Interview with Femi Adelegan

When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Usually, I spend my time refelecting on various topical issues, particularly those pertinent occurences that could reshape the course of history at this period in history when the whole world is in turmoil. I also relax by trekking and jogging.
How did you cultivate the art of writing?
My family background and training have contributed significantly to my development. Over the years, I developed the habit of reading widely, diverse topics. My training in journalism and administration, exposure and service in what is regarded as ‘’corridors of power’’ have assisted me in acquiring knowledge and maturity, having served in various positions as a participant-observer in different governments. This way, you develop the art of reflecting deeply, logically, and these reflect in your writings. Most times, especially during my service as Chief Private Secretary/Special Adviser on Policies, Programmes and Plans Implementation to former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, I was always on the computer, working till as late as 2am. I was the governor’s speechwriter, and writer of his public lectures, attended to the governor’s mails and visitors, and also monitored the investment promotion and diaspora relations desks for the governor, who was passionate about the economic development of the state. I was also in charge of relations with foreign embassies and Nigeria’s missions abroad. My boss, Prince Oyinlola, like other military administrators that I served, had his peculiar style of administration. He would push sensitive assignments to only officials he believed could deliver; even if it was a clerical officer, without also rocking the boat. Consequently, most of the difficult and sensitive tasks that had to do with paperwork got assigned to my desk. We started the implementation of the Livingspring Free Trade Zone, Osogbo, during a visit to China. Fatai Akinbade and my humble-self also had Prince Oyinlola’s instructions to ensure the delivery of the Livingspring Minerals Promotion Company, which we successfully achieved. In fact, Osun State was the only state government in the whole of Nigeria that was able to bid for, and win mining sites all over the country as conducted by the Bureau of Public Enterprises. I really have every cause to be grateful to God. There was an occasion I went to the United States and returned to Lagos, from where I had to travel to Argentina the following day, without getting to Osogbo. I phoned my wife and told her that we prayed for relevance, but God was making me over-relevant and overworked because I was terribly tired. I guess this happened as a result of divine favour and the absolute trust reposed in me by Prince Oyinlola that I would deliver on assignments allocated to me. It was work, work and work. I also still maintain very close relationships with my other bosses, especially Chief Theophilus Bamigboye and Navy Capt. Anthony Udofia, whom I also appreciate for giving me wide latitude to perfom my official functions. I regard the trio of Oyinlola, Bamigboye and Udofia as my mentors.
What are your views of the political development in Africa and Africa's most populous country?
My views are contained in my publication on governance. But I believe we must look beyond Nigeria because of our country’s strategic influence as Africa’s biggest economy and its place in world politics. That is why I have taken the pains to write another book. Most of us are not aware that Nigeria is indeed a great nation and the fate of several African nations are inextricably tied to that of Nigeria, hence the need for us to behave. My latest book: ‘Africa: The Game Changers & Dynamics of Power’ highlights such important requirements of political governance in Africa as the need to re-awaken political leaders on the importance of good governance to societal development, encourage efforts towards the re-evaluation and proper utilization of the economic fortunes of Africa, and also reinforces the consensus about the immediate and long-term goals of the continent, including periodic electoral reforms. Also examined are findings by the Thabo Mbeki led African Union high-level panel on illicit financial flows, that have shown that Africa continues to be raped by industrialized nations that should ideally be the leading lights in helping the continent out of a depressing situation. About $138 billion is reportedly given away annually by governments in developing countries in corporate income tax exemptions. The bulk of Africa's losses to illicit financial flows annually were through various schemes by multinational companies to evade and avoid the payment of corporate taxes in their areas of operations, and that what the continent has been losing annually through illicit financial flows is more than what it receives in development aids from abroad, or foreign direct investment combined.

