After 40 years of active engagement in the Public Sphere in Nigeria I have seen and heard enough to understand why someone can say Nigeria is unshockable. But the reports of EFCC findings of cash sacks in pits and Security cash for elections ATM which should ordinarily reaffirm my point of a collapse of culture have managed to leave me numb. But I fear more that the bottom has not been scratched and that we could get used to this despicable state as the new normal. Can anyone stay sane living with insanity or can insanity as the new norm make the asylum desirable
Quo Vadis. Where do we go from here? Surely the revelations, from BVN outing people who receive salaries 20 times a month makes it clear that the challenge is systemic as was indicated many years ago when Kempe Ronald Hope Snr and Bornwell Chikulo edited the book; Corruption and Development in Africa. They had pointed out in the introduction the range of the culture of corruption in Africa, from rare, in Botswana, to widespread, in Ghana, and systemic, in Nigeria. So knowledge of how deeply rooted corruption has been in Nigeria and how debilitating of prospects for progress in the country those practices are, have been around for a long time. They have become so a part of many people’s ways it is hard for them to see shame as a consequence. Indeed one of the tragedies of the Nigerian condition is both the death and the dearth of a sense of shame.
So where do we go from the current wave of hot news on who is implicated here or there if they do not feel any shame and can readily use excuses of how the campaign is being prosecuted to even attract public sympathy and accusation of those prosecuting the campaign as vindictive and venom-filled vendetta seekers blinded by desire for vengeance on old enemies? The naked truth is that there is a battle for the credibility of a war that is badly needed to uproot a cancer in metastasis which is eating away at the soul of Nigeria. What must we do to the structure of the campaign to ensure that it stays credible and that we restore to Nigeria a sense of shame.
There are many who repeat the cliché that when you fight corruption, it fights back. Some of that will surely be going on but the fight back is better overcome in a sustainable way as a result of how the war against corruption is prosecuted. The emphasis on catching yesterday’s offender who are finding ways of fighting back meant that many are still continuing in old ways with just a little less impunity. The stories I have heard of managers and Executives of Parastatals quarreling about who is cornering sources of craft and the efforts to fence off ministers from paths of ‘action’ have truly made me wonder what will truly put fear in people so they can do right with public trust.
It seems to me that putting in place systems that will ensure a reduction in discretionary courses of action relative to public resources is critical. The TSA is an example of such but it needs to be managed such that it does not reduce the effectiveness of the system. The bottom-line here is that in this age of technology enabled action there are enough applications and Enterprise systems that make it easy to remotely monitor transactions. This is made even more effective when a strong place is given to open and transparent processes and citizen stakeholder monitoring of the policy choice and implementation processes. It is indeed painful that with advances in management systems in which the Knowing-Doing Gap and an execution premium can easily be derived from a number of proprietary templates we are still grasping for sustainable proactive systems. Many of these templates which have been deployed in the Private sector have been used by government agencies in many parts of the world. These profoma methodologies made famous by such academics as Kaplan and Norton are useful tools but the ultimate tool has to be a Values Revolution and campaign examples of which we have seen in the past. They may sometimes not have been as effective but Values campaigns like War Against indiscipline, WAI, Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) are required to raise sensitivity to challenges in culture. To make them of lasting value they have to empower the institutions of socialization to raise the level of the sense of shame for failing to play at the level of the norms of conduct the campaign promotes. I have often referred to the key to South Korea’s Development ascendancy as significantly related to how the culture entrenched shame for not doing right in the people.
I find as useful example the incident from about a year ago when school pupils on excursion lost their lives when the ferry they were travelling in sank. The sequence of response would prove to be lessons in consequence management and how culture sets the tone of performance. The shame of the responsibility for deciding in favour of the trip led the Vice Principal of the school to commit suicide. Not that I will ever recommend suicide as the path of response to shame but it was instructive. This was followed by the resignation of the Transport Minister. The President had to make a humiliating apology on Television as part of the parade of shame. But in Nigeria, in a case where direct culpability could be established for dozens of graduates losing their lives in stampedes at several stadia across the country. No one resigned. None sincerely expressed remorse. And there were no consequences.
A moral rearmament campaign which is an imperative of these times has to make matter of shame firm. Here the media has a very important role to play. If the media has influence, one of the ways that influence is manifested is in what researchers call; the status conferral function of the media. Those featured in the media get a halo effect and the status this confers leads to who people look up to and how the people act. Media needs to blank out people whose source of wealth is not clear and celebrate people with a work ethic.
Pat Utomi, Political Economist and professor of Entrepreneurship is founder of the CVL
It start with south bound crude Oil prices. But it should have started much earlier. Public Authorities in Nigeria seem to have rediscovered the concept of taxation. But can the push discourage savings at some point and bring forward images of Arthur Laffer, the Laffer curve and supply side economics.
The spark for the issue to gain renewed prominence is the new tax on deposits in the banks. But the need for a proposition on optimal tax rates have been coming for years since Oil receipts oriented Government towards being less accountable to the people and less disposed to demanding taxation levels required for services the government was required to offer. With high Oil prices that strategy was easier. But rapidly declining Oil prices in the last one year has constricted revenue flows and thrown up a financing gap.
The natural outcome of the deficits on the current accounts has been scarcity of foreign exchange, especially when response to depreciating exchange rates is to retreat into controls with no recourse to the purchasing power parity as defining of where true exchange value should be. When divergence of nominal exchange rates from the purchasing power parity is so pronounced and a foreign exchange crisis is therefore evident a genuine crisis brews.
Urgency to bridge the financing gap which breeds these outcomes of discontent often pushes a rush to policy interventions. A typical intervention with such a gap is to raise taxes. In proceeding down such a track of raising taxes speed can ordain thinking. But we also know that policy rushed can produce undesired and unintended consequences.
We can debate the value of policy stance being taken by policy makers about need for strong Naira but the fact cannot be controverted that policy choices can result in iatrogenic outcomes where the prescribed medicine does more harm to the patient than the original disease being treated.
Highly regarded US Senator and Harvard Professor Daniel Patrick Moynihan made famous the idea of iatrogenic policy choice but we are the ones that seem, somehow, to make policies that deliver trouble routinely because of the of the low rigor in the policy process. Bearing this in mind It would be helpful if discussion of the need for taxes to bridge evident financial gaps through new taxes take into account two possible effects of raising taxes; impact on savings, investments and the growth consequent upon increased production. The other is the point beyond which a tax revolt results.
There are those who react to the #50 charged on deposits into accounts from an outright rejection of the idea of taxes when incomes are dropping. But that in my opinion is a throw up from many years of not paying taxes. There is also the fact that people never do cheer new taxes. When the idea of Value Added Tax was being considered, many gave the Emmanuel Ijewere committee a hard time. But that tax has been a good tax and generally a fair tax, if we take away issues of how fiscal transfers between the Centre and the states from VAT receipts have been received.
I do think we need to raise taxes but ensure that those whose consumption do less for stimulating production pay more. Same should go for those who extract more rent than create wealth. But with a tax on deposits we need to study more carefully its impact on savings.
What about the question of optimal tax rates and the rising tax incidence. Such questions bring to mind the reign of supply side economics and one of its chief disciplines, USC economist Arthur Laffer.
