Former Private Secretary to Chief Obafemi Awolowo, poet and governorship aspirant in Edo State, Odia Ofeimun, has advocated for a serious intellectual debate between political heads and civil servants, such that transpired between Awolowo and Federal Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Alhaji Abdul Aziz Attah, as one of the ways of getting back proper governance in Nigeria.
He made this known in Ibadan on Friday while on a courtesy call to the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP).
According to the poet, debates between Awolowo, Vice Chairman of the Federal Executive Council and Federal Commissioner of Finance under General Yakubu Gowon and Attah were such that gave Awolowo the profound success he recorded in the cabinet.
“Most civil servants of today would not dare have the kind of intense debate that happened between Awolowo and Attah. Indeed, there were a crop of civil servants who could debate with Awolowo on the running of government and society.
He and Attah debated on every stratum of society, from socialism to economy, between state-run economy and private sector-run economy.
“That was why Awolowo told anyone who cared to listen that Attah was one of the best civil servants he ever came across. Civil servants should be trained and brought to the level where they would believe they won’t get hurt if they criticize political heads. There should be civil servants who would stand up to political heads because they get away with so many things. When you have civil servants that you can’t debate with, the quality of decision is bound to be worse off. That probably was why Chief Philip Asiodu said that if political office holders wanted to take stupid decisions, civil servants should help them not to,” the poet said.
He lauded the school for still believing in the knowledge industry and training of leaders in the country.
“We need to have executive training if indeed we want to have serious government in this country. One of the things I learnt from Awolowo is that before you set off any governmental project or programme, you should train those who would administer it. Before the Liberty Stadium was built, Awolowo had already sent people on training about stadium management and this was so about all the structures he put in place,” he said.
Ofeimun urged Nigerians to get knowledge because it takes care of virtually all aspects of life and opportunities.
“I am excited at the possibilities of the ISGPP. It is a place where people like us can run to when we are in trouble! This place will surely provide a framework for serious intellectual analysis and executive training which we need if we want serious government,” he said.
In his remark, the Vice Chairman of the school, Dr. Tunji Olaopa, thanked Ofeimun for visiting the school and his contributions to the knowledge industry.
“At ISGPP, we hope to address the competence deficit in government, especially strategists’ deficit. We want to deconstruct the value foundations of inherited institutions. Having been in the civil service for about 30 years, I realized that people go into government with funny assumptions. We do performance consulting and help those in government to rethink. I still remember the debates of Chief Awolowo as Deputy Chairman in Gowon’s government, with Professor Ojetunji Aboyade in the central planning and Chief Olu Falae as Desk Officer. We want to recreate some of these lofty ideas in governance,” he said.