The Agony of an Oxford Prof in Lagos

ALL the way from Oxford University where he is a Professor of Economics, Paul Collier, bearded like one of my favourite English writers D.H. Lawrence, had flown down to Lagos to give a lecture on how to develop Lagos into a modern city, as part of the annual birthday lecture series of Prof Pat Utomi’s Centre for Values in Leadership held on February 6, 2017. It was a lecture greeted with a standing ovation at the Muson Centre, Lagos. Governor Ambode of Lagos State was there, furiously taking down notes totaling four pages. Among the guests was the Ooni of Ife who came with his sizeable entourage, dressed in white.

At the end of the lecture, the exhausted Prof Collier carrying a heavy bag was mobbed by autograph-seeking youths who had some questions for him. As the English professor was leaving the hall, a rogue whom he mistook for one of the Ooni’s people asked to assist him with carrying the bag. He handed it to him trustingly and like magic, the thief vanished into the thin air in a twinkle of an eye, with everything gone—money, passport, air ticket and most painful of all, a laptop filled with the professor’s writings. “My soul is missing,” a distraught Prof. Collier told me, a day after. I had gone to interview Prof Utomi for a book I am writing on one of the icons of African business when I stumbled on this piece of shaming story about Nigeria. It is really, really shameful and embarrassing to think of how Nigerians have totally lost their sense of dignity. As he sat there moping and waiting for a miracle to happen, Collier initially didn’t want to talk.

Even if he was going to grant me an interview, “not the silly theft of a bag,” he said. But using the skill of a reporter smelling news, I managed to convince him to give his horse’s mouth account of how he lost his bag, so that the story can be reported and a miracle could happen with his bag and its content recovered. Here is his account: “On that day, I was about leaving the hall. There was an awful lot of people around me. And I was really tired after giving a long lecture. And my bag was rather heavy. So this man said to me: ‘Can I carry your bag?’ “I thought he was part of the entourage of his Royal Highness. I thought this man in white was part of the entourage, but he wasn’t. That was how I lost my bag. “Fortunately, we have a photograph of him. By the time I emerged from the great crowd of young people who wanted to talk to me, it was too late.

Then I realised that this man was gone. “I was very satisfied by the reception of the lecture. The Lagos State governor was there, several deputy governors were there. And they gave me standing ovation. The governor while addressing the audience said he took four pages of notes. “So do I regret coming? Of course not! “The kernel of my message was: To make Lagos a productive and livable city requires a very active public policy decongesting Lagos. There are too many cars on the road. Not enough buses. What I recommend is: taxi cars and subsidised buses. Lagos is not for the rich few. Clear the roads of cars and give way to buses. In Oxford where I live, I never use my car. Like everyone else, I use buses. ‘Return my stolen bag and its content’ “Nightmares like this come and go. It can happen anywhere. Let’s hope the guy gets caught. I need my stuff back. They are of no use to him, but absolutely vital to me. “Did I have money in it? It isn’t about money. I did have a laptop. That laptop has a lot of my work on it. I need that bag.

Money doesn’t matter. Most valuable to me are the writings in there. And they are not useful for anybody else. And I need that. “My soul is missing, because I put myself in my writing. That’s my identity. As I said, there were hundreds of people in that hall that gave me standing ovation. What would they say to this guy? I think they would say: ‘Give it back!’ “I wasn’t paid to come here. Because of the stolen bag I missed my flight last night. I paid a heavy price for that. Stereotyping “Never mind the stereotype about Nigeria or about Lagos being a dangerous place. I have been coming to Lagos for over 30 years. I like Lagos. I like the people of Lagos. I don’t like all the people, but I like the vast majority of the people in that hall and they like what they heard. “This guy should feel ashamed of what he has done. But the most important thing is to make amends: Get me the laptop back. Get me my passport back. My passport is of no use to anybody. Without that I can’t travel. I’ve got a very, very busy travel schedule which would be completely cancelled because I can’t do it without a passport. “So this guy has really messed a lot of people up. So readers of The Sun, here is my appeal to you: We’ve got the photo of the guy who did it. Put the guy’s photo in the Sun. There would be loads of people who would say: ‘I know this guy.’ “I have no interest in punishment and that sort of thing. I just want restitution of the things that to me are vital.

Return my stolen bag and the contents.” *If you know the guy in this photo, please call 08067775533Thief2

NO SWAGGER FOR THE DEBTOR by Pat Utomi

I have a sense that if you truly seek, and get to know some of the sources of your many weaknesses and some of your possible strengths, you may be some way down the path to the solution of your problems. I got a chance recently to see a stacking of what is probably my main strength source when I got a call from the Chief Executive of the Silverbird group, announcing I would be receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award. What was remarkable about the timing of the call and my location was that I was in a car on the Lagos -Ibadan expressway, in the company of a man who has mentored me for 43 years, Otunba Tunji Lawal-Solarin. I did not have to think much to know that people like him have made it easier for me to get many things done. People are top of the list of my blessings.

A few days earlier, Meryl Streep had received such an award for her trade from the Foreign Press Association. Her remarks as she received the award stirred something in President-elect Donald Trump. He fired back with a weapon he loves, Twitter. In describing Streep as overrated, Mr. Trump may have voted with a minor minority. I think she is probably one of the greatest actresses of all time. But Trump’s remarks may have been more appropriate, aimed at me. I have no doubt that I am much overrated. But to be rated at all, over or under, is good fortune, and I wondered how I got the chance. It hit me straight in the face that but for the privilege of much Grace, the luck of men like the one sitting by me and those whose lives influenced mine even though they never met me or even heard of me, my time of being could probably have been one big mess with nothing to be remembered for.

On the trip to Ibadan, we had stopped to visit with an old secondary school mate from there in Ibadan who had just been elected Governor of a state. As I do with friends, I had taken the time to counsel the Governor- Elect that victory is no invitation to triumphalism but an opportunity to seek immortality through the impact of the time of the person’s watch over the lives of the people one is privileged to lead. The reward, I had assured him, was immortality and for which a debt of gratitude should be owed to those who provided the opportunity to serve. That debt is better paid through sacrificial service for the advance of the Common Good.

At that moment, in the car, on that highway, thanks to the long story of the friendship with the man travelling with me, I could begin to imagine a long line of giants who stopped to lend me their shoulders so I could stand and see more clearly. The man in the car with me was a young Economist at a multinational oil company when as a 17 year old undergraduate when I came for vacation job in Lagos. But I knew too that it took quite a few shoulders to get me to that fateful and eventful vacation that did much to help frame how I would see tomorrow. It was clear to me there and then in that car, that the phrase “of my own I can do nothing” is not just an expression of faith from words of scripture but a truism. Who can do much without others, and grace?

Beginning from a work ethic imbibed from parents both of whose disposition to work were exemplars, and American Catholic Priests of the Dominican Order who soaked me in the mystic of then US president John F Kennedy and service as the essence of life, when I was 7, I have accumulated debt I cannot possibly amortize. To be invited to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award is to be reminded that the time for accounting has come.

How do you give an account for the generous gift of love and tolerance from a spouse who fuels you and pretends your inadequacies can be tolerated; children who ignore their right to make a greater demand on you that is their due; and teachers, friends and a society that over rates you and generously responds to the little you give as if it is magic. If the truth is told all that this can do is truly make you feel inadequate.

Appreciation to these many mentors and role models of my life and to those who decided it was worth their time to honour me. Models matter and I have taken to lots of them, just as I have had mentors. There were close mentors like the Dr. Christopher Kolades and Dr. Pius Okigbos, and far away like Daniel Patrick Moynihan, David Stockman, Mahathir Mohammed, Julius Nyerere, Michael Okpara, Obafemi Awolowo and the Madiba. The mentors like Ajie Ukpabi Asika and Pius Okigbo who gave me literally weekly routine, “free post-doctoral lectures” on the science of politics, economics and society and the eagle-eyed who spotted me from far off like Dr. Alex Ekwueme and Alhaji Ahmed Joda, and Odu Arthur Mbanefo, who pointed to the path of wisdom. Mother figures like Mrs. Omobola Onajide and Chinyere Asika proved formidable sources of encouragement and, in fact, cheerleaders.

