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  • Writer's pictureNika Pajuh

The Power of Positive Difference: Dr. Obadiah Mailafia and His Nigeria

Updated: Aug 19, 2021

By Toyin Falola

Having intellectual capacity is associated with some people who have dedicated their time to the pursuit of knowledge, part of a process of building human capacity, evidence that efforts have been concentrated on something tangible. However, no matter how outstanding an individual is, having intellectual capacity does not equal being intellectually versatile. Intellectual versatility, matched with productivity, is a rare accomplishment.

Dr. Obadiah Mailafia remains one of the shiniest individuals who has committed himself to different tasks, demonstrating versatility and productivity. He has a multidisciplinary background in international relations, political science, development economics, and public administration. Across these fields, he has made outstanding contributions that reflect his continuous engagement in various fields. At the economic and finance fronts, he has participated in several programs where he lends his intelligence to promote reasonable collective objectives. For example, as the Chief Economist in the Planning and Budgeting Department of the African Development Bank (AfDB), this bright mind has initiated awe-inspiring ideas and strategies that artfully launched the institution to an enviable position. Dr. Mailafia made a difference with the levels of programs and projects that he initiated at AfDB, bearing in mind the cardinality of the institution to the progress of the continent, which has also given the AfDB the marks of excellence. It is by no coincidence that his services are usually sought after in various other areas where he shines brilliantly and without pressure.

Assuredly, when Dr. Mailafia has committed himself to the course of progress, not many people can match his level of concentration and focus. Between 2010 and 2015, Dr. Mailafia served as the Chef de Cabinet of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, Brussels, where he essentially coordinated different projects that facilitated the organization's transformation. Serving as the arrowhead of very tasking departments in ACP, this eclectic man made outstanding contributions that are not easy to undermine. For example, while he served as the most senior adviser to the Secretary-General, he arranged many diplomatic relationships with external bodies, especially the European Union (EU), with whom they eventually collaborated to enhance programs that would bring desirable outcomes. Apart from establishing the relationship between ACP and the EU, he also negotiated on behalf of ACP with international financial institutions such as the IMF, the World Bank, and the African Development Bank. During all these, he was able to accomplish incredible feats, and his revolutionary contributions are in public memory. Dr. Mailafia has been very useful to humanity, and his efforts are testaments of this conclusion.

Dr. Obadiah Mailafia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics, Sociology, and Politics, which is no ordinary feat that can be disregarded. His ability to provide progressive ideas shines forth through the academic works and research reflected in his papers and other intellectual engagements. More importantly, his knowledge reverberates through all of his engagements, and it considerably influences how he approaches issues and the methodologies he employs to get results. To understand the significance of the knowledge acquired in this direction, his success records in finance and economics cannot be underrated. For example, while working as the deputy to the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, several initiatives and programs that substantially impacted the nation’s economy were credited to Dr. Mailafia. It bears reiteration that working as a deputy in an organization involves political participation because administrative skills are usually required for the successful management of people and enterprise.

As an academic, Dr. Mailafia has made cutting-edge professional accomplishments, and there are numerous books and papers credited to his name. A cursory look at these intellectual productions would reveal a grounded understanding of economic issues and the various other disciplines with which he is associated. Consider, for instance, that he produced works that reflect contemporary global politics; we cannot deny him the accolades deserving of his feats, among many other things. His paper, “The New Scramble for Africa: China, India and Turkey as New Actors in Africa,” gives a critical evaluation of the socioeconomic and sociopolitical trajectory of Africa about how they have succumbed to the pressure of colonizing forces; not from their erstwhile imperialists from Europe but from different players who are making headway in Asian countries. Evident from his critical assessment of the African situation is the exposition of the inherent rot that has percolated contemporary African politics and permeated all their institutional establishments. Since greed and the quest for personal aggrandizement have overtaken the desire to lead by example, the resources domiciled in the African continent have been diverted to the advantage of the new “colonial lords,” namely China, Turkey, India, among others.

