The politics of carrying capacity
It is a global agreement that education should be given higher priorities by the leadership of every human society in order to attract socio-economic, technological and scientific development of the countries of the world. By so doing, greater progress would have been made in the area of human capital development necessary to evoke socio-economic liberation.
The future of any group of people, therefore, would depend on the level and extent of education its members can attain. That perhaps is why the United Nations had insisted that about 26% of governments’ budgets should go into education sector.
In Nigeria, the educational developments of the three major tribes – Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo – were not even because of the differences in the ideological perception of the concept of education by their founding fathers. It is no longer history that the first Premier of the old Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo fore-saw the vital role which education could play in the growth and advancement of his people and given the opportunity, introduced “free education” in the region.
That singular feat which the late sage achieved had been one of the vital symbols of his immortality till date. From 1955 till date, even when successive governments in the old Western Region had discontinued the free education programme or play lip services with it, thousands of beneficiaries have, in the recent past, found themselves in top positions of authorities they wouldn’t have been able to occupy if they were not educated.
But for the quota system brought into education management, the South West of Nigeria would have been very far above other regions in all facets of our national endeavour because of benefits of free education. The region is still, at least second to none.
At a point in time, the West was alleged by some people in the North as having been “crazy for Western education”. Statistics also revealed that more than half of secondary school leavers and graduates of tertiary institutions in Nigeria are of South West descents, attesting to the fact that education remains our industry in this part of the nation.
That this development did not go down well with the leadership of other regions is to say the obvious, especially, our brothers from the Northern part of the country.
Let me say here, and with all sincerity that this piece is not meant to attack our brothers from other parts of the country. If my language appears so, it is but a presentation of my perception of the facts on this issue.
Unfortunately, majority of those who had and are still sitting on the tables of policy making for the country’s education are Northerners. Records are there since 1999, to shorten it.
Apparently, being conscious of the wide-gap which exists between the North and South West especially, the region embarked on serious “strategic moves” to bridge that gap and fast track the efforts at frustrating the quest of the South West for education. Using their positions in the education sectors as ministers, permanent secretaries, chairmen and directors of statutory bodies, e.tc, the North appears to have succeeded in their efforts at reducing the pace at which the South West beams its light on education, one of the strategies was the “excess load” introduced about 20 years ago in tertiary institutions.
Then came the concept of “carrying capacity” by the regulatory bodies of tertiary institutions in Nigeria – NUC, NBTE and NCC – to reduce the number of students admittable by any particular university, polytechnic or college of education proportional to the resources of such institution. In this spirit, most of the tertiary institutions in South West for example which had hitherto been admitting many students are now been compelled to admit between 80 and 160 students.
This is a sharp reduction in the number of students that are admittable by these institutions. Yet, the idea of lecture theatres, usually found in higher institutions suggest that scores of students would be there for the business of teaching and learning. This development becomes more worrisome with the realisation of the fact that most of the educational institutions in the North do not have “encouraging patronages” as a result of cultural and religious factors. To use the carrying capacity strategy to push the South West aback education wise is a disturbing development, moreover that the only “industry” that we are known for is “education”.
More disturbing is the lukewarm attitude of the leaders of the geo-political zone who seem not to have seen the dangers that lie ahead. Without being unpatriotic, a situation that would allow the North to be pushing us aside tactically will never be in the interest of the Yoruba. Time is now for the leaders of thoughts in Yoruba land to stand against this policy which only mission is to draw the region back.
The politics of carrying capacity should generate serious debate and the Yoruba leaders need to take a bold position that would be beneficial to posterity here. National policies must take cognisance of the peculiarities of the component parts of Nigeria with a view not to turn any part of it.
If governors of the South West states and there commissioners of education have failed to see this issue as a big problem, then the Yoruba are heading towards serious doom.
This policy, like the federal character, is not going to do the Yoruba people any good. It is a policy that is meant for the North to take advantages over us on national benefits.
I sincerely believe that the clamour for one Nigeria should be pursued in a situation where everybody has equal opportunities.
A situation where one part of country produces predominant key players in most of the federal cabinets without genuine trace of patriotism is not good for the “one Nigeria” project.
The structure of the country is simply pro-North. If to keep Nigeria one is to keep the North milking the nation and under-developing South West, weakening its strongholds, then that is not a unity in diversity. The South West should, as matters of urgency, convene a conference at which issues affecting our relationships with our brothers in the nationhood would be addressed.
The implication of not talking and acting now is that in the nearer future, the Wole Soyinkas, Abiolas and Obasanjos of the South West would have been kept out of the opportunities which tertiary education provides while the North would continue to manipulate national resources in their favour. Nigerian Constitution states unequivocally that there should be no discrimination whatsoever on matters of education, the carrying capacity is a discrimination against the South-West. It is evil.
While the likes of Obasanjos, Soyinkas and other stakeholders in Yoruba nation have kept looking the other way on this matter is better understood by them.
Yoruba is being tactically and gradually weakened, reduced and pushed into irrelevance in the scheme of things concerning Nigeria with this development.
My heart bleeds and I feel our leaders should spring into action. Nigeria belongs to all of us. Carrying capacity is a political weapon the North is using to destroy our educational legacy.
Let’s do something fast.
• Adefolakan writes from Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta.