The ability to share information and communicate is one of the great hallmarks of modern man. The necessity of information flow makes it imperative that governments, the world over, establish a ministry of information, which has the responsibility of acting as a conduit between government and the governed.
This ministry is to inform the people about government policies and the position of government on national and international issues and feel the pulse of the people (based on the effect of government policies) and feed back the government on the mood of the people. And where there is disaffection, galvanize the people to support government and its policies.
The personal abilities of the person heading the ministry and the extent to which available resources can be used to manage information flow truthfully, objectively and responsibly determine the level of effectiveness of that government.
Whether the Nigerian minister of information, Mr. Frank Nweke Junior will receive a pass mark for his headship of this ministry is best left to public opinion; what with the level of activity on the national and international front; The Niger Delta has been under siege by armed militia, killing, maiming and kidnapping both Nigerians and foreigners, the entire nation has been held hostage by armed robbers, robbing banks at will and sacking police formations. The political imbroglio in Oyo and Bayelsa States are fresh assaults on our national psyche, the crises in the Daffur region of Sudan and the rot in our aviation industry are all cases in point. What is the government position on these issues? What steps is the government taking to address them? Can the minister of information tell us? We only depend on the news media to get information on events affecting our national life.
The problems in our educational sector are grave but for it to be commonized and presented in a manner that is lacking in analytical depth by such a highly placed government functionary is unfortunate and despicable to say the least. It goes to expose how shallow and pedestrian the methodology of the government is when it comes to analysis of problems and profferment of remedial courses.
On 23 January 2006, Thisday newspaper carried a report attributed to the minister of information, Mr. Frank Nweke Junior that â€œPirate confraternityâ€ is the root of all cultism in Nigeria and the bane of the educational systemâ€¦â€
Â The rot in the educational sector is caused by the many years of neglect by successive governments, under funding, the destruction and skewing of societal values and the pervasive level of corruption, which has diffused from the larger society into our citadels of learning. The present government has floundered its date with history by not taking creative, bold and decisive steps to address these problems since inception in 1999; it is infantile to blame extraneous factors for this failure.
I am sure that the minister in his myopism yet to see another looming monster in our educational sector – mis-education.Â When the problems of mis-education of Nigerians fully take root, cultism will be Child’s play in comparism.Â Â
The present course of admission into universities, where institutions conduct internal exams for students that are successful in UME is a duplication of function, patently flawed and is not corruption proof.Â Let Nigerians know what government plans to do about it. What plans are there for adequate funding of universities? What plans are there for making the National Universities Commission more professional and functional? What will happen to the politicianâ€™s that arm students and use them as militia to fight ethnic wars or as thugs during elections as displayed during the last election of the National Association Of Nigerian Students(NANS) at the eagle square in Abuja, where the eventual winner was a candidate of the government.
It is time this government and its functionaries wake up to its responsibility and start a definite, creative and decisive course of action that will arrest the menace of armed banditry in higher institutions of learning. It is time the ministry of information becomes responsible and stop spreading falsehood.
If the status-quo remains, the time for stock taking must come and it will be written that this government has defaulted on the promissory note it made to the Nigerian Youth, a promise of better health, education, higher standard of living and a secure future. It will be written that Nigeria gave its youth a dud cheque.
Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox, whose philosopher is a juggler, and whose art is the art of patching and mimickingâ€¦
Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years and whose strongmen are yet in the cradle.
Pity the nation divided into fragments, each fragment deeming itself a nation.â€
The problems of â€œcultismâ€ and gangsterism cannot be solved through verbal pronouncements and proscription of groups and fraternities. They form an integral part of a nations life; of a nations march towards harmony. Let the school curriculum be designed to keep the minds of students busy and positively challenged. Let it engender academic competiveness among students. Let there be an open, sincere and objective discourse by all interest groups and stakeholders in the educational sector.
An urgent, dual pronged reorientation exercise should be embarked on. The target at one end will be to inform and reform people of secondary school age of the dangers of violence and gangsterism. This would help them make the right choices when they are due for the university. The other end will be targeted at stemming the tide of corruption pervading every facet of our national life. This will prevent a spill over into a repositioned educational system.
Let the law take its due course. The legislation governing murder, arson, rape and other acts of violence are clear. Let us banish the temptation to treat students who engage in these acts of high misdeameanor as â€œcultistsâ€. If they are prosecuted by the relevant sections of the constitution and made to bear the full weight of the law when convicted, this will definitely serve as a deferent for others. Now is the appointed time. If the government can resist the attraction of blame hunting, it may still make the date it has with history; though a definite late arrival to the banquet.
Finally, As a matter of policy, the Pyrates Confraternity is disinclined towards advertising its many activities as a socially responsible organisation but for the benefit of this exposition, it would be benefittial to mention the foregoing in passsing.
The Pyrates Confraternity is an open organization with widespread branches and a web portal. It was founded to uphold the dignity of man and its activities are directed towards the promotion of a just, humane and progressive society, where no one is victimized on the basis of color, race, tribe, gender or religious inclination.
If the honorable minister were not out for mischief and deliberate misinformation, he would have researched the activities of the Pyrates Confraternity, the problems of violence and gangsterism, its multi faceted components and their effect in high institutions of learning before making such empty generalizations.
Is there no other way to prove that the principal character traits one must posses to be appointed as a minister are indiscretion, a servile mentality and selective amnesia.
In addition to direct initiatives to curb the effects of â€œcultismâ€ in schools, the Pyrates Confraternity have taken advantage of its spread and local presence to sponsor social sensitization programmes aimed at improving the lot of the disadvantaged and oppressed.
Pursuant to its societal relevance initiatives, the PC in Abia State have, over the past two years, been collaborating with the Methodist Church Nigeria and the Center for mentally ill destitute, Amando Itumbazo to bring to the front burner, the challenges of mental illness and destitution and the dangers inherent in letting this malaise continue unchecked. In collaboration with law enforcement agencies, criminal rings that use mentally ill patients to beg for alms and sexually exploit the females have been broken. Lectures have been severally held to inform people that like other illnesses, mental illness can be treated.
HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns have been held for post primary school pupils.
In collaboration with SDA hospital, the PC have held lecturers to highlight the plight of motherless and abandoned babies and the challenges faced by homes that cater for them. Help have been galvanized for them in different forms are levels of need.
In line with its Legal Assistance and Prisoners Rights Programme, help is being legally sought for awaiting trial inmates and this is in collaboration with the prison authorities and the state judiciary.
Let it be on record that these and other noble programs are on going in every state and country where the Pyrates Confraternity has presence.
John Ulu Oke
P.O. Box 12786
Material first published in February 19, 2006 and revised and republishedÂ 2010-02-01