I must admit, though, that I have an awkward handshake with honour for achievement. On the one hand, I think it is a good way to socialize a generation by pointing young people to “The Right Stuff”. This is why I deploy it as a tool, notably through the “Leader Without Title” (LWT) tribute series of CVL. In a country in which people chase titles and would bribe Civil Servants for one, the CVL was designed to give young people a credible source of role models. Yet I am a little ambivalent about celebrating achievement because I genuinely believe that there are always many more people more deserving of each honour I receive than myself. Beyond false modesty, I truly feel that those like me whose calling provides more of a public voice or a bigger slice of ears, tend to be more fairly acknowledged than those who work more assiduously in the ivory towers or “Aso Rock of their contemplation” in the words of Reuben Abati. The all-over-the-place public intellectual like myself, by contrast, gets to be called L’homme engage – the intellectual as a man of action. I dash from one speaking place to the other and get given two or three plaques a week for contributing to the public good, leaving table tops and suitcases in my study with more than a thousand plaques from nearly 40 years of talking and doing regarding the Nigerian condition. But there are Still …

When years ago the Lagos Chamber of Commerce nominated me atop the list of private sector people for the national honors list I politely told then LCCI DG Sir Remi Omotosho that I did not think I required one, especially as I felt it inappropriate to sign a nomination form. A true award should come the way the call from Guy Murray-Bruce’s came; the honoree being taken completely by surprise. When Omotosho pressured me and I eventually asked my PA to apply my electronic signature an hour to the deadline, my point was proved.

The day before the formal announcement, as one presidential aide told me, the           President struck the name off because he was told Patitos Gang members had referred to his government as Kabiyesi democracy. When the subject came up in a chat with a former minister who also came from academia, he said the same President had done a similar thing when he was nominated. People had to intervene with him to restore his name the following year. I begged that no one do such on my account as I would reject it if they did.

Yet, I cannot but feel good about the call from Guy just as I felt when in 2009 Silverbird Television and Vanguard newspapers nominated me among “Nigeria’s Living Legends” to be voted for by the public. To my shock, I ended up in the top 10 along with the Wole Soyinkas, Chinua Achebes, two former heads of state, and Pastor Adeboye who polled tops.  Nobody even hinted me such a thing was in the offing. It was as satisfying as Prof Sam Aluko in Akure and Prof Wole Soyinka in Lagos calling Press Conferences to announce they were endorsing me for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2007. All I have for generosity so undeserved is gratitude beyond measure.

To get such honours without holding positions of public office Nigerians seem to like to adore says there is much more to the Nigerian spirit than we often acknowledge. Today, as always, I feel so proud to be a Nigerian. It is pride that is nourished by the diversity of my upbringing, having been born in Kaduna, baptized in Jos and raised in Maiduguri, Kano and Gusau before secondary education in Onitsha, Ibadan and University education in Nsukka at the University of Nigeria.

Gratitude in this autumn of my time of being is something that is recurring because I see much clearly with dimming sight the love in the tongue of people who stop you at airports, malls and in places of worship to say a thing of kindness or commendation. Even in the admonition of critics or vetuperation of those who despise one had gained in nice lessons, proof positive that all things work together unto good. I have scooped much more than just a good feeling from some of these kind comments. One such ended my search for an appropriate epitaph, the fitting words on my tombstone. It came from Prof Juan Manuel Elegido, Vice-Chancellor of Pan Atlantic University. He had been in management meetings just about every Monday for the first 15 years of the Lagos Business School.

I was to give the last of the two yearly Goddy Jidenma Foundation lecture series and as has been the tradition, from Ali Mazrui down, a dinner to honour the speaker precedes the lecture. Guests tend to make comments about the speaker there. When Elegido rose to make remarks I was taken up by how much his remarks summed up what I hoped I could be rather than what another had observed. I was not surprised he talked about my work ethic and how being able to manage with few hours of sleep has favoured my output. Then he hit a home run when he said: it should be no surprise that Pat is in high demand for boards and positions of collegial decision making. Having been on a management team with him for many years, I can say that Pat is “completely without ego”. All that matters with him are building consensus to get things done. Would love that on my tombstone.

I guess we all have egos but the benefit of many who have impacted me is that they have helped my struggle to push the ego to decrease and drive purpose to increase. The pursuit of a purpose-driven life has meant little craving for titles. Its no surprise I promote Robin Sharma who wrote the book,  The Leader Who Had No Title.

I have also been fortunate to learn that titles do not translate to legacy. My great teacher was the resistance to Military rule after the annulment of the elections of June 12, 1993. I wrote the article “We must say Never Again” which triggered the founding of the Concerned Professionals. Few realize that the first Chairman of CP was Sam Oni, the second was Tola Mobolurin as the third was Theo Lawson. I was a member of the Steering Committee who was willing to sign documents when others feared the Abacha regime which “took no prisoners” would come hunting for them. In later years, I saw that the books that highlighted the heroes of democracy had recognized my role, even without the title. I have used this often to encourage young people to avoid the Nigerian trap of power replacing purpose. Same for money.

There have been many who have lamented my seeming inability to use my so called connections to cumulate the lifeblood of today’s Nigeria, money.

If I may dare to say, the founder of the organisation offering me the Lifetime Achievers Award, Ben Murray-Bruce, Senator of the Federal Republic, had about a decade ago asked me pointedly, Why do you hate money? I assured him it was difficult for a man that has been called the ultimate for evangelist of free enterprise to hate money. He told me most people could point to a few who were tycoons off my coattails, yet I lived so modestly. I told him about delayed gratification and how if my effort gets much more to create wealth, I and society would be better off than if I just created a bubble of my own comfort. Ubuntu, I told him, ruled. I am because we are. That conversation inspired a book of cases of companies I helped to found and build: Business Angel as a Missionary. In all, there were too many people to whom I was indebted. When you owe so much, swagger is foolishness.

It is clear, therefore, that a person with my level of indebtedness cannot dare to find swagger. I am owned, almost in the manner of medieval serfdom, by those listed above and many more not listed. I can only hope for and pray for a jubilee year so I can say that my liberation is near at hand. I trust that the yoke and burden of this debt are light.

I am thankful for the simple life of a teacher, manager, social entrepreneur, business angel and citizen. If such a person can be so honoured there is hope for all.

Patrick Okedinachi Utomi

POLITICAL ECONOMY OF EDUCATION IN NIGERIA: ISSUES AND CHALLENGES OF OPEN AND DISTANCE LEARNING

The privilege of a convocation lecture is, in many ways, an opportunity for agenda-setting for the academic community. I am honoured, therefore, that I have been afforded this opportunity a number of times because to set agenda for the academe, in this age of the knowledge society, is to provide thought leadership for a society that must educate aright or lose relevance. I want, therefore, to thank the Vice-Chancellor and his team at the National Open University of Nigeria for thinking me worthy of so valuable a role.

To the graduands, my felicitations. A new chapter in your course of being is about to begin. It is therefore not an accident that graduation ceremonies in the United States are known as commencement. Commencing a new phase of life’s journey with the equipment of worthiness in Character and Learning evokes images of John Henry Cardinal Newman. Cardinal Newman, an Oxford educator who went on to found the Catholic University of Ireland, laid the foundation stone for the modern understanding of the idea of a University. His views, which I embrace fully, is that University education, beyond a place of building blocks of knowledge and discovery of new ways that advance the human condition, should be designed to shape and form the full person; moral, social, religious and knowledge for action. It is as such therefore that universities examine students for proof that they have been found worthy in character and in learning.

As you look around you, I am sure you will find much evidence that a failure in character building looms large as one of the reasons our country has failed to claim the promise of Nigeria at independence. Even more painfully, our experience in nation building seems to betray the dream of the founding fathers of Nigeria in an era of nationalist struggle during which the world out there imagined the emergence of new powers that would include Nigeria, India, and Brazil. It is a testament to the loss of character that four decades after, the emerging powers would agglomerate as BRICS, (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Nigeria had fallen out of the reckoning.

The same Nigeria in the time of the founding fathers witnessed a review of the state of higher education under the leadership of Oxford Educator Sir Eric Ashby who reported to Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa that the quality of Higher Education in Nigeria was as good as the best in the world. Yet few think of Nigeria today when they list the top 1000 universities in the world.

As you go into the world from the opportunity of the learning experience you have been through, each of you graduands has a duty to continue to seek to mould character such that learning and character can blend to give you success and fulfilment in the world out there.

To the faculty and staff who have facilitated the shaping of our Graduands of today, be assured that the reward for your effort is not just in heaven, but can be located in the light of the beneficiaries of your hard work spreading across the pathways of the earth as the graduates proceed on the many life pursuits that education empowers them to seek.

Sadly, extant culture in Nigeria somehow does not show enough appreciation for what teachers and academic support staff sacrifice to invest capacity in so many whose know-how and know-why define society’s upbringing modes.

