The Nigerian youth – a lost generation in urgent need of redemption from the corrupting influences of a degenerate leadership — are in a fix. Many want change but despise the attitude and moral forbearance for a purposeful change, or perhaps lack the value orientation to decipher the real attitudinal change from the fake and deceptive one that currently parades the political landscape. Sad to say they have become lazy in mind and spirit, and lack the capacity to interrogate issues critical to performing their natural role as the nation’s change agents.
The nation’s youths dislike the rigours of a debate, lack a discerning mind, and are more interested in idle gossip and rumour-mongering. They preoccupy themselves with texting and tweeting vanities and falsehood to satisfy their fantasies instead of reading about the history of their country. Engage some of them in a conversation, and you will be totally disappointed. If you think I am lying, go to the social media and see the quality of the legacy our decadent educational system aided of course by a criminally liable leadership — the very same people some youths are dying to support — has bequeathed to this country.
Some are prepared to shed their precious blood to defend rogue politicians, who incidentally have stolen their future and that of their children, believe you me! They have imposed on us the current backwardness of our country, the daily grind of lack of pipe borne water, bad roads and erratic power supply to our homes. While our youths have become thugs only good enough to be used to perpetuate electoral violence and mayhem to sabotage the free choice of the people, the children of these same politicians are living in opulent splendour in the secured confines of Europe and America.
The quality of reasoning and understanding of issues some of our youths display is pathetic and shameful. Gone are the days of righteous activism. Gone are the days of students holding our leaders accountable. Everything they talk about now is money. They are driven more by obsession than reason, and can hardly read a two-page write-up without grumbling that it is too long. There is hardly a value gleaned from their interactions on the social media except to shake your head feeling sorry and pity for our country.
Many of them bribed their ways through the education system — from secondary to university levels — and so, it is not surprising that they don’t appreciate hard work. Consequently, they come out empty-headed, not knowing much about the history of their country or its politics and since our educationists and curriculum designers have removed history as a subject from the school curriculum, the situation has only grown worse.
The youth of today are rude, needlessly pompous, verbose, largely irresponsible, and morally delinquent; in addition to not being grounded at all in their respective disciplines, making them unemployable in work environments. For those who have been fortunate to be pushed through the ladder of the public service, their superiors have had to contend with the stark reality of their inability to write a straight sentence how much more a memo. This is the generation Nigeria is grooming for the future to compete with the best around the world. It is a near hopeless situation.
This brings me to the issue of the 2015/16 QS World University Rankings published on Tuesday, September 15 on topuniversities.com.
In Africa, of the 18 universities ranked, Nigeria was nowhere to be found. While South Africa had nine institutions, Egypt had five while Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania all had one institution each.
The ranking, according to the report, was based on six performance indicators to assess the institutions: global reputation, research impact, staffing levels and international complexion. The report also said the universities were placed on a 40 per cent scale for academic reputation; employer reputation – 10 per cent; student-to-faculty ratio – 20 per cent; citations per faculty – 20 per cent; international faculty ratio – five per cent; and international student ratio – five per cent.
On the list, African universities which made it were: The University of Cape Town, South Africa (ranked first in Africa and 171st in the world), the Stellenbosch University, South Africa (ranked second in Africa and 302nd in the world), and the University of the Witwatersrand (third in Africa and 331st in the world).
Also on Africa’s top list were: The American University in Cairo, Egypt at 345th position in the world; Cairo University, Egypt – 501-550; Rhodes University, South Africa – 501-550; University of Pretoria, South Africa – 501-550; University of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa – 551-600; and the University of Johannesburg, South Africa – 601-650, respectively.
Other institutions on the African ranking, which also shared the same points range of 701+, were the Ain Shams University, Egypt; Al Azhar University, Egypt; Alexandria University, Egypt; Makerere University, Uganda; North-West University, South Africa; University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; University of Ghana; University of Nairobi, Kenya; and the University of the Western Cape, South Africa.
What do we have in the rustic urban ghettos we call universities – dilapidated lecture halls, ill-equipped laboratories, lack of access to safe water supplies, poor sanitary conditions, bedbug-infested hostels (typified by the University of Lagos), etc. Should the rankings be extended to secondary school, I can bet my life that secondary schools in Nigeria will come first from the rear.
How does this make our politicians feel that no Nigerian university, none at all featured on the list of 700 top universities in the world and none made the first 18 in Africa? Have we seen or heard the promoters of change utter a word about it? No, because it doesn’t matter to them after all, their children are in ranked schools abroad. I think I can say, without fear of contradiction that 99 per cent of the children of top government officials and politicians in this country school abroad, enjoying the best of an uninterrupted academic calendar.
Some are even in very expensive Ivy League colleges. I challenge anyone in any doubt to carry out an investigation into my assertions. And when they graduate, they are simply flown home and railroaded into cushy jobs in the private sector, critical public offices or politics where victory is almost certainly guaranteed through rigging and exploitation of the army of youths that they have deprived of quality education to achieve their ends. And then they start governing us. Next in the multifarious relationship is that they hire the same youths as their goons. Is this the life we want?
