FEMI AJAYI is a Professor of Management and Conflict Resolution. In this chat with sharpedgenews.com’s TAOREED ADEYEMI, the Head of Department of Political Science and Public Administration in
Babcock University, Ilishan Remo, Ogun state dwelt extensively on the Nigerian education system and also talked about the state of insecurity in the country. EXCERPTS:
How do you compare Nigerian education with that of America where you have lived for a very long time?
It is like comparing apple with orange. They are incomparable at all. The needs of the community will dictate the type of education to be established for the people. The need in America is that of technology and that is where their focus is. Here in Nigeria we are still not getting the infrastructures right. No school to stay and even the curriculum teachers are using are not good enough. The students are not tailored towards the needs of the society. The truth is that education needs to be tailored towards the needs of the society. There is no way you can compare America to Nigeria in terms of advancement in education. However, we can borrow their curriculum and use it here. Rather than trying to compare education in Nigeria with that of America, we should be talking of how to improve our education. The government should provide adequate resources to education sector in Nigeria. There is no reason why government cannot make education free from kindergarten to high school.
Who do you think should be blamed for this?
The basic need of people is the primary goal of the government. And the basic essential need of the people is education. You have to educate the people so as for them to also make their contribution. See, it is even wrong for the government to take over schools from the missionaries. What the government ought to have done was to ensure that they were properly monitored. Most of the schools the government took over from the missionaries are now in shambles due to government neglect. By and large, the government should be blamed for the current level of education in Nigeria. We also need to take a look at the corruption level in our various schools. The little that the government is even releasing to them- how are they utilizing it? Another problem bedeviling education sector in Nigeria is the issue of corruption. The solution is that we all need to go back to the drawing board to strategize on how best to improve education in Nigeria.
Many believe that the Nigerian project is not working with over 50 years of nationhood. What is your assessment of Nigeria at this moment?
Nigeria is developing. Nigeria is growing. As you know that Rome was not built in a day. Nigeria is going through what some other developed nations of the world have gone through in their history. That is internal conflict which we must work together to find a solution to. We cannot blame the Europeans for actually colonizing us. They have left us for over 50 years now- so what have we been able to do for ourselves? It is true that we went through the civil war and some people are still talking about reconciliation, reconstruction and all the rest. We still have polarization along the ethnic line and polarization along religious line. Look at the whole world now; the issue of religion is now dividing us and people are even killing one another over it. Look at Nigeria today; we know that security is a challenge to the government. The truth is that apart from education, security should also be of essential necessity that the government ought to provide for people. It is very unfortunate that in Nigeria today, we still cannot generate enough power that will actually get to every citizen of this country. Power is very essential in the life of every Nigerian and that is why government must look inward to address the problem in the power sector. The recent deregulation of the sector is a good start by the government.
Some say politics and conflicts are like the Siamese twin that cannot be separated. You as a Professor of Management and Conflict Resolution -do you subscribe to this notion?
Within you; you have conflict. We all have conflict within ourselves. This shows that the whole world is in conflict and conflict is a lifetime thing. The conflict within you will make you to like or hate another person. What we need to do is how do we manage conflict? So, when we say conflict, we are referring to human beings. Politics and conflicts are twin brothers that are inseparable.
Conflict is today one the greatest problems bedeviling the African region. Why is it that in Africa we cannot escape the specter of violent conflicts undermining peaceful co-existence in the region?
Like I said earlier- there is nowhere in the world without conflict. One of the reasons why it is prominent in Africa is because of the leaders we select. We do not select leaders collectively. And it is always the case of powerful person within the community becoming a leader. And once they find their way into leadership position; they try to perpetuate their stay forever. Let me give you the example of Gadhaffi. That man did wonderfully well for his people. The average life span in Libya is 77years and in U.S, it is 78 years. This means that all the needed things in Libya were provided for by the government. Both education and healthcare delivery to the people are free. If you want to go and study abroad, the government under Gadhaffi was responsible for the payment. He built homes for them. And not just homes-but homes with adequate power supply, water and internet facilities. He made all other infrastructures available to them. Gadhaffi equally did something wonderful for his people. He built a river in a desert. He spent over 300 billion dollars without borrowing anything from International Monetary Fund (IMF) or the World Bank. He was a wonderful person- but what happened? People said give us our freedom. Africans need freedom but Gadhaffi was choking them; imposing many things on them. I just gave the Libyan example to show that regardless of what you do for them- they still want their freedom. And the African culture does not allow anybody to say anything against their leaders. So, what brought Gadhaffi down was that he started killing the people that were against him. Freedom is one of the reasons why we have conflict in Africa. People are political animals and they want their freedom. Another reason is that of land. When you forcefully take over people’s land without any compensation, it becomes a serious problem. Our leaders in Africa are too imposing and that is why conflict has refused to leave us in Africa. Also many Africans don’t have forgiveness in their dictionaries. Most civil wars we have witnessed in the region were as a result of lack of forgiveness and pursuit of vengeance by Africans.
Insecurity coupled with Boko Haram menace are becoming cogs in the wheel of Nigerian progress. What do you think can be done to these problems threatening our corporate existence as a nation?
Let me start by telling you that our intelligence agencies are weak. The major one we know of is Police. You can go to a policeman, take off his cap and slap him. What you need to do is to give him some money; he will let you go. So when you don’t have strong security agencies working-it becomes a problem. Secondly, the loose attitude of our politicians is also part of what is causing security problems in Nigeria today. During the election you find them using their so-called supporters who they equip to terrorize opponents. So after the election they all go back to their old ways. If you look at the records of those committing crimes in the country today; you will discover that majority of them have been supporters of one politician or the other. So these people after the election formed themselves into group who are now terrorizing the nation. That is why we have the Boko Haram and the rest today. Our intelligence work in Nigeria is very weak. The government does not have to negotiate with anybody if our security agencies are up to the task. If anybody has an issue; such person should come to the government to discuss it. Unfortunately for Boko Haram the little development in the North is being destroyed by their activities. Those who could help bring development to the North are being scared away. They are undoing themselves.
Some say President Goodluck Jonathan is weak and naïve as a leader. In your own opinion how do you assess him as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?
No, he is not weak or naïve as a leader. Let me give you an example. It is like when you see a dangerous snake- will you run after it like that? The snake will just turn back and bite you if you try to run after it. So what you need to do is to look for a very sharp object and make sure that your muscle is strong enough and watch where the snake hid its head and you strike it. Jonathan is not weak or naïve as a leader. Security issue is not something that can be rushed. You cannot rush at it, otherwise you will fail. That is why I gave you the snake illustration. He has so many enemies around him that are troubling him. Those that even surround him before he became the President and those he has now picked. The federal character is killing the country because it means that you have to pick even from your enemy. So far, Jonathan is doing great and I like his leadership style.