- Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it’’ — Proverbs 22:6
- My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother. ‘’For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck’’ – Proverbs 1:8 &9
- ”Nigerians need to build a society that upholds and defends the principles and practice of democracy, respects fundamental human rights and the rule of law, cherishes and promotes unity in diversity. ‘’A society that emphasizes national identity and merit, rewards excellence, honesty, integrity, respect for the rule of law, caring for one another and the environment, as well as cooperation and harmony.’’ — Vision 2010 Document
Prof. Bolaji Akinwande Akinyemi originated from a dignified background. That partly accounts for his successes in life. However, the major fact is that the professor also laboured hard over the decades to become what he is today with the assistance of the Creator. The last prominent outing in the service of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was as Hon. Minister of External Affairs (now Foreign Affairs) a position he held from 1985-1987 in the administration of Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (now retired)
THE IFEWARA CONNECTION: Bolaji Akinyemi was born in Ilesa, but hails from Ifewara, a sleepy settlement very close to Ilesa, Osun State, the same native community of the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye. Coincidentally, Adeboye and Akinyemi are both 78 years old. Bolaji Akinyemi is only two months older than Daddy G.O, Pastor E.A, Adeboye, having been born into the family of a respected educator, community leader, and First Republic politician, Canon Josiah Akinyemi on 4th January 1942. Pastor Adeboye was born on 2nd March 1942. I don’t know but I suspect both achievers must be on ‘’awe’’ terms – An Ijesha word for ‘’my pal or friend or comrade’’ usually adopted by people of the same age group to address themselves. It is important to state that ‘’awe’’ as used here is a Yoruba word that has a different meaning from ‘’awe’’ in English whose dictionary meaning is ‘’a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder’’
ANTECEDENTS – GREAT & VENERABLE POLITICIANS: Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi’s father, the late Rev Canon J.A. Akinyemi who was Principal, Ilesa Grammar School and Chairman, Ijesha Division of Obafemi Awolowo’s Action Group, was in fact the first Ijesha Member of the Action Group to be elected into the Federal House of Representatives from 1959-1964. Ijeshaland was a stronghold of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe’s National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons. The next Action Grouper was Chief S.T. Adelegan of Ipetu-Ijesha, who served as Secretary, Ijesha Divisional Action Group from 1957, and was the first Action Grouper in Ijeshaland to be elected into the Western Region House of Assembly. Canon J. A. Akinyemi, B. A. Dunelm, was Principal, Ilesa Grammar School, Principal St. Andrew’s College, Oyo, and later Commissioner for Local Government, Western State. Baba Akinyemi’s contemporaries in the 1929 class of St. Andrews College, Oyo included notable personalities like Ven Emmanuel Alayande, also B. A. Dunelm, Chief S. O. Awokoya, – B.Sc. (London) who served as first Education Minister Western Region of Nigeria and Chief J. O. I. Longe, for many years a federal permanent secretary.
BACKGROUNDER: Those good old days, school Principals and Lawyers featured prominently in the Parliamentary/Westminster system of government that allowed them to be in Parliament as part-time lawmakers and also pursue their primary vocations. Election into the Federal Parliament in the Ijesha axis was a ding-dong affair between Chief Christopher Oluwadare Komolafe, principal, Ijebu-Jesha Grammar School and NCNC Member from Ipetu-Ijesha, who was in the House of Representatives from 1954-1959. Rev Canon Josiah Akinyemi of the Action Group took over as elected Member on the platform of the AG from 1959-1964. Chief Komolafe took over from Canon Akinyemi on the platform of the NNDP in 1964 and became the Federal Minister of State for Agriculture. They never fought themselves on account of seeking elective offices on the ticket of different political parties. The Fadahunsis, and Olowofoyekus who were Azikiwe’s strong supporters dominated the scene at that period. Much as Bolaji Akinyemi might have been influenced in the choice of his career by developments of that period, those occurrences certainly weren’t the reason why he went up the societal ladder rapidly. The professor chose to work hard and excel.
EDUCATION: Bolaji Akinyemi’s education took him to the following institutions:
- He attended Igbobi College, Yaba from 1955-1959,
- Christs School, Ado-Ekiti from 1960-1961,
- Temple University, Pennsylvania, United States, 1962-1964,
- Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, Massachusetts, US, 1964-1966,
- Trinity College, England, from 1966-1969, bagging his Ph.D. in political science at the age of 27 years.
