“Let China sleep. For when it wakes, it shall shake the world!”
These were the words of the Great Napoleon Bonaparte about 200 years ago regarding China. Today, it is obvious china has woken and indeed, she shakes the world. Today, she is the second-largest economy on earth. With an overwhelming population of over 1 billion, she has become the manufacturing hub of the world. Amid the global economic meltdown, she bought treasury bills from the Federal Reserve of the United States to the tune of $750bn; in other words, loaning the United States, almost a trillion dollars! She has made her presence felt everywhere on earth. I like to think of it using China’s terms – that there is a China town everywhere on earth. In Port Harcourt, it is obvious it is Big Treat, same with Lagos and Abeokuta. Yes, China has her challenges, but we cannot dispute the glaring fact that she is walking out of them step by step; day by day.
However, was China always like this? Absolutely not!
This is not a historical account of China, hence, I shall avoid her past. However, this is about NIGERIA – a god; a sleeping GOD. She has 150 million in population – the largest black nation on earth. She is the 6th largest oil producing nation and apart from Saudi Arabia, has the best quality of crude. Her natural resources are enormous. This begs the question why then are Nigerians (over 70% of Nigerians according to the CIA) living under a dollar a day?
To put that in better perspective, this means that over 105million Nigerians live under N150 a day! This is abominable!
I do not belong to the school of thought that devils (or the devil) is oppressing this country and preventing her from taking her place as a leader amongst the community of nations. I subscribe to the school of thought as postulated by James Allen that “every man is where he is by the law of his being; the thoughts which he has built into his character have brought him there, and in the arrangement of his life there is no element of chance, but all is the result of a law which cannot err.” As with a man, I strongly believe so it is with a nation because nations are the products of the collective thoughts of men. So, how do we change this nation?
This open letter (split into 7 parts) carries my thoughts. These thoughts are not infallible; so, please, do not accept all of them. Our ancestors say: it is better to have a wise enemy than a foolish friend! So, please, should some of my thoughts challenge yours, temper justice with mercy! I have chosen to present them because I feel that every man has a different perspective and in most cases, the African adage explains it best: the men playing drafts do not see what the passerby sees. Hence, as the Commander in Chief, you know a lot more than I could possibly begin to imagine; but perhaps, through the eyes of my naivety, you may see some more or perhaps, a different perspective of what you have already seen. This letter is not an act of pride or a display of intelligence as most may adjudge me. I am Nigerian. So, I believe I have an obligation to answer the call: ARISE O COMPATRIOTS! After all, Nigeria’s call has been on even before my birth…sadly, very few answer. This is my subtle way of answering that call!
In my opinion, to change a nation, we MUST FIRST CHANGE THE THOUGHTS OF MEN because “in the arrangement of life, there is no element of chance”. For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he which empowers my belief that AS A NATION THINKS IN HER HEART, SO IS SHE! With this, how do we achieve this change? How do we offer the minds of our people the orientation so imperatively needed?
For me, education is not about getting a first class, et al. We have loads of such “first class” people in Nigeria, yet they do not know how to send an email. I choose to view education as THE ABILITY TO QUESTION ANSWERS OF TIME PAST; AND TO ANSWER QUESTIONS AS POSED BY THE CHALLENGES FACING OUR GENERATION. This means THE CONFIDENCE IN A MAN TO APPLY HIS LOGIC FOR THE ALLEVIATION OF SUFFERING, POVERTY AND OTHER CHALLENGES. This, I feel, is true education.
We lack this in Nigeria. It is not alien in our country to hear of graduates who cannot write a letter of application. Recent statistics from W.A.E.C shows that ONLY 13% of participants in the 2008 May/June West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) made up to 5 credits including Mathematics and English; 25% in 2009 and 31% in the 2009 Nov/Dec WASSCE. It was so shocking to find that ONLY 2% made this minimum requirement in the 2009 Nov/Dec NECO examinations and 24% in the 2010 May/June WASSCE. This refusal to properly educate our children WILL bite us within a decade; two, at the most, if we do not handle this situation.
In the NEXT ON SUNDAY edition of Sunday, Mar. 28, 2010, Tunji Lardner wrote: by my own extrapolations, the 2% that passed the exams statistically represent the averaged out numbers of Nigeria’s future intellectual leadership elite. The remaining 98% constitute the bulk of Nigeria’s youth bulge. The youth bulge theory contends and I quote: that societies with rapidly growing populations often end up with rampant unemployment and large pools of disaffected youths who are more susceptible to recruitment into rebel terrorists groups. Furthermore, according to a recent study “between 1970 and 1999, 80% of civil conflicts occurred in countries where 60% of the population or more were under the age of 30. We have 105million Nigerians in this category.” Do the math!
Well, Sir, I did the math. Once again, 70% comes up in the equation. This, is the percentage of Nigerians who are under the age of 30. This, also represents the percentage of Nigerians who are presently “heavily under-educated”. Furthermore, this also represents the minimum percentage of Nigerians who are living under a dollar a day!
