My Problem With Akpabio-Prof. Wilson …Says, HND/BSC Dicotomy Unnecessary
Des Wilson is a radical Professor of Communication Arts. He is the immediate past Dean of the Faculty of Arts in University of Uyo. In this exclusive interview with The Agenda, he barred his mind on the state of the country's education system, rebuilding Nigeria, anti-corruption war, governance in Akwa Ibom state, among others. Excerpts:
You are meeting Des Wilson, a teacher in the department of Communication Arts, University of Uyo. I came to this University in 1985. I have taught here for almost 30 years now. I am a Professor of Communication Arts. I am the immediate past Dean of the Faculty of Arts.
Education in Nigeria
I think the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been having what some consider an annual ritual, simply because the Nigeria public has failed in its duty. The average Nigerian has a responsibility to ensure that his/her future is secured through the proper education of their children. Today, we have no University or even Polytechnic that we can speak of when we compare what we have here with what is obtained in other climes. It is a big shame. To reduce it to a problem between ASUU and government is a shame on the Nigeria people; that they have refused to do something about it. The University is supposed to be for all Nigerians. We need a good environment to impact this knowledge. We don't even have the facilities to produce good students to even bring them into the large society from primary and secondary schools.
Things have decayed and yet the Nigeria citizens, the Nigerians themselves see it as a joke. It is no joke. That portrays us as unserious people. If government now says, let us charge one hundred thousand naira in public universities, they will revolt. These are the same Nigerians who pay N500,000 and above in private universities. They are paying these huge sums in private secondary and primary schools, but when we say, let us increase fees, they will say no; they will give reasons that we have a lot of money; but are they holding the people who are in leadership positions accountable? They know that public officers are stealing Nigeria to death and they don't do anything. It is the public that should take up this matter. I blame Nigerians for not holding their leaders accountable. Questions should be asked on why the federal government refused to implement an agreement it entered into in 2009 with ASUU.
Nigeria of my dream
Yes, the Nigeria of my dream is the one we will have leaders and not monarchs. What we have in our states as governors; they are like monarchs. They are rulers. They consider themselves as many things and arrogate to themselves divine authority and Nigerians are also not questioning some of these things. They encourage them. They sing praises to the temporary rulers who are busy stealing our money and resources. Nigeria of my dream is one in which we have leaders. Those who have the interest of the country at heart; I want to see a Nigeria where the average citizen will have the right kind of capabilities, skills and have something to do. Government should take the people into confidence and set up industries that work. In Akwa Ibom state for instance, we have 31 Local Government Areas. If the government wanted to reduce unemployment and poverty in the land, it could set up industries.
Government should facilitate the setting up of industries (not managing them). If government earmarks N100m for setting up of industries in each of the local government areas in Akwa Ibom state, for instance, government will need N31b; with that, unemployment will go; people will have something to do. I want to see a Nigeria where transparency in leadership positions is the order of the day. Today, I have not seen those leaders. There have been some persons who have the qualities, but have not had the opportunity of leadership, that is why I said that if you are an honest person, it is difficult for you to get into positions of leadership in Nigeria; the moment they see you, there will be a conspiracy that this guy is coming to spoil business.
How to Rebuild Nigeria
Well, we know where rain had beaten us. We know that we have never really had certain things done right. We have talked about education. If we train Nigerians properly and they come out to be independent, creative and employers of labour, then we have started. This situation where we just train people who can parrot, cram and get first class and yet they do not know simple practical things around them, that kind of education is not useful to our society, so, we need a re-engineering of our educational system; from primary to tertiary.
Again, this 'degree mentality' must also go. When Obasanjo was there, he decided that those who went to the Polytechnic and have HND and those with Bachelors must be at the same level. They were never intended to be at the same level. The market is different. The place where they borrowed it from; for instance, in the United Kingdom, those who go to the Polytechnic have their own market. Those who go to the University also have their own market.
You make people who go to the Polytechnic to feel inferior. Today, everybody wants to go to the University to acquire a degree, hence, the confusion in the education system. Again, the governance problem; we do not hold elections, we rig. We organize allocation of votes; allocation of positions to people. If we allow true elections to take place, many of these characters all around us will know that they owe the people some responsibility. Then, we need agriculture. Nigeria has no business importing rice and other food stuff that can easily be grown in Nigeria. Identify the real farmers, partner with them and encourage them.
Also, we need a way of sanitizing the system. People pay a lot of leap service to religion. We need to bring back morality to the system.
On Power generation, people have talked about it severally. It is a big problem. It is not that we do not have enough power. In this state alone, there is the Aluminum Smelter company of Nigeria-ALSCON, in Ikot Abasi. It has enough power to supply to the whole of the south- south. It has the capacity to generate, but there are no supply/distribution lines. The state set up an independent power plant that was enough for the whole of this state and the former eastern Nigeria in terms of the number of megawatts it could generate; but it also doesn't have distribution lines. We have the things here, but the generator merchants wouldn't allow these things to work. They sabotage everything. They have their agents everywhere to ensure that things do not work.
