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Politics of old led to devt – Prof. Adamolekun

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Image:PROFESSOR Ladipo Adamolekun

PROFESSOR Ladipo Adamolekun, an accomplished academic, international diplomat, veteran author and yes, one time politician, would clock 70 tomorrow, Saturday, July 21, 2012. It has certainly been an interesting life for Prof. Adamolekun.

The young Ladipo was born in Iju, Akure North council area of Ondo State. He earned a first class degree in French at the University of Ibadan, a Masters degree in Public Administration at the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile Ife and a Doctorate degree in Politics at the Oxford University in the United Kingdom. He held senior appointments at the World Bank, working on governance and Public sector management issues from 1987 to 2004.

Between 1975 and 1986,  he served on many Nigerian Federal and state government committees, councils and boards dealing with issues in the field of public affairs. At the international level between 1973 and 1986 and since 2004 he was and has been involved in providing analytical and advisory services focused on governance and public sector management for many international organisations within and outside the continent. He is the author of over 25 books and monographs and over 100 articles and book chapters on politics and public administration in Africa.

Prof. Adamolekun has won many honours and distinctions in Nigeria and abroad. In December 2005, he won the Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM) award, officially described as the highest national prize for academic and intellectual attainment. Ahead of his seventieth birthday tomorrow, he spoke on the events that marked his life so far and contemporary issues. Excerpts:

What was it like as an administrator?
It was interesting but academic administration is not exactly the same thing as being in administration in the sense that some things called stupid in the academic line but in civil service you will not dare say that. I enjoyed being the Head of Department and Dean of Faculty.

You have authored about 25  books. What exactly is your inspiration?
I am a polygamous author and I can reel out (books) to you from different publishers.  One of my books that I printed first in 1986 about 25years ago, “Politics and Administration in Nigeria” has been reprinted about five times and another one titled Public Administration in Africa published in 1999, I just produced the second edition last year through Evans the first edition was published in USA .

If you believe that ideas matter, then the book allows that avenue. You will get some money in the early years through royalty but these days what interests you does not go far and in any case publishers do not really market books these days. They are now interested in the contracts with the government. So nobody is marketing any book now.

How do you relate the politics of today with that of the days of the Action Group?
My favourite point is to say that no one can deny the successes recorded by the Western Nigerian regional government in the fifties to the early sixties before the crisis. The critical explanatory factor was the political administrative leadership of highest quality provided by Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Adebo. Awolowo the visionary, leader the mobilizer and Adebo was developing competence and technical expertise to deliver and to implement.

I have read a lot and I have travelled to many countries (and can say) that combination of quality leadership and quality administrative leadership working together is very rare and it’s a major if not, the major explanation for what was achieved in the West. In 1959 in the Regional Assembly in the west, Awolowo lavished praise on the civil service thanking them for their incorruptibility, competence and hard work. You need that combination of public management capability and quality political leadership. It was in that same context and background that some of us got attracted to politics because he delivered result.

I was one of the first products of Universal Primary education which was introduced in 1955 and that was my last year in primary school because my primary school education was cut short by a year. Those that were in standard 6 were called primary 6 special and those of us in standard 6 were called primary 6. So we saw the result of how politics could lead to development.

Coming to the current situation, if you look at the poverty profile of Nigeria today, the reason the South West is the least in the poverty profile is because of that giant education stride. Also, the passion for meritocracy is no more there. What we now have at the federal level is that primacy has been given to federal character that allows arbitrariness, it has gotten so bad!

Primacy must be on the merit principle but representativeness is important. The issue in Nigeria is that we confuse many things. Nobody can say federal character is meaningless. No, it is desirable but define the criteria. In what area do you want to apply it? Be transparent, consistent. The Western Nigeria public management capability was stronger than that at the federal level. So one of the factors that is missing in getting us persistently underdeveloped is refusal or lack acceptance of the need to attach primacy to the merit principle.

There is no country in the world that is doing well economically that does not attach primacy to the merit principle. Singapore, Botswana, UK, France, even China in its politicised technocracy. The technocracy is there and it is politicised, but also in a disciplined manner. But will you say principle is one of our characteristics? Because if you politicise in an undisciplined context you get the worse and that is a huge part of our problem.

At the (presidential) inauguration lecture I had the privilege of being invited to give, with President Goodluck Jonathan in attendance, I said within three months publicly declare your assets and that of your wife. The reason is very clear. It will send a signal that anti_corruption is in existence. It is not as if we do not know how to fight corruption but we are not doing it. The other issue of our under development is the abandonment of devolution. We have to return to devolution. You cannot develop Nigeria from Abuja. I think the first time I said that was in 2001.

Abuja should be a coordinating centre for foreign policy, defence, rapid economy policy and not more than one third of the resources ought to be spent at the centre. Everybody wants a state and there are about one hundred demands for new states that have been made at the National Assembly. I want to argue for the six geo political zones that ensure equality between the South and North. Remember one of the problems that the Igbos are saying legitimately is that they have only five states but of course they cannot say they do not have a zone?

In 1966 when they were creating states in this country it was written in black and white that an equal number of states should be created in North and South. I want to strongly make the point that let the six geo political zones constitute the constituent units of our federal system. It would enable devolution and this I think is an essential giant step towards it. If we do not devolve, this federal system will be creaking until you do not know why. Secondly, the allocation of resources should not be more than one third to the centre and derivation should be restored to 50% to those states with the resources.

You should grow what you can develop in your area.  I am convinced that every zone is viable. In the 1950s, it was clearly said that if the government in Kaduna were to collapse the Northern part of this country would be properly covered by the native authorities. We do not have that anymore as everything is now in Abuja where the money is being shared and that is why I said we cannot develop Nigeria from Abuja.

What is your take on accountability in government now?
l was one of those who believed that President Jonathan was legitimately elected in the last election. However, the question now is, has his government been accountable? This is because lack of accountability can undermine your legitimacy. By accountability, we mean that if you take the oil subsidy issue which has not been revealed, in fact there was no subsidy. To me President Jonathan will find it hard to admit the need for accountability when he said he would not have declared his assets. He is not talking like someone that believes in accountability and that is undermining his legitimacy that he won last year.

Some governors had declared their assets publicly because people complained and that is the purpose of making it public. With the public declaration of assets, you have something you can measure something against when they leave office. That is the whole logic behind public declaration.

What is your take on the issue of insecurity challenges in some sections of the country?
There is a religious dimension to the issue of insecurity in this country and for anybody to say that there is no religious dimension to the issue of insecurity in this country that person is economic with the truth. There is some connection between level of education and religious fanaticism. An educated religious fanatic would be an exception. Education is part of the problems too and also the reality of poverty. There are also our weak security institutions and poor intelligence.

This brings us to the issue of state police. I believe so much in state police. If people are saying it would be abused, is it not being abused at the national level? I believe in state police l believe that state governors are their chief security officers and they should be able to participate meaningfully. Can the current police that are posted anyhow do effective intelligent gathering?

Some have called for dialogue between the government and the Islamic sect, Boko Haram. Do you share this view?
You cannot rule out dialogue in any conflict situation but we need to do more in terms of intelligence gathering. To what extent? For me dialogue is part of the package that will add to the solution of the problem. It should not be dialogue and then nothing more is done. If we are only dialoguing and more people are being killed that is not a serious thing to do.
We should improve the intelligence in the areas affected, engage the governors who to my view are not doing enough in this matter. There should also be monthly security intelligence brainstorming that will involve stakeholders across the country.

Article Credit:Vanguard News

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