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The Chinua Achebe Foundation Interview Series #35

A Meeting of the Minds
(Professor Jadesola Akande in Conversation with Toluwanimi Olujimi Part 1)

The Chinua Achebe Foundation

Mrs. Jadesola Akande

Chinua Achebe

Prof. Chinua Achebe


Prof. Jadesola Akande

Prof. Jadesola Akande

is a professor of high repute, and the second female Vice-Chancellor of a tertiary institution in
Nigeria. Born on 15th November 1940 in Lagos, she attended University College, London where she obtained LL.B (Hon.) 1960-1963, and also had her Ph.D. 1969-1971. She was barrister at law at the Inner temple, London between 1960-1964. She married a Legal luminary, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Debo Akande, who passed on last year.


Mrs. Akande attended the Nigerian law school between September – December 1965 and as a staff candidate, she obtained her Masters (LL-M) at the University of Lagos 1966-1968. She also attended the Centre for Management Studies CMD, Lagos, where she got a certificate in computer management, 1988.  She enrolled at the Harvard Institute of Management, (IEM) for a certificate in Management in 1989. Professor Jadesola Akande took a certificate in Gender Training, 1993 from the Eastern and Southern African Management Institute (ESAMI), Arusha. It was therefore little wonder that she went to court to challenge the federal government of Nigeria over the non-fair representation of women at the Confab.


She was elected a member of the Senate, University of Lagos, 1979 to 1981, member of the Academic Planning Committee, and also member of the students’ Welfare Board. She was also a Research Professor at the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of Lagos campus, 1984-1994.


She was the Head of Academic Department of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced legal studies 1984-1986, and became dean of the faculty of law, Lagos State University from 1986 –1988.  In 1989, she was appointed the Vice- Chancellor, Lagos State University, LASU, thus becoming the second woman in Nigeria to serve in that capacity. She occupied this position until 1993.


Akande was the Executive director and founder of a Non-Governmental Organisation, Women, Law and Development Centre, WOLDEC from 1994 to date, and the Pro-chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council, Federal University of Technology Akure, from 2000 – 2004. She was also consultant to the UNDP, UNICEF AU on gender issues and an initiator of a family Law Centre.


Academically, Akande has been very resourceful; she has contributed numerous publications, monographs, and research papers in learned journals. Among her numerous works are her LL-M Dissertation, Women’s Rights in Property in Nigeria, 1968; Human Rights and the Judicial System in Nigeria, 2004; The Minorities and Challenges to Federalism, 1988; The Role of Judicial Precedent in Constitutional Adjudication in a Presidential System of Government, 1981; and Juvenile Law Reform in Africa, delivered at the conference of the Bar Association, 1991 among other publications.


She was a delegate to the United World Conference on Women, Beijing, China, 1995, member of delegation to the International conference of Recent Development in Administrative Law In America, Israeli, 1979, World peace through law conferences, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 1982 etc. However, the Oyo born lawyer has not quit learning. She indulged in self- improvement by going for the International Education Management course at Harvard University from July-August 1989, the National Workshop on the Effective Chief Executive, Abuja, 1990; a Word Training Workshop for African Women In Gender and Research for Development with Women – ESAMI, ARUSHA, 1993, and a Workshop on Building a Civil Society at the African American Institute, Washington, U.S.A. 1993.


Her efforts towards humanity and her academic excellence earned her among others, a national honour. She was decorated with the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) 1998. Akande is a distinguished Alumnus of the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, 1988, as well as an Achiever of the International Federation of Women Lawyers, 1989. She was made the Yeyemofin of Itire, Lagos State, 1986, and awarded the Justice of Wisdom Award by the Nigerian Association of Law students, 1972.





Do you think it is possible to identify a particular period in Nigeria’s history when its deterioration commenced, or should we assume that we ‘missed the boat entirely’?


