Education should be given priority attention – Dr Ori Obasi

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Read Time:5 Minute, 0 Second

She was a two-time commissioner in Abia State- Commissioner for Education 2005-2007, Commissioner for Agriculture 2007-2009, and the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) deputy governorship candidate at the 2011 governorship poll in Abia State. Dr.(Mrs.)Ori Obasi is a renowned educationist and administrator with a first degree in English Education, two Masters Degrees in education and a Ph.D in Early Childhood Education which she is at the verge of completing. She also holds an honorary Doctorate degree in Education. Dr. Obasi speaks on her life as an educationist, politician and philanthropist in a recent chat with Vista Woman. Excerpts:

Could you take us through your childhood days?
I’m the last of six children.  My parents were loving parents who encouraged their children to do their best to be successful in life. Whenever I brought home good examinations results, my father would say that I should work harder because I would study abroad. So, that was an incentive to do well at my studies. There was togetherness and love in the home, and we usually had dinner together childhood. It was an enjoyable time.

Your background clearly implies you’re an educationist, how then did you get into politics?
Though I’ve been a two-time commissioner in Abia State and a one-time Deputy Governorship candidate, I would say I really do not know how I got into politics; I believe it was the handiwork of God.   The year I served as the Chairman of the International Inner Wheel District 914 was the same year I was appointed a Commissioner! I could not even finish my tenure as a District Chairman. Actually, under my leadership, the district really touched the lives of many less privileged because I went the extra mile to raise quite some money for the downtrodden. I was really amazed when I was eventually appointed a commissioner in the state.

Let us talk about your life as a teacher…
I started my career as a classroom teacher, and I have written and published several books. These include Laughter of the gods which is in use in some of the states, A Pot of Fortune, etc. I loved and enjoyed teaching, and I think it is a most rewarding profession because you’re able to influence lives, and make a good change in people. I was principal of several schools but the last one was Girls High School, Aba. I retired voluntarily in 2005 when I was appointed a commissioner.

I however have in mind the establishment of a school where I could demonstrate my love for education. However, I’m presently preoccupied with non-governmental charitable activities because of their impact on the lives of the less privileged. For instance, I have a programme on reading under which children who can’t read could learn to read in two weeks. I do this especially in the rural areas.

What then do you do to generate income for yourself presently?
Along side running some businesses, I speak at seminars and also generate some income from my books.

From your perspective as an experienced educationist, what’s your assessment of our educational system?

Our educational system is okay, but it could be better. Part of what is lacking is proper supervision because some teachers would need prodding to do the work for which they are paid! These days, you hardly find inspectors in schools like we did in the past, and that is the root of the lack of supervision. Secondly, from time to time, teachers need to have updated re-orientation courses; especially in the area of ICT because the world has turned into a global village and our children have to be able to compete with their counterparts across the globe!

Any teacher who is not ICT compliant is therefore deficient! If teachers have no knowledge of ICT, how will students gain such knowledge? Another problem is that a lot of states do not have enough teachers. When you have one teacher teaching over 600 pupils a subject at the same time, how will that teacher give them assignments and mark those assignments?

The implication of this is that what one does not practice, one cannot master effectively! We really need to bring in more teachers and increase their capacity. Some teachers have used one lesson note for over ten years without realising that times are changing! The environment makes a whole lot of difference also. If the atmosphere in a school is conducive, learning is much easier and enjoyable.

Where should we expect to see you in the next few years?
If I have an option, I would love to keep teaching; not classroom teaching anyway. I would love to be in management of education. I may want to go teach in the university because I had done that earlier in my life. I actually want to see education given priority attention and I want to see teachers’ capacity increased. When you travel abroad to see what education is like in developed countries, you really would want to replicate it here.

From your stint in politics, what’s your advice to women concerning participating in politics?
Women should venture more into politics. I’ve been there and I enjoyed it. Once you know your terrain and you’ve got integrity, you will make a credible politician and you’ll make your people happy.

You’re a past District Chairman of the International Inner Wheel District 914, what inspired your joining the club?

I’ve been in the club for about 20 years now. In those days, you only joined Inner Wheel if your husband was a member of the Rotary Club, and my husband was a member. However, the rules are now relaxed and women whose husbands are not Rotarians could be invited to be members of the Inner Wheel.

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Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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The wealth and poverty of a nation: Who will restore the dignity of Nigeria? – Oby Ezekwesili

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Read Time:36 Minute, 14 Second

Mrs. Ezekwesili, a former Minister of Solid Minerals and of Education, delivered this keynote paper  at the  42nd convocation of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Thursday, 24th 2013.

Protocols
I am hugely delighted to return to my alma mater the great and only University of Nigeria to speak at your 42nd convocation. Twenty eight years ago I sat just like you those of you who are part of the graduating Class of 2013; excited by my graduation. It was 1985 and I was very privileged to be one of the then only 3% of our own youthful population that had the opportunity of a university education. Today, you are still fortunate to be one of the yet paltry 4.3% of your own youthful generation with an opportunity for university education. For Nigeria that percentage does not compare favorably with 37.5% for Chile 33.7% for Singapore 28.2% for Malaysia, 16.5% for Brazil and 14.6%.  Our lag in tertiary education enrollment is quite revealing and could be interpreted as the basis of the competitiveness gap between the same set of countries and Nigeria. The reason is that “…. tertiary enrollment rate which is the percentage of total enrollment, regardless of age, in post-secondary institutions to the population of people within five years of the age at which students normally graduate high school…….plays an essential role in society, creating new knowledge, transferring knowledge to students and fostering innovation”. The countries with the most highly educated citizens are also some of the wealthiest in the world in a study by the OECD published by the Wall Street Journal last year. The United States, Japan, Canada, South Korea, Finland, Norway, Israel, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia also have among the largest Gross Domestic Products. All these countries aggressively invest in education.

The same cannot be said of Nigeria. The crawling progress in tertiary education enrollment since my graduation more than two and a half decades ago is therefore one key reason former peer nations left us behind at the lower rungs of global economic rankings. Economic growth rate and ultimate development of nations are determined by a number of factors that range from sound policies, effective and efficient public and private investments and strong institutions. Economic evidence throughout numerous researches proves that one key variable that determines how fast nations outgrow others is the speed of accumulation of human capital especially through science and technology education.  No wonder for these same countries by 2011-  South Korea of fifty million people has a GDP of $1.12trillion, Brazil of one hundred and ninety six million has $2.48 trillion; Malaysia of twenty eight million people has $278.6Billion; Chile of seventeen million people has $248.59Billion; Singapore of five million people has $318.7 Billion.  Meanwhile with our population of 165 million people we make boasts with a GDP of $235.92 Billion- completely way off the mark that we could have produced if we made a better set of development choices.

More dramatic is that this wide gap between these nations and Nigeria was not always the case as some relevant data at the time of our independence reveal.  In 1960 the GDP per capita of all these countries were not starkly different from that of Nigeria- two were below $200, two were a little above $300 and one was slightly above $500 while that of Nigeria was just about $100. For citizens, these differentials are not mere economic data. Meanwhile by 2011, the range for all five grew exponentially with Singapore at nearly $50,000, South Korea at $22,000, Malaysia at $10,000, Brazil at $13,000 and Chile at $14,000. Our own paltry $1500 income per capita helps drive home the point that we have been left behind many times over by every one of these other countries. How did these nations steer and stir their people to achieve such outstanding economic performance over the last five decades? There is hardly a basis for comparing the larger population of our citizens clustered within the poverty bracket with the majority citizens of Singapore fortunate to have upper middle income standard of living.

