PHILOSOPHERS OF EDUCATION ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA
UNIVERSITY OF PORT HARCOURT.
EDUCATION FOR POLITICAL STABILITY IN NIGERIA
Professor Emeritus, University of Port Harcourt.
Pro-chancellor and Chairman of Council,
Federal University Lokoja.
Email:firstname.lastname@example.org Wednesday 24 October 2018
Nigeria’s achievements as an independent sovereign state pale into insignificance when compared to nations with similar colonial experience. Despite its huge human and natural resources, Nigeria has not been able to evolve an egalitarian and prosperous society, with a stable political structure.
Nigeria became a country in 1914 when its British colonial masters amalgamated their northern and southern protectorates in the West African subcontinent by fiat. Since then, the country’s experience at evolving a stable polity as a basis for national cohesiveness and orderly development has been mixed. On the one hand, the country has remained inviolate despite powerful centrifugal and shearing forces, consequent largely upon a birth that resulted from the fusion, without their prior knowledge or consent, of several different ethnic communities, nation states and kingdoms with little or no convergence in language, culture or orientation. Its population has soared from mere single digit millions to current estimates of 190 to 200 million, the most populous in Africa, the 7th globally and with the prospect of becoming the third largest by 2050!!1 Furthermore, the country succeeded in gaining independence from its colonisers, commendably, without bloodshed and its citizens have spread from their base in Nigeria to many parts of the world where they often excel2 and hold responsible positions.3 On the other hand, juxtaposed against these remarkable strides and much more, are the not infrequent tumultuous eruptions of violent challenges to the institution of State which the country has contended with, all but from its start. I am referring to the many attempted, failed and successful military coup d’états; the several instances of sacking of democratically elected governments followed by the imposition of military dictatorship; the botched attempt at a breakaway by one of its component parts and the bitter three years civil war that was fought for its containment;4 the profound insecurity of lives and property that has become endemic as evidenced by widespread acts of kidnapping for ransom and the indiscriminate cases of murder and assassination; the on-going horrendous killings ascribed to the activities of herdsmen; the recent and current insurrections in the Niger Delta and North Eastern parts of the country respectively and the mayhem that frequently attends intraparty, state and national electoral processes – all, as if the country has transmogrified into a shadow of itself. Indeed, so unstable has the political firmament in Nigeria become,4&5 that there is currently a clamour for a restructuring of aspects of the governance and political system of the country so as to better ensure the nation’s corporate existence and enhance its political stability.6,7&8
With this introduction as a background, I will commence today’s keynote address by attempting to elucidate the concept of political stability and examine the situation in a few countries, including some in Africa, where, to all intents and purposes, political stability exists. These countries are usually peaceful; their citizens, by and large, law abiding and the future of their nations, all but assured. Next, I will review the state of affairs in Nigeria where many would reason that the polity has been unstable, probably, even before 1960 when the country obtained independence from its colonial masters. In doing that, I will point out some of the issues, which, in my view, have fueled the pervasive instability. Finally, I will examine the relation between education, or lack of it, and political stability and make recommendation on the type of education which, in my opinion, could foster political stability in Nigeria by encouraging its citizens to live in peace with one another, be law abiding and serve the country better.
CONCEPT OF POLITICAL STABILITY
In explaining the concept of political stability, the late Professor Claude Ake, a world- renowned political economist and, incidentally, one of the founding academic fathers of the University of Port Harcourt, the host institution for this conference, posited that obedience to the laws of a society upholds the authority of those who make decisions about the way the law should be and how it should be enforced. In the same vein, violation of the law is a political behaviour which is a defiance of constituted authority that threatens the maintenance of the existing pattern of power distribution to make decisions for society. When such defiance and violations continue to increase, political authority atrophies and instability results.9
Thus, political stability derives from the strength and integrity of a serving regime as manifested by the extent of support and approval it receives from its citizens and the extent to which social unrest, violence and strong challenges to its policies and the corporate existence of the nation is absent. In a way, it is an indication of government’s ability to grapple with the many problems it encounters in carrying out its multiple and complex responsibilities to the satisfaction of the generality of its citizens. It is this strong identification with, and manifest loyalty to the State and its institutions, independent of who currently governs, that heralds and signals a politically stable nation.10 And as was stated by Andreas Wimmer,10 for such stability to be achieved, political ties between citizens and the State should reach across ethnic divides.
Political stability is not an absolute concept; it is flexible. For even within countries that are considered to be stable, upheavals may occur from time to time and so, some countries may be adjudged more stable than others. It is therefore common to consider degree of stability while examining a group of countries that may be categorised as politically stable.11 For instance, Sweden and the United States of America are regarded as politically stable countries. But many would accept that Sweden is more so.
Most countries that are politically stable run modern, liberal democratic governments in which the participation of citizens in governance and decision making is assured through various selective and elective processes. The countries of western Europe constitute good examples. However, political stability is also found in a number of countries that run less inclusive and totalitarian governments based on communism, feudalism, autocracy and others. In some of these, the tranquillity, peace, prosperity and quality of life of the citizens could even be considered higher than obtains in countries with liberal democracies. United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven peaceful and highly prosperous emirates is run by a sovereign absolute monarchy system of government. Its neighbour, Saudi Arabia, is another example. China has a one-party political system but is remarkably stable politically.
