Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun (Centre), flanked by his wife, Mrs Olufunso Amosun (Right), Deputy Governor, Mrs Yetunde Onanuga (Left) and Commissioner for Education, Mrs Modupe Mujota, during the visit of the Ogun State Summer Camp school children to the Government House, Oke-Igbein, Abeokuta.
Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, did not set out to prove the critics wrong. His mission was to rebuild Ogun State and then leave the stage for others, confident that he had played his allotted part in the development of the state.
Criticisms, after all, constitute some lubrication to the mill of development. When constructive, the society is the ultimate beneficiary. But when destructive, they have the capacity to distract even the most focused government and constitute some drag on the wheel of progress, the degree depending on the knowledge, experience, exposure and courage of the man behind the steering.
On that last point I amplify. In 1952, the decision of the Action Group-led Government to introduce Free Universal Primary Education and free health care for children up to the age of 18 was greeted with severe criticisms. The Opposition excoriated the scheme. But Chief Obafemi Awolowo, then Leader of Government Business, stuck to his gun. In his address at the Western House of Assembly in January 23rd, 1953, he declared, “… we of the Action Group will press forward in the execution of the laudable projects which this House has unanimously approved and accepted… believing as we do that God Almighty, who sees our hearts and knows we are doing all these things to better the lot of our people, is on our side, and confident also that our beloved and trusting masses, when they begin to enjoy the delectable fruits of the education and health levy which they are now being called upon to pay, will now and in future years remember us with gratitude and adoration as their faithful and devoted servants, and their only true friends and benefactors.”
It is needless repeating here that those words of Awo turned out to be prophetic. One of the readers of the article after the launch of free education with free textbooks by the Amosun administration, “Free Education in Ogun: An Evaluation”, where I made reference to the Silver Jubilee of the introduction of Free Universal Primary Education in the old Western Region, reacted as follows:
“I read the piece on the above subject and I must confess, it really touched me and I was almost moved to tears as I happened to be one of the beneficiaries of the Free Education System in Ogun State, and particularly the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the programme. I was then in my primary school but will never forget the celebration in a hurry as the entire schools in my local government were joyous, with each school slaughtering a cow and all the pupils singing ‘Eko Ofe Pe Odun Medogbon….’ Kudos to the amiable Governor of Ogun State for restoring the glory of education in the state.” – Adeleye Yahaya, firstname.lastname@example.org.
In that same article in 2012, I observed: “When, in the course of the recent assessment tour of the 20 local councils in Ogun State by the governor, school children from some far-flung communities displayed their textbooks while welcoming the governor, I knew the depth of indebtedness felt by their teachers, parents and, of course, the pupils themselves. It was a touching moment for many of us… Amosun has opened a new chapter in the lives of these children and they will grow up to remember this, just like the beneficiaries of the scheme in the old Western Region.”
Just like Awo’s free education scheme, the model school initiative of the Amosun government also faced criticisms at inception. And like Awo, Amosun forged ahead with the project, believing that he was “doing all these things to better the lot of our people.” He did not build the 21st century-compliant model schools for the Amosun family but for citizens of the state. The average politician believes in giving just anything to the public.
But Amosun has come to change the paradigm. The public deserves the very best too. History beckons today as the children of the poor now sit side by side – in the same classroom – with the children of the rich at the Summer Camp organised by the Ogun State Government at the Model School, Ewekoro, the first of such initiative in the history of this country. This programme has confounded critics. The well-to-do parents paid for their wards while government sponsored many students based on their performance at the Unified Examinations for all public schools conducted by the Ogun State Ministry of Education. Majority of the 250 children that attended the camp were from public schools.
By way of parenthesis, one should mention that it is quite ironical that the very people that criticised the model school initiative and their supporters have been mounting pressures on government functionaries to get their children to be part of the ongoing pilot phase of the scheme…
What exactly should be the future of these state-of-the-art model schools? As at 1980, if one may recall, the Nigeria Airways (NA) had at least 30 aircraft in its fleet. By the year 2000, the parastatal had only one carrier with over 2,000 (two thousand) workers… before it was liquidated. Before General Obasanjo left office in 1979, Nigeria could boast of at least 20 ships but twenty years after, no one could say with certainty the state of the remaining one in the company of the Nigeria Shipping Authority.
During his visit to Ogun State in February this year to unveil forty legacy projects to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the state, President Muhammadu Buhari reflected on the state of the nation with nostalgia: “During that period (1976-1979), we built Warri and Kaduna refineries. We laid so many pipelines and then we were exporting petroleum products. But what do we have today?”
To underscore the attitude of government business being nobody’s business in Nigeria, a mere euphemism for corruption or mismanagement, Sogerma, a French maintenance company, in 1988, seized one of the Nigeria Airways planes in order to recover a debt of $13 million. The same fate befell another NA jet via a French court order over unpaid debts. Sometime in 1986, four of Nigerian ships were seized in the United Kingdom and Portugal because of unpaid debts of $9 million. As a matter of fact, the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) had to suspend business in European waters for the fear that more of its vessels might be impounded on account of debts!
It would have been a different thing if the current administration will continue to be in power for decades. After all, virtually all the moribund agencies of government that had previously been mismanaged or run aground have been bludgeoned to life by the present government. Even though the Buhari administration is doing its best to lay a solid foundation that will restore the glory of the country, given the peculiar political atmosphere in Nigeria, nothing is totally predictable. Our political environment is fluid, very fluid indeed! Nevertheless, we all can ensure a complete shift in paradigm or change of attitude (where government business will be everybody’s business) by giving our unalloyed support to the Buhari administration in its mission to salvage this country from the ruins of the past.
The Ogun State Summer Camp, where the best students from public schools in the three senatorial districts were sponsored by the government and other children paid for by their rich parents, already presents a template that is a win-win situation for the citizens of Ogun and the state-of-the-art facilities in these model schools. We all wish to look back in fifty or a hundred years’ time and be proud of these monuments, as we do of such structures in the United Kingdom and United States, which have stood like the Rock of Gibraltar, unmoved by time and age. Maintenance is the word!
Indeed, the dream of Governor Amosun for an egalitarian society, where the children of the rich and those from poor homes will have the same access to world class educational facilities is now on the threshold of fulfilment through the Summer Camp at the Model College, Ewekoro. It simply turned out that the critics have been proved wrong. Senator Ibikunle Amosun has set a standard in the education firmament of the state below which no future government is permitted to fall… Congratulations to the governor for another milestone in his Mission to Rebuild Ogun State.
––Soyombo sent in this piece via email@example.com