Intellectuals like Dr. Mailafia are exceptionally foresighted and can predict future actions by looking at current ideas and issues. It takes a critical mind to understand the underlying politics that these Asian countries are playing with the African continent. Many developed countries consider Africa indispensable to their economic and financial transformations because the continent is blessed with numerous natural resources and sufficient human resources that can translate all unrefined resources to significant results. China’s role in the continent is therefore significant and an indication that they may be on a long journey towards the re-colonization of Africa. Unlike the European Scramble for Africa of the late nineteenth century, the contemporary scramble by these countries is not as organized as we have in all other situations. Their diplomatic relations with countries in Africa is informed by the attraction they get from the people themselves. This means that unlike the previous scramble by the Europeans, this contemporary scramble is based on mutual concession. Therefore, the paper is an indictment of the political class in Africa who are not only blind-sighted because of their greed but who have also refused to see how their lack of political will has impeded the continent from achieving its potential.

Despite his immersion in academic and maybe political activities, Dr. Mailafia does not lose touch with reality and current trends. In 2019, he produced another trailblazing intellectual work called “Global Megatrends and Nigeria’s Future,” where he demonstrated his understanding of the trendy issues and how it affects Nigerians and their future. Without dragging it, the wake of globalization has seen an unprecedented increase in technological innovations that created a parallel world where people of diverse cultural and religious backgrounds interact and exchange ideas. Because the internet, which is a byproduct of this technological innovation, has the capacity to welcome netizens in their great numbers, the exchange of cultural values and traditions has become extremely easy. This means that people now have direct access to other people’s cultural traditions and the lack of appropriate means of sieving the cultures which they come in contact with, to understand aspects of it that are very encouraging, and know the areas that are detrimental to their collective cultural safety, now allow them to accommodate these different cultures. Cultural osmosis, therefore, is the foundation for a different identity that has permeated the world today.

From this sudden transformation, every civilization has its positive additions and its shares of negative consequences. For many African countries, the cultural clash that they experienced has become the reason for their shift in traditional engagements. Africans’ virtues have become so complex that they find it challenging to locate their traditional identity. At the political front, options are so surplus that even the political leaders continue to mix political philosophies in their leadership assignments. This is the era when democratic leaders, without respect for democratic ethos, would use their positions of power to witch-hunt people considered an impediment to their ambitions.

In the same way, the increase in obscene engagements cannot be overemphasized, especially in the wake of the internet lifestyle. Sadly, as Dr. Mailafia has noted, the underlying downside of the internet age is the proliferation of a morally condemnable engagement that manifests in internet fraud, cyberbullying, cyber criminality, and others. It has eaten deep into the fabric of the African world and caused the quick deceleration of moral principles. What then would be the African future, considering the fact that this trend continues? These are the issues Dr. Mailafia addresses in the paper.

We talk about versatility and productiveness concerning Dr. Mailafia, not because he demonstrates unparalleled zeal for making a difference, but because there are growing numbers of literature that he publishes even in the current time, without losing his focus on what matters. He has given numerous lectures, devised various systems, and identified different ways through which humanity would flourish, and Nigeria would become the cynosure of all eyes. It is more rewarding that this bright scholar has dissected challenges facing Nigeria at the economic front and has provided state-of-the-art solutions that would facilitate instant upward and speedy mobility when adopted. For instance, a compelling academic work credited to him looks at the country's problems and how they have defied solutions in recent years. Considering that he is not unfamiliar with how the world is evolving, he has provided appropriate strategies for rejuvenating the country’s dying economy. The paper, titled “Towards the Post-Oil Economy in Nigeria: Imperatives of Diversification for Sustainable Development,” gives a scientific explanation to the myriad of economic challenges facing the country, using his experience to predict the possible ways of salvaging the country from imminent doom.

In the paper mentioned above, Dr. Mailafia posits that the snail pace of Nigeria’s development is informed by the obstinacy of Nigerian leaders who are mono-dependent on oil. The obsessive concentration on oil as the source of income for the Nigerian government has not only reduced the creativity of the country to devise alternative measures of standing up to the fast-growing global economic system but has also permeated the social bloodstream of the people who now have great disrespect for diversity and plurality, especially in their financial and economic lifestyles. At the government level, the excessive concentration on oil has killed the urge to explore limitless opportunities that abound in other sectors of the economy. For example, the agricultural industry has suffered careless abandonment from the government since the oil sector has proven itself reliable in generating income. In essence, the country, which used to export agricultural products in the years of old, does not have diversity to cling on today that can be said to be produced internally. Therefore, this has exposed the consumerist and import-dependent culture of the country.

