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To Develop A Nation, We Must Educate It

26 May 2013

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Asiwaju Bola Tinubu

First, permit me to express my pleasure at being in Kano. This is both an ancient yet modern city, a place of tradition and custom as well as enlightenment and innovation. Whenever I come here, I am reminded of Kano’s importance to the history and continued evolution of Nigeria. As Kano prospers so prospers the nation. Thus, we have no option but to make Kano prosperous and peaceful.  
Let me publicly state my appreciation to the Visitor, Kano University of Technology, Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwoso and the entire Governing Council of the University for extending their hands of fellowship Southward toward Lagos to bestow this honorary doctorate upon me.

I am touched to the heart by this expansive gesture. In doing this, you ignored the imaginary divide between North and South. Because of your nationalistic courage, you recognize no such divide exists except in the minds of those who would keep us down, divided and at each other’s throats. In your wisdom, you realize that we are one. Come what may, we shall remain one.

I commend your courage and wisdom. You must maintain this standard because we need this type of courage and wisdom to see our nation through its current tumult. Although storms break all around us, we shall not faint. We shall not cower in fear for our purpose is right and our ways are democratic and just.

We seek not to harm others but only to better the nation in consonance with the will and aspirations of her people. Anyone attempting to deny us this noble goal is an enemy of progress and is not a friend of the Nigerian people.

Such a person should also reconcile themselves with defeat for they have cast their lot with the wrong side of the historic encounter between justice and injustice between prosperity and poverty, between right and wrong. In the attempt to keep us downtrodden. They shall lose. The people shall triumph. And history bears me out.

History teaches that those who stay resolute shall win in the end. We are resolute for here is no shame in what we seek. There is no shame in wanting democracy, no shame in wanting prosperity, no shame in fighting poverty, ignorance and disease. There is no shame in believing in justice, in striving for a better life or in demanding good governance. There is no shame but only pride in these endeavors.

I feel compelled to speak briefly about the current state of the nation. A heavy cloud hovers overhead. There seems to be no woe by which we are not besieged. Poverty, unemployment, disease, joblessness, terror, crime, and religious regional and ethnic division all knock the door. Sadly, our house is weak because of poor infrastructural and also dark because we have never received the electrical power for which we have paid so dearly.

Despite all of this, we have the ability to reconstruct Nigeria into a sturdy and bright home. We have the capacity to chase away the demons at the door. The question is do we have the willpower to face the tasks? Here education plays a vital part. Ignorance is not bliss. It is a scourge on the present and a curse on the future. To lift this nation from its low state, we must equip the people with the knowledge needed to face the challenges at hand.

Education is not an inanimate tool like a hammer that one can simply buy or borrow from elsewhere. Education is a practical dynamic thing that must be adapted to our needs and reflect our circumstance. Education must give us the skills needed to become architects of the destinies we seek and not become idle bystanders in our own lives. An effective educational system must turn people into positive social and economic actors.  We should not abide a system whereby 1.7 million candidates seek admission to the universities but only 500,000 places exist in both private and public universities.

It is costly waste to educate our children with knowledge irrelevant to our society. It makes little sense to give our people skills for jobs that do not exist while the real work at hand goes undone because of lack of able labor.

Often we mimic too closely the ways of other nations. Thus, we educate our children to fit into the processes of those nations but not into our own.  Too few of our youth are taught how to start their own business and make it grow into something that can hire and provide jobs for countless other people, thus enabling many to fend for themselves and their families. Too many of our youth have law degrees. Through the desperation of chronic unemployment, many a prospective lawyer will join the ranks of the lawless.
When we train too many of our youths in professions with too few opportunities and in ways that do not reflect our economic reality, we do a disservice.

We educate them wrongly. In doing so, we mortgage the future of the nation. Today, we are experiencing the bitter harvest of sowing good seed in the wrong fields.
We now come to the reason I am honored to be at this fine institution. Technology is where pure science marries practical application. Technology is the art of problem solving to make a way toward a more advanced and progressive society.