When Prof. Wole Soyinka described my generation as the wasted generation in the late 80s, he probably thought he had seen the worst that could possibly be seen. I wonder what he would say about this generation of the social media age. Since his famous lamentation, things have progressively deteriorated to such an extent that he will have to struggle to look for a phrase that would adequately capture the decadence and rot of today. To say that urgent and very drastic measures need to be taken to save the next generation and the country from disaster will be an understatement – what is needed is a revolution to salvage the young.
The incremental decay in the standard of education and the way of life started before my generation and has permeated every aspect of our culture, morality, traditions and institutions. The crisis in education started in the 80s or late 70s. In 1982 when I was in form one, we had no teachers in some critical subjects, particularly in mathematics in the entire first term. This continued well into the middle of the second term, and in a desperate move to salvage a bad situation, the physical education teacher came to our rescue as he taught us mathematics on a part-time basis. But there was only how far he could go. We had lost so much.
Our leaders over the years have had no vision for the future and so have not planned for it. They have no value for public schools because their children don’t attend such schools. For the mob on social media sending hate mail to me for my criticisms of our leaders, and many others making threatening calls, I pity you. The children of these politicians attend the best schools abroad paid for from the proceeds of corruption and looting of the public treasury. But the children of poor parents like me and you are the ones who attend the dilapidated public schools. The question is: do the youths want that hegemonic control over our patrimony to continue because of the peanuts they hand them as reward for slaving for them?
It is because our politicians have come to the realisation that our youths no longer have the capacity to think, discern and react to mis-governance that they have become so comfortable and fearless in misusing public money for personal ventures or outright stealing of taxpayers’ money. As a matter of fact, our youths are now in the forefront of defending the mismanagement of public money. I was totally shocked beyond words, when otherwise respected individuals tried to belittle the implications and gravity of the crime committed by a former Lagos State Governor, Babatude Fashola, who illegally used public money to upgrade his personal website.
While reacting to the allegations against Fashola, Ben Akabueze, who was the Commissioner, Budget and Planning for eight years in the Fashola administration said: “We ran an annual budget of over N400 billion. I think that if he (Fashola) really wanted to steal money, it wouldn’t be N78 million out of over N400 billion that he had access to. Of course, every kobo of public funds must be accounted for, and I hope in the future, we can get the full facts and it will be made available to the public.” I have never seen such haughtiness and arrogant defence of the misuse of public money in my life. These people have total contempt for public resources, and I am looking forward to the day they would be put in the dock to account for their tenure in office.
The implication of Akabueze’s defence is that there was far much more Fashola could have helped himself to since he managed over N400 billion budget annually. Well, who knows how many other personal ventures that were funded with the taxpayer’s money that are yet to come to light?
Akabueze must tell Nigerians the rationale for using public money to upgrade a personal website, otherwise he should save himself and Nigerians the sound of his voice. Was this how he planned and managed the state’s budget during his term in office?
Is it not a shame on Fashola that with over N400 billion per annum he had access to, according Akabueze, there is no pipe borne water in Lagos? It is quite telling that even the Government House where he lived had no pipe borne water, and he had to spend N139 million on the drilling of just two boreholes in the residence to have water. My advice to Akabueze is to shut up because he was talking nonsense! There is a saying in the land of my fathers: “Small wounds are the worst because they carry the most venom.”
The change we need is far greater and sweeping than the deception we have been offered. There are only a few moments in our history that have captured the collective consciousness of the cult-like support given to President Muhammadu Buhari. Unfortunately, four months after inauguration, there is no indication that the current leadership understands the fierce urgency of the situation and the need to move fast with a clear-cut policy direction to address the myriad of problems confronting the country.
For example, what is this government’s policy on the education of youths, from primary to university levels? What is its policy on youth development? Is it aware of the scale of rot and decadence in the education system? Is it aware that none of our universities featured either on the list of top 18 in Africa, or top 700 universities in the world?
I have stated repeatedly in several of my write-ups that the change we need is not propaganda, but attitudinal change driven by a moral rebirth and that the current crop of promoters of this convoluted and tainted change belong to the very class that Nigeria needs a break from. They have collectively raped this country and perpetrated the criminal culture of pervasive corruption that is threatening the very survival of our country. For the life of me, how can real change come from these people?
We need change no doubt to move Nigeria forward. We must however be ready and willing to do a total re-orientation of our value system necessary to this end. We need to promote merit over politics; we need a rebirth anchored on a new vision. Where are the people that can be said to be giants among men that will take us to the Promised Land? Come to think of it, we are in a terrible predicament. All I can see is a group of cardinals who are so busy expanding their power and influence that they can’t see beyond the end of their noses and whose sense of morality is fatally flawed. These are the people driving change. Nigeria sure deserves better to compete among nations. However, I must confess here that I still harbour a little secret that despite all, we shall one day overcome.