SOME COUNTRIES WITH STABLE POLITY.
Botswana is a small landlocked country of just over 2 million persons located in Southern Africa. It gained independence from the British in 1966 and since then, has established a reputation for being a model of a stable, well-run democracy in the African sub-continent. In its 2017 global ranking, Transparency International placed Botswana with a score of 61 out of 100 as the 34th country with least Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) in the world and the 1st in Africa.12 Over the years, the country has transformed itself from one of the poorest in the world to an upper middle income one using returns from its natural resources of gold, uranium, copper, diamonds to establish and invest in future stable incomes.13 The country has never had a major insurrection against the State and accordingly, its reputation for peace and tranquility makes Botswana a haven for foreign tourists. In education, the country has placed emphasis on the development of human capital through education and skills development and has accordingly dedicated much of government funds to education.14
Furthermore, Botswana has been fortunate to have had good leadership since independence. Festus Mogae, an economist, who served as the country’s 4th vice-president (1992-1998) and later as its 3rd president (1998-2008) won the prestigious MO Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership in 2008 and several other awards for his exemplary leadership, especially his efforts at tackling poverty and unemployment. Not surprising, the country still had a Human Development Index of .698 (medium development) for 2017 despite the ravages it suffered from the spread of HIV/AIDS like several other countries in the sub-region.
Situated in East Africa and bordered by numerous others, the United Republic of Tanzania came into being in 1964 following a merger between Tanganyika and Zanzibar. It has an estimated population of about 60 million persons who speak over 130 languages. The country was fortunate to have been led by one of Africa’s most respected leaders, the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, who amongst other actions, took steps to strongly suppress ethnicity as a divisive force in his quest to forge a national identity for all Tanzanians by sustained nation-building ethos and education. The current president, the 5th, Dr. John Magufuli, is instituting further rational measures, such as curbing government’s expenditure on frivolous matters and establishing a strong aversion to corruption in order to stabilize the country. Thus, although Tanzania is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in Africa, altercations arising from ethnic divisions are rare in the country as compared to many others in the continent, including some with less ethnic separations. Since independence in 1964 therefore, the country has displayed more political stability than most other African countries.15,16&17
Located in south-east Asia, the Republic of India is big in many respects. In land mass, it is the 7th largest country in the world; its population of about 1.2 billion, of which about 800 million are under 35 years of age, is the second largest; while on the issue of governance, it is the world’s largest democracy. Despite these superlatives that other countries find hard to handle, in addition to the fact that the country’s population remains largely rural, the presence of poverty that is rife and the existence of strong ethnic diversities, multiple religions and a segregating caste system, India is remarkably stable politically. The country has had a good number of its leaders assassinated, including three from a single family – Mahatma Gandhi (1948), Indira Gandhi (1984) and Rajiv Gandhi (1991), but these tragedies and many others were carefully handled and not allowed to spill over into upheavals that threatened national survival. These were made possible through the assimilation of strong cultural beliefs as the firm basis of unity and character of the nation. According to Prime Minister Narendra Modi,18 it is this political stability that has enabled the country to make giant progressive strides in recent times with well-developed infrastructure and a highly diversified industrial base. The country has one of the world’s largest pools of medical, scientific and engineering personnel and three of the most populous and cosmopolitan cities – Mumbai, Calcutta and Delhi as well as three others, – Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad which are among the world’s fastest growing high technology centres – an achievement that is applied to great effect in all works of life especially in the food chain industry, medical care and software production.
These two countries in Southeast Asia are taken together for their close proximity and strong affinity with one another, to the extent, that they are even contemplating a merger. Colonised by Britain, they have both grown to become highly successful independent nation States with some of the best global economic indices, where GDP has grown by an average of 6.5% for over 50 years. Education and health are highly subsidised and are regarded as being among the best quality in the world. The polity is very stable and this, along with good leadership that the two countries have enjoyed – Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore and Mahathir Mohamad in Malaysia – has fueled the rapid economic transformation.
SOME COMMON DENOMINATORS
Reading through these case studies, It is possible to identify some common factors that enhanced political stability in the various countries. They include:
- Institution of social amenities that enhanced the prospects of a better life for the poor. Of these, education and health were prime. These amenities were either free or heavily subsidised at various levels and were of such good quality, that in some of the countries, they were considered as being among the global bests. The education and health systems in Malaysia, Singapore, and to some extent, India, so qualified and still are. Literacy rates in some of these countries are among the highest in the world and the health and education industries are huge. They offer employment opportunities to the indigenes and produce experts and graduates with internationally competitive skills and abilities. Thus, youth unemployment, with its associated frustration and sense of hopelessness is reduced.
- Leadership was purposeful and selfless. In all instances, each of these countries had a leader at some time who properly harnessed the resources of the country and channeled them to national development that benefited all strata of the society. In most instances, their leaders were not ostentatious but lived within their means and their good governance attracted global recognition. Even in India where some of these good leaders were assassinated, such actions were not allowed to topple the stability that existed. So, the nation recovered and continued on its path of orderly development.
