Yoruba: Time to speak truth to power – Part 2

As I was saying, since Western Nigeria is generally believed to be the arrowhead of advocacy for practice of true federalism, the zone should have some brand ambassadors of restructuring.

For instance, Lagos has been a leading light, in this connection, from the way it has been making some laws setting up agencies that have been performing some federal functions such as Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) controlling traffic and Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Corps members as forerunners to community police.

Despite criticism of Lagos authorities, the state has been challenging the federal government’s insistence on control of waterways and water resources in the states. The state also began the idea of challenging the federal authorities in creating local councils and development areas. All the 774 local councils were created by the federal military powers at the centre without input from the states.

It stands to reason therefore that the governments of the states that make up the Western Nigeria should be reference points when it comes to creating structures that should reflect federalism. They should be collectively challenging the legality and practicality of certain provisions in the constitution and some extant laws that limit productivity and viability of the states.

The region for instance, should have challenged the foundation and hypocrisy of the Land Use Act the federal military governments imposed on the country, which has destroyed the foundation of how to benefit from land ownership in the country.

The current struggle for national minimum wage too should have been another avenue for the western Nigeria to challenge the rationality in setting up a federal government committee to determine a minimum wage for the 36 states and 774 local governments that have been unequally yoked, to face the challenges of this nonsensical uniformity. There is no federation in global context that would allow a central government to determine how much all the federating units and all the agencies should pay their workers. Why can’t the richly endowed Lagos State signify intension to pay a minimum wage of N60, 000 through legislation by the State Assembly? Why can’t the Ondo state government too follow suit by signifying its readiness to restructure the state bureaucracy and show readiness to pay N40, 000 minimum wage as a member of the littoral states? Why can’t the western Nigeria’s very strong bureaucracy, the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria, (DAWN) Commission set up in 2012 draw up a workable minimum wage for the region?

That was the reason I had last week asked for the whereabouts of the brand ambassadors of federalism among the governors in Western Nigeria. That was also the reason I had also asked for the testimony of the governors of the same western region on education in the last three and half years, for instance.

I have consistently challenged some irrationality in the decisions of Ondo and Ogun states in establishing three public universities each without paying attention to the implications of such proliferation. In a three-part article in this column in 2016, which gave me the DAME Media Award of Informed Commentary/Columnist of the Year 2017, I had asked for a rethink. In the opening article titled, ‘Why we need better universities, not more’ June 4, 2016, I had asked in the second part of the article why the Ondo and Ogun states would not aim for better universities instead of establishing more. In the same vein, I had asked in another article why the Oyo State Government should be allowed to establish a new Technical University in Ibadan when the LAUTEC, Ogbomosho it jointly owns with Osun state has been gasping for breath. I had also asked why Osun State had to establish the Osun State University it could not fund properly even as it could not meet its financial obligation to LAUTEC, which was once closed down for about two years.

There is no question about whether we need more universities in the country and in Western Nigeria. But we need better universities, not more. Which was why I had asked last week what has become of the State Universities that three Governors (Adekunle Ajasin, Bisi Onabanjo and Lateef Kayode Jakande) set up in Ado Ekiti, Old Ondo state, Ago Iwoye, Ogun State and Ojo, Lagos) in 1983.

And here is the thing, what is the rating of Lagos State University, (LASU), University of Ado-Ekiti (originally, Obafemi Awolowo University), the Olabisi Onabanjo University in Ago Iwoye, and even the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba, Ondo State?

What have the governors of Lagos, Ogun, Ondo and Ekiti states invested in their state universities to be world- class citadels of learning where local problems can be addressed through research orientation?

This question is not political. It is just to encourage our leaders to be organised in deploying resources to critical human development projects in education and health. We can say this again and again, because Western Nigeria has been a pace-setter region in education quality. But recent statistical data have been frightening. Osun State, for instance, despite all the noise has not been doing well in post- primary public examinations, specifically in WAEC and NECO. Osun state recording 29 out of 36 states in the country, has been a tragedy. Lagos state has not been lagging behind, but that can’t be credited to robust funding and development of public schools in Lagos. Private schools have been covering up for Lagos, in public examination results. All other states, apart from Ekiti have been struggling in public examination results and school enrolment. Resent data via https://www.slideshare.net/statissense do not show western region as ambitious in school enrolment too. The standing of the region in out-of-school children multiple survey data can be embarrassing. Check from the above website.

