Proudly Nigerian

Casmir Igbokwe

THIS piece is informed by a mischievous joke someone sent to my phone on Friday. The fellow wrote, “When asked when Nigeria will get better, Paul the Octopus fainted.”

For those who do not know, Paul is the name given to a German octopus credited with having psychic powers. During the just-concluded World Cup in South Africa, the creature correctly predicted the outcome of all the matches it was asked to predict, including the final won by Spain. Is it proper to now use it to crack a joke about our country?

Sometimes, we need to celebrate ourselves. Everyday cannot be for crying. And so, today, I have decided to look for those things one can see and feel and proudly say, “Nigeria: Good people, great nation.”

Or is it not a great thing that a Nigerian couple made news around the world for giving birth to a white baby at Kent in the United Kingdom? Initially when I read the news, I thought the mother of the baby named Nmachi had cheated on her husband. “A white man must have fathered that baby. The husband must be naïve to believe that his wife is faithful,” a friend told me.

But Mr. Benjamin Ihegboro and his wife, Angela, have no doubt about the paternity of their baby. Even, some of the scientists who spoke about the issue did not also doubt them. They said the baby couldn’t still have been 100 per cent white if the parents were of mixed race.

It was in that same UK that two Nigerian twins, Peter and Paula Imafidon, made history by becoming the youngest kids to enter secondary school. They also passed A/Level Mathematics in 2008 when they were only seven, thus becoming the youngest pupils to do so in the UK. I will never stop celebrating these children.

You may say the Imafidons couldn‘t have achieved this feat were they to be in Nigeria. Maybe. But I know some other Nigerian children who are doing wonderfully well in their academic pursuit.

Penultimate week, I attended the annual speech and prize giving day ceremony of the Air Force Primary School 1, Ikeja, Lagos. According to the head teacher of the school, Mrs. Unanaowo Effiong, during the testimonial exams conducted for the Primary Six class in June 2010, a pupil of the school, Gideon Adebiyi, emerged the best graduating pupil and overall second best nationwide. The lad had an average score of 90.5 per cent.

Another pupil of the school, Adedoyin Idowu, reportedly came first in Maths nationwide with an average score of 98 per cent. The school recorded some other achievements I don’t need to mention here.

What makes this particularly interesting is that this AFPS1 is not a private school. Our public schools ought to be producing many firsts like this but for now, that is not happening. Most of our leaders today are products of public schools. But ours has become a case of crossing the bridge and bringing it down so that others will not cross.

I’ve not forgotten that today is not for lamentation. And so, let’s give some kudos to the Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayyatu Rufa’i, for her proposed action plans to rescue our education sector. Last Monday, she told educational development task teams she inaugurated in Abuja to work towards access to education, standards and quality assurance, technical/vocational training, as well as funding and utilisation. The minister emphasised the importance of technical and vocational education, which she said, could revolutionise the economy of any nation.

I agree with her. Currently, our educational system is structured in such a way that we have hundreds of thousands of students graduating every year to become a burden to the society. They look for white-collar jobs and when that is not forthcoming, they resort to armed robbery and kidnapping.

Though these crimes have been on the increase, attempts are being made to nip them in the bud. The Nigerian Communications Commission, for instance, has promised to employ technology in tackling kidnapping. The acting Executive Vice-Chairman, Bashir Gwandu, said the commission had plans to give telecommunications operators subsidy to install equipment on every mast and tower “that could be used for triangulating between sites in order to identify real-geographical location of both GPS and none-GPS-enabled mobile handsets.” This deserves commendation.

Also heart-warming is the plan by the Federal Capital Territory administration to generate electricity from waste. The FCT Minister, Bala Mohammed, was quoted to have said that President Goodluck Jonathan had given them the go-ahead to conduct feasibility study on the project. He reportedly claimed that the sewage and other waste in Abuja could provide electricity in the city for 10 years.

If Mohammed succeeds with this experiment in Abuja, I‘m sure other states will like to emulate him. This means that even our septic tanks may likely be a source of income. Rather than pay to evacuate human waste, you may have the Power Holding Company of Nigeria officials collecting the thing free for use in generating electricity. This may also lead to the reduction of electricity tariff, which PHCN recently increased up to 38 per cent. This increase was in spite of the poor services the company is rendering to Nigerians.

And this is despite the fact that Nigeria is said to be the number one generator-importing country in the world. Out of about $432.2m African countries reportedly spent on generator import in 2005, Nigeria was said to have accounted for $152m or 35 per cent of the figure.

You see, all this will be a thing of the past if the beautiful promises the minister made are realised. If he or any other minister with good plans fails again, the Imafidons may never come back to Nigeria. Even the bright pupils of AFPS 1 will begin to feel abandoned like some Liberian kids.

By the way, what is this one about Nigerian soldiers fathering 250, 000 children in Liberia? They went there between 1989 and 1996 to restore peace to the country torn apart then by war. The war claimed an estimated 200, 000 lives. But our soldiers gave them 250, 000 kids. Is this not wonderful?

Since the kids are not white, we do not need to consult Paul the Octopus to determine the paternity whenever we are ready to take back our children. Fellow Nigerians, relax, things will get better.

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