The Laffer curve, as template for gauging optimal tax rates and its author, who was a guru of the Ronald Reagan/ Margaret Thatcher ideological partnership of the early 1980’s, do have value. Even though I have in the past argued that Arthur Laffer tried to “elevate” supply side economics to the level of a religion, for which I did not have an article of faith, It none the less has its value when considering raising taxes.
I think that at this stage in considering financing challenges we need to find creative ways of raising taxes but be careful not to move so quickly for it is like putting an addict into a rehabilitation programme. The pacing matters .Besides, the Laffer curve held some fascination for me because Arthur Laffer, some 35 years ago gave credit to a Nigerian PhD student of his for cracking the equation that led to the thesis.
Here I have to admit a certain preference for specific-use taxes where you can more readily relate the tax money to services enjoyed. Gasoline taxes for highway construction and maintenance, as the US example, is probably one classic case of specific-use taxation.
Communicating policy purpose and projected outcomes and benefits is very essential here. But it has not been a territory of great strength for the extant order in federal government and so needs particular attention.
Pat Utomi, Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship is founder of the Centre for
Values in Leadership.
As a high school student in Ibadan during the civil war years, travelling Theatre, from those led by Hubert Ogunde and Moses Olaiya came calling on campus. They made us laugh and they made us learn. Then the night died, a sector of the economy went into relapse as culture experienced collapse. Everywhere you looked the consequence stirred at you, from challenged pockets to the lost smile from faces and the sour politics of the land with the tension it breeds. I recently found a spelling for relief on this matter. And it is passionate people.
During the holiday season just passed, I got invited, with my wife, to see a production by Bolanle Austen Peters. Wakaa – the musical, by this remarkable Lawyer, who has become a guardian of culture with her initiatives at Terra Kulture. Her production was running next door, at MUSON Centre, to another musical, by another passionate lawyer which I had seen a year earlier, Kakadu, the musical spearheaded the senior Advocate of Nigeria Uche Nwokedi. In many ways this reflection is as much a tribute to people like them and the power of their talent unfolded through the medium they use to shape our future and help draw strength from salutary parts of our past, as it is a critique of the culture economy.
Wakaa, from the prism I viewed it, was a happy, playful way of saying something I say everyday about how me missed the bush path and left progress in suspended animation; the collapse of culture, the idolatry of money worship, and politics blinded to service and knowledge as the basis for public choice as the triumphalism of self-love made the arena of public life what we see unfolding in the corruption investigations rocking the country.
The story of Wakaa and Kakadu tell the story of a continent that saw modern power and forgot purpose, but more importantly forgot how purpose germinates from the seeds sown in socialization of generations through vehicles of culture like drama, music, Art and the values transmitted through them. The decline of the culture platform is not exclusive to Nigeria. Theatre was practically dead in Ghana until recently. Just like the extraordinary work of Mrs Austen – Peters and others like Nwokedi have begun a process of return, Ghana has gone further with Ebo Whyte more popularly known there as uncle Ebo, in Accra bringing Theatre back from the dead.
So what went wrong. I became an Art collector as an undergraduate, before my 20th birthday. The first Artwork I bought was by Tayo Adenaike who was a contemporary in the University, but has become globally renown today. So when CVL honoured Bruce Onobrakpeya and the theme of the colloquium was ‘Art as Bandage’ it was a reflection on how Art has healed wounds and captured our experience that may never return forever. But I look out there and wonder why this generation is ignorant of how Art can help it get real about life’s journeys.
Back in the late 1960s and 70s Theatre was a great part of culture on our campuses. At the Nsukka campus of the University of Nigeria in those days immediately after the Civil War with traditional Auditorium like the Princess Alexandera Auditorium, destroyed during the war, we still had campus life defined by Theatre Singer/Actress students like Ori Enyi, later Ori Okoroh, who tantalized us all with riveting performances at the Arts Theatre and had all of us humming “a drop…a drop.. a drop of honey” as we went about our daily chores and studies. When years later the likes of Chuck Mike invited me to the Board of Performance Studio workshop and did remarkable thing using drama to communicate the need for social change I felt the privilege of making a contribution. To host people like Taiwo Ajayi – Lycett discussing how theatre could be used to heal society in our home about 1992 was being part of Art as bandage even though I lacked the talent to act or paint.
Culture matters and we can see that in how the Theatre of my times at Loyola College when the Yoruba folk songs extolled hard work as it acknowledged farming, as the occupation of the people, and charged that the fate of those who could not work hard was damnation to stealing. Today with the lost voices chanting “ise agbe ni ise ile wa’. what they hear is ‘ise kekere Owo nla’. Small work, big money is anchor of current disposition of low integrity in culture and why transaction costs are high in today’s Nigeria and, therefore, the disposition towards uncompetitiveness in the economy. Therein lies the Bain of the development challenge.
Even more alluring for the place of culture in the pursuit of modernity in Nigeria is that it has economic value. If talk about diversification of the base of the economy is to gain traction one of the first low hanging fruits is to use culture to create employment and create a good income for young people. When I gave the keynote address at the conference marking 40 years of the National Council for Arts and culture, in Abuja last year, I pointed to the possible impact on jobs, growing tourism and polishing national reputation if every major state capital, at least beginning with every zone, had a complex in which local Arts and craft were produced and marketed, with restaurants packaging local delicacies, in contemporary attractive form; and hotels and possible convention centre as part of the complex. But our leadership elite is too lazy and hard to be weaned off dependence on cheap money minted in an enclave oil sector, usually by a few foreigners, adding little value to the economy.
These sentiments were further hit on Boxing Day last December 26th, a day I spent largely inside Ikoyi prisons, as the church took love to those often forgotten. Besides the pain of seeing that most who were there had no reason to be there, the marvel of that particular journey, as different from the one at Easter when it powed cats and dogs and we were struggling to hold up the canopy as worship went on, this trip revealed how much talent was locked up in prisons. The inmates, who in the euphemisms that colored the lexicon of that happy celebration of redemptive essence of Christmas, were called team mates, entertained us with drama, standup comedy, music and poetry, showcasing talent that was amazing. It was clear to me that day that if we are to reap this demographic dividend that our youth bulge offers we should be packaging such young talent for commercial value and not keeping them locked up for years because they cannot come up with a twenty thousand Naira bail bond or cannot afford a lawyer to represent them.
Just as this is essentially gratitude offered to the Bolanle Austen – Peters and Uche Nwokedis of this world, it is also gratitude to the Prison officials who see human beings, not animals, in those people behind high walls; often forgotten, simply because they are poor, and poorly connected, in this society of might is right.
Pat Utomi Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.
Paradoxes define life. Among them the apparent paradox of faith and reason which the good theologian can bring into unity. Like Faith and Reason there are factors arising from faith and reason; modesty and accounting for consequence management; To ensure the accounting take place with benefit the discipline called Public Relations calls people, corporate or individual, to do and show. For PR you build goodwill by doing and showing. But how do you tell about good works when Faith and breeding say you don’t.
I have always found this challenging when proselytizing citizen action. People want to know what you have done yourself either to justify your moral Authority to urge others on or in defense of their failure to make their own consciences sensitive enough to do the needful.