What is mote embarrassing, just last month (22 October) the federal government an artful dodger when it comes to federalism again shifted its responsibility to the states when it ordered them through the National Economic Council to declare a state of emergency on education. The same federal government had in January this year promised to declare emergency on education in April. It did not.

My survey has revealed that if the governors of Western Nigeria had been serious with its integration agenda though the DAWN Commission, it would have been a pace setter in declaring a state of emergency on education since 2016.

A communiqué issued after a ‘Roundtable on Creating a Collaborative Framework for Education Development and Advancement in Western Nigeria’ dated June 20, 2016 signed by the then Director General of DAWN Commission, Dr. Dipo Famakinwa on behalf of the Conveners and Dr. Charles ‘Diji Akinola, Director General, Office of Economic Development and Partnership, Osun State on behalf of the Host State clearly showed a commitment to declaration of state of emergency on education in the region.

According to the communiqué, deliberations on the Roundtable focused on developing and agreeing on a common and integrated front for improving and advancing Education in Western Nigeria.

‘The focus was on getting strong and implementable decisions that would put our Region back on the path of progress’.

The focal points at the Roundtable included the following:

That education is a major competitive forte of the people of Western Nigeria and it holds the key to their survival and sustainability; That education development in the Region must be viewed as a critical Homeland Imperative, requiring a collaborative process for synergy of actions, adoption of common templates, sharing of lessons, as well as bridging excessive developmental disproportions; That the challenge of human capital in the Region is that of saving our future. Human capital development is central to the realisation of the societal transformation that we all envisage; That even at the best of times, education delivery in the Southwest is no longer producing quality outcomes focusing on learning and character; That examination achievement – passing WAEC, NECO, JAMB and other external examinations is not enough, rather focus should be on learning/education achievement; That the unenviable state of Education in the Region cannot be allowed to continue; That tackling the rot in the Education sector is the best route for taking our destiny in our hands.

In consequence of the above, and in furtherance of the objectives of the Roundtable, participants agreed and resolved that deliberate, concerted and determined collaborative and cooperative Regional-based actions should be carried out as follows: Push Education to the level of an emergency, requiring considerable political will, adaptive leadership, multi-stakeholder participation, strong and determined actions, with unrelenting focus on results and impact
Ensure that the framework for Collaborative Strategies, Policies and Plans on Education is aimed at using education to drive development, and also reconnect education to culture, to critical skills and competencies, build the workforce of/for the future, foster civic education, promote competence in cultural and language skills, as well as enable quality learning, character and responsible citizenship as the endgame.

Pursue Education development as a local matter, with its strategic orientation focused on the type of people that we need to have, the kind of society that we need to build, and the kind of future that we envisage. Therefore our education delivery model should focus on the preparation of global citizens, with the ultimate goal being to produce the Total Man, and the exemplary Omoluabi – well connected to his culture and heritage

There were other strategic recommendations in the communiqué issued for consideration and implementation of the Western Nigerian states. Sadly, since June, 2016 none of the five states has implemented the first strategic suggestion on policy thrust: ‘Push Education to the level of an emergency….’ None until the first federal government order came just two weeks ago. Again, had there been the spirit of execution – the discipline of getting things done, the Western Nigeria would have been a pace setter, in this regard.

I am persuaded that DAWN Commission roadmap launched in 2012 can be powerful manifesto to restart (to) the region’s ‘factory setting’. No doubt, regional cooperation has started gaining grounds with issues like bringing Lagos to join Odua Group, which was DAWN Commission’s legwork. Getting four out of the five neighbouring states excluding Ogun to lease 42,000 hectares of land to Lagos for rice farming which will be milled at the up coming largest rice mill in Lagos or the common policy on government procurement, which has been adopted by four of the six states and much more are remarkable.

However, the governors need to have the political will to now start regional infrastructure projects. This should be the next step, which they must stake to signpost regional cooperation. Why can’t Ondo and Ekiti states construct Ado Ekiti to Akure road? Why can’t Western Nigeria start talking of a Regional waste-to-power company?

**We continue this conversation next week on the quality of representation of Western Nigeria in Abuja…

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