At most graduations, prime place, or pride of place, is often reserved for parents. In Open University situations, the parents may be less in focus because the graduands may be older or have financed their own education. I still recall one commencement when one of my children was graduating in the United States and a former US President, George Bush, the elder, began by acknowledging so many “broke but happy” parents who had spent a fortune investing the ultimate gift in their children: quality education. Often forgotten is that the distance learning graduate has long-suffering spouses and children who endure the burning of the midnight oil by their beloved. I salute all such who supported our graduands. Permit me now to turn to the subject proper of this lecture.

The Political Economy of Education

Education has always been critical for human progress because it is the bakery of ideas which turns the wheel of innovation and grooms leaders who forge the synergy of talent pools and communicate a vision of where society is going, with a resultant solution to problems that invariably makes yesterday’s   impossible, tomorrow’s routine.

As a facilitator of the capacity to communicate culture, and, therefore, a vehicle for the transmission of values that allows one generation to socialize the coming one into how best to adapt to the environment, and better take dominion over it, education has been priced for millennia. But it is how it separates the poor and miserable, and in how it sets apart country competitiveness in this age of the knowledge worker that education defines the age.

Given the prime nature of education, modern development planners have often suggested that the social sectors of education and healthcare define the primary focus of government in being the key anchor of the development process.

The difference that education makes stands in sharp relief when you consider the history of income evolution relative to levels of education. Jonathan Tepperman unveils some of this in his efforts to find good examples in a troubled world in his book The Fix. But he had first to establish some of the troubles of the age before showcasing examples of extraordinary effort at fixing things. One of the examples of things gone awry he pointed to is the state of wages in America. According to Tepperman, “Incredible as it sounds, the average American wage (adjusted for inflation) peaked more than four decades ago, in 1973. It’s been falling ever since”

Just as average wages have been travelling south in the US, the fastest journey on the negative path has been for people with less than high school education. Studies show that at least in nominal terms wages have been going up for all categories of workers except for those with less than High School education.

That development can be traced back to the legacy of how the middle class as we know it today emerged. As Tedhow, the Harvard Professor who authored Giants of Enterprise suggests, the broadening of the middle into a bulge began when Henry Ford went from resisting modest wage increase demands to dramatic increases in wages. As the mass production revolution brought more people into factories in which their brawn to move components around the Assembly process was a key consideration, many of the uneducated came to own their houses in suburbia with cars in their garages.

But robotics and the ICT revolution reduced or eliminated the need for brawn in most assembly lines. As restructuring took people off the Assembly floor, those required there needed to have the education to programme or manage electronic processes controlling robots. The education requirement for Assembly work in this age of the knowledge worker had shot up beyond the range of people with less than High school education.

How well has Nigeria’s educational system responded to this evolving reality? University of Ibadan’s much acclaimed Professor of Education, Pai Obanya, has had many excursions of explanation and direction setting the agenda for education that is responsive to the environment and change taking place both in the local environment and global arena in which all are interlinked in this age of globalisation. Obanya does indeed allude to the constancy of education in how mankind makes progress and how “its goals have always responded to the demands of changing times and have sought to meet the developmental needs of specific human environments. (pi. African Education in the EFA decade). However, Nigeria has not given its deserved place in the planning process and policy implementation for some years to this ‘main tool that a society deploys for its survival” (p3). The result has been a retreat from where Nigeria stood in 1962 when the Ashby Commission on Higher Education in Nigeria said it was good as the very best in the world.

Where did things go wrong? What can we learn from how Finland and less well-endowed countries leveraged education to become globally competitive? Even, more importantly, how can digital technology, teaching from a remote location enable a broadening of access to the most beneficial anchor of effective education, teacher quality?

Before we come to focus on the Nigerian context of the political economy of education and what this means for the need and mode of distance learning, it should be useful to swing through the phases of technological innovation and human progress and view about how some phenomena have affected the application of knowledge to cause “The Great Escape” as Angus Deaton labels the phenomenon of Man overcoming Misery.

Education, Power Relations in the Marketplace and the New Self Worth.

The changing world in which we live has been changing so much faster since the 18th century. That change has been largely multiple times faster since then than in the millennia before then because education resulted in the redesign of the steam engine by James Watt, making power-based productions possible. That ushered in the Industrial Revolution which saw the beginnings of a shift of power from the landed gentry to the capitalists of industry. They, the new controllers of the major factor of production, in turn had much more power over their customers, as captured by Henry Ford’s famously arrogant response to the question about variety in colour availability of Model T Fords when he said, “You can have whatever colour you want as long as it is black”. The Moving Assembly line he made famous which resulted in mass production triggered the shift of power from producers shifting to consumers, reshaped matters. Competition led to market segmentation and the race for market share. The structure-conduct performance paradigm in Structural Economics provided strategic templates for engaging the competitive terrain. Those templates came to be challenged by the degree of customization that the Information and Communication Technology revolution brought with it. The customer had truly become king. This has had profound consequences not only for the kind of knowledge required to function in today’s world but also in the power balance between the Teacher or provider of education content and the Student or user of education content. The learner as the king has the right to demand education of a certain quality at a certain price. This has consequences for distance learning to which we will do well to be sensitive.

Higher Education and the Social Order

Before we turn to Distance Learning, it is important to note that the shifting balance of power relations in the forces of production affects education and the politics of funding education. The more power to purchase with choice has moved to the consumer, the more education has been available to those typically left behind. In this regard, social mobility has been greatly driven by educational attainment. This has caused both forces of feudalism to resist education and those desiring to escape the trap off misery to lust after it.

An example is given by a friend of mine whose father was Commissioner for Education in Kano State when Audu Bako was the Governor in the early 1970s. On a tour of one of the outlying local governments, he got an unkind welcome from a traditional ruler who was upset that aggressive expansion of access to schooling was practically undermining the influence of the traditional elite.

In recent times, however, we have run into the paradox of access. The first Obasanjo government in the middle 1970s declared universities tuition-free and pressured the universities to admit more students than their facilities could carry at the output quality level of those times. It resulted in deterioration of the quality of teaching and the environment for shaping characters to the point that quite a few, including Chukwuma Soludo as Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, proclaimed that the graduates were unemployable. Access had, in a great irony, taken away what university education gave the most: upward social mobility. The unemployable are not likely to climb that social ladder. The need for access and quality together remains the imperative of now.

This situation created the need to deal with access with quality at a time of declining resources. The reality of the times makes for the advantage of costs that come with a traditional university. So the question to ask is: can the alternatives provide what is traditionally on offer with Universities-the forming of people in character and learning to help society adapt better to its environment, advance the human condition and find fulfilment in life in both a material and spiritual manner while coexisting with others in society. In other words, what is the idea of a university and how well will distance learning be structured to fit the idea of a university?

This is a conversation into which we have to draw the National Universities Commission. As guardians of the idea of a university in Nigeria, the NUC has been traditionally slow to change. For the NUC, a university was 100 Hectares of condominium with many faculties and traditional teaching methods. To be sure, it is changing but the pace has been slow. It took it long to accept the idea of Private Universities and even such methods of Pedagogy as the Case Study method. But we must not blame the leadership of the NUC alone.

One of the most enduring discussions of Institutional change was offered in a 1990 book by Douglass North who recently passed away. The winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics had canvassed in the book, Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance, that institutions evolve and do so largely from the activism of interested parties who end up finding that a level playing field better serves the interest of all.

I have, myself been engaged in a few battles with the NUC but also much gratified by the NUC inviting me to teach its leadership team the use of the case study method and in Entrepreneurship Development strategies, under different regimes. So what is the idea of a university we are hoping distance learning can continue to uphold even as the institutions change and adapt?

The Idea of a University

To mention the idea of a university is always to move the mind to that prince of the Catholic Church the Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, the Oxford educator who would found the Catholic University of Ireland. When universities announce that graduands have been found worthy in character and in learning to be awarded a degree they are following a tradition defined through the years by the most resilient of institutions ever created by modern man, the university.  Whether it be from the great African University tradition of the university at Timbuktu, which Ali Mazrui celebrates, or the university of Ireland as founded by Cardinal Newman, the university was about character, know-how and know-why and social impact.

We have sadly seen the failure of the Nigerian Universities to live the idea of a university even as there has been an explosion in the establishment of universities. The need to find exemplars is a desperate one. Clearly, we can look to the heroic effort in changing the world through education as robustly captured by Chris Lowney in Heroic Leadership, where he explores lessons from 450 years of Jesuit Education.