- The rule of law prevailed at all times. Cases of impunity or subterfuge in which highly placed individuals took laws into their hands and subverted the rule of law were uncommon. The constitutions of these countries were supreme and people acted in obedience to their respective constitutions.
- Robust efforts were made by those in authority to meet the needs of their people through governance that was inclusive, transparent, people-oriented and largely devoid of corruption.
- Conscious and deliberate efforts were made to depolitisise ethnicity and religion. As much as possible, these elements were not allowed to play the divisive roles and the pressures that they exert on many communities and societies. Rather, the intrinsic values they offered in diversity and variation were exploited and incorporated into the national essence. India is a shining example where huge diverse groupings and complex traditional classifications, including a cast system have all been constantly managed with reasonable success and a positive knock-on effect on national stability.
- The countries have all made appreciable progress despite the fact that they were all once colonised by Britain.
- The military did not, at any time, interfere in the governance processes of these countries and the political establishments were allowed to learn from their own mistakes and to evolve better and more stable systems with time. Governments were changed only through constitutionally approved processes. Again, a heavily populated country like India with a huge standing army and a history of assassination of a good number of its leaders, has not had the experience of military intervention in governance.
SITUATION IN NIGERIA
Invasion of the National Assembly.
So vivid a demonstration of the fragility, impunity, volatility and instability that charcterise the rubric of the Nigerian polity was the event of 7 August 2018, that it serves as an appropriate platform on which to usher in this section. On that day, security operatives from the office of country’s Director of State Security (DSS), in hooded masks and allegedly carrying various assault weapons, invaded and occupied the national assembly premises ostensibly to prevent members from gaining access to their chambers! The confusion, fear and apprehension the action provoked nationwide and in the international arena was immense. But as is so often the case, that Nigeria gets pulled back from the brink just at its tipping point, a drift to anarchy was averted by the prompt action taken by the nation’s then Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who roundly condemned the occupation, describing it as unauthorised, unconstitutional and an attack on the nation’s democracy and the rule of law. He promptly dismissed the DSS, got him arrested and appointed an acting DSS pending the appointment of a substantive one.
Nigeria is no stranger to such bizarre actions that defy reason and shake the very foundation of its nationhood, like the invasion of the National Assembly as described above. Perhaps a good point to commence the recall will be on the events that occurred in the then Western region of the country between the late 1950s and early 1960s where many persons were doused with petrol and publicly set ablaze in a malady called operation wetie! The turmoil arose from political disagreement within the Action Group, the political party then in power in the region which resulted in a free for all fight in the regional legislative assembly in which the mace was broken. Operation wetie was the spill over of the crisis from the political party to the streets and homes of ordinary people. The Federal Government, in an effort to control the chaos, in order to prevent it from extending to other parts of the country, sacked the Governor General of the region, Chief Adesoji Aderemi and on 29 May 1962, appointed Dr. Moses Majekodumi, a gynaecologist of great repute as sole administrator of the region.19
Military coup d’états
From a multiplicity of remote and immediate causes, a chain of military coup d’états followed on the heels of the near state of anarchy in the western region, commencing from January 1966. In all, there were not less than eight of such coups, ranging from the two in 1966 – only six years after independence – to the last one in 1993. However, despite this number, the military, till this day, with their hands in every pie, have a stranglehold on the country, having been in power effectively for 33 years (1966-1999) except during the short-lived return to democracy between 1979 and 1983. Outside the devastating effect these coups have had on the psyche of the nation, many persons, military and civilian, highly placed and lowly placed, including serving heads of state of the country and serving governors of regions, lost their lives during those periods of forced take overs.
Civil War and Biafran Agitation
No sooner had the first military coup taken place on 15 January 1966, than it was seen through the prism of ethnicity. Allegations were rife that the coup was executed by Ibo army officers to eliminate important persons from the northern region, especially those of the Hausa/Fulani stock within and outside the army. This ignited and fanned a feeling of aversion against the Ibos and their supposed neighbours and relations, especially those who were resident in various parts of the then northern Nigeria. Unfortunately, the Ibo – Hausa/Fulani altercation continued and became a national problem which led to the declaration of secession on 30 May 1967 from Nigeria by the then Eastern Nigeria under the name, Biafra, where most of the Ibos resided. The Federal Government pronounced the secession an act of treason and so fought a 3-year war between 1967 and 1970 against Biafra and returned the region into the federation of Nigeria. The destruction, human misery and loss of lives, occasioned by the civil war and its antecedents in various parts of the country was colossal, up to a million deaths by some accounts. And although Eastern Nigeria was rehabilitated and reintegrated into the Federal Republic of Nigeria, clamour for the establishment of a separate country of Biafra, this time under a new leadership called the Independent People of Biafra – IPOB- is still prevalent in Nigeria. The group has a strong presence in the social media which it uses to transmit intense hate speeches aimed at destabilizing the Nigerian federation.20