Again, how did this happen? What happened to Nigeria? Why did we get left behind? How did these nations become productively wealthy over the last fifty years while Nigeria stagnated? How did majority of the citizens of these nations join the upper middle class while more Nigerians retrogressed into poverty? There are usually as many different answers to these sets of questions as there are respondents on the reasons we fell terribly behind. Some say, it is our tropical geography, yet economic research shows it has not prevented other countries with similar conditions from breaking through. Others say it is size, but China and India are bigger, yet in the last thirty and twenty years have grown double digit and continue to out- grow the rest of the world at this time of global economic crisis. Furthermore, being small has not necessarily conferred any special advantages to so many other countries with small population yet similarly battling with the development process like we are. Some others say it is our culture but like a political economist posited “European countries with different sorts of cultures, Protestant and Catholic alike that have grown rich. Secondly, different countries within the same broad cultures have performed very differently in economic terms, such as the two Koreas in the post-war era. Moreover, individual countries have changed their economic trajectories even though “their cultures didn’t miraculously change.” How about those who plead our multiethnic nationalities as the constraint but fail to see that the United States of America happens to be one nation with even more disparate ethnic nationalities than Nigeria and yet it leads the global economy! As for those who say it is the adverse impact of colonialism, were Singapore, Malaysia and even China not similarly conquered and dominated by colonialists?

That Nigeria is a paradox of the kind of wealth that breeds penury is as widely known as the fact that the world considers us a poster nation for poor governance wealth from natural resources. The trend of Nigeria’s population in poverty since 1980 to 2010 for example suggests that the more we earned from oil, the larger the population of poor citizens : 17.1 million 1980, 34.5million in 1985, 39.2million in 1992, 67.1million in 1996, 68.7million in 2004 and 112.47 million in 2010! This sadly means that you are children of a nation blessed with abundance of ironies.

Resource wealth has tragically reduced your nation- my nation- to a mere parable of prodigality. Nothing undignifies nations and their citizens like self-inflicted failure. Our abundance of oil, people and geography should have worked favorably and placed us on the top echelons of the global economic ladder by now. After all, basic economic evidence shows that abundance of natural resources can by itself increase the income levels of citizens even if it does not increase their productivity. For example, as Professor Collier a renowned economist who has focused on the sector stated in a recent academic work countries that have enormously valuable natural resources are likely to have high living standards on a sustainable basis by simply replacing some of the extracted resources with financial assets held abroad. Disappointedly, even that choice eluded our governing class who through the decades has spent more time quarreling over their share of the oil “national cake” than they have spent thinking of how to make it benefit the entire populace.

There are perhaps three broad classes of resource rich countries. The first are those which like Norway which have built up all other types of domestic investment from which revenue is generated and can therefore save their huge revenue from gas in foreign assets. The second are those mostly of the Middle East countries like Kuwait which also have saved huge revenue in foreign asset and generate sufficient revenue from the asset to be better off than other countries without resources.  However, for Kuwait this may be only because they live well from resource rents rather than becoming productive. The third category of which our country is a classic example are countries which though resource rich have neither been able to build up foreign asset for citizens to live well off of nor evolved new and alternative sectors of productivity.

The appropriate response to the revenue extracted from our oil over the period 1959 to date would have been to use it in accumulating productive investment in the form of globally competitive human capital and physical asset of all types of infrastructure and institutions. Such translation from one form of nonrenewable asset to renewable capital would have been   the right replacement strategy for a wasting asset like oil. Unfortunately unbridled profligacy has made us spend and continue to spend the free money from oil like a tragic Rentier state that we are called in development circles. We spend most of what we generate on mere consumption with no tangible productive asset to show for our so called “wealth”.

Due to profligacy we have dismal human development indicators which are inconsistent with the scale of our earnings. For example using life expectancy as a proxy measuring how we score on human development, 51.4years for Nigerians falls far short of the 80years for citizens of Singapore and South Korea, 78years for citizens of Chile, 73 years for citizens of Malaysia and 72years for citizens of Brazil. We may in fact be the world record holder in the rank of natural resources rich countries that tend to have worse human development scores when compared to countries without endowments. As our human development scores have lagged, we continued with our binge on oil revenue and became trapped in cyclical decline of national competitiveness.  It explains why every other economic sector in Nigeria has suffered the effect of the oil enclave economy. Oil has unleashed shocks and volatility of revenues on our economy due to exposure to global commodity market swing, proliferated “weak, ineffectual, unstable and systemically corrupt institutions and bureaucracies” that have helped misappropriate or plunder public resources.  Nations with abundance of natural resources especially in Africa, Latin America and part of South Asia have experienced the fueling of official corruption and “violent competition for the resource by the citizens of the nation”     .

While there may not be concurrence on the causes of Nigeria’s colossal underperformance, most of our citizens however agree that poor governance and the more visible symptom of corruption have had virulent impact in arresting the development of Nigeria. The poor in our land have paid the highest possible price for being born into the world’s best example of a paradox. The common wonderment of these poor citizens – whether east, west, north and south- is “why would more than half the population of a country that earned nearly one trillion dollars in oil revenue since the Oloibori discovery of crude oil; continue to wallow in poverty?” Well, economic evidence shows that the answer which we must all ponder deeply is that oil wealth entrenched corruption and mismanagement of resources in government and warped the incentive for value added work, creativity and innovation in our public, private sectors and wider society. This being the case, the larger population of our people is deprived of the opportunity to overcome poverty and this is what economists call the “resource curse”.  The oil revenue induced choices made by our ruling elite over the five decades of political independence cursed several of our citizens to intergenerational poverty!

Endowment of oil resulted in an indulgent elite class – the generations of your great grandparents, grandparents and parents in leadership- who have made disastrous choices that have trapped the destiny of Nigeria in oil wells. It is the reason our economic structure has remained unchanged for more than fifty years. Fact is that our political elite suffers from delusion of greatness simply because we sell barrels of crude oil to finance 80% of our national budget, cover 95% of our foreign exchange and petroleum sectors represents a larger portion of industry’s contribution to our GDP.  Little wonder that manufacturing is a mere 18% of our Gross Domestic Products compared to that of all those other nations with which we set off on the development race. Manufacturing which has its major driver as education enabled those nations develop a huge base of human capital with skills and competencies to drive new ideas, creativity and innovation. They embraced their comparative advantage, mimicked nations that were ahead of them, perfected some aspects of manufacturing and became extremely competitive.

While these countries moved up the manufacturing and economic development ladder in my fifty years of existence all I can say for Nigeria is that during the same period I have known at least five cycles of commodity booms that offered us rare opportunities to use revenues generated from oil to transform our economy.  Sadly, each cycle ended up sliding us farther down the productivity ladder. The present cycle of boom of the 2010s is however much more vexing than the other four that happened in the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s. This is because we are still caught up in it even as I speak today and it is more egregious than the other periods in revealing that we learned absolutely nothing from the previous massive failures. Furthermore, it is happening back to back with the squandering of the significant sum of $45 Billion in foreign reserve account and another $22Billion in the Excess Crude Account being direct savings from increased earnings from oil that the Obasanjo administration handed over to the successor government in 2007. Six years after the administration I served handed over such humongous national wealth to another one; most Nigerians but especially the poor continue to suffer the effects of failing public health and education systems as well as decrepit infrastructure and battered institutions.   One cannot but ask, what exactly does Nigeria seek to symbolize and convey with this level of brazen misappropriation of public resources? Where did all that money go? Where is the accountability for the use of both these resources plus the additional several billions of dollars realized from oil sale by the two administrations that have governed our nation in the last six years? How were these resources applied or more appropriately, misapplied? Tragic choices! Yes. Our national dignity continues to be degraded by cycles of stagnation because of the terrible choices my generation and those before repeatedly make as a result of free oil money. The wealth and poverty of a nation never found a better Symbol!

