A man who was so poor he couldn’t afford three square meal. He approached the gate of a rich man naked to solicit for help. The rich man looked at the man with disdain but it was so unfortunate for him that the poor man solicited for his help when he was having a royal party flown in his honour in his palatial residence. But for what people would say, the rich man was ready to send the poor man away. However in a bid to salvage his image in his friends’ presence, he swallowed his pride and offered to clothe the man as he appeared naked in his presence. He then gave him money and ordered the poor man out of his presence. The poor man went home happy. Three weeks later the poor man went back to the rich man’s house and demanded for food as usual.
This time again the rich man was in a party celebrating a major feat. He was so angry seeing that the poor man was wearing the clothe he gave him the other time still looking unkempt. Ferocious at the poor man, the rich man was about sending the poor man away for always embarrassing him with his dirty apparels when one of his friend called him and told him point blank: “Eni ti o ba dáso fun ole, yio baa pa láro” (he who clothes a lazy man in white apparel should be ready to wash and dye it for him). Seyi Makinde is the rich man and the hapless cum helpless Oyo school students represent the poor man. Seyi Makinde successfully made the hapless students fell in love with the taste of honey and whilst the momentum was still heightening, Seyi Makinde through his Commissioner for Education Prof. Shangodoyin withdrew Oyo students from the honey jamboree and handed less sweetening products to them. What a time bomb the government is sitting upon. Oyo educational posterity is going bleak and heading for the oblivion.
I say this with every intonation of authority ably backed by the law that though the provision of free education under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is non justiciable, many governments across the federation are so disposed to paying lip services to rendering free education for a singular reason: to score cheap political points. Many contemporary leaders of Western parts of Nigeria are largely beneficiaries of the free education sponsored by the late Ikenne philosopher and former Premier of the defunct Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo SAN GCFR and as such most of them saw the need to replicate same in the act of giving back to the society. The question is that since the concept of free education is not justiciable and not compulsory under our laws, is there still need to promise and not fulfil it when the might and body language of the government suggest otherwise? I venture to think not.
Carrying no further coal to Newcastle, Seyi Makinde is diligently fond of promising what he cannot accomplish and also biting more than he can chew at a time. Governance is no competition but an opportunity to make one’s mark on the aeonic sands of history. When he came to power he went all out to condemn all what his predecessor did in a bid to score cheap political points and get the sentimental supports of the Ibadan, nay Oyo populace. He hurriedly labelled the outstanding educational policies and frameworks of Senator Abiola Ajimobi as outdated and not conforming to modernity. He tagged them as unfriendly policies which needed immediate overhauling and complete discarding. It was Abiola Ajimobi who for eight good years at a stretch provided books, writing materials and provided conducive environment for students of Oyo state. It was this same Abiola Ajimobi who – in a feat many tagged unbelievable and ‘abracadabric’ – paid the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) of Oyo state students for three years when he was in government. Abiola Ajimobi, himself an Obafemi Awolowo-inspired free education beneficiary believes that education is a safeguard to liberty than a standing army.
No other person better summarizes the mind of Senator Abiola Ajimobi and his zeal for education than Kung Tzu (popularly called Confucius) when he said that if you are planning for a year, plant corn, if you are planning for a decade, plant tree but if you are planning for a lifetime, train and educate men. Obafemi Awolowo lend credence to the argument of Confucius when he said that in honest hand, literacy is the surest means to true education”.
Abiola Ajimobi went all out to recruit teachers en masse, fixed public primary and secondary schools across the state, ensure the welfare of the teachers and the principal officers of education segment in the state, made sure that the number of out-of-school children drastically reduced by larger margin, and by implication Ajimobi’s administration recorded huge success and made tremendous progress in the education sector. Ajimobi formed a powerful team of advisers comprising Professors, academic Doctors and dons from ivory towers both within Nigeria and abroad and provided a roadmap for education and repositioning Oyo sate as the pace setter in education. Ajimobi modernized the education system through the inauguration of Oyo State Schools’ Governing Board being a new initiative to coordinate the administration of secondary schools in the state and implementation of policies such as stoppage of mass promotion of students, promotion based on 80% of class attendance and above average performance in state Common Entrance examination to enhance their results. It was to Ajimobi’s credit that the state established Technical University (Tech-U), Ibadan, Oyo state being the first in the South Western region. During Ajimobi’s tenure as Governor, there was high rate of success in West Africa Senior School Certificate Examination and National Examination Council Examination. Ajimobi changed the face of education in Oyo state forever. Ajimobi introduced the School Governing Board, organised two education summits in 2012 and 2016 identifying major gaps in the infrastructural decay in the school system. Consequently the Ajimobi government embarked on the construction of world class learning environment with the vision to deliver quality education across the state.
As a matter of emphasis, Ajimobi was able to pay the WASSCE fees of Oyo state indigenes for record three years and thus wiped the tears off the face of those who are brilliant but indigent students.
“The free education policy in Oyo state focuses on the provision of education free of all fees and levies, free learning and teaching materials, better environment for learning and teaching materials, better environment for learning and improving the skills of education service providers. WAEC is an external examination. Internal examinations are free. It is the responsibility of parents to pay any external examination fees, while the government prepares the students for the exams, including provision of the materials needed. The free education policy under Chief Bola Ige in the 1980s did not include payment for WAEC examination fees. Our government will reward deserving and outstanding students in future.” That statement is credited to the Oyo State Commissioner for Education Professor D. K. Shangodoyin. Such an unfortunate statement from the Seyi Makinde-led Oyo State government. What a tragedy! Ijamba se’lu! (Misfortune has befallen the polity).
On October 25 2005 Barack Obama while at the Teach Our Kids in the Twenty-First Century event sponsored by the progressive Centre for American Progress said, “if we truly believe in our public schools, then we have a moral responsibility to do better – to break the either-or mentality around school reform, and embrace a both-and mentality. Good schools will require both the structural reform and the resources necessary to prepare our kids for the future”.
Preparing the kids for the future entails seeing them to an avenue where they can at least fend for themselves. It is noteworthy that most students may not have the wherewithal to further their studies after their WASSCE. Is it not better for Seyi Makinde to at least endeavour that in the order of Abiola Ajimobi the WASSCE of such students be funded by the government even if it is going to be the last favour Seyi Makinde will do for them as far as education is concerned? I don’t know the future Seyi Makinde-inspired Shangodoyin’s statement is referring to when most of the brilliant chaps would have dropped out of school and become public nuisance and glorified urchins. Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well.
“Oosa bio le gbe’ni, a se’ni bo se ba’ni” (the gods who cannot make me prosper should rather let me be in my former position). Seyi Makinde ought to have allowed the educational policies of Abiola Ajimobi to continue after all government is meant to be in continuum.
By implication what Seyi Makinde’s government has done is to revoke and cancel the free education policy of Abiola Ajimobi. Such an unfortunate comment coming from Shangodoyin the Oyo Commissioner for Education in the wake of the harsh economic conditions being experienced by the ordinary Oyo indigenes is quite a political offside and miscalculation. Perhaps a demystification of the term free education is apt here. Said Eliyahu Rosenow: ‘’the point of departure of every definition of education is that education has a certain aim which the educator strives to achieve. The aim of education is never the child as such or man as he is. The aim is formulated in valuational terms, adumbrating a sphere transcending the individual”.
To Eliyahu Rosenow, education is a lifelong process which result should be physically and value-manifesting. In the wake of Nigerian economic reality, how many Oyo school students will be able to pay over N18,000 WASSCE examination fee without the intervention or subsidy by the government?
Prof. Shangodoyin alluding that free education is when the government pays for books and stationeries without paying for the examination that will actually show the hallmark of being actually educated is at best a mirage, faded illusion, un-academic and unfair, draconian decision. Or what is the essence of reading and studying for WASSCE without sitting for the examination due to non-payment of school fees? This is likened to Damocles who invited people to his house for a feast but on the ceiling above the dining table hangs a sword ready to cut those wining and dining. And as a result the guests could not eat peacefully: they were restless.
Seyi Makinde is on the path of recording his major political miscalculation and heading for political Golgotha if this draconian policy comes to limelight. He is about to make ready the exodus of a bunch of school dropouts from Oyo schools in an unprecedented manner. Oh poor Seyi Makinde! What a political and educational tragedy this will turn out to be for him! And what is the long term effect of having large number of school dropouts? They turn to street urchins, criminals striving hard to survive at all cost and constituting serious threats to state security.
Senator Abiola Ajimobi knows and understands better. Passionate about education, Ajimobi remarked as follows: “underpinning every step we have taken is our desire for quality in whatever we do, aside from the three model schools edifices, the renovation of several blocks of classrooms in 100 secondary schools across the length and breadth of the state was recently carried out to create conducive learning environment for our students”. Ajimobi went further: “the efforts are not limited to secondary schools. Though the Oyo State Education Trust Fund, we have carried out renovation of many blocks of classrooms, over 40 of them, particularly in the five technical colleges in the state, while the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) carried out massive construction, rehabilitation of public primary schools in our bid to upgrade middle-level technical manpower and make learning environment child-friendly.”
Or how best can one explain the political miscalculations and unworthy vilification by the Seyi Makinde-led government on the past administration of Senator Abiola Ajimobi and his stainless education policies? Rather than addressing his political and administrative ordeals, Seyi Makinde is all out to bring down all the good deeds done by Abiola Ajimobi against all odds. This cannot but be alluded to misguided priorities and misconceived perceptions. This was the mind of Chief Obafemi Awolowo SAN GCFR when – discussing about the need to focus on the mantra of governance the late sage said: “I say this because, unless we have as clear a definition and description as possible of the objects of our desire before we set out in search of them, our efforts might be misguided and purposeless. In such circumstances, the chances are great that we might not recognize the objects of our pursuit when we see them, and might end up securing the wrong things – mistaking Lead for gold”. Seyi Makinde would have done better if he had left the idea of unnecessarily going after the policies of Abiola Ajimobi and making mockery of them. He should learn to follow his own political lane and make his own distinct marks. After all it is often said that the sky is large enough for all shades of birds to navigate and fly.
Seyi Makinde has derailed from his purpose in governance and is headed for vilification mission. What a misplaced priority!
Martins Olamiji Sijuwade LP a Public Interest lawyer is a Senior Partner at MarVic Alpha Legal Practitioners Nigeria and the President of Global Social Thinkers’ Institute commissioned to promote good governance and public accountability and transparency. He can be reached via email@example.com