1) How many of us really care about Nigeria? For those who do not care, who do not consider Nigeria home anymore, it’s okay. I also believe Geography should not define or decide where a man calls his home. So if you have your whole family here and decide America is home, it is totally fine. Who even says one cannot have more than 1 home? Even if your green passport was replaced with a blue passport, your identity as a Nigerian is still there. What earns you the right to call Nigeria home? The traditions, the modus operandi, the experiences, your Nigerian-ness—cannot be taken away by the blue passport. Only if you lose them completely can you severe ties with Nigeria.
2) What is the essence of our education? The essence of education is not only to get jobs and create a better life solely for yourselves but also to impact lives and give back to the society that made you.
There’s no point going into the obvious quagmires that plague the educational system of Nigeria (as seen in the lack of equipment, corruption, poor educational standards, exploitation, overcrowding in classrooms, inadequate funding, poor parenting, examination malpractices and so on) or lament at the obliviousness of our rapacious leaders to these problems.
The purpose of this lecture is to challenge you and I (Nigerians in Diaspora) to give back to the Nigerian society—either from here or when we go back, by applying our western education.
According to The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the literacy survey conducted by National Bureau of Statistics in Nigeria in 2010 estimates the literacy rate in Nigeria at 56.9%, While the Central intelligence agency (CIA) facts book in 2015, shows an estimate of 59.6% of literacy rate (15 and above that can read and write). I don’t need to stress how poorly educated we are as a nation as it is evident in these stats and the backwardness of our society today. I do not think the problem is from the inception. The education being offered at the primary school level is decent. The collapse, however, starts at the secondary level. It is also important to note that, out of the 59.6% literates in Nigeria, some passed through the public schools at the secondary school level which means their education is at best mediocre, at worst nonsensical. One could argue that, most of those who passed through the so called best schools cannot compete at the international level.
Taking a wild guess, I believe majority of the literates go to the public schools. It should also be noted that, it is the children of the rich who attend the private schools while the poor has no choice than to settle for public schools or no education at all. The gap between the rich and the poor is getting wider as years go by. So, putting all the aforementioned into perspectives, less than 20% of Nigerians can compete globally—sad! But it’s our reality.
Education is one of the most potent weapons that can be used to drive societal reform; an inadequacy of it would spell the doom of any nation sooner or later. You and I are the privileged ones who are able to get good education from developed nations and I believe we must wield this weapon (good education) and effectively use it to resuscitate our dying nation.
Now let’s take few steps into the past. There was a time when the children of both rich and poor got quality education to lay solid foundation for the life ahead and the story of our incumbent President, M. Buhari and late President Musa Yar’adua (RIP) is a testament to this fact. They both went to the same school, and while Buhari was the son of a peasant, Musa’s father was a minister, but they both got the same quality of education. Again, between 1954 and 1959 when Chief Awolowo was the western premiere, he gave free and quality primary education to people who were residing in the western part of Nigeria, who were interested in going to school, regardless of their background. Some were also able to get scholarships to further their educations thereafter. This is one of the reasons why some of us are here today because our parents were born in that generation and they enjoyed this benefits. In our present society, the rich and the poor no longer get the same kind of education.
Unfortunately, what was quality then is not quality now, the world is evolving but we are still lagging behind as we slowly find our way to extinction. We have decided not to invest in the educational sector.
What should we do or what can we do? How can we chip in our 2%?
- Elucidate: This is the age of technology and we must use it to our advantage. (Internet-writing, and debates) Our social media accounts should not only be used to trumpet the supposed comfortable life we live in diaspora. We should try to educate people using our social media, let them understand the need to be politically informed and how their political decisions can increase their chances of a better life. Basic and clear explanations like this can stop someone from selling his or her vote.
I have read several articles where people were lamenting at the death of books and libraries and their cause for lamentation befuddles me. Like Pa Ikhide said, the death of libraries and books should not be mourned, what we should do is meet the African youths at the points of their availability—the internet. The internet is the book of choice for many Nigerian readers. We must elucidate by making things clear, engage in healthy debates-and everyone can learn from each other through this.
- Fit in: This is also very important, especially for those who plan on moving back to Nigeria after some time. You must consciously strive not to lose your Nigerian-ness. Don’t go back speaking with your nose or playing the “do you know who I am” card at every chance you get. While I agree that integrity is an expensive virtue for people in Nigeria because of the hardship, we must not dump our integrity while attempting to fit in. The moment you left the shores of Nigeria, she moved on—for good or for bad. You have to be patient, to understand this new Nigeria, and only then can you make tangible difference.
- Modified Solutions: We must present our western oriented solutions in a local context; a context which our people can understand. We tend to just go back to Nigeria to literally present western oriented solutions to African problems, forgetting they are two different societies, failing to account for the differential in human thinking. The problem with our leaders is that they want to transform the country overnight without putting the basics in place. There are some of these abracadabra we are not ready for, some levels we are yet to attain, some developments that won’t work in our context. They want to make Nigeria a mimicry of the west overnight without undergoing the required process and patience. An example is the Governors who claim to invest in the Airport business when they are yet to tackle roads and rail system issues. What percentage of the masses use to air? (bar our Benin people) Why embark on big things when you don’t have the basics in place?
I remember having a discussion about the ethnicity and religious card being played by the political parties during this past election with a friend. For example, APC chose a Muslim northerner and a Christian from the west as Presidential candidates to have a better chance at winning the election. My friend was quick to point out that Jeb Bush could leave Texas to be the governor of Florida. I told him, that cannot work in Nigeria, at least not now and that is our reality. While I also hope for a Nigeria where a southerner can vie for a prominent post in the north and vice-versa, I do not think we are there yet or the ethnicity disease has eaten so deep that we can’t recover from this disease. I believe Azikwe was the western premiere sometimes along the corridor of history.
Also, we need to encourage more women to go to school and reach the zenith of education if they wish to. We need to allow them to elevate to more prominent positions. I believe we are getting better in that regards albeit slowly. Babangida ran Nigeria for 7yrs without a single female minister in the 80s. But currently, we have 8 female senators out of 109 present senators. In the House of Representatives, only 18 of 360 representatives are women. Definitely not good enough in a nation where half of the population are women. [Source: Tolu Ogunlesi]
In conclusion, most or some of us here would be presented a chance to make changes in Nigeria in the nearest future. It is no secret that most of this prominent positions back home are reserved for people with western education. A number of these positions in the country are filled with people like ourselves who schooled in west but unfortunately, they are making little or no impact. It is not because they have no knowledge but because they are applying it wrongly. While the approach of elevating people with western education (people like you and I) into prominent positions is supposed to be productive, it could also be counterproductive if not properly harnessed. As Nigerians, when we go back home to make changes, we must understand that we can’t be a mimicry of the west overnight, we must understand that we need to crawl before we walk, and we must walk before we dare to run. We cannot offset the law of nature. We need to keep in touch with Nigeria, we need to understand her basic needs so we just don’t go there to run around in circles making little or no impact.
I would like to thank those who have contributed to this work one way or the other; either directly or indirectly. I appreciate my friends- Tega Agbogidi, Dayo Anipole, Bisola Odebunmi, Jimi Buraimoh, and Oreoluwa Ayeni for all the healthy debates we had on this topic.
As delivered by Olusegun Tinubu at the Nigerian Independence Day Banquet; organized by Nigeria Student Organization,
Carrolton, Texas. 10-02-15