer for evaluating the success or failure of any state or government. In contemporary times, the concept of the public service has evolved significantly within the framework of the “new governance paradigm.” This shift was catalyzed by the fall of the former USSR and the simultaneous rise of neoliberal ideologies that advocated for a redefined role of the state in both the economy and governance. Under the neoliberal doctrine, the state was envisioned as having a…

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When Chinua Achebe penned the prophetic political tract, The Trouble with Nigeria, in 1983, Nigeria’s second republic was brutally at an end when a coup cut short the civil rule that commenced in 1979. In that short book, Achebe laid his keen insight on what has ailed the nascent Nigerian state—just barely twenty-three years old: the problem of leadership. What even Achebe could not have known then is that sixty-three years on, and forty years after the book was written, Nigeria would still be battling with answering the leadership question. And we watch as other countries tackle their governance and…

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Let me start this piece on a reflective note, and then connect the reflection with my concern for the political trajectory of the Nigerian state. And where else to start than with one of the wisdom quotes of Socrates. According to him, “By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.” To be sure, this is not just an advice on marital bliss. It contains a gem of philosophical insight that is both universal and particular, as I aim to demonstrate. Marrying a bad wife is…

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(Lecture by Prof. Tunji Olaopa, retired Federal permanent secretary and EVC, Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy – ISGPP – as Keynote Speaker at the 2023 Annual Workshop of the Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN) which held at Nicon Luxury Hotel, Abuja on 12-13 September, 2023) It is significant that the Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN) decided to connect the theme of its 2023 annual conference to a critical issue that is so very relevant to national discourse at this time. And, at that, through a clarion call on Nigerian professionals to join Nigeria’s march…

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Institutional reform advocacy is essentially about critical optimism in the face of significant institutional dysfunction. To be an institutional reformer and not be an optimist is, for me, a contradiction in terms. Optimism is what keeps sustaining the belief of the reformer in the possibility of transformation. Without such a belief, the reformer has no business in the space of institutional reform. This is the optimism that I have developed over time, after I made up my mind to dedicate myself to researching the historical and administrative dynamics that led to the institutional dysfunction of the Nigeria public service system.…

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At first glance, interrogating the reading list of leaders, or asking about the books leaders read, seems like one of those hairsplitting pastimes of scholars and intellectuals. In other words, what has the reading habit of leaders got to do with more fundamental and critical issues of governance and development and the social contact leaders ought to strive to respect and service in ways that improve the quality of life of their citizens. And yet, most things that are fundamental in life do not yield to superficial interpretations. We have to dig deeper most often to make the necessary substantive…

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This piece is a contribution to an emerging policy conversation around the management of development policy dynamics with commendable traction. This is a field that is now taking center point given the fact of the sundry expectations that Nigerians have about the Tinubu administration. It is a field larger than my core expertise around policy implementation and institutional reform through the capacitation of public institutions for capability readiness. And yet, this larger policy conversation is so multidisciplinary that it requires all hands to be on deck. Such a conversation is too significant to leave to public commentators, government functionaries and…

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Proposed Review of the Civil Service: Key Policy Indications and Action Focus President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is on the roll with series of policy articulations and initiatives that speak to the intended directions he wishes to take Nigeria’s policy architecture and development agenda for the next four years. The policy conversation has been raging since the inauguration of the new administration, especially around taxation, the petroleum subsidy and the student loan. And now, the president has revealed that aside the comprehensive audit of the Central Bank of Nigeria that is ongoing, the government has set its eye on a structural…

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When we say that Nigeria is a contradiction, the statement encapsulates the many manifestations of the possibilities and limitations that Nigeria embodies in her sixty-three years of statehood. One instance suffices. Nigeria is blessed with immense human and material resources. She is presently a youthful country in demographic terms. This means that her youth bulge presents her with a unique capacity to translate her development agenda. And yet, Nigeria has failed in almost all human capital indices, from being the worst place for a child to be born to being one of the most insecure places on the globe. Nigeria…

