[Bamidele Upfront]: Our National Character of Demerit, By Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú

The recent cut-off marks for admission into Unity schools for different states of the federation got me thinking. A male child from Yobe who scores 2 marks out of 200, yes! 2 out of 200 will be admitted on merit to a Federal Unity school of his choice while a child, male or female from Anambra with a score of 138 will be denied admission because the cut-off mark for his state on merit is 139 out of 200. Unity indeed! We have the unity of the African Almond; united but separated by limiting walls.

I’m fully convinced we have enemies of Nigeria at the helm. Those who are formulating these policies are priming this country for disintegration. They are ignoring leprosy while moving on swiftly to cure ring worm. This is scandalous! True, there are gaps. Gaps exist because people in authority are screwing us royally, underfunding education, diverting funds for personal use, encouraging Almajirai culture for the Northern poor, promoting mediocrity and extending the reach of existing stereotypes. Decapitation is not a cure for migraine. Policy makers and implementors must know that “culture, schools and environment counts in intelligence – Richard E. Nisbett (Intelligence and How to Get It).” This round Robbin education style is killing this country a grade at a time. A nation cannot survive too long without integrity, with the favored states admission method, the country’s integrity is at stake. The education gap in Nigeria will continue to widen because those who are driven will continue to find a way to get educated and states like Yobe will have no incentive for reform. The gap will widen because we have refused to address the core issues affecting education — culture, schools, teachers, curricula and infrastructure.

Justin W. van Fleet, in his research for the Brookings Institution, described our education woes aptly: “If you want a glimpse into Africa’s education crisis, there is no better vantage point than the town of Bodinga, located in the impoverished Savannah region of Sokoto state in northwestern Nigeria. Drop into one of the local primary schools and you’ll typically find more than 50 students crammed into a class. Just a few will have textbooks. If the teacher is there, and they are often absent, the children will be on the receiving end of a monotone recitation geared towards rote learning.” Eighty percent of Sokoto’s Grade 3 pupils cannot read a single word. Over half of the Sokoto state’s primary school-age children are out of school – and Sokoto has some of the world’s biggest gender gaps in education. What are the Northern governors doing to reverse this shameful statistic? What programmes are they putting in place to improve education and learning in the 21st century? These are the questions true lovers of the Nigeria and the North should ask. It strikes me that this criminal indifference to education in the North is a kind of brutality in itself.

What is our future with a deliberate policy of underdevelopment and a national character of demerit? Our children are being fed the milk of demerit from the cradle. When are we going to get the memo that our individual past eventually becomes our collective history? Our upbringing lends us the moral compass of our lives, it forms our inner reference points, eventually, it showcases the immutability of our past and to a large extent the possibilities for our future. What possibilities does the Northern children have in terms of education?What moral direction are we giving children who do not have to know anything before they are admitted? What kind of spirit are we nurturing in an Anambra boy or girl who scored 138 and cannot be admitted because of her state of origin?  Nigeria is screwed because we are instilling in these children twisted reference points. We are creating two Nigerias in every way imaginable. What are we getting at, when we tell a child from Yobe all he needs to gain admission is to show up in the examination hall? Showing up means getting 2 marks. “We have inflicted on ourselves a general lack of ambition, we are focused on good enough above all else. Nigeria has become a society of low standards, where the bar is set so low that we expect and celebrate mediocrity.”

I was raving mad until I recalled we actually have constitutional provenance for demerit. We wrote federal character; the euphemism for favoritism, cronyism, mediocrity, mental laziness and sloth into the Nigerian constitution. Pluralism had always been a blessing until Nigeria was created. Now, we actively devalue our pluralism by promoting an “educated” underclass in the North. The North is getting federally assisted to underperform educational odds. The circle then becomes more vicious. More underperformance breeds the other and the gaps continue to widen. When are we going to stop doing stupid things? After independence, we have started formulating the concept of the Nigerian way. We were taught civics in school, the curricula emphasized our common history, hard work, competition, unity and love of country. Somewhere along, we frittered away all the gains. Our love of short cuts and quick fixes became a fraudulently consistent ideal. Nigeria now has mediocrity as her governing ideology and our receptacle for philosophy. The female child from Zamfara needs 2 marks; where is Sani Yerima? When schools were crumbling under his watch, all he could do for his people was a psychopathic devotion to political sharia, conversion and demonic fixation on under-aged girls. We are reaping the results now, a male child from Zamfara needs only 4 marks out of 200 to be admitted into a Unity school.

Our collective dishonesty is as disconcerting as our palpable unwillingness to make Nigeria a worthy country to be proud of. The truth is; this country is promoting indoctrination and dogmatism over education and awareness? The leadership space is hopelessly embroiled in an endless power struggle over who distributes bread and butter. They have become disdainful of us, bereft of any sense of obligation and totally oblivious of our gradual decent into chaos. The focus is about milking the rest of us comatose with the highest common factors being greed and power. Public service is no longer a call to duty but a call to embezzlement and self-enrichment. It is too late for my generation to enjoy the fruits of a just and equitable Nigeria but we can negotiate a better future for our children if we begin to ask questions. We must demand responsibility and make public office holders accountable. We want answers, and our children will be grateful if we do something today. One Nigeria or forget it!

Kindly follow me on Twitter @olufunmilayo

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