Between 1980 and 1985 Nigeria experienced a series of violent uprisings of groups operating in and around Kano metropolis, under the leadership of one Muhammadu Marwa, a Cameroonian who resided there and vociferously opposed the Nigerian state. The insurrections were religiously inspired and were used as a forum to condemn western education and culture, branding those who sent their children and wards to state schools as infidels. Consisting mainly of poor, deprived, young men, the groups caused mayhem which resulted in the death and disability of thousands of Nigerian Muslims and Christians who resided in the north of the country.21,22
Boko Haram Insurrection
Like as a follow up to the Maitatsine groupings, another destabilising force arose from the same area at the turn of the century. Developed into a jihadist frontier in 2009, Boko Haram has been designated a terrorist group, based in North-Eastern Nigeria and parts of Chad, northern Cameroon and Niger Republic that has caused great instability, fear, apprehension and murder in Nigeria. It seeks to establish an Islamic state in the country and like its forerunner, the Maitatsine sect, advocates that western education is evil. Since the current insurgency in Nigeria in 2009, Boko Haram has killed tens of thousands and displaced over 2 million from their homes. The group carries out mass abductions including that of the 276 Chibok girls in April 2014, targets important infrastructure, buildings and offices, like the bombing of the UN headquarters as well as various police establishments and religious worship centres like mosques and churches. It occupies territories and in 2014 had political and physical control over more than 50,000 sq. Kilometres in the Sambisa forest of Nigeria. It is the first terrorist organisation to introduce suicide bombing even by underaged children in Nigeria. On account of its potentials for catastrophic destruction of the Nigerian society, the Nigerian army is currently in a state of war with this organisation.23
Militancy in the Niger Delta
Petroleum was discovered in commercial quantities in Oloibiri in the Niger Delta of Nigeria about 1953 and subsequently in many other parts of the same area. Accordingly, the sale of crude oil in the international market grew steadily and eventually became the main source for harvesting the foreign exchange needed by the country to run its affairs. Agitations soon began from the inhabitants of the land alleging marginalisation, exploitation, non-inclusion and destruction of their ecosystems and means of livelihood. These agitations grew rapidly into the formation of all kinds of militant groups, especially among the Ijaws and the Ogonis in the area who engaged in all manner of atrocities including the bombing of oil installations, vandalisation of pipelines, kidnappings for ransom, assassinations, piracy and much more, making the area very unstable.
Yet another serious problem of insecurity which has persisted in Nigeria and left thousands of people dead in recent decades is the one posed by the activities of herdsmen. These are semi-nomadic, rural cattle rearers, mostly of Fulani ethnic origin who live in the central districts of Nigeria, predominantly in the Middle Belt. They are usually Muslims and have often clashed with indigenous local tribes who are predominantly Christians over grazing lands for several years. They kill, maim, destroy houses and churches and confiscate lands and properties making life in that environment very unsafe.
Outside the examples given above, other instances, such as the Kano crisis of 1953, the census crisis of 1962/1963, the election crises of 1964,1979 and the annulled one of 12 June 1993, as well as the Occupy Nigeria protest of January 2012 and many more, all depict volatility and insecurity, the hallmarks of instability that define the political landscape of Nigeria. Furthermore, apart from these specific instances, there is general insecurity in the country arising from the activities of criminal gangs that are called by various names – cult boys, area boys, militants – who molest, rob, maim, kidnap and at times kill innocent citizens on the roads, highways and waterways, making road and riverine transportation quite hazardous in the country. In response, people take the law into their hands and those who can afford it, hire policemen with guns to protect them. No section of the country is immune from these dangers, although the threat levels differ; they are worse in the North East and Niger Delta.
FACTORS THAT ENHANCE INSTABILITY IN NIGERIA.
From the accounts given, many factors can be identified that have sustained the persistent instability in Nigeria. These factors include:
- Military incursion into politics: The military’s incursion into politics in Nigeria, so shortly after it gained independence from its colonial masters, destablised a country with weak foundation from its nascent shaky roots. It truncated the nation’s experience with democracy for about 30 years, denying her the opportunity of learning from experiences with the democratic process. Rather, the country was made to contend with a system of governance that was devoid of debate and consensus building but one that acted by commands and fiats with an array of destablising consequences. It is therefore not surprising that the country has not been able to severe itself from this grip by the military and their proteges who still feature in most of the nation’s polity.
- Religion and Ethnicity: Instead of respecting individual religious beliefs and building on the diversity that ethnicity offers to a secular state, these two elements have often been exploited by the political class, persons in authority, the elite and the wealthy to divide and set Nigerians against one another. Sadly, therefore, religious differences, particularly between Muslims and Christians and ethnicity, between the various tribes in the country, have been behind the many communal conflicts that have occurred in Nigeria. They played a major role in the coups that took place in 1966 and the disaffection that occurred thereafter in Northern Nigeria, that eventually led to the attempted secession by Biafra and the 3 years civil war that was fought to contain it.
- Reluctance to accept the Nigerian State: Even after living side by side in the same political formation called Nigeria for more than 100 years, many Nigerians still do not see themselves as belonging to the same country. Their loyalty to the country is tenuous and they associate more with their tribe than the country. Many lack a sense of national pride.
- Census: Head count has always been a sensitive issue in Nigeria as demographic characteristics are used as bases for the determination of who gets what from governments. Census results are therefore often disputed, at times violently, as communities accuse one another of having falsified their numbers in order to have undue advantage. But outside the rift it causes between communities, falsified population figures make planning for development difficult for governments.
