By Olanrewaju Akinfenwa
Though we both worked for the same medium, Vanguard, I started reading Donu Kogbara before I joined Vanguard Group in 1993.
Her writing prowess is not what I want to write about and definitely not about the abounding Grace the Lord showered her and us by bringing her back safely to us.
But the chord struck in me was her agonizing account. Don’t misunderstand me, not the harrowing experience she was subjected to but that terse statement which connotes that her abductors were mere children who at best had no education. That is the crux of the matter for me.
Just a day after Kogbara was released, POTUS Barack Obama at a town hall meeting said that the best way to joining the middle class is education. Let us just reverse that statement. The easiest way to turn a child into a criminal is abdicating our responsibilities by not giving adequate attention to the education of all our children.
From Sokoto to Sabe, Kano to Kwara, Ekiti to Eket, Maiduguri to Mushin, the stories are the same. The dreg of the society, most times, are found among those we deprived education. Of course, there are some exceptions. Like those that kidnapped learned Olisa Agbakoba. They spoke good English and had good command of political happenings in the nation. But still, the underlying matter is their poverty of ideas which made them opt out of the societal norm and embraced the dark side of life all in the name of ‘making ends meet’.
What the politrickcians failed to understand is that failure to educate and empower those within our localities is an invitation to crime, organised crime. Like a Yoruba adage says, a rich man among six poor men make them all to be poor men. It simply means that for us to have a just society devoid of crime, every single hand must have a meaningful engagement. And to me, like what Obama said at that town hall meeting, education is the surest and easiest way to that route.
We must as a matter of urgent need ensure that basic education is a must, not necessarily free. It is heartening that Kaduna has just given free education to its citizen. They may need it. But down South West here, we have had ours during Awolowo, Bola Ige, Ajasin, Jakande era. Introduction of free education now in this region is basically turning education into a worthless venture. Perhaps a Yoruba adage best captured it. A free-given medicine is hardly used. What we need now is qualitative education even if it is at a token or what Ondo State had just done asking students to return back to school with their parents State Card. To get something, you must give something. That’s the Law of Nature.
The next thing that we must make good use of is information flow. It is a good thing that the Freedom of Information Bill was passed but it must become part of our national ethos to make information available.
It is absurd that most of the national institutions concentrate all their eggs in the nation’s political and economic capitals of Abuja and Lagos. What then becomes of the rest citizen in the remaining 35 states? How can a Central Bank have only a spokesperson in Abuja, whereas it maintains offices in all the states of the federation? The Public Affairs should become a real department with at least an officer in each state that can answer questions of the citizen and that of the local media. Same goes for Bank of Industry, Bank of Agriculture, Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, and other federal institutions.
The power of information is what is making most of the advanced countries going despite the rate of crimes in them. An average American or Briton would be ready to make information available to the law enforcement officer than their counterparts in Nigeria, nay Africa as a whole. If this has become part of our national life, perhaps before Kogbara was abducted, the law enforcement agencies would have been notified by a citizen who may have overheard something or who may have suspected the movement of some people.
There is time for us to start correcting these anomalies, but let us start with the current fish that have not become dried; they can still be bent easily. To straighten the already dried ones need further policy thoughts, political will to do that which is needful and back all our policies with actions.
LIKE FATHER LIKE CHILDREN
I was shocked to read the budget of the Student Union executives and legislators at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife that budgeted N1.83m to make official phone calls for just five months. It became frustratingly irritating that these same students lack basic amenities like toilet facilities and food.
Please do not travel the roads of your grandparents and parents. Rejig your thoughts and please travel the path of honour like you did recently when you expended over a million naira on your indigent colleagues. It is not too late for you to step back from the track of failed generations, apology to Prof. Wole Soyinka.
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