ROSE EARLY: Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, a political scientist and expert in International Relations was one of the high flyers of his era. He was highly visible and reaped the benefits of brilliance through appointments into high offices. Nigeria was blessed with a number of such young brilliant minds who were spotted by the military and got appointed into very sensitive positions relatively early in life. It is unlikely that youths of this era have those types of opportunities because the top hierarchy of the Nigerian military that appointed those brilliant also consisted of young officers like Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Muhammed and Olusegun Obasanjo who all became Generals before attaining the age of 40 years. Now, it appears as if both the ‘’floor and the top’’ are crowded; making it seemingly impossible for youths who love to govern to take-over democratically and shove aside entrenched politicians. As one of them has asserted, ‘’power is not served à la carte’’ You must work and sweat to achieve your objectives.
PROGRESSIVE CAREER DEVELOPMENT: Bolaji Akinyemi obtained his Doctorate degree from the prestigious Oxford University in 1969. He was an instructor in the Politics of the Developing Nations in the North Eastern University, Boston, Massachusetts; a Visiting Professor in African Studies at the De Pauw University, Greencastle, Indiana; a Visiting Professor of Political Science at the Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He taught as Lecturer and Senior Lecturer in Political Science at the University of Ibadan and was in 1975 appointed the Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs- the nation’s foreign policy development and formulation centre. Along the line, Akinyemi was a visiting professor at the Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva and at the Diplomacy Training Programme, University of Nairobi, Kenya, both in 1977. He was Regents Lecturer at the University of California, Los Angeles, United States in 1979
YOUNG ACHIEVER: In the early 1970s, Bolaji Akinyemi could easily be recognized by a sleek saloon sports car that he drove on the campus of the University of Ibadan and his appearance and contributions on television programmes at the WNTV/WNBS. At the age of 33 years, Akinyemi became the Director-General of the prestigious Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, (NIIA) and was in that position from 1975 till 1983. NIIA is an organization focusing on Nigeria’s foreign policy. Nigeria’s foreign ministry was particularly blessed with such brilliant young minds like Prof. Ibrahim Agboola Gambari who became foreign minister at age 40 years. He preceded Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi in office as External Affairs Minister. Affable ‘Diplomatic Soldier’ late Major-Gen. Joe Garba came much earlier in 1975 at the age of 32 years, before proceeding to the United Nations as Nigeria’s Permanent Representative. M.T. Mbu made history as the youngest Federal Minister at the age of 28 years and called the shots from the External Affairs Ministry. Chief Emeka Anyaoku was minister for a brief period at the age of 50 years. Highly eloquent Major-Gen. Ike Omar Sanda Nwachukwu (retd) became foreign minister at 47years old.
THE GLORIOUS YEARS OF NIGERIA’S DIPLOMACY: The military applied the principle of professional socialization and particularly excelled during the Murtala/Obasanjo regime. Many erroneously believed that Officers of the Nigerian Armed Forces are unintelligent; whereas they are exposed to some of the best educational facilities globally. The Murtala/Obasanjo regime was fortunate for two reasons: (i) Leaders of that administration schooled themselves in the art of diplomacy and global politics and took particular interest in the decolonization of Africa (ii) Top technocrats of the foreign ministry were first class materials who constructed a strong base for Nigeria’s diplomacy and international politics. Nigeria has a brilliant record with regard to nationalist struggles and support for the emancipation and liberation of colonies in Africa. Very fresh in memory is the pragmatic and brilliant diplomatic manouvres of the Murtala/Obasanjo regime from 1976-1979, which helped a great deal in liberation struggles. Our diplomatic efforts, sheer size and potentials easily make Nigeria a force to be reckoned in international circles. Experts like Ambassadors JTF Iyalla, Olujimi Jolaoso, Isa Wali, Olumide Omololu, Sule Kolo, Aminu Sanusi, Ignatius Olisemeka, Olu Adeniji, Olu Sanu and others were well grounded in diplomacy and international relations. They built and guided their political bosses, particularly before the Great Purge of 1975 that saw the exit of several brains and world class professionals from the public service. Bolaji Akinyemi was appointed Professor of Political Science at the University of Lagos in 1983, and Visiting Fellow, St. Johns College, Cambridge, England in 1984 (Wikipedia)
CONCERT OF MEDIUM POWERS : As Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, he conceived of the idea of “Dialogue” to broaden the base of foreign policy consultation. He organised and presided over the following: Nigerian – United States Dialogue (1978), Nigerian – Soviet Dialogue (1978), Nigerian – Chinese Dialogue (1979) The swift and retaliatory diplomacy of 1984, between the United Kingdom and Nigeria, following the aborted kidnap of Alhaji Umaru Dikko by agents of Nigeria on the streets of London was quite eventful and interesting. Ibrahim Gambari was then just 40 years old as foreign minister. Those of us outside the system were proud of Nigeria. That powerful speech delivered by great patriot – Gen. Murtala Ramat Muhammed at the Organization of African Unity In 1985, Bolaji Akinyemi moved from NIIA to the Foreign Affairs ministry, where he conceived the idea of ‘Concert of Medium Powers’ that sought to bring together World medium powers for the purpose of using their collective bargaining power to mediate disputes within international system.
