ack in the day, while I was still in school(UNIBEN), sayings like "The youths are the leaders of tomorrow", "Education is the key to success" and many others used to be thrown around a lot and was in many ways very inspiring to many youths because there seemed to be some kind of genuine concern on the part of the Nigerian leadership subtly saying that the youths were not forgotten. I suppose they still use these same rhetorics today, but I am not sure, to what extent, the youths trust any such conciliatory pronouncements from the government.
The leadership system is almost like the refrigeration system which goes in a continuous cycle until the system becomes faulty and the cycle is broken. The refrigerant heats up and later condenses in a special process which gives rise to the cooling process in the refrigerator. We know the process works because at the end of the day, our thirsts are quenched by the result of the cooling process which goes on within the tiny closed tubes. The leadership cycle is no different. The intentions of a good and progressive society is to be able to groom the future leaders by providing all the educational, social and health needs (the push) in order for a young child to properly go through the process of development and be in the best possible way (the heating phase), equipped, to lead in various aspects of life as well as governance in the future (the cooling and satisfaction phase).
When future leaders are ill prepared, the writing cannot be any clearer on the wall since that country's future is already being threatened from the foundations. The future economical and political power is destined to be in the hands of quacks. Leading a country, as we mostly know, is not the easiest of responsibilities with all the unexpected unknowns lurking which would require the attention of a prepared leadership. This is tantamount to allowing an unskilled pilot on the cockpit and the end results are usually predictable with the worst of possible outcomes. This is the potential future of Nigeria with the unfortunate situation our students find themselves today. While studying as a computer scientist in the mid nineties in Nigeria, I and many others lost approximately two semesters from various academic interruptions due to strike actions by the academic or the non-academic staffs at various times. We scaled through the system even though we had to lose a full year of school session. In hind sight, I would say now that we were very fortunate to have studied in those good old days.
The government at that time was more conscientious and still highly prioritized education in Nigeria. We were very fortunate to enjoy a good library system. Then, there was no internet or cyber connection as we enjoy today. The libraries in the various federal institutions where well funded and most students took advantage of them to do their various course exercises and research works in whatever field of study. There was very little fear of power outages since there was always an alternative power generator which powered the vital facilities instantaneously whenever there was an interruption. Students felt encouraged to study despite numerous personal problems outside the school. They felt apparently shielded from the reality facing the everyday Nigerian outside the physical walls of their institution. During this time, the likes of Mike Igini, a former student union leader , Sowore of Sahara reporters and even governor Babatunde Fashola were being groomed.
With the increasing insecurity ranging from kidnapping and other criminal activities of the larger society, to the highly institutionalized cultism in our various places of learning, the position of our youths and future leaders is seemingly being defined with the worst possible combinations of values and educations. Though education is still being encouraged superficially, the true worth of acquiring it has been devalued greatly. Unemployment figures are actually higher than portrayed by the various government institutions because of the poor existing data collection procedures. Many young people, after going through the grueling academic system, end up at home for years being under employed or out rightly unemployed. This trend has been the case for years and so these youths have come to realize, ironically, that getting a decent education was not enough anymore. They needed to get the best degrees by either hook or crook. You may have studied hard while in school, but it may be insignificant in today's Nigeria. The question is often asked, "Why do I need to study hard when I can just buy the degree?". The system seems to reward cheats in whatever sector you look at in the country and the society applauds them by being part of the bandwagon of praise singers. Transparency international has had us in their bad books for years now, which is really not surprising. So, can we expect a broken fridge to cool water? Can we expect good leadership from a badly trained youth?
Nigeria is increasingly digging herself deeper into this uncertain future with our youths with the constant threat of strikes by workers across broad spectrum of the civil society . If not the academic staffs, it would be the non academic staff or the medical association which is highly dangerous to an already fragile system. However, these unions, in my opinion, have their various axes to grind with the government. It is unfair to transform their jobs into a voluntary status since a laborer needs to be compensated for his or her efforts. Due to the broken system which is further compounded by the culture of corruption and impunity in government , union members are constantly on the receiving end. Apart from not getting paid on time, they are usually faced with the frustrations of working with the poorest of outdated facilities while the politician seats and snoozes in the chambers and gets whatever they want without breaking a sweat while probably earning more than the president of the world's biggest super power.
Whenever the academic, nonacademic or the medical activities stalls, we tend to feel their pinch as an immediately problem that needs a quick fix. This results usually in series of meetings and negotiations between the government and the unions. After much deliberations between them, they hammer out a deal and both parties smile (sometimes, to the bank). The Nigerian society is deceived to believing that all is well. This is quite the opposite. This situation of the student caught in the middle, can be compared to the psychological confusion facing a child who grew up in a very tumultuous family where there was squabble and rancor on a very regular bases. This child's outlook of life would have been, unknowingly and irreversibly altered for the worse. Nigeria's leaders of tomorrow are not being given a decent chance to compete against their counterparts in other parts of the world in the future. Educational policies in Nigeria has to be prioritized as a matter of national security if we are to survive this already fast pace century.