- Elections: Elections in Nigeria constitute serious flashpoints for riots, killings and conflicts. This is so because political offices are considered to be so lucrative that those who vie for them and their supporters use whatever means at their disposal, fair or foul, to get elected. Thus, most election results are not only robustly disputed but also become the grounds for protests which in some cases degenerate into violence in which lives and properties are lost.
- Poverty: Despite the huge income Nigeria has derived from the sale of crude oil, and gas, estimated at N77.348 trillion between 1999 and 2016, Nigeria has remained a poor country with a GDP per capita of 2412.41 US dollars in 2017. The country has been unable to utilise the funds so obtained to satisfactorily improve the lives of its citizens and to develop the economy properly. The resultant high unemployment rates especially among youths and professional groups have led to frustration, desperation and recourse to crime and criminality.24 Thus, poverty is believed to be behind many of the crimes and crises in Nigeria, including that in the North East.
After: Takwa, Z. (2018) ‘An Analysis of the Root Causes and Drivers of the Crisis in North-East Nigeria’, Abuja: UNDP
- Corruption: Many believe that corruption – illicit transactions, especially the giving and taking of bribes to secure undue advantage – is rife in Nigeria; Transparency International, lists Nigeria as the 148th (out of 180) most corrupt country in the world. Corruption manifests itself in all aspects of the nation’s life including governance, judiciary, political activities, law enforcement, business and many others, making the country inefficient, wasteful, dishonest and lacking transparency in many aspects of its public and private life. All strata of the society suffer from the effects of corruption but the poorest of the poor bear the heaviest burden. It is this destructive and destabilising power of corruption on the fortunes of the country that has made President Buhari to reiterate his popular refrain on many occasions that if Nigeria does not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.,
- Weak institutions: Many countries owe their strength and stability, including their standing in international circles to the ability and efficiency of their institutions, irrespective of the activities of the government or persons in power. These institutions include the judiciary, law enforcement agents, public services, especially, those of education and health. Sadly, most institutions in Nigeria are weak and their operators pander to the whims and caprices of government and persons in power. Citizens and non-citizens exploit this weakness, commit crime and banditry and destablise the country.
- Political parties without ideologies: Since it is political parties that form governments which take charge of the affairs of a country, strong, disciplined political parties with clearly defined ideologies that are aimed at good governance, translate to strong, effective governments when in power. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case with the political parties in Nigeria. They do not appear to be driven by strong ideologies and this is manifest in the lack luster governments that they run. Nothing has brought this more strongly to the fore than the recent indiscriminate wave of defections across political parties. Politicians in Nigeria therefore, tend to run political systems where thugs and bandits play major roles, destabilising the country at every turn. The lack of ideologies is also evident in the spate of decamping from one party to another by high ranking political leaders and elected officers.
- Inequity and lack of fairness: This is what the agitators from the Niger Delta of Nigeria say is behind the series of protests, destructions and mayhem they have inflicted on the Nigerian nation since they commenced such destablising operations to draw global attention to their plight. They contrast the trillions of US dollars Nigeria has earned since 1958 when crude oil extracted from their land was sold by the country with how little has been ploughed back into the place and how little, that huge harvest has impacted on the quality of their lives. Unfortunately, it is not only in the Niger Delta that inequity and lack of fairness is of concern in Nigeria. Some say it is behind the renewed push for a separate state of Biafra.
- Impunity and non-adherence to the requirements of the law: The culture of impunity by which one brazenly carries out various actions in complete contravention of the law and on the perfect understanding that one would get away with it, is common in Nigeria. It is perpetuated by highly placed officials, law enforcement agents as well as hoodlums and bandits because sanctions arising from breaches of the law, are hardly applied. These actions rank from large scale killings as was the case in Benue state and other parts of central Nigeria recently, to the monumental stealing of public funds as alleged by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission of the country (EFCC). The country thus becomes a heaven for all manner of crimes and hooliganism.
- The amalgamation of various peoples, kingdom states and tribes that had no affinity or affiliation with one another into one country called Nigeria, by command, is another strong source of distabilisation in the country. It is this factor that is fueling the current agitation for a restructuring of Nigeria.
It will be incorrect to conclude, from this account that Nigeria has done nothing to fix its instability all these years and to stem the strong tendency to anarchy that so many situations, including widespread corrupt practices, so often, place on it. Available evidence here suggests that the country has made some progress in that direction, despite sharp criticisms on some of the actions taken and the way they were arrived at. For instance, the country has continued to remain one despite strong divisive forces and has enjoyed uninterrupted democratic rule since 1999, without a military takeover. Furthermore, unlike what has never happened in many African countries, Nigeria ran a nation-wide election in 2015 in which a political party that was in opposition won, followed by’ a peaceful handover! Some of the other major actions which the State has taken to enhance national cohesion, de-emphasis tribalism, fight corruption and alleviate the plight of the poor, all of which constitute potent forces of destabilisation include:
- Nigeria created 12 states from the three regions of the country and subsequently, 36 states from the 12 states. This was done to enhance regional autonomy, remove the fear of domination of minorities by larger groups and fast track overall national development.
- 774 Local Governments were created in 1991 to enhance grass roots development.