At a personal level I have often had a bad after taste when I, me, myself; flow out in this course, but even feel more terrible when people express pleasant shock at hearing about something you have been doing, as routine, for years. A few weeks ago Channels television ran a programme on widows from a Centre I have run for about a quarter of a century. I did not know such a programme was in production and did not watch it. Have still even not watched the video as I write. To compound the paradox I was walking back into my living room from walking to the car park a visitor who evidently did not know of the production, so we talked through his visit to my home while the film was airing. When I get a call from Olorogun Felix Ibru as I enter the room, and he is congratulating me for the work with widows, expressing pleasant surprise at the commitment. I was a bit lost on what he was talking about until he said he had just been watching the documentary on Channels television. I told him I had just seen off the Chairman of Channels Television who had come to visit me and we had talked, the period the programme was airing, on everything but widows. Was I failing in Public Relations practice in not doing enough to show what I was doing, a matter that came up when some people from my home town community came up saying what has he done for the community until they were shut up by those who told them of the hidden hand behind micro credit schemes for women, the building of the church etc. But I still run into this paradox.
At one of those inspired what-can-we-do initiatives about two years ago, by a group some two ago at the Federal Palace Hotel, a lady social entrepreneur spoke to some of the programmes of CVL she had been at and the keynote speaker, Ifueko Omoigui-Okaru, who is usually quite well informed, turned to me: You are really doing a lot but people do not know. I recently confronted the what have you done yourself pushback with headwind, with help from tailwind from sources unexpected. The question was; what have you done yourself to help shape the public sphere for good governance.
Part of the challenge of accountability I find, is the ease with which we retreat, in defense to any charge of not doing enough, into a plea of what ‘more could I do’. It is almost as if in the public sphere, in Nigeria, there is a celebration of helplessness, as alibi for the failure of citizenship. When I try to be proactive to get different groups to rise better to the occasion of the challenge of nation building, in helping assure better leadership and Governance, the most typical response I hear is “What have you done yourself”
The trouble with this line of questioning is that you are determined to do things just because they are duty and seek not to be even identified with them, which is the reason most people do not even know some of the initiatives you inspired or founded. But need for proper response leaves you seeming immodest. We may have to live with that undesired outcome in defense of self on the charge; what have you done?, you decide. Then something triggers a need for presenting evidence.
Recently, in Abuja, I made a presentation to the laureates of the Nigerian National Order of Merit on the matter of Private sector Corruption in Nigeria. And that question, anticipated, from my experience, was posed to me by the Chairman of my session. I had charged that intellectuals were not using enough their moral authority, which James McGregor Burns, in his book, Leadership, said was the benefit of the intellectual, in the quest to have Nigeria governed right. I had pointed to how lawyers in Pakistan went on the streets when their Chief Judge was removed in impunity, and how ABU professors used the New Nigerian as Guardians of public policy and the UI/Unilag/Ife counterparts shaped the public sphere with the Guardian from its founding in 1983 But academics seem now to be in retreat from the public sphere.
Twenty years ago, as the burden of the Abacha dictatorship weighed us down, a “holy” conspiracy between the Secretary General of the Catholic Secretariat, Rev Fr. Mathew Hassan Kukah, his Deputy Rev Fr. George Ehusani and I, with a few others, produced a “mini National Conference” under cover of the church. At it, I challenged Catholic Bishops to do more to speak up. One of the Bishops asked the same question: what have you done?
Battling between the immodesty of blowing my trumpet and laying truth bare, I was caught in a twilight zone, butI was quickly rescued when another Bishop began to reel out what I had been doing. I was saved on that occasion in what would be a touch of Irony when Pope John Paul II visited in 1998 and laid the same charge before the Bishops.
But what have I done. Perhaps I should provide some evidence of a few things I have tried to do, if only to encourage young people deeply in need of models.
When I first returned to Nigeria from graduate studies in 1982 a group of us emerging academics used to gather at the NIIA almost on a daily basis to discuss policy and challenge the system. I formed the group into a network we called the Congress of Concerned Citizens. From that same group Femi Aribisala, Olisa Agbakoba, Jimi Peters, Mohammed Garba and many others who have since “left town” as part of the brain drain in “the generation that left town” began to publish a journal called Spectrum. We engaged on public policy, went to meetings with and had workshops with policy makers. Chief Philip Asiodu still asks me about the group till today, just as the now late Deacon Gamaliel Onosode used to.
What have I done?
I was so determined to be the voice of the voiceless that at a point I wrote three different weekly columns in Newspapers. One that appeared every Tuesday in the Vanguard with the Title Thinking Aloud; On matters of the economy I wrote another column appearing every Friday in Business Concord under the banner: The Economy; and every Thursday I had an OPED piece in the Guardian on matters of Social Justice. These ran for years as part of a determination to grow a market place of ideas. I would later follow with an electronic market square, the television series PATITOS GANG. At a point Patito’s Gang aired simultaneous on several networks from NTA to Ait, Channels and Silverbird television. Back then that initiative, besides my troubles, time, and energy, cost my personal treasury close to a hundred million Naira a year because Corporate Nigeria was reluctant to sponsor a programme that spoke truth to power. Back then all the revenues from work by one of the companies I founded, which had a lucrative patch doing institutional advertising work for a multinational food and beverages company, was ‘donating’ its entire profits to keeping Patitos’s Gang on air.
What have I done?
I have matched on the streets against unjust decisions, organizing professionals to protest the annulment of the elections of June 1993 and have been beaten by policemen twice on Lagos Island on that cause. Those encounters would be like chicken contributions to breakfast, the egg, compared to the pigs contribution, when onr thinks of agents of the state actually trying to assassinate me in 1996.
What have I done
I have shown the courage to get into the arena of politics lest it be seen as arena only for scoundrels and those who have nothing to lose and I have travelled through every single state in this federation, on the most horrible of roads trying to persuade people there is a better way. Key to this is the state of the Roads. To survive them had to be pure Grace. One Governor felt so sorry he thought our cars inappropriate and gave us some government SUV’s for the rest of the journey even though he was from the ruling party we opposed.
What have I done
I have struggled to show that you can bridge the knowing-doing gap not only in the political arena but in inspiring and helping build business and social enterprises that try to solve critical problems of society. How did Nigerians get on the internet. It started in my LBS class in 1994. This story told many times can bear repeat. I was rebuking the executives in the class that small countries had email addresses but we did not in Nigeria. One of them Chima Onyekwere came to me afterward and proposed we work together on it. We developed a business plan, I invited investors to dinner and made a presentation. Weeks later the company, Linkserve, was born as Nigeria’s first ISP.
You can tell a similar story with BusinessDay one of the best Newspapers in Nigeria today.
In social Enterprise in the founding of CVL and the work it does with young people to build leadership values cannot be more thankful for Grace to endeavor.
Ndidi Nwuneli speaks with generosity about evidence of the impact from what they see in the work they have done at Leap Africa where across the breathe of Nigeria young people pick me out as emblem of authentic leadership. I seem to always feature in their perception of top leaders, Mrs Nwuneli says.
I am sure we can take testimonies for the work we have been able to do with widows and the disable these last 30 years. But those are in the social realm even if advocacy for those causes help shape the public sphere and show a unity of thought, advocacy, and action, because in each case, we raise a big idea of a social problem, pusue advocacy for them to gain public support, and actually put in place programs and action that help ameliorate the problem. The widow support Centre we founded in 1991 which is still active is evidence of that.
What have I done.
The most important work I think I have managed to do is live simply. I was recently on tour of slum based private schools as National Patron of the Association for Formidable Education Development. Everywhere we went people were struck by the fact of absence aides or security guards.
