BY VALENTINE OBIENYEM
As far back as we can pry into history, we found man, desiring to know. Philosophers claim that the urge to know was at its foundations.
The search for knowledge is why people often advise those that say education is costly to try ignorance. Education is a priceless possession that people seek, crossing mountains and hills.
Trying to differentiate between the educated and the uneducated, Aristotle said: “The educated differ from the uneducated as the living from the dead.” Making the same differentiation, Aristophanes remarked the differences were like those between broken and unbroken horses. As if this were not enough, on seeing an uneducated man, sitting on a stone, Zeno said: “Behold a stone on top of another stone.”
I deliberately decided to start thus to show how important education has always been throughout the history of civilisation. Realising this, Governor Peter Obi has invested so much to get it right in Anambra State. It was dead before he became governor. O yes, looking at the state of education in Anambra State before 2006, one can say it was not just dead, it had been buried. There was no school in the state that had good structures, functional laboratories, computers/Internet, generators and other basic things that make for sound learning. In terms of human infrastructure, teachers were not purveyors of values, morals and manners they were supposed to be. In turn, rather than train animals to become men, our schools ended up training them to become wild.
This was the situation that Governor Obi met. He proposed radical measures to restore education in the state to what it used to be. When some people complained on the extremities of the radical measures he proposed, he said to them: “A twig is cut with a pen knife while trunks are cut with axes.” He insisted the problems in that sector were complex and needed radical measures to solve.
This was how he single-handedly, against overwhelming contrary views, decided to return schools to the churches. This singular move was acclaimed, as the most radical action ever taken in the education sector in the whole of the South-East, if not Nigeria. So earth-quaking was it that the World Bank commissioned a team, led by Prof. Paul Collier to visit Anambra State and evaluate what Obi was doing. The result of the evaluation was recommended, as a template for other countries to follow.
Obi has continued to offer all manner of support to the church. The last money he gave to them was N1.5 billion, to repair the primary schools returned to them. It is not just a question of giving them money but he is also encouraged because studies commissioned by the state actually showed that their achievement doubled what government accomplished with the same amount of money.
Today, Obi has provided water to the schools, rehabilitated many of them and provided them with Internet connectivity and generators, among others. He employed 2,000 teachers as well as 200 computer teachers for Anambra schools. Those on ground are united in pouring encomiums on our state as the light of the nation but people like Dr. Okey Ndibe, righteous indignation here and there, believe that the light must be extinguished.
In his last article, in his column in The Sun Newspaper of October 15, he questioned the rationale for the award of Exemplary Good Governance and Leadership bestowed on Gov. Peter Obi by ASA-USA at its just-concluded 2013 convention in Tampa, Florida. Let him speak in the first person: “ It’s sad to see Mr. Obi’s handlers count among his achievements the donation of buses, computers and desks to school. Point to one serious location in the world where such approach to statecraft is held to be praise-worthy.”
This statement merely reminded me that it was the same man, who, upon seeing the new, imposing teaching hospital at Awka, built by Governor Obi, declared that it was not even fit to house prisoners! Thus, how can those aware of his antecedents be surprised at his latest quip? Tell me when measuring success has become uniform in the entire world. If an American government provides computers to its schools, certainly it is not news but if they launch their students to the space, it is news. But we are talking about a clime where even chalk to write used to be a problem and someone came with radical measures that have transformed the place and someone else says it is not praise-worthy.
Ndibe has to tell us whether what he wants is for Peter Obi to ignore those basic things and concentrate on sending students to Mars for his like to applaud. Supposing we analyse a state whose citizens have not heard about education since creation and one of them was brave enough to introduce education to them, would the one not be complimented for an outstanding achievement? Obi met a dead education sector and is spending billions of naira to revive it. He started by providing basic things that are desiderata for learning. If those basic things were there, he would have pursued other things. It was St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, who said virtues did not mean doing extra-ordinary things, but doing ordinary things in an extra-ordinary way.
The buses, which Ndibe was referring to, were not 10 or 20 in number but 500, which at N5 million a piece, is N2.5 billion. On computers, we are not talking of 5, 000 but 25, 000 pieces, with accessories, which are worth over N2 billion. As for Internet connectivity in all the schools, the state is paying over N700 million (with subscription to last till 2015 in order not to encumber his successor). For support to sports, the state spent N700 million on the schools. The governor has ordered a container of Chinua Achebe’s Trilogy for secondary schools in the state. Each secondary school in the state has equally received N10-20 million for rehabilitation. This also runs into billions of naira. There was never a time anybody said cheque given to his school was returned. If these are not outstanding achievements, Okey Ndibe should tell us what are.
As for the corpses at Ezu River, Obi was out of the country at the time they were discovered at the boundary between Anambra and Enugu. There is the equiprobability that it could have come from either of the states but look at the manner Enugu people handled it while Anambra people must seek things to always make their state the butt of dinner jollity. When the news of that discovery was broken, Obi had to cut short his trip and returned to the state. He personally paid and had some autopsies carried out on the corpses at Amaku Teaching Hospital, Awka, the results of which have been handed over to relevant bodies. Would Ndibe tell us what else he expected Obi to do? Criticisms are one of the easiest things somebody can engage in. Often temperamental, these critics perform woefully when given responsibilities. Then they will discover the differences between what is and what ought to be.
Talking about insecurity, I think it is only an insincere person that will not acknowledge what Obi has done. From Ndibe’s article, it is safe to conclude that he is immune from any good thing, coming from this government. How can anybody not mention and thank Obi for the support to the police and for procuring patrol vehicles to all the 177 communities in the state. Some communities got more than two or three such vehicles, depending on their size, the activities that characterise them and some other criteria. Today, Obi is paying 20 vigilance persons per town in the state. However primitive it appears to be, Obi equally embarked on demolition of property that housed kidnappers after proper acquisition by the government. Ndibe must tell us what else Obi should do, bearing in mind that the Federal Government is ultimately in charge of security.
Defining a great leader, Ndibe says he is one who “will invest time and energy in finding solutions for the scourge of pervasive insecurity, grinding poverty, infrastructural aridity, environmental degradation.” This merely shows that Ndibe does not make any attempt to know what Obi is doing. Is he telling us that Obi has done nothing in these areas? If he wants us to take him seriously, he should have gone ahead to tell us what needed to be done.
There is no right-thinking Nigerian that does not acknowledge how Governor Obi has changed the face of Anambra State. The bishops as well as traditional rulers and the people at the grassroots acknowledge this. Is it not bewildering and even confounding that a man, who, in seven years, paid N30 billion on arrears of pensions and gratuities owned since 1999; a man who has done over 800 kilometre of roads; a man who has restored peace to the state; a man, who has transformed the health sector, is in Ndibe’s estimation, unworthy to be celebrated? If Ndibe does not know, in spite of pretences to the contrary, where Anambra State used to be compared to where it is now, them the word is PITY.
• Obienyem wrote from Awka.