There is no better example of the cost of the imprudent choices than what has happened to Education. The failures and limitations of the education you have received during your time here leading to your graduation today will become clearer to you should you ever seek to do what was very easy for me to do –that is, gain admission to one of the best schools in the world for my graduate studies simply on the strength of my University of Nigeria education. Countries invest in the human skills that can help their citizens use modern technology and eventually rise to the stage where those same citizens can develop their countries’ own technology. A country’s educational system is the key to its long-run development. According to economic study of the role of education in economic development, “Less than half of the rise in living standards since 1960 in industrial countries has been due to savings and investments from its citizens. The rest of the increase – more than 50% has been due to rising educational levels and to improvements in technology that raise factor productivity across the board”. I had known this as a Minister of Education in this country a few years ago. That knowledge inspired and fueled my zeal to bring education to the front burners of our national development at that time. The result of the diagnostics that we produced on the state of our education system and sector was so heart wrenching that I was filled with angst at how low we had sunk educationally. Deciding to channel the angst positively, we built a strong team that articulated some three hundred and sixty eight ‘root and branch’ reforms measures across the six levels and aspects of education- early childhood, basic, secondary, tertiary, special needs and adult/informal education. The response of resistance by some of the key political elite to the absolutely necessary reforms when we laid them out before the nation to generate consensus and implement is made clearer by what one today knows of the incentives that drive the choices of extractive elites. I will return to this as I get closer to the conclusion of my speech.

I read an article by David Wraight in which he posits that there is a globalized generation of youth – often referred to as the Millennial Generation. “They believe that they can change the world for the better, but they are unsure what they should change the world to; so they search for an ideology or system of belief to use as a foundation for the change they seek. They are actually searching for something worth living for and dying for.” They are optimistic and idealistic with a deep desire to make their mark in the world. They dream of what can be, and follow their dreams with passion and perseverance. They are no longer prepared to be spectators watching the world go by, but want to be ‘players’, to get their hands dirty, to make a difference. They are knowledgeable about the affairs of the world and very mobile, travelling as much as resources and opportunity allow.”

As globalization and modern technology continue to shrink our world people are connecting worldwide as never before – particularly young people – and overcoming cultural, geographical, language and ethnic barriers with ease. For the first time in human history we are seeing the emergence of a global youth culture with common values, dreams and desires. You are actually not different from your generational peers in Tunisia, Egypt, the United States and many other countries that have have questioned and overturned the status quo and established new norms in the governance of their nations. When it becomes an imperative for your generation to save Nigeria from its cycles of disastrous and destructive choices promoted by the older generations then you can rightly be called the Turning Point Generation. The turning point is when there begins to emerge a New Nigeria that is radically different from all that we have known of failure. The turning point is the point of restoration of Dignity. Yes. That quality or state of being worthy of esteem or respect; of being regarded as nobility and having worth!

One of America’s legendary leaders; President J. F. Kennedy called it the “source of national purpose” when he said “I believe in human dignity as the source of national purpose, human liberty as the source of national action, the human heart as the source of national compassion, and in the human mind as the source of our invention and our ideas”. Like individuals, nations have or lack dignity depending on how well they practice these famous words of John D. Rockefeller – “I believe in the dignity of labor, whether with head or hand; that the world owes no man a living but that it owes every man an opportunity to make a living”. Dignity of honest toil and the sweet triumph that results from such strenuous effort is after all what confers deserving honor on people and societies. Booker T. Washington expressed this Truth powerfully when he wrote that “no race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem”. We must take way a lasting message from the profound thoughts of these historical figures that helped build the still greatest nation in the world- the United States of America.

The clear message is that Dignity is conferred on a life of effort and hard work and not on a life of ignoble ease for the latter can easily become dulled by contemptible wealth.  To be born into inheritance like our nature endowed oil wealth does not of itself confer any deserving honor on us and our nation. Our oil rich nation merely makes us a Rentier state. Even worse, the oil wealth has created not the right kind of Elite class across the length and breadth of our nation but rather an Extractive Elite class. These political and business elite have been comfortable with living on rent from oil revenue without seeing the desperate need to redirect the focus of this nation to sources of economic growth that are more lasting than the depleting riches of natural commodities. They fail to realize that a Rentier economy like Nigeria sows the seed of its implosion if it does not advance into a productive economy. Had we been of a lesser population, we may perhaps have been able to all comfortably live off the income from oil as the revenue will make Nigeria sufficiently rich to be able to provide all of us high incomes on a sustainable basis like my friend Paul Collier so scholarly wrote drawing a parallel between individual bequeathed and inheritance and a nation blessed with natural resources. Collier wrote “just as a billionaire can ensure that his descendants need never work. But, just as many billionaires realize that it is good to earn a living, so all societies sensibly aspire to be productive. Resource extraction should make a society more productive”. My dear young friends, all Nigerians but especially our very prebendalist leadership class must realize that it is good for both individuals and nations to earn their living!

So I ask you as representatives of your generation, “Who will restore the Dignity of Nigeria?”  As my big brother, former President of South Africa -Thabo Mbeki- once asked along the same vein “When will the day come that our dignity will be fully restored, when the purpose of our lives will no longer be merely to survive until the sun rises tomorrow”! Your word of response to my difficult question will not persuade anyone. It is the follow on action that stands the chance of being persuasive. The reason is simple. Word is cheap.  As was profoundly observed by Marti Jose, “other famous men, those of much talk and few deeds, soon evaporate. Action is the dignity of greatness”. So I ask you again, “Who will WALK AND WORK to restore the Dignity of Nigeria?”  Through my probing question, I abide with the challenge of Shriver Sargent who believed that every new generation must be taught the dignity of work- “Do we talk about the dignity of work? Do we give our students any reason for believing it is worthwhile to sacrifice for their work because such sacrifices improve the psychological and mental health of the person who makes them?” Do you know that your embrace of a new mindset – an entrepreneurial mindset that takes pride in problem solving can change the course of our history and place us on a new economic development trajectory? Do you know that in order to herald a New Nigeria we must accept the words of Michelle Obama on learning about dignity and decency – “that how hard you work matters much more than how much you make…..that helping others means much more than just getting ahead yourself” is what we need to herald a New Nigeria?

A New Nigeria would be one where the citizens and leaders alike converge on a common vision for our nation. That vision need not be complex. It is in fact extremely important that because everyone who reads it must desire to run with its ideals that the Vision must be simple. For me a simple Vision will read- “we believe in Dignity”.  Although it sounds so ordinary but it profoundly conveys that we believe in the Dignity that lays within ourselves and not the fleeting sense of wealth that oil money creates. WE are our best endowment. Our capabilities- nurtured and nourished by a just society- and not our oil, not our gas not even our thirty four classes of minerals scattered across the country represent the lasting and renewable asset of our nation.  Whereas as a Madagasy proverb says, oil induced “poverty won’t allow us lift our heads; dignity which is the fruit of hard work won’t allow us bow them down.

