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As Obi Excites Jonathan

By Peter Onyechena, Abuja
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The great Plutarch is known for his biographical work, where he compared the lives of Roman and Greece noble men. For Cicero of Rome, Plutarch would compare it with Demosthenes of Greece. In the introduction to the work, Plutarch wrote that side comments and little peccadillo from those great men gave us more clues into their lives and character than the greatest speeches and fiercest wars.

Writings about the President of our country, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, beyond what people say about him, I can claim reasonable knowledge of him. When he visited Germany a few months ago, I happen to be at the meeting he held with the President of that country. When our President spoke, he made us all proud. He spoke about Nigeria to the foreign audience that left all of us thrilled. From the population of the country, he talked about the vegetations in the country- Sahel Savannah, tropical rain forest, Guinea Savannah, Sudan Savannah - and described all of them accurately. He talked about minerals in Nigeria and the parts of the country each is found. I left the encounter satisfied and convinced at the depth of our president's knowledge, which I believe is a reflection of the totality of knowledge he possesses. These are small encounters that expose us into the persons we know or are dealing with.

Another thing I have found out about the President is his love for the truth. I can say that he does not behave like a typical politician. I have listened to him in many occasions. A times, his brutal frankness have threatened to put him into trouble. He prefers to tell Nigerians about Nigeria and the way she is and the efforts to make her a better place. I have seen him acknowledge that things are not working well in the country, for instance in the area of power, I have seen him also reel out the efforts to correct the anomalies that mounted over the years.

On Saturday, the 17thof March 2013, I was privileged to be in an audience where the President attended - the raising of money for the construction of multipurpose centre at his Home town of Otueke in Bayelsa State that will house a Church, Nursery, Primary and secondary schools as well as a Youth Centre, computer Centre, among others.

When the President spoke at the event, he was frank as frankness dares be. He said that he had a difficult childhood and suffered a lot to get educated. He said that the centre was part of the efforts to make things easier for the people of Otueke. He said that it would be nice when the generation unborn grew up to behold such a centre that will remind them that that those that went after them thought about what would be good for the society.

The climax of the event was the revelation by the President that the edifice would be handed over to the Anglican Church at Otueke to manage. He made it clear that in taken that decision, he was inspired by the example of Governor Peter Obi. He said that each time they met at Abuja, during meetings, Obi always spoke passionately about the Government collaborating with the Church for the good of the society. He said that beyond what Obi said, that independent and sincere sources had always told him about the revolution in the education and health sectors in Anambra State because of what Governor Obi is doing with the Church. What are those things?

Schools in Anambra State were taken over by the Government in 1970, after the war. Since then, successive Governments talked about returning it but only as campaign bribes that were easily forgotten after elections. However, Gov. Obi has successfully returned all the primary schools owned by the Church back to them as well as many secondary schools. Government has however continued to pay both academic and non-academic staff of those schools.

Recently, the Governor has been going round the schools retuned back to present cheques running into Billions for the renovation of those schools. He is also rehabilitating many hospitals owned by the Church through direct grant of money to them. Most of the time he visited these schools, he himself was marveled at the level of transformation. Within few weeks, buildings that would have remained at variation levels were completed at far lesser amount that normal contactors would have quoted. The result is that with little, the State is doing so much with the Church in these areas.

The President must have heard so much about this or mighty have sent people to study what is actually happening in Anambra for him to make positive comments on that and to even go ahead and say such collaboration would be imitated in the management of the Center being built at his home town of Otueke. Hear the President: “As Governor Obi has continued to tell us, and as we ourselves have observed. We shall hand over the Centre to the Church to manage.”

The president is not alone. Obi's strides in education has caught the fancy of the World bank that commissioned a team from Oxford University to come and study it and make it and look at the possibility of making it a model for other African States as well as developing countries of the world. I think the outcome of the study is being awaited.

Paul Collier, a Professor of Economics and Director for the Centre for the Study of African Economies at the University of Oxford, lauded Gov. Obi for not only handing over the schools to the missions but also taking care of their teachers' emoluments. This, he said, had made the teachers' positions safe and secure as well as not altering their financial incentives despite the handover.

Collier said this development would make an important difference in the education sector as the school management put in place by the Churches would emphasize commitment. 'Teachers are encouraged to refresh their sense of duty and stewardship towards the children for whom they are responsible,' Collier pointed out. He further stated that the management which was connected through the local church would not only be more motivated than many bureaucracies, but would be more readily connected to parents whose attitudes and support were also important in bringing the best out of the children.

Collier stated that a synchronised large scale change of management as Gov Obi had done could achieve a quantum improvement as everyone involved could reasonably expect the future to be different. 'What is needed is a range of such experiments. Some will work better than others but if combined, Nigerians can learn what works best,' Collier said.

With the results we are seeing in these schools, I am pretty sure that were Collier to re-write his piece, he will talk about the complete change in the education sector consequent upon what the Governor is doing. Today, schools in Anambra State are wearing new looks, both in Primary and secondary schools. Today, there is now observable improvement in discipline, scholarship and other positive indices amount student.

With the positive comments from Mr. President, I think now is the time for the Ministry of Education and Health to commission a study on Obi's education and health revolution in Nigeria, with the aim of making it a model for other Governments to emulate.