What are the identifiable issues that have militated against Africa?
I would say leadership seems to be the strongest factor. Africa requires competent, patriotic and selfless leaders to move the continent forward. They must be leaders with mission and vision, who could articulate the development agenda to the advantage of the citizenry. Empirical evidence indicates that Africa is currently showing evidences of economic take-off. But there are still problems of lack of adequate infrstruture that are critical to quality of lives, armed conflicts and militancy, hunger, political instability and capital flight. There is also our values and customs which have to be radically alter for Africans to become more aware of their rights and obligations to the state, and redistribution of income. It is encouraging that what I term ‘’philanthrophic revolution’’ is on-going on the continent with the intervention of the likes of Mo Ibrahim, Aliko Dangote, Tony Elumelu, Femi Otedola and Jim Ovia who are ploughing back into the society part of what they have realised in billions of naira, in a capitalistic economy. It is also a good development that companies are engaged in corporate social responsibility. A radically new approach to governance structures to reduce spendings on overhead is most desirable, while the private sector must continue to be encouraged to lead in growing the economy of Africa, supported with, good policies and reforms. I strongly believe that we can make it, and that Africa, will in the nearest future get it right.

Lastly, what are your fears for Nigeria and Africa?
Terrorism and conflicts have become pronounced and have assumed dangerous dimensions. Underdevelopment has also been promoted largely by incoherent implementation of policies, and institutional reforms, for the enforcement of rules and regulations introduced for the economic and political transformation of Third World countries. But all hope is not lost. Of notable importance is the increasing political awareness of Africans, that are becoming very much interested in accountability, transparency and good governance. I believe that there will be no problems if we engage in robust debates that are issue-based, and also engage in logical discussions that are not excessively long on posturing.
You have written books on political governance, having acquired a rich blend of knowledge and experience. What’s your recipe for the construction of an enviable polity?
Until we eliminate problems of chronic poverty, poor political strategies, and the imbalance or gap between the rich and the poor, the problem will continue to remain with us. Sometimes, I reflect and wonder why the electorate cannot collect the money they are offered by politicians as inducement, and yet vote according to their conscience. Why must people sell their votes? The nation requires true and committed leaders at every level of governance to move our polity forward. I think we must imbibe the culture of being cosmopolitan, that would allow functionaries from the local government to state and federal levels to take rational actions directed at developing their areas of influence, in the overall interest of all. We must have broader outlooks and understanding of how our actions would assist our societies to grow. This is why I have always argued that political appointees serving on the executive arm have no business championing the interests of their areas, as doing so could be very costly. That is the function of legislators. Let us assume I am serving as the Minister of Transportation. Would it be fair for me to recommend dredging the Atlantic ocean from Lagos to Osun State for ships to berth in Osun state simply because that is my state of origin? The answer is NO! And anybody who misadvises the boss on account of selfish interests deserves immediate disengagement from office. Nigerians must learn to be humble and pray, like God directed in the Bible in 2 Chronicles for Him to heal our land; and as He says elsewhere in the Book of Proverbs, that ‘’the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’’ We should always pray for people in positions of authority so they don’t derail. There is the need for leadership by example and cutting down the cost of governance which is still prohibitive.
Can you recall some of those major assignments of trust that were were very tasking and others that challenged your resilence and ingenuity?
I have too many challenges that time and space would not permit me to relate to you. Managing the Government House press corps between 1994 and 2000, when I was Chief Press Secretary easily comes to mind. The journalists were not fans of Gen. Abacha’s administration after the political upheaval that followed the annulment of the June 12, 1993, presidential election. God gave me the wisdom and good spirit to manage media correspondents in Osun State whom we jokingly named ‘’NADECO’’ as a result of their fierce opposition to military rule. I had to be proactive in my duties, buoyed up with prayers, tact and diplomacy. My friends in the media, Dapo Aderinola, Biodun Oduwole, Foluwasho Olamiti, Sola Aknnuli, Dapo Aderogba and late Remi Oyo supported me fully, in addition to the encouragement from Chief Akanni Aluko, then publisher of Third Eye newspapers. Those were periods I would first rush to the vendors first thing on on Sunday mornings to check if we had a bad press before thinking about the church! I don’t think it is a job I would love to do again because information management is a difficult assignment. Others have to do with trust and sincerity. In May 2003, shortly before Prince Oyinlola assumed office as governor of Osun State, he called me and requested I should dispassionately distribute on paper, political offices to be allocated on the basis of the 9 federal constituencies in Osun State. I did, following very strictly the insruction that nobody must see the compilation. In 2012, when I was serving as Principal Secretary to Prince Oyinlola, who was National Secretary at the PDP National Secretariat, and I was directed by him to carry out the same type of assignment, this time - distribution of board appointments allocated to the PDP National Secretariat dispassionately. This included the positions in federal government boards and parastatals allocated to members of the PDP National Working Committee and their deputies, which I fixed for the conideration of the national secretary and Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, the then national chairman. To the glory of God, I think only one of two amendments were made to my draft by the then national chairman and national secretary, who consulted and ratified the party’s nominations to federal government boards and parastatals. The documents were in my custody for about three months, with instructions that nobody must see them. I locked them up in my cabinet till December 2012, when I was directed to personally take the lists to Senator Pius Anyim’s residence. My name never made the list of nominees for board appointments and I never requested for its inclusion because I felt that I would be unfair to ask for a board appointment in addition to the position of Principal Secretary that I was holding, because the slots were inadequate for Osun State. I also never smuggled names into those lists because integrity and trust matter. And I have God to thank for this.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
Beyond my outings giving me an opportunity to have hands-on experience, I was born into a family of a prominent politician and educationists. My late father, late Chief S.T. Adelegan was Deputy-Speaker of the defunct Western-Region and mother was a quite school headmistress. Those who know what dislocation to peace and order mean would never beat drums of war or pray for disintegration of the polity. I say this from experience because I witnessed the political disturbances of 1964 and 1965. Before the first Republic collapsed in 1965, I was already a teenager and being in dad’s company every so often as the first son, and witnessed the unfortunate political disturbances of that era which consumed precious lives and property. In particular, I remember that political thugs of the opposition party visited our residence in Ipetu-Ijesha a few times, but never harmed us because they themselves told our father that he was an extremely humane person, so no harm would come to him. I believe it was God that was at play, otherwise a political thug who was drunk had no reason to behave responsibly. Sometimes, we travelled incognito, at night; or we and our mum, for security reasons, slept in houses of relations when our dad travelled to Ibadan for political sessions of the Western Region House of Assembly. It was such a horrible period and anybody who witnessed what happened at that period would never pray for a recurrence in this nation.