TECHNICAL AID CORPS: This idea was to help check the over-bearing dominance of the then super-powers of the world. One of his lasting legacies as Nigeria’s Minister of External Affairs, is his origination of the Technical Aid Corps, a foreign policy tool that complements direct financial aid from Nigeria to other countries through skills exchange towards strengthening international understanding and cooperation. While serving as the Foreign Affairs Minister, he was the leader of the Nigerian Delegation to the United Nations General Assembly Session, New York (1985); Deputy Leader of the Nigerian Delegation to the Commonwealth Summit, Bahamas (1985); Leader of the Nigerian Delegation to the Organisation of African Unity, Council of Ministers Session (1986); Deputy Leader of the Nigerian Delegation to the Organisation of African Unity Heads of State and Government Summit (1986); Leader of the Nigerian Delegation to the Non – Aligned Foreign Ministers Conference, Harare (1986); Deputy Leader of the Nigerian Delegation to the Non–Aligned Summit, Harare (1986); Leader of the Nigerian Delegation to the United Nations General Assembly Annual Session (1986); Leader of the Nigerian Delegation to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the Critical Economic Situation in Africa (1986); Prof. Akinyemi would certainly not remember our 1986 encounter at the headquarters of the United Nations, New-York, during 1986 UNGA, whilst the hon. minister made his way into the office of Tony Idigo, the then News Agency of Nigeria’s correspondent at the United Nations. Tony was very influential within the UN press corps and could fix issues relatively easily, particularly those that dealt with bad press.
OTHER OFFICIAL ENGAGEMENTS: Akinyemi was leader of the Nigerian Delegation to the Budget Session of the Council of Ministers of the Organisation of African Unity, Addis Ababa (1987); Leader of the Nigerian Delegation to the Ordinary Session of the Council of Ministers of the Organisation of African Unity, Addis Ababa (1987); Deputy Leader of the Nigerian Delegation to the Annual Summit of the Organisation of African Unity (1987); Leader of the Nigerian Delegation to the United Nations General Assembly Annual Session (1987) Deputy Leader of the Nigerian Delegation to the Commonwealth Heads of State and Governments, Vancouver (1987) and Leader of the Nigerian Delegation to the Extra – Ordinary Session of the Council of Ministers of the Organisation of African Unity devoted to African debt, Addis Ababa (1987) (Bolaji Akinyemi & Associates)
After his ministerial assignment, the Centre for International Studies, University of Cambridge, England appointed him a Fellow of International Relations. He is also a Life Member of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, England. He has been a member of the following reputable bodies and institutions:
- The International Advisory Board of the Centre for Strategic Studies, University of California, Los Angeles, U.S.A.;
- International Institute of Strategic Studies Committee on Regional Security Studies; Academic Advisory Board, Candido Mendes University, Brazil;
- United Nations Group of Experts on Disarmaments and Development;
- United Nations Group of Experts on certain aspects of the Middle East;
- United Nations Institute for Disarmament Panel on South African Nuclear Capability;
- United Nations Organising Committee for United Nations Conference on Disarmament, Development and Security in Africa;
- Nigerian Government Panel on the History of Nigeria since Independence; Election Observer, Human Rights Group, Zimbabwe.
