I think it is time to have all our political gladiators, regardless of political affiliations and parties, come together to declare a state of emergency on education. Can we agree on a long-term plan, enshrine this somewhere, possibly as an act and work on this regardless of who is in power?


Am I the only who thinks that the general elections, this year, will be a war of nice looking pictures on huge billboards and jingles, rather than a war of substance, manifestos and actual deliverables? Which makes me worry that rather than preparing to come out of our political quagmire, we seem to be digging in deeper. We seem to be moving away from addressing the real issues to focusing on niceties.

It wasn’t too long ago, 2014/2015, that we experienced what I believed to be a heightened awareness and consciousness around the role of the individual in rebuilding our country, Nigeria. People were vocal. Many people were chanting and demanding for change. But this time around, there seems to be a strange silence. I don’t know if what we are currently going through is helplessness or nonchalance. Or perhaps we are content and happy with the state of things? I am inclined to go with the former.

As one who wants good governance, and wishes to enjoy the dividends of democracy, I feel a sense of duty to pay attention to the political aspect of our lives. So, I am on the lookout for the candidate most worthy of my vote.

What are the qualities I am looking for in that person who I believe should lead this country?

I think Nigeria needs a visionary leader. We need a leader who works for today but plans for the future. A leader who ought to know that we don’t need to wait until we have tackled all of today’s issues before we start focusing on tomorrow’s issues.
Years ago, as a young girl, I used to be mesmerised by economists. I thought their brains were wired differently from the rest of us, until I realised that most of them simply use yesterday and today’s information to tell us about tomorrow. What is special about that some will ask? Oh well, the Nigerian case makes it special. We have all this information, but we don’t use it. We don’t tell stories. We don’t create scenarios. Some will insist that we do all of these; well if that is true, then I will say that we have a much bigger problem. For how can we claim to know what we are doing, yet allow education to rot as it has? Education is the foundation of civilisation. It is the bedrock for inclusion in the new global space. It is the enabler for digitisation. Where illiteracy abounds, poverty will thrive. Where poverty thrives, crime will rise.

Show me a leader who will focus on education and I will tell you that our history books will refer to him or her as the father or mother of modern day Nigeria. That person would be the sincerest leader to lead the Nigerian state.

The Bible says that people perish for a lack of knowledge and I so agree. People are being fleeced in the name of religion because they cannot be bothered to read the holy books and apply the knowledge gleaned without interference. I digress as that is a topic for another day. We really must agree on new parameters around education and how we must begin to rebuild that part of our existence.

Show me a leader who will focus on education and I will tell you that our history books will refer to him or her as the father or mother of modern day Nigeria. That person would be the sincerest leader to lead the Nigerian state.


Whether we like it or not, in a few years, we will have a fresh set of leaders. But will these people come with fresh ideas? We cannot say. But if they are undiluted products of the current Nigerian education system, then your guess will be as good as mine. I think that if we were better educated, we would have better leaders. Indeed, one could almost argue that it is because we were not educated and informed along certain dimensions that we were colonised. Without education you cannot achieve much.

Do majority of Nigerians even know what governance entails? Do they know what it means to suffer a recession? Do they even know what to demand of their leaders? I doubt it. Can we even agree that education serves as the baseline for growth and development in the way that civilisation is described? If we can, if we are able to, then maybe we can agree that we need to call for a state of emergency in our education sector.

I think it is time to have all our political gladiators, regardless of political affiliations and parties, come together to declare a state of emergency on education. Can we agree on a long-term plan, enshrine this somewhere, possibly as an act and work on this regardless of who is in power? We can agree that by 2020 there won’t be any school without roofs and seats. We can prohibit and make it illegal to build schools in certain ways. We can insist on certain attributes and skills for teaching. We can agree on incentives. It is possible if we have a plan. We can have an act focused on crimes against education.

An economic or education reform plan might just bring us closer to the promised land. Local government by local government. State by state. We need to know every school by name and decide what interventions may be required in each. We need to have a special tribunal for crimes against education, so that the monies for it would not be pilfered or siphoned. It must be a special project to resuscitate Nigeria. For a country with over 180 million people, with several tribes and languages, the one thing we can share will be education or literacy. It is education that will allow us to have the right conversations, even if we speak different languages. The education of many will ensure and enable a proper culture of accountability.

Until we have the critical numbers, it is education that will take us out of poverty and it is education that will ensure our development and growth. Nigeria can be great, but only if we know what the solutions are and get the prioritisation right. Education ought to be given priority.


My favourite illustration of the challenge education poses in Nigeria is offered by a lady, “my agbalumo woman” — which is what I call her after 25 years of buying this fruit from her. I remember how, many years ago, my friends and I used to bundle ourselves out of the car to buy her agbalumos. She always had the best, biggest and sweetest ones. I kept in touch with her and saw her toddlers grow. I remember asking her why they were not in school. Fast forward to today, her daughter sells agbalumo or seasonal fruits but always seems to be involved in one fracas or the other. I have seen four kids with her, none of them in school. Mama’s son is an “area boy”. A couple of weeks back, she called me to say she had big juicy agbalumos — the way I love them. Off I went to buy some. I got there and met her crying. Her son was picked up for fighting and breaking a bottle on someone’s head. She was looking for money to bail him. Mama isn’t educated. Her children are not educated. How can this family ever break away from poverty? Like it or not, Mama may not be opposed to selling her vote for some bail money.

Which is why I have resolved, that as much as is possible or realistic, I will no longer give out cash rewards. Whatever I do must be linked to the education of the dependants. We need to get as many of our indigent compatriots into school. But what is being offered in the name of education? In more advanced countries, there are far more educated persons than those who are not, and there are enough educated people to subsidise the uneducated. Plus, the educated have created a value space large enough for the uneducated to leverage on. The reverse is the case in Nigeria. We don’t have enough educated persons and even the educated have not done enough or created enough lasting legacies for the uneducated to leverage on.

Until we have the critical numbers, it is education that will take us out of poverty and it is education that will ensure our development and growth. Nigeria can be great, but only if we know what the solutions are and get the prioritisation right. Education ought to be given priority.

‘Lande Omo Oba is a lawyer and an everyday girl.