From Priscilla Ediare, Ado-Ekiti
Former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, has expressed disappointment over the deplorable road conditions in the country, saying Nigerians now spend more hours plying them due to their present conditions.
The former president said Nigerians now put into consideration the poor conditions of the roads before embarking on any journey so as to avoid lateness.
Obasanjo made the comments on Thursday while making a brief speech at a lecture delivered by a Legal Icon, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), titled : ‘The Place of Education in a Crisis-Ridden Nigeria’, marking the 10th convocation ceremonies of the the Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti(ABUAD).
The former president who arrived late to the convocation lecture, tendered some apologies saying, “kindly accept my apologies for coming late to this ceremony.”
Justifying his lateness to the ceremