Toyin Falola

Strengthening public institutions remains a key ingredient if Nigeria is to drive its social engineering for growth.

This was the position of Toyin Falola while speaking at the first Fountain University, Osogbo, International Colloquium in honour of Professor Falola held at the NASFAT ETI-OSA Lecture Theatre, Fountain University, Osogbo, on Thursday, January 13, 2022.

The international colloquium was part of events marking the institution’s tenth and eleventh convocation ceremonies, which will culminate in the conferment of a honorary doctoral degree on Professor Falola.

Professor Toyin Falola is a celebrated author, editor, writer, poet, academic leader, organizer, teacher, Pan-Africanist, and a visionary of extraordinary grace, talent and accomplishments.

An author and editor of over one hundred and fifty books on Africa and the African Diaspora, he has been invited to speak in all continents, and in over sixty countries, and widely proclaimed as Africa’s preeminent historian and one of the major intellectuals in contemporary times.

Many of his books have received awards, defined various fields, and inspired the writings of various critical works.

He manages five distinguished scholarly monograph series, and serves on the board of over twenty journals.

Being a global icon in African Studies, Toyin Falola has received several honorary doctorates across the globe.

Speaking on the title, “The Comfort of Faith, The Insurgency of Hope, The Promise of Success,” Falola emphasized the urgent need to strengthen Nigeria’s public institutions”.

According to him, “In order to mitigate the current circumstance of the country, there are several ideals that must be implemented into the society and its institutions.

“First, it is important to reinvigorate the strength and viability of public institutions.”

After a comprehensive study of the role of technocratic bureaucracies for development and a worldwide comparative review of institutions for nation-building, Bola Dauda has noted that, “ Nigeria requires the type of citizenship and nationality that enabled Barack Obama, who was born in Hawaii to a non-American, indeed an African father, to stand for legislative elections after working in Chicago for only three years and in the same state to contest for the state and federal senatorial seats and subsequently be elected the first African American president of the United States of America.

“Nigerian politicians need to accept the policy that enables any British citizen to contest elections in any part of the United Kingdom.

“To rectify the errors of colonial history, there is a need for political leadership that is consistently committed to the long-term needs of the Nigerian people.

“Such leadership must also operate with the technical know-how of a stable and professional public service that is recruited and trained on the basis of merit and committed to equal opportunity for all.

“Such leadership must accept the need for a special affirmative program to bridge the inherited North-South colonial “divide-and-rule” socioeconomic developmental gaps, and other gaps within each state and local area.

“It must also promote political and patriotic education that transcends ethnic and religious loyalty and affiliations and enables Nigerians, unconditionally, to exercise their citizenry and human rights to move and do business, and to feel a sense of belonging, security, and safety in any part of the country.”

To achieve real development, it is necessary to tackle the institutions tasked with achieving these changes. Hence, a key goal of proper social engineering should be to inculcate the need for strong institutions. A viable social engineering drive must be aimed at achieving two separate but interrelated goals.

First, it must rekindle the confidence of ordinary citizens in the various institutions designated to oversee different aspects of administration.

Second, it must create a framework that will facilitate the viability of the institutions themselves.

A vital institution of governance that must work, and which the citizens must gain confidence in for the nation to regain its footing on the journey to prosperity, is the body that oversees its electioneering process, that is, the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Elections are the life and blood of every democracy, and for democracy to serve the needs of the average citizens, there is the need for them to trust the process of electing their representatives.

A situation where a powerful or moneyed elite can purchase elections does not bode well for the country’s viability.

Furthermore, the electoral institution must be strengthened to withstand or trump the power of incumbency and ensure that the electorate’s wishes are reflected in the ballot. These are to be supported by the security and crime-fighting apparatus of the government.

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Good social engineering efforts must impart renewed confidence in security personnel and provide citizens with adequate protection.