Let’s do another math. When we sum up three quantities: youths, with under-education and add to that, poverty; the result becomes catastrophe! Perhaps, since we are a very religious nation – a characteristic, which is alien to the developed nations of the world, I should add – we may ask all our Men Of God to start casting and binding against the impending doom which looms, looking at the statistics. However, Sir, I view you as a logical man and I would say, please, let’s apply our logic; just like all great nations before us did and abandon the religious bulge to their practices.
Awolowo, decades ago offered the Yorubas free education. Look at the result today! If we look at 10 educated Nigerians, it would be shocking if five are not Yorubas. That is not all. That education has been the major tool for making Lagos an international city. Just because the people of western Nigeria are fairly better educated than people of other parts, you are more likely going to see new ideas and businesses springing up in Lagos than in any other part of our country. You will also find fewer incidents of the common Nigerian plague of tribalism in Lagos. After all, as far as I know it, Lagos is the ONLY state in Nigeria, where people who outwardly bear names of eastern ethnic groups participate in Politics in high positions like Counselors and Chairmen of Local Governments – and win – and go on to serve in those positions!
So, Sir, what do you think would happen, if we multiply this principle of FREE QUALITY EDUCATION and spread it across the length and breadth of our country?
Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, the Executive Governor of Rivers State is one of the few Governors in this country already trying it EFFECTIVELY for his state. This defeats naysayers who would think such a feet can’t be attained in the Nigeria of today!
However, Sir, I must add that I doubt free education entails the building of new schools. Please do not misconstrue me. More schools are great! However, I find that schools like Oxford (founded 1167) and Harvard (founded 1636), et al, produce GREAT results, despite being centuries old. This shows the secret of great education does not live in buildings but in THE INFORMATION GIVEN and the METHODOLOGY OF GIVING THIS INFORMATION! So, when I refer to FREE QUALITY EDUCATION I do not mean the “launching of a project” for the coverage of the media, while those children undergo a retrogressive process daily under the auspices of “going to school”! I am also against feeding our children with information from 1950 to tackle issues of 2011 – that is lunacy; except in a class of history!
It is a shame that primary school children in 2010 are using the same textbooks with the same graphics, font face, etc, I used over 20 years ago! Let’s not even mention anything about their secondary school counterparts or the Undergraduates; who study for degrees in Computing without even owning one! Is it that there have been no changes in the past two decades?
I shall not continue to enumerate the different challenges of our country in this area…even the blind can see them!
All I want to say is, please, instead of all the bullocks from our Politicians to “build new schools”, please Sir, can you insist that they incorporate a MAINTENANCE attitude with focus on giving our children QUALITY INFORMATION through the BEST METHODOLOGIES AND STATE-OF-THE-ART INFRASTRUCTURES? In America, first graders (mostly 6 year olds) check their emails on arriving home for their homework, do the required work on the computer and submit online! How will a Nigerian 6 year old compete with his American counterpart two decades from now when they meet in the job market? And, to silence the naysayers, this possibility really exists considering the opportunities presented by globalization!
There is nothing wrong with the old buildings of our ancient schools if they are kept in proper condition and are made to dissipate QUALITY information. Those schools will still be very functional if the required infrastructures are put in place. Please Sir, I am not saying new structures should not be set up nor that our children should be forced into ancient rickety buildings. All I am advocating is maintenance of what we have and perhaps, our children can be made to appreciate ancient architecture, rather than the ploy of most politicians to “build new schools”, which incidentally are seldom finished while the politician is in power or stand the test of time when visited by the different weathers of our geographical region.
Also, please can the dignity of labor be re-introduced to the teaching industry? How come these teachers earn very meager wages, yet, the people they train to become these politicians, etc; earn millions of dollars (literally)?
Finally, please Sir, I humbly request on behalf of NIGERIA, can KARMA as instituted by the LAWS OF NATURE and NATURE’S GOD be made compulsory in our schools as a subject? This would help our children understand that for everything a man does, s/he will reap! If properly educated on this, most of these ills in society by youths and adults would be curbed as they would understand that WHATSOEVER A MAN SOWS, SO SHALL HE REAP! This would improve our VALUE SYSTEM as a nation, as with most developed nations of the FAR EAST; contrary to the Value System we have now, which is mainly courtesy of Religion. Most major religious leaders in our country are selfish in the performance of their duties – seeking subtle ways to profit from their trade and hence, play down on THE TRUTH OF LIFE!
If our children have a PROPER VALUE SYSTEM through the EDUCATION AND ORIENTATION offered them, half of our problems as a nation would be solved! However, we don’t need a 50% solution. Education is incomplete if not used to solve the problems of life. Hence, the second point we NEED as a people is:
(Continued in Part 2 of 7)