We haven’t missed it; what we have missed is leadership in Nigeria. I say this, because the leaders we’ve had in this country have been products of the colonial system. The colonial system did not train our people for leadership positions; rather, they were trained to be next in command to someone British in the position of authority who then hands down instructions. Someone else would take a decision, and then ask his Nigerian subordinate to implement it. So when the colonial masters left governance to these people who were used to taking orders, they were still waiting for people to give them guidelines. There was no one, of course, to give them the guidelines, because they were the leaders on whose desk the buck stopped. And before anyone could realise this, the country was facing a coup.


Some are of the opinion that Nigeria’s problem is not necessarily that of leadership, but mainly followership; people are not politically aware, and so those in power have been able to get away with bad leadership.


 The followership was unable to monitor what the leaders were doing, the majority, unfortunately, not being educated enough. So the basic strategies needed for leadership were not present. The colonials created a gap between those supposedly being trained to be heirs apparent to power and others. And those who were followers did not know what to expect of their leaders. All these years, it’s been a recycling of the same group of people, so, we will only have a good leader if we remove all those who have been in office since independence. This was the exact opinion of a market leader we worked with in recent times, and she’s right. They are the same people who had this training that was simply not good enough, and unless we remove that set of people and bring in fresh candidates with sound initiatives, we will go on having bad governance.


At the National Reform Conference that was held recently, the average age that attended was 80; the same people who were here even before independence. Now they are 70, 80 years old, and still refuse to go. Many of those men and women have not even kept up with the times; they have not kept up with what is happening in other parts of the world. But there they were, selected to fashion out a new political order in Nigeria.


Many members of my generation are concerned that there are younger, incompetent and unqualified politicians being sponsored by the old guard…individuals who are just as corrupt as their mentors…


I agree…but other younger politicians are fighting the conservativeness of the old ones. The problem is that while they are fighting, they are not thinking of what they will do if they get into power. They are too busy trying to wrestle power from the old ones who are not willing to let go.


Nigeria is currently beset with the political conundrum of “Godfatherism.” Some believe it is a Nigerian political idiosyncrasy that we must get used to. Others believe that is one of the greatest threats to Nigeria’s burgeoning Democracy. What is your assertion?


It is a travesty! Politics in Nigeria is all about money and ‘godfatherism’ -- to put the least literate and unqualified people into positions of authority. The political parties are controlled by the old guard, so they determine who is going be in them. And if a younger candidate is not their loyalist, he will never make the list. So, the godfathers are still there; but they are thankfully no longer relevant as indicated by the Anambra State and Oyo State incidents, for instance. One or two decent young politicians seem to be coming up, but the godfathers still have a hold on them. Either they have to donate money or they have to push, if they want to retain power. The old guard will only put people they can manipulate into positions of authority.


Nigeria just completed a controversial National Census. Why has it been historically difficult to produce a credible count of the people?


The divide and rule tactics of the colonial masters ensured that they manipulated population census taking. They ‘apportioned’ a larger population count to one part of the country, and so that segment of the Nigerian society seemingly has twice the population of everybody else. And we all know that politics is a game of numbers. So, that particular section always has that edge; when states were being created, this area had far more states than the rest of the country. Hence when anything is shared in the country, more is given to it, because it is assumed that there are more states and more people. The assumption is that these people are greater in number than the rest of the country.


At the Confab, there was a call for the creation of more states; but I’ve never been in support of this, and I don’t think our leadership has understood the presidential system of government. It’s obvious that the presidential system is too expensive for us. I think the military did not allow for the proper practice of the parliamentary system, and did not allow it to gain root before they intervened and forced the presidential system on us.


Many thinkers believe that Nigeria appears to be in a state of political confusion, in part, because we don’t even understand the democratic system borrowed from America that we are supposed to be practicing… Is it possible to say there has been a non-evolution of the political culture? In other words, we copy the presidential system, then the parliamentary system or whatever system exists. But none of these have evolved from any part of our own traditions?


I accept that analysis… Under

Prof. Jadesola Akande

Professor Jadesola Akande

the parliamentary system, there are so many checks and balances; the ministers are chosen and they are part of the house, part of the parliament. They operate by rules and regulations; they are not responsible
only to the president so that they have no regard whatsoever for the will of the people they represent. If we continue with this idea of an ultimate president, it is not going to augur well for us. That is not how the presidential system of government is practised anywhere in the world.


