OHANEZE, WHAT MANNER OF NDIGBO?
ADDRESSING a conference of commissioners of finance in Kano State on February 23, 1970, the Late 'Philosopher King' Chief Obafemi Awolowo said, 'There are naturally many economic, political and social objectives which Nigeria must pursue in order to justify its existence as a state'. One of the seven objectives he said 'is education' which in fact was second to full employment in his seven point agenda'
Chief Awolowo who addressed the conference as the Federal Commissioner for Finance said, 'so far as is known, man is the only dynamic and positive agent on our planet … the more educated and healthier he is, the more productive he becomes as an economic agent and the more useful and effective he his as a member of the society' .…'If all these propositions are true, it follows that the education and health of every Nigerian citizens are indispensable to our rapid economic progress, political stability and social harmony'
The great Zik of Africa much earlier understood this philosophy of Awo about education. He stowed away to the United States as a boy to pursue education just like the 'Four Argonauts', (apologies to the Great K.O. Mbadiwe). Owing to education apparently, the Igbo nation was able to produce the Aja and Jaja Wachukwus, the 'Ekeji Anis' 'Eketa Anis' and the Ekerin Anis' (apologies to the Late Samuel Ladoke Akintola, First Republic Premier of Western Region) that dominated the public service of Nigeria in the First Republic. No doubt the foresight of Igbo leaders in the first and to some extent in the second republic has produced many of the present crop of Igbo leaders.
However, these leaders together with the Ohaneze should bow their heads in shame today and beg their ancestors for forgiveness for witnessing the virtual collapse of education in Igbo land and yet did nothing about it. For six months running, the doors of University education have remained shut in Igbo land. I only read about Ohaneze or Ndigbo talking about power shift in 2015 to Igbo land. I watched the humiliation of the former Vice President Dr. Alex Ekwueme a man with about eight degrees, when he was locked out of the premises of his own hotel, for 'security reasons' over the search for who to become Igbo president in 2015.
I wished this great Igbo son and his Ohaneze were gathered to discuss the closure of Universities in Igbo land. I wept for members of ASUU in the Eastern States when I watched their demonstration on the streets of Igbo land demeaning the value of the academic gowns which had taken them about 20 years to acquire.
While the Igbo leaders are more concerned with today, they forget about their tomorrow. This reminds one of Oliver Goldsmith in the poem, deserted village… that; 'while he (the poor) sinks without an arm to save, the country blooms a garden and a grave'. While many Igbo youths are out of school, their leaders are celebrating new yam, not education. What a paradox.
Writing on the topic 'where does Nigeria go from here? In the Sunday Nation of October, 2010, Brian Browne said: 'if Nigeria is to become great, it must do for its economy and its people the same things great nations did of theirs. Nigeria must begin the grand transformation from merely pulling natural resources out of the ground, to becoming a butler and maker of things. In the balance between revelry and reflection Nigeria should incline towards the latter. It is large enough and rich to believe the only thing that matters is the political game they play among themselves… However, the nation is too small and too poor to afford this luxury much longer' the only way to avoid the worst outcome in our encounter with the future he said is to act smartly now. 'This is what greatness demands'.
Are the Igbo leaders and indeed the whole country listening to Brian Browne, a foreigner? Where are the Igbos in Diaspora that are more interested in celebrating their wealth in America and not the future of their youths at home? Are Igbo leaders not worried that kidnapping is gradually replacing the eager and endless industry that Igbo youths are noted for? Perhaps some Igbo youths are not to blame for taking to crime, If their leaders are asleep while the home of Igbo land is ablaze. We may expect very soon more political thugs of Igbo origin. It can even be concluded that Igbo children are deliberately kept out of school by their leaders in order to make them readily available for the next round of do or die politics that is gathering momentum. With the avalanche of Igbo youths out of Schools, thugs can be exported to other states where education is booming and therefore have no adequate hands to send to the political battle field.
Already, their rank has increased on the streets of Abuja especially along the busy high ways of the Airport Road, Kubwa Road and Nyanya - Keffi road doing 'Ben Johnson' after fast moving vehicles with their wares – apples, groundnuts, biscuits etc. Is this what these Igbo youths deserve despite their intelligence? Are the leaders ready to harness their intelligence for the development of Igbo land and indeed the country? Igbo leaders are negotiating to produce President in 2015 at the same time ignoring the development of the youths who will run the affairs of Igbo race beyond 2015.
In the second republic when president Shehu Shagari of the National Peoples Party asked Chief Awolowo to join his Government of National Unity, the late sage said he would join the government on the condition that Shehu Shagari's government would adopt his party's (Unity party of Nigeria) Four Cardinal Programmes of Free Education at all levels, Full Employment, Rural Integration and Free Health Service. That was purposeful leadership. I wonder what Igbo leaders are putting on the table as they are merely asking for Igbo Presidency in 2015, as if that will be the be all and the end will. Of course contractors will smile to the banks while the masses that will always be called out to do 'atilogwu' will remain constant.
By now, I would have expected Igbo leaders to put on the table with the president the immediate return of Igbo youths to the University campus. How they will do this, will depend on their bargaining power. What matters if because of Igbo youths, other state universities benefit from a federal government special grant. Will heaven fall, if the money in excess crude oil accounts is dedicated to funding both state and federal universities? Will OPEC Kill us if we exceed our oil quota by a minimum percent to meet our specific educational needs? Why are the criminals parading our streets as leaders and big men not prosecuted and their loots be recovered to finance education? Why can't annual national appeal fund be introduced to argument University funding? Why can't the money recovered from looters be dedicated in funding of university education? What happens to plea bargaining fees in both local and foreign currencies?
A statesman, General T. Y Danjuma has told us that he made too much money from selling an oil rig and as a man of integrity has decided to give half of it to charity. Is the General the only one who is making money from ownership of Oil rig? It may not be too much to pass a law that will make the beneficiary of this commonwealth to pay at least 20 percent to a university education tax fund, or better still allocate oil rigs to Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
Instead of China building another satellite to replace the lost one that could not even locate sites of plane crash in River State that was eventually located by a hunter or that in Benue located by a school boy, the money being spent on satellite development can be diverted to University education. For now, we should be contented with our children acquiring the white man's or Chinese education, so that we can build our satellite with our own technology in no distance a future. For now it may be counter-productive to keep our own children out of school while we keep Chinese children in schools by oiling their economy while our own decays.
• Casper lives in Abuja.
The Jonathan Presidency series by Reuben Abati will continue on Sunday.