In the same vein, an effective social engineering strategy must instill insecurity officers the attributes of probity, integrity, diligence, and a sense of commitment to service.

“In achieving the double-levered goals above, there is a need to enact legislation that will make these institutions as autonomous as possible for parochial interests.

“Importantly, these institutions must be able to operate independently of the controlling powers of the central government.

“Likewise, the structure within each organization must ensure that there is not an unnecessary over-centralization of decision making.”

However, Falola mentioned that the rule of law must be given its primacy if the desired societal transformations must be experienced.

“The absence of the rule of law is a causative factor of some of the economic-related and ethnic-induced rebellion that has plagued the country for decades.

“The average Nigerian does not believe in the execution of the law and its consequences in the face of injustice.

“Many believe institutions of justice cannot serve their cause, especially if there are conflicting superseding interests.

“As a result, citizens resort to extrajudicial tactics to claim their desperately needed justice or, as is often the case, a semblance of it. This scenario plays out in the Niger Delta agitations, where people are subject to the most inhumane living conditions because of the wealth beneath their land.

“Their attempts at stopping the activities that put them at risk and vying for the resources of their environment are met with a violent rebuff.

“This drives even moderate members of these communities to committing mutiny against the state.

“Therefore, a productive social engineering approach must ensure that the citizens’ faith in the effectiveness of the law is revitalized.

“The Nigerian people must believe that the law will take its due course whenever their rights and privileges are meddled with.

“Achieving this will require a practical and legal overhaul of the Judiciary, as we know, because the Court is the supreme arbiter of the rule of law.

“The Judiciary must be made as distinct as possible from the other branches and strata of government to prevent compromise and possible corruption.”

“Furthermore, Nigeria’s development cannot persist if the status quo of corruption does not change. Although the country’s financial prowess is limited, its funds can still be utilized for the benefit of the public if they are not leeched by a handful of persons who have access to power.

“Thus, citizens, and those in power alike, must recognize the collective prosperity and flourishing of the larger society as the prosperity of the individual, and that converting public assets for private use represents the peak of human callousness.

“Similarly, engaging in other forms of corruption to get some undue advantage over others should be properly framed in the fundamentally nefarious connotation they deserve.

“Moreover, rendering reports of stewardship while in a government office must be a basic hallmark of governance for every public servant.”

“Additionally, the instrumentality of the law can be put to task to create an atmosphere that engenders accountability and makes it difficult for graft and fraud to fester in public life.

“For instance, the institutions charged with fighting economic and financial malfeasance must be equipped with the legal and operational capabilities to do better at fighting such crimes.

“This is a reiteration of the importance of the strengthening of institutions. Also, structurally, financially, legally, and operationally, these institutions must be made distinct from the various organs and branches of government to prevent interference.

“For example, the terms of office of the heads of these organizations should be made certain without being subject to, say, presidential approval or disapproval.”

“Strategic planning for development in the country should involve a concentrated focus on the moral state of the country.

“The moral decadence that Nigeria has experienced over the years is beyond quantifying, evident in all phases of public and private life. Material wealth has been extolled to extreme heights while former basic desirable traits such as integrity and probity have been demoted to the background.

“While this status quo is not entirely atrocious, it is indeed appalling that society does not seem to pay any form of regard to the source of this excessive material wealth, which in many cases involves criminal activities and/or leeching what rightfully belongs to others.

“It is no secret that any society that prioritizes the accumulation of physical resources via any possible means without any apparent repercussions will face an impossible challenge in attempting to progress.

“Apart from the direct implications of having public resources directed to private funding desires, we are also left with a society where those persons who do not derive their importance from material possessions are not accorded any relevance.

“Thinkers, scholars, and generally members of the academia who can contribute a wealth of knowledge to proffering solutions to the multi-dimensional challenges that the nation faces, are pushed to the margins of their community.

“To combat this, a national renaissance is required to elevate progressive values and traits to their rightful places, and reset dangerous dispositions.”

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