- Government established the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in 1973, in an effort to reunite and reintegrate all sections of the Nigerian society after the 3 years bitter civil war experiences. Through the NYSC, young out-of-school graduates integrate with people from different ethnic groups, social and family backgrounds and learn to appreciate the culture of ethnic groups, other than theirs. It involves the posting of graduates of universities and polytechnics to serve for one year in states other than theirs and Its success is affirmed by the many corps members who, following their year of service, have settled in states other than theirs and also the many trans-tribal marriages that have emanated from its operations.
- Government amended its first constitution of 1963 in 1999 in an effort to evolve a political structure which it felt would better serve the needs of its people.
- In an effort to stem the heinous crime of kidnapping, the Senate of the country in 2017, passed a bill which outlawed abduction, wrongful restraint or confinement for ransom. It approved the death sentence for whoever engages in the act and a 30-year jail sentence for anybody that colludes with an abductor. At least 13 states, including Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Edo, Kano, Ogun, Oyo, Rivers and Lagos, also have similar provisions.
- Government established the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) in 2000 and 2002 respectively and mandated as well as empowered them to use all legal means – advocacy, education, arrest and prosecution to eradicate corrupt practices in Nigeria, especially those involving financial transactions.
- Recognising the immense social tension and communal disparities that poverty creates, many governments in Nigeria, both at state and federal levels, established, at various times, poverty alleviation programmes that were specifically designed to help the poor and to minimise the frustration and hopelessness that poverty causes. Without prejudice to their level of success, from the very first one of Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) in 1978 to the more recent ones of Meals for School Children, Cash advancement of N5,000.00 to one million poor Nigerians, and the N Power for Unemployed Graduates, they have been many such efforts.
EDUCATION AND POLITICAL STABILITY
Nigeria is not the only country where the political system has had difficulties; some others, even in Africa, have had far worse experiences from which they recovered. Rwanda, a landlocked country in East Africa with an estimated population of 12 million had inter-tribal hatred and wars in 1994 of such magnitude that they degenerated into a genocide of one major tribe against a minority one, in which an estimated 2 million persons lost their lives. Today, the country has fully recovered and is doing well by all accounts under the able leadership of Mr. Paul kagame and even hoping to become a regional leader in information and communication technologies by 2020.25 Similarly, South Africa, suffered under the obnoxious yoke of apartheid in which system, races were segregated and compelled to live apart from one another for the better part of 50 years, from 1948 to the 1990s, despite strong and consistent opposition to the policy within and outside South Africa in which many died and many more suffered untold hardship, imprisonment, torture and dehumanization. Today, a democratic governance exists in South Africa and the country has been fully reintegrated into the international community. In the same vein, the expectation is that Nigeria would eventually overcome its difficulties and launch itself on a sustained path of peace and national development without hindrance by its shenanigans.
To bring such an aspiration to fruition, several options are open to Nigeria: clamp down heavily on those who perpetuate corruption; ensure transparency and fairness in public services – headcounts, elections, distribution of amenities, appointment to public offices and much more. However, for any or all of these approaches to have the desired effect, the citizens of the country must perceive it as being right and as being ultimately in their favour. This is where the game changer that quality education has proven to be, comes into focus, because of the profound effect it has on national growth and stability. In this last and final section of the lecture, I will survey the relationship between education and political stability and make recommendation on the type of education which could enhance political stability in Nigeria.
The huge investments made by nations, communities, families and individuals in education is grounded on the proven ability of education to contribute positively to a people’s growth and welfare. Thus, education raises the manpower for a nation to carry out its vital services to its people – teachers to nurture its students; engineers to build towns, roads and bridges; nurses to care for the sick and infirm and much more. It cultivates various individuals who rise to become leaders and take charge of the affairs of the nation, communities and families at various levels. It teaches skills and competences required for specialised activities and for everyday living. At the individual level, education is important for enlightenment and upward social mobility. Thus, education is the primary mechanism for intensifying human resources which is a critical factor for progress and development at all levels. It also serves as the most important impute for a nation’s positive social and economic outcomes.
Outside these issues that deal with literacy, numeracy and skills and their expected outcomes, education is also expected to inculcate morals and the norms of good behaviour in its recipients. It should dispel ignorance and apathy, teach self-control and the ability to discern and rationalise. In this way, education becomes a social contract that makes the educated accept to live in obedience to the rule of law rather than by their own natural instincts. Education therefore assumes a particularly important role in the maintenance of order and the process of keeping a state stable. Furthermore, education should dispel false beliefs, bigotry, blind followership, crowd manipulation and other such pernicious activities which eclipse reason and provoke mass hysteria in people as they constitute important causes of disorder and threats to the sovereign state. Education should instruct people of their civic duties so that they understand the legitimacy of a duly constituted power and see why it is in their interest to submit to it. On its part, the State should also earn the loyalty of the citizens by ruling justly and ensuring the contentment and prosperity of all.
Mere attendance at classrooms does not guarantee these important attributes that are expected of the education process. They are achieved only through a rigorous process of discipline and commitment on the part of educators to make quality, the essence of education. Qualitative education thus becomes the hallmark of an education process in which learning outcomes are strictly adhered to and verified in all students. For it is such students, who on graduation, exhibit the deference, respect and patriotism to the State that foster national stability. Such stability enhances national prosperity which douses frustration and disruptive tendencies.
