Sep 24, 2014

An Open Letter to Governor Isa Yuguda

Gov. Isa Yuguda. Source: Global Ville News
Oga Isa Yuguda, I heard you have requested teachers to explain why there was, yet, another episode of a murky and abysmal performance by your state, Bauchi, at the last West African Examination Council (WAEC) examinations. Sir, the tone of your summons seemed lopsided, suggesting the teachers are solely responsible for the poor showing of the state at the WAEC examinations. Sir, we don’t need to search deeply to realize 70% of the blame rests on your doorsteps as it is in most states across Nigeria.

Sir, I understand that you asked why the result should be poor, in view of the huge investments your administration has made in the education folder over the years. Sir, such problems come when administrations throw money at ministries rather than administration it. Before doling out money to a government ministry, one has to check to ensure that the ministry is structured enough to ensure the money serve its purpose efficiently.  Poor performance comes only when this is not done.

What do I mean by structuring a ministry to ensure it uses its budgetary allocations efficiently? The rules of efficient administration of schools must be enforced before any money sunk into such schools can result in pleasant outcomes.  These rules are basic and include

·         A child going to a secondary school must prove that he can read a simple passage and then answer questions taken from the passage he had read. If he gets admitted despite his inability to read and understand a passage, he ends up staining the result of his school at external examinations.

·         Those admitted have to be forced to continue working hard. This is achieved by the class teacher ensuring those who fail promotion examinations don’t enjoy any promotion. This scares students who would be compelled to read hard, get promoted and avoid the shame that comes with demotion.

·         Teachers who teach these students must also be qualified enough. This can be established by the government ensuring the teachers pass examinations on topics they would teach when recruited. There will always be limited teacher’s vacancies. Hence teachers who score the highest mark should be given the jobs. It triggers a competition, since teachers know that if they score high, they will get the jobs. This leads to improved standards in teacher’s education. Initially, those who fail to get the jobs will hate you but generally, those who like you will grow because the policy spreads the jobs evenly and out of the circle of your political friends.

·         Those who get the jobs must be made to continue working hard by ensuring teacher promotion is based on his/her passing a tough promotion interview rather than on how long he/she has stayed in the service.

·         Teachers are educated people and working environment must be pretty decent. Schools should be kept clean by hired cleaners rather than by students. Broken windows, doors and chairs/desks must be fixed immediately rather than government waiting for every thing to breakdown first in order to give out a contract to friends to get them rich. In like manner, leaking roofs should be fixed and fading walls painted.

·         Teachers have to be regularly paid. When this is not done, it places a stigma on the service and most citizens would want to use the service as a stepping stone only. It also repels the best minds from the service where bright minds are actually needed.

·         Materials needed by teachers for the successful delivery of their services must be in place. So, there should be books, pens for teachers and students and good blackboards.

·         Discipline would have to be enforced among staff of the ministry, not just in the schools where you have teachers, but also the offices of the ministry from where the schools are administered.

·         At the primary level, the public schools must adopt the approaches the private nursery /primary schools use which enables their pupils to read at the ends of the three years of nursery education. This is important because the secondary schools can only succeed with students that meet entry qualification. Your government can “steal” some of these teachers in the private primary schools to help the public schools. Most private school teachers are poorly paid despite their hard work and would want better pays as long as it comes in promptly.

The truth however, is that these guidelines have always been with us. It is however, their disregard that has led to the seeming mire in which our schools find themselves. So, while your government provides the monies needed by the schools, it must also embark on a reform that cleanses the system and allows the flow of the proper procedures. A reform is needed because the rot has thrived for decades and we expected the period of democracy to create the space necessary for these reforms. Perhaps your administration still believes democracy ends when a politician enters office. No, Sir. It isn't so. Democracy is meant to be a benign flood that washes away all filth.

Sir, the quality of education that should give the kind of result that gladdens the heart is delivered by private schools, mostly. This private schools are however, not affordable by the majority of the parents. The few kids that find their ways to the private schools are responsible for the irritating 10%, 20% or 30% scores at the external examinations. If however, your government can improve on the quality at the public school domain, the majority of kids whose options are solely the public schools will also end up with superior education that are not merely pleasant but give rise to the Isa Yugudas, Adamu Mu’azus, Tatari Alis of the future, to the pride and glory of Bauchi State. Long live Bauchi, Long live Nigeria.

Sep 23, 2014

Book Review –Honor and Polygamy –Omar Farhad

Honor and Polygamy
Honor and Polygamy, a debut novel of about fifty thousand words by Omar Farhad, is an emotionally breaking story of fate and adventure that is driven by the cogs of war, anarchy, religion, love and crime. 

 Nick is an America Christian, husband and father of two who finds himself in Afghanistan in a circumstance that compels him to marry an Afghan girl who is born and raised at the far side of the cultural spectrum. Against all odds the strong love that grows closes the social gap between the two. But then Nick finds himself in the United States without his Afghan wife. He is determined to travel back to bring her at a time when the safe travel routes to Afghanistan have ceased to exist. He resorts to seeking the help of drug gangs. This brings him face-to face with extreme danger and uncertainty. Will he succeed in bringing his Afghan wife to the United States? If he does how will he explain choosing to become a polygamist to his wife, kids and friends in the United States?

The writing approach is modest and sustains one’s interest up till the point of real suspense.  Farhad shows a strong ability to explore the minds of his characters and paint a vivid picture of the details that at times deceives the reader into believing that the book isn’t a work of fiction. In writing the book Farhad arms himself with a good understanding of the history, culture and politics of his ancestral nation. People that have known and love Afghanistan have often lived with the fear that should things fall apart for the Afghan Authorities the nation would be fragmented among warring factions with the name “Afghanistan” ceasing to exist. The author builds his fiction partly on the assumption that the fragmentation of the country has begun.