I also think that it will be better for us to operate as regions, because most of the states are not viable; they have nothing to live on. They just wait for the federal government to give them money, and that’s why they are so pre-occupied with trying to please the president, hence the relationship is that of master/servant. This was unlike when we were operating as regions; it didn’t matter who was at the federal level, because each of the regions was more or less self sufficient. But now, everybody scrambles to be at the centre since that’s where all the power and authority flow from.


So, I believe there is the need to weaken the centre; I’ve said it many years now. You cannot create too strong a centre and expect development in the smaller units – the states. Look at the situation in Lagos State, for instance; how can the president withhold its local government funds? He shouldn’t even be involved in what’s going on at the local government level! If he must, he should rely on feedback from the state governor, because the local government seat is different from the presidential. But because the president has been given so much power, he now wants to control the local governments as well. In the real sense of it, it’s not the president’s, but the responsibility of the people to decide whether a local area is doing well or not. Why would the president, a leader at the centre and supposedly concerned with higher matters, know what is happening in my small local government in Eti-Osa? There are 774 local government councils; the local government administration is the business of that enclave which is the state!


Corruption has long been the bane of our nation. What are some of the subterranean factors that nurture corruption in Nigeria?


Corruption is such a big problem in Nigeria; it is so deeply rooted that people often say

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we cannot get rid of it! In spite of the steps that President Olusegun Obasanjo is taking now, corruption will be with us for a long time to come. And the reason is this; corruption is not as a result of poverty, but greed. Many Nigerians are greedy, even when they have material wealth you find them still trying to cut corners. So, its not poverty, its greed. People are poor; I’m not disputing that, and they are not satisfied being poor. Yet those who are rich still want what does not belong to them. This encourages corruption. Take the rural areas as an instance. Once a man from there comes to the urban centre he is not expected to return to the village a poor man. He must become rich, in whatever manner.


Then take the Niger Delta. For a very long time, some members of the community received money from the oil companies on behalf of their communities; but because of corruption, the monies were siphoned by a handful of individuals so that the majority of the people did not benefit from it. The politicians are given all kinds of allowances as soon as they are elected into office, whereas the civil servants are poorly paid. The minimum wage ought to be considered when money is being allotted to politicians. So, you see a lot of people in the civil service trying to amass wealth to make up for the little they earn, and also to be able to take care of life after retirement. It is well known that there is so much corruption in the civil service, and it is all because they want to prepare for the rainy days, as they have no other means.


What steps, in your opinion, can Nigeria take to stop this trend?


There has been a corruption of the systems. Corruption is not only when the policeman at the checkpoint demands N20 from the road user; it is endemic, and until we look at the root cause and tackle it from there, we are not about to solve the problem, and it will continue. We are not talking about apprehending and prosecuting one person here and there, or somebody who stole N10 million. I think, most importantly, we need to address the system; the root causes of corruption in the country. The Nigerian system is such that it encourages people to want to amass wealth. People keep saying “it is poverty...” Again, I will say it is greed, because the poor are not necessarily corrupt as the rich are.


Some pundits believe Nigeria should streamline its many bureaucracies in order to effectively tackle this problem. What is your assertion?


My sentiments exactly! Look, take the sale of government houses, for example; people are asked to obtain forms free of charge. Then the man in charge hoards the forms, and for 10,000 houses for which, at least, 300,000 people will want to apply for, he provides only 400 housing forms so that people will desperately pay to get them. So, all these little aspects of our national life that we don’t look into encourage corruption. In different spheres of our system, there are so many things that we do not consider or look into. We see situations where people embezzle money or there is outright stealing of public funds…but corruption is not just about money. When you employ someone who is not qualified for any particular position, you encourage corruption --  so, where are we going?


