The West African Examinations Council (WAEC) recently released its 2016 results. Over the years, they have remained a major index of assessing states’ performance in education, barring societal ills like fixing of results, hiring pliable invigilators and allied ills. While Abia led with 81.54 per cent, Rivers, Edo, Imo and Bayelsa followed with 78.59, 77.41, 76.46, 74.38 per cents respectively among candidates who passed five subjects in the examination, including English and Mathematics. Anambra, which came sixth, had 71.83 per cent. Instructively, the South West suffered a huge fatality in the results. Apart from Ondo, Lagos and Ekiti which emerged in the seventh, ninth and fourteenth positions respectively, five northern states which included the insurgency-ravaged Borno, outperformed Ogun and Osun states, which had 53.24 and 46.77 per cents respectively while Oyo State scored a dismal 36.69 per cent, placing 29th position and adjudged least of the South West states.
This columnist listened to a commissioner of education in one of the states which performed woefully in the results and later some online wayfarers, in defence of the state, asking that it should be judged by increment in the number of students who passed same examination from 1999 till date. While 2,389 students passed WAEC exam in 1999 in the state, they said, 17,051 did in 2015. This poor logic is easily defeated when you tell them that enrolment figures too have more than quadrupled within the same intervening period in virtually all the 36 states of Nigeria.
What went wrong? Why are South East states that were over the years profiled as dominated by a culture of commerce, rather than education, on the ascendancy in WAEC results, while South West, where Chief Obafemi Awolowo bemused Nigeria with his huge strides in education, is sinking in the ranking? Why did many of the Northern states, otherwise known as home to a legion of homeless youth, outperform states thought to possess Awo’s education DNA?
The answer is not far-fetched. Many of today’s governors are so fixated on the illicit wealth they can make from office, so much that the idea of leaving legacies is to them hogwash. It is unfortunate that we need to continue to make Awolowo, who 65 years ago, administered a Region which today approximates nine states, a model of analysis. By 1952, even before the Universal Primary Education (UPE) began, Awo had come up with its blueprint. Confronted by a #10m estimate for both the UPE and the free health program, even when the projected 1954 expenditure stood at #5m, Awo first cut capital costs on school buildings and cancelled housing subsidy for civil servants. He opted for mud blocks in place of pre-fabricated block cement classrooms and budgeted capital tumbled down by 70 per cent. His critics said he was opting for ‘substandard’ buildings but by 1955 when the scheme started, 400,000 pupils turned up, contrary to his projected 175,000. Assured that the quality of teachers held the ace rather than cozy classrooms, in 1956, Awo established many Grade 3 Teacher Training Colleges and trained, between 1955 and 1958, 11,000 teachers.
Many states with those shameful WAEC results are manned by governors who are captives of the fad of gigantic classroom structures, at the detriment of training teachers. Some of them invest in neither of the two, preferring the infectious obsession with stacking billions of naira on infrastructure. The results are scores of unnecessary dualised roads and humongous bridges from where substantial billions of naira kick-backs are funneled into governors’ ghost foreign accounts. In South West today, the rotten cake of education that is kissing the canvass is decorated with glamorous icings of roads/overhead bridges that are at best white elephant.
Whatever you may have against Adams Oshiomhole who, at some point insisted on training the trainers and disgraced a teacher who could hardly spell her name, he focused on mental outputs of teachers rather than the glitz of structures. Today, Edo came third on the ranking. Peter Obi did same in Anambra. He stabilized Basic Education with a singular and courageous handing over of schools to missions. He gave the schools N6billion operating grants, donated buses, laboratory equipment, transformers and power generators, dispensary consumables, sports gears, computers and other ICT tools. Indeed, his model was adjudged the best in improved school infrastructure in Nigeria and a World Bank study headed by Professor Paul Collier of Oxford University, recommended his model for Africa and other developing countries. Today, Anambra has consistently ranked top six in WAEC.
In 2013, this columnist was on an entourage to Rotimi Amaechi’s Rivers. We were stupefied. While structures of primary and secondary schools equalled private universities’ in the West, Amaechi hired Indian and Pakistani teachers. Primary school pupils had computers, well-equipped clinics and stand-by generators. The commissioner of education of the entourage state momentarily became a photographer, snapping shots of the earthly wonders of Rivers. The man who led the entourage confessed: calling him governor where Amaechi was, was a lexical cruelty. Rivers’ state-of-the-art Bombadier which ferried the entourage was the lesson of Rivers he learnt. A friend who lived in Rivers then said it was senseless enrolling one’s wards in Rivers’ private schools; public schools were better. A week after, an adviser in the entourage state who beheld Amaechi’s wonders resigned, saying he didn’t want to be part of his state’s impending calamity. We all agreed that if the visiting state could score 1% of Amaechi’s feat in education, it would be a hero in the west. Today, Rivers is second on WAEC’s tally.
Bola Ige wanted to incubate students who would be the best in Nigeria. His government spent hugely on books, uniforms, training and re-training of teachers. This writer is one of the proud products of that experiment. Lateef Jakande did same in Lagos and the results were outstanding. On the contrary, a governor in one of the South West states is so obsessed with structures that he demolishes old school structures, changes old school names and erects in their stead humongous classrooms that almost stand shoulder to shoulder with Sheraton Hotel. Less than 40% of the hotel rooms, sorry classes, are occupied by students whose morale are nil and teachers who haven’t been paid in months. His commissars superintend over a central school garments factory like Lenin’s USSR and they both smile to their banks with kick-backs from their humongous structures and earnings from exploitation of pupils. Can anyone be shocked that such a state towers from behind on WAEC’s score sheets?