We can see a bit of this in action with the Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja. As a 14-year veteran LJC parent, I am a witness to the transformative possibilities of Jesuit education at a time the public policy is mouthing platitudes about a transformation agenda. Even though LJC students, like two of mine who spent 6 years there each call it Little Jail for children (LJC) in fond jest, do we need little jails for education to transform? So what are universities if they are not jails?

“Universities are organizations engaged in the advancement of knowledge; they teach, train and examine students in a variety of scholarly, scientific, and professional fields. Intellectual pursuits define the highest prevailing levels of competence in these fields. The universities confer degrees and provide opportunities both for members of their teaching staff and for some of their students to do original research.” (Ben-David, 1968)

Yet another definition tells us that universities are:

“Institutions of higher education, usually comprising a liberal arts and sciences college and graduate and professional schools and having the authority to confer degrees in various fields of study. The modern university evolved from the medieval schools known as studia generalis… The earliest studia arose out of efforts to educate Clerks and Monks beyond the level of Cathedral and Monastic Schools … were institutions in which the essences or universals were studied.” (Encyclopaedia Britannia, 1968)

These essences or universals set the course of higher education at this ultimate level along a path that was deliberately comprehensive in scope. This point is, in fact, more richly summarized in the 1952 preface to John Henry Cardinal Newman’s The Idea Of A University.  He takes the view here that a university is a place of teaching universal knowledge. This implies that its objective is, on the one hand, intellectual, not moral; and on the other, the diffusion of knowledge rather than the advancement of it. The diffusion need brings the students but they will lack the osmotic capability of absorbing fully the existing base of knowledge unless the universal knowledge includes values that give context, meaning and relevance to the knowledge gained in the university. This is why this university confers its degrees on people who have been found worthy in ‘character and in learning.’

We owe that and much more to Blessed Cardinal Newman. I have interrogated his ideas on this subject in some of my writings including in the books Why Nations Are Poor and Critical Perspectives in Political Economy and Management.

There are many who wonder if the character part of this qualification is still a serious consideration given the values of graduates in the workplace, the incidents of cult violence, examination malpractices etc., that have become pronounced aspects of the public view of the contemporary Nigerian university.

The idea of a university from the foregoing is a place that diffuses ideas to people of character so the ideas can be properly utilized. But utilized for whose benefit? Since man is a gregarious animal and has always lived in communities which provide the non- appropriability goods he requires, it should seem reasonable that knowledge should be utilized both for his individual benefit and the benefit of the university community, and the progress of the society in which the university is located. A one-time chancellor of the University of Navarra in Spain, the Spanish priest Josemaria Escriva, states this most richly when he points out that:

“A university must play a primary role in contribution to human progress. Since the problems facing mankind are multiple and complex (spiritual, cultural, social, financial etc.), university education must cover all these aspects.” (Escriva, 1974)

To contribute to human progress, the university has necessarily to advance knowledge to new frontiers that make living more comfortable than has hitherto been the case.

Bearing all these in mind, we can say of the university that it is a place of enlightenment for exploring the frontiers of knowledge and socializing people into the application of discovered things, ideas, and values; the knowledge of the natural order; for the pursuit of the common good and individual well-being. The university is an enterprise in which freedom is a critical variable if the frontiers of knowledge are to be challenged because the status quo often resists new ideas for, as Machiavelli reminds us, those who benefit from extant order usually try to frustrate a new way of thinking.

The university which we have just defined does not differ in Africa from the traditions of Europe even though the academy of learning was a feature of medieval African civilizations such as Timbuktu. Those early civilizations became fully extinct so that when colonial experience led colonials anxious to staff the bureaucracy with locals decided on universities for the colonies, they were recreating the western university with hardly any influence from the traditions of the academies of earlier African civilizations. The challenge of the modern academy drawing from ancient African traditions is part of the considerations for today’s universities. But few even have a sense for the early African academies. Ali Mazrui richly articulates the progeny of the African university:

“The African university was born as a subsidiary therefore of precisely that Westernizing transnational corporation to which I referred- Western Academic establishment (Ashby, 1964, pp, 1-2). Colleges like Makerere, Ibadan and Legon in Ghana, and colleges in the Francophone African part of our continent, were literally cultural subsidiaries of British and French academic traditions.

“The African university was conceived primarily as a transmission belt of high Western culture, rather than as a workshop for the transfer of high Western skills (Ibid. 96). African universities became nurseries for nurturing a westernized black intellectual aristocracy. Graduates of Ibadan, Dakar, and Makerere acquired Western social tastes more readily than Western organizational skills.

“They joined my generation of Africans- the lost generation of the colonial period. They embraced the new gospel of respecting Westernism, and the new gospel was not only born but expanded. The one change which did not take place was a transformation in the role of the university. The university became a place for perpetuating and expanding the Westernized elite, creating new members for it. The ghost of intellectual dependency continued to haunt the whole gamut of African academia. The semi-secular gospel of Westernism continues to hold African mental freedom hostage.”

In our experience, Nigeria has gone from six thousand students in the Higher institutions in 1960 when there were the Universities in Ibadan, Nsukka (UNN), Ife, Lagos, Zaria (ABU) and the Institute of Technology Benin. This number grew rapidly from an enrolment of 15, 000 in 1970 to about 1.2 million by 2012. (Clark et al 2013).

In 2013, 1.7million registered for the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) examinations into universities. They were competing for 500,000 available places in Nigerian Universities.

To bridge this yawning chasm the idea of distance learning has become the way to make the idea of a university come alive.

Distance Learning and prospects of University education

Given the number that need to be educated, and the dire statistics of our population of nearly 200 million, vast needs for leaders in many areas of our lives and the ratio of applicants to places in universities, Distance Learning has become an imperative of now and the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) example provides us an opportunity to interrogate the challenge.

If people who have the university environment to pass through, and the university to pass through them, can be thought to be unemployable, can we trust products of distance learning to have the character and learning that would make them employable in a world in which, as we know, values shape human progress?

We will find that in some models of Mass Open Online Courses (MOOCS) there is enough interactiveness across cultures that can indeed provide more opportunities to build character and provide the sharing of experience that can amount to much more than you can actually find in a university classroom. It is such knowledge that provides hope for distance learning. The great benefit of student life, the personal growth of living on campus, can today be significantly provided for in online interaction.

So as we look at our universities with poor and decaying infrastructure, (I was recently moved to tears when I saw photos of Zik’s Flats in Nsukka where I lived in 1974); dearth of competent teachers (The best used to   stay back as Junior fellows now they go off to the banks and oil companies) high cost of good quality on-campus university education; and the practical relevance of what is taught there on-campus; we cannot but think alternatives from tradition.

Imagine that the option provides access to some of the best educational content from all over the world, with access to local industry and their extent challenges and approaches to solving problems, from the comfort of your home. Welcome to distance learning done well. These are the possibilities that the National Open University of Nigeria can offer if properly led.

About two years ago, I gave a lecture at Covenant University on this subject at a conference organized by ICT groups. There I tried to navigate the terrain from MOOCS to the pedagogy of edx. I will limit myself today to a narrow scope of introducing models of distance learning.

There is, of course, MOOCs which are open to anyone, with no mandatory entry qualifications and pay no fees. They are fully online but are lightly tutored and supported. There can be modest assessments and may be offered certificates of completion.

The goal of MOOCs is to reach the remotest parts of the world and help people move forward in their careers because of enhanced capacity. They also help people expand their networks and build networking skills.

In December 2011, MIT announced edx, an online distance learning platform aimed at letting thousands of online learners take laboratory- intensive courses while assessing their ability to work through complex problems.

The pedagogy of some of the distance learning involves the use of video lectures, mastery learning, and peer assessment and separates the richer interactive sessions for paying students versus what is offered to the non-paying students.

Whether it be distance learning or the traditional campus, for learning objectives to be met we need a philosophy of knowledge and a supporting pedagogy. I have offered and continue to experiment with one that I call the pedagogy of the determined. It derives its mainframe from the work of the Brazilian educator from the 1960s Paulo Freire who wrote The Pedagogy of The Oppressed. It speaks of education as a state of mind capture deployed through the pedagogy in post-colonial societies. Freire sought to create a pedagogy where the student is a co-creator of knowledge with his teacher. The one I offer uses similar thinking to create an entrepreneurial, independently thoughtful but interdependent community of problem solvers.