For Nigeria’s dignity to be restored your generation must build a coalition of your entrepreneurial minds that are ready to ask and respond to the question “What does it take for nations to become rich? Throughout economic history, the factors that determine which nations became rich and improved the standard of living of their citizens read like a Dignity treatise in that they all revolve around the choices that ordinary citizens made in defining the value constructs of their nation. We learn that it takes a very strong interplay of political and economic dynamics for nations to climb out from the rung of poverty and raise the standard of living of citizens. The political foundation of nations emerges as the principal reason why some nations grow rich while others remain poor in the field of development economics. A ground breaking work by Daren Acemoglu, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and James Robinson (economist), a Harvard professor has brought politics to the center stage of economic development. Although sound policies and access to capital for investing in development priorities remain very important for economic success no country can however achieve development without having a strong political foundation made up of political players, system, processes and structures that are grounded in inclusivity and accountability. The active participation of the citizens who seek to restore their individual and collective dignity in the politics of their nation is what ensures that THE PEOPLE and not a bunch of power hungry and extractive elite will set the agenda and determine the quality and substance of governance.

The simple version of this thesis is “sort out a nation’s political mess and you improve the chances of getting a productive economy that grows and delivers the benefits of growth in the form of jobs and improved incomes to all citizens”.  Although this advice is rooted in empirical evidence from economic research it does sound very basic. Not being one of those earth shattering solutions that Nigerians are often enamored of, we may choose to ignore it.  Yet if we are willing to confront our past and present reality with sincerity and ruminate on our political history, this thesis may actually be a Turning Point “Aha” moment for us. The Turning Point is that moment when we all suddenly realized that Politics- a process that defines the How, Who, Which, Where, When and for What any individual or group of persons who seek to govern Nigeria- is indeed the root cause of our  repeated failures. Neither our thirty four years of cumulative military governance nor the nineteen cumulative years thus far of our democratic governance provided us “inclusive and accountable governance.” Evidently, it is the undeveloped character of our political history, inchoate political structure and system and mostly uninspiring cast of political leadership that threw Nigeria into a hole from which it must climb out quickly to secure its continuing existence. Instructively, a person or as in our own case; a nation is counseled to “stop digging when in a hole”. Lamentably, in our case we have consistently rebuffed the wisdom behind that counsel. We have instead dug deeper and the more we have dug, the deeper into the hole we have sunk and all because of political misadventures.

Trace the political history of our country since independence in 1960 and you will better understand the horror of our faulty political foundation.  The first democratic government ushered in an independent Nigeria but was cut short  by a coup in 1966, a counter coup in 1967, civil war from 1967 to 1970, military rule from 1970 at the end of the war until another coup in 1975, another unsuccessful coup in 1976 the then Head of State was murdered, continued rule of the military until 1979 when a successful political transition ushered in the second republic but it became a democratic process that was known more for its prodigality than for governance until it was cut short in 1983 by yet another military coup but this new junta was itself sent packing by a coup in 1985 with a new military junta ruling from 1985 until 1993 when it thwarted the political rights of citizens who had elected a democratic president by annulling the elections.  It responded to the public disturbance and agitation that followed by installing an interim national government that lasted only three months following yet another military intervention that was more heinous than ever until 1998 when divine providence cut short that particular leadership ushering in yet another military ruler who committed to and successfully conducted a transition that ushered democratic governance in 1999. That it is now fourteen years of uninterrupted even if fledgling democratic governance since 1999 is perhaps the very tiny ray of light in what is otherwise a canvass of political tragedies.

Yet, despite the general consensus satisfaction with the record number of democratic years since 1999, darkness still ominously clouds our political landscape.  While the nation continues to experience the paradox of plenty and citizens are once again provoked by this latest round of prodigality of our political elite one cannot but sigh in disbelief that these casts of gladiators seem not to have learned anything from our inglorious political history. The recklessness and impunity with which public institutions and resources are being handled; the daily news of systemic and now democratized corruption by political office holders and their business elite collaborators has entrenched cynicism and pessimism in the land. How can our political elite not see that we are all sitting on kegs of gun powder? How can they not see that whatever peace we may appear to have at this time is like the peace of the graveyard? How can they not see that the teeming population of extremely angry and more interconnected young people cannot be silent for too much longer? How can they not know that preachments of patience and sacrifice will no longer placate the two million young people who annually enter the terribly constrained labor market pushing up the already worrisome 40% unemployment ratio among our youthful population? How can they not see the hypocrisy of the platitudes on sacrifice to poor citizens who thanks to greater access to information are able to closely follow the lifestyle of delusional grandeur and debauchery that their leaders finance from the public treasury? Where is the much needed innovative and entrepreneurial mindset that the public sector must earnestly deploy in solving the multiple problems of our nation?  Why does our own variant of political elite not even understand the most basic necessity for change of the status quo methods that have failed to deliver benefits of governance to citizens? “Elites resist innovation because they have a vested interest in resisting change — and new technologies that create growth can alter the balance of economic or political assets in a country. Technological innovation makes human societies prosperous, but also involves the replacement of the old with the new, and the destruction of the economic privileges and political power of certain people,” wrote Acemoglu and Robinson. Yet when elites temporarily preserve power by preventing innovation, they ultimately impoverish their own states. Sadly, they most often do not care what happens to the rest of the nation, and that arguably has been the lot of Nigerian through the years.

In the course of the last six months of my returning home to Nigeria after five year in international public service at the World Bank in Washington DC, I have many times come across the cutting anger of unemployed, disillusioned citizens who are louder in their disaffection with the condition of the country. The strident voices of citizens in public debates of national issues are louder and more penetrating than ever before. We are indeed at a turning point. How it turns however will be determined by you my dear friends. Today, you are the generation that holds the ace. You are the generation for whom the stakes are highest on the issue of how well this nation turns its governance corner. You are the generation that can define a new character and quality of politics in Nigeria and inherently the quality of governance outcomes in the decades and century ahead. You are the generation that can birth a New Nigeria devoid of all negatives that have inhibited our greatness and one in which every citizen is mobilized to construct a “National Integrity System” which is imperative for the building of every decent society.

You can do so by seeking to understand and to engage the stunted political context and nation that you have inherited. You will have to take hold of both and turn them around into a mature democracy and nation. What you must seek to do is to create a new political context in which citizens’ demand for good governance and accountability begins to compel those who govern to persistently make choices that will more likely improve the outcomes of economic management for the larger number of Nigerians. You have the tools needed for massive political and civic education of your illiterate peers on the importance of political rights and participation in the political process. By virtue of your university education and experiences you understand the economics of politics in Nigeria better than your illiterate peers who ignorantly trade off their political rights and chances for better governance outcomes for a mere mess of porridge.

Economics teaches us that there are some basic Smithian conditions (as espoused by Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations) for sustainable economic growth. No country has become rich, and stayed that way, without establishing these conditions. Countries such as Great Britain and the United States became rich because their citizens overthrew the elites who controlled power and created a society with political rights more broadly distributed and the government accountable and responsive to citizens. In these countries the great mass of people could take advantage of economic opportunities and so the entire nation prospered. To the contrary, nations dominated by self-centered elite fail and they are extremely poor.

Your generation can work as collectives across this country and set the agenda for lasting positive change in the political architecture of Nigeria. Only after reading Why Nations Fail did I finally understand the wise words of Plato that “one of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors”. Therefore, do not be like me and my kind who have ignored politics and left it to professional politicians to determine its character and substance. The incentive that must drive your own impulses on whether to engage or not is the knowledge that except the insalubrious political context that has produced a persistently failing Nigeria changes positively; your individual talents, opportunities and greatness will not materialize nor be maximized. In deciding to free Nigeria from its legendary political failures, you will actually free yourselves to excel like your contemporaries in the rest of the world. “The positive dimensions of succeeding at this task democratizing political powers beyond the minuscule are accountability, property rights and rule of law, which in combination provide low transactions cost so that markets can work effectively and efficiently. When these conditions are absent, a society faces corruption, instability and poor human rights. Investors, including domestic investors, flee such settings”. Do you now see how inextricably connected our political and economic fortunes are in determining the quality of life of the Nigerian? Do you now see what our Big Problem is?