Years ago former Daily Times Managing Director Onukeba Adinoyo. Ojo observed that I was probably the hardest working public intellectual in the country. A Ghanaian Political Scientist friend even dared to suggest on the continent of Africa. It is more the commitment to the public space than celebrity or even competence that is the issue here. For the gift of energy and a sensitive conscience that fuels this passion I cannot begin to give enough thanks to the creator. If the porter can take clay that knows that of its own it can do nothing, unless the porter provides it enablement then it understands. All that should count is the gratitude of the piece of clay. Most of these claims are no doubt collaborations with many who did much more.
I can only hope not to return to this question again because even if some history has been offered, I am persuaded they come to a small fraction of what should be possible from the gift of being. The triumph of the human spirit written into our history everyday dwarf these things one chain to have done.
Pat Utomi Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.
In the next 72 hours I will give five major lectures, two in Lagos and three in Abuja. The following underline the purpose of each of the lectures.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.
Let me begin by first placing before you a caveat regarding this lecture
CAVEAT TO LECTURE
Democracies are built and sustained by elements of certain institutions. Some of these have been captured and held in myth by Patrick Henry’s battle cry in the founding days of the American Republic: Give me Liberty or Give me Death.
One of the pillars of Liberty was erected long before the American republic in Plato’s Republic. It rests on citizenship and the active engagement of that enlightened citizen in the public square. Few have better captured the nature of the village square of the city-state from Plato and Aristotle’s times in the modern era, than contemporary German Philosopher Jürgen Habermas. In many ways this lecture is a tribute to him and his voice on both the subject of the public sphere and Modernity.
Habermas reminds us that the public sphere is the domain of uncoerced conversation orientation towards a pragmatic accord that is to say, it is about building consensus through rational debate. (in the structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962). Translated by Thomas Burger. Cambridge, MIT Press 1967)
But the challenge of the triumph of reason through sober engagement on ideas and outcomes has been held back by emotional outbursts, the use and abuse of power and authority, and guidance of thought, not in the manner of paradigms in Thomas Kuhn’s structure of scientific revolutions’ but more like in the pulling of strings as Reinhardt Bendix impugned against in “Embattled Reason”.
But we must strip this conversation of all the intellectual bullfighting and reduce this to what is good for the citizen. What is good here is clearly not in the ballpark of Utopia that Habermas again offers a veritable critique of, What is good is what Nigeria’s own Olufemi Taiwo who started out sold on Marx, until he got to Toronto and did not find the slums capitalism was bound to produce, and ultimately concluded that what we need is to become modern. His book, Africa Must Be Modern I have considered essential reading for African leaders. Modernity, as Habermas writes, is the rational organization of our everyday social life. Governance fails in Africa because we are yet to find the discipline for rational organization of everyday social life. And we have been generally unable to conquer this ailment because the public sphere is atrophied. People pussyfoot around truth because they don’t want to be misunderstood or denied access to power and its goodies, or be seen as travelling a lonely road. The result is this sad bankruptcy of Hope in street talk and beer parlors. We must not allow this to continue. To speak truth to power is citizenship duty and an obligation of the rational mind. To let despair manifest before calling the concerned back is failing in a moral obligation in a manner similar to neutrality, in Dante’s Inferno, which assures domicile in the hottest part of hell.
Even though social media persists, in our context, in being the arena of emotion, uncultured abuse of people, some disagree with, scene Challenged logic, and sometimes deliberate falsehood, to tarnish or blackmail, we must take the optimistic spirit the Americans have towards freedom of expression. That orientation is that it is better to allow lies to get out there and have a preponderance of truth drown the lies as the way of protecting the innocent or those motivated by a higher truth. I proceed in a critique of extant Governance in the assurances of that tradition. If Nigeria must be governed to be modern, truth must be spoken to power.
One diplomat recently asked me if Nigeria will not disappoint again as it enjoys favour in the eyes of the world. I could not answer the question. That question recurs at a time of very obvious financing gap urgency as a damning critique of regime performance by Bloomberg follows the vote of no-confidence by foreign investment banks. We cannot play ostrich for sure.
But what I can do is my damned best to ensure that the forces making the change we fought for seem like it was not well thought through or that it has been hijacked, retreat, in the face logic and reason.
EDUCATING THE BOTTOM OF THE PYRAMID
More of the children of the poorest of our compatriots are educated in private schools sprouting across the breathe of slum dwellings in urban conundrums like Lagos. But my understanding of realities did not hit until a British Professor from Newcastle walked into my office not so long ago. It was like Bartimaeus meeting Jesus. Lord that I may see.
I have since seen plenty. In tow with the Newcastle University academic, James Tooley, were members of an association of owners of down market private schools and some men of faith, covenant keepers who had embraced the mission of helping improve the quality of those schools. One of these men of faith had been in a class I taught at the Lagos Business School and told Tooley he knew a man evidently born for a cause like this. They were members of the Association for Formidable Education Development (AFED)
My instant reaction was, Oh God, not another cause. After 30years of being a champion for poor widows and investing much time and energy in youth matters, physically challenged people etc., surely not one more cause. Then Tooley began to bang on the gates of my conscience and soul by making simple points. Without these schools Lagos will need another 400 billion Naira a year to educate the children there and evidence based research suggest that children from those outperform those from Government schools by a wide margin and there are probably up to 18,000 of them in Lagos.
For a second, I paused. I can see. And I saw convergence of ideas. Now I know why it was a pastor who had been in my Class at the Lagos Business School that brought Tooley and these so called slum proprietors to my office. Why did I not see immediately. I was the same one that celebrated CK Prahalad and encouraged companies to see the wealth at the bottom of the pyramid. I was also the one constantly talking about demographic dividend and saying progress can come when we eliminate one of the major sources of inequality within and among nations by ensuring fair amounts of decent healthcare and education reach all, no matter where they were located, a point for which Princeton University Economist Angus Deaton gave a good account in the 2013 book; The Great Escape and Origins of Inequality. That, in my book, made him deserving of the Nobel Price in Economics.
Tooley, perhaps likening me to Thomas, the Apostle, who refused to believe when the master appeared to the group in his absence, urged me to go and experience it. I agreed. A tour of select schools in the company of the National President of the Association for formidable educational development who set it up. What an experience. The visits turned out to be about more than learning.
My arrival to the first of the schools I have visited, so far, took me aback. The children were holding up welcome posters, a five year old with a bouquet of flowers greeted me as I got off the car. Garlands and cultural dancers were part of the fare. Someone, I thought, may have misinformed them, so I needed a quick opportunity to correct the error of presumption that I was someone important. Indeed the images that struck me as the welcome unfolded was of Chief Aja Nwachukwu who was Minister of Education in the Tafawa Balewa cabinet, visiting schools in the 1960s.
But the substance of the visit, which unfolded as I listened to addresses of welcome, from the students, Teachers and school owners was enlightened for doubters. I could feel Tooley whose email I received shortly after he returned to Newcastle, further urging the visits, smiling as the points he tried to convince me about, came home. At Shangotedo in the Ibeju –Lekki axis, as in schools on the Mainland, from Ebutte Metta to Makoko, seeing how much appears to be evidently accomplished with so little I was immediately drawn to an initiative on primary education I recently pioneered.