The pathology of corruption seems to have infested, infected, and permeated every cadre of our society…including the educational sector…


Well let us look at our examination system… I will not say the examination bodies are corrupt; but you can see how corruption in the society has so badly affected the educational system, leading to rampant examination malpractices. I will say that we have not taken into consideration the fact that there is too much emphasis on paper qualification. Examination questions are set outside of the system, there are syllabuses and it is assumed that all schools will teach the same things and pupils able to answer the same sets of questions. But we all know that the school system does not work this way. Different schools have different teachers whose qualifications also differ and all these affect standards. Some schools don’t even have teachers for certain subjects; yet the students are expected to write and pass the same qualifying examinations! And each school wants to excel, outdo the other in terms of general performance. What happens, therefore, is that they will look for a way of covering up their deficiencies in their own way. They buy question papers, get syndicate students to write examination for candidates or buy supervisors over to assist their students during examinations. Sometimes, they go all out to buy marks.


There have been situations of outright purchases of certificates; even highbrow private schools have been accused of some of these examination malpractices, because they want it to be said that their products perform excellently in general examinations, and they do this to attract more students. Some schools do not have the equipment necessary to teach certain subjects, yet the students, are expected to pass all the same. So, that is the way Nigeria is.


What is your reaction to the spate of rash political killings in Nigeria in the last few years?


I think it’s very sad and very scary. People will be scared away from taking part in politics, because no one is prepared to die for anyone or for any cause any longer. And if these killings do not stop, we shall not have any confidence in the political process. It is not as if other countries do not experience political killings, but in our own situation it seems as if the killings occur mainly in one particular party. So the members of that party should first examine themselves before they begin to consider what they will contribute to nation building.  If they cannot control their own internal conflicts, how then are they going to administer the entire country? For that reason, I think more commitment is needed to finding those who are involved in political killings. Otherwise, every vote cast for that party is a vote for murderers.


But do you think that today, investigations are being conducted differently, and that we can begin to be confident that, for once, these recent killings would be resolved?


These investigations have all followed the same pattern. So none of the political murders

has been resolved -- from Bola Ige, Rewane, the young lawyer and his wife in the east, Dikibo and more recently Funsho Williams and Daramola... So many now that I cannot remember them all. So how can we be confident that these latest murders would be resolved? It is not likely, though I don’t want to say it is not possible.
  I heard the Inspector General announce that he is personally taking charge of the Ekiti assassination. What gives the Ekiti situation special consideration above all other cases? We will want to know why the IG has a personal interest in just one case when there were two killings within a short space of time. It is the business of the Policemen stationed in the areas the murders took place. 


There is however no sign that they will ever unravel these killings. Funsho Williams’ killing, for instance, they may have a commitment to resolve; but I don’t think they are going about it the right way at all. First of all, the man was killed at between 10 and 11am or thereabout, and the corpse was left there until about 10pm. During those hours, the police did not seal up the scene of the crime; people were going in and coming out. In short, someone told us that he not only went in, but turned over the corpse so that he could see where he was stabbed. Maybe he was lying, I wouldn’t know. 

So in all that time, a lot of evidence would have been destroyed, and that is why the Police Investigatory team brought in from abroad said they could not use fingerprints and footprints, because there were so many by the time they got there. Also, we don’t have a culture of finger printing criminals in Nigeria. So how are they going to use fingerprints as evidence? So, the possibility of their finding the killers is very, very slim. The implication of this is that as long as these killings continue, credible people, people of honour and integrity will stay away from the political process. This is because such people are not desperate to get into office and those who are, can kill and maim to do so. And we continue to be led by murderers.


What is your opinion of the Bola Ige assassination and the unfinished work of your eminent late husband?


I will just repeat what my children said: ‘we leave everything in the hands of God, because he is the ultimate judge and He knows all that happened.’ But let me point this out; somebody was arrested, indicted and prosecuted. He was elected to the highest body of legislature while he was in prison. The same fellow is now fighting the governor of his state. Better watch out before someone else is killed in the same way. This same person is now involved in violence, and seems to be following the same pattern; the opponent he is fighting was attacked in the Oni of Ife’s palace, and up till now, none has said anything. And they seem unable to arrest him. So, is it when there is another murder that it will be said they are looking for the killers?