Technological innovation powers development and turns around the fortunes of the people. From the smallest local technology that shortens the hours of harvest to the expansive technology employed by large corporations, our world is changing fast. So that our nation will not be left behind, we must develop the minds of our youth and sharpen their skills.  Wise,innovative technology must be encouraged that we may build this nation anew and give her children a better future. As such, we must adapt science to resolve those troubles that visit so much misery on the people.

You must improve our manufacturing capacity in order to revive our industrial sector and return jobs to Kano, particularly in textiles. Kano’s once humming and bustling factories have been stilled much too long. We need to restart them for no large nation has ever managed to achieve broad prosperity without having a vibrant industrial base.
We must shave better ways to bring electrical power to our people. Our rural communities need this power so that they can become more efficient producers of the food we need to sustain the nation.

In this regard, we must not shy for exploration of sources of alternative energy.
With weather patterns becoming more extreme, parts of Nigeria will experience alternating seasons of flood and drought. Unless we adapt, this will dislocate populations and wreak havoc on farming.

Those gifted in the pertinent technology must devise water catchment systems to tame the excesses of flooding season and then devise irrigation systems to provide needed water during the dry months. By doing this you give our farmers, the backbone of the nation, a chance to avert disaster. You will keep food prices down and prevent flooding from decimating populated areas. You will save not only livelihoods you will save lives. You need to tackle desertification. With a population that grows larger by the day, we can ill afford to let the desert claim more arable land from us.

You must look at methods for construction of affordable housing and better roadways and transportation infrastructure so that our people may live better and move about with greater ease and less cost.

We have a choice to make. We can lament that all is lost and gone with the wind.  We can blame everything on poverty, on poor federal government or on Boko Haram. Or we can decide to proclaim a better future. On one hand we must fashion the technologies that answer our economic and environmental challenges. On the other hand, we must push for enlightened government and policies that drive technological innovation and breakthrough.

It is for you to focus on the first part of this benign equation. It is me and other leaders to devote ourselves to the second part. If both hands can work in tandem, we shall begin to resolve our longstanding social and economic imbalances.

We shall create the change and bring the hope of a better future that will render extinct Boko Haram and other violent movements across the land. In the face of increasing progress and prosperity, such groups shall remain where they belong: small, fringe and inconsequential. By wedding innovative technology and good governance, we guide the nation to her better future.  There will be no need to even contemplate a state of emergency anywhere in Nigeria.  There will only be a nation and 36 states of emergence toward development, prosperity and hope.

I must commend the energy, vision and courage of the Kano State governor for his array of programmes that promise to lift the quality of life of the Kano citizenry.

These traverse the education landscape to infrastructure and health.
He is also a moderniser, who has put in place for posterity the seeds of three new cities in the state. For the record, I love that he has sent 501 students with first class or second class upper to pursue post-graduate programmes abroad, 100 indigenes to Jordan to study to become pilots, 25 to the United Kingdom and India to study marine engineering.

Who can argue against the provision of buses to enhance girl child education or the laboratory equipment to secondary schools for computer, chemistry, biology and physics to prepare them for the technology of tomorrow. If you remember these people-centred programmes then you cannot forget the great Aminu Kano, whose grand footsteps are evident in the visions and strides of Governor kwankwaso.

As I have noted, these are interesting times for Nigeria, and we need to come together as a people to pursue those things that elevate us, heal our people, enlighten our children  and enhance our economy.
The future is bright because Nigeria has some of the brightest people in the world, whether in Lagos or in Enugu, in Port Harcourt or Kano.

In the end, we have no other option. The wedding of smart technology and wise governance is a union that must take place. The nation depends on it. We shall achieve it. Let it never be said that we idly watched things crumble while there was yet time to build, that we surrendered because the task was hard. We are harder and greater than the task at hand. We cannot fail. Success is a national duty. Thus we might as well get on with the job at hand.

These are times for courage. We know of the crisis around the country, but we should see them as opportunity rather than platforms for decay or failure. Leaders rise in adversity. According to Publilius Syrus, “Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” As leaders we can travel through the stormy sea and arrive gloriously at a safe shore. That is why I salute men like Governor kwankwanso for his courage and vision.

—Former Lagos State governor Tinubu presented this speech yesterday during the conferment   on him of the Honorary Degrees of Doctor of Science at Kano Unversity of Science Techology, Wudil, Kano.

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