The idea started about three years ago when I was reflecting on how world class education at the Primary and Secondary level with values and leadership modules or emphasis, could be brought to the children of the more socio-economically challenged of society as part of a movement for social justice. Inequalities, as the Gini Index shows, our country running policies that is sifting society, with some becoming super rich, and others being consigned into a permanent underclass. The one great equalizer was quality education and the idea was that through CVL we could create free quality schools for the poor. Two locations, one in Ikorodu and one in Delta State became takeoff examplars. Land was acquired and given by the community in both places, and the Foundation of a multinational manufacturing firm approved some money to support construction. We planned to get friends to adopt a child for #50,000 a year. Working with the Art of Living Foundation in India, whose schools around Bangalore I had visited two years ago. The model was certainly not a Bottom of the Pyramid model of a private sector providing value at base price, just as Nigerians thought milk was for the more materially well off until Cowbell sachets hit the market and generic herbicides and pesticides in small packages were taken into rural areas by the Candel company. The idea of value for money retail education may not have been properly understood as my visits showed they were perceived to offer more value than governments schools which were themselves too few and far between in the slum neighborhoods.
The evident value they were offering can literally be felt and held. With so few government schools and the massive goal displacement that meant the teachers in many of those schools would be off chasing small businesses and hawking shoes, most of the children would have been in the way of trouble and danger to society, on the streets. Then you look at the numbers of who is breaking out of the slums and it is clear Bottom of the Pyramid private enterprise is doing a lot more for progress and social equity than social enterprise and government schools.
The question is how best can we raise the quality of the contribution of AFED which has been carrying the bulk of the weight of educating the future of Nigeria. This question requires an urgent answer.
More comprehensive look at how we educate for rapid economic growth needs also to get on the agenda. In my view this will involve incentives for these Bottom of the Pyramid enterprise schools to rise to the dreams and ideals the students conjured up in the presentations they made to me. Champions for developing the regime of incentives need to work with champions for private vocational education and the variant I call executive vocational education. That new form involves taking unemployed university graduates and giving them both entrepreneurship training and specific vocational skills over a short period like six months, because of their exposure and maturity.
With these shaping the broader look on reforming education we may begin to truly look in the face the great source of inequality in our society.
Pat Utomi, Political Economist and Social Entrepreneur is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.
I am honoured to address you today as convocation lecturer. I am not particularly sure how the lot was drawn that resulted in my being inflicted on you. I am even more worried that the subject, Educating Nigeria for the 21st Century has been assigned me.
I have been a University Teacher for many years after a spell as an entrepreneur, a consultant and a manager in industry but I am not sure that I have managed to cumulate enough wisdom to speak with any authority on the subject of education. I respect myself and as a result, have thought such matters should be left to eminently qualified persons like Professor Pai Obanya, and if we want to disturb those resting peacefully, the memories of the like of Professor Babs Fafunwa. In my more rascally days as an undergraduate at the University of Nigeria in the season just following the Civil War, a hailing of the types of Prof OC Nwana would have been enough to settle who should have the right of way.
Since I did not have enough courage to decide my merit of the invitation to give this convocation lecture, I had no choice but to burrow into the subject matter in the hope that my understanding of the fact that parents are the first teachers of their children, should give me locus Standi, as a parent, to address the subject. So this is not likely to be the case of the mythical Onitsha woman socialite who when a sumptuous tray of Jollof Rice was served her said “Ha yee I was not expecting this” and promptly opened her bag to fetch the ready and waiting cutlery that would permit maximum effect in doing justice to meal.
Since curiosity drove me as a graduate student in the United States in 1979 to register for a class on Revolutionary education offered by a Professor doing research in Cuba, I have done little to educate myself on how people are educated, even though I am constantly engaged, in educating people, as a parent, and in settings that are more formal, as a teacher of business. Indeed note has to be made here of a caveat I have often offered at the beginning of some of my class sessions which is not original to me. It says that those who can, do it. Those who can’t do it, teach, and those who cannot teach use the case study method. As you all know, being a Business educator I primarily use the case study method. My need for redemption is evident.
The foregoing effort at providing advance apologies for my limitations notwithstanding, the call of duty still demands that we proceed on this excursion down the track of my thinking on the subject of the challenges confronting university education in Nigeria in the 21st century.
It seems to me that a decent way to proceed would be to establish how I think the 21st century is likely to emerge; What I think the critical needs for fitting into that emerging civilization may be and how learning can enable culture adapt. An appropriate first foot forward may then indeed be a snapshort of Nigeria at the dawn of the 21st century and where tertiary education in Nigeria is situated as the 21st century unfolds.
NIGERIA AND NEW CHALLENGES
The 21st century dawned on Nigeria with a troubling remark by a man whose life spanned a good part of the 20th century and whose work defined the new discipline of management, Peter Drucker. He had noted that at the beginning of the 20th Century the quality of life of the average African and the average European were mainly similar or marginally different at best. But by the end of the 20th century, he pointed out, the difference was like night and day. This difference Drucker suggests is the result of productivity growth in Europe. In Africa, typified by Nigeria, productivity did not grow as it did in Europe because of education, technology and cultures of production.
Among the great boosts to output at the beginning of the 20th century was the advent of the moving Assembly line which made mass production possible and The Ford Motor Company would ensure that emerging middle class people could buy a motor car. But colonial Nigeria would not industrialize Nigeria. What colonial government required was maintenance of the activities of Law and Order, basic civility, and the evacuation of Raw materials to Europe. Formal education, beyond the requirements of acculturation of the traditional agents of socialization like the family, age grades etc. was knowledge for being obedient subjects of the empire and for administrative capacities to manage “minimum” government. The Higher Colleges in Yaba and elsewhere, as well as the University College in Ibadan, were set up to produce the leadership elite of this limited public service. It was not until self-Government came that Nationalist leaders in their new garb as leaders of government embarked on an aggressive policy of Industrializing Nigeria.
Limited as the goals of colonial Administration were, the tertiary institutions they set up were known to have been of high quality. When at independence the government of Prime Minister Abubarkar Tafawa Balewa wanted to determine the direction of the policy on higher education it set up a commission chaired by Oxford University educator Sir Eric Ashby. That commissions report is particularly remembered for its note that the quality of higher education in Nigeria in 1961 was as good as the best in the world, and for Ashby’s comment that it was harder to get into University of Ibadan, than to get into Harvard, that year.
In the same manner as the University College in Ibadan set enviable standards the first autonomous university in the country, the University of Nigeria in taking a different turn to produce professionals for a more ambitious national development agenda. Drawing from the role of the Land Grant universities on the United States which were critical to the Agricultural revolution there, the UNN which was midwifed by Michigan State University, inspired a new kind of excellence that took the American course system from object of jokes in British Nigeria, to the preferred approach for a good rounded education, as the General studies classes better prepared the UNN graduates for the general challenges of the environment and workplace.
The ‘alchemy’ of soldiers and Oil would despoil this tradition of academic excellence that spread from UNN and UI through the original 5 universities including the University of Ife and Lagos and Ahmadu Bello University.
With military rule and Oil money the belief Nigeria could do all things led to a view of funding availability and a more egalitarian notion of higher education. The regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo by 1978 sort to open access in a way that resulted in overcrowded campuses, inadequate facilities, poor teacher- student ratios and deterioration of standards and culture consequent on such pressure on facilities by the end of the century many of the universities had reached a point where the universities were a shadow of their years of glory.