You appear not to have never contested for any political office. Is this not an indication that you are not a politician?
That is a wrong assumption, from whichever side of the prism the matter is viewed. You will agree with me that it is not all politicians that mount the soap box as some are engaged in research, strategy, organisation, and the likes. I don’t think a politician should be described in the context of violence, fighting with axes, guns, cudgels and other dangerous weapons, in order to serve people. I don’t have the ability to conduct myself in that manner. Beyond that, I don’t go into uncommanded assignments as that could be disastrous. I will always ask God for directions like the Biblical David always did, and I will not go beyond the bounds dictated by God; not man. In 1998 for instance, my dad mounted pressure on me to vie for an elective position to be a Member of the House of Representatives. He promised to speak to some of his former colleagues like late Senator Abraham Adesanya, who was with him in the Western House of Assembly, late Chief Bola Ige, Senator Mojisoluwa Akinfenwa, to whom he remained a leader and mentor till death, and some uncles who owed Messrs Lee Fakino Nig. Ltd. I probably would have won an election then because practically everybody fielded in the South-west on the ticket of Afenifere/Alliance for Democracy won on account of Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s name and influence. I told my dad that God would reward him for his services to humanity, as I wasn’t ready to campaign for any elective office. The way we seek elective offices is very disturbing, especially the conduct of some people and this, I think is a function of the enormours resources injected into elections and governance generally. Professor Tunde Adeniran said it all in his preface to one of my books on Governance that ‘’The polity is characterized by serious challenges of development, a damning display of astonishing wealth of a few, and the misery of many, as the system continues to be fettered by diminishing patriotism, declining productivity, selfishness and greed. He state further in his assessment of the situation that ‘’The corrosive forces of primitive patronage and compulsive compromise are being compounded by gross deficit in internal party democracy, to pose serious challenges to the consolidation of democracy and good governance.’’ The sum total is that the terrain is very slippery and we require lots of wisdom and prayers to navigate through.

