By Temisan Amoye
The season is upon us again. A while ago, while watching Channels TV news, I saw the timetable for 2019 election campaign that; Presidential campaign starts November 18, 2018 to February 14, 2019. Lol brethren, do not be fooled, campaign mode is in full swing. From the leaked El Rufai memo to decamping of the Waziri Adamawa to the PDP. Potential candidates have begun consultations in regards to the 2019 elections. I’m of the opinion that the 2019 elections will be a battle for the soul and future of Nigeria. While the rest of Nigeria sleeps at night, Mansions in Asokoro and Maitama are awake with late night meetings and political consultations. What should have been an uneventful and “boring” campaign and election has now been turned on its head, thanks to the ineptitude of the Buhari-led administration. You can bet this campaign season will be full of heated rhetoric and intrigues. For the neutrals and outsiders, it will be a very fascinating event, but for Nigerians it’s a battle and struggle to finally get it right in 2019, although I’m not holding my breath.
As these politicians have begun the necessary work to seek political Office, I believe Nigerians should also begin the necessary work to evaluate such candidates, so we can successfully separate the plants from the weed (nope, not that one, Nigerian politicians haven’t showed themselves to be as useful yet). It’s very easy to get distracted when following politics in Nigeria; from high profile decamping to discovery of stolen funds or release of Chibok girls – especially when the Government has been caught with its pants down. This is the season of demagogues disguised as politicians who make statements that heat up the polity, scream slogans while waving ridiculous objects – I’ve seen brooms, umbrellas, pineapples, you wonder what’s next? – swearing about how their only mission is to serve the people, with one christening himself as “Chief Servant”. This season, you will hear statements like “16 years of PDP misrule can’t be corrected in less than 4 years”, “APC has failed, it’s time to give power back to the people, vote PDP”. As much as I like to believe Nigerians have learnt the hard way, I still know a lot of us are gullible and will fall for those lies and antics. Nigerians are known to vote based on tribe and religion, and we wonder why “big baby with the bigger button that works” think us as a Shithole country.
You are going to hear firebrand speeches about fighting corruption and insecurity; we know the drill too well. Any idiot running for office in Nigeria knows corruption and insecurity are major issues in Nigeria, which directly affect the masses, so they keep banging on those issues, and ignorantly ignore other core areas of the nation, that are just as sensitive as corruption and insecurity. A lot of these ailing sectors directly affect the common man more than insecurity and corruption. That’s not to say I’m insensitive to victims of insecurity and corruption. I just say these factors are constantly and ignorantly ignored for other more attractive areas for publicity, when they are fundamental for the success of any modern society.
These sectors, if properly funded and overseen, will contribute massively to the economic growth of the nation, and help build the already battered and ruined image of the country. I’m going to identify and examine those sectors, that we as Nigerians need to pay more attention to, when deciding on who to vote for. I hope this write up will help make the decision of choosing the right candidate easier. First and most important is:
Education is a process of knowledge sharing and more importantly, a process that refines people for civilization and mentally ingrains tenets of competition and gratuity as tools that guarantee success. I’m struggling to imagine a bright future for a developing nation, which has an estimated 10.5 million children out of school (world’s highest) and a staggering illiteracy rate of between 47-50%. The United Nations recommends that developing nations should commit 26% of its budget for education. Despite a steady increase in the 2016, 2017 and 2018 budgets, the percentage allocated to the Ministry of Education has been on a steady decline – going from 8% in 2016 to 7.04% in 2018. This falls well below the global average of education budgets of 14.13%. The figure allocated to the Ministry of Education for the 2018 fiscal year N605.8bn. Recurrent expenditure will amount to N435.1bn, capital expenditure will amount to N61.73bn and the Universal Basic Education Commission will get N109.06bn.
That breakdown shows you one of the major crippling problems facing the education system in Nigeria – funding. When you also consider that full budget implementation in Nigeria is an unattainable quest with 2017 budget implementation as at November 2017 is a catastrophic 10%, you realize there are far bigger issues with Nigeria. Without adequate funding, no system or sector can grow or improve. A lot of Government run schools in Nigeria are nothing to write home about. From dilapidated classrooms and hostels, to non-payment of salaries, which have resulted in incessant strikes by ASUU and other bodies representing different types of Education institutions from primary to tertiary.
A quick search on Twitter will show you how students struggle to get bed spaces in UNILAG, a supposed top Nigerian university. A combination of some of these factors, is the reason why Nigeria is experiencing an upsurge in the number of private owned schools. Private individuals have tried to close the vacuum left in the education system by establishing more schools, from Primary to tertiary institutions. But in truth, a good number of private owned schools are just out to make profit alone, while only a few are out to genuinely change the face of education in Nigeria, Covenant University is one of such. In the relative short time it’s been around, the school has caused a positive disruption in the education system, leading to the school and its graduates being revered and sought after; a result of vision and a well laid out and feasible plan thoroughly lacking in our governmental system.
