An Open Letter To Mr. President By An Ordinary Secondary School Teacher
Tobe Osigwe, a graduate of Theatre and Film Studies at University of Nigeria, Nsukka who is based in Nnewi, Anambra State has written a public letter to President Buhari.
Tobe Osigwe teaching his students
I am sincerely sorry for attempting to get across to you through such an informal medium. Please sir accept my apologies, it is just that it is the only modest medium I could think up to get your ever busy attention from the demanding affairs of the state.
Your Excellency, I seriously doubt the timing of my letter especially now that the dust of the letters written to you on the state of the nation by ex-presidents are yet to settle. However, unlike His Excellency, Olusegun Obasanjo, I will not dare tell you not to contest for the next presidential election, I will rather remind you sir that by the virtue of being a sitting president, you are still the most privileged Nigerian alive that can fix our dear country Nigeria.
Mr. President, the word fix connotes that there is something wrong. No doubt, any sane mind in our present day Nigeria will not deny this fact irrespective of his or her political, religious or tribal disposition. To many, they believe the problem with Nigeria is political. Those who belong to this school of thought simply underline the problem as a leadership problem. The other school of thought believe that our country’s problem is either structural or spiritual. Those who belong to this school of thoughts believe that Nigeria is cursed and thus, was Prometheus bound to fail from the onset while those in the former group strongly think that until the structure of this country is disbanded to free the disparate blocs that make up Nigeria, the country will remain in political quagmire.
Your Excellency, at the risk of sounding arrogant I must say that these school of thoughts are wrong. Sir, I repeat, the problem with Nigeria is not political, spiritual or structural. This does not in any way erase the fact that Nigeria is deeply besieged and immersed in political, spiritual or structural problems. These problems are conspicuously evident, however, they are symptomatic. Those who are bandying these problems as the reason for our country’s lacklustre performance are missing the forest for the trees. The real problem that our country is suffering from is educational. This is the root problem. Till this problem is fixed, Nigeria will remain in political topsy-turvy. Thus, even if we divide her up or vote in an Eleanor Roosevelt, this problem will persist till we tackle and solve this fundamental problem.
Mr. President, education is simply a process of saying let there be light and common sense teaches us that nobody gropes around when there is light except such person is naturally blind. The good news is that Nigeria is not naturally blind, the mass blindness and groping around in Nigeria is as a result of miseducation or no education at all in most cases. Sir, any democratic nation that toys with consciously educating rightly the majority of her populace to be enlightened, productive and disciplined is playing with fire without knowing, and this is exactly what we have been doing since 1960 yet hoping against hope that Nigeria will work.
Your Excellency at this juncture, please, permit me to share with you the yardsticks to measure if one is truly educated. These yardsticks will help you to understand what have been missing in the Nigerian education system and what your administration and future administrations should target to achieve in order to ensure a viable future for Nigeria. The yardsticks to gauge if one is truly educated are: quiet life(discipline), minding your business(focus) and earning your own living(vocation). Mr. President, any man that does not know how to embrace a quiet life, any man that cannot focus daily on his calling, any man that cannot work honestly with his hands or GOD given brain to put food on his table is not educated and such is a threat to the nation. However, any man that can do the trio without passing the four walls of any academic citadel is a good and worthy citizen and can never be a problem to the society.
Sir, if you truly desire to put Nigeria on the path of greatness and curb corruption, then your administration should target to adopt an educational policy for young and impressionable citizens that will grow up to fend for themselves mentally, spiritually and physically without depending on their neighbour or any other body. It is no rocket science to decipher that a hungry, idle and ignorant citizen is a great threat to the society. Such dependant will be easily recruited by any Machiavellian religious, political and intellectual renegade.
Since such citizen is idle, hungry and ignorant, he can wreck an immeasurable havoc for his paymaster all you need do is feed him, think for him and pretend to have his interest at heart. This has been the lot of our nation since its existence. A great number of our populace who cannot think for themselves and feed themselves have always been used to thwart the little achievements of those who can politically, religiously and economically. These dependants do not understand how their daily act of intellectual laziness, economic cum spiritual idleness and character deficiency is collectively destabilizing our wheel of progress as co-travellers in this political spaceship called Nigeria. Mr. President, till a man learns how to think for himself, feed himself and focus daily on improving ways he can think and feed himself, he will remain a burden to those who can.
Your Excellency, I know it is not fitting to ask you questions, please forgive me, but the teacher in me cannot but help ask you the following questions to ponder on. Sir, how many Nigerians do you think can presently boast of having a mind of their own? How many Nigerians do you think can boast of honestly feeding themselves through the sweat of an honest labour? How many Nigerians do you think can boast of thinking of ways of improving their craft thereby contributing towards our national development?
Mr. President, the answers to these questions is our real problem. Once the numbers of those who cannot perform the above functions efficiently greatly outweigh those who can, then the future is bleak for such nation. Unfortunately that is the case with our dear nation. A more disheartening ugly truth is that these numbers are increasing exponentially with the dawning of every new day. Your Excellency, any nation, business or individual that truly wants to succeed must be built on the foundation of discipline, integrity, honest labour and the ability to creatively reinvent itself periodically. Your Excellency, our educational system both formal and informal does not intrinsically wire “majority of Nigerians” to practise all of the above virtues.
Mr. President you may take care to notice that I made reference to formal and informal education. Sir, please permit me to clarify on that. The formal face of educational institutions is the certificate awarding schools. This formalised process of education from crèche to universities and other certificate awarding professional institutes make up the formal sector. The informal sector starts from the family, cuts through the church, mosque, market place, social media, mass media and the society via social interactions. It is evident, that any government that prides itself to be democratic by respecting basic fundamental human rights have little or no control over the informal sector of education, but fortunately most forms of government have good control of the formal sector of education. If this is the case, a foresighted national government has to ensure that she creates a healthy and proactive educational culture for the majority of her citizen, if possible all her citizens, through the formal sector to enable them live a worthy life.
Your Excellency, any national government that fails to consciously and formally train her citizens to learn and live the culture of honest individual labour, tolerance and mental freedom will become either a Welfarist state or a politically volatile nation. Mr. President our nation has failed in this regard and this is why we are both a Welfarist and politically volatile nation. Sir if your administration truly wants to solve our national malaise then it has to change tactics and stop towing the line of other past administrations that were inventing and reinventing political quick fixes to a deep rooted educational problem.
Mr. President, no doubt this is a long term project and regrettably you have limited term in office. However, this does not in any way make it a mission impossible for you and your team. Sir, one of the beauties of life that makes one eager to wake up in the morning is having a vision that is bigger than oneself. This is one of such visions, it is bigger than your term in office but the good news is that it is not bigger than your political party. I believe this is where your political party comes into play.
As the leader of the party in power I believe the onus lies on you to sell this vision to your political party. If they can adopt this long term mission of educationally revolutionalizing Nigeria immediately, then your party have found a noble and authentic reason to hang on to power. Sir, 2019 is around the corner, the temptation to resort to short term palliatives to woo voters will be stronger than ever.
I will not advice you not to resort to such political painkiller, however, if you have no genuine plans to get to the root of our problem as a nation and yet try to contest 2019 election you may win but your name will be lost and forgotten immediately you exit the office just as we have forgotten the names of most of our past leaders.
The ball is still in your court Mr. President!
Remain creatively inspired Mr. President
Your humble servant
(Tobe is a volunteer teacher at New Era Model Secondary School Nnewi. He teaches Government and Civic Education).