Policy Briefs

An Interesting Glimpse Into Thinking

A Review of Oseloka H. Obaze’s Here To Serve

By Ejeviome Eloho Otobo

It is a high honour and special privilege to be the Reviewer for the book — Here To Serve: Advocacy for Good Governance. This is one of the two books being publicly presented by Mr. Oseloka Obaze. I am on a mission of reciprocity, because 8 months ago, Oseloka played the role of book Reviewer for my book which was launched in Lagos. Well, reciprocity is the oil that greases not only diplomatic relations among countries but also inter-personal relationships. My reciprocal and inter-personal relations with Oseloka run very deeply.

I will preface my remarks by noting that Oseloka Obaze isnot just an author, but as a professional, intellectual, public policy analyst, leader, a loving husband and a caring father. My path and Oseloka’s first crossed exactly 30 years ago, when we were both posted to the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations in New York. We both served under the late Major General Joseph N. Garba, who was Nigeria’s Ambassador to the UN at the time. It is often said that some leaders are born great. Others have greatness thrusted upon them. And yet others achieve greatness. Through the dint of hard work, Oseloka has distinguished himself as a diplomat in the Nigerian Foreign Service, as a senior official at the United Nations and, most recently, as the ninth Secretary to the State Government (SSG) of Anambra. It was in the latter capacity that Oseloka brought to bear the wide-ranging experience that he had garnered to public policy problem solving in Anambra. As SSG in Anambra, he evinced commitment, focus, innovativeness, creativity and adaptiveness.

The book HERE TO SERVE: Advocacy for Good Governance is a collection of speeches, op-eds and essays that Oseloka wrote during his 3 year tenure (June 2012- June 2015) as Secretary to the Anambra State Government. It is 264 pages long and consists of 31 chapters divided into 4 parts: Responsive Leadership; Ethics in Governance; Policy Interrogation; and Confronting Realpolitik. An appendix at the end of the book contains 20 questions designed to challenge the reader’s understanding of the issues raised in various chapters.

The scope of issues covered in this book is wide ranging. Those issues are important and relevant not only to Anambra’s development but also for Nigeria’s national cohesion and stability. There are chapters that focus on some of the urgent challenges that Anambra confronted during his tenure as SSG (Flood disasters; the Scare of Ebola; Keeping Our Roads Safe; Anambra and the Transformation Agenda; and Begging for the Second Niger Bridge). There are also chapters that grapple with improving the functioning and effectiveness of government, especially at the state level (Improving Governance in Government; Enhancing the Bond of Performance between the Three Arms of Government; Imperatives of Etiquette, Integrity, Ethics, Accountability and Transparency in Local Governments and Grassroots Politics; Ethics and Transparency in Governance: Perceptions Trump Reality; and Ensuring a Seamless Transition).

Then, there are chapters in which the author reflected on major national issues, such as the chapters on The Imperatives for the Review of the Extant Revenue Allocation Formula; Rallying to Promote Technology in Nigeria; The Petroleum Industry Bill: Aligning Policy for a Common Cause; and Despite Nigeria’s Rhetoric, a Rebased Economy cannot Turn Around Its Debased Circumstances.

The chapters in the book have been written with an uncommon clarity of thought, conciseness, and courage. Public servants, especially senior public officials, are not known to state their positions very clearly. They are usually masters of obfuscations and idioms. In this highly informative and readable book, Oseloka dispenses with those protocols and tells it as it is. That is all more remarkable, especially given the nature of some of the issues that he has written on. Oseloka’s boldness and clarity of thought are in open display in the last chapter of the book titled Deciphering Nigeria in the Context of the 2015 Prognostications written in February 2015 around the time that the elections were postponed.  After I read that chapter, the thought that occurred to me was that how I wish that Nigeria’s political leaders will heed even a third of the advice therein. The issues on which he wrote in that chapter deserved to be tackled with the fierce urgency of now.  But will the national political rise up to the challenge?

Oseloka’s book not only offers an interesting glimpse into the thinking of a highly placed senior government official whose main task was to bring coherence, improve coordination and performance of  institutions in the executive branch of the state government. It also stakes out his views on some major national issues. For these reasons, this book should be an essential reading for those interested in the development of Anambra and those who are working any State government or aspire to hold an elective or appointive public office.

Although the book focuses on issues that Oseloka grappled with or reflected on as SSG (which acronym, he referred to as “senior scapegoat”), he makes clear that this book is not his Memoire. This suggests that we can expect to read his Memoire in the next few years, when the time is opportune. This book is, therefore, an appetiser to what will be in the main menu in the Memoire. We look forward with eagerness to reading his definite Memoire. I congratulate Oseloka Henry Obaze for publishing this book, and wish him the strength, wisdom and good health to deliver on the Memoire. Oseloka should hold himself ready to serve again, when called upon to do so.  When he does so, he would really have lived up to the promise of the current title: Here To Serve.


Amb. Otobo, is former Director and Deputy Head of UN Peacebuilding Support Office, New York, and currently Non-resident Senior Expert on Peacebuilding &Global Economic Policy  Global Governance Institute, Brussels, Belgium.

Oseloka Obaze, MD & CEO

Oseloka Obaze, MD & CEO

Mr. Obaze is the former Secretary to the State Government of Anambra State, Nigeria from 2012 to 2015 - MD & CEO, Oseloka H. Obaze. Mr. Obaze also served as a former United Nations official, from 1991-2012, and as a former member of the Nigerian Diplomatic Service, from 1982-1991.

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