THE ALTERNATIVE STORY
ByÂ Reno Omokri
Nigeria is a land of opportunity. And I do not mean this the way Nigerian politicians usually mean it, as a clichÃ©d speech for the campaign trail. I mean this from the bottom of my heart because it is true and I have benefited from it and I can prove it.
Nigeria ought to change her educational model. Our education system is still by and large a colonial model where the occupying colonial power merely trained a select few natives for the purpose of having clerks and translators to run their exploitative government. It was never designed to transfer knowledge that prepares the recipient to add value to Nigeria. Quite on the contrary, it was designed and still remains designed to train Nigerians to take value from Nigeria and give it to the West. This is one of the reasons why we have more Nigerian medical professionals practicing in the West and Saudi Arabia than we have in Nigeria.
Our education system is also designed to train the bulk of its intake to be nothing more than paper pushers who daily clock watch, while waiting for the end of the month to collect salaries that enable them to their insatiable lust for foreign goods.
Our education system does not make us productive. It does not teach us to seize initiative. In fact, it kills initiative. Many Nigerian children who show initiative at an early age are made to feel ashamed of their initiative by their teachers themselves who call them ITK (meaning, I Too Know). The subliminal message underlying that common label is that it is not our place to be overly intelligent or curious. We ought to leave that to the oyinbo man.
It is for this reason that Nigerian youths feel it is the job of the government to provide jobs for them. Pay attention to what I said. Our youths do not think it is governmentâ€™s responsibility to provide the enabling environments for jobs to thrive. No. They believe, because of the type of education they have received, that it is the responsibility of government to provide actual jobs for them.
They have been falsely taught that the secret of success is to go to school, get a certificate and that, that certificate acts as a receipt that you hand over to government in exchange for a guaranteed life of ease, laziness and entitlement, along with an official car, a driver, official quarters and domestic workers that do everything for you, except you do your business in the toilet.
That is the life their grandparents saw the colonial masters live. When their grandparents came of age, they chose to live that same life, forgetting that the colonial masters were little more than an army of occupation whose mindset was to take and not necessarily to build except to the extent of building railways and roads from mines and farms directly to ports for onward transportation of the wealth of Africa to Europe and teaching (perhaps brainwashing is a better term) the natives to accept their particular brand of Christianity (which invariably has their monarch and not Christ as the head of the Church).
This is why a Nigerian youth who lives in Kaduna can complain that the government has not provided him or her with a job. Yet, Kaduna rice sells for almost double in Lagos. The government that he or she complains against has built a railway and train that will take them to Lagos for less than N2,000. They do not need a visa to go to Lagos.
Even the Bible says â€œmy people perish from lack of knowledge.â€ Yes, the Muhammadu Buhari administration is inept, but this clueless government is not your problem. The problem of the Nigerian youth is an education system that has robbed him of initiative and pumped him full of entitlement to the extent that he or she is expecting manna from heaven. The problem is mental laziness. The problem is YOU!
Probably the best thing that ever happened to Nigeriaâ€™s economy and her education system is the second coming of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and her brilliant initiatives with former President Jonathan, chief of which was the Youth Enterprise With Innovation in Nigeria (YouWin) initiative.
I just finished writing a book on the Jonathan administration titled Facts Versus Fiction: The True Story of the Jonathan Years (Chibok, 2015 and Other Conspiracies). In it, I devoted a whole chapter to YouWIN.
Even though I was somewhat involved in the process, I was nonetheless impressed when I took in the birdâ€™s eye view of the scheme and how successful it was in creating jobs and changing the mindset of Nigeriaâ€™s youth.
It was not that YouWIN gave grants, although it did give grants ranging from $12,000 to $100,000 to over 4,000 Nigerian youths. The beauty of the initiative was that it provided business and financial education to tens of thousands of Nigeriaâ€™s youth and hopefully changed their outlook from one of entitlement to one of self reliance.
Unknown to many Nigerians, YouWIN is actually the worldâ€™s largest business plan competition ever created.
When David Mackenzie, a Senior Economist at the World Bank, did an Independent Impact Evaluation on YouWIN, which he published in 2015, McKenzie found that YouWin was two and half times as efficient as a 2013 management consulting programme in Mexico, four and a half times as efficient as a 2014 wage subsidy programme in Jordan and almost ten times as efficient as a 2011 vocational training programme in Turkey.
That is why it was rather disappointing that President Muhammadu Buhari could not see beyond politics to understand the need to retain the initiative. Rather, his administration reduced Nigeriaâ€™s most successful job creation effort to â€œa weekly print media enterprise education programme designed to assist entrepreneurs start, plan and grow their businessesâ€ which it christened YouWiN!Connect, an aberration and a bastardisation of the original idea which has gone the way of other harebrained ideas that the current administration came up with including Change Begins With Me and the N-Power scheme (emphasis on scheme).
It is very sad to see what has happened to initiatives like YouWIN and the Presidential Special Scholarship Scheme for Innovations and Development, Almajiri Schools, etc. Sound policies, patriotic initiatives and powerful ideas that should have been consolidated into Nigeriaâ€™s education system have been either cancelled, watered down or left to wither away. And look at the impact such actions have had on the economy.
Speaking of the economy, the last time Nigeria had a Coordinator was in 2011 when President Goodluck Jonathan nominated Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala as a minister and upon her confirmation named her the Coordinating Minister of the Economy.
How sad that in 2017, six years after that event, Nigeria has now got her second Coordinator and no, it is not another minister. It is no less a personality than the incumbent Vice President who has been reduced, in the estimation of his boss, from an acting President to a Coordinator.
In his first letter to the Senate on February 10, 2017, before going on medical vacation, President Buhari had used the correct nomenclature to describe the role that would be played by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
In the said letter, the Vice President was to â€˜actâ€™ on his behalf.
How very strange that in his second letter to the Senate on May 7, 2017, before going to see his London doctors, President Buhari curiously changed the wordings of his letter and named the Vice President as someone who would â€œcoordinateâ€™ rather than â€˜actâ€™!
And to those who are saying that the nomenclature does not matter, go home and call your father â€˜my motherâ€™s husbandâ€™ and after he has slapped you back into reality, come back here and realise that if it is not panadol it is not the same thing as panadol. Vice President Osinbajo did a very good job the last time he was acting President and as such no one who loves Nigeria should hesitate to accord him the respect he has earned even though by reason of his peculiar situation he cannot complain about this shabby treatment meted out on him for fear of playing into the hands of the â€˜Cabalâ€™.
I think the President was not too happy with vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajoâ€™s good performance the last time which outshined him, hence this Coordinator of National Affairs business. Where are our constitutional lawyers? Canâ€™t somebody approach the court to stop this nonsense? Coordinator of National Affairs is unknown to our constitution! Our constitution was not made for President Muhammadu Buhari. Rather, President Buhari was made by our constitution and must be subject to it, President or not!
Finally, on the recent release of some of the kidnapped girls, let me say that anybody that is not happy that 82 Chibok girls were released must be a monster whose humanity should be called into question. I thank God that these girls have been released and I commend the Federal Government for the feat of ensuring that these girls are reunited with their families. May God bless President Muhammadu Buhari for providing the leadership that enabled this to happen.
Having said that, there are some factual observations I want to raise. What you are about to read is completely devoid of any opinion. I am just stating facts. You may not like the facts. You may not even like me. But one thing you cannot do is ignore the fact.
Why should a Presidential spokesman turn himself into a praise-singer for a terrorist group? Read the following quote:
â€œTo be honest, without appearing to speak for Boko Haram, from the outlook of these girls, they appear better in terms of their physical outlook than the 21 we received before.â€-Garba Shehu, President Muhammadu Buhariâ€™s spokesman.
What can one even say when a Presidential spokesman praises Boko Haram for looking after Chibok girls well! What can I say? I am speechless!
On May 7, 2017, when the girls were ferried over to the Nigerian Presidential Villa at Aso Rock, Abuja to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari, photographs released showed them looking very well fed and robust. In fact, the next day (May 8) Africaâ€™s top blog, Linda Ikejiâ€™s blog published a photo of the released girls side by side with a picture of a woman and her baby in one of the Internally Displaced Persons camp in Borno State for a side by side comparison and these Chibok girls, who had been living rough inside Sambisa forest looked well fed, well groomed and buxom while the woman in the IDP camp looked haggard and hungry. It leaves you questioning who has been in captivity and who has been free. How is this possible?
This is not the first time Chibok girls have been released. Almost exactly a year ago, just a week before the current Nigerian administration marked its first year in office some Chibok girls were also released. Another batch was released in October 2016. The thing is that when these girls are released there is a media blackout on them. No one is allowed near them to interview them.
I understand that they have gone through an ordeal, but Malala also went through a similar or even worse ordeal and no one shielded her from the press. Malala Yousafzai was shot at age 15 by the Taliban and left unconscious. She survived and she was threatened by the Taliban who threatened to kill her should they catch her. Her case was one of clear and present danger. Yet she was not sequestered from the public even though, like the Chibok girls, her English was not so good at first. In fact, an international press tour was arranged for her, placing her on the world stage and kick-starting the activism that earned her a Nobel Prize, making her the youngest person ever to be so awarded.
One would have thought that, that is what would have played out for the released girls.
Last October, 21 Chibok girls were release by Boko Haram after negotiations. Till date, these girls have been kept from the press. Even their own parents are not allowed access to them according to a New York Times piece on them published on March 11, 2017. The girls are kept in a safe house according to the New York Times. During the Christmas holidays, they were allowed to visit Chibok but were housed in the home of a â€œtop politicianâ€. Their parents were only allowed to â€˜visit themâ€™. Soldiers guarded the girls and after some hours asked the parents of the girls to leave.
Let me say again that I am glad that they have been released and I pray that the remaining captives are also released but questions remain and when you attempt to raise them, you are shouted down by suspected members of the Buhari Media Center that Farooq Kperogi warned us about.
And now for my nugget of the week.
A woman who is looking for a perfect husband will never marry, for there are no perfect men, few good men and many regular men. In fact, foolish women fall for men who know how to pleasure them. Wise women go for men who know how to treasure them. A refined girl is better than a fine girl because fineness fades fast with age but refinement improves as you mature. And finally, whether you are a man or a woman, donâ€™t be ashamed of your background. Focus on improving your future. Jesus was born in an animal barn but now lives in heaven #RenosNugget