Dr Joe Abah: Two Experts, Two Bureaucrats

Dr Joe Abah: Two Experts, Two Bureaucrats

Dr Joe Abah, is the Director General of Bureau of Public Service Reforms and academic. In very casual style unwittingly or knowingly, re-triggered a limited exchange on one of the most contentious controversies in modern intellectual history; what is the role the intellectual in society? The triggering sardonic comment by Dr Abah (@DrJoeAbah) on Twitter yesterday said “How to become an “expert” [1] in Nigeria: Be jobless; go around TV stations & beg to appear on ANY programme; criticise all Govt actions. Done!” Of the many replies he got [most of them friendly] one by Mark Spencer (@Ack_Spencer). It was just as sardonic. “How to become an expert, sign up as media influencer visit all radio &TV station[s] hailing Govt inefficiencies and cluelessness”. This is the flash point of the controversy. However, the contention Dr Abah triggered is one many avoid because of the unexpected possibilities it can generate.

In the book titled the “Betrayal of the Intellectuals”, Julien Benda, the French philosopher, shook the intellectual world by stating that there are two types of intellectuals. Type A are those who stand up for ‘truth’ and ‘justice’ and Type B are those who serve ‘privilege’ and ‘power’. Nevertheless, most brand the Type A intellectual as an enemy of the realm, often sacked, often arrested, often jailed, often ostracised. Still, often beaten, often poor and sometimes killed. Because he or she dared to make a vocation of “speaking truth to power”. This is the intellectual Dr Abah mocks and dismisses. In contrast, the Type B intellectual is often a courtier of leaders, well-placed, well-paid, well-promoted, well-invested, well-connected and sometimes celebrated because he chose the vocation of “singing praises to power”. Hence, this is the intellectual Spencer ridicules and exposes.

Question: what type of intellectual is Dr Abah?

Furthermore, as with bureaucracy and bureaucrats, Prof Peter Palmer Ekeh, in his famous essay titled The Two Publics, made a point. He affirms in Nigerian society there is the Lucky Bureaucrat and the Good Bureaucrat [2]. Lucky Bureaucrats are the ones who take more out from society [government service] for themselves than they put back into it. The Lucky Bureaucrats assume office to serve their own ends, amorality is their religion. The typical Lucky Bureaucrat is a thief and, if elite, a Big Thief. Lucky Bureaucrats are the main practitioners of the terrible corruption blighting Nigeria with savagery today. Therefore, are the key agents of the decivilisation now occurring in Nigeria. Moreover, Lucky Bureaucrats more often than not leave office rich.

Then there are Good Bureaucrats who put in more into society [government service] than they benefit from it. Good Bureaucrats assume office to serve as best as they can, guided by moral uprightness. It is the Good Bureaucrats who built up anything good that stands or has endured in Nigeria. More so, because they did their job well and did not steal whatever they could when they had the opportunity. Thus, Good Bureaucrats leave office to a lifestyle their honest income, savings and investments can afford them.

Question: what type of bureaucrat is Dr Abah?

To the first question, the answer is fast coming. To the second question, one has to wait for an aftermath.

[1] The “expert” Dr Abah and Mark Spencer refer to is the public intellectual. A person who in public with proficiency debates and analyses the incidences and nature of “matters of the moment.” Events happening in society and the world at large. Intellectual, muse, pundit, media influencer, commentator, analyst are all synonyms of expert.

[2] The word Bureaucrat interchanges with the word citizen.


Grimot Nane

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