During this period from 1948, when the University College was opened and the end of the century the political economy of Nigeria had gone from a colonial marketing board economy but on agricultural commodities to an emerging industrializing economy in which the regions were competing for who would bring the most gains of progress to their nationality groups. This phenomenon which influenced the race to industrialization, Television, and free education programmes was aptly described by Michigan State University professors Robert Melson and Howard Wolpe as “Competitive Communalism”
The Competitive Communalism epoch that anchored Nigeria’s Federalism would be eclipsed by a new season that characterized the last two decades of the twentieth century, the concept of sharing “the national cake” of oil receipts. This was done in a manner akin to the Vicar, the National Government, handling out prebends, to the Assistant Vicars. Richard Joseph in his book, Prebendal Politics in Nigeria labels this concept; Bureaucratic Prebendalism.
Its fruits unfortunately, included Dutch Disease, slow growth, a collapse of culture and a desperate need for structural Adjustment of the economy. One victim of structural Adjustment programmes and the need to shrink the frontiers of the expanding state was a decline in the funding of the university system.
WHERE IS THE WORLD IN THE 21ST CENTURY
If we are to educate Nigeria for 21st century effectiveness, a clear sense for that world, is imperative. Thomas L Friedman writes well the ‘prehistory’ of the 21st century. His conclusion: The world is Flat. In his much read book: The World is Flat- A brief History of the Twenty – first Century, Friedman reflects on the dramatic changes drive by technology and the emergence of huge populations of new middle class people with the coming of prosperity to India, and how globalizations ascendancy in the midst of all the new technologies are redefining standards and competitiveness.
The World had come to be a place of grave inequalities in the 20th century as Drucker already pointed out. Those inequalities came with the Great Escape from misery by a small part of the planet as a result of leaps in healthcare and output, as Princeton professor Angus Deaton provides a grand explanation for in the book: The Great Escape
The asymmetries of knowledge, information technology and access to capital were in a paradoxical way both deepened and eased by new technologies. Processing the technologies increased advantage over those who lacked it yet access to it made it possible for those who did not have it previously to leapfrog stages of development and even have some advantage over those still struggling to defend yesterday’s investments that were being overthrown or required more energy to unlearn what they had invested much to learn before climbing the new learning curve. I recall a personal encounter as the last century was barely three years to go.
I had been spending a sabbatical year from 1996 to 1997 writing a book as a scholar in residence at the Harvard Business School. I linked up with some of the Nigerian academics in the Boston area. One of them was an old friend Tayo Akinwande who was a Professor at MIT. In our conversation there was frustration that even though engineering had gone the way of microprocessing Nigerian engineering faculty were not keeping up. I then suggested that we could add value by designing a programme where we could select about 100 top engineering graduates in the country and bring them into a yearlong programme in which some of them could use their Leave time to come in and lead classes, and others intervene by satellite distance learning. We, from the Business school would have sessions in Entrepreneurship and then bring Entrepreneurs to endow a fund from which groups of these participants would compete on Business plans. The best would win a prize of about #10 million which could only be used as seed capital for the venture offered in the plan.
On return to Nigeria I took the idea to PTDF Secretary Chief Tayo Akpata in the hope they support the initiative. He liked it but time soon ran out on PTDF and the regime.
The World becoming flat had very direct consequence for learning, and Thomas Friedman spoke to this when he wrote that “The first and most important, ability you can develop in the flat world is the ability to “learn how to learn- to constantly absorb and teach yourself new ways of doing old things or new ways of doing new things” (p302 (release 2.0). This is clearly an imperative in a world where every job is increasingly going to be subject to digitization. I recall a statistic from a few years ago that showed salaries had gone up through the years for every category of workers in the United States except for the group with less than High School of education. The reason was simple. If you had enough brawn in the 1950s you could get a good job working the Assembly line in Detroit, with hardly any education. With the unions, wages kept getting better and a house in the suburbs with two cars in the garage was quite possible. But as the 20th century moved to its close the Assembly line in Detroit was increasingly robotics based and the factory worker had to understand how to programme those more efficient robots. With less than a high school education in Detroit you were increasingly becoming like the man in Organization learnings Rewan’s axiom where the rate of learning has to be equal to or greater than the pace of change in the environment or the organization would be in the mode of a Dinosaur, progressively.
Educating for the 21st Century will have to involve preparing people, in a time of rapid change, to understand and engage cultures distant and different, yet endowed in a manner that character can advertise trust, subject understanding, quickly communicate competence, and high Emotional Intelligence facilitate empathy with partners. These capabilities do not come easy but they flow readily from teachers passionate about their work, as a vocation, and tireless in pursuit of the education of the race, seeing that the future depends so on it. Universities the home of the highest level of such learning need therefore to be better understood.
WHY DO WE HAVE UNIVERSITIES
To determine emerging challenges for University education it should make sense to establish why universities exist. The idea of a University is one I have tried to explore following the profound thought of John Henry Cardinal Newman that Anglican clergyman and Oxford scholar who would become a Prince of the Catholic Church and found the University of Ireland.
Twenty years ago I offered a summary of what a University had come to be in the light of the debate around the Cardinal Newman’s idea of a university.
“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 universities were studied.” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 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 the 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.’
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 come to become pronounced aspects of the public view of the contemporary Nigerian university.
The idea of a university from the foregoing is of 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.
I have however argued in the past that the university idea needs to be reconsidered to be in more specialized form to bring the knowledge and progress required by a man at this time in history. At my remarks of acceptance when my 1998 book was presented The Abiola Prize for the best academic text published in Nigeria I said the following words:
“Since the convergence of three streams of technology – computing, telecommunications and broadcasting – the vision of the information age has materialized and the possibilities for the future remain infinite. These infinite possibilities have redefined the competitive advantage of nations. To compete today countries not only need knowledge workers, they also need centres of excellence in academic research.
Ever since the Japanese showed that you could build successful technology companies without investing in basic science research and the Americans followed suit with companies like the Bell companies getting rid of Bell labs, tertiary institutions have had to play a more critical role in the research that moves society forward. How do our universities measure up in research?”
Books of worth cannot be published unless the best of academics are attracted to the university and have the resources to engage in research. Yesterday the best graduating students stayed back as junior fellows when the average, like myself, were thrown into the world. Unfortunately today what Nigerian society has done to the dignity of the academia led many of them to seek greener pastures outside the academic. This phenomenon has been made worse by the new idolatry of our time, the elevation of money to the level of god worshipped by society.
Those who stayed behind found themselves unable to find basic journals, not to talk of travel grants or funding for serious research. The need of the moment is therefore finding the best formula for ensuring that the best people stay behind and that the books, journals, travel grants and research funding are available. In my opinion one of the best ways to achieve that would be to have more specialized institutions in tertiary education and to encourage the other universities to become particularly known in some fields. In that way they can have closer cooperation with industry in the areas they add value and industry can better support them.
In my opinion we need to redesign many masters degree programmes as finishing schools where people who have developed decent skills that are inadequate or obsolete can realign their knowledge base to new realities. Take as an example the issue of engineering skills. Our professors are diligently striving to impart engineering know-how to their students. But the reality of our times is that micro-processing skills drive innovation and productivity gains.
We cannot expect business-as-usual professors in such areas. The challenge is to have a Centre of excellence that brings the best minds with engineering degrees and provides them both micro-processing skills and entrepreneurship training. To deliver the kind of value we hope to see in such a situation the institutions cannot afford to be all things to all people, so they have to focus.