It is therefore not surprising that countries with the best educational indices are often, also the ones that are most stable politically. The Scandinavian countries fit this bill. Finland, a remarkably stable country has featured near the top of league tables for educational performance since 2000, whether children are tested on literacy, numeracy or science.26 The approach is that the country hires the best to teach in their schools, establishes good schools for all pupils and thereby narrows the gap between the best and worst students. In addition, the country has developed other social welfare packages that comprehensively meet the needs of all, especially the poor.
Education in Nigeria has had its challenges. From the motto of the Federal Ministry of Education which states – to use education for fostering development of all Nigerian Citizens to their full potentials in the promotion of a strong, democratic, egalitarian, prosperous, indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation under God – it is evident that education is meant to serve as a potent force to advance the course of all Nigerians and get them to promote the progression of a strong, united country, with stable polity. The corollary is that where education fails on the various pillars on which it stands, especially with respect to those of quality and morals, this expectation may become unsustainable and the foundation of the sovereign state may quiver and wobble. This, in my view, is what is currently happening in Nigeria.
The period of colonial Nigeria and that shortly thereafter, saw strong and qualitative education in the country at all levels – primary, secondary and tertiary. This description largely applied whether educational institutions were set up by governments, or private, or faith-based organisations. The teachers were generally dedicated; students, by and large, learnt; and the products of the system, very good and comparable to the best anywhere. Little wonder such products took on the onerous responsibility of effectively running the affairs of the country following the exit of the colonialists after independence. However, as the nation commenced on its difficult pathway, accentuated by military coups, a number of events occurred that affected education adversely. Corruption became a component of life in Nigeria and poverty soared. Education was neglected and poorly funded leading to the dilapidation of educational infrastructure, absence of essential tools and materials, like laboratory reagents, books and much more. Teachers’ commitment plummeted, they left the profession in droves and the system suffered immensely. So also, the products of the system who, in most instances, no longer had that intense discipline and moral force which sound education inculcated in its recipients. The course of action for the nation is therefore clear. It must return that quality education that gave it the stability it enjoyed in its early years of nation building. It must harness its large out-of-school population, currently put
at over nine million children,27 probably the largest in the world and give them a future through qualitative education. Furthermore, the country should continue to confront its past through bold steps to address serious issues like those that have to do with general insecurity, herdsmen’s problems, religious bigotry and tribal chauvinism so as to achieve a more stable political environment.
This paper has argued that it is the decay in the Nigerian education system, especially on issues of the quality and morals of its output which commenced when the country stepped on its slippery path that has resulted in its inability to produce men of letters along with those of character, as it once did. It argued further that this deficit, coupled with an inclement and harsh social environment in which corruption thrives, poverty is rife, impunity reigns, unemployed persons, especially of the youths, are in staggering numbers, has resulted in a shortage of persons with the correct orientation and aptitude to nation building. It has brought about a short fall in those who understand why it is ultimately in every one’s interest to live by the rule of law, be their brothers’ keepers and support legitimate governments, which constitute the core of political stability. Thus, the lack of principles and a national culture that manifests in most citizens being unable to do the right thing purely for its sake, has resulted in the disarray and disorder that characterise the Nigerian society today. It is in this vein that VALUES EDUCATION is suggested as a way through which Nigeria can stem these difficulties.
And here I hasten to state that neither the terminology – values education, nor the concept is new; they have been used repeatedly and only recently by the well-respected public speaker, Professor Emeritus Anya O Anya.28 Furthermore, the concept of Values Education is also the basis of a thriving foundation which has been established in the name of one of our sages in this university as in the global field of education as well as being a foundation trustee of PEAN, the nonagenarian, Professor Emeritus Otonti Nduka, who happily, is here with us today.
Values Education should seek to inculcate the positive values of truthfulness, honesty, transparency, justice, morality, respect, fairness, tolerance, national consciousness hard work as foundational and fundamental issues not just in pupils and students at Primary and Secondary Schools in Nigeria but indeed to all at all strata of educational programmes. For, in addition to the acquisition of knowledge and skills, these values are required to sustain a modern, democratic, scientifically-oriented, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, pluralistic society with stable polity.29
What is being advocated here is the frequent, persistent and repetitive teaching of these core values and the advantages they confer on a society so that their practice becomes a way of life as they are in a number of other countries. This is different from the many ad- hoc previous efforts – President Shehu Shagari’s Ethical Revolution of 1982, the War Against indiscipline of 1984 and many others – which did not achieve the desired long-term objectives.
Let me commence my closing remarks by thanking PEAN for asking me to deliver this keynote address. I find my choice for this honour, humbling as it was made in spite of my not being a member of your great association with its impressive array of erudite scholars and coming from what could be considered a faraway discipline like gynaecology. My profound appreciation for the recognition is therefore not misplaced.
