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Nigeria’s Education System And New Universities

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Federal Government’s decision to establish six new universities in the country’s six geo-political zones, as justifiable as it might sound on paper, may not have gone down well with some stakeholders in the nation’s education sector, particularly those in the university system.

For those who oppose the decision, it really sounds absurd and defies common sense that a government that has not taken care of or improved the status of existing universities will now go ahead to float new ones just to satisfy some political interests.

The sorry state of our universities, especially the federal and state government-owned ones is so obvious and glaring that any right thinking Nigerian should not think of establishing new ones, rather should concentrate on how to better the standard of the existing ones which are in pathetic state.

Government’s resolve in this direction is not in consonance with the prevailing situation in most Nigerian universities. Our universities are really in a very sorry state. Perhaps, that accounts for the reason why most rich Nigerians now send their children and wards to other universities in other African countries such as Ghana, South Africa, just to name a few.

Infact, the number of Nigerian students studying in other parts of the world coupled with those in African countries have conservatively hit over 10 million students.

If our universities rank among the best in the comity of universities in the world, there will be no such flooding of our people to other universities around the globe.

It therefore behoves the authorities to check the trend before we wake up someday to discover that our Universities are just empty with only lecturers, but no students to teach. The only way out remains that we must equip the old universities and think less of building new ones for now.

Our university system needs thorough overhaul and adequate funding to be at par with other universities in the world. Though with a large population, Nigeria does not require more than 100 universities to have a breakthrough in science and technology or in any other discipline for that matter.

By the last count, we hear the country boasts of over 200 universities (public and privately owned ones inclusive), yet, we tend to be retrogressing everyday while we watch countries like Ghana, South Africa and other African countries advance to the next level in their education system.

What is required, for a turn-around, one may ask? The problems are, indeed, legion. For one, the budgetary allocation to the education sector, precisely the university system is grossly inadequate and infact below internationally acceptable standard. Thus, except there is radical appreciation in sectoral allocation to the sector, the pathetic situation of our universities will remain the same for a long time to come.

Worse still, is the policies sommersault in the sector. Though, a Nigerian problem, but education appears to be worst hit in terms of policy inconsistency leading to hazard implementation of policies and programmes.

It is on record that the Federal Ministry of Education has had over 15 ministers of education in the past decade, a development which stakeholders not only decry but describe as worrisome and unacceptable in a civilised world.

Perhaps, due to the frequent change of baton in the Ministry with its attendant policy sommersaults, industrial disputes often leading to strikes have remained the hallmark of our university system. This, obviously, has become the biggest threat to the development and advancement of education to the next level.

Funds, indeed ,lack of it in the university system also constitutes a cog in the wheel of progress. Research grants are not released as at when due, facilities are in dilapidating conditions, dearth of equiptment in the laboratories, outdated books in the libraries, infrastructural decay of the entire system, all characterise Nigerian university system.

A situation where a councillor in a local government council with a pass in West African School Certificate (WASC) earns much more than a professor with over 30 years in the university system is just pathetic and does not motivate men in the ivory tower to put in their best.

Considering all these hic-cups in the old and existing universities, it, therefore, makes no sense for establishing new ones which by all calculations is done to score cheap political points.

The magnitude of ‘wahala’ that has undermined and continues to hinder quality education is such that our policy makers and leaders should rather concentrate on how best to upgrade the old universities by sufficiently funding and equipping them. Consolidation principle should apply. The answer obviously is not to float new ones.

The hollow argument put forward by the authorities to justify the new universities is so flimsy and laughable.

Education Minister, Ruqayyatu Rufai in her desperate bid to justify the new universities said the move was to ease off the high demand for limited places (spaces) at the undergraduate level in the universities.

According to her, 84 per cent of eligible undergraduate applicants are rejected by the universities because the existing universities can not exceed their capacity.

The Minister, perhaps, may have forgotten that the facilities in the old universities can be expanded to accommodate more students and enhance learning, teaching and research rather than build brand new ones on virgin environment.

The financial outlay for one new university, not to talk of six, is enough to provide facilities and infrastructure that will accommodate thousands of eligible candidates seeking university admission.

Did the Minister really consider the financial implications of the new universities from take-off till they stablise? The minister ought to reflect on this before justifying the reason for establishing new universities.

Methinks that her argument sounds illogical and unjustifiable, especially against the background that our universities are at the crossroads and at the brink of collapse.

