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Obadaiah Mailafia: Exit of A Public Servant

malaifa caaricature

September 25, (THEWILL) – “When people behave that way, they must know it is just a matter of time. The system cannot hold. The system definitely cannot hold. Five years looks extremely long. No system can survive the kind of pressures that our system is currently undergoing.  Something, sooner or later, will have to happen. People have had enough. They know the country cannot take it anymore. The system will definitely collapse.  I am not speaking as an alarmist; I am not even speaking as a politician. I am speaking as a development economist and as a policy scientist who is looking at these things and the way the system functions. This system is programmed to collapse. If we continue on the same path trajectory, it will not survive” – Obadiah, in an interview with THEWILL, April 2021

Late Dr Obadiah Mailafia belonged to a special species of mankind. He was a firm believer in God and gave no room for guess work about it.  His life was as constant as the northern star. He was vocal, courageous, frank, bold and sincere. He was the kind of person who abhorred the company of crooked characters.  He was a rare breed, one who used his knowledge, gifts and every bit of the divine endowment in him for the benefit of the society.

Mailafia was a fighter for the downtrodden and a Very Senior Advocate of those whose voices are muzzled by the 21st century emperors of their time.

His first name, Obadiah, is a Hebrew word whose meaning is “the Servant of God.” Indeed, he lived like the Obadiah of the Bible whose book concerns the divine judgment of Edom and the restoration of Israel.

In other words, Obadiah Mailafia continued to warn against the divine judgment of his generation and the restoration of God’s own people whose lives were battered by the ‘Edom’ of their time. Yet, he was scientific with his approach to the challenges of life.  “Even though my name is Obadiah – a prophet in the Bible, I can only answer you scientifically…” he said in an interview with THEWILL, where he lamented over the leadership tragedy that plagued Nigeria  in every aspect of life.

His left us with one truth: a society without an Obadiah Mailafia is doomed.  A people without the voice of an Obadiah will be consumed by the forces of evil.  On a daily basis, the 64-year-old patriot raised his voice like that of a prophet to warn against the impending doom if there was not change.  He spoke from the point of knowledge, religion and culture. He did not hesitate to remind those in authority that they have a divine responsibility – to protect life and property; to do justice and to ensure that the land is not soaked with blood.

When he got tired of watching from the sideline, he plunged into the arena of practical politics and contested the position of president, the highest office in the land, on the platform of the African Democratic Congress (ADC). He spoke his mind on the colossal loss of lives and resources through insecurity that has plagued Nigeria in recent times, especially in the last six years.

He may not have won the election, but it is on record that he pushed beyond being an armchair critic, lamenting the wrong-doing in the land like a disabled strong man confronting his fate from the wheelchair. Unlike many in his position, he did not exploit the collective bruise of his people by the powers that be to impose further hardship on the poor citizens or to steal from them. Instead, he defended them with his strength, his intellect and his genuine, hard-earned resources.

He helped to change the orientation of most of his people who had resigned to the belief that they were condemned to the ineluctable fate from which there was no escape or that life had become a choice between leukemia and a brain tumour.

“I put my trust in the indomitable courage and resilience of the great Nigerian people. Nigerians are able to get there.  When it comes to the economy, they are not looking for handouts. They are looking for a peaceful environment to help themselves and their families. But, what we are going through right now, we have never experienced before. Not even during the Nigerian Civil War.

“What we are going through today is unprecedented: That we elected a government that is actually a foreign government; it is not a government of our citizens – building railways to foreign countries of which we know nothing;  building refineries in other people’s countries, using borrowed money from the Chinese, for which they have mortgaged our sovereignty. If this is not madness, I don’t know what madness is. I don’t know who will make them account for this combination of folly and wickedness.  I don’t know how else to describe it. It is totally unforgivable, totally unacceptable.

“You cannot abuse people up to that level. You cannot brutalise an entire country and hold them to ransom to that extent. And you created an atmosphere of fear. There is a culture of silence that has descended upon the country. Everybody is scared. Nobody wants to speak out. Nobody wants to stick out his neck. That fear is reinforcing primordial sentiments. The Sunday Igbohos of this world and others are coming out to say, ‘This country is gone. So, let’s celebrate what we can get for our people’. And you can’t blame them. However, this is an irrational response to the reality of system collapse. This is where we are,” he stressed in the interview with THEWILL.

He refused to share the destiny of narrow-minded apostles of intolerant nationalism. Even at the point where he suffered momentary incarceration, he told the world where he was.  The servant-prophet said:

“I spent over 20 years of my working life abroad as a university teacher, banker and international civil servant with an unblemished record. I have no criminal record — not even a parking ticket. Sadly, it is in my own fatherland that I’m being subjected to criminal investigation and such extreme political persecution. Please, pray for me. I have reasons to believe that my life is in danger and that some powerful political forces want to silence me forever for speaking the truth. For speaking on behalf of the Holy Martyrs — of thousands of innocent children, women, elderly and youths that have been killed in our beloved country.” That was about a year before he passed on.

He left a word in the marble: “What people do not realise is that Nigerians are a very ancient people. If you look at the Middle Belt, you see civilisation that is traced to Egypt of the Pharaohs. They invented iron before the Greeks and the Romans of old. If you look at Ile-Ife, it is 1,000 years-old. The Benin Empire is almost 2,000 years-old.  The Efik people have a similar system of writing as the Jews and the Hebrews, the Kanem-Bornu Empire – these are very ancient civilisations of over 1,000 years.

“They are not going to sit back and watch people who came to Nigeria just 200 years ago. They are not going to sit back and be destroyed by foreigners who came only 200 years ago … and believe that their race is superior, (that) they are born to rule, they can lord it over us because the British in their collective stupidity came here and told them they were a race very superior to the others and were born to rule over the rest of us. It is the greatest self-deceit of the century. And they will later find out they have lived in a very big lie. The ancient cultures of Nigeria are very strong; they will resist and they will defeat them.”

Mailafia was born on 24 December 1956 in the village of Randa in Sanga Local Government Area of Kaduna State. He started his elementary education at Musha Sudan United Mission School from 1964 to 1969 and proceeded to Mada Hills Secondary School, Akwanga from 1970 to 1974. For his A/Levels, he attended the School of Basic Studies (SBS) at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, between 1974 and 1975. He later proceeded and graduated top of his class at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1978 with a B.Sc, Honours Social Sciences degree (Politics Economics and Sociology).

He also had a M.Sc. from the same institution. He subsequently won a French Government Scholarship to France, where he earned a Certificate in French Language and Civilisation from the University of Clermont-Ferrand in 1985. Mailafia later proceeded to the United Kingdom as a Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Scholar at Oriel College, earning a DPhil from the University of Oxford in 1995.

He was a former official of the African Development Bank Group and one-time Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). He was also the Chief of Staff of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), the 79-nation multilateral development institution based in Brussels, Belgium.

The prophet has spoken. He has descended from the hill. He has completed his divine assignment. He is gone. Adieu the servant-prophet.