Governance and development: The Nigerian factor

(By Health Okhuarobo)
Change is the only constant. Any organisation or individual that resists positive and pragmatic changes has no place in the future. This is where the polytechnic education in Nigeria comes into play. People and well-meaning Nigerians have over time emphasised the need for a revolution in the educational sector, to bridge the gap or remove the inequality between the polytechnic and university education.

A KEEN observation of the dramatic evolution and innovation in technology today is enough to inform us that most of the world inventions were borne out of a desire to make life more comfortable.

From analogue to automation, the pragmatic legal tussles to amend, and to abolish death penalty; the continuous executive, judicial and legislative proceedings, and the persistent modification and formulation of management theories are geared towards the elimination of drudgery, enhancement of efficiency and effectiveness, improvement of quality of life and service, as well as the need to make machine more user-friendly, improve performance, increase work output and turnover.

Looking at the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) and Point of Sale (POS) machines is enough to alert us on how much banking has become easy. Just imagine the queue once witnessed in the banks and the time wasted in service delivery! As I was going to work this morning, I took a lift. The Good Samaritan pressed a button and the glass rolled up without having to labour using the roller and, as he switched on the air conditioner, I felt some comfort. As the sweat welling up in my skin shifted to cold, I began to imagine the stress that has been eliminated by the energy that would have been expended to wind up.

As the Lagos Government has restricted motorcycles, otherwise called okada, from working in some parts of Lagos without actually looking at so many ends to the issue, life in Lagos has become so difficult, as you have to walk a distance to your place of work or destination. I want to quickly say that okada has come to Nigeria and has come to stay, and it should be allowed because of Nigerian road/street pattern and peculiarity. In fact, it should be welcomed and encouraged by the government, by creating conducive and enabling environment for them to operate.

Apart from okada riders having the right to do their business, the users also have the right to use okada as it eases movement. Many good and responsible citizens and families depend on it for survival. The journey that normally takes 30 minutes or N50 is now one to two hours and costs between N100 and N150.

The insinuation that motorcycles are used for robbery and are more prone to accidents is not true. The recent robbery in Edo State on Monday, November 19, is one of a kind, not to talk of the ghastly motor accident witnessed on Lagos-Benin expressway and lives, in unprecedented number, lost on daily basis. The robbers, numbering about 50, according to a national newspaper report on Wednesday, November 28, stormed the area in three Toyota cars.

I think the government should start looking at the situation of unemployment and the okada rider issue critically, or is it only when people take to desperate options – like the Niger Delta militancy or Boko Haram, among others, that the government would start running all over the place for what could have been prevented. That is not to say that there may not be criminals among okada riders, but that okada business accounts for a high percentage of employment of many responsible Nigerians.

A brief review of the following is the reason the country cannot progress and attain anticipated development. Any government institution or law that does not make the life of the common man better should not be entertained. Any such law should be abolished or reformed.

Another question is, why is Nigeria rated worse virtually in almost everything? The worse country to deliver babies in the world, the highest rated in kidnapping for ransom, rated among countries with the least education, one of the poorest counties in the world, most corrupt country in the world, and an average life expectancy of 47 years, according to a recent survey. In all these, we have all the resources – both natural and human – to be one of the most developed nations in the world.

Before this time, the government was discouraging people travelling out of the country in search of greener pasture, but the paradox is that senior functionaries of the same government are sending their families and children overseas to study, get a better life, deliver babies, for medical attention and so on. That shows how they have completely lost faith in the country they govern. What is wrong with this country, and why can’t we fix it to get things to become normal?

A very important issue that needs to be addressed urgently is the discrimination between polytechnic and university education. The law that established polytechnic education makes the products of the institution disadvantaged and handicapped, and it should be revisited urgently if Nigeria is to join the top 10 economies in 2020. We now live in a world where talent, wit and command performance eclipse racial, tribal and educational discrimination. In this fast paced world, it is obvious that societies and organisations that are not ready to embrace this new philosophy of thinking and doing things will be left behind.

Change is the only constant. Any organisation or individual that resists positive and pragmatic changes has no place in the future. This is where the polytechnic education in Nigeria comes into play. People and well-meaning Nigerians have over time emphasised the need for a revolution in the educational sector, to bridge the gap or remove the inequality between the polytechnic and university education.

This will help foster development, progress, equal distribution of government attention on education, especially for a developing country like Nigeria, where performance appraisal is totally based on bureaucratic egoism, tribalism, nepotism and all other forms of chauvinism that are anathema to development. The polytechnic education in Nigeria is a third or no choice for the rich in this country, and results from a seeming lack of government interest in developing the sector.

The government has equally made the university education more lucrative by paying more attention to it in terms of finance, remuneration and manpower development. President Goodluck Jonathan’s government is opening nine universities. No mention has been made of polytechnic or federal scholarships. How many children of our senators, the president, governors or those of their close relations are in the polytechnics? All this shows clearly government’s disdain for polytechnic/vocational education.

As a result, the polytechnic graduate is neither first, second nor a strong candidate in most of available employment openings in the already tense and saturated labour market. Even when employed, they face demoralising, indeed dehumanising and debasing discrimination in work places. To me, polytechnic education is the best one can acquire because it prepares one with practical knowledge of what the real world looks like.

As a result, I want to say that the polytechnic education should remain as it is. The agitation to upgrade it to the so-called university status will make it lose grip of its original status as a tool dedicated to technical, technological, practical, specialised and vocational education. We have the best brains in the polytechnic. This talent and skills are not glaring because of the unfavourable and discriminatory government policies that regard polytechnic education as alternative education for people in Nigeria.

The application of information technology (IT) or Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to available professional institutions, industrial training and on-the-job training have made job/work functions and office practices easier and more pleasurable compared to what obtained in yesteryears.

No organisation will employ today someone who has not had an on-the-job training, to be able to do his/her work effectively. In today’s business world, somebody who does not attend a higher institution can perform the work of an executive officer if given proper training on the job, and equipped with the necessary tools to carry out his/her duties.

The polytechnic deserves proper government attention to be demonstrated through funding and provision of qualified manpower. The polytechnic should stop employing university graduate lecturers, who do not have technical education background. You cannot give what you don’t have. They do not have the necessary technical knowledge to inculcate in the students, and this is a contributing factor to the falling standard of technical/vocational education and technological development of the country.

Higher degree programmes/courses such as PGD and Ph.D should be run in polytechnics, too, such that the lecturers there can become professors when they have contributed to academic and professional journals. In addition, all the courses that are run in the university should also be included in the polytechnics curriculum. There should be a law that prohibits political office holders from sending their children to schools abroad except for higher degree or courses not available in Nigerian tertiary institutions.

Infrastructure and facilities should be upgraded and updated to fit international global best standards. This will not only help the government solve the problem of providing increasing access to tertiary education, but also give priority to polytechnic education as first choice for many Nigerians. There must be awareness created on the importance of vocational and technical education.

Nigeria has peculiar issues and we must begin to address them with all sense of patriotism and selflessness. I see hope and a better future for this nation if the people in government can start seeing Nigeria as the only home country they have. It is when they do so that they will pool together all the necessary resources, both human and natural, to make the country a more comfortable place for existence.  I love this country. I love Nigerians.

• Health Okhuarobo works with a bank in Lagos.

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”

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