By Tabia Princewill
Nigerians, we love trends and the bandwagon effect, anything to make one seem intelligent or to arouse attention and curiosity from others. Social media in Nigeria is used mostly for this purpose and birthed many half-baked ideas which are pleasing to some politicians because they make them appear intellectual or knowledgeable although, upon analysis, some thoughts are revealed to be nothing more than sentimental drivel.

The #BuyNaija movement is an emotional plea encouraging Nigerians to purchase made in Nigeria goods without either examining or correcting the reasons why many have chosen not to. NAFDAC and the Standards Organisation of Nigeria have much to do with this as over the years, the “made in Nigeria” brand identity has unfortunately become synonymous with poor quality.

Structural issues

It is also not enough for a few to kid themselves into thinking that buying Innoson’s made in Nigeria cars is enough to revolutionise our economy if we do not change certain structural issues which make most made in Nigeria goods either expensive, poor quality or both.

Even if Senator Ben Murray-Bruce were to buy every pair of shoes in Aba, if he doesn’t find the voice to tell his colleagues in the Senate to stop opposing the power tariff hike so that Nigerians can have electricity and produce goods more cheaply, then all we are doing is appealing to tender, populist feelings rather than going deeper into the issues with a view to resolving them.

On that note, if we do not breed the kind of graduates, school leavers and future entrepreneurs who can tell the difference between political manipulation for elite gain and real action or policy making, if our system does not raise the sort of creative individuals who can move past the Nigerian copycat syndrome to fashion innovative products which we can consume internally and export (beyond raw materials), therein lies our true problem.

The focus in the last few years when it comes to education has been on opening more universities where students are taught from an obsolete curriculum which isn’t in tune with global successes. Instead, we need better primary schools. We have congratulated ourselves on primary school enrolment rising while conveniently ignoring that our pupils’ learning has consistently stayed behind international levels.

We do not measure learning outcomes beyond abysmal examination results and fail to see the correlation between a moribund educational system, which prioritises memorising skills over problem-solving and the lack of products, services or industry beyond dealing with government.

Opportunity isn’t democratised in Nigeria, we still operate a feudal system where clientelism decides success rates but the saddest thing is that education isn’t the average Nigerians’ way out of poverty: students are not taught to think independently precisely why politicians can play with notions of ethnicity and religion, diverting our attention from the real issues.

Students aren’t taught to take initiative, to question the world around them or to empathise with their fellow man; so brutal intra-communal killings remain the order of the day. So what is there to “buy” in Nigeria, other than conformity to a system that tells young people they are wrong to challenge it?

We must go back to the origins of education in Nigeria and most developing countries: from unity schools and the search for a cohesive system to build a national identity (which in Nigeria resulted, ironically in a more fractured society with such measures as “federal character”), we must ally forging a national character (based for example on an anti-corruption consensus) to developing individual potential.

There are serious governability issues in the education sector today: from power sharing between permanent secretaries in state ministries, commissioners and special advisers who often perform the same tasks, to individual school administration, we must get it right in terms of deciding who really takes responsibility for teacher certification, evaluation and salary decisions for example.

We must empower (and incentivise) educators to figure out what works to improve learning and outcomes so resources aren’t wasted.

Dishonesty and cheating

Most of all, I believe we must reassess the fundamental competencies we believe Nigerian children and youth must master in order to succeed at school and in life, regardless of who they are or where they live.

In a system where dishonesty and cheating have proven to yield more fruits than the opposite, we must reconsider pupils’ readiness to learn especially in early childhood by going over the values they have been exposed to.

Education in Nigeria has so far been about learning by rote rather than inquiry, or acquiring new attitudes, behaviours and the development of self. Furthermore, our local governments are not centres where public school children can access dance, music and sports, very simple ways of teaching civics and peaceful coexistence, as well as boosting academic outcomes.

For us to create and properly sell products and services that are useful to society, we must become the sort of country where learning approaches don’t just promote literacy (Nigeria has still too many “educated illiterates”) but real reasoning, understanding and awareness of the world.

Rickey Tarfa

He initially admitted to giving  N225,000 to a judge but specified the money wasn’t a bribe (unlike what was alleged by the EFCC). He claimed the “donation” was made to enable the burial of the judge’s father-in-law.

One would think that a SAN would know better than to give any sort of “gift”, in cash or kind, to a judge and not just any judge, the one who happened to be the deciding factor in a case he was working on!

Is it possible that a SAN would not be clear on what constitutes bribery or on how certain acts can be misconstrued as bribery? Subsequently a member of Tarfa’s staff stated the account number the EFCC quoted belongs to him and not to the judge who goes by a similar name. This is easy to prove or disprove given that everyone now has a unique BVN number.

But one wonders why Tarfa would have made his initial statement if that were the case. Mistaken identity is a plot found in films or novels. In Nigeria, unlike any other organised society, there is always an excuse and nothing is ever clear-cut.  To add to the riddle, the EFCC alleges Tarfa continuously stated he was 43 whereas documents claim he is 54. There aren’t many countries out there where a lawyer would be accused of all this, then not only turn his court appearance into a carnival, but into something straight out of a bad film.

Uche Secondus

That there are still some witch-hunt propagandists point to the state of our educational system which doesn’talways encourage impartial reasoning. The former acting chairman of the PDP,

Uche Secondus, was arrested by the EFCC for allegedly receiving 23 luxury vehicles from an embattled businessman, Jide Omokore, who is also allegedly a business associate of Diezani Allison-Madueke.

If the PDP believes the EFCC is more interested in “humiliating the opposition than fighting corruption” they should mirror former French President Sarkozy and his party leaders (they are currently embroiled in a corruption scandal pertaining to the financing of his 2012 presidential campaign), that is, show up to interrogations or to court and clear their names.

Although Sarkozy lost the election and is now in opposition, out of respect for the French and the rule of law, he doesn’t incessantly cry “witch-hunt”, he knows it won’t help to win back public trust or save him, for that matter, if he is proven guilty.

 

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.