Conclusion

The goal of university education so central to modernity can be achieved today not only in the traditional university. Distance learning is critical to broadening access and growing the very important human capital factor in how man makes progress in today’s world. To get optimum value from the possibilities for distance learning requires that the NUC become more responsive to a rapidly changing environment; our infrastructure stock improves dramatically to accommodate higher bandwidth for internet access that is universal.

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I could go on but I do not want to test your patience. Education matters and all hands must get on deck for it to work to the desired outcome.

Patrick Okedinachi Utomi (Prof)

20/1/17

REFERENCIES

  1. Deaton Angus (2013). The Great Escape. Health, Wealth and the Origins of Inequality. Princeton, NJ. Princeton University Press
  2. Easterly, Willean (2002). The Elusive Quest for Growth Cambridge, Mass. MIT Press.
  3. North, Douglass (1990), Institutions,  Institutional Change, and Economic Performance. New York. Cambridge University Press
  4. Obanya P. (2007), African Education in the EFA Decade. Ibadan Mauro Press.
  5. Tedlow, Richard (2001), Giants of Enterprise: Seven Business Innovators and the Empires they built. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press.
  6. Tepperman, Jonathan (2016) The Fix: How Nations Survive and Thrive in a World in Decline.   New York: Tim Duggan Books 2016
  7. Utomi, P. (2006) Why Nations Are Poor. Lagos: CVL Leadership Series
  8. Utomi P (1998), Managing Uncertainty: Competition and Strategy in Emerging Economies. Ibadan: Spectrum Books.

9.     Utomi P (2016), The Art of Leading. Lagos. Makeway/CVL. 2016

CAIN IN A TROUBLED LAND – Pat Utomi

Every life counts. Surely black lives matter in the US and in Europe. The Campaigners against police use of force say so. Here they should matter even more but for some reason, Cain is on the prowl and the Leviathan seems to have swallowed sleeping pills. The cry of the blood of Abel seems to be rising to deafening levels in social media and street talk. I was even accosted by a group of Reverend Gentlemen at a wedding event in the East. What are you doing about the Massacre in Southern Kaduna, they asked. My response was; I am diminished doubly by each of those deaths. Anyone who does not feel diminished does not understand human dignity and the consequence of insecurity for every social essential. Yet it is such disregard for the lives of others that defines us today in Nigeria.

It is not by accident that philosophers of the state and government say that the purpose of man’s surrender of some of his natural freedom to an Authority, The Leviathan, is for the provision of security for his life and property. The Leviathan quickly loses legitimacy and triggers the politics of power erosion when it is not seen as compassionate on matters regarding lives of citizens. This is why approval ratings of US Presidents can crash on account of not responding quickly to humanitarian crisis in which lives are lost.

George W. Bush took an unbelievable beating for just flying over to view the Katrina disaster in New Orleans instead of landing to feel it. But ‘leadership’ in Nigeria has often suffered from not realizing how much Nigerian lives matter. Among my favourite examples is a season, years ago when in the same week a police checkpoint accident in Ibadan resulted in the roasting of nearly two hundred people from a Tanker/Trailer spraying its lethal combustible content on traffic backed up at the Police Check point as it crashed into the pile up. In Austria a Cable Car failed that week and three people, I believe it, was lost their lives. National mourning was declared there while here not even an acknowledgement of the massive loss of precious human lives from the Villa. Aides probably did not even think it important enough to bring to the notice of the incumbent, General Olusegun Obasanjo. Then as now, when the issue was raised Presidential aides queried demand of the President’s response. They miss the point today, as yesterday, that compassion is one of the most important attributes of leadership and that the disconnected state quickly descends into a crisis of legitimacy. How often President Obama has disrupted vacations to respond to a local shooting in which one or two American lives were lost. But there is more.

First, concern for human life, defines the natural dignity we feel. The less concern for another life, the less cultured we tend to be. It is not surprising therefore that you can measure the progress of a society by the quality of their commitment to human dignity. The motto of my alma matta, The University of Nigeria, is appropriately; To Restore the Dignity of man. But look at Nigeria. It’s as if the official position is that Nigerian lives don’t matter, unless the lives belong to the elite in power, their friends and family.

Then there is the pervasive nature of the impact of such respect for human life, for economic enterprise. When there is insecurity, investments tend to flow away, human capital quickly deteriorates to statistics of the dying and the dead. We do not have to look far to see why the wise Leviathan does all that is possible to keep insecurity to the barest minimum. The state of the economies of the North East is good example, just as comparing Foreign Exchange inflow into Nigeria before and after The Yar’adua’s Amnesty program and since the current dispensation. Not doing everything for stamp  out violent troubles only gives room for economic paralysis. We are penny-wise and pound foolish when we do not act right, no matter our political or power interests. Besides, localized violence has a way of becoming a festering sore that can spread like cancer.

For many years I have seen the kind of violence in the North Central through the prism of Robert Kaplan’s The Coming Anarchy. I fear the day when citizens who have lost confidence in the capacity of the state to protect them submit to a local War Lord. God forbid that we should fall to the point predicted by Robert Kaplan in The Coming Anarchy as he reviewed the cleavages that define West African countries, pointing to North Central Nigeria, with Jos as focal point, from which the West Africa region could descend into anarchy. Surely ‘thinking’ leaders who saw his extrapolation strengths in Balkan Ghosts play out in the disintegration of the Balkans after Tito should not ignore his projections from three years before the first Jos riots of our current troubles. The ethnic, religious and class cleavages accentuated by weak institutions, poor infrastructure that make the cover of darkness ever present aide, and poor policing, he suggested would make for such perilous times continue. The urgency for action should not be taken lightly.

But we have watched Indonesia even from times of apparently weak leaders like Megawati and the Bali bombing by religious terrorists manage to contain terrorism enough to make it into Jonathan Tepperman The Fix, as one of the the examples of “how nations survive and thrive in a world in decline”. Is it too much for Nigeria to learn. Nigeria is a legacy given to all. Accountability should be part of what leaders see as their responsibility. It includes that they not stand aloof from the serious troubles of individuals. Their accounting to now and to history is not at their pleasure, it is the duty of that office. Questions about the silence of leaders in such times by journalists is part of Democratic ethos and not meddlesomeness.

In starting I said I told the Pastor in Nnewi that I was doubly diminished by the North Central Killings.

Certainly as a human being the natural instinct of human solidarity makes me die a little with every death. As a citizen the gruesome nature of the unprovoked murders raise up a terrible sense of shame in me and kills me further. Then as one driven always by a duty to tomorrow I look at how these medieval ways eat away at tomorrow’s prospects and I know that I am doubly diminished.  

Pat Utomi. Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.

WHEN A SENSE OF SHAME IS LOST – Pat Utomi

 

 

I am not sure what to say about us, Nigerians. Should I praise the Nigerian spirit for resilience in the face of a misery index those from countries seen as the pits of hell want to get away from. Or should one castigate the people of the country for acting like zombies as their inchoate economy retrenches further, facilities collapse in such a manner that a Nigeria regional manager for south African Airways uses words that suggest our major airports are epidemics waiting to breakout. But if truth be told, what puzzles me the most about the Nigerian condition is the total loss of a sense of shame in people who hold positions of public authority in Nigeria. Their swagger in the face of south bound reality beggar’s belief.

A few years ago, I encountered the motto of a secondary school, I fell totally in love with. But now I am wondering if the last line should not be doctored a bit. The motto urges students to work hard and play hard for

“when wealth is lost, nothing is lost

When health is lost, something is lost

When character is lost, all is lost.”

But I feel that extant experience suggests that when a sense of shame is lost, all is lost. May be a fourth line should be when shame is lost nothing can be salvaged.

There is hunger and anger in the land. In some desperation and despair stands up in sharp relief. But you would not guess that when the excellencies cruise past in long motorcades that drain the public treasury. How did we get this way?

I have struggled to understand how societies fail, in human history.  This is why I have found efforts of people like Jared Diamond to offer explanation, in Collapse, for example, quite intriguing. Given, the place of my birth, it should not be a surprise that my biggest challenge has been Nigerian’s failure to make progress and the bigger tragedy of the phenomenon I have come to identify as progressive degeneration where, safe a few examples, governments have been progressively worse, suggesting that learning is a problematic idea. That grabs my attention as a teacher, especially one who has done some work on organizational learning and know that unless the rate of learning in an organization is equal to, or greater than the pace of change in the environment, Rewan’s axiom, the organization is dinosaur-status bound.