AS NADECO MEMBER: Bolaji Akinyemi joined forces with the National Democratic Coalition to fight for democracy against authoritarian regimes of the past. He believes that only democracy and freedom of expression can guarantee true development. Prof. Akinyemi is a prolific writer and has authored many books and contributed his publications to many reputed and recognised local and international journals. He is very honest about his convictions and would express them without reservations irrespective of the constitution of his audience. His radical views and beliefs about political life and issues have distinguished him as one of Nigeria’s most respected Ministers of Foreign Affairs. Professor Akinyemi has also mentored a lot of successful and accomplished personalities in Nigeria and in other parts of the world.
SERVICE TO NIGERIA — THE NATIONAL THINK TANK: Akinyemi is the Chairman of a body known as: ‘The National Think Tank’, ‘’a body of articulate and well-informed men and women with sound analytical minds, which is saddled with the onerous responsibility of fashioning out an agenda for the country. The think tank consists of people who are pedagogies in their chosen fields and have made their marks in the areas of their calling’’ The body, in its literature stated that: ‘’According to the World Bank, the world’s economic barometer, “good governance is epitomized by predictable, open and enlightened policy-making, a bureaucracy imbued with professional ethos acting in furtherance of the public good, the rule of law, transparency and a strong civil society participating freely in public affairs”. On the other hand, “poor governance is characterized by arbitrary policy making, unaccountable bureaucracies, un-enforced and or unjust legal systems, the abuse of executive power, a civil society unengaged in public life and widespread corruption”. Furthermore, the Bretton Woods Institute believes in the relevance of good governance to the development of a nation’s economy.
EMPHASIS ON GOOD GOVERNANCE: Given Nigeria’s political and economic antecedents and status in the comity of developing nations, the Think Tank believes that the time has come for Nigeria to take its rightful position in world affairs. As one of the fastest growing developing nations, Nigeria is expected to show leadership in the delivery of public service. We have, therefore, found it highly imperative that, in order to achieve good public governance, several factors come to play. They include political stability, long-term planning and economic growth, economic efficiency as well as the enhancement of the quality of life for all citizens through adequate and prompt service delivery. It therefore emphatically states that “good governance can only be achieved if those in authority set good examples by strengthening accountability, encouraging public debate and nurturing a free Press. It goes ahead to explain that: ‘’Bearing all these in mind, this National Think Tank provides a basis for analyzing the areas of success or failure of public governance in Nigeria and proffer credible solutions to the country’s myriad of socio-economic and political problems. It will provide the basis for assessing governance both in the public and private sector.
MOVING NIGERIA FORWARD: The bottom line, according to the Think Tank is to identify with global trends by making government and public governance more effective, responsive and efficient in Nigeria. This is because many countries in the world have come to accept good governance as a veritable vehicle for uplifting the legitimacy of the public realm. It has become an analytical benchmark in the approach to comparative politics. It is also a mechanism for assessing the performance of different regimes of government’’ He has since served as a member of the Presidential Electoral Reform Committee and as Vice-Chairman of the highly-acclaimed 2014 National Constitutional Conference. Currently, he is Chairman of the National Think Tank. Among other international assignments, he was a Member — International Institute of Strategic Studies Committee on Regional Security Studies, United Nations Group of Experts on Disarmament and Development. A Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR) this revolutionary in bow-tie is also a Fellow, Centre for International Studies of the University of Cambridge, England and Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs.
GOING FORWARD: So, my younger brothers and sisters, you have all it takes to emerge a better personality than Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, and all those very important personalities named in this report. Most of them never had a pair of shoes until about the age of 25 years. You are open to opportunities these great Nigerians never enjoyed. All of them never schooled when technology was this advanced. They schooled in periods of ‘’analogue technology’’ without Internet facility, some without electricity supply and pipe borne water, (not even the water bagged in plastic called PURE WATER) and other social benefits that we enjoy today. Yet, God was magnanimous to have seen them through when there was no Western medical care! Nnamdi Azikiwe; on the occasion of the visit of Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah to Eastern Nigeria in 1959 posited that: ‘’If we can keep the larger vision in view, if we do not spoil the opportunity that lies before us by petty and inglorious side issues, these African States may yet achieve what the independent and warring States of Europe and the volatile and sometimes undemocratic States of the Americas have never yet accomplished, that is; a unity undreamt-of; and become models of honest and democratic government, which will give hope to all Africa and offer a challenge to the rest of the world’’
May the Good Lord Bless Nigeria and Nigerians!