There is a way that death aggravates our sense of finality while also adding a sense of lack. When someone important dies, a great hole begins to dig in the fabric of human existence. This is how I see the recent disappearance of Professor Aliyu Danlami Yahaya. The loss of this remarkable patriot, scholar, intellectual and public administrator reverberates in the concentric circles of the immediate family to the various communities of knowledge and practices that he had firmly influenced, and finally to the broader academic networks of political science, public administration and policy development. and scholarships in Nigeria.
There is no worse time for Nigeria to lose one of its brightest and best. Nigeria needs all the ideas it can pull together at this stage of its national and political development and it needs those brains even more that have the capacity to translate those ideas into a substantial framework that draws lessons from the past to focus on present circumstances to make sense of our collective national leadership.
But even more, it is a death that will decimate the communities of knowledge and practice, from political science to public administration. From 1976 to 1981, the first head of the indigenous department of the illustrious Department of Political Science and International Studies at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, the late Professor Yahaya extended the tentacle of his acute knowledge to the landscapes of political science and of public administration. across Nigeria and even Africa. As the first head of the indigenous department, Professor Yahaya was charged with the unenviable but important task of overseeing the rapid Africanization of the department, as well as the transformation of its pedagogical and curricular dynamics to adapt to the peculiarity of the scholarship in a postcolonial environment.
My first contact with Professor Yahaya was as a political science student in the 1980s. It was thanks to his serious scholarship. I refer in particular to his masterful The Native Authority System in Northern Nigeria, which discussed the trajectory that led to the emergence of the local government system. I later came into contact with his many other important public policy documents when I reached adulthood as a public servant interested in formulating the theoretical foundations of the public service and its democratic mandate. in Nigeria. By the time I finally met him in person as a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC) headed by Professor Ojetunji Aboyade set up by the Babangida administration (where he had replaced the late Professor YA Aliyu, I began to form an opinion on the relationship between his scholarship and his commitment to the communities of knowledge, practice and service.
Other prominent members of the PCB were Dr Michael Omolayole, Prof Isawa Elaigwu, Dr Effiong Essien, Prof Ikenna Nzimiro and Prof Francis Idachaba. I had just been seconded to the PCB after my entry-level appointment as a member of the Speechwriting and Policy Analysis Unit in the President’s Office. During the PAC deliberations, Professor Yahaya was present to provide institutional analytical perspectives to the deliberations. Previously, he had also served in the BWI political bureau, alongside Dr Samuel Joseph Cookey, Edwin Madunagu, Tunde Adeniran, Ms Hilda Adefarasin, Sam Oyovbare and many others. It was at a critical time when Executive Order 43 of 1988, derived from the very seminal reform recommendations of famed economist Professor Dotun Phillips, was in contention. In 2014, he surfaced as a member of the National Constitutional Conference.
By the time he became Director General of the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria (ASCON), President of the National Political Science Association (NPSA), and later Secretary General of the African Association for Public Administration and Management (AAPAM) ), my doctoral research was in progress, as my reflection on the state reform of the Nigerian public service system reached such an advanced stage that I could recognize the importance of someone of Yahaya’s academic caliber. There are two important things that I want to leave in the consciousness of my readers about the importance of Professor AD Yahaya’s scholarship and service in Nigeria.
The first concerns the relevance of intellectuals and their relationship with government. Part of my advocacy for transforming the mandate of higher education institutions in Nigeria is the need for a strong city-and-dress relationship that unravels a collaborative effort that brings the best of scholarship and research deliverables to realities of the city. There is no other way to measure the importance of education than in its transformation of the lives of the people who should be the end users of the benefits of university research.
Academics and intellectuals make the best reviews, in most cases. But then the critics must also have a modus operandi for the transformation of what is criticized. In other words, academics and politicians are united in the sole mandate of making the state a better place to improve the well-being of citizens and help them live a good life, according to Aristotle. In some critical cases, intellectuals must make this convincing contribution by becoming actively involved in the management of government. I once made the distinction between public and political intellectuals: justifications. By being trained in government, the political intellectual is tasked with translating criticisms, projections and beliefs into feasible projects that could transform government operations.
Like so many political intellectuals that we have (Professor Tunde Adeniran is one for whom my homage to him activates this distinction), would activate democratic governance for Nigerians. Navigating his way through the often turbulent terrain of government and political intrigue, Professor Yahaya has had to draw on the best of his experience in conflict mediation while effectively discharging his responsibilities. The presence of such a savvy scholar in government is supposed to guide and deepen policy design. I was thinking of Professor Ojetunji Aboyade as I wrote this. All of these political intellectuals bring an unbureaucratic understanding of politics to complement the bureaucratic formulation and design dynamics that will help the government to work better and more efficiently. A badge of his lasting heritage, Professor Yahaya is considered an advocate for the poor. His book, The Native Authority System in Nigeria, was not only a historical play recounting the metamorphosis of the indigenous authority system into a system of local government; it was also a piece of radical manifesto that described the oppression of the poor – or talakawa – by colonialists and their collaborators within indigenous authority. What else consolidates the relevance of any intellectual than to be seen as providing the radical theorizing that tells the truth to power on the terms of citizenship?
And that brings me to the second problem about the importance of Professor Yahaya’s scholarship. This is the framework that this scholarship gives us to mediate between theory and practice. In the administrative context, theory and practice are often grossly misunderstood and poorly applied. Bureaucrats, for example, often viewed themselves as the gatekeepers of administrative practices while scholars only theorized. The assumption implicit here is that theories are ancillary to serious administrative practice. In the person of Professor AD Yahaya, we have a postcolonial scholar-bureaucrat who has embodied in his service the good integration of theory and practice that undermines the spurious attempt to distinguish the two.
Professor Yahaya was a powerful figure known in the community of service and practice. From serving the state government to assisting the Nigerian government as an advisor, he has also made a name for himself around which regional, national and continental administrative associations are mobilized. He had this understanding of the relationship between the knowledge he had acquired and how that knowledge should be deployed in the understanding of administration and the deployment of policies in the face of human concerns. I have shared several platforms with him since 2000, when we were both keynote speakers, alongside Professor MJ Balogun and others, at the National Association for Public Administration and Management (NAPAM) and at the conference organized by ASCON in December 2000 to mark the 70th anniversary of the late Prof. Adebayo Adedeji, including conferences of AAPAM, CAPAM, IIAS in Brussels, CAFRAD in Tangier, Morocco, retreats for federal permanent secretaries and many learning events organized in the federal civil service at different times.
He was also involved in the process of drawing up the 2003 Civil Service Reform Strategy, and was with us at the panel discussion at Marlborough House in London by the Commonwealth Office who questioned the report of the studies of diagnosis of the Management Services Office (MSO) which will later inform the National Civil Service Reform Strategy for Nigeria in 2003.
With other public administration scholars like Adebayo Adedeji, Ladipo Adamolekun, YA Aliyu, Augustus Adebayo, Alex Gboyega, George Oka Orewa, Ason Bur, Humphrey Nwosu, MJ Balogun, Dele Olowu, Mufu Laleye, Victor Ayeni, Tijjani Bande , Dr. Mahmud Tukur, Dr. NU Akpan and many others, Professor AD Yahaya have illustrated a model of how scholarship should engage in the task of making human society better than we have encountered.
I salute his memory!
Olaopa is retired Federal Permanent Secretary and Professor of Public Administration, National Institute for Political and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos. firstname.lastname@example.org