A good place to start is education
It is common knowledge that the best investment for a nation’s growth is in training or educating its young citizens to reach their full potential and in turn reap the dividend of their productivity. Any forward-thinking nation should have this as its top priority. So, it comes as an absurdity as to why Nigeria would choose to spend a huge chunk of its budget on governance while the crumbs are left for education. Even the crumbs are still wasted on a largely obsolete, inefficient and irrelevant educational system – vocational or academic. Prying deeper into probable reasons for its ineptness is a story for another day. My goal today is to argue why Nigeria’s future seems gloomy with its present choices.
The right of every human to education is not only recognized by the United Nations but also by our own Africa Commission on Human and People’s Right (1, 2). This means countries – rich or poor, developed or undeveloped accepted the immense influence of education on humans. Yet astonishingly, the Nigerian Federal government in 2009 argued that education was not a legal entitlement (3), preposterous! Even more surprisingly, it didn’t make headlines neither was there a national outcry against it. Two guesses as to why – either we were uninformed or just apathetic. At this time, we can’t afford any of those 2 excuses.
The reason is, for the more-than 60% Nigerians who are under the age 24, the government’s budget for their growth, their training and development as capable contributors have consistently dropped since 2015 and is now at about 7% in the proposed 2018 budget (5). This is a far-cry from the international benchmark for investment on education set at 20% of total government expenditure (3). Our shabbily-funded education only means poorer education quality, increased illiteracy and lower gross domestic product. To give you a clearer picture, budgets of year 2018 to 2020 are created on assumed oil prices and loans for foreign countries or agencies (6). Is it not a shame that 70% of recurrent expenditure is supported by revenue from a tiny portion down-down south with almost no ties to the large and eager labor force?
I do agree that Nigeria still has a young democracy, however having assumed a democratic type of government isn’t the solution; practicing true democracy is. But we can only get this if the citizens are educated and well-informed. As Thomas Jefferson described, democracy is the most complicated type of government and needs more education (7). Hence, the lack of basic political education has mystified “politics”, created apathy to it, limited meaningful participation and encouraged the persistence of the old and fixated ruling elites. Lest do we know that Nigeria’s political propaganda has created a terrible national character – lofty vision statements with no real intentions, enticing mission statements with no concrete plans. In summary, a tradition of vain promises.
Know this: the future of Nigeria is precisely as bright or as dull as the future of its young citizens. My only reasonable conclusion is that the country we pledge our allegiance to has not in the slightest manner pledged its resources for our growth.
To the youths, the phrase “fear not and only be courageous” should be our motto if we’re to gift the coming generation a better Nigeria than was handed to us.
To our parents, if you haven’t visited a public educational institution recently, please do so – it’s important that you don’t blindly send your wards to them. Your voice is needed.
To the upper and middle-class, you are not safe if your neighbor is hungry and unemployed.
To our churches, please unite for once to fight this injustice. Your prolonged silence is costly.
To men of influence, more than anytime, now is when your voice, charisma and platform is needed to steer this country out of impending doom.
To the politicians, do us a favor, NO, do yourselves a favor, seek psychological help and then leadership training.
** Taiwo Akinyemi is a PhD student at the University of Georgia studying Microbiology
- Eleanor Roosevelt’s “Time is Now” (Book)