Rufai’s predecessors in the Ministry had adopted so much cost-saving strategies in our university system, yet no tangible results were achieved. So, if she now tells Nigerians that the new universities will be cost-effective in terms of project and programmes implementation, she is only stating the obvious which is no longer news to most observers and stakeholdes in the university system.

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Democracy: Revolution Cannot Help Us

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Indeed, Nigeria is passing through a perilous time in her 60 years of existence. Nobody, not even the ‘seers’ that flood the space with prophecies, ever imagined the nation will deteriorate to this stage where animals are valued more than humans, as animals are nowadays killed with good reasons unlike humans. Only Chinua Achebe foresaw it a bit in his book, Things Fall Apart. The novelist bewailed when the country was a heaven compared to the present agonising predicaments.
It began with Boko-Haram insurgency to abduction, banditry and presently the ceaseless killings and destruction of public facilities. Nobody is safe, not even the poor or school children. Everybody is trapped; civilians and security personnel are gunned down daily in the style of Nollywood and Hollywood movies. This is the outcome of prolonged abysmal system failure. By the ugly events virtually on daily basis, it points to the number of firearms in private hands particularly the youth. How did firearms get to them?
Government failed to deal with the crisis timely. Initially, terrorists ambushed citizens while asleep, raped women, killed the men and abducted children; nothing happened. From there, they graduated to kidnapping for ransoms and then banditry; nothing happened. None arrested and prosecuted, instead, sustained pleadings and warnings. Meanwhile, many that committed minor offences were regularly arraigned and moved into custody. Government’s negligence particularly long silence on the herdsmen onslaught, banditry and kidnappings across regions contributed to the rise in criminal activities. With huge inflows, crimes became relished livelihoods.
Recently, the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation disclosed that government was about to prosecute 400 Boko Haram’s sponsors arrested from raids in April at Lagos and some northern states. The question is; from the period the insurgents began terrorising the nation, could this sensibly be the first arrest? Again, when precisely, will the prosecution begin? We must tell ourselves the truth, and not call a spade — a long spoon. The country as presently constituted runs on double-standard. It began with running different legal systems; Criminal Code in the south while Penal Code and Sharia Laws in the north. What a country!
The fake national unity paved way for nepotism that tears the nation to pieces. Presently, all service chiefs hail from one region. Key appointments are lopsided favouring the same region, leading to turmoil. Beyond these, it results to high criminal activities, including liberal proliferation of firearms, now spreading to other regions. Perceptively, some criminals have confidence to escape justice over their crimes knowing that their people occupy most sensitive positions. What a blooper on Nigeria’s hurried self-rule when unprepared!
Nonetheless, some groups of people were drumming songs of war against ‘June 12 – the nation’s Democracy Day’ to takeover government forcefully. This is a colossal blunder. Instructively, revolution is anti-democracy and a popular feature of military regimes. Democracy has its procedures, and doesn’t entertain a revolution except nonviolent protests. Those calling for a revolution to unseat an elected president are gullibly misled. If a president can be removed by street mass actions, it means no president can survive it because every ruling party will also have oppositions.
The acceptable tools for changing a democratic government are election and impeachment. Any violent attempt before its time elapsed is treasonable felony. Emphatically, only the Parliament, exercising sovereignty for the people, is the statutory body empowered to remove an elected president, vice president, governors and their deputies from office, and strictly through stipulated procedures, and exclusively at plenary, not in the streets. The procedures are detailed in Sections 143 and 144 of the 1999 Constitution, Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended. Any person or group plotting to pull down a government by self-help is a novice, and deficient as far as democracy is concerned.
The golden truth must be told. Destruction of public assets, endless killings, kidnapping and other social disorders can only worsen the dented-image of the nation and scare foreign investors from the country. It cannot change a government save the Parliament thinks otherwise and institutes impeachment processes. Recently, many lament that key multinationals bypassed Nigeria to site their Africa’s headquarters in neighbouring countries which will open up those nations’ economies and create employment opportunities to their citizens. Who gains and who loses? All Nigerians, of course! Nigeria that yearly produces about 100,000 fresh graduates is the loser. No foreign investors will push its funds to a society with instability and criminal activities. This must be noted.
The tragedy is also a lesson for the northern region. They aggressively motivated their youths into criminalities for amnesty programme, as granted Niger Delta with justified demands. Then, with firearms, the youths abduct, while these leaders pose as negotiators for ransoms. Sensibly, the negotiators benefit too. Recently, Southeast youths misleadingly joined and rapidly destroying their enviable, cherished economic space through mayhems like northern youths. Only the Southwest and South-south zones cautiously pursue their agendas with wisdom and decorum.
Thus, the sensible revolution to strategise about is to elect a good successor in 2023. Anarchy will worsen the existing predicaments. This is the reason 2023 election calls for sober reflections. It is not a time to naively boycott election or for bigoted nomination of ‘I-can-lead’ politicians. Nigeria’s economy can only advance through proficient leadership with ideas and innovations.
Umegboro is a public affairs analyst.