The problem is, most governors are fixated on the billions in heists they can axe off their states and coast home with at the end of their tenure, rather than the prospect of garlands of brilliant students to be recorded in their names like Awolowo. Ask them how many teachers they have trained in the years of their tenure and instructional facilities they provided for schools and they will draw blank. The truth is, they cannot make billions of naira kick-backs from education as they do in roads and bridges. If a state hasn’t paid teachers six, seven months salaries, how can it expect them to bend over backwards to teach? If the state helmsmen thump their chests that they are making Hussain Bolt’s strides in education, ask them how many of their children attend the schools? None! When Awolowo was building those mud classrooms, his children attended them, just like children of cocoa farmers. How can you offer me what you call your best meal when you and your family see same as poisonous? Until we de-radicalize South West governors of their destructive thirst for so-called infrastructure at the expense of education and mis-belief that structure is education, the region will continue to disgrace in national education ranking.
The case of Peter Tefft
The violence in Charlottesville, Virginia has once again thrown up what a great country America is. In a protest against white supremacists where 26-year old Heather Heyer was killed, President Donald Trump oscillated between refraining from calling the white supremacists bigots and racists, to rebuking “both sides.” Almost immediately, America exploded in a bomb of reactions. No one argues from the position of tribe, pockets, religion but from the prism of America. A Peter Tefft’s father immediately denounced his son for marching with the white supremacists and hinted that he would, like father of the biblical prodigal son, kill a sheep if his son returns home, unlearn his hate-laced views and purges himself of his radicalism. Americans have since then consistently pilloried Trump for his un-American and bigoted view. When you hear some of the language used to describe Trump, you will bow for America and its progenitors who created it as a land of free speech. Indeed, a TV host called the president “clinically insane.”
The Charlottesville violence reactions should teach us some lessons as Nigerians and fellow members of the community of humanity. Condoning evil simply because it was done by our family member or relation is akin to planting a seed of hate which, when it sprouts, will foul up the whole human environment and we ourselves will be partakers of its sour fruit. We must continue to deepen democratic practices, in spite of the vivid imperfections in our practice of it. Apparently not in our lifetime, but someday, Nigeria will get to that point where her people’s stand won’t be dictated by sentiments but love of country and humanity.
At a book launch on Enoch Adeboye, General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, (RCCG) last Monday, former President Olusegun Obasanjo told the audience how he consulted him when some Turks zeroed in on him as one to head Nigeria in 1999. Even before he uttered it, Nigerians knew that Acting President Yemi Osinbajo would rarely step out of his house without seeking what Adeboye’s God thinks about the day’s weather. As kings who superintend over hundreds of deities in Yorubaland pointed their swagger-sticks on his head as he knelt like a kindergarten kid, former President Goodluck Jonathan also knelt before Adeboye to ask him to entreat his God over his 2015 presidential quest.
Stephen Ellis, Leiden university religion scholar has written on how religion and politics interface in Africa and the dangers when power is organized and controlled by metaphysical beings and beliefs. Isn’t it time we begin to give attention to the role of these men who call themselves emissaries of God, in the calamities of governance in Africa? I imagine that Muhammadu Buhari too has an Islamic cleric he bows to in the Villa. Sani Abacha was said to have quaked at the feet of imported marabouts. Jonathan almost deified Ayo Oritsejafor, a man who once confessed that he smoked weeds while growing up. Why do African rulers deploy cosmologies, rather than their brains, in governing their nations, with tragic results? Their failure is blamed on “the wish of God” while we don’t have any concrete person to put on the crucifix. Governors too bow in their closets before a mixture of funny phials, oil-soaked objects and miniature Daddy G.Os. Could our lots be better if our leaders, for once, abandon these deities in human flesh and take governmental destinies in their hands?
Villa’s ballistic missiles
Ahead of a possible ballistic war between two unstable and unpredictable world leaders, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and America’s Donald Trump, Nigerian leaders are already deploying their own warheads in surrogate warfare. As Kim publicly tests his warheads which brought out counter threats from America’s Trump, ex-President Goodluck Jonathan fired his own warhead in the statement that he left a robust economy. Buhari didn’t allow it land before sending his, through Garba Shehu, his Media Assistant, that Jonathan presided over a serially raped economy. Replying on claim that, but for the oil price collapse, Buhari would have fared more excellently, Reno Omokri, a Jonathan aide, shot another warhead: “Oil constitutes only 15% of Nigeria’s GDP and thus a fall in the price should not lead to a collapse of the Nigerian economy.”
In convincing Nigerians on who runs or ran a better economy, Buhari and Jonathan unfortunately deploy highly technical economic terms which have no place in Nigerian people’s lexicon. What the people know is, in 2015, a kongo of gari cost X and today, it is X2; they needed Y amount to cook draw-soup during Jonathan era and now, it is Y3. All the dogo turenchi about oil, GDP and other economic jargons are absolute nonsense, as far as the people are concerned. If they didn’t know, a spiral in GDP does not equal social growth. On this score, the Buhari government gets greater people’s scorn. Yes, Nigerians are aware that the theft of their money under Jonathan was massive but they also have empirical evidence that government money is still being liberated into personal coffers today. If in doubt, look at a National Corruption Report released during the week which says that even under the nose of self-touted Seriki Amana, $4.6b bribe exchanged hands. Let Buharists dwell less on economic technicalities and work on verifiable ways of changing the lives of the people.
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