A recent global survey showed that your generation around the world stands out as the most connected to the developments in international affairs. So, most of you will assuredly be aware that not just in our nation but that everywhere else world over, people are seeking for those who can solve the Big Problems in their respective nations. In several other nations the solutions to Big Problems are coming from your generational peers. Surely, having established that our own Big Problem is the failure of politics to deliver the right environment in which a productive economy can thrive outside of the extraction of natural resources that fuels the destructive choices of our ruling elite you have the information needed for driving change. You would have to decide whether you are ready to play the role a change catalyst or would rather adopt the safer option which is to “siddon look.”  There is no better time to make such life changing decisions than the day of one’s graduation from College.

I should know about making decisions on graduation day! On my graduation day in 1985, my fertile mind having absorbed as much of the eclectic knowledge available on this campus as possible was budding with curiosity about the challenges of good governance in Nigeria. I made up my mind at that time to never lose my VOICE in the society and that for as long as I lived, I would always speak up on matters of governance, transparency, accountability and probity. Divine providence followed that decision and the supportive actions I took to back it and my steps began to be ordered on a trajectory that had me as one of the leaders of our own generations’ campaign for democracy and good governance- The Concerned Professionals with the likes of Pat Utomi, Sam Oni, Morin Babalola and many others. Staying committed to that decision that I made on graduation day was what provided me the rare privilege of becoming one of the few co-founders and a founding director of Transparency International the Berlin based global non-governmental organization that pioneered the work on anti-corruption and promotion of transparency. That decision that I made on graduation day informed all my life choices and paved the path for what you know of my vocational endeavors. So what decisions are you prepared to make today, dear friends? I assure you that the greatest gift of God to mankind is the power to choose. You are therefore empowered to make decisions and choices today that will ultimately determine what, where and how you will be in the next twenty eight years and beyond……..

But I warn you to be mindful and not rush to decide. You will need to fully assess all the possible costs of your decisions and choices and then determine whether you have the strength of will to bear them. Whatever choices you make from today for the purpose of helping build a New Nigeria will most certainly cost you something. Such is the reality of nation rebuilding. Those who truly build their societies pay a price. They are not For example you cannot be one given to the lure of free money, one who cannot defer gratification and one for whom the path of least resistance holds abiding fascination; and then say you are part of the Turning Point Generation. No! The willingness to “enjoy” wealth that is not earned is not consistent with such Turning Point paradigm.  For example, for anyone of you in the Class of 2013 you cannot having perverted the maxim “reward for effort” cheating in exams or using forged certificates to gain your admission and say you are a catalyst for the emergence of the New Nigeria.  If your decisions or choices from today are driven by some selfish interest of replacing the failed and fading generations so as to repeat their nation-hobbling pattern then please know that you are not of the Turning Point Generation.

I have spoken to you today to stir up your collective effective angst at the indignity of your inheritance. If I have succeeded in raising your determination to free our nation from the trap of oil, then my coming is worthy. If I have succeeded in helping you see how continuous education not more extraction of oil will help you outperform and take Nigeria up the economic development ladder, then my coming worthy.  If I have succeeded in preparing you to embrace dignity of labor as your philosophy of life –never shunning legitimate vocation that helps you earn a living regardless of how lowly it might seem- then my coming is worthy. If today, I have succeeded in preparing you for a life of private and public integrity then my coming is worthy. If I have deposited in you a deep seethed contempt for poor governance, then my coming is worthy. If I have succeeded in preparing you for a lifetime of costly choices that invariably ennoble your path then my coming is worthy. If I have succeeded in helping you realize that you are not weak- that you are actually very powerful- and have both the exceptional opportunities and the tools like your peers in other nations to solve our own Big Problem then my coming is worthy. If I have moved you to decide that you will be one of those that will redefine and build a New Nigeria of our dream then is my coming worthy. If I have succeeded in inspiring a resolve within you to uphold from today a strong sense of personal responsibility for the political governance of Nigeria then my coming is worthy. Above all, if I have succeeded in getting you motivated and empowered enough to walk out of this hall seeing ready to walk and work as a part of the Turning Point Generation that courageously dares to restore the dignity of Nigeria then my BEING is truly worth it!

I salute you, the great lions and lionesses of the class of 2013! All of you, my dear fellow alumnae of the University of Nigeria are indeed the true Wealth, the Greatness and above all the Dignity of Nigeria!!

Thank you for listening.

OBIAGELI KATRYN EZEKWESILI

CLASS OF 1985, UNIVERSITY OF NIGERIA

SENIOR ECONOMIC ADVISER, AFRICA ECONOMIC POLICY DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE

OPEN SOCIETY FOUNDATION.

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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NIGERIA: 116 students from UNN bag 1st Class degrees

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Read Time:1 Minute, 49 Second

 Prof. Bartho Okolo, Vice-Chancellor, University of Nsukka on Friday, announced that 116 students of the 2011/2012 batch of graduates bagged first class degrees.

Okolo made the announcement in Nsukka during the university’s 42nd convocation and award of Bachelors degree and certificates.

He said that out of 18,150 graduates, 116 excelled in First Class, 4,405 made 2nd Class Upper Division; 10,048 made 2nd Class Lower Division and 2,633 went home with 3rd Class.

He said that while 154 managed ordinary pass, the remaining 794 obtained diplomas and certificates.

“I want to congratulate you all for enduring the rigorous training that our university offers and the test of knowledge required to earn the university degree.

“I expect you all to be proud of your accomplishment and not to allow the prevailing socio-economic condition in the country to diminish the value of your achievement.

“I am optimistic that you will all fulfill your destinies,” he said.
The V-C urged them to be good ambassadors of the university wherever they found themselves.

“I am also optimistic that very soon, you will be able and willing to give back your widow’s might to the development of your alma-mater.

“I urge you all to face the future with courage as it holds numerous potential for you all,” he said.

In his remark, the Pro-Chancellor of the university, Prof. Sam Igwe commended the V-C and management team for the positive transformation of the university.

“Without fear of contradiction, we can equivocally say that the last four years have witnessed massive infrastructure transformation and academic excellence.

“The governing council is happy to leave the university better than it met it,’’ he said.

The best graduating student of the year, Miss Rosaline Ijendu of the Department of Electronic Engineering, said that she dedicated her success to God who granted her wisdom and the strength to excel.

“I dedicate this success to God for his special love and care, knowing that without God, this feat could not have been possible,” she said. (NAN)

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Nigeria: Anambra Indigene Emerges Best in NECO, SSCE

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Read Time:2 Minute, 28 Second

The many investments of Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State in the education sector are yielding fruits as a citizen of the state, Miss Sandra Anazor, who went to school in the state came the overall best in  NECO and WASC examinations.

While receiving her at the Government House yesterday, Obi announced scholarship for her and promptly redeemed it by handing over a cheque of N2, 220,000 to her, covering the six years she will be in school, having secured admission to read Medicine at the University of Ibadan.

Obi said he was proud of her accomplishments and that performances such as hers encouraged him to keep visiting secondary schools in the state to encourage students to take their studies seriously, saying he would soon extend it to primary schools.
Reeling out names of Anambra people who are champions in their areas,  Obi said the state would keep on searching for them wherever they are with the view of  presenting them as role models to the younger ones.

Giving example with the Heart Centre his administration is building at St. Joseph Hospital Adazi-Nnukwu, named after the foremost Anambra Cardiologist, Dr. Joe Nwiloh, Obi said other foremost Anambrarians would be similarly recognised.

