By Josef Omorotiomwan
EVIDENTLY, we are not listening enough to Albert Einstein (1879-1955): “Life is like a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving”. We keep increasing the level of rationalisation in our society, in the process of which we get fixated at offering excuses for our failure.
At the mention of the poor performance of our children in English Language tests, we quickly point at the direction of the Short Massage Service, SMS, as a major distraction, whereas the SMS has always been with us. In the past, they were called telegrams and we used them quite often. The fact that a student sent a telegram home, “CONDITION CRITICAL X SEND MONEY” did not prevent him from writing the best letter in his English language class the following day.
The Holy Books make it clear that there is nobody that God did not endow with particular talents. The only difference is that while some discover their God-given talents early enough; those who do not discover theirs force themselves into areas where they do not belong.
That teacher who could not read her own affidavit of age declaration could as well have been a huge success in some aspects of merchandising.
Elsewhere, assisting people to discover their talents is a major function of the education system, starting from very early in life.
We all make mistakes sometimes. In an unplanned society like ours, luck plays a role in straightening us out. I have sometimes strayed into areas where I did not belong but I did not wait to be disgraced out. In our secondary school days, I once found myself in a dance club but I quickly bounced out after cutting some shoes of my dance partners. I was clumsy. In fact, I had two left legs. But by the time I moved into the literary and debating society, I became the one to beat.
That was how I found myself in a tennis club. I quickly got out when it became clear that the only direction I could play was aiming at the sky.
Rather than mitigate the problem, society helps to aggravate it. You can imagine if I had forced myself into becoming the one to teach our young ones to dance or better still, if I had bought my way into becoming the one to prepare our tennis players for the next Olympics. That would be a total disaster and that’s exactly what we are doing to ourselves and our nation in virtually every field.
We are largely a bunch of sadists, even to ourselves. We entertain ourselves with ludicrous events, the amount of venom we release into society, notwithstanding. In this Edo State, we once had a Commissioner who couldn’t spell “Commissioner”. For her, the word must shed weight by force and the only way to do so was to eliminate the double letters and she came up with “Comisioner” as her own version of the word.
We were pleasantly entertained on television but that did not prevent her from being picked as a Commissioner, even where some Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SAN, and other seemingly more qualified nominees had to be screened out to make way for her. In other climes, some citizen action groups would have stopped that appointment! You can imagine what type of Commissioner we had in “Mrs Comisioner”.
Let no one be deceived. That teacher who could not read is not alone in that category. They are many. Whereas our system is still relatively able to sift the “Commissioners” from the “Comisioners”; and whereas the teachers who can read and those who cannot are not in short supply here, the differentiation should be made by sound personnel practice at that point of recruitment. But where is that entry point?
When a chief executive wants to engage any particular person, even a stubborn legislature can hardly stop him. For example, Prof. Borisade Babalola holds the clear record of being tossed between the Executive and the Legislature close to five times before his nomination was finally confirmed. Again, the initial rejections of that ebullient Professor were not because he was found wanting but the murky politics of Ondo State had an axe to grind with him.
Our Education Boards have always paraded some of the best and most experienced brains. But while a Board may spend its entire tenure without officially appointing a single teacher, letters of appointment of teachers are “hawked” progressively at the market place, under the candle light, with perhaps some insider collaboration. Between Boards, such illicit appointments get regularised.
True, Rome was not built in a day. We have now arrived at that dangerous point where there are teachers who cannot read and these are the people in whose hands the fate of our future leaders lies. These people did not suddenly find themselves unable to read.
Once blocking starts, it never ends. They even block their way through the PhD. Sadly, the loudest critics of any system are to be found in this category. But luckily, too, even where the thief has every day, the owner still has his single day.
That woman also got her share of infamy: had she fallen into a pit toilet, a sachet of N20 detergent would have cleaned her up; had she been diagnosed for some serious ailment, by now she would have been completing her medication; but in split seconds, her inability to read had incurably destroyed her for life, particularly when she involuntarily relinquished her “Ekiadolor papers” to Oshiomhole – “Who is now the teacher?” “You are the one, Sir”.
Shall we return to Tai Solarin who once opined that the only way to sanitise Lagos was to bomb down the entire place and begin to rearrange it? More than four decades after, Solarin is still waiting to happen, but it has taken some extra-radical steps to begin to turn Lagos around. Essentially, Nigeria is still possible. Just pray and hope!