BUHARI: Bring Us Hope And Restore our Integrity

MBUHARI1Like several millions of well-meaning Nigerians, home and abroad, I want to congratulate President Muhammadu Buhari on his assumption of office as Nigeria’s democratically-elected President.

It was a long and tortuous journey for him and Nigerians since the ambition was announced more than a decade ago. Now he is in the saddle, a triumph to Nigerians who had been subjected to the abuse and misrule of the former overlords. No doubt, the victory of Buhari offers abundant lessons in courage, determination, tenacity and optimism, not to talk of his own personal qualities that endeared him to millions of men and women, old and young.

To say that those who managed President Buhari ran an effective campaign was to say the obvious. There were many trendy slogans that electrified Nigerians. For instance, when the general elections were scheduled for February, everyone was in FEBUHARI mood (i.e. Love Buhari, with the pun on February) and when the Government in power became jittery about the prospect of defeat and postponed the elections for six weeks till March, Nigerians decided to MARCH 4 BUHARI.

When I encountered the acronym B-U-H-A-R-I as captioned above in one of the handbills at a campaign event, a clip of which was aired on Al-Jazeera last Friday (May 29, 2015), I was amused. It struck me that Nigerians can be fantastically creative.

It is certain that many Nigerians had become hopeless and disillusioned, risking their lives and actually dying in droves in the Sahara desert or across the Mediterranean Sea while seeking the proverbial Golden Fleece. For others, being a Nigerian is a burden too much to bear because of the perception of zero integrity that an average Nigerian had been associated with.

One major area where hope is needed back and integrity requires restoration is education. I was alarmed when I learnt that some Nigerians now dispatch their children to South Africa and Europe even for basic education. The perception of these people is that our education is hopeless and that since without education there is nothing, they should labour to give their children a solid one.

It is already common for our graduates to seek postgraduate degrees abroad in order to cap their first degrees. The reason often cited is that there are no good facilities for such studies in Nigeria. There are several thousands of Nigerians studying beyond our shores from Ghana to Malaysia, not talking of countries in Europe and America.

For Buhari to bring us hope and restore our integrity in education, there are four things that the President should do that would revolutionalise our education at the basic level. First, let there be an infrastructural overhaul of all the public schools in the country. Many of the structures in which pupils learn are worse than prison yards in saner climes. The environment in which learning takes place has positive or negative impacts on the quantum of learning assimilated.

Second, let the Buhari administration change the mentality of our people that teaching is for the dregs of the society. There is nothing stopping teachers from competing socially with other professionals like engineers, doctors, lawyers, and the rest. What to do here is to increase teachers’ salary. Research has shown that there is a direct correlation between salary and motivation to work. If salary remains poor, the attitude to teaching will be negative at worst or ambivalent at best.

Third, Government should give automatic employment as teachers to all those who graduate with a Second Class Upper Division degree from our universities. These graduates should be well remunerated, like their graduate assistant counterparts in the university system. Of course, other categories of graduates will be recruited on merit.

Fourth, Government should make learning attractive and celebrate knowledge by promoting reading at the national level. Let literary and debating societies thrive. Let press and book clubs be re-introduced and supported. The government and other stakeholders should reward excellence. A situation in which a girl who is half-dressed is given a car for being the “most beautiful” and the most brilliant person is given a laptop should stop.

In other words, students should be made to appreciate that education pays, not just singing like birds, dancing like lunatics and engaging in the perversion and permissiveness that characterise the contemporary entertainment industry.