The greatest challenge to security in Nigeria is the age-long neglect of public schools, especially the State and Local Governments owned schools at the basic education level; and in recent times, all public institutions of higher learning. Public educational institutions are left to manage and train large number of students beyond their carrying capacity; in a highly deficient learning environment with insufficient or sometimes complete absence of basic learning facilities. In institutions of higher learning, this leads to the graduation of some less devoted students that may be described as unemployable. It is not surprising that a World Bank report in 2018 alluded that only about 20 percent of young Nigerian adults who have completed primary education can read. A number of such youths end up as drop-outs and some may become bandits, armed robbers, kidnappers, thugs among others.
On the other hand, graduates of some institutions of higher learning; since they can read and write, but are semi-illiterates, become government thefts, internet fraudsters and drug barons; tarnishing the image of Nigeria, within and outside the country. Thus, breeding a potent mischievous perception about leadership and governance and scaring away local and international investors. On a lighter note, this is the category of our youths that post all sort of nonsense on social media, aggravating the menace of religious and ethnic bigotry; thereby further setting the country ablaze. Such students and graduates do so, forgetting the fact that no one has the monopoly of violence and when the killings start, anyone can be a victim; including them. To force the government to act at the university level, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has repeatedly used a whip, popularly called ASUU strike, which is the language best understood by the government. Collectively, these have created a vacuum that is ushering into the tertiary education, the worrisome phenomenon well established in the basic education system, where public school teachers send their children to private schools. This is an important forewarning as it precariously expose our public institutions of higher learning to the current mess face by our basic education and introduce our higher institutions to pure mediocrity and great abuse.
On the contrary, the students and graduates from the families of our top politicians, traditional rulers, government officials and sometimes top managers of our educational institutions, are unlike the former. They are usually products of educational intuitions in Europe, US, and influential Asian countries, where they meet and relate like Nigerians, irrespective of religion and ethnicity. They make friends with other Nigerians without bigotry. They are highly united and have established the strong network necessary to have exclusive access to our commonwealth. It is not possible for youths that don’t understand the concept of national cohesion, like the certificated illiterates to position themselves and fit into national and international tribune of leadership. The current religious and tribal bigotry the nation is faced with was easily seeded and amplified in the biological system of our youths as consequences of the highly deficient and abusive educational peregrination they were unfortunate to have been exposed to.
It is inappropriate and an abuse of the system to entrust our government and educational institutions at any level to individuals that do not in any way believe in and have nothing to do with our educational institutions. It has become a pride, rather than shame, for our leaders at all levels to attend and showcase the graduation ceremonies of their children in higher institutions in developed countries. It is so bad that despite all the standard and expensive private schools in our country, our leaders now send their wards abroad to acquire basic (primary and secondary school) education. This has significantly increased the quest and fantasy among Nigerians for foreign educational certificates with or without knowledge. Now, many parents send their wards to study in institutions of higher learning in neighbouring African countries that can best be described as senior secondary schools in Nigeria and can never get accreditation from the Nigerian University Commission (NUC); this includes institutions that award a first degree within a period of nine months.
We must all note that even the bush in which we hide has eyes and the Nigerian Army can become overwhelmed by the serial repercussions of neglecting our educational institutions. This impingement will worsen when the number of graduates from foreign and private Nigerian educational institutions multiply and use their biological influence to get most available jobs. Already the complete monopoly of highly-paid federal agencies, like CBN, NNPC, NDDC, FIRS, NIMASA among others, is at the verge of completion, if not completed. Several average-paying public jobs are for the highest bidder or for those with strong political supremacy; meritocracy is only limited to lips service and public policies, never to be implemented.
By 2023, Nigerians may witness the full implementation of the “not too young to run bill” in earnest with our leaders, elites and the very rich sponsoring their children to contest in our very expensive political system. After the elections, the top political appointees will be mainly the children of national leaders, elites and the very rich. This will avail such wards the needed political exposure and acceptability to replace their parents. This will spell doom for the nation’s public institutions of higher learning, as this set of Nigerians, unlike their parents, have nothing to do with our public schools and have never had the experience of learning in overcrowded lecture halls, receiving lectures while sitting on the floor, attending a secondary school that has no chairs in the classrooms and a teacher/lecturer handling more than three hundred students at the same time. Such leaders may read or hear our stories, but will never understand our pains or value complains. But for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In the highly globalised societies that we live in, many citizens are afraid of the consequences when the reactions of the children of the poor masses become more intense.
Students and graduates from our public institutions must invest more in human capacity development to offset the deficiencies in our educational system. The challenge will be worst in years to come, when wards of the influential class from foreign and private Nigerian universities get the podium of leadership and make major national decisions. These helpless students and graduates must maximise every legitimate opportunity available today to enable them seize all available opportunities that is proportionally theirs in days to come; for a smooth sea does not make a skillful sailor. Where there is a sincere will, there is a legitimate way to excel, irrespective of your alma mater. Those that have and will cross over to the influential cadre through natural selection should remember the challenges they faced and should contribute towards fixing the rot in our educational system using their personal assets and social status. The labour and pains in making the government committed to its basic responsibilities of providing sound education to its citizens should not be left to ASUU alone. It is a struggle for national unity, security, peace, stability and development. This is the major ingredient needed to secure our nation; giving every citizen good sleep at night with both eyes closed.
Buhari Habibu is a young academic and can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org