Tony Ademiluyi: Unmasking Jonathan’s Speech

The defeat of King Harold by the Norman William the Conqueror in the Battle of the Hastings in 1067 saw the ascent of French culture in England. French became the language of the court with the English language being reduced to the vernacular not to be spoken in public by the Nobles.

Cultural nationalism slowly began a decade later with the subtle push for the English culture to regain its pride of place. The nationalists saw education as an effective tool for the rapid diffusion of ideas. Around 1096, Oxford University became the first institution of higher learning to be established in the country which later became the world’s largest empire. From 1167, it gained immense popularity as King Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris that was the then popular destination. It was a surreptitious victory for the nationalists as the King was more French than English as he had more lands in France. His later estranged wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine was permanently domiciled in France where minstrels composed poems in her honour.

Less than a century after its establishment, it became the pre-eminent citadel of learning in the entire Europe and had the admiration of Kings, Popes and the thought leaders throughout the continent.

After the defeat of former President Goodluck Jonathan last year, some pundits wondered how he would spend the rest of his time! He didn’t have the gift of the garb and so we weren’t expecting another Bill Clinton or Tony Blair.

His speech to students of the University of Oxford on the 24th of October this year is not surprisingly generated a lot of interest from within and outside the country. As the former leader of the most populous black nation in the globe, he was bound to be in the spotlight.

Some of the key points made are worth examining carefully. He acknowledged the critical role that entrepreneurship plays in the continent when he said ‘This discussion is topical for our global search for development and security. The issue of youth entrepreneurship in Africa is very critical, as Africa is the only continent in which we will witness a population boom in our lifetime’. It is a well-known fact that other continents of the world most notably North America and Europe are experiencing an ageing population. Africa has the potential to give a combination of China and India a fierce run for their population size which explains the more than passing interest in the investment opportunities in the world’s second largest continent. The massive youth unemployment is a combination of bad leadership and the inability to prepare the youths to key into the changing times. The sinister role of corruption in Africa and by extension Nigeria’s underdevelopment has already been well rehashed but how prepared are these youths in Nigeria for the challenges of living in the fast-paced 21st century which is largely characterised by disruptive innovations?

He mentioned that he gave education top priority both as the Governor of Bayelsa State and President of the country when he said ‘After much soul searching, my conviction in regards to these questions is this: wealth is a creation of the human mind properly prepared by education.

It is my firm belief that any Nation that does not spend its wealth and resources to developing the capacity of its youth  will eventually be forced to devote its resources to fight insecurity amongst those same youths.

As a leader, you can decide through your policies to educate the youths, or face the consequences of failing to do so. The problem all African leaders have is how to manage the youth bulge. Do we consider this a ticking time bomb or an opportunity?’

He went on to reel out the achievements of his administration when he massively built schools in virtually all parts of the country most especially in the northern part which has the infamy of being the most backward despite the fact that they have produced the most political leaders. We don’t dispute his adding to the number of already existing educational institutions but we are at a loss on how it has solved the major problem of poverty that is the tragic fate of many Nigerian youths. Getting a postgraduate is insufficient to ward off the hunger pangs in this day and age. Many youths go abroad to obtain very expensive degrees which have still left a sizeable number of them economically handicapped upon their return home. The avalanche of institutions of higher learning both public and private has done little to ameliorate the plight of the unemployed.  Of what use is it to create a system that proliferates the establishment of higher learning institutions and not prepare the minds of these graduates to do things differently so that they don’t become liabilities. A major flaw of the Nigerian educational system is the sense of entitlement that it makes its graduates possess. This worked in Jonathan’s generation when the oil boom and the fewer number of graduates got car loans and had job picking options. The educational system tragically has failed to evolve to tune the minds of the graduates to not see a job as a meal ticket but to see their stay in school as an opportunity for self-development to unleash their hidden potential that may be answers to recurring challenges. By 2020 according to the Fast Company magazine, half of the entire workforce of Americans will work on a freelance basis and the independent worker bug is spreading like wildfire throughout the wall. Nigeria is not isolated from the globe. The relationship between modern day employers and employees is one of partners with mutual interest and is well explained in Reid Hoffman’s ‘The Alliance.’ Is it realistic to still be preaching that getting a higher education is enough to succeed as his speech seemed to suggest? Will the cheaper reality of independent contracting make it the employer’s best interest to create more jobs with monthly pay checks? How did his school project which focused on building more schools and exporting some to study in foreign climes create a new independent mindset in the graduates to be solution providers? Did it reduce the heart wrenching queues at job interviews? There was no mention of a government backed philosophy that fuelled an ideology of self-reliance in such a way that the psyche of an average graduate is worked on to get their hands legitimately dirty. We remember the Winneba Ideological Institute which Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah built shortly after independence to entrench a national philosophy of hard work in all Ghanaians. Everyone from student, civil servant and politician were required to attend and it ended up as an enduring legacy because the culture of hard work was taken by his countrymen to all the ends of the earth when harsh economic situations forced many of them into exile. I recall the preference of Ghanaian workers while growing up. Jonathan failed to work on the minds of the youths. The increases in educational institutions have done nothing to abate the ticking time bomb and that is a colossal failure as a policy maker.

He mentioned the You win programme as his solution to providing entrepreneurship opportunities for the ill equipped youths. How many jobs did the ‘lottery’ create? What was the vision of the extravaganza? What was the incubation process? Why did it collapse even under his Presidency? Did his administration create the enabling environment for entrepreneurs to thrive? He tried to link the success of the Co-Creation Hub to the creation of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology. If Bosun Tijani and Femi Longe had waited for the ministry’s backing, it would have been worse than Waiting for Godot. What about the mind boggling corruption allegations that dogged his administration? Did that create opportunities for the youths?

It is hilarious that Jonathan has now morphed into a tragi-comedian for some bored folks in the land of our erstwhile colonial masters who need some warmth to brace up squarely for the impending winter.

History can never be re-written even with the best public relations stuff. Stalin, Hitler with the best propagandist machinery failed woefully in that attempt.

The late afrobeat maestro, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti had a major titled where he said ‘Dem don release you but you never release yourself.’ The same colonial mentality that the Bard-Prophet sang decades back played itself out when Jonathan had to seek validation of a wise use of his mandate from a foreign audience.

The loud mouthed Donald Trump may have been right when he said Africa needs a second round of colonalisation.

Tony Ademiluyi

Views expressed are solely that of author and does not represent views of nor its associates


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