The National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) otherwise known as The National Institute is in a celebratory mood this season. It has just turned 40 and is rolling the red carpet all over. The new Director-General, Professor HabuGaladima, recently appointed to fill the shoes of Professor Tijjani Muhammed-Bande who has gone to become the Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, is anxious to re-position the National Institute to meet changing circumstances and emerging challenges.
The new DG will this morning preside over a meeting of stakeholders to brainstorm over the future of the National Institute. Expectedly the DG is bringing all the former office holders of the National Institute including important stakeholders such as the leadership of the alumni association (AANI) – to meet in Abuja’s NICON Luxury Hotel to mull over current and future challenges facing the institute and develop strategies for re-positioning it. The National Institute shall avail itself of the collective wisdomof those who had, at a time, handled the affairs of the institute and who would always in their hearts wish the institute well and would not hesitate to advice candidly.
At this juncture it might do to refresh our memories on the early beginnings of the National Institute. We may recall that the idea to set it up was as lofty as it could be. The idea belonged to the military regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo that conceived it as an institution which would provide a forum for a select few initiators and executors of policy from all sectors of the economy, to interact closely for close to a year, largely thinking largely out of the box for the benefit of the whole country.These high-ranking policy makers and executors of the national economy would live together in the serene and beautiful environment of Kuru,reflecting, researching and sharing ideals of national unity. NIPSS was patterned after institutions with similar objectives in the United Kingdom, United States of America and Belgium. The fact that General Obasanjo and his colleagues, then holding the levers of government, had the experience of the Royal College of Defence Studies in London and such similar institutions elsewhere helped in shaping it.
Despite the hefty support of the government leaders, NIPSS had patchy beginnings.The idea to establish the National Institute was concretized in 1978 and the Decree to give it legal backing was rolled out the following year. The appointments of the Director-General (General Tunde Ogundeko) and other Principal Officers were finalized as well as the Board of Directors (headed by Chief Simeon Adebo). Selection of the participants of the first course had been made from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Federal and State Civil Service, Federal Parastatals, and the Private Sector.From all indications the National Institute was ready to start. Alas the contractors handling the building at the permanent site in Kurufailed to deliver as scheduled.
The military regime was due to hand over to a civilian administration in October 1979 and wanted to kick-start NIPSS before the due date and had to borrow buildings within Jos from Plateau State Government to use as offices and lecture rooms for the institute, while the staff and the first set of participants were quartered in the Hill Station Hotel. The two sites were close by and both participants and staff could shuttle easily. It was not the envisaged beginning for the institute. The experience was humbling but the pioneers soon got over it and when eventually the permanent site got completed they moved in.
The first set of 40 participants could easily showcase the quality of the selection process, as their subsequent careers in public affairs proved. The participants from the Army included Brigadiers, Ibrahim Babangida, Vatsa, Jemibowen,Shelleng, Remawa, Hananiya, Jega, Lekwot, Dumuje, Sho-Silva, Aduloju, A U Mohammed, from the Air Force there were Air Commodore Falope and Group Captain M Yahaya, and from the Navy came Commodore Okujagu. The Nigerian Police sent in Commissioners Danmadami and M AEweka.
The civilians included Borno State Head of Service,Ahmed Al-Gazali who would some years later become Chairman Federal Civil Service Commission. There was also Benue State Head of Service E AAkiga, Abba Abdullahi a Permanent Secretary from Kano State, DahiruModibbo from FRCN, U K Bello from Federal Civil Service and O Omoruyi (later Professor) from National University Commissionwho would later be a close associate of General Babangida as President. Hassan Ahmed 11, a Commissioner in Plateau State was among the set. He would later be Secretary and Director of Administration of the Institute and subsequently Emir of Nasarawa. Brigadier Sani Abacha, J T Useni and Idiagbon were in the 3rd set while Col AbdulsalamiAbubakar was in the 7th set. Adams Oshiomhole from Nigerian Labour Congress was in set 9. Leading traditional rulers are not left out. The Sultan Muhammadu Sa’adAbubakar of Sokoto was appointed in 2006 when he was a participant at NIPSS. Other traditional rulers that have been participants include, Oba RilwanAkiolu of Lagos, Obi Alfred Achebe of Onitsha, Emir of Gwandu,Ilyasu Bashar (General Mohammed Jega), Emir of Zuru, General Sani Sami and Orodje of Okpe, General Felix Mujakperuo.
Definitely if one looks back at the annual intake into NIPSS over the last 40 years, one would find the high calibre of the output patently outstanding. Three Heads of State, four Deputy Heads of State, many Governors and their Deputies, leading Generals in the Army, Navy and Air Force, many Heads of the Police, Customs, Immigration, Principle Officers in the Federal and State Civil Service, and Captains of Industry.I recall set 25 of 2003 that I was closely associated with as one the Directors in the institute. The set had DIGs Mike Okiro and OgbonnaOnovo, the duo that would subsequently become Inspector-General of Police one after the other.
It is not just the calibre of the participant that could be judged as exceptional but also their intellectual output in the last 40 years. The impact on public policy across the nation is mind boggling. Individually as participants and collectively as The National Institute, the research projects from NIPSS have always made a significant impact on public policy. Readers may recall that the recent issue of community policing that is now rolling out as a government policy. That was an example of the collective work of NIPSS participants. It was the theme of last year’s course which was intensively brainstormed on strengthening the internal security framework. The result was submitted to the President when they visited him last year as part of an annual ritual.
40 years is a long time in the life of any institution. Those of us who have come through those long years have seen a lot changes. It is not only the times that have changed but the challenges are always emerging. What worried General Joseph NanvenGarba as DG NIPSS, 1999-2002, would be entirely different now. General Garba had a close relationship with President Obasanjo and could reach out to him to solve the institute’s problem without much protocol. So it probably was with Professor Nur Alkali who combined the post of DG NIPSS and the head of the Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC) with unfettered access to General Sani Abacha. Now, to fund NIPSS and maintain standards must be a herculean task with all these different hurdles to cross before the budget is approved.
I will be at the stakeholders meeting and if there are any takeaways I will share it with the readers. Keep a date with this page.