By Ganiu Bamgbose, PhD
Like a few earlier articles of mine, this piece will be short and aggressive than narrative and appealing. I also do not intend to discuss “development,” as anyone mature enough to read this piece should have an idea of what that means.
A common knowledge, however, is that Nigeria cannot be called a developed nation; not even as developed as a crawling nation should be after sixty-one years of independence. Many have even argued that our development has been retrogressive, as life always seems better for Nigerians in the past than any given present time.
Moving quickly to my concern, no nation as ours, which takes education with levity, should dream about development, not to talk of actualising it. Everything about the Nigerian experience seems to be anti-educational, and even education experts (teachers, lecturers, consultants) cannot convince anyone on the importance of schooling as a medium of education in Nigeria.
Excluding the ongoing strike in many Nigerian universities, a careful calculation by Dr Jamiu Tijani of the Department of Accounting, Lagos State University, revealed that Nigerian universities have gone on strike for one thousand four hundred and ninety-four (1, 494) days between 1992 and 2021; cumulating into about sixteen semesters of academic disruption.
Of course, no one knows how many more days the ongoing strike will add to the figure. This constant strike is evidently just one of the many factors to be mentioned as educational challenges in a country where a single individual has been reported to superintend the stealing of over twenty billion dollars and another standing trial for over two billion dollars. These sums, of course, clear all of the requests of the striking lecturers.
Shall we show another angle to it? I recently had to apply for the Young Researcher’s prize in Linguistics, among other prizes advertised by the Nigerian Young Academy. As conditions, applicants must have at least five indexed publications within 2019 and 2022, at least three conference attendance, a five hundred-word summary of ongoing research and a one thousand-word article on why you consider yourself suitable for the prize.
For this, dear readers, the prize is fifty thousand naira. It took me days to convince myself that the prize was not the goal for me before I could finally go on with the thirteen-page application which required about two hours to complete online, not including the days of putting together the required documents. Of course, this is not to blame the Academy which is simply working within its financial constraint but to emphasise the extent to which both the government and well-to-dos in Nigeria do not value intellectualism.
Dear Nigerians, this happened in a country where a young man like me got a fifty-million deal after two or three music tracks, in addition to other fortunes that have made him a multi-millionaire in less than a year.
While this piece is not about envy, the picture painted is what I have to go through not only as a teacher, but also as a mentor who has to convince young people that going to school is important in an age when these young ones are clearly in the know about the plight and misfortune of teachers/lecturers and the fortune of these entertainers.
As a researcher in popular culture, who would not downplay the place of entertainment in any society, I still wonder if any nation where both the government and the noble citizens prioritise entertainment over education should think of development.
Like I said, it is meant to be a short piece which should ignite thoughts in anyone who wants to think. Certainly, posterity will remember every player and even those who decide not to play, for our roles in sixty-one years of a slower-than-crawling development.
Ganiu Bamgbose is in the Department of English, Lagos State University.
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