Yar’Adua and Obama: Setting Priorities on Education

Whilst President Obama was speaking to millions of students live via the broadcast, my President was packing His bag for an official visit to Saudi Arabia to declare open an effective “Open University” whilst all the University in Nigeria even the “Nigerian Open University remain Closed” for over 3 month. What an irony! Where on earth is the mind and heart of our Leaders?


Read also Egwu, Yar Adua & ASUU; Back to School 2

Yar’Adua and Obama: Setting Priorities on Education by Dayo Israel

For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise; says the Great Apostle Paul.

Comparing individuals however have not been my hobby as I believe that every individual have their differences and all fingers are not equal. Nonetheless, Peter L Berger argues that Even if one is interested only in one’s own society, which is one’s prerogative, one can understand that society much better by comparing it with others, prompting me to compare President Obama’s, 1st Black American President attitude to Education with that of Nigeria’s 1st Graduate President, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua GCFR.

As I listened to Barrack’s 16mins speech at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia (The Home town of Bishop Jakes) some days ago, I was inspired and my heart was filled with pride for the 1st Black President of America. How I wish my President have at least 30% of barrack’s personality trait, charisma and passion for human development.

President Obama’s address which was broadcasted live was viewed by millions of students all over the United States, and although the idea was critiqued by extremist as indoctrinating the student, I believe it showed the sincere and humane side of President Obama. Unlike in Nigeria where since inception of the new administration, my President have not considered the idea of a round table consultation with students or Youth group to share ideas with them and inspire them towards Nation building.

The only time we get to hear from the President is maybe during the National Address on NTA with the usual “fellow Nigerians” cliché. As a matter of fact, the only time we see Nigerian Leaders in our Universities are when they are receiving “bought” Honorary Degrees from the institutions they are not funding adequately.

President Obama held it to be true, that everyone who has meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth. Beyond the controversial healthcare reform, lies in the President heart the passion to see all Americans educated.

Whereas our Leaders in Nigeria comfortably move on with life although the education sector in hysteria. I believe that more than in the power sector – a state of emergency should be declared in the educational sector.

The US President began His august speech by sharing His experience as a young student in America, unable to attend the best schools in His early years – His mother had to wake him up early everyday for extra home tutorials; the story of many ordinary Americans, and ironically hundreds of thousands of Nigerians whom the government are denying free education. Nigerian students have not had the privilege of being inspired by the President challenging early year’s story, if he had any to share.

He continued His speech focusing on teachers’ responsibility to inspire students to learn, parents responsibility to ensure student stay on track; and Government responsibility for setting high standards, in supporting teachers and turning around schools that aren’t working where student aint getting the opportunities they deserve. Most importantly, he spoke about student’s responsibility which is contingent upon government, teachers and parent performing their responsibility.

That exactly is the foundation of the failure of the Nigerian educational sector. The educational legacies lay by the likes of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Alhaji Lateef Jakande has been eroded by greed and corruption of our Leaders. They have crippled the University system and promise basic education (primary school) to disguise their plans to keep the ordinary man in bondage bearing in mind that only the educated are free.

Whilst President Obama was speaking to millions of students live via the broadcast, my President was packing His bag for an official visit to Saudi Arabia to declare open an effective “Open University” whilst all the University in Nigeria even the “Nigerian Open University remain Closed” for over 3 month. What an irony.

Where on earth is the mind and heart of our Leaders? Have they forgotten that education is not just the preparation for life; but life itself? Hence denying Nig Student substantive education is denying them life. Education is essential to change, and if Nigeria is going to change to change much effort should be put into restructuring the educational sector.

Furthermore, President Obama during His speech to the students pledged increased commitment to research and innovation, as it is essential for the nation’s future. If President Obama can claim that the United States is at risk of falling behind in the emerging economy of the world, due to a lack of investment in education; then Nigeria is already dead in this area.

The President further added “We know that the nations that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow. The ability of new industries to thrive depends on workers with the knowledge and the know-how to contribute in those fields,” he said. “Unfortunately, today, our primary and secondary schools continue to trail many of our competitors, especially in the key areas of math and science.”

What does this mean for the Vision 202020, if we really want to achieve this and become one of the best 20 Nations in the world by 2020, then education must be a priority for our citizens to be able to compete with other nations. Maybe then we would stop giving all our contracts to expatriate and our domestic business can thrive.

President Obama added, “All along that education pipeline, too many people, too many of our young talented people, are slipping through the cracks. It’s not only heartbreaking for those students; it’s a loss for our economy and our country.”

I wish I could get a copy of the speech for all our Government leaders maybe it might awaken their spirit about the future of this nation.

Furthermore in his speech, President Obama said that increased education and training is not a “silver bullet” for the workers of the future. But prospects are far better for those with education than not, he said. “Jobs requiring at least an Associate’s degree are projected to grow twice as fast as jobs requiring no college experience,” he said. “We will not fill those jobs, or keep those jobs here in America, without graduating more students, including millions more students from community colleges.”

President Obama said his administration was already taking steps to help more Americans go to college, by increasing Pell Grants, simplifying student aid forms and providing student loans directly from the government rather than subsidizing private loans.

However, while the US President’s speech was going on, and the Nig President was speaking at a foreign University, our Universities remain shut and indirectly hampering our development as a Nation. When asked why the President left the Nigerian University matter unresolved yet proceeded on a trip to Saudi to declare open a University, the Foreign affairs Minister argued that the Minister of Education was capable enough to handle the matter. Yet we haven’t seen any progress from the Education Minister.