In suggesting specialized tertiary institutions I am in no way consigning the traditional university with a broad spectrum of disciplines to the dustbin of history. Far from that. There is a place for universities that serve to provide raw materials for the finishing schools that many graduate programmes will have to become. The very specialized institutions complementing work done as undergraduates could be the anchor for the specialized skills needed to stay competitive.
The idea is to have a complementary network of knowledge providers, some of which train the average to maintain systems while others function as centres of excellence that shape the best for the challenges of moving society forward. At a time when we must leapfrog to close the development gap that has opened up between Europe and us in this century we cannot afford to ignore the ideas of centres of excellence that will light the torch for society to follow. It has by now become familiar refrain for me that the challenge of development is to restore in 2000 the relationship of the lowest decile of the population in Europe and Africa in 1990. In 1990 the difference between the quality of life of these groups was marginal. Today the difference is as with day and night. Technology driven productivity increases, which have given mankind more productivity growth in that last 100 years than in the 10,000 years of recorded history before the redesign of the stream engine by James Watt, have separated us from the industrialized West. To bridge this yawning chasm we need to reinvent education and create special centres of excellence that will provide the leadership for circumnavigating stages of development; competitiveness in knowledge is a function of the quality of human capital.
In the network of complementary institutions we also need to encourage diversity. There should be private and public institutions unrestricted by bureaucratic requirements that serve no purpose beyond the restriction of imagination and the satisfaction of the bureaucrats’ desire for control. Whereas the university should be a place for ideals and idealism where faculty are, as a colleague jokes frequently, a collection of anarchists united by a common car park, we should have competing concepts. There should be tertiary institutions with a niche in the locus of praxis where making things happen is treasured above the idealization of reality.
CHALLENGES BEFORE HIGHER EDUCATION IN NIGERIA IN THE 21ST CENTURY
If the land grant universities “democratized” the prosperity the Agriculture revolution, and the computer based research and teaching hubs created industry clusters like Silicon Valley that transformed a struggling US economy of the late 1970s; what should universities do for Nigeria in the 21st century?
In my view the challenge of claiming the promise of Nigeria involves purging from the effects of a collapse of culture; positioning for competitiveness on the global value chains of factor endowments of different regions of the country. It is also a challenge building creative problem solving dispositions as different from the system –maintenance and solutions importation mindset that a season of oil wealth has foisted on Nigerian culture. As the effects of ICT and convergence shrinks the world into that mythical global village, globalization has demanded of us global citizens who play to global standards and not to Nigerian standards.
How can the universities rise to these challenges after a long period of underfunding and politicization of university administration in which, sometimes, academic excellence and town-gown engagement to solve society’s problems, were literally suspended?
As I have said before, this will involve each university trying to define its purpose in the face of some of these needs and a world constantly in the throes of change. And this may involve unlearning so it can learn. Let me illustrate with an example of what I once called executive vocational education.
Speaking at a summit on job creation in Rivers State a few years ago I lamented the paucity of skills in many sectors and showed that investors are sometimes limited by quality of people available in technical skills areas. My favorite illustration that when you see tiling that is neat you almost instinctively, conclude Malians, Togolese and Ghanaians had been recruited for the job. I concluded by suggesting that in the face of so many unemployed graduates ‘executive vocational training’ to provide six months crash course in Tiling/Masonry to such graduates with an Entrepreneurship module. The idea was that such graduates would recruit others a little less skilled, as part of gangs that would step into opportunities where Togolese Artisans were making a fortune while they went from office to office begging to apply for jobs not there.
But it would be difficult in the traditional university system to think of such course offerings unless a track of unlearning precedes new learning.
So, just as most businesses go out to fashion a strategy for their venture and revise them in the face of change, universities should be able to do the same. A Business case study I used to teach some twenty years ago was of a steel producer in the US that had mini-mills around the country and was one of the thriving stocks on the New York Stock Exchange. The name of the company NUCOR, which came from its earlier incarnation from the Nuclear Corporation of America points well to how corporate purpose can evolve.
Surely the purpose of the Nigerian university praised by Sir Eric Ashby has changed. Part of the crisis of university education in Nigeria is the failure to change purpose with shifting reality.
The university, besides being a place people come to learn should itself be a learning organization where, as in Rewan’s axiom, the rate of learning has to be equal to or greater than the pace of change in the environment. My prescription is that this learning adopt the “pedagogy of the Determined” approach.
I have advanced in previous writing a rejigging of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, idea.
The promise of colonial education was to improve the lot of once peasant peoples and help them raise their living conditions But, as Peter Drucker pointed out the quality of life of the average African in 1900 was only marginally different from the average person in Europe in 1900, but as the twentieth century came to an end the difference in their quality of life was as night and day. So what happened in the course of the twentieth century?
Part of the explanation may be found in the thesis of that Brazilian educator from 40 years ago, Paulo Friere. He was a Marxist and great admirer of Franz Fanon. I too admired Fanon but Catholic education saved me from being a Marxist long before I learnt that if at 18 you were not a Marxist something was wrong with your heart but if at 40 you were still a Marxist, something was wrong with your head. So I took the essentials of The pedagogy of the Oppressed, stripped it of its ideological overhang, drawing from the inherent entrepreneurial foundation of human nature, captured in Judeo-Christian tradition in Genesis 2:15 where man is made co-creator with God, moving creation forward, and offered the ‘Pedagogy of the Determined’ as escape from the pedagogy in which oppressed peoples from colonial situations received only enough to keep the status quo of oppression. That pedagogy of the oppressed also allowed limited controlled ascent of the colonized, and post-colonial Africa. The pedagogy of the determined entailed and compelled of every learner a vision of leapfrogging the productivity surge Peter Drucker identified in his comment about how Europe and Africa grew apart.
For modern America, education brought it prosperity through the institution of Land Grant Universities that supported the Agricultural Extension Services and made America’s Agricultural revolution possible, with some help from such remarkable institution building effort as the Peruvian Economist Hernando De Soto identifies in his Mystery of Capital and both Nial Fergusson, the British Historian at Harvard and Alan Beattie the Financial Times Economist show clearly in their books, Civilization and False Economy which strive to explain how North America prospered and Latin America faltered.
To liberate Nigeria from its location on the misery index is to retool its educational system in which an elite lacking in vision allowed the conditions of the pedagogy of the oppressed. We can see the evidence in how we took character building out of the educational system. Where once schools like Government Secondary School Owerri prided themselves with the motto: When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost something is lost but when character is lost, all is lost; to one that does not teach civics. How will they know values shape human progress. When history is not taught, how will they be inspired by heroes past to dream the impossible and make it happen.
The future of education is in taking the factor endowments of regions of the country and deciding to become globally competitive on their value chains, with educational systems aimed at vocational training, engineering, and scientific experimental skills that support dominant play on those value chains.
As a corporate learning organization the pedagogy of the determined should compel universities to begin the search for purpose with a vision of Nigeria in shrinking, interconnected planet at once imperiled by man’s conduct but opening opportunities in the interdependence arising therefrom.
The imperative of now is a learning university, healing yesterday’s errors, enabling a leapfrog over the years the locust has eaten, and opening up a brave new future. As Prof. Pai Obanya insists; “Higher education institutions in Nigeria will have to start from now on to apply the global vision on the development of higher education curricula with its emphasis on the inculcation of generic skills, the aim of which is to prepare students both for the world of work and to the demands of learning society of the 21st century. Beyond his prescription flowing from those comments which include a foundation year during which students are exposed to ways of learning; eliminating narrow specialization in Bachelors degree programmes, the involvement of wide range of stakeholders in curriculum review and IT as base subject for all the challenges the universities to rethink teaching and learning methods.