Obi took the opportunity to call on the people of the state to see education as the most potent instrument for competition. Quoting Aristotle, he said that the differences between the educated and the uneducated was as that between the living and the dead.

During the ceremony, the ancient saying that “success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan,” which President John Kennedy repeated after the disastrous “Bay of Pigs invasion” played out as the principal of the school Sandra did her JSS1-JSS3 (Queen of the Rosary, College, Onitsha) Rev. Sr. Maria Nwankwo and the Principal of Federal Government College, Onitsha, where she did her SS1-SS3, Dr. Chinyere Nzerem, jokingly claimed her as their owns.

They both expressed happiness at her performance.
In her speech, Sandra Anagor expressed surprise at the state government gesture, saying that Peter Obi has proved beyond doubt that he loves education and the successes of his children.

Sandra’s proud father, Azubike Anagor, accompanied by her mother, Chinwe said  the resurrected  performance of Anambra people in examinations  is attributable to Obi who has shown interest in all sectors. He recalled when Obi provided boreholes, generators, Internet and labolatory facilities as well as school buses to schools in Anambra State and said the gesture allowed  Sandra and her colleagues at Queen of the Rosary College, Onitsha and students in other schools in the state  to live in boarding schools  in relative comfort.

In her own remarks, the state Commissioner for Education said all thanks would go to the governor for his absolute love for the state.
In her academic history, Sandra has won many academic competitions and awards.

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Knowing and Discovering Africa (ANTHOLOGY OF AFRICAN POETRY) a Review

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Read Time:8 Minute, 40 Second

When asked what comes to mind when one thinks of Africa, the answers are as varied as the

Continent itself.  Africa is: History, Beauty, Richness, Majesty Sadness, Hunger,

Troubled/Struggle, The Beginning

In this ANTHOLOGY OF AFRICAN POETRY, published by Xlibris Corporation United States in 2012, edited by Stephen Abara, eight poets from Africa or of African descent, contribute poems about their beloved continent touching on some of the economic, cultural, and social issues facing Africa today. Stephen Abara is the Founder and President of Glendon Africa Network (GAN). The organization focuses a combination of diplomatic and highly rational methodologies, in order to curb and actually provide solutions for the social, economic and political problems of Africa today. At another level, GAN, in association with York University here in Toronto, aims to put in place strategies that would, in effect, inspire students to appreciate the expressive cultures of Africa and promote bilingualism and inter-cultural understanding among themselves.

These noble and timely objectives resonate among and within the poems in the anthology. The following describes the aesthetics of the books itself, and briefly highlights the intrinsic value brought to the anthology by contributing poets and poems:

René –Middet Gabiro : Mon Rwanda,

Melanie Lindayen: Nigeria,

Nadia Singiroh: Africa! Things will get better in the morning, To the Sister I wish to have had, Peace –Africa, Tender Love, Everlasting Love

Stephen Abara: The Huge Elephant: The Essence, Flames are high, Rational Trumpet

 Africa Dreams in Shamble

Marfo Bonsu M.K: She Cries

Junior Mandoko: Eloko ya makassi,

Aggrey Chepkwony: Anthem from the Hermit, The Slum, Night Runners, Sold Off

Robert René : Pinasse Du Temps, Pourquoi le Singe Ressemble ‘A L’Homme

The works by these selected poets and their peers showcase the real purpose of this book, which is to “improve understanding of African lifestyle and identity, foster knowledge about Africa through Afro-centric expressive cultural arts and spread the African culture and identity through the educational  sponsorship of African Children.”

The pages of the first part of book, is a blend of creamy beige and traditional white. The creamy beige starts out at the top and slowly moves down fading into a more traditional white, only to meet again with the solid lines of a double border: of which the top line is traditional brown in appearance, whereas the bottom line appears a lighter shade. Then again, the borders spread out in both directions to the edges of the page to curl around the numbers. The photos and artworks, of each poet, placed atop and centre of the pages are tasteful and aesthetically pleasing; that is, these highlight rather than clash with the overall color décor. Finally, the second half of the book completes and adds esthetic power to the book’s appearance, where the pages are a darker brown and the photos and scenes from the Glendon Africa Network are sharp and clear against the chosen backdrop.

 Through the poems in ANTHOLOGY OF AFRICAN POETRY, the cultural, social, and economic concerns facing Africa are dramatized and the readers’ understanding of African lifestyle and identify between cultures is improved. Here are many examples of the complexity of forces and circumstances that saturate the African landscape and culture: the plight of children in whom the history of tradition is expected to be fulfilled even at the expense of their well-being, the social crisis of the homeless, despaired, and those trapped by the tragedy of war, and the economic poverty of many (where people live in perilous, poor conditions) existing alongside both extracted and untapped rich resources and commodities such as gold and diamonds and other minerals. Several selections provide a clear window into this unique experience. 

Huge Elephant, by Steven Abara addresses Africa’s environmental concerns; referred to as the great elephant tusk–trapped, and urges Africa to shout out and embrace modernization to better showcase its potential strength. Then again, though other poetic gems add to the lustre of understanding and insight, there is a shift in framing the experience beginning with the poems by René-Mideet Gabiro and Melanie Lindayven. Definitely more sociological in scope, these address and reveal the plethora of cultural and social situations that shape the African people.

René-Mideet Gabiro’s poem Mon Rwanda written in French sings of Rwanda, her beauty, blessed by God, her sad history, her struggle for freedom and peace, and of National Heroes fighting for her good and her future. In mournful sequence, the rhythms speak to us about a Rwanda savaged by the hell of war, and where the land—the very thing Rwanda is known for—namely her mountains—could be a double-edged sword in troubled times. It’s also a poem of remembrances that lament the loss of lives and simultaneously highlights and confirms that the land, ever celebrated in song and rhyme for her rich beauty shaped in undulating mountains, could be the very thing that traps and destroys both life and landscape.

On the other hand, Melanie Lindayven’s poem entitled Nigeria is a lighter look at Africa’s social aspect. Set in a village-the very essence of social life, bound by a tight network, where one person is dependent closely upon the other-Nigeria, the poem, exemplifies images of power. Who can resist the strength of this stormy refrain when she speaks about the “…downpour deadening the mercantile cacophony of the crowd.”  But there is also an ominous feature of power, she warns. Are these the wings of angels or demons “clapping blackly in the sky with pious force”? In the end though, she soothes the sinews of the poem by invoking images of discovery, of what it feels like to experience the dual mix of rain and sun… After all, she seems to be telling us, life is about contrasts, where the wonders of being lies in a taste of the everyday, looking at the human person indulging in the not so secret desires of many to walk in the rain, umbrella-less, uncovered, and snatch a brief moment of freedom and the rare chance to share a oneness with the power and wonder of nature.

She Cries by Marfo Bonsu, brings a universal resonance to the work. It rather sends out a ‘call’    as it entreats, on behalf ‘Mother Africa’, that Africans around the world come together in remembrance, defence and understanding of home. Make no mistake. This is a call of love of self and neighbours and a deliberate attempt to foster pride in African nations. The message is threefold, consisting of a rallying cry for Africans to embrace unity, not strife; as well as a confident note that, though Africa’s children flee in the face war, they do not surrender; lastly, there is a kind of love that binds them to Africa that is entrenched deep within their hearts and that of their descendants, so whether they flee or stay, she is a their only source of hope when they despair.