How were you able to last long in political offices in spite of the intrigues of political settings?
I attribute all achievements to God, sustained by hard work, prayers, and a bit of luck. My first political appointment was into the position of Chief Press Secretary to the military administrator of Osun State, and was by Navy Capt. Anthony Udofia (rtd) on January 10, 1994. In that same capacity, I served Col. Anthony Obi (rtd) Col. Theophilus Bamigboye (rtd) and Chief Bisi Akande, until my voluntary retirement from the public service in 2000. I later came into politics and served former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola as Chief Private Secretary/Special Adviser on Policies, Programmes & Plans Implementation from 2003-2010. I later served as the Principal Secretary to the National Secretary of the PDP from 2012-2013 and got ‘’booted’’ out of office together with Prince Oyinlola. I believe all these appointments were arranged by God as a result of several factors. One, they were unexpected. Two: God granted me some endowments.
When did you first start writing?
I started writing early in life. However, my first compilation was not published until 1998. The book is on image management in Governments but is currently being reviewed and expanded to accommodate image management and corporate governance.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Having raised so many issues, some as old as Nigeria and others as new as each emerging dispensation, the provides an opportunity to buttress the essence of issue-based politics and merit in the suffocating influence of political parties on governments and the failure of the intelligentsia. Some of the unsparing assessments mitigate selective escapism to make the treatment of the core issues even-handed. One of the lessons derivable from the publication is that Nigerians need to care more about democracy, raise fundamental questions about it, re-assess our performance from time to time and strive to leave a worthy legacy. The book is being published at a time the polity is characterized by serious challenges to development, a damming display of astonishing wealth of few, and the misery of the many as the system continues to be fettered by the diminishing patriotism, declining productivity, selfishness and greed. Regrettably, the corrosive forces of primitive patronage, compulsive compromise and complex corruption are being compounded by the gross deficit in internal party democracy to pose serious challenges to the consolidation of democracy and good governance. It was inspired by pronounced feelings of the need to tackle these crucial issues with a similar sense of purpose and in the national interest. What is happening in Nigeria which harbours about 25 per cent of the population of Africa is common in the continent. Anybody who reads the publication is likely to have a real feelof political developments in Africa, and particularly in the West African sub-region where Nigeria's holds sway as the engine for economic development.
What other publication do you have?
My other book on Governance is titled: Africa: The Game Changers & Dynamics of Power. It examines the potentials and future of Africa. Here, the author patriotically asserts that Africa’s future is inextricably linked and woven into the vision and mission of its political leaders, who are entrusted with the responsibility of lifting the continent out of its predicament. He points out that developing Africa is the responsibility of both the leaders and the governed. The author argues that most of the continent’s problems could be traced to elites and quality and pattern of leadership that, in most cases have been uninspiring and short on provision of best global governance practices. The government and the governed, jointly owe it a great responsiblity to pull the continent along the path of sustainable progress. The major game changers, according to him are ‘’Good governance, observance of the rule of law, justice, true democratic culture, and commitment to the pursuit of excellence. Furthermore, he adds, Africa must ensure smooth democratic transitions that have been part of the greatest problems confronting the growth of civil democratic governance on the continent. The lust for political power and the refusal of some elected political office holders and heads of state to vacate office after the expiration of their tenures have resulted into serious crises that have rocked the stability of African nations. Some of the obstacles to development in the developing world could be traced to the inability of the nations to introduce legal and institutional reforms capable of advancing socio-economic and political development.

The new book treats issues that could heighten cooperation between developing and developed nations, and also make them embrace the needed changes that must be constructed into the process of governance and international relations; and particularly, recommends improvements in the political and bureaucratic systems of African nations. Additionally, this book compilation serves the purpose of inviting the attention of African leaders, elites and the general citizenry to the need to be more involved in the process of participatory democracy and governance, in order to record greater development. Happily, African leaders are currently focussing greater attention on salient factors that could push the economy of Africa forward.

The book is enriched with spices of practical and theoretical experiences; utilizing the wide experiences acquired from my walk around the corridors of power for over two decades as a publicist, bureaucrat, writer and politician. This book is useful for students and practitioners of politics, international relations, and history; as well as politicians and global power players, this era of globalization.
Published 2015-05-01.
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