By Dele Sobowale
“THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH”. Fundamental law of Economics.
This series ended last week with the observation that whereas in Awolowo’s days as Premier of Western Region, virtually all kids enjoyed government sponsored primary education, today only a tiny minority of kids attend state schools. It was the same, even at the secondary school level.
Whereas Awolowo’s and Minster’s kids attended the same schools, though not free at secondary level, as we did (for instance Segun Awolowo, Olowofoyeku, Edu among others were at Igbobi College) side by side with brilliant kids of transporters and traders (e.g Okunowo), it is doubtful if any of the Governors and Commissioners of the states governed by ACN has his/her kids in the state’s primary and secondary schools
. The egalitarianism which was the bedrock of sound state sponsored education during Awolowo’s, as well as Ahmadu Bello’s and Azikiwe’s, era, in the regions, had vanished a long time ago. It has been replaced by apartheid education in all states and at all levels; with the governors and government officials sending their kids to schools, at home or abroad, for the Haves; and the rest attending Have-nots hatcheries for criminals called state schools.
Gone also is the zeal which impelled the political leaders of the first republic to strive to provide sound education. Finally, there are no Adebos anymore, as Heads of Service, to ensure probity, transparency and accountability. What we have are collaborators to clever or barefaced looting. Adebo’s genius was recognized all the way to the United Nations where he was appointed as an Under-Secretary.
None of the holders of that office in the states today will be appointed dog-handler – the dogs might end up in pepper soup. Corruption is the national characteristic common to all the states of the Federation. Even in ACN, ANPP, LP and APGA controlled states, forget PDP, people enter government, dirt poor, and a few years later own mansions and radio stations or have m(b)illions to spend on campaigns for the Senate or Governor. Nobody asks where the money came from; because they know.
Awolowo was Premier of a territory now governed by eight governors; there was only one Minister of Education and no intruders called “First Ladies” siphoning public funds into private pockets; as we have now in every state. Awo had two Secretaries and no Senior, or Special Advisers.
There were no “Security votes”. Each Minister had only one car and a Private Secretary, nothing more. I know that because our family house at Ibadan was directly in front of Honourable Lanlehin’s house at Inalende Road and my eldest brother was the Private Secretary to late Alhaji Adegbenro; who was then the Minister for Lands and Labour.
The cost of keeping officials “in style”, at the time, was less than two percent of the budget –as I later discovered after my brother died and we were going through his voluminous documents on the government.
The cost of maintaining the Executive branch, as percentage of total budget, had gone up by more than 2000% since Awo’s days. Today, eight Governors, the same number of Deputy Governors, eight unelected intruders, called “first ladies”, zillions of Senior Special Advisers and their retinue of drivers, servants etc, rule the territory. The fleet of cars attached to each of “our Excellencies” would make Obama appear like an errand boy.
The egalitarianism has vanished; so has transparency and accountability – which were the solid foundations of public, o,k, “free” (if it makes you happy) education in those days – “the days of our setting out, so long ago”. So, where is the Awoism?
Clearly, if the “free education” component of Awoism is the yardstick for appraisal, there are no Awoists left in Nigeria. Short of closing all the private schools, primary, secondary and now tertiary, anybody still talking about “free education” should go and have his head examined. All we have left is an enduring gimmick for capturing votes; not a credible programme.
The worst hypocrites are my colleagues in the media who have joined the ridiculous altercation on one side or the other. To the best of my knowledge, no single medium level or senior employee of a newspaper, radio or television station has his kids in the states schools providing “free education” which have become synonymous with inferior education in the Southwest. Yet, they write glowingly about the education offered by the states in complete disregard of the facts to which we can all attest. Why are our kids not there; if they are so good and “free”?
The sooner we stop deceiving ourselves the better. There are no Awoists left anywhere – only political opportunists. The least they can do is let Baba Awo rest in peace instead of using his name to foist a fraud on the people.
P.S. Neither Baba Awolowo nor his wife, Yeye Oba of Ife, was addressed as Excellency or First Lady for Mama. But today, right from the first day, the pretenders to Awoism and their wives assume that ill-fitting titles – even before they perform the first function. Awoists indeed. Delusions of grandeur have become the order of the day for, at best, mini-heroes; and, at worst, scoundrels.
ADVENTURES IN PROPHECY (CONT’D)
“History never tells us its alternatives”.
“History is a record of what has happened in the past”. That statement should be familiar to old students of Igbobi College, in the I950s, who had to write 50 or I00 lines as punishment for various offenses. Nigerian history is no exception. Thus when late President Yar’Adua was packed off to Saudi in late November 2009, I again called on Mrs Turai Yar’Adua to urge her husband to hand over to Vice-President Jonathan.
I have always believed in a person granting graciously what cannot be refused. I also predicted that the late President would probably be returned to Nigeria “in a box” –never to rule again.
From that another prediction was made, “Yar’Adua’s name would not be on the ballot papers for the next presidential elections in 20II”. But, there was another one. That said, “Jonathan, after serving the rest of Yar’Adua;s time should not be a candidate either. But, if he uses the power of incumbency to force himself on the electorate and get elected a disaster would follow”.
The Sunday Editor at the time found that prediction so apocalyptic, he called me and asked to be allowed not to publish it. Reluctantly, I agreed but with a warning that the Sunday Vanguard was missing an opportunity to be the first to break news before it occurs. “Jonathan’s presidency will shake Nigeria to its foundations, mark my words”, was my closing remarks.
Not since the drums of war were heard in I967 have we become so divided as a nation.
DR REUBEN ABATI’S PERFECT PRESIDENT
“..he reads. And he writes. This is not a provincial President”, so wrote Reuben in the modern version of DIVINE COMEDY which he sent to the papers titled “The President they don’t know”. I don’t mind reading funny stories but why must Abati take three columns just to call his Perfect Master by his new name, just three letters – god. Fortunately, there is a shrine where the worship can start in earnest – St Jonathan Cathedral, Otuoke. That expensive edifice should be venue for investiture of Holy Jonathan. I dey laugh o.
P.S, More on that piece later.
YOUNG MUSLIM AUTHOR NEEDS SPONSORSHIP TO PUBLISH
The title of the book is A-Z WORD: from the Quran. I personally read and edited it and will recommend it to all our brothers of both faiths since it is written in English. We need to reach across the religious lines to save our nation. The problem is finance. If I have the funds, I would have paid for copies to be printed. Can you help? Any amount will be appreciated. If you can assist, please get in touch.