Meanwhile, the high dependence on products that are made from other civilizations reduces the worth of their values. More and more, the country is going down at a speed that has not been known hitherto. The paper, therefore, suggests that the consequence of the nation’s overdependence on oil is devastating. At the individual level, the potential of the people is made the sacrifice because the country has chosen to depend exclusively on oil as its source of income. People have the challenge of getting the right audience for their intellectual and professional services because they have not gained the required attention from their political leaders, who appear to be unbothered by the situation of things. Since there is no international value for the agricultural industry in the country because the people do not export products that are needed in other places, the youths are not motivated to consider a career in mechanized farming. Instead, they make themselves available for all manners of morally reprehensible engagements that soil their names and the nation’s reputation. This awareness inspired Dr. Mailafia to consider pursuing the agitation for the future that does not centralize oil as the mainstay of its economy. There is a level of truth to his conclusion and argument. The country has suffered greatly because they have refused to show creativity to their economic system. Countries concerned about development take diversification and plurality very seriously and with a greater level of importance. Without a nation being excessively diverse in its economic approach, the stability of the people’s economy will be tricky.

As much as he has demonstrated an exceptional intellectual capacity in evaluating issues that border around the nation’s economy and contemporary issues, Dr. Mailafia has also not failed to give insightful input as far as the nation’s security system and administration is concerned. No one can claim ignorance of the pervasive insecurities that have engulfed the country in the current time, and the fact that the destructive effects of the conditions are felt by every individual, irrespective of their political or cultural orientation, pushed him to research on how to secure the country from the predatory hands of the criminally minded ones in the society. In his work, “The Challenges of Security and Development in Nigeria,” this bright and excellent intellectual shows the world the critical challenges that confront the country, the impediment it has become for the development of the country, and the potential ways through which the ongoing security problems can be overcome. One of the principal reasons for the ubiquity of violence and insecurity is because the perpetrators are idle hands who are not positively involved in the nation-building process. It would eventually be of interest to anyone who reads the material to realize that the security challenges happening in the country have corresponding solutions if the government is genuinely serious about cutting the perpetrators to size.

Additionally, insecurity directly impacts the country’s development in ways not often seen from the surface. Dr. Mailafia educates his readers about the devastating effects of insecurity on the nation’s economy, particularly the inability to attract the right investors. Investors worldwide have a penchant for serenity and tranquillity and a place where their interests would be protected at all costs. In the occasion that there are many terrorists’ actions, insurgent groups and offensive people fomenting problems and causing mayhem in the society, investors would be discouraged to invest their money and time in such an environment because they would be uncertain about its ability to bring about the transformation needed both at the economic front and at the social level; whereas, terrorists are usually carefree about what happens to the economy of their target enemies or countries as long as they can get their daily bread. Such orientation endangers everyone within the community because as long as they continue with their destructive engagements, the more they scare potential investors away and the more they endanger their lives.

Nearly all human aspects and social life have experienced Dr. Mailafia’s academic input. His ideas cannot just be discarded. This gentleman has functioned in different capacities and at different academic and political spectrums. He has written his name in gold while also earning numerous awards for his impressive service to humanity. Mailafia has functioned as an erstwhile Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, and his contributions in that regard cannot be undermined. In addition to this, he has served as a Fellow at Ahmadu Bello University, and at the same time, he had worked as a coordinator on different projects nationwide. His influence is intimidating, and his records are excellent. He has travelled far and wide, contributing to how he sees things, making sure careful considerations and critical evaluations inform his decisions. Within the period of his ascension into academic stardom, he has kept his very ideological ground intact, and his morals have not suffered any damage. Upright and forthright, dedicated and celebrated, Dr. Mailafia has created an image for himself capable of withstanding pressures and that can also stand the test of time.

Nigeria has produced numerous great people, and Dr. Obadiah Mailafia stands firm as one of its celebrated citizens. This explains why he has continued to make himself relevant despite the numerous happenings, indicating his capacity to endure challenges. The world is aware of his impact. To listen to the ideas of Dr Mailafia, do please join us on:

Sunday, August 15, 2021

5:00 PM Nigeria

4:00 PM GMT

11:00 AM Austin CST

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