The logic suggests that with climbing the learning curve and getting a return on Experience, those that follow should do better than the ones who bore the costs of errors not foreseen. But not so in the Nigerian experience. Compare governance and governing in Nigeria before 1975, with today.

Imagine current reality. The economy is inchoate and reeling from largely self-inflicted error; the power sector is in disarray and manages to aggravate the misery index in ways difficult to describe to anyone who has never lived in Nigeria. The aviation sector is a pain merchant causing people hardships that make the fear of travel the beginning of wisdom. The roads as alternative means are not much to look to. After a recent road journey from Benin to Abuja my body was clearly calling for medical help but I was afraid that to reach a doctor may result in iatrogenic intervention where the medicine could do more damage than the disease, evidently the case with policy and problems in the country. Elections have become wars and public office holders consume resources for infrastructure and growth, in the enjoyment of the perquisites of power.

All these may bring the normal to the brink of tears but they do not trouble me as much as the fact that those on whose watch a country is crumbling walk with such swagger you feel you have just left the requiem for a sense of shame. If shame has not been buried in Nigeria, all of us should be acutely worried that the state of things is the moral equivalence of war. Nations at war mobilize all available resources, define clear strategies. Few know which direction we are travelling and even many inside privately plead they are outsiders in government.

What is holding Nigeria back from doing what is right for the next generation to know progress? After much ponder, I am convinced the problem is culture; In particular, the culture of the dominant political actors in Nigerian history. Nigeria has suffered state capture since 1966 and the group of soldiers who ceased the Nigerian state that year, retain a firm grip 50 years after, even if crisis of legitimacy forced them from time to time to install fillers like the Shagari, Yaradua, Jonathan stop-gaps.

Culture matters. Long before the Harvard Colloquium on How Values Shape Human Progress I was certain that culture had great consequence for progress. While people like the Peruvian Economist Hernando De Soto down play culture in arguing that institutions are central to how man makes progress, my own Growth Drivers Framework, draws both, and a few other variables, into explaining why some countries are poor while their peers thrive.

So the question remains why did Nigeria stall when less favored Asian counterparts surged forward in the 1980s. The so called Resource Curse study at the World Bank in the mid-90s domiciled the problem with Oil, to an extent, if you extrapolate. Then Oil boomed again in the first decade of the twenty first century and Oil producing Arabs like Quater, UAE, and others developed dramatically. Again, Nigeria stalled. In my view the class of 1966 cannot help itself. It was socialized into a view of triumph as the Hunt. The hunter mindset is kill and share, divide and rule. Nation builders on the other hand, as Farmers sow and water. They gather together those around so the pool of Labor will make harvest easy. The class of 1966 is a class of hunters so that even though part of their entitlement mindset is that they fought a Civil War to unite Nigeria, the reality is that the nature of their hunter orientation manifests in conduct that has done more to disunite Nigeria than enemies of Nigeria could do if they desired its break up. Because of their booty, war treasure, view of how they see government the class of 66 sees all who suggest a different way to make the country move forward as scavengers looking for a piece of this bush meat they have hunted down. They lack the worldview that there are people whose only motivation is to be proud of the Green passport they carry. So they seek to incorporate those who are disposed to bowing before them and despise the independent minded. They found clones who were Governors between 1999 and recently. Those proved to be accelerators of the Nigeria collapse. Nothing better shows that than my fight with them around the need for savings. They squandered oil receipts with nothing to show. But they still swager today, many still in government.

The culture of the class of 66 drove us, first hesitantly, then with deliberate speed into the cusp of a failing state. But it will be unfair to lay our downfall at the feet of the class of 66 alone. Our failure to speak truth to power, produced a generation that looked away rather than call a spade a spade. We were reduced to a generation that Bob Garratt would describe as “maliciously obedient to patently stupid instructions” from power.

The class of 1966 itself fractures roughly into 3 groups I label the Modernizer Wannabes, the Narcissistic Influencers and The Entitlement Minded Praetorian Guard. In their intragroup competition they sometimes pour out voluble, vengeful and vain glorious, vituperative vilifications they unleash a vile, venomous, vexatious volume of vicious vendetta that numbs polity and poisons the investment climate. The effect on our political culture has been the gift of a cadre of political actors who care more for protocols, charter flights, presidential fleets, and motorcades than the fact those they govern people living in conditions of great misery. They betray a failure to understand that leadership is other-centered conduc as self love defines public choice.

I have never understood how people could sleep, chartering planes with taxpayers money, when many of the taxpayers cannot afford more primitive commutes to their place of subsistence eking out of a living. But if you understand the culture of the class of 1966 you will appreciate why it is a time of insensitivity to the plight of the rest of society.  An army of occupation can rationalize things in amazing logic.

I reflected on these ideas for years but as the engaged citizen, I looked for and worked at ways we could mitigate these tendencies. In 2015 the evidence came in fully. The class of 1966 is problematic beyond the “share the Gala, share the booze” mentality. The class of 1966 has crippled the dreams of two generations because entrenched in their culture is the absence of a sense of shame. I doubt that Nigeria will make progress until the eclipse of the class of 1966 is total.

Pat Utomi Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.