Shamefully, Nigeria has about 75,000 of its people studying in Benin Republic, Ghana and Egypt. I can understand going to Europe or America to study, but going to Ghana and Benin just paints the picture that Nigerians have lost almost all hope in the education system. Prof. C.K. Ayo a past Vice- Chancellor of Covenant University in a speech, stated that Nigeria loses about #1tn every year to educational tourism. To put that figure into perspective, our 2018 budget is #8.6tn and it’s really disheartening because schools like University of Lagos, University of Ibadan, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, University of Benin which have produced so many prominent Nigerians should be attractive destinations for students from all over Africa, but reverse is the case. Stagnation crept into promise and development has turned to a continued slide in educational system. Just imagine if half of the money lost to Education tourism remained in the Nigerian economy. The future of the Nigerian child and youth has been toyed with for far too long. Without a proper and sound education system, there will be no growth.
In my opinion, a state of emergency should have been declared in our education system. There is the need of a total overhaul or our education system, the standard of education in our country has continued to decline. The state governors must also take responsibility for the decline. Sometime ago, a Governor abandoned students sent on scholarship by his state because of scarce funds, but not long after, that same Governor presented brand new Jeeps to his state legislators. When you consider that the cost of a new Jeep will pay for the school fees of about 5 students on scholarship, you will then realize how much the governor regards the youth and education in his state. Remember how long the Lautech saga took to resolve? “Two heads are better than one” is a saying we all know, but the Lautech saga is an exception to that saying, where two Governors couldn’t reason together to find a timely solution to the funding problem. Correct me if Im wrong, but the kids of those Governors either travelled abroad to school or attended private schools. Why we keep electing people clueless people to office, I will never understand. Despite the inexistent support from Government, students and scholars always go the extra mile to distinguish themselves in their studies, that’s why when they go to societies that work, they excel beyond expectations, and distinguish themselves with awards and achievements. Imagine the huge difference support from Government can make. I remember ALL of my friends who travelled out for their Masters Degree, came back with complaints about how our education system is shit – the exact words they used – compared to the outside world.
The problem is also one of bad representation and corruption at all levels of fund disbursement and spending. The meagre funds being released are never utilized for purposes earmarked for. Custodians are more fixated on embezzling the funds than spending right, damn the continuing debilitating effects. The quality of education is also another issue with unsuited and uninterested teachers being employed and amazingly, this is caused by the bad education they also received, continuing a cycle of rotten culture that needs to be abridged. These problems make the learning process more tedious and students uninterested especially after we factor in the part of wicked and sadistic humans disguised as teachers. Education is being wrongly conducted in Nigeria holistically.
For the standard of education in the country to improve, there must be wholesale reforms, from top to bottom;
- A ministry as sensitive and important as Education, must not be handed over to individuals without relevant experience and qualifications. A newspaper Editor has no business being Minister of Education.
- The educational system should have a bigger vote in the yearly budget. Asides this, the Ministry of Education must spend with greater prudence and purpose. To ensure this, the central government should ensure a system of seasoned disbursements for monies asides payment of salaries, and ensure the monies released are spent on due purposes. An office within the Ministry should be created for this check and balance purpose.
- Welfare package of teachers and administrators must be improved upon. Growing up, I was made to understand that Teaching is a noble profession, but going by the way they treat teachers, I believe Government doesn’t share that belief.
- There must be standardized testing methods to ensure only duly qualified individuals are appointed as Teachers.
- More capital investments should be made to ensure that facilities are improved on and made conducive for both teachers and students, the gap between Recurrent and capital expenditure is too wide to make any significant change(s).
- Educational styles and modes of knowledge impartation should be improved upon to improve quality of learning, suiting international standards.
- Institutional and trade union body heads should take greater responsibilities in execution of their duties with greater vision and tact employed.
- The lect of our educational system should also change while students should also be granted better involvement in their welfare; governments being less and threatened stoic to their demands.
According to the Misk Foundation and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, in 50 years time, half of the jobs that would be on offer, have not even been offered as courses to be taught in schools now. They have come together with other World stakeholders to set a working plan to counter that potential issue. If a nation like Saudi Arabia which is not known for its unprogressive policies, has already identified Education as a bedrock for future development, what then are we doing in Nigeria?
It’s not all doom and gloom as long as we get in right, by electing the right candidate in 2019. We must not allow any candidate who has no clear and workable plan for our educational system anywhere near power. Any candidate you are considering must have a clearly defined and feasible plan. Do not be deceived by any over the top promises like in 2015. Knowledge is Power.
Next, I will be shining the spotlight on Healthcare in Nigeria. Thank you for reading.