By Ochereome Nnanna
Mr Shem Obafaiye’s my oga at the top outing on Channels Television is of interest to people for various reasons. Some view it as a welcome comic relief. Others see it as a grievous blunder for which Obafaiye should be sacked for crass incompetence.
Just look at it: He is a Commandant of the National Security and Defence Corps, NSCDC, one of the contenders for the topmost post of Commandant General; posted to the nation’s economic capital and the most populous metropolis, the nation’s foremost gateway to the world. Such an official cannot communicate effectively in the official language on worldwide television?
It says a lot for the man, the organisation in which he has grown to such enviable height and the nation at large. The comedy makes me laugh to bursting point but the sad story it tells about the Nigeria of our times gives cause for serious sobre reflection.
In the first part of this serial I promised to show you a letter. It was sent to me by a fellow whose identity I must withhold, on January 23, 2013 via text message. Here goes (as he exactly wrote it): “Sir, help me out to the Minister of Employment. Sir my name is ….. I a graduate of Accountant I have been a bike rider for the past 10 year. I now have five children. What do ido. I am using these text to reached out with the F.G.N. to help one job. Idont have any godfather that we help me. I we work in any given place. Sir help for me not to died live my family thank you sir”.
If this man had a “godfather” and was enrolled in the Navy (where he attempted to fix himself according to further text messages he plied me with) he would carry the above quality of education into his career and rise one day to appear on television to talk to you and me! Even if I had the capacity to find him a job, would I do it? Certainly not, even if he is my relation. Mind you, I am not ridiculing him. I am only pointing out the fact that our system now produces people often described as “unemployable”.
Go to the human resources department of any organisation and you will be shocked at the pains they go through trying to get suitably qualified graduates to employ. Even some young people touting “First Class” degree certificates are often unable to justify that laurel when put to practical test. What do you do with a graduate who cannot write in English? What manner of job do you give him?
Poor human resource development has become a big syndrome in Nigeria. The collapse of the public educational system is chiefly responsible for that. Anyone who wants his children to escape the scourge must cough out enormous amounts of money to look for a private school. Even the private schools are no longer sure bets because many of them exist primarily as money making ventures. We are left with very few elite private schools and only the very rich and treasury looters in the public services can foot their shylock charges. The rest of them simply send their children abroad (“abroad” sometimes including Ghana, Benin Republic, Togo and others!).
Our educational system came to this sorry pass despite a bright beginning. As the march to independence intensified in the 1950s the three former regions of the country were determined to dominate the others or at least escape the spectre of playing the second fiddle. The Western Region sought to extend its educational advantage by offering free education as part of its welfare package. It was the wealthiest region, with its booming cocoa exports and could afford to do so.
The East was the poorest but its leaders opted for “qualitative education” which parents paid for. While the West “mass produced”, the East’s products had cutting edge advantages which showed immediately after independence. The North sought to overcome its educational disadvantage by sponsoring its bright youth wholesale, providing generous bursaries and pampering them with luxuries that were the envy of students from the South.
As the North gained political ascendancy after independence, it started pursuing its policy of “catching up” with the South educationally. With the Igbos out of the equation due to the secession attempt, the North through its military rulers snatched control of education from (mainly Christian) missionaries, voluntary private agencies and communities. Government took over schools, and very soon the enactment of obnoxious policies such as “quota system”, “federal character”, “catchment area” (all instruments of forcing educational parity between North and South) triggered the beginning of the end of Nigeria as a provider of sound education for its citizens.
After about 40 years of this foolery, it became clear that government is unable to run schools effectively. That forced governments in the former Eastern and Western Regions to gradually return mission schools to their original owners, but from the look of things, the damage seems irreparable. Ethnic, religious and regional hatred and evil rivalry led to the situation we find ourselves in.
The future is even bleaker unless something drastic is done. Children educated in expensive private schools with stolen public funds are coming out in flying colours and being given preferential employment in top corporate institutions, ministries, departments and agencies. Those educated abroad mostly refuse to come back to their country because the system is not working. Those who do come back also get preferential employment because they are well educated.
The danger is that the masses of poorly educated children of the poor, who suffer from “my oga at the top syndrome” because they are unemployable, will in future see the few children of the rich ruling them as their class enemy. This is what makes violent social revolutions.
Nigeria has created conditions for a violent revolution. The misguided Boko Haram insurgency is a tip-off of things to come in the no distant future.