But the IG has said that a number of murder cases have been resolved, and he named Bola Ige’s as one…


(Cuts in) The Ige case was not properly dealt with. The police arrested some people, but the court discharged them on the grounds that there was not enough police evidence. So if the police had done their job thoroughly, why would the court say it does not have enough evidence? It means they did not do their job thoroughly. And I will tell you an instance where they did not appear to have done their job thoroughly; they arrested an eye witness who as soon as he was arrested told them, ‘Yes, I can identify those who did the job. They now took the man into police custody, put him in the same cell as those who were being prosecuted, and said the man was under protective custody. Of course, anything could have happened in there, and when he was interrogated again, the man said he could no longer recognise anybody. Yet, the Police claim that they did a thorough job; but what is thorough there? And understand that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom; if they fear God they will know that they are not saying the truth.


I would like us to turn to the PRONACO Conference; are you satisfied with how it went?


I’m very satisfied. People misunderstand PRONACO; PRONACO is not a political party, but a pressure group to ensure that there is constructive change in Nigeria. One of the main things which PRONACO wanted is to push for a new Constitution. This new Constitution has been drafted; it’s being discussed now, and God willing, will be adopted today (August 28, 2006). Once this happens, the work of PRONACO is finished. The next step would be to find an acceptable political party to take the process forward by accepting it as the Nigerian Constitution. So PRONACO has not failed at all.


What would you say are the highlights of the Constitution?


PRONACO wants a new and united Nigeria. And it is the most thoroughly debated Constitution in Nigeria as it brought together all the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. All of them were represented and came to say what it was they wanted for Nigeria. So what Nigerians want for Nigeria, is a return to the parliamentary system of government. Secondly, Nigerians want more emphasis on the regions rather than on the federal. In this way, authority will rest with the regions, and not the federal, as it is now. Thirdly, they are putting more emphasis on the participation of women; that women should be able to occupy at least, 30 per cent of all the positions; elective, appointive or whatever.


Fourthly, we are making plans to make education is free. All this talk that ‘there is no money’ is not true. There is enough money to make education free and education is the bedrock of any development. Therefore we are aspiring to make education free up to the university level. Fifthly, we are upholding the issue of resource control not because oil is a big market, but from the point of view of developing our agriculture and other mineral resources and helping to develop it. And in the end, only a percentage is given to the federal government, not the other way round.


Finally, in the case of criminal laws that say a person shall be innocent until proven

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guilty, there are certain issues where we have said one must also prove ones innocence. Also, anyone who took over government by force has committed treason; anything through arms. And even if such illegal administrations spend 20 years, whenever they leave power they will be tried for treason. This will permanently end military participation in governance. We expect that if we truly want a change in this country, then we should adopt this constitution.


Do you see the present crop of leaders at home with the contents of the PRONACO constitution?


The present crop of leaders is going to be wiped away; they are not relevant. They are there now, they are going to contest elections, but we are hoping that whoever wins the next election is going to say let us take on the revised constitution and begin to implement it. In the next few years therefore, we will have a different leader, a different country, a different constitution, and younger people with better ideas coming on board.


When PRONACO first started out, there were disagreements among some leaders of the group and a lot of people were disappointed. But that is the beauty of democracy; everyone is allowed to say what he has to say; it is a right to be heard. In democracy, you do not have to agree, but you can dialogue to reach a compromise, and that was what happened.


But Ma, you were in this country when the 1999 Constitution was being drafted?


Yes, and at the time I was one of those who argued that the constitution will make an autocrat of the president, whether a military or an elected president.

And it was written in black and white. It’s there and I told them this. It was another of Babangida’s handiworks, and the majority had their way. So that is it.


Sometimes, I just get tired thinking of Nigeria’s problems that seem never to end. Other times, I take solace in the fact that other countries have their own problems too. But really, one has to be optimistic because that is the only way you can be happy to be Nigerian.



Disclaimer: The views expressed in the interview are not necessarily those of the Chinua Achebe Foundation. The Chinua Achebe Foundation, an intellectual and cultural organization, believes in the right of every Nigerian to express their opinion.

Chinua Achebe Foundation Interview Series: Professor Jadesola Akande in Conversation with Toluwanimi Olujimi Part 1