By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi –
In October 2022, when it was first mentioned that a Nigerian national honour of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) was to be conferred on Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, by President Muhammadu Buhari, there was a flood of opposition from all quarters.
For instance, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), in a statement said: “Without considering the fact that Nigerian universities students have been at home for close to eight months as a result of the failure of the Federal Government to meet the demands of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and to properly fund education, the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, is scheduled to be conferred with the National Honour of Commander of the Order of Niger (CON).”
But as native wisdom proclaims, ‘the protestation of the innocent chick does not prevent or stall the sacrifice. If anything, the protestations enriched the sacrifice and hastened its value and efficacy’. Likewise, the flood of oppositions did not stop President Buhari from conferring the award on Adamu Adamu.
However, a few weeks after the award was conferred on him, confirmed the fears of Nigerians particularly that of Nigerians. He admitted that he failed as the nation’s Minister for education , as he could not solve several challenges he ought to have solved despite being the longest serving minister of education.
The Minister highlighted that, from out-of-school children who have increased during his time in office to challenges of ASUU and other challenges bedeviling the tertiary education system, he could not provide the needed solution. The Minister spoke at the 66th National Council on Education (NCE) in Abuja.
Viewed peripherally, Adamu’s ‘confessional statement’ and admission of failure may not be out of place particularly as experts believe that when leaders open their failures or weakness(s), it shows followers that they are genuine and approachable-human and humane. In the same vein, it is believed in some quarters that when a leader exposes his weakness or admits his/her failures, it offers such a leader valuable protection. For when one fails to expose such failures, stakeholders, observers and media professionals may discover it and get it blown out of proportion or better still, even something worse.
More intrinsically, while Adamu Adamu could marginally be overlooked or forgiven, this piece holds the opinion that he is not alone in this failure. In fact, more blame resulting from Adamu Adamu’s failure should be placed on President Muhammadu Buhari’s table for his recognition of patronage/national award on the minister that performed abysmally below average.
Most pathetically, it is evident that Mr. President by the above act demystified the sacredness of national honours, and showed Nigerian students that his administration does not regard the youths as being critical stakeholders as far as national development is concerned.“To say that a man under whose watch university students have been at home for close to eight months because of the strike embarked upon by lecturers got recognised by the President to be conferred with a national honors is a direct attack on the students’.
But by far the most critical ill inherent in this conversation is the painful awareness that Mr President had earlier, in the face of the legion of challenges bedeviling the country, claimed that he has given his best for the country while adding that he is not expecting any appreciation from Nigerians. The president, who spoke in an exclusive interview by NTA, said “What else can I do for this country, I have given my best, I hope after I leave, Nigerians will reflect. I am not expecting any appreciation but what I am expecting is for Nigerians to say yes, this man has done his best.”
The questions arising from Mr. President’s comment are; Is Mr. President’s effort good enough? Could his assertion on performance be truly viewed as objective and correct? Has President Muhammadu Buhari indeed and in truth provided a solution to the nation’s hydra headed challenges? Or has his administration in the estimation of many not become a reality that Nigerians now worry about? Is Mr. President’s claim on performance in line with economic realities on the streets of Nigeria? Is his argument on feat in accord with a series of reports from agencies and other interventionist groups?
Out of many, the report from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), published Q2:2020 labour statistics, says something ‘interestingly’ different.
The referenced report revealed that Nigeria’s second-quarter unemployment rate among young people (15-34 years old) was 34.9%, up from 29.7%, while the rate of underemployment for the same age group rose to 28.2% from 25.7% in Q3, 2018. These rates were the highest when compared to other age groupings. Nigeria’s youth population eligible to work is about 40 million out of which only 14.7 million are fully employed and another 11.2 million are unemployed.
For a better understanding of where this piece is headed, youth in every society, says a study report, has the potential to stimulate economic growth, social progress and our national development. The strategic role of youths in the development of different societies of the world such as Cuba, Libya, China, Russia and Israel are obvious. Youth unemployment is potentially dangerous as it sends a signal to all segments of the Nigerian Society. Here in Nigeria, the rate of youth unemployment is high, even at the period of economic normalcy i.e. the oil boom of the 1970s (6.2%); 1980s (9.8%) and the 1990s (11.5%). Youth unemployment therefore is not a recent phenomenon.
But if what happened in the 1980s/90s were challenges of sorts, what is happening presently, going by the report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), is a crisis.
Thus, as Nigerians continue to groan under the present harsh economic situation in the country, some realities stand out.
One, the country is awash with captivating development visions, policies and plans, but impoverished leadership and corruption-induced failure of implementation of development projects on the part of the political leaders is responsible for the under-development. Secondly, under the present administration, no nation best typifies a country in dire need of peace and social cohesion among her various sociopolitical groups than Nigeria as myriads of sociopolitical contradictions have conspired directly and indirectly to give the unenviable tag of a country in constant search of social harmony, justice, equity, equality, and peace.
Thirdly, the country’s economy has shown its inability to sustain any kind of meaningful growth that promotes the social welfare of the people. The result can be seen in the grinding poverty in the land. The running of our country’s economy continues to go against the provisions of our constitution which stipulates forcefully that the commanding heights of the economy must not be concentrated in the hands of few people. The continuous takeover of national assets through dubious (privatization) programs by politicians and their collaborators is deplorable and clearly against the people of Nigeria. The attempt to disengage governance from public sector control of the economy has only played into the hands of private profiteers of goods and services to the detriment of the Nigerian people.
The greatest and immediate danger to the survival of the Nigerian state today is the unwarranted, senseless, premeditated, well organized and orchestrated killings across the country, particularly when almost all the time the killers are never apprehended, even when they make self implicating statements about such killings.
Life in Nigeria, quoting Thomas hobbs, has become nasty, brutish, and short. Nigerians have never had it so bad.
Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via;email@example.com/08032725374.