Chairman, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen; the journey of this discussion lead to a simple conclusion. Like the sage said to the children who thought they were smart and came to him with a young chick held in the palm of their hands behind as they waited for his response to whether the chick was alive or dead: the future of higher education, as is that of Nigeria is in your hands, you the chieftain of the university system. What you do today will determine tomorrow. That is a sacred trust.
I thank you for your kind attention.
Patrick Okedinachi Utomi
BA. M.A. MPA, Phd. DBA
When politicians embrace a mantra it helps mobilization. When that mantra captures the imagination of a generation, it lays ground work for a movement that can enable the people own an idea and conduct themselves in a way that, in synergy, powers realization of the promise of the mantra, especially with overcoming snafus that are inevitable in the push for a new order. So what is the change Nigerians voted for and how will we claim the promise.
I got a glimpse recently from a great corporate statesman and distinguished elder citizen, Dr. Michael Omolayole. If there are a handful of people whose words have premium value in my ears he is in top billing. This first Nigerian Chairman and chief executive of the Unilever subsidiary in Nigeria, and distinguished octogenarian favours me from time to time with his views about the state of our Nation.
Knowing that he is the ultimate example of man of Character. I focus stoutly on the benefit from working at solutions on questions raises. Earlier this week he said to me: the change Nigerians want is not cosmetic or just at the federal level. Nigerians are tired of what Nigeria has become and they voted with their heart with a desire for real change at every level of government.
If this is what Nigerians want and voted for, then the politicians like myself, and the elected people in public life have a duty, a patriotic obligation to act in response to the wishes of the Nigerian people. This is the essence of democracy where power is truly domiciled with the people and failure to be sensitive to the will of the people should bear severe consequences.
What does this mean for how we currently order our steps in this season of transition, from the season Dr. Omolayole says the Nigerian people have rejected, and want to walk away from. Their destination we presume is one devoid of corruption and focused on passionately serving the people in advance of the common of all. For me some clear imperatives of these include stepping down on the traditions of narcissism dominant in the era rejected by the people, in favour of one that aligns with a priority of the good of all, over excessive love of self, in manner that diminish the common good; the preference for advance of the good of all in teamwork rather pulling in directions that leave a house divided that cannot stand. This is without prejudice to the fact that a multiplicity of perspectives, and contention between the perspectives advance the cause of democracy, and value of a marketplace of ideas.
Another imperative of the way things should be ordered is need for the elite not only to set aside the dominant traits of the tragedy of the commons’ in public life, in favour of an attitude of building elite consensus. This shared view on effort to achieve such common pool of good has to include thought leadership direction, political thrust consensus for development, and shared views of management orientation for effective implementation of goals set by leadership.
Let us speak to some of these issues in a little more detail. I have suggested that elite water down the self love so symptomatic of chasing power in our country, if the transition is to provide opportunity for coming generations to have better possibilities than our immediate past track record has delivered, even with generous income resulting from unprecedented, prolonged, period of very high Oil prices.
Disavowing extreme self love requires, for example, that we may sometimes step down personal ambition where it is evidently going to be disruptive of the goals of creating the new desirable order. The requirement here goes to all stakeholders, the ambitious and those irritated by the disruptive consequence of the ambitious. Altogether, not to err with caution and the spirit of forgiveness and understanding of the distractions of the push of self love will not serve us well. The crisis in the National Assembly is a case in point.
It is democracy to have the right to pursue, democratically, positions open to all, yet to detract from the track of hierarchically sanctioned consensus, motivated by extreme self love could poison the cause of the total change the people desire and demand. Such ambition, in going against the popular essence of desired change, can become undemocratic and condemnable. Still, premium need be placed on the cost of containing the disruptive effect of certain ambitions when energies that can be better channeled into transforming thrust gets spent putting the disruptive in what is thought their due place. That cost could set back the hard work needed to get the Nigerian people the change they have voted for. Investing much gravitas into building the political savvy required to circumnavigate unsavory disruption is a necessary part of strengthening our democratic institutions.
It is also important education for the ambitious to recognize that discomfort with a person by the top team does not mean they are not fit for purpose. In my work on organizational performance I had argued, using the IMB case study, in the 1998 book; Managing Uncertainty, that the idea that what determines membership of a top team is not limited to competence but to whether those in the top team are confident that they can trust the new member enough to share the risk and burden with them. So someone not welcome into the team today could be perfect for a new top team tomorrow.
I often illustrate this with a story the Late Chief Sam Asabia former Chief Executive of First Bank shared with me. When he was Private Secretary to the Premier of the Western region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, he had observed that some ministers were always sleeping at meetings. So he approached the premier, asking when he would reshuffle the cabinet. A surprised Chief Awolowo asked why he thought a cabinet reshuffle was imminent. The Private Secretary meekly indicate there was a band of weak members of the cabinet who contributed so little. He was asked by Chief Awolowo who they were. After he named them Chief Awolowo volunteered some laughter and told him those men slept at meetings because the night before he was up late with them making the decisions the rest of the cabinet was pretending to be making at the meeting.
Many times the not so trusted break into the top team and the team becomes what I called “concentric circles of conspiracy’’ in the organic bulb that the top team can be, as the Asabia example shows. In the case of my IMB case, members of these top teams can cluster into what I called competing coalitions of commitment, which in that IMB example frustrated focus on common goal and depressed performance. Not to be favoured in a top team should be no reason to disrupt a change people are yearning for. Restraining ambition here may even better advance future ambition. To be so short sighted not to see that is tragic. Still the cost of split top organic bulb in terms of circles of conspiracy is so high, it justifies investing much resources in preventing entry into that top. Once there building factions or coalitions of commitment, which can lead away from administrations’ goals ensure as in the case of IMB. In that case it caused the Bank to slip from the top performing Merchant bank in Nigeria to getting Moribund.
The change people want is so important that we need to learn new lessons about leadership, management and values that shape human progress. At the leadership level it involves a strong vision of a just and egalitarian society with opportunities for all, the rule of law and celebrating merit, yet being compassionate enough that none is left behind. In that leadership dynamic, setting the tone of culture that changes the attitude of that which belongs to all belongs to none, will have to be a key goal. The tragedy of the commons, metaphor for the commons grazing field being grazed with no one committed to regressing the field until it is barren and the cattle all starve, whereas the private field is continually regrassed because of the consequence of not so doing for the herdsman whose daily bread depended on it. The tragedy of the commons writ large in contemporary Nigerian culture needs to be replaced by a philosophy of Ubuntu (I am because we are) expressing the point that the self interest is best advanced with the advance of the common good of all.
This mindset of the tragedy of the commons extended in a zero sum game mindset which is the enemy of a win-win, abundance mentality, has been truly the key to understanding our problems, characteristic of the old order which needs to change.
I have found that leadership, though very important, is not enough. Implementation failure is largely a matter of management. Rigor, discipline and judicious application of resources to goals and monitoring outcomes with clear consequence management capabilities is where we have often fallen flat.
The Nigerian people want to see these things change at the Centre, states, and local government levels with the attendant rise in the quality of life of all. This is what they are owed and what democracy must deliver in this time of change.
Pat Utomi Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship is founder of the Centre for values in Leadership.