THE NATION OVER A GALLON ; A CITIZENS ODYSSEY

The price of Petrol goes up and gloves go off. When gloves go off name calling and the mudslinging on motives become fair game. But in Nigeria we do not have truth-o-meters or a media with the resources to reconstruct a history of characte r, so the narrative for the common good is often at the mercy of those who can shout the most or are the most angry. What history tells me is the most profitable outcome is not the most likely sum of such public conversation. I have the tragedy of Venezuela to point to as example. How do we then encourage Thought leadership that may help provide fruitful direction to engaging on matter of strategic significance for our children. But as I am in the US watching efforts to measure who lies more, uses near truths, between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump I think it fit to begin an investigation of motives with an excursion of an autobiographical nature.
I have on occasions spoken about a visit to Nigeria from my Graduate School days in the US 36 years ago. The Iranian revolution which toppled Shah Mohammed Rheza Pahlavi had pushed up Oil prices to then fantastically high rates of 40 dollars a barrel. At JFK Airport in New York I went into a Newsstand and saw something most unusual. Both Newsweek and Time magazine had the same words on their cover. It was so rare it attracted commentary. The words were: The world over a Barrel. Today in Nigeria it is over a gallon or liter of Petrol for an apparent beneficiary of a world over a barrel. But as Fareed Zakari in his GPS commentary on Venezuela pointed out, and a World Bank study of nearly 25 years ago show, that blessing can become a curse that leaves Venezuela on Essenco queues to buy basic essentials like milk, as we did in the early 80s in Nigeria,. Then there is their power supply, a curse of darkness even though they are atop one of the biggest Oil reserves in the world. Venezuela has been there several times even with their great crude endowments.
In 1980 I took a position when I arrived Nigeria and saw the foolish behavior encouraged by high Oil p rices.
It would be many years before a World bank study, dubbed the Resource Curse study made popular the position I formed in 1980 about natural resources and how to live with them. That study which showed that Resource Poor developing countries were doing much better than the ones with the resources to run away with progress left me with a deep sense of shame about elites that cannot do the needful and make sacrifice to build a nation their children can live in and celebrate the memory of their forbears. In three decades of active citizenship there has been hardly a shift in the essence, substance or even style in how the Nigerian experience has affected me.
Every time I have faced the fantastic poverty of the land, the fantastic corruption, and even more fantastic mocking of Nigeria by those who sowed the seeds of Nigeria’s failings and continue to profit from it as receivers of stolen goods, I simply see my 1980 views, expressed repeatedly and acted out in the opportunities of my life’s journey. Those views which drove me to the streets in 2012 still define how I see the troubles of now, all of which I genuinely believe are self inflicted. We cannot forever blame the British who fantastically sowed discord in the world and hypocritically blame the victim. How did others get away from that state. They tried to dress Mahathir Mohammed in robes of corruption but he brought all into the house so they can be pissing out, rather than stay out and piss in. Today its hard to mock Malaysia.
My disposition to holding self accountable, instead of blaming others, and preference for facing the future rather than looking back have not endeared my views to die in the wool partisans who fail to see the big picture. As we once again fail to see the promise of Nigeria being eaten away by bringing yesterdays quarrels as prisms through which we view existential issues of the moment I remind myself that the truth must be spoken as a citizen and not retreat from the public space as many do to avoid mud, and imputation of motives from being hauled at them by people who have not given deep enough thought to the issues.
So, to return to the crisis of the boom of 1979/80 when foolish choice became the norm in Nigeria’s policy arena, it led me to a passionate desire to come home and be a citizen. This was
why I left to come home the very day i submitted my PhD thesis in 1982. But the roots of karthasis moment in 1980 was from the year before.
In 1979 I was enrolled in an International Business Class in Bloomington . The Professor, Richard Farmer had a scenario on the Oil crisis. One of the scenarios saw US Marine cease Nigeria’s Oilfields, pump the stuff and deposit the money in the country’s account, if the Arabs were to cut off supplies and threaten America’s strategic needs. I was determined from that day to get Nigeria to diversify away from Oil. Critical to that was Good Governance producing what is now known as a developmental state. Transparency and low level corruption, entrepreneurship and active citizenship were in my view, as a 23 year old idealist back then, the way to the goal.
It was typical, in those days that if you were young, idealistic, and educated, especially in the social sciences, you had to be a socialist. I was outside the norm. Thanks to peculiar influence of American Catholic priests in Gusau, in the Northwest of Nigeria as young as I was, the social Doctrine of the Catholic Church was more an influence on me than Karl Marx.
It is no surprise that the first set of antagonists I faced on return in 1982 were Marxist academics who used to refer to me as a Bourgeoise Apologist. Their tactics would strengthen me and prepare me for shouting matches called public conversation.
The first challenge to my idea of citizenship was the typical ’what is he looking for’. That was how I found out that what I believed and still believe about the duty of all citizens to engage in the village square is not shared by all. A few months after I returned I was casually informed that President Shagari had approved for me to replace Prof . Odenigwe. I was quite stunned and asked Why. Two of the primary actors who also conveyed the message, then VP Dr Alex Ekwueme, and Mrs Omobola Olajide are around to corroborate.
I knew two people who were actively seeking the position. But after the coup I was determined that certain conditions would mark any involvement in public life again. But I would never give up on citizenship duty. Nigeria needed to have low corruption, if any; entrepreneurship had to be encouraged and diversification needed to be pursued. Any review of my life will show that the benefit of grace for contentment has enabled faithfulness to the pursuit of those ideals of what society should be.
This citizenship path was tested many times in the 1980s but it was on return to civil rule that commitment to citizenship reminded me of why progress has been slow in Nigeria and why Nigeria remains worth fighting for, and, if necessary, dying for.
I had been invited by Candidate Olusegun Obasanjo to lead a policy advisory team that met with him over many weeks. before the 1999 elections. Just after the elections the Government was perceived as sub optimizing. As citizen I did my bit to add my view on the direction we should travel. I was approached by at least three people who said the President was being brought gossip that I was a member of AD and unfriendly to the policy thrust of the President. One friend, the late Waziri Mohammed urged that I let the president who had been told my friendship with the Lagos state Governor was compelled to explain a few things to Waiziri. I assured him I was not a member of AD and that as a citizen I respond to an invitation by the Governor -elect in Lagos to be part of working groups for the transition and was honored to contribute to development effort in Lagos. I then told him I had no interest in explaining myself to General Obasanjo as I owed him nothing. I told him of how I used my private resources to travel to world capitals, at the urging of Alhaji Ahmed Joda to reach contacts to make a case for the release of General Obasanjo from Abacha prison.. I had done that as a citizen and in weeks of meeting with General Obasanjo to work on policy positions for the elections I did not even mention the efforts on his behalf. I had done that and spent much much valuable time and resources going up to Ota to provide briefing and work on policy as duty so I owed the President nothing. My debt and loyalty were to history.
The same Citizenship obligation put me on collisiocoursen with my Lagos and other client state national government with my calling for savings at a time of income boom. Evidently those gossiping to Obasanjo did not tell him that. But the spectacular decline of economic performance because we failed to save as Dr Okonjo Iweala acknowledges today vindicate that view offered as citizen whether it pleased the incumbent or not. To be fair when criticism of economic management rose in 1999 President Obansajo invited me to Dinner with his core team including the VP, Finance Minister SGF, and others to raise the issues. Improvements that followed shielded us from the 2008 global financial crisis. So it is never late to pull back and only speaking truth to power can make that happen. Interestingly the same principle guided the friendship that the gossips tried to warm into the then President with.
As citizen leading cabinet retreats I never
sent an invoice to the Lagos state government. I would lead a retreat for the cabinet this weekend and the following week earn 12 Million Naira for similar service from a corporate client. My liaison i Lagos state, Yemi Cardoso, who was commissioner for Budget and Planning had been Executive Director at a Bank that was one such client..
As General Obasajo was never asked a four by me I also never asked one of the Lagos State Governor.
Then come the big challenge of making our democracy work along the lines of the issues that captured me in 1980. Clear goals were to help build an opposition that could defeat an incumbent, diversify the base of the economy,, build elite consensus on the way forward across partisan orientation so we could erect a developmental state and develop values that are share which define the Nigerian and drive progress.. In actual work as a business Angel and in Thought leadership I strove, with passion to give sacrificially of myself to walk down that path. Chief Olu Falae, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and the incumbent President are witnesses to the effort.
I moved away from images of General Buhari from 1984 to embrace him as a partner on that journey of building a formidable opposition from stimuli rooted in far away Indonesia. Former Indonesia Oil Minister, Professor Mohammed Sadli, who had been my host on a research visit to Jarkata in 1997 impressed me with his modest ways. This man who was part of the so called Berkeley Mafia that Suharto used to rescue Indonesia lives on a Hilltop bungalow. He talked ethics with sincerity. Then he also talked about the Young Colonel from Nigeria who was his counterpart. That was when I formed the view that General Buhari would be a good rallying point to deal corruption a sucker punch in Nigeria.. On one of my visits to his Kaduna home to advance opposition development strategy we were chatting that night when a call came through informing him of the death of President Yaradua.
Whenever I raised the Bahai possibility and got pushback on some dimensions, I used the metaphor of the Reagan Presidency. It was therefore natural that the magical play of fortunes in 2015 we should hope for bold leadership play that would unite the country and align passions for forging new pathways for solving problems like Fuel subsidy and diversification of the base of the economy.. My fear that if great leadership diid not emerge and deliver we could slip into a Robert Kaplan predicted Coming Anarchy.
My worry now is we cannot afford the bloodletting in the polity and the land. Today is not too late to begin again. The Cameron gaffe while bearing irritating and ethnocentric truths should be a wake up call to the elite of Nigeria that what is at stake is much bigger than the petty games for personal power, material gains or ethnic triumphalism. What is at stake is the dignity of a race and the regard for a continent. I said as much one Friday afternoon when President Umaru Yaradua tried to persuade me to join his cabinet.
My view was clear. I was a Patriot that was ready to provide my perspective 24/7 but could join a cabinet only if at least 7 passionate dedicated persons that saw a bigger picture than self had his assurance a certain track will be followed.
A phrase; medieval mindset has entered the lexicon of these conversation but many of those who spot it do not know how it crept in. In my reflections on how the economy can grow and accommodate the well being of all and not just a few I had come to a framework in which several sets of variable emerged as critical. That framework which I called the Growth Drivers Framework and was anchor concept for my book, Why Nations are Poor locates Leadership as central to affecting culture, which shapes human progress; building institutions, which is critical to sustaining progress and how policy choices are made, human capital built and deployed and entrepreneurship encouraged..
Talking to President Yaradua who asked me what I thought the problem of Nigeria was, I had turned to the leadership question and said, rather a Kemal Ataturk than Suleman the Magnificent.
Even though I admired the great Kaiifa from Istanbul whose conquests reached the gates of Vienna I would rather a Mustafa Kemal, the reforming Ataturk who birthed modern Turkey from the crumbling Ottoman empire. So when early in the year a prominent statesman from the North said to me,your APC Villa seems to be retreating into a medieval court alarm bells went off. Better a Kemal Ataturk than Suleman the Magnificent. But better still, better a Nigeria drawing from leadership example of Mahathir Mohammed, Lee Kuan Yew and Abraham Lincoln in the quest for modernity that can save a race from being recolonized into a thousand years of servitude.
PU

TROUBLED GHOSTS IN THE SOUL OF PROMISE

These times are times of a Patriots nightmare in Nigeria. Conduct is zero-sum. From extreme ends, the pressure is high to smother intelligent public conversation and typecast those who dare to raise their voices. As citizenship behavior retreats, you see threats to the promise of Nigeria. At the Security level, it goes from gruesome murders by herdsmen, pipelines being blown up by militants, to the Boko Haram savaging of the North East and kidnappings and armed robbery elsewhere. At the economic policy level we see a worsening of the misery index as people cannot find fuel or jobs. And on the politics level we witness gridlock and increasing polarization. A true existential crisis looms for Nigeria. Yet intervention of statesmen is scant, and disruption to the path of progress, much. Nigeria has never more needed leadership in Thought, Media that is socially responsible, Business Enterprise that creates jobs and wealth; and politicians that unite, from giving sacrificially of themselves; but reason remains embattled.