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In coming to the analysis of the future of Nigeria, there have been so many paradigmatic analyses about how to make sense of the Nigerian predicament and resolve it in order to make Nigeria a space for innovative transformation. When I started analyzing Nigeria from the perspective of social, ethnic and generational capitals, I had a sense of what Vitor Belfort, the Brazilian professional boxer puts so aptly: “Legacy is not what I did for myself. It’s what I am doing for the next generation.” Belfort might not be aware of the deep national and developmental implication of that statement,…

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J. ‘Bayo Adekanye and the Scholarship on Civil-Military Relations in Nigeria by Prof. Tunji Olaopa Retired Federal Permanent Secretary & Professor of Public Administration  tolaopa2003@gmail.com Woodrow Wilson, that eminent political scientist, and preeminent former president of the United States, once noted fundamentally that “the method of political science is the interpretation of life; its instrument is insight, a nice understanding of subtle, unformulated conditions.” With this statement, Wilson stands in the same line as the one of the leading theorists of political science, Niccolò Machiavelli. For both of them, political science is the study of actualities and realities of the…

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By Tony Afejuku Let me state urgently that I don’t know Tunji Olaopa. I have never met him physically and do not believe or expect that his path ever will cross mine. But this open factual remark does not really mean that I don’t know this young and youngish former federal permanent secretary who became a professor of political science at Lead City University, Ibadan after his unexpected retirement from the Federal Civil Service. Of course, his premature retirement we must blame on the vagaries of the Federal Civil Service of sometimes vicious politics, to put it mildly. In a…

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Posthumous tributes are always so difficult and traumatic to write. The one who feels the weight of writing such tributes is left to wonder whether she is giving credence to the Yoruba saying that we are only deified when we die; humans are not worth anything alive (Ọjọ́ a bá kú là ń dère; èèyàan ò sunwọ̀n láàyè). Did we really fathom the worth of Prof. Malomo while he was still here with us and rearing to offer his entire capabilities for the sake of his beloved country? Or are we only now just realizing what we have lost in…

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There is a deep sense in which the current japa phenomenon—the alarming spate of Nigerian youth leaving the country in droves—is an indictment of the many years of bad leadership Nigerians have endured. When the EndSARS protests occurred in 2020, it was the moment Nigerian youth were protesting the deleterious state of the Nigerian state, represented by the galloping youth unemployment statistics and the lack of sufficiently impactful policy attention to their plight by successive Nigerian governments. And that protests did not end well. And so, we can connect the dots between the legitimacy of the Nigerian youths protesting their…

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Dialogue has always been a fundamental means by which philosophers communicate philosophical ideas. One reason for this might be the sometimes obtuse nature of these ideas that most people find too difficult to handle or make sense of. And the literary form comes in handy in allowing the philosopher to speak the deep and fundamental thoughts to humans. And so, we have the great dialogues of Plato, David Hume’s Dialogue Concerning Natural Religion, Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, The Analects of Confucius, and more. Dialogues also serves as a methodological tool that allows for interlocution and questioning. No one will forget Socrates…

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(Statement at the ISGPP Public Presentation of The Unending Quest for Reform: An Intellectual Memoir Held at the University of Ibadan Conference Centre on Friday, 23rd of June, 2023) Let me start with a statement that all Nigerians feel in their existential struggles to find meaning and fulfilment. Nigeria is a paradox. We all experience the paradox in the larger sense of how Nigeria is such a blessed country and yet it seems so ill-fated in term of the enormity of her postcolonial challenges. The natural and human capital resources that Nigeria has to deploy are sufficient to alleviate her…

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Student Loans: A Game Changer for Education Financing in Nigeria The Tinubu administration has just signed into law the student loan fund (SLF) that is meant to critically address the funding gaps that have plagued higher education in Nigeria. The bill, introduced in 2016, is called the “Student Loans (Access to Higher Education) Act, 2023.” The SLF is meant to provide easy access to available loans that will ease education especially for indigent students in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions. The signing of this Act gives me a sense of reform relief, even though it is coming after such a long time.…