Finally, Aggrey Chepkwony’s contributions: Anthem from the Hermit, Slum, Sold Off, and Night Runner compile an unapologetic look at some of the darker social and cultural situations that define Africa. Social issues like homelessness punctuated in Anthem from the Hermit, where many live the day-to-day fight for the basics of shelter, food, and clothing, add to those fears governed by war and despair and life in even more desperate living conditions and the impoverished take a double whammy impact in Slum. Not only are the two poems a comment on the social and cultural experience of Africa, they also integrate their disposition with the state of another major area of life, which is the economy, and seems to reinforce the orthodox correlate: that better economies naturally lead to better life situations.

Night Runner tries to show how cultural appeasement takes place in the face of pressures from both old traditions and modern ways of thinking and doing things, and how government officials today participate within, and indeed negotiate, these realms. We learn about traditions and apparently unbending policies that permit the ‘selling off’ of young girls into marriage to adult men. This is poignantly captured in the poem Sold Off, which is written from the point of view of one who had first-hand experience of being sold and unable to prevent the same from happening to a sibling. Their despair highlights the plight of our littlest human beings who are seen as commodities rather than as beloved children.

These poets sing the same songs, of love and loss, loss of a continent, loss of a country and of community when families must flee the place of home to foreign lands. But even when they learn new cultures and mix the old with the new they still try to preserve what was there before.  Their window of hope comes out in songs that caress the heart of the only home they knew, mother Africa. This treasure trove of poems makes us believe that we can speak about Africa only when we have sat in her bosom. Africa is a mystic, mythic continent, truly speaking the whole world of feelings, hopes and dreams. Now when one is asked what comes to mind when one thinks of Africa, the answers may still be varied and confirm some original views, but new ones more down to earth and comprehensive may come to mind as well. Africa is:             

Love-Desired, Undeterred, Time Worthy, Beauty, Magical, Rich UNITY

Contact Author and Poet S. Abara @Glomac Services Canada, and Glomac LTD UK to order copies of an African Inspired Poetry titled: Anthology of African Poetry, Edited by Stephen Abara. Also, Copies can be ordered from Xlibris.com, Amazon.com, Barne and Nobles, York University Book Stores, Glendon African Network, Accent Book stores Toronto, and you’re local Bookstores.

http://anthologyofafricanpoetry.com/

http://glomac-anthologyofafricanpoetry.blogspot.com

http://glo-mac-services.com

 

Nwaorgu Faustinus, Media Representative to Stephen Obinna Abara can be reached on:

Email:ngorokpalaresearcher@gmail.com

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Stephen O. Abara and his literary work (A profile and review)

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Read Time:2 Minute, 15 Second

Stephen Obinna Abara, Author and Poet, hails from Ngor-Okpala L.G.A in Imo State.  Born to the family of late Engineer Albert Abara, and Ezinne Eileen Abara of Umuene, Stephen is gradually but steadily creating a niche for himself in the literary sphere. His maiden book was published by OGUSA publication series 2000, entitled: A Historical Review of Education in Obiangwu (1900-2000).  

A former President of Obiangwu Graduates and Undergraduates Association (OGUSA) from 2000 -2001, Stephen used his position at the time to champion the interest of students, graduates and people from his town by creating educational awareness  and community development.

Currently a Nigerian-Canadian Author of two books and a poet, Stephen founded the Glendon African Foundation Canada (GAF) where he serves as the GAF’s Chairman. Also a two-term Senator Representative at the York University and the winner of the Glendon African Poetry Competition at the University in 2008-09, Stephen is the Author and Editor of the ‘Best Selling book of African Inspired Poetry entitled,’ Anthology of African Poetry, U.S.A

He has performed Spoken and Heard Poetry across Canada both at the University, Toronto Library, Rise Poetry Group Scarborough, Up from the roots at Harlem, International Conferences, Nubian Spoken Word Events, Igbo Religious Events in Etobicoke, Afro Fest 2012, Poetry Express Book launch Accent on Eglinton. He has also performed at Rathburn Youth Centre event on Anti-Violence and Anti-Bullying among Youths in Canada; Healing the Wounds-Dreams Affected by Violence among Somalia’s organized by Somalia Student Association York University, and currently the Miss Black Beauty Canada 2012.

An award winner of the renowned Canadian Millennium Scholarship Fund, Stephen is a holder of bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy, Arts, International Studies and Political Science from Urban University Rome, University of Port Harcourt Nigeria, West Africa, and York University Canada respectively.

Stephen who often wears an amiable, inviting, and friendly facial expression is an adventurist, having traversed the length and breadth of Europe, America and Africa, and has never stopped learning new things while reading and writing poetry.

His love of poetry and writing has inspired his collection and creation of a range of poems (Anthology of African Poetry – reviewed by Yvonne Maria Phillip), fiction, drama and non-fiction. His forthcoming book is a drama entitled, OME IHE JIDE OFO! – A book with universal message of Peace, Truth and Justice

Get a copy of Stephen's book at:

www.amazon.com, Barne & Nobles, Toronto Library Canada, Harriet Tubman Institute of Global Migration York University Canada, York University Book Stores, and Accent on Eglinton, and Xlibris.com

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Nigeria Teachers’ Strike: CPN threatens court action against Plateau govt

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Read Time:59 Second

A group, Child Protection Network, CPN, has threatened to go to court for the enforcement of the rights of primary school pupils in Plateau State, whose teachers were on strike for several months last year, if anything is done to further breach their right to education.

Plateau State chapter of the group in a statement by its Secretary, Mr. Clement Iornongu, said: “We will not hesitate to approach the courts to enforce the rights of children should there be further attempts to breach these rights by any person, authority or institution in any way whatsoever.”

It appealed to teachers and other service providers to ensure that the children regain lost grounds occasioned by the prolonged strike.

It stressed that the children need to recover from the loss of their rights to education and health services which were denied during the prolonged strike.

The body expressed delight at the gradual return of peace to the state as occasioned by the peaceful celebration of the last Christmas and New Year festivities in the state.

It commended parents for ensuring that their children celebrated in a non-violent way and security agents for ensuring peace during the festivities.

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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NIGERIA: Students advised against putting material gains ahead of skills

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Read Time:3 Minute, 5 Second

Saddened by the current trend where youths no longer concentrate on the indepth acquisition of skills, but material gains to be derived, Dr. Ridwan Adeyemi, a lecturer at the Department of Public Relations and Advertising, Adebola Adegunwa School of Communication, Lagos State University, last Thursday, advised the students, who aim to end up in the media industry after school, not to see material gains as priority.

Dr. Adeyemi who was speaking at the 2013 Departmental Seminar Series of the school averred that it was imperative for the students to concentrate on developing themselves with the requisite knowledge and skills, even as they will soon join the league of practitioners already in the media industry.

He said; “It has become imperative for you students, who aim to end up in the media industry to solely concentrate on developing yourselves with the requisite knowledge, skills and technical-know-how that will see you through when you get there. While still in school today, if you fail to acquire the requisite skills, but see material gains as priority, you will end up becoming half-baked graduates,” he warned.

Earlier, there were paper presentations by the duo of Dr. Akin Sofoluwe (PhD), former Head, Department of Broadcasting, LASUAASOC and Dr. Yinka Alawode, Ag. Head, Department of Broadcasting, LASUAASOC. While Dr. Sofoluwe presented a paper titled The Brotherhood of Language: We are One, Dr. Alawode’s paper was titled Home Video and Advertising: Two Sides of the Nigerian Coin.

While taking a look at the history of the multi-diversity of languages, Sofoluwe traced it to the Biblical passage of Genesis 11vs. 1, where God Almighty confused the early men, with varying languages, as they were building a tower, whose height will reach heaven.