When last we heard from the Government, they argue they can’t afford the financial implication of the agreement with ASUU. What amount could be too much to pump into the educational sector when our Legislator continues to receive unimaginable allowance just for sitting in sessions?

What are the National Assembly doing, Where is Dimeji Bankole and other young legislatures. It is not surprised as they unconcerned as long as their allowances are in order.

Think of it:

v Senator Basic Salary – N2million +

v Wardrobe allowance – N720, 000 +

v  Recess Allowance – N248, 000+

v  Accomodation Allowance – N4.5million naira +

v  Utility Allowance – N900, 000+

v  Domestic Staff – N1.2million naira+

v  Entertainment Allowance – N900, 000+

v  Personal Assistant Allowance – N750, 000+

v  Vehicle Maintance Allowance – N1.5m+

v  Leave Allowance – N248, 000 +v  Constituency Allowance – N6.2million +v  Hardship Allowance – N1.2million +v  Newspaper Allowance – N1.2m+

v  Furniture Allowance – N7.2million

v  Severance Allowance – N7.2million

v  Motor Vehicle Allowance – N9.8million

Whereas our teachers basic salary is not anywhere near a senator’s newspaper allowance. The amazing part of the story is the lack of efficiency by these legislatures. Our Legislatures need to wake up and pass laws for the liberal education of youth, especially for the lower classes of people, like John Adams said, no expense for this purpose (education) would be thought extravagant.

Where is the conscience of our leaders who promised us good education during the 2007 campaign? I hope they remember that the silence of the lion is not of cowardice. We are waiting for 2011 because enough is enough. Enough of empty promises at election, enough of the 7 point agenda charade. If truly the Government is sincere about Vision 20:2020 programme urgent steps need to be taken to address the decay in the education sector.

I suggest a State of Emergency in the educational sector.What were they looking at while the best university in Nigeria is ranked number 6,304 in the world? It is saddening that while Harvard has 11,000 lecturers; all Nigerian universities have just 27,000 lecturers in total.

It is believed that out of the out of the 2009 annual budget of N3.3 trillion of the Federal Government, about N1.23 trillion will be spent as emoluments by political office holders, while a paltry sum of N72.6 billion is budgeted for the education sector.

Who says the revolution is not imminent?

I can smell it strongly. I spent the whole day pondering on this paragraph of the Declaration of Independence and the final part of a paragraph strikes a chord in my mind.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certainunalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (Not necessarily true for most Nigerians at the moment).

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed (NOT POLITICAL GOD-FATHERS)That whenever any Form of Government (INCLUDING THE CURRENT NIG ADMINISTRATION) becomes destructive of these ends, it is theRight of the People (ORDINARY NIGERIANS AND STUDENTS) to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Furthermore, the declaration provided that “when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security”.

The right to provide new guards for a better Nigeria would not necessarily be expressed violently, but at the Election Days in 2011 when we would, with the power of our Thumb chart a new course for our loving Nation Nigeria. Nigerian student would not sit down and watch a continuation of this drama beyond 2011, for if we remain quiet posterity would judge us – bearing in mind that we are the trustees of Posterity.

However, it would be unfair to put all the blame on the Government without highlighting the responsibilities of the lectures (ASUU) that are still collecting their salaries irrespective of the strike. Their sincerity would have been strongly founded if they had also rejected their salaries in solidarity with the student for the common cause. Collecting the salaries whilst on strike amount to receiving payment for a service not offered hence defrauding the public purse.

It is alleged that most Nigerian lecturers never upgrade or update their notes! Feeding on plagiarism. They lack moral and ethical values which prompt them to sleep with student for grades. Many lecturers lack proper communication and presentation skills. However can you blame them much when the Government is not creating the enabling environment for them to develop themselves? No wonder many of our lecturer go abroad for sabbatical and never return back to Nigerian universities.

Nonetheless, seeing that the Government is not moved by the strike, maybe ASUU should go back to work for the sake of Nigerian student, whilst we determine another means to change the lot of our universities. Here we go turning 49, may God help our Nation become stronger before Her 50th Birthday. We should spend time praying for the President as well as the Minister for the courage to confront the challenges we face as a Nation.

It is hoped that our President would be inspired by the University in Saudi to come back home and do something for Nigerian student. I hope someone would get the President a copy of Professor Chukuka Okonjo’s “THE QUIET REVOLUTION: On Creating an Information- age Education System for Nigeria” as this would help him shape his focus on revitalising Nigerian educational sector.

As I suggested in my last writing, this administration needs to adopt the Oby Ezekwesili private public participation in education development policy.

However the onus still remains on us as a people to chart a new course for our nation. We can’t wait till 2011 for change to happen, Nigerian Students especially through their student union, must arise, campaign, advocate, lobby, and do everything positively possible to get the government’s attention to give us a better educational sector.

To confront the challenges our nation faces, we the youths and students – – not just our advocates – – need to define issues and develop strategies for action.

We are watching and waiting, early for the speedy resumption of negotiation between ASUU and the Minister as a result of Comrade Oshiomole private meeting with the Minister some days ago. 

Read also Egwu, Yar Adua & ASUU; Back to School 2

Dayo Israel was the Deputy Senate President of the Nigerian Children’s Parliament and the current  President of the Nigerian Student Association at the London Metropolitan University where He is studying his M.A in International Relations. A Passionate Public Speaker, Life Coach, Writer and Youth Advocate.