By: Carl Umegboro

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Morass Of Decaying Values

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Every society has cherished values that are hallowed from generation to generation. Such values are rooted in their culture. Culture is the totality of the modus Vivendi of a people or way of life. So when such values begin to decay, it splashes on all aspects of society. That Nigeria is caught up in a morass of decaying values is no longer in doubt.
It is often more convenient for the people in any leadership dispensation to always point at the leadership and subject them to critical scrutiny. Such scrutiny sometimes, are not aligned to what should be the responsibility of the ordinary people who should hold on to values of good citizenship and ethics. Professor Chinua Achebe in his work on “The Trouble with Nigeria”, weighs more on the side of the followership than the leadership.
When you look at the Nigeria state, you will see the justification in that opinion. Yes, we agree that the followership is a reflection of the leadership. We also agree that a people get the leadership they deserve.
The Greek civilization had looked at the polity and came out with the relationship between leadership and followership. The most interesting is their classification of people with respect to roles and disposition in the well being of the polity. The Greek picked out a group they described as citizens. The Citizen according to the Greek is one who is well equipped with knowledge and skills to live in the realm of the public. The citizen should be able to see oneself as a member of the common wealth of the nation. He has an understanding and experience of what is civil and what is not, his rights and obligations. So when Nigerians speak of citizens and they speak of good and bad citizen, there is a contradiction. Those they call bad citizens are the class of people the Greek referred to as IDIOTS. The Greek idiots are not selfless, indeed the Greek identified the idiots as not being mentally deficient but those who are selfish and private in their actions and inactions. This is unlike our common understanding of idiots. The most important trait of the Greek idiot is the lack of public philosophy, knowledge and virtue.
In all, they do not have the common good of the public in mind. They are unethical and reckless. They are found in all strata of society. In Nigeria unfortunately they constitute a large population with dominant negative and decaying values in all aspects of our national life.
This phenomenon has led to the increasing population of the Greek Idiots. They are seen everywhere constituting nuisance in traffic, dumping refuse indiscriminately. These Greek idiots have also increased their negative nuisance value in the area of noise pollution, criminality of all sorts, even in the houses of worship.
Positive values are almost dead and buried. Values have been explained as ideals with which we evaluate actions with different perspectives.
Every ethnic nationality, communities and families have time tested values. The unfortunate situation in Nigeria today is that we have lost the value of decorum, respect for self and others. Our national values of respect for the rights of others have been eroded.
How else can one explain the nuisance of noise pollution in cities in Nigeria. In Port Harcourt the law against noise pollution has been taken for granted. Loud noise beyond the accepted decibel has become the norm rather than the exception.
Those whose offices are located close to Mile one park are in danger of losing their auditory well being as record sellers use loud speakers to unleash all manner of sounds into the confines of their business enclosures or officers.
These mobile record sellers are allowed to push their truck of noise pollution around the city center disturbing the neigbhourhood unhindered. Those who are supposed to enforce the state laws on noise pollution have remained adamant.
It is unfortunate that Nigerians which the Greek Philosophers would like to call idiots have refused to restrain themselves from all manner of unethical practices. People no longer have respect for residential places. Churches are located within residential homes mounted with horn speakers. Loud worship sessions rent the air at all times of the day even all nights. The worst case scenario are those who have cell worship groups that use loud speakers to disturb their neigbours and damming the consequences all day, all night.
They are those that Greek philosophers call idiots because all they think about are themselves, not their neigbours, not the state and the laws that are supposed to protect the rights of other citizens.
Maybe these persons in religious and secular sectors are waiting for the state to set up taskforces to enforce sanity in the state capital. These adults are quick to point at youths who have lost their family values, they are quick to point at some corrupt politicians who are also part of the Greek idiots but not themselves. They are holy and those who complain are demonic and must be consumed by Holy Ghost fire.
It takes a good followership to have the right leadership.
How can we have a sane society when there is a followership that have lost it?
Such followership breed bad leaders and even when good leaders emerge they make governance difficult for them.
The case of worship houses reminds us of the saying which poses a question that “if gold rust what should iron do”? We all are caught up in a morass of decaying values.