According to the ace broadcaster and film producer, there are plethora of languages in the world over, but each has no meaning itself, except the shared meanings given it among a set of people.

Stating that the multi-diversity of languages has over the years led to ethnic differences and chaos, he however, opined that “just as the world was at peace with one language at the early beginning, the world is today heading towards having one common language again. This one common language is the digital language,” he held,adding, “There’s no language today that will be inputed into the computer system that can’t be translated into English language.”

In his own paper, Dr. Alawode lauded the Nigerian Home Video and Advertising industry for providing massive employment opportunities for teeming Nigerian youths. He, however, pleaded with pundits, who see nothing good with the movie industry in terms of promoting Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage through contents, to be patient.

His words; “Even though I concur that the Nigerian Home Video industry has its odd sides when it comes to quality of content, I plead that the industry should be allowed to grow steadily. It’s just about 30 years old, when compared with the American Hollywood or the Indian Bollywood that are over 100 years in existence.”

Meanwhile, the don averred that the lack of interest of members of the academia in supporting the movie industry in terms of intellectual inputs, may spell doom for the sector.

He said; “It has over the years been observed that our academics, who are well grounded in film and media studies do not show interest in contributing to the movie industry, in terms of shaping its quality content. This has ironically given rise to a situation where businessmen flood the industry as producers, directors and marketers, all in the name of making money.”

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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NIGERIA: Forgotten aspects of education (1)

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Read Time:5 Minute, 18 Second

With unemployment rates on the rise, even for university graduates, experts have had to question the turn which the education sector is taking. As mainstream education grapples with survival amidst many challenges, there are other aspects of education where the average Nigerian student does not stand a chance when compared to his counterparts in the global village; aspects of education that seem to be forgotten.

Slow to boot in Computer education
Nigerian students seem to be languishing in the dust behind the moving train of the 21st Century as a result of poor computer education in many secondary schools across the country. Investigations carried out by Vanguard Learning revealed that many schools in Nigeria lack up-to-date computer technology and that many of those that have computers have little or no access to electricity.

Also, some Nigerian students have only been in a computer classroom when their school is privileged to have a qualified corps member for one year of national youth service. Remi Ademiju, is one of such Corps members who teaches computer science in a government school in Southern Nigeria.

He said; “I teach basic knowledge about the computer. We are supposed to have practical classes, but we can’t because there is hardly any electricity here, and the school doesn’t have a generator. The students barely visit the computer lab. So we just teach them theory. Out of a class of about 60 people, only one person claims to have worked on a computer before, on his uncle’s laptop.”

Professor Olu Jegede, a lecturer at the Institute of Education, Obafemi Awolowo University said; “Illiteracy is now beyond being able to read and write. Once computer education is out of it, that person is an illiterate. Very few of the schools that have access to computers also have access to the internet and that is a very big problem.”

Professor Jegede and his colleague, Josiah Abiodun Owolabi in 2003 did a research on Education in Nigerian Secondary Schools: Gaps between Policy and Practice, where they compared the National Computer Policy (1988) with existing school practice at that time. The now obsolete policy, whose objectives were to “Bring about a computer literate society in Nigeria by the mid-1990s, and enable present school children to appreciate and use the computer in various aspects of life and in future employment” obviously passed on with the tenure of the policymakers as a 2010 report showed that 90 per cent of primary school teachers are not computer literate.

Educating children with special needs
According to the 2006 national census, there were 3,253,169 persons with disability in Nigeria, with nearly 39 per cent of school age. Experts expect the number to increase. The number of seemingly normal children who are out of school runs into millions, how much more those who are blind, deaf, lame or autistic?

Ikenna Okpala is a Law graduate from the University of Lagos who was born blind. He is one of the lucky few who scaled through the system.   “When I was in secondary school, many teachers were oblivious of the fact that there were blind students in the class. A teacher would just enter the class and start copying a note on the board, and clean off as soon as he was done. I had to develop another approach. After classes, I would get people to read their notes out loud to me. I would write them out, and translate to Braille. Many of my teachers didn’t even know they had such a student in their class until it was time for test, and I would bring out my type writer.”

Dr. Kunle Adebiyi, a lecturer at the Department of Special Education, Federal College of Education (Special), Oyo, said; “Because of lack of sensitization, many are not really aware that such people can get good education. We need to sensitize the general public to communicate with such people.”

If sensitization concerning learning for the physically disabled child leaves much to be desired, then awareness about unseen disabilities such as autism, are nearly non-existent. This is the view of Oke Martins, the brain behind Austism Associates, a non-governmental organisation that helps solve Autism Spectrum Disorder and related developmental disabilities in Nigeria.

According to him; “There are some conditions that are well known and to some extent, have available provisions, but there are some other conditions that aren’t well known and have scant provisions. The big challenge with unseen disabilities such as autism is that they have no physical features, and as such, millions of Nigerians living with it are undiagnosed, and there is barely provision for them.

“Autism is now regarded as a global epidemic, reports say that it is the third most common disability in the world,” Martins said, “but as I am talking to you now, there isn’t a single centre for learning for people with autism that is government- owned. Even those that are set up by individuals are in cities such as Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt,” he added.

Speaking at a press briefing in Abuja early last year, the Minister of Education, Professor Ruqayyat Rufa’i said that six zonal autism centres would be established for early detection and treatment of autism as part of Federal Government’s effort to address issues of autism. She also said her ministry has been training the regular classroom teachers on “methods and techniques of handling children with autism in an inclusive classroom setting.”

No medal in Sports Education
Hon. Daniel Ighali is a Nigerian-born wrestler who won the Olympic gold medal for Canada in 1998. When asked to comment on sports education in Nigeria, Ighali replied: “Is there really such a thing as sports education in Nigeria? If there is, I didn’t know about it.

“The age group set up is not here at all. In Canada for example, sports recruits are chosen from primary six at the age of 12. But training begins much younger than that, my son is six, and he has already started training. In sports like gymnastics, swimming and golf, techniques are taught from ages 2 – 3.”

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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NIGERIA: Committee of Vc’s plans new body to tackle education challenges

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Read Time:1 Minute, 48 Second

The Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (CVCN) says it plans to form a new body in collaboration with other stakeholders in the sector to address the challenges facing university education.

Prof. Micheal Faborode, General Secretary of the committee, disclosed this in an interview on Monday in Abuja.

He said the various committees in the university system had been informed on the steps taken to unify all the different bodies that represent the system.

Faborode said that the decision to form the body was adopted at the 27th conference of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities held at the Nasarawa State,Keffi in 2012.

“The decision now which was adopted in Keffi, is that we should transmute it all these bodies into the Association of Nigerian Universities, a unified association, (ANU), which will be the umbrella body to carter for all the constituency of the university system, including even the Governing Councils of the universities, so a committee is being put in place to perfect the implementation process.

“So hopefully, before we get to the end of the year, the ANU would have been firmly established to represent Nigeria universities in outside bodies and coordinate effective legalities of universities in Nigeria.‘’

According to him, the university system has various committees such as Committee of Vice chancellor, Pro-Chancellors, Registrars, Bursars, Librarians, and Academic Planners, among others.

He said that such various committees were cumbersome and that it was not line with what was obtained globally.

“Globally we have the International Association of Universities (IAU), we have Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), we have (AAU) Association of African Universities, and even Association of West African Universities (AWAU).”

He said that the new association would create an avenue to meet and exchange ideas and express joint opinions on matters affecting universities development generally and others related issues in the country.

“This will also serve as a platform for sharing experiences among colleagues on best practices in order to reduce frictions and move the university system forward.

“It will also serve as a platform for formulating action plans on national issues to be communicated to Government.

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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