It was Professor Pat Utomi that, not too long ago, suggested that following the defective nature of the Structure of the Nigerian State, it would be most apposite to, in his words, crash this system, for a proper rebuilding process to commence. The reason for the Professor’s position was clearly evident to the discerning. You cannot build something on nothing and expect it to stand.
Present day Nigeria reeks of a nauseating stench of malfeasance and debilitating mediocrity. A sense of order, justice, and accountability, is undoubtedly alien to our collective psyche. We are not unawares of the series of scandals that emanate from the public sector by politically exposed persons. The frequency of such irregularities ought to normally offend our sensibilities; but it is said that, tell a lie a lot of times, and it may begin to sound like the truth. The truth, unfortunately, is that it is now a norm to have all sectors of our sociopolitical life mired in what should ordinarily be scandalous occurrences.
What we have on our hands is a case of the politicisation and ethnicization of graft and criminality. The warped logic that seems to hold sway in our society today, is that every public officer is free to plunder the resources of the commonwealth without suffering the legal and natural consequences of criminality; provided that there are previous examples of persons from other ethnic groups and religions who had perpetrated worse or similar crimes, but had been let off the hook. The unwritten code these days is, why prosecute Minister Oduah for authorising the deployment of unappropriated funds for the purchase of luxury goods, whereas you failed to prosecute, at least conclusively so, a certain (dis)Honourable Farouk Lawan who was reportedly caught on video, stuffing bribe money in his pockets, and even in his cap?! The argument is that while Nigerians continue to be exposed to monumental insecurity as they are left at the mercy of daredevil armed robbers and kidnappers – while the police and their military colleagues are converted to private militias of politicians – Nigerian public officeholders are free to expend public resources to procure armoured vehicles at a cost that is several times over and above the actual cost for such vehicles, for no altruistic reason but for the protection of their selfish behinds.
And rather than insist on holding the affected public officers to account, Nigerians of different sociopolitical leanings are wont to give you a plethora of examples of other public officeholders who have literally, done worse. So, while you argue that it is insane for the Aviation Minister to cause a parastatal in her Ministry to enter into a deal that – as the Senate Hearings are revealing – involves the frittering away of about a billion Naira for the purchase of luxury goods; you are told that Governor Fashola has several armoured vehicles procured at much higher costs than those of the Minister. Next, as though the perpetration of a crime by another person is reasonable justification for one to resort to criminality, you hear that the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, has about seven of such vehicles, and that practically almost all State Governors and most of the federal Ministers, have a number of armoured vehicles. So, your criticism of Oduah’s conduct, is called to question and termed selective and political. While we engage in such accusations and counter accusations, Nigeria is the worse for it.
This same logic affects all spheres of society.
While the nation’s tertiary education is placed in jeopardy on account of the lingering strike by university lecturers over issues that pertain to the proper funding of schools; the political leadership of the country is carrying on as though all was well. Before you know it, the university lecturers, under the auspices of ASUU, are being vilified for proceeding on strike. Their motives are called to question. And the entire nation is in a hurry to pressure ASUU to reopen the universities. The question that seeks an answer is, to what end?
Parents do not want to see their children idling away at home, when they ought to be in school having an education, and the society would certainly be the better if university students are in the university. But the question to be asked is, what manner of education are the students getting in their various universities? Is the university environment conducive enough for the successful conduct of teaching-learning experience and research? Do our schools meet the minimum acceptable standards for university education as far as infrastructure is concerned? Do we have the right specifications of teaching staff in terms of quality and quantity? Are our schools devoid of cash/sex for grades from lecturers? Are those offered university admission, necessarily the brightest of the candidates for admission, or are they those whose names are on some nocturnal list from one godfather somewhere? While we ruminate on the foregoing posers, we must take cognisance of the implications of running a school for the mere sake of it, on national development. What is worth doing, is worth doing well. We either have schools that meet the highest standards possible, or we don’t.
Recall that only recently, it was revealed that an uncomfortably large percentage of graduands from our tertiary institutions in the National Youth Service Corps scheme, cannot string together, a simple correct sentence in English, the language of instruction. What about the psyche of our students upon graduation? Do we have graduates who are primed to impact on the development of the society by looking to deploy initiative and entrepreneurial skills in exploring new grounds for wealth creation through satisfying the needs of the people, or do we have graduates who are programmed to be perpetual seekers of paid employment? What about the area of fashioning the requisite value system for Nigeria? Are our graduates, from the subsisting scheme of things, imbued with the proper mindset that places value on deriving satisfaction from service to society, or do we have graduates, conditioned by default, to estimate success only in terms of personal material acquisition and accumulation?
I remember years ago, while still in school, and it was reported that one of the porters for our halls of residence, died in the course of a failed surgery. Being a surgery that was supposed to be without complications, we were shocked to learn of his death. The ailment was not only, not life-threatening, the procedure for surgery was supposed to be anything but complicated. While sharing ideas on the possible cause of the failed surgery, a student suggested the possibility of the surgeon attempting to copy from a manual while in the theatre. According to this student, the surgeon may have cut the lower abdomen and torn some vital organs, rather than make his opening in the upper abdomen. In other words, the surgeon could have copied wrongly. This may seem as a joke, but not when you fathom the reality of our examination halls, where majority pass exams by copying from some material criminally brought in to the hall. and yes, the medical schools are not exempt from the malaise. Such is the sorry case on our hands. Any unthinkable scenario is possible in these shores.
What about asking what happens to the funds generated by universities internally, as we put pressure on the government at all levels to live up to their funding responsibilities? What about the supervisory functions of the National Universities Commission? Is the NUC living up to its billing? Shouldn’t it’s leadership be made to feel the heat more?
As a nation, we cannot continue getting-by, and making do with the myriad of shortcomings that are prevalent in the land. If the input is not right, the output cannot be right. In computer lexicon, we hear of garbage in, garbage out. In lay man’s terms, you cannot plant yam and reap maize. If we agree that what we have is substandard, then we must upgrade to the required standard for things to work. The Nigerian system is characterized by sleaze and criminality. It is built on faulty foundations. We have to pull it down, and rebuild anew. But the core issue is, who would envision the elusive Eldorado, and who would lead the rebuilding process?
If you are not part of the solution, you’re certainly a part of the problem.
I am @efewanogho, on Twitter.