Education for Political Stability in Nigeria, your pick of title for today’s keynote address, suggests to me that your association is concerned that there appears to be a mismatch between education in our country, and what its outcome should be. Indeed, as philosophers, for whom thinking, knowledge acquisition, wisdom and intellectual culture are of the essence, it seems to me that you have exercised your minds deeply and asked if Nigeria is living in its best possible form? Are the concepts of discipline, self-reliance and patriotism which the Nigerian constitution espouses as national ethics, political utopia, inordinate dreams or hopeless fantasies? I dare say, I share your concern because in Nigeria, there appears a lack of correlation between the activities of the educated class and lack of development as quite often, it is persons from that class that exploit religious and ethnic sentiments to polarise the polity of the country for their personal and selfish interests.
Nigeria went down a critical spiral when the military intervened in its polity for the better part of 33 years and was unable to make good on its promises but rather upset a balance that was intricate and delicate. Although some of their actions were reformist – creation of states, massive expansion of the local government structure, establishment of specific structures to combat corruption – the country has, thus far, been unable to sufficiently address some of the serious harms which came strongly to the fore during some of the years of military interregnum – massive corruption and the abrogation of a merit driven system for competition. These drawbacks fuelled impunity and poverty and led to spikes in all manner of crimes with attendant national destabilisation. The disdain the military showed for education at the time was particularly hurtful as it set a pattern of decline in the system which lingers till date, especially in its quality and moral content.
Quality education that fosters aspirational fulfilment by the generality of the citizens enhances national cohesion, accord and political stability. It also inculcates values for civic responsibility, respect for the State and patriotism in addition to teaching literacy, numeracy and skills needed for advancement and everyday living. The flip side is also true. Where qualitative education is not given a pride of place and citizens see only destitution, hopelessness, desolation and lack of purpose as their future, the centrality of national cohesion neither has an appeal nor indeed any meaning for them. Accordingly, they live a life of crime and question the existence and authority of the State in every conceivable manner including civil disobedience, armed insurrections and failure to live by the rule of law. This culminates in national instability.
The road to the solution of Nigeria’s political problems will not come easily as the venerated author, Chinua Achebe said in one of his last books, There was a Country. But Nigeria must continue to work at it; it must fix its educational system.
I wish PEAN well and thank you all for your attention.
1.Duruiheoma, Eze. Chairman, National Population Commission of Nigeria at the 51st. session of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development, 9-13 April 2018
- Saheela Ibraheem, 15 years old Nigerian girl resident in New Jersey, USA, admitted into Harvard University, 2018.
- Chinua Achebe. (2012) There was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra. Allen Lane publisher.
- Harvard University uses Nigeria as a failed state of an African country. https://www.myjoyonline.com/world/2018/april-23rd/harvard-university-uses-nigeria-as-a-case-study-of-a-failed-african-country.php.
6, Communique issued at the end of the Igbo Summit of Ohaneze Ndi Igbo at Awka, Nigeria on 21 May 2018.
- Report of APC Committee on Restructuring led by Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna State. January 2018.
- His Excellency Governor Sarieke Dickson, Governor of Bayelsa State of Nigeria. (2018) Personal Communication.
- Andreas Wimmer. https//aeon.co/essays/why-some-countries-come-together-while-others-fall-apart.
- Ekekwe. EN. 2018. Personal Communication.
12 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index 2017
- The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency 2018.
- Bosupeng, M (2015) Payoffs of Education Expenses in Botswana: Long Run Economic Implications. Journal of Applied Economics and Business Research.JAEBR 5 (2):85-96.
- Pierre Englebert and Kevin C. Dunn, “Inside African Politics” 2013: 81
- Henry Bienen and John Waterbury, “World Development Vol 17”, 1989: 100
- Bjerk, Paul (2015). Building a Peaceful Nation: Julius Nyerere and the Establishment of Sovereignty in Tanzania, 1960–1964. Rochester, NY: Rochester University Press. ISBN9781580465052.
- Political stability behind India’s development strides: PM Narendra Modi. The Economic Times. April 3, 2016.
- Diamond L. (1988) Crisis and Conflict in the Western Region, 1962–63. In: Class, Ethnicity and Democracy in Nigeria. Palgrave Macmillan, London.
- Anthony, Douglas. 2014. “‘Ours Is a War of Survival’: Biafra, Nigeria and Arguments about Genocide, 1966–70.” Journal of Genocide Research 16, no. 2–3, 205–225
- Adimbola O. Adesoji, “Between Maitatsine and Boko Haram: Islamic Fundamentalism and the Response of the Nigerian State,” Africa Today, Vol. 57, No. 4 (2011), pp. 98-119.
22.Elizabeth Isichei, “The Maitatsine Risings in Nigeria 1980-85: A Revolt of the Disinherited,” Journal of Religion in Africa, Vol. 17, No. 3 (1987), pp. 194-208.
- Pisa, Katie; Hume, Tim (19 November 2015). “Boko Haram overtakes ISIS as world’s deadliest terror group, report says”. Cable Network News.
- http//www.history. /com/topics/Rwandan-genocide.
- The Guardian Weekly Review. Finland Spreads Word on Schools. 19 July, 2013.
- Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics 2017
- Anya, OA. Values Education and National Stability. Keynote Address at the Otonti Nduka Foundation For Values Education. Hotel Presidential Port Harcourt. Tuesday, 23rd January 2018.