Traveling abroad at this time I was intrigued by reporting of remarks I made more than a month ago at a Fellowship and the usual social media play on it. As one trained in Journalism, I have often pointed to how strands of comments in what is nuanced conversation gets pulled out to express a view a reporter desires and should write up in a column. But my concern is not so much living with attributions reported by a journalist from an agenda but worry that players at many levels seem not to be sensitive to the importance of the need to note that these times are perilous ones in which zero-sum win-loose mindset can deepen crises already queuing up, to take away from the future we all desire for our children, Peace and Prosperity. But I am even more worried that we are in this zero-sum mindset failing to realize that progress is more likely from rational, quality conversation than from those who can raise the tone of this conversation and erect the public Sphere being maligned into silence. The outcome of such fleeing from the Public Sphere and the market place of ideas is for me more likely to be regrets on how the times of Nazi Germany crept up on Europe. Had the Public Sphere been as should have been in Germany the well-known remarks of the Rev. Martin Niemoller about keeping quiet when it came to others and there being no one to speak up when they came for him the human race could have been spared the horrors of World War II. It is not an accident that one of the great philosophers of the idea of the Public Sphere as the heart of the Democratic phenomenon and Modernity is the contemporary German Philosopher Jurgen Habermas.

In a few lectures of recent I have turned to Habermas to support the point made by the Nigeria Academic in the US, Olufemi Taiwo, who used to be a socialist, that the problem of Africa and progress, is the need for modernity. Taiwo’s book Africa Must be Modern, points to these issues which I believe Habermas analyses critically. Sadly the use of social media in which abuse and extreme views seem to be celebrated, take away from the rational conversation Habermas talks about. On some Platforms if you supported the candidacy of the incumbent you have forfeited the right to say we could do some things differently. If you opposed the incumbent it is sour grapes. You would think US Speaker Paul Ryan, from the Nigerian perspective would be crucified for declaring he was unable to support the presumptive candidate of his party, The Republican Party. It should make sense that a person who has supported a candidate has more credibility in saying things could be different. But these dispositions of intolerance take away from serious issues we must build consensus on if the future is not to be as bleak as US candidate Donald Trump is alleged to have said prescribe a recolonization of Africa.

Our commonwealth is challenge, our dignity is threatened and our peace is confronted in the rolling civil war that characterize our current conditions as Robert Kaplan predicted in The Coming Anarchy, it would seem therefore that it is in the shared interest of all to move towards talking to how we change for good rather than creating conditions that further compound a bad situation. I can speak as one all over the world at activities that the world is mocking us. So what kind of elite can be object of global caricature and not move to work together to change things. As I write, the BBC is broadcasting British PM David Cameron jesting in conversation with the Queen and The Archbishop of Canterbury that his guest at the Corruption Summit in London, our President is from a fantastically corrupt country. Yet we are not prosecuting the war on this thing that brings us such shame well because we cannot create the leadership to have shared values on the matter. Discussing such issues need to be premium matters on the Public Sphere we are undermining.

The mockery that has become the lot of Venezuela, who we seem to emulate in the policy choices we are making could worsen the work we have cut out for us. Have just read remarks of Johns Hopkins Economist reducing the Naira to Junk status. Can we, in good conscience have all of these matters to confront and allow the Public Sphere to atrophy? The stakes are high for Nigeria and the hope it holds for a generation of Africans that we cannot afford the petty power games that many around political authority positions are toying with. The work that needs to be done need to be apportioned to many.
Clearly of great importance in this hierarchy of players to pull us away from the brink and try to claim the Nigeria promise are the Political Parties. There has been much talk about the absence of internal democracies in our Parties but the even more troubling fact is that the leadership of our Parties have not done enough to build platforms for discussing choice issues, building worldview its members should subscribe to and inspiring Thought leadership. I shiver to think that with the economy the way it is our Political Parties are not having retreats, workshops and setting out position papers on different issues.
Also critical to the stature of the Public Sphere is the role of Public Intellectuals and the Moral Authority of men and women of learning. The Nigerian academic today may not quite command the Moral Authority that James MacGregor Burns ascribes to Intellectuals in his seminal book Leadership, which academics of the 1970s and 80s in Nigeria had more of, still the activist intellectual is important for progress. They must be stimulants of Civil Society which desperately needs to wake up. Then there is the media. There are too many Columnists but not enough Media influence. Returning Columnists Ray Ekpu and Dan Agbese will find that Media influence is not as it used to be when they started out in the 1970s. Back then when Gbolagbo Ogunsanwo spoke Nigeria listened. The bigger problem though is in the gatekeeping function and the training of reporters to better seek accuracy and not play on attribution as the soul of journalism to the detriment of sources in nuanced conversation but the king of them all is the enlightenment of the citizen.
I think the citizen has a duty, an obligation to be at the village square raising his voice. The mesh of those voices and the strong voices of the committed, for the voiceless, will assure that tomorrow is in the picture and the commonwealth is protected and not raped at the altar of the tragedy of the commons. PU

THE CURRENT ECONOMIC CRISIS AND NIGERIA’S KNOWING-DOING GAP

When anxieties with the state of the economy rose, as Oil prices went South in 2015, I was struck by how we went from worry to panic and how many actions failed to recognize similar experience from our recent history and more than enough knowledge on what happened before and what was trending in the global environment. That such knowledge was untapped caused me to begin to rethink many things.
How does Nigeria always manage to lose institutional memory, and what is responsible for the Knowing-Doing gap that seems to prevent us from properly handling routine problems without generating crisis of earthshaking proportions.
Surely we do not need Harvard Business School Professors Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I Sutton to see that there is a huge Knowing – Doing gap in the policy arena in Nigeria. Pfeffer and Sutton had in year 2000 wondered how come so many firms show significant gaps between what they know and what they actually do. You can see this applies to governments the moment you go to the many talk shops of Nigeria and from there cast a glance at the policy action arena.
When at one of these events recently someone reminded me of another one a few months before when it seemed a vow to defend the Naira was being taken. He reminded me that I had said pressure on the Naira, with a significant dollar earnings dip, was not the end of the world but that a floating “managed” exchange rate mechanism Bismark Rewane had talked about was appropriate response and also that in addition a clear game plan on how the financing from declining Oil receipts, could be bridged to tide over a temporary challenge by quick borrowing of dollars to shore up supply with other measures to block leakages could boost confidence. I suggested teams of people credible in economic and financial circles, head off to critical global capitals to show where we were going.
I was convinced that would have stimulated confidence in Nigeria at a time the gap between the nominal exchange rate and our purchasing power parity line was no more than six Naira, as Bismark Rewane pointed out. Had the teams out there telling the world about the new thrust of policy and growth potential in which decline in contribution of dollars from a sector contributing to a small portion of GDP was causing tightness, investment flows will make up for Foreign exchange supply lost, just as a little borrowing could bridge the financing gap and stave of currency speculations.
It seems to me that instead of focusing on a clear strategy of short, medium and long term perspective plan anchored diversification of the base of the economy and the tactics to hold off raiders of the currency by inspiring confidence based on plans for the future we slipped into this spurious discussion of symptom called devaluation of the Naira.
I never could understand why knowledge from 1983-85, in Nigeria, and the Asian financial crisis, failed to inform the passions spewing out or the subject from people with access to people who could better inform them. How about our national institutions that went through similar experiences with external shocks and managing access to Foreign Exchange in the before past. Why did they behave they had learnt nothing before.
One of the truly enduring explanations of how Nigeria went into de-industrialization from the 1980s, even before becoming fully industrialized is a comparison of Nominal exchange rate divergence from purchasing power parity.
A review will show that the regions of the world where nominal exchange rates and the Purchasing Power Parity line were a close fit had more growth and prosperity. Between Africa, Latin America and Asia in the 1980 and 1970s South East Asia was that zone.
What I found even more paradoxical was that those who favour state centrals to drive development and therefore should embrace some of the postulates of the South Korean Economist at Oxford Ja Joo Chang are signing off on the European Union ECOWAS Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). This is quite curious.
Lets hope enlightenment descends upon us all.
PU

A new way for Nigeria