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I think that right from the very first and May 29 inaugural speech, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has set the ball rolling on reflections around what we can call the Tinubu Agenda for transforming the Nigerian state and society. Of course, most Nigerians are struggling with the ripple effects of the announcement, in the same speech, of the end to the fuel subsidy regime—something that the outgone Buhari administration had brokered before leaving. However, I believe the speech does more in outlining a preliminary set of thinking points than the microeconomics of fuel subsidy. Inaugural speeches are often difficult to…

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National Change Management Triggers and Landmines for the President Tinubu Administration Almost all Nigerians, as well as Nigeria’s political class, recognize that Nigeria is a great country; a land of tremendous resources and opportunities. There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that the human and non-human resources are sufficient to catapult Nigeria into the top echelon of industrialized countries of the world. What is galling is how such a blessed country could fall prey to the resource curse and the Dutch disease—the paradox of how the opportunity of large oil reserves and a most significant youth bulge eventually turned into…

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This piece, for me, is an exercise in hagiographic historical reconstruction, as well as a celebration of friendship. There are so many gaps in our sociocultural histories and trajectories that require intellectual attention and cultural curiosity in ways that increasingly fills out the history of ideas, figures and issues in our social history. I believe the Aworeni clan of Ile-Ife constitutes one of this critical point of history that requires filling out. And with most sociocultural histories, one can only keep putting the puzzles together without ever achieving a perfect and coherent fit. One can only hope that a significant…

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The older generations of political science scholars are already going to the place of the elders. And that is either for good or for ill. On the one hand, most of them definitely reached the zenith of their career and age, and paid their dues to scholarship and the career they chose and were committed to. On the other hand, the deaths of some of them, seem to leave a long generational gap in political science scholarship that appears to be getting wider. At 82, Prof. Frederick Eze Chikeziye Onyeoziri lived to a good old age, and yet his academic…

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Part of the various emotional attempts to undermine the last electoral process that threw up Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the APC was the call for an interim government of national unity that is supposed to douse the tension associated with the elections and its processes before and after. To be charitable, those who are calling for the interim government are doing so, even if mischievously, as their own contribution to de-escalating the tension that characterized the announcement of Tinubu as the president-elect. Those familiar with Nigeria’s recent political history will immediately remember the infamous interim national government foisted on Nigeria…

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The concept of destiny is one that is very charged, philosophically. Within the Yoruba cultural context, it is one of those concepts that does not avail one of any easy answer. But I am not entering into any philosophical discourse in this piece, even though there are those who strongly believed that Nigeria is doomed to keep repeating the errors of history that have led us to a political and developmental cul de sac. Those who hold this view have their arguments. One of these is that since independence, Nigeria has not yielded to any workable paradigm or blueprint that…

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The nature of humanistic and social scientific researches is such that they make all manners of interrogation possible, from the analysis of metaphysical and theological matters to critical understanding of politics and the political, as well as the application of, say, game theory to the understanding of voting patterns. Each research has varying levels of relations to the realities of government and a state. There are some researches that provide theoretical illumination of lived experiences, and others that shed practical light on theoretical application. Administrative research and scholarship straddles both. And this is all the more so for administration scholars…

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When former president of Nigeria, and the Letterman himself, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, mounted the podium to declare open the April 6 Nextier-curated public presentation of my memoir—The Unending Quest for Reform: An Intellectual Memoir—and conversation on the theme “From Election to Performance,” many had to sit up and prepare for another national news. Amongst these were our revered boss, Mr. Stephen Oronsaye, CFR, a highly-regarded elder, Otunba Oyewole Fasawe, the Asiwaju of Owoland, and Dr. Nasir Sani Gwarzo, serving permanent secretary. And Baba did not disappoint. In his opening statement, Chief Obasanjo drew on his military and democratic pedigrees to…

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