By Patrick Dele Cole
The first part of this piece published last week decried the lack of unity in the country and queried if Nigerians do not like themselves?
WHEN you see Almajirai young boys being bused and tested for coronavirus, what goes through your mind? What do you see? “Oh those Northerners are not sending their children to school? They won’t go to school because they have power and don’t need qualifications to progress?“
Do you see a lost opportunity for Nigerians – that one of those children may have become an Einstein? Even if not an Einstein, are you not worried that they would never have the opportunity to have tried?
You spend N500,000 per month to send your child to a private school, you have nanny to help you at home, you prepare your children, to the best of their ability – even if that is to find their way, with your help to so-called green pastures in Europe and USA.
If Nigerians were to feel what Indonesians and Ethiopians feel about desertification and replenishing the forests – we would do what they do – these are the two greatest tree planting nations in the world. The Prime Minister of Ethiopia, an adopted child, led his nation in planting 350 million trees in 12 hours!
He could not have done that if he did not have a large number of Ethiopians on his side to support him. In Indonesia, the tree planting exercise was launched and headed by the president, and all the governors of Indonesia have now continued for over 20 years – palm trees, avocado trees, trees for pulp in the paper industry, etc.
“Can anyone imagine the President, the Sultan of Sokoto and the emirs of Kano, Katsina, Adamawa, Bauchi; the Shehu of Borno, etc., girding up their loins to lead in tree planting?”
We do have laws and customs. We should simplify and obey them. All nations have them; all do the same examinations since they have learnt from the same syllabus. At 17/18, they do the next examination which prepares them for further education and training.
I think we should accept the reality of the failure of the system, of attemping to stream from JSS3. It has not worked, cannot work if the technical schools are not there with the infrastructure (including teaching the teachers). People get educated for a purpose; nations need an educated population. It is much easier than this educational system with no road map that we call Nigeria.
Muslims and Christians should attend schools which teach the basic Maths, English, Science, etc( 2+2=4), in any language, religion or native doctor’s clinic. We all learn the ingredients of physics, chemistry, geography, internet, etc; these are the tools of progress today and the foreseeable future.
If you want to be a Catholic Father, an Anglican priest, an evangelical hot brand or a Muslim cleric – these are all attainable, but not at the expense of the tools of the 20th century. The syllabus should be able to teach all religions and all the pupils can be tested on all subjects.
Having a school where only Latin is taught is as unproductive as having one in which only Arabic is taught. That education has a large debt to Arabic knowlege is accepted and celebrated and should be taught.
When I say children – I mean both sexes – our elders have to wean themselves from the terrible idea that girls cannot or should not be educated to the extent of their potential. Whatever is pushing any man to want to marry a 13-year-old girl must be evil and condemned.
It may have been alright to do so several centuries ago – it is now despicable and men should be ashamed of themselves no matter the temptation or presumed justifications. Denying young women the educational opportunities may well be denying a world genius of the likes of Marie Curie.
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How can you sit in a room with someone whose co-religionists claim that Western education is haram, i.e an anathema and practitioners of that education should be killed? You must hold such friends or colleagues to account in much the same way as tolerating hate-bating Christians who think that Muslims are the devil incarnates and should all be burnt at the stake?
There should be no room for that kind of thinking by Nigerians. It is not enough to say you oppose extremism; you must do something to stop it!
Mr. Lamikanran was trying to explain tribalism to me. He said that the 10 topmost jobs in a company were all occupied by people of one tribe. One of them retired. The board tried to appoint a person from a different tribe.
The remaining nine officers met to complain about tribalism! It is impossible to contain such restless talent: so the Igbo have broken into oil, banking, insurance, aviation. Why does the Igbo man not do these things at home in their villages? Afraid of being poisoned.
The Igbo man would learn your language with no respect for enunciation, grammar, but will speak your language Esperanto style. No other ethnic group studies and speaks Igbo the way the Igbo man learns other languages.
There is discrimination among the Igbo. The Onitsha Igbo look down on other Igbo. Sa nwa onye Igbo pua eba. Yet the Igbo think more than others; that is: they think of progress for the group. It is easy to take anyone of the above and demonise it.
But it would be a shame not to attempt to learn from them. Can some light be thrown on the Hausa, Fulani, Igbirra, Urhobo, Itsekiri, Tiv, Idoma, Kanuri, Ibibio? Thereafter a compendium can be brought to find the composite Nigerian.
All governments should stop all aids for pilgrimages – Christian, Muslim and any other. I do not intend to go through the doctrinal basis, but I believe that performing pilgrimage was based on one’s financial ability to do so.
Among the Arab, before the Holy Prophet, many deities received pilgrimages. It was the genius of the prophet and his successors that definite sites be developed for pilgrimages if you can afford it. As for Christians going on pilgrimage, this was a survival of the military expedition to reconquer Jerusalem from the Moslems.
No one who can afford to go should not go, but the government should have no part in it – such as preferential foreign exchange regime, chartering of aircraft for pilgrimage, special offices for pilgrimages, and so on. Government could encourage private foundations to do this and get out of the morass of people turning something holy into an exploitation marras.
I am trying to build a composite Nigerian by taking all that is good and even questionable in as many ethnic groups as possible. Igbo – like Germans who lost the war yet have the strongest economy. They spread like Germans who occupied Austria, Switzerland, Sudetenland, former East Germany.
The German mentality did not endear them to their neighbours. Neither did the Igbo mentality endear them to their neighbours. Igbo language spread beyond their territory into Bonny, Opobo, Buguma, Abonnema, Ikwerre. The Igbo have a unique training ability and scheme and compensation.
(Now Bemleke give their children out for training in apprenticeship for various businesses. Igbo dominate in certain trades – spare parts, Nollywood, music – a compendium of several streams of expertise and experience. Even criminality 419 scam requires thinking fast on your feet. Other ethnic groups have displayed business acumen – the Hausa and forex market. Yoruba and cloth design – adire, aso oke, gold, craftsmanship, etc.
Igbo dominate in long distance haulage and commercial bus travel, opening the opportunities for Brazilian businesses in Nigeria. Okada – arguably the most convenient way to travel in congested traffic or between villages without good or proper roads. The people of Akwa Ibom excelled in this before the Hausas took over.
The Igbo were the patch-patch tailors before being ousted by the Hausa who dominate the meat industry as well as personal security, leather crafts and repairs, barbing and shaving.
Buildings, again dominated by Igbo, who own most buildings in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt – ironically the Igbo need stability to thrive. They don’t do so well in unstable areas where the Ijaw thrive and grow. They are loud and boisterous, shouting 090 from the rear of a phone to a fellow Igbo in front.
They have carried Nigerian food expertise and culinary to the remotest part of the world. If you went to Siberia, north of Canada, Vietnam, Poyang, Rykavic, you would find an Igbo man.
My wife’s bag was stolen a day after she arrived in China at a shop. Nothing can be more frightening than to have no money, no identity amongst a people whose language you cannot speak. When she called, we were both hysterical and bereft of all rationality. I tried to call the Nigerian ambassador, but where would I say she was?
While bemoaning my plight, one Igbo man calmed me down. He knew the flight she would have come on and possibly the hotel. He had a block of offices in the town. He told his people to look after madam, give her all the money she needed. I paid him. How terrific. Igbo electricism, often culturally denigrated, is an important talent to swim in different ways and waters.