By: Bon Woke

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Nollywood Deserves An Oscar

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Genevive Nnaji is a popular Nigerian actress and film producer. Her film, Lionheart, which received rave reviews by renowned critics shortly after its release, may also have acquitted itself in local box office takings.
Again, given the multiplicity of film festivals and movie award institutions, it is very likely that Ms Nnaji’s flick had also picked up some local and regional accolades. But about the most thrilling part of its success story thus far came when Netflix, an elite online movie platform, announced the film’s inclusion in its showlist.
Apparently encouraged by these early positives, the Imo State-born screen diva may have felt that her latest tour de force was already qualified to reach for the ultimate prize in the global movie industry – an Oscar. And so, in 2019, Lionheart was reported as the first Nigerian film to be submitted in the Best International Feature Film (BIFF) category of the Oscar Awards organised annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), USA.
Nollywood stakeholders and, indeed, other native film lovers who had looked forward to the Nigerian movie industry’s emergence at the Oscars were, however, devastated to learn that Lionheart had been disqualified for failing to use a predominantly non-English dialogue track as part of the requirements for films entered in that category. In fact, it was reported that the 95-minute film contains only 11 minutes dialogue in Igbo language, the rest being in English.
Some commentators had questioned why the film was submitted at all given that the terms of eligibility were clearly spelt out for that Oscar category. For the avoidance of doubt, any movie entered for the BIFF category must dwell heavily on culture; have predominantly non-English dialogue track; and present a 100 percent original story.
The Nigerian film industry is popularly referred to as Nollywood, apparently a mimic of America’s Hollywood. Going by what this industry has been able to accomplish in its relatively short period of existence, the above rules need not appear daunting. Ordinarily, that is.
Femi Odugbemi is a film maker of international standing. He is also one of the four Nigerians invited into the voting membership of AMPAS for the BIFF category. In an exclusive interview with a popular Nigerian online publication, and even before Lionheart’s ill-fated Oscar outing, he said of Nollywood: “We have made enough films to, at least, earn a nomination and we really do have excellent people and excellent talents. And yes, some of our films can definitely compete.
“The challenge for us is to systematise our excellence to create a factory line that ensures that every single year there is an Oscar nomination.
“Nigeria is powerful enough in global affairs to constantly have a film in the lineup and that is our challenge.”
One is not unaware of the fact that the BIFF category was recently adjusted to accommodate more entries from outside Europe and America. And so, came the expectation that Nollywood ought to have earned, at least, an Oscar nomination by now, being an industry leader in the entire African continent.
Nevertheless, Odugbemi said that it was now left for Nollywood to create works that were culturally defining. He spoke of the need to tap into the people’s history and heritage to script larger-than-life characters that would create stories for a global audience.
According to him, the local film industry also needed to strive for such technical excellence that would enable its products compete with other films of international quality and get nominated, especially now that the excuse of discrimination or the Oscars being an all-White affair no longer existed.
The movie-industry practitioner found solace in the fact that it took a long time for India’s popular and more experienced Bollywood to win an Oscar. South Africa, he said, also took as much time to have a nominated film; while China’s mammoth film-making industry had not translated to its creations getting on the Oscar nomination list every year.
Even so, my worry for Nollywood is that its practitioners appear to be too conceited to the detriment of the industry. They seem to be content with making clean sweeps of prizes at the annual African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) and such other continental events. But not so for the Ghanaian film industry (Ghollywood) which, on realising that Nollywood was ahead of it and also had a larger market, permitted its actors to work with their Nigerian counterparts for experience and better exposure. And today, flicks from our West African neighbour are seriously narrowing whatever gap that may have existed.
Likewise in music, Nigerian singers had since gone into collaboration with some foreign megastars to boost their careers, a move which paid off at this year’s Grammys with Wizkid’s award. The story is not any different in professional football where local talents had consistently been recruited to play for some big clubs in Europe and elsewhere across the world.
Additionally, British-born Nigerian thespians like Chiwetel Ejiofor, David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo are already household names in the UK and US (the last two starred in Selma with Oprah Winfrey). Imagine a Nigerian actor playing the legendary Martin Luther King Jr. in that film! Unfortunately, even as Nigerians, they cannot be seen as representing our film industry.
Of course, there are Nigerian movies which show some of our Nollywood greats performing in the streets of London, New York and other world cities, but hardly are A-list foreign acts involved in such outings. Our actors need to be seen in Western movies alongside some of the world’s best. That way, they may be lucky to win accolades for individual role performances at the Oscars and British BAFTA awards.

By: Ibelema Jumbo

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