Former Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information Communication Technology, Abuja, Dr. Tunji Olaopa, has launched his book, Transforming the African Public Service, for the development and intervention of Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
This book is much-needed and timely intervention in the plethora of possible initiatives that are vital for development in Africa. The reviewer, Professor Toyin Falola said.
The writer offers readers several constructive pathways to dissect the problems of development, as well as more organic means for sustaining improvement in the civil service beyond clichéd, recycled ideas and nostrums.
Indeed, Olaopa’s book expounds the underlying structures, the ideological base, and the conceptual foundations on which the superstructure of the modern African project is being constructed in order to understand if the existing engine of government can support the dreams of Africa’s future or, in fact, impair them.
The author clarifies that modernising the African public service requires, first, a critical investigation of its history. “Sufficient knowledge of the historical and social composition of the civil service empowers us to re-order the patterns of social behavior and political routines that can impel the process and habits of sustainable development”, the reviewer said.
He added: “I have known Dr. Olaopa for a number of years in his capacity as a political theorist-cum-scientist, serious intellectual, career civil servant and consultant. He is a passionate Nigerian who is entirely committed to the production of the knowledge and insights that can galvanize growth and progress in Africa.”
Falola described the author as a perceptive thinker, writer, and regular op-ed contributor in the Nigeria and international media fora. “Dr. Olaopa’s devotion to the project of building a modern Africa shines through every page of this book. In this collection, he profoundly interrogates the imperative of African development from an angle that tends to be overlooked when policy makers and pundits debate the optimistic facts and figures that serve as indices for gauging the future of the continent, namely, the civil service.”
Now, he expressed further that at several crucial junctures in Africa’s history, from pre-colonial, colonial to postcolonial, and through the different phases of modernity and globalisation that “our culture has witnessed, Africa did not adequately establish the conditions of its socio-political processes of transition”, he said.
According to him, the lack of an agenda for reforming the administrative structure of the inherited government to make it relevant to “our” social and historical processes has, consequently, seen African governmental systems perennially saddled by an administrative workforce trapped in the limbo of an undefined temporality.
As mediators of the gulf between those who govern and those who are governed, the civil servants who are supposed to carry out administrative activities that facilitate development and communication activities have, in fact, contributed to widening the chasm between the parties with deleterious effects on the polity. Falola had said.
Through the various phases of political instability Africa has faced, the reviewer told the audience that the civil service had been the administrative arm of the execution of insidious agendas. This legacy, one notes, still resonates through post-military and emerging democracies in Africa.
Redressing the persistent problems warrants a radical rethinking that conjoins a philosophical analysis of our social history with tested and practical knowledge. Dr. Olaopa successfully mobilizes both to confront the procedural logjam and administrative disconnect in African civil service and the ways they have impeded democratic and civic initiatives.
His work of critical intervention finds the inextricable and fundamental links between the activities of the civil service and the superstructure of Africa’s development. The Prof. says Olaopa’s skillfully marshals his scholarly interventions over the years, his professional experience, and his intellectual excellence to forge the new thinking and strategic approaches necessary to recreate the civil service in Africa.
Hence, he concludes that the book, Transforming the African Public Service, is, therefore, a treasure trove for Africans, Africanists, scholars, citizens, policymakers, reformists, and everyone else seeking an understanding of the foundational paths to activating and maintaining the course of institutional flourishing in Africa.