It is only when we take a decisive step by overcoming the generator merchants and insisting on producing power for every Nigerian that we will get it. In every oil producing state, we have gas that can be used to generate power for this country and we won't be complaining of any power outage. We need courageous leadership to implement these things. We have enough fuel to export, yet we do not have enough for local consumption. We have the Oil, why should we sell the product at the same rate with our neighbours who do not have? They give us international market prices, as if they pay our workers here who work in the oil industries the international wages that they are paid in those countries. They use the dollar mark-up for other things when it suits them, but when it comes to paying the people's salary, they don't apply that here.
Anti-Graft war in Nigeria
There is no seriousness about it. We have the agencies. Some of the workers may be serious, but most of them are not serious. The government itself that set them up doesn't even want them to succeed. If they are allowed to function properly, some of those who are in public offices today won't be there. They should have been in prison by now. Anti-corruption has standards. The judiciary is one of the problems of anti-corruption. It is possible for a British court to jail Ibori and not here. Some persons that were indicted in the past are today in public offices. Salisu Buhari, who was the speaker of the House of Representatives, who forged Certificate, was recently sent by President Jonathan to be a member of the governing council of UNN. Someone that had committed that publicized crime; what kind of governing council is he supposed to be part of in the University with negative moral conduct and all the other things. If he was engaging in forging of certificates, what moral values is he going to impart in the Council. People are not made to suffer for the offences they committed. Rather, when people commit offences against our society, they will be honoured. Some of the people who were convicted in the past are today national honour holders. The last exercise was riddled with all kind of disputations and people were dropped at the last minutes. Who were those who cleared them? Weren't they security people? What did the anti- corruption agencies do when those names were sent to them for screening?; government must take the anti-corruption war seriously. People are corrupt to their marrows in this country.
Governance in Akwa Ibom State
Well, speaking personally, maybe with a pinch of prejudice; It is not that the young man at the government house has not done a few things right, even those things he has done right, he has done them wrongly. There is very high level of unemployment here. When he came, kidnapping was high. We are very happy that today, the state has had some relative peace. At least, we do not hear too many cases of kidnapping anymore; even though, a Journalist told me that they were advised not to publish those stories anymore. Generally, we feel the state is safer now. In terms of development, the government has focused on developing roads, flyover, etc; but has not bothered to think of how to engage the youths by way of employment.
They should think along the line of industrialization as a way of tackling unemployment. I don't think that Akwa Ibom has made enough efforts; we have the Airport, which the former governor started and the incumbent was gracious enough to complete it. That is a plus. There are some other things, but specifically for the elites; the ordinary citizens are not part of it, because they do not have the resources. We have the cinema at Tropicana, etc. these things are not for the average citizens. The larger segment of the society is neglected.
Issues with governor Akpabio
Well, I didn't actually have issues with the governor. It was about the electoral process. I was returning officer during the senatorial election in the governor's senatorial district and there were no elections. I was there. Government officials hijacked the corps members who were recruited as electoral officers; they hijacked them to their homes and they did all the voting there. They didn't come back. I had driven around the stations to see what was going on during the elections. I saw that nothing was going on. People even came to the office to complain that materials had not arrived, unknown to them that the material had been taken elsewhere. I was employed as a Professor of this University by INEC to help the federal government in the activity and while the elections were going on, INEC headquarters was sending us text messages, telling us to send reports about whatever we were observing. I wrote that report and sent it electronically to INEC head office.
I do not know what happened and the report entered the hands of the media. They published the report and the governor was livid. It was that same day of the publication that the governor sent a colleague of mine to me to ask me to forward my CV for a federal appointment in Abuja. They didn't know whom they were dealing with. I wasn't looking for a job. I knew there was trouble, because the person insisted that I give him the CV there and then. I knew that it was the design; some months later, people from my LG went to see the governor, they said, he started by stating that he didn't know what he had done to Des Wilson; that I came and lobbied him to make me commissioner and because he didn't appoint me, I now wrote a letter to Jega, complaining about the election. One of them was quick enough to tell him that the letter was dated April and they were discussing it around August. He quickly claimed that I backdated it.
I didn't have any personal problem with him; it was just that in this governance thing, some people think that they understand their master better than the master himself. He may not have directly engineered this thing, but there were some people who thought they needed to eliminate me; that was why I had to flee the state at that time. Every other thing for me is history.
Online Journalism and ethical challenges in Nigeria
Well, if those practicing as journalists in the cyber sphere want to be called journalist, they should register their business and run them as business; they should operate as corporate entities. They should have physical addresses. There should be registration, but I do not want restrictions. Let people be able to sue them. The government should be able to come up with a regulation that online publications must be registered, just like the other newspapers in the country. They must also have an office but I do not support censorship.
Our leaders must think Nigeria not Europe or America, not to attempt to apply the rulings from int'l organizations, which those countries themselves where those organizations are based do not accept themselves. I belong to Amnesty International. The int'l headquarters is in London. America doesn't accept all its allegations but when it makes those allegations against Nigeria, they will say that Nigeria must implement. The same is applicable to IMF.