Iyinoluwa Aboyeji: The Silence of the Lambs (YNaija Frontpage)

 “In sheepskin coats, I silence the lambs
   Do you know who I am, Clarice?”

  –  Murder to Excellence (Kanye West ft. Jay-Z)


Whenever I talk to my friends or mentors who crave careers in public service, the number one lie I realise they have bought into is that government is the only way to make recognizable impact in the lives of ordinary Nigerians. Unfortunately, the data doesn’t support that conclusion.

What we know for a fact is that for every naira our government lays its hand on, far less than 30 kobo manages to trickle down the ordinary Nigerian in public infrastructure. So you have to wonder what kind of impact these individuals imagine they will make in government.

To make matters even worse, much of government is heavily populated by uninspiring dolts. I hear there was a time only the smartest students were accepted to our civil service. Well, those days are over, thanks to federal character. Today, you read some policy papers and much of it simply doesn’t make sense.

Oh, and perchance, you are somehow clever by half; there is always that permanent irritant – our compromised National Assembly, ever ready to stop anything that appears like progress from going through its shameless chambers in one piece.

Take for example, Madame Oteh’s treatment at the hands of Mr Hembe, the House Committee Chair on Capital Markets (why do we even need one?). I’m not sure what kind of experience in regulating Capital Markets Mr Hembe has but it didn’t seem like he had a clear understanding of how securities regulation should work. Of course, that probably doesn’t matter much in light of Hembe and his fellow fiends’ hefty sitting allowances.

So remind me again, what in this web of corruption and compromise resembles the desired impact on Nigerians our public intellectuals go into government in search of?

What is particularly surprising to me is how little we learn from the mistakes of those who come before us in this respect. It is a well-known fact that history isn’t very kind to public intellectuals who go into government. Especially in Nigeria, few people come out of the government’s cesspit of corruption smear-free. So why are so many brilliant people with a bright future ahead of them committing career suicide by jumping into the pissing pool ironically branded “public service”?

After consistently pondering this issue, I think I might be finally on to something.

I suspect that this illusion of the government’s impact combined with the Nigerian’s culturally endowed subservience to authority (a weakness we often mistake for respect) is being exploited by some devious individuals inside the Government to silence conscientious public intellectuals.

Outside of government, our public intellectuals freely and intelligently speak their minds to their peers and to power. However, in the realm of Aso Rock’s reality distortion field, they quickly learn that every sentence must be appropriately punctuated with “Your Excellency” and many important things are best left whispered or worse yet, unsaid. Soon enough, the once vibrant public intellectual we all once knew and admired is a shadow of his former self.

Just like in the old Ottoman Empire, where execution by garrote (strangulation) was reserved for very high officials and members of the ruling family, the path of government appointed destruction is reserved for our countries brightest and best. Unfortunately, it is remarkably effective. Prominent victim after prominent victim, the twisted rope of government subservience has quickly strangled voices of impact into guilt-filled silence.

In a Nigeria where objective truth is scarce, our greatest public service is our voice of enlightened conviction.


Don’t be tricked into silence.


The government is the garrote.


Iyinoluwa Aboyeji | On Leaders and Company

Aboyeji is CEO of Bookneto, a student focused education technology company based in Canada. In 2008, he worked as an intern at the Settlement and Integration Services Organization in Hamilton and then went on to work with the World Youth Alliance at the UN Headquarters in New York as an intern. Shortly before founding Bookneto, he served as the President of one of Canada’s largest student publishing companies, Imprint Publications.


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Comments (8)

  1. I think the smart ones who create companies and startups can easily impact public policy to their advantage and the advantage of other people even if dumb people are in power. Its all about lobbying appropriately and driving public opinion.

  2. Amazing writeup as usual Iyin. But my question is ; If all the smart ones go create startups and companies, is it not the not-so-smart ones who are going to end up making the policies for them to abide by? Its never so simple as you make it..

  3. Apt.

    I say cut the size of the government to reduce the number of dolts that can even be in it, then bright, well intentioned people might get a fair chance at shining.

    But this is a chicken or egg situation, who in government now will cut down it's size?

    Alternatively, If we are indeed subservient to authority, we would only need a few intellectuals to be president, head the national assemblies and a smattering of states to activate true change in public service. no?

  4. Question:If intellectuals stay on the outside and carry on 'voicing enlightened convictions' and government continues business as usual, where does that leave us?

    Truth: Change can come from outside but for optimal impact MUST come from within government.

  5. Government is definitely not the only way to make impact. Government however has the power and resources to make more widespread impact with not as much effort as would be required as a private entity.

    Anybody not willing to make even the tiniest compromise should not be in government. The writer is right. Your words would no longer be your own and everything you say would have to pass through a filter. This is however not reason enough to not try to change the system. I believe if you are committed enough to better governance, your topmost dilemma would not be your name/reputation. You would be willing to sacrifice your name if you are absolutely sure your actions are for the greater good.

  6. As much as I believe that there's a lot we can do w/out government, we still need intellectual ppl going into government. Its not that we just lack ppl of intellectualism there, but we sorely desire ppl of strong moral fibre and convictions, who'll be stubborn enough to stick to their guns when they are right.

  7. *trying to come up with a counter argument*…


    Well, another side to this is that there aren't ENOUGH people who want change, that are in government. Good old critical mass, within and without. Hence, the idea would be to get a lot of good people in there at ONCE, not singly. You dig?

    1. How is that going to be possible? I really can't see it happening.

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