Dipo Famakinwa (1967-2017): Development Guru and Visionary, By Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú
A good man is gone! What is important now is preserving and advancing his legacy. What does that mean? It means we must not let DAWN die! It means we must ensure capable and resourceful individuals who are committed to the cause of the Yoruba are appointed to lead DAWN and build on his legacy. It means living out the life lessons we have been estolling in him since he died.
Dipo Famakinwa was unique and brutally effective as the Director General of the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission because he possessed a rare combination of passion, intellect and drive. I write this because I know and I’m certain who he was, what he believed in, what he did and what his achievements were. Inspired by lofty aspirations for his people – the Yoruba, he approached development with the zeal of religion. Through the brilliance of his thought, ideas, strategy and vision, he envisioned remaking Western Nigeria for good governance and global competitiveness through economic, social, ethical and process orientation. His team’s strategic focus and the force with which he pushed the pathways and frameworks commanded even the admiration of his most pronounced critics.
Dipo was an original, whose originality came from the consideration of our peculiarities and renunciation of our inabilities. Dipo was suave, relatable, very accessible, friendly, sociable and diplomatic. He hated the enemies of development such as mediocrity, political idolatry, naked populism, conflict, corruption, impunity and notorious short-termism. He came more unexpectedly and with no traceable connection with the general lines of moribund development schemes like bogus rolling plans, unrealistic development plans, vision this and that, that Nigerians have grown accustomed to. He was a development guru in the strict and technical sense of the word. He had a system and consistent body of thought encompassing all aspects of development, regional cooperation and integration. He did not expressly deal with politics, he stayed above the fray with dogged commitment to developing frameworks, policy definitions, bottom-up organisation, practical implementations and institutionalised delivery. Till his death, he presented his vision and mission for South-Western Nigeria development with a literary force and artistic power of presentation, which made it easy for him to recruit many intellectuals as believers and contributors. To us, he was indeed a bolt from the blue.
With his vast understanding of Yoruba political, social and cultural mores, Dipo was a natural fit for the role of Director General when the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission was created. The need for a nonpartisan regional integration and development platform through common institutions and rules, to achieve peace, stability, development, wealth and cultural and lingual unity of the Yoruba homeland, became evident and it crystallised from deliberations within the Yoruba Academy. Kayode Samuel was reputed to have come up with the acronym DAWN. In July of 2013, the governments of Oyo, Ondo, Ogun, Osun, Ekiti and Lagos States, established the DAWN Commision as a regional institution. The Commision was charged with, “The strategic intent is to create an institutional framework that looks beyond all divisive tendencies and forge regional solidarity, in order to present a cohesive and coherent approach to fast-track the development of the Southwest part of Nigeria, as a consolidated regional bloc, and a strategic frontier for the development of Nigeria.” He built an organisation born in July of 2013 with nothing but its name and Cocoa House in Ibadan as its location, and brought it into reckoning within two years, as a regional think-tank and development powerhouse.
His untimely death is a huge loss to the Yoruba. It is a devastating personal loss to me. He was a true, loyal and dedicated friend. The grief lingers but we must choose to cherish the memories, celebrate the gift of his brilliance and continue his legacy. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from and experience life with him.
Dipo focused on policies, strategies, processes and their interplay to create prodigious frameworks defined in the DAWN Roadmap, Onebloc, RemakingTheWest, and many others produced under his leadership. They stand today as rigorous compositions on their own and testament to his brilliance. His sense of passionate advocacy is perfect for this period, in which we live under continual threat of systemic cultural, lingual and values erosion. A careful examination of his footprints will reveal a vision of internal consensus, regional solidarity and cultural renaissance. He believed in generating a wider conversation using Yoruba language as social technology, re-energising our cultural potency, having social contract with the people and creating a sustainable regional economy as part of the definition of being modern and competitive. He was never threatened by anyone or anything. He was resolute and demonstrated this in how he embraced Yoruba intellectuals and talents and claimed them as his muses.
A good man is gone! What is important now is preserving and advancing his legacy. What does that mean? It means we must not let DAWN die! It means we must ensure capable and resourceful individuals who are committed to the cause of the Yoruba are appointed to lead DAWN and build on his legacy. It means living out the life lessons we have been extolling in him since he died. It means sharing with others the gifts he offered and making a difference in the life of others by embracing a life of meaning and service. Losing this gem of a man is a painful reminder that life is way too short. His untimely death is a huge loss to the Yoruba. It is a devastating personal loss to me. He was a true, loyal and dedicated friend. The grief lingers but we must choose to cherish the memories, celebrate the gift of his brilliance and continue his legacy. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from and experience life with him. The vital legacy of Dipo Famakinwa looms large and I have no doubt that his burial on May 5, 2017 will be a requiem for a heavyweight.
Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú a farmer, youth advocate and political analyst writes this weekly column, “Bamidele Upfront” for the PREMIUM TIMES. Follow me on Twitter @olufunmilayo