 Reading the book has changed my perception of Afghanistan as it brings to fore the brilliant face of that nation that most people around the world aren’t aware of. This calls to mind the sad situation where, most times, people paint in their minds what they consider to be colored portraits of distant nations, by just the use of a single color. Reading Honor and Polygamy has reawakened my appreciation of the beauty of the cultural diversity of our planet. Isn’t that what literature is all about?

Sep 2, 2014

Ralph Uwazurike Cannot Break …

Ralph Uwazurike
I wouldn't refer to Ralph Uwazurike, the leader of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), as a stunted individual. If however one takes out all the wadas of Nigeria out of the equation, Mr. Uwazurike would, no doubt, go down as a Lilliputian. The orbs of his eyes seem perpetually wakeful, paranoid of dangers that are non-existent for his Igbo kinsmen but rather exist for all Nigerians.  The Igbo “liberator” is either the most ill-informed Igbo leader or pretends not to see the realities and hence tows millions of young Igbos along a tangent that undermines the tranquility that is necessary for prosperity of all interests, including the social and business interests of his Igbo kinfolk across the country. 

If Mr. Uwazurike is exploring avenues to fame where they don’t exist and explains why his argument to push his cause for a separate nation for the Igbos, native to the southeastern part of the country, is always insipid. The first time I caught an idea of his baseless arguments was when he visited the Africa Service of the BBC while in the UK, some years back. According to him, the Igbos in Jos, Plateau State, were unfairly targeted while the Jos conflict lasted. I am a living witness of the social unrest in Jos till date and I see it as needless to waste ink here, trying to clarify the circumstance of the Igbos within the context of the Jos conflict, a conflict whose place in history will, no doubt, be made obscure by the bulky hulky issue of Boko Haram in the northeastern corner of the country. The clarification is pointless because I am sure the Igbos in Jos would have already made the picture clearer to Mr. Uwazurike or Igbo leaders generally, had they been facing an unfair persecution. If they did not, he ought to have asked them first.

Recently, Mr. Uwazurike tried to jump across a gutter that is wider than his stunted legs can scale, when he suggested that all Igbos living in Northern Nigeria should return home to the “East”. It was from this suggestion of Mr. Uwazurike that I got the impression he has issues with his logic of thought, a logic that is, obviously, twisted by his desperation for heroism.

Northern Nigeria is a vast region, perhaps taking up two-thirds of the land area of the whole country. Across this region, you have Igbos in every inch of it. The Igbos are largely traders and were attracted by the business windows they saw in the region, just as elsewhere where you find Igbo entrepreneurs. They took hold of these openings, prospered and built empires. So when Mr. Uwazurike orders such a population of people to move home and crowd the region that, as far back as the sixties, already had one of the highest population densities in Africa, it naturally raises the question of how to handle the wealth many of them labored all their lives to create. Such an exodus will, no doubt, involve a lot of board-rocking, whose ending will be uncertain. This is comparable to replacing a rope suspending a heavy load with a string; the place of your wealth is your home as it is where your mind will always dwell.  Wealth, here, is not just money but the landed properties and the business ties and profiles one has built in a locality over the decades. The Igbos clearly own more wealth in Diaspora than they own in their native home.

Mr. Uwazurike had previously masterminded an attack on Enugu State House and a public radio station. I watched on social media, a photo of topless men who were alleged to have carried out the assault. The picture evoked the disturbing feeling associated with its abortiveness and what it aimed to achieve. Someone posted a comment hinting that the assault lacked brilliance and could not even measure up to the smartness of Boko Haram operations.

These vignettes of events have only worked to tag Mr. Uwazurike and his followers as a bunch of ill-advised elements. With this, I wonder how Mr. Uwazurike can fit into the imagery of a liberator in the eyes of responsible Igbo men and women. If the Igbos saw any relevance in Mr. Uwazurike’s cause, he would have been included in the southeastern delegation to the National Conference, just concluded in Abuja.

If River Niger eventually flows across five nations rather than its current four, it will be because the new nation was created either out of Guinea, Mali or Niger but not in Nigeria. While the agitations for a new nation may come, largely, from people like Mr. Uwazurike, the irony is that the Igbos, by virtue of their prosperity across the whole length and breadth of the nation, have become the cohesive matrix of the nation. This, again, underscores the belief that our diversity is actually our strength –in it there is solution to all of our challenges. Clearly, the viewpoints of a few within the population of Igbos at home and outside confront rather than meet, as far as the topic of homeward migration is the agenda.  Thus young Igbos at home need an orientation that their Diaspora have, by virtue of their extensive travel.

Obviously, Mr. Uwazurike is already waiting for the prophesy, to come to pass, of former American Envoy to Nigeria, Terrence McCulley, suggesting that Nigeria will explode into bits in 2015.  However, the series of travels the nation had gone through seem to indicate that the bond binding Nigeria as one nation is superior, by far, to the abhorrent forces that aim to tear it apart. Thus Mr. Uwazurike may live out his life and be buried in Nigeria, rather than in Biafra. Those who belief in one Nigeria strongly feel that until the last Nigerian soul is laid to rest Nigeria will go on as one nation.

Ralph Uwazurike cannot break what Heavens has joined.

Finangwai Dreams Big for Plateau State

Dr Hosea Finangwai. Source Dr Finangwai There is that saying that “the things that people desperately seek are always with them.” If ...