I have always believed that the government has a responsibility to educate its citizens and this, apart from free tuition includes; provision of standard equipment to facilitate training and a good remuneration for teaching staff. However, most often than not, the resources available are not enough to meet this obligation and that is where the responsibility of the citizenry comes in.
If the government cannot be depended upon to fulfil its obligations, do we as citizens fold our hands and look? I am saying this because we all have a responsibility as citizens to move this country forward irrespective of those we put in charge of governance.
The growth of the capitalist west, Great Britain, USA and the rest, was not due to the activities of government alone but the entrepreneurial brilliance of the individuals at that time, Henry Bessemer inventor (steel), Eli Whitney (cotton), Henry Ford(motor car), King Camp Gillette (shaving blade) and many more-. What the government did was to complement their efforts with patent rights and protective policies to back home grown businesses. In other words, the development of a nation is the sum total of the activities of the individual citizens and the government in power.
When we talk about developmental drive and focus, it must begin from our academia and research institutions. Curricula and research projects must be tailored along the peculiar needs of the nation, whether it is food, power, construction, science and technology etc. Our researchers and scientist are too complacent and over reliant on government.
There are lots of opportunities for private partnership but you will find that they are not taking advantage of the situation like, for example; the Indians are doing. If our researchers come up with viable projects, they will find willing buyers and if there are willing buyers together with the government, they will begin to reap their due rewards in terms of profit. Enough of recycling old notes and text books relating to foreign curriculum.
Research projects involve huge sacrifices, in terms of material, personnel and funds as well as discipline, and hard work. Are our academicians, researchers and scientists ready for this? Are they ready to forgo ‘owambe’ parties for the ‘studiousness’ of the academia? That is the question. The Indians, Malaysians, Singaporeans, Indonesians and others are doing it, why not Nigerians. We must begin to imbibe the possibility mentality, if not we shall remain where the White Supremacist have placed us.
My friend and big brother, Mr. Richard Okotie, recently sent me a post that has been trending in the social media. A lengthy but must read for all. This is a speech made by former South African President, PW Botha to his cabinet about 27years ago.
David G. Mailu for the Sunday Times, a South African newspaper in 1985, reprinted it. It reads thus, “We are not obliged even the least to try to prove to anybody and to the Blacks that we are a superior people. We have demonstrated that to the blacks in 1001 ways. The republic of South Africa that we know of today has not been created by wishful thinking. We have created it at the expense of intelligence, sweat and blood…We do not pretend like other whites that we like the Blacks.
“The fact that blacks look like human beings and act like human beings do not necessarily make them sensible human beings. Hedgehogs are not porcupines and lizards are not crocodiles because they look alike. If God had wanted us to be equal to the blacks, he would have created us all of a uniform colour and intellect. But he created us differently; Whites, Blacks, Yellow, rulers and the ruled.
“Intellectually, we are superior to the Blacks, that has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt over the years. I believe that the Afrikaner is an honest, God-fearing person, who has demonstrated practically the right way of being. By now every one of us has seen it practically that the blacks cannot rule themselves.
“Give them guns and they will kill each other, they are good in nothing else but making noise, dancing, marrying many wives and indulging in sex. Let us all accept that the black man is a symbol of poverty, mental inferiority, laziness and emotional incompetence. Isn’t it plausible therefore that the White man is created to rule the Black man…And here is a creature (black man) that lacks foresight…The average Black does not plan his life beyond a year.”
Has the blackman fared any better after all these years? That is the crucial question. Could Botha be right given the way blacks have ruled themselves both in Africa and outside the continent with the Haiti example? The choice is ours. Do we want to live with this insult or change the negative stereo type of a typical black man?
To all of our numerous professors, academicians, all of our researchers and scientists, indeed all of our leaders, now is the time to make Nigeria , nay the black race proud and prove that Botha’s theory is grounded on faulty foundations. It is left for Nigeria as the most populated black nation on earth to set the pace. Will the change of government kick-start this process? We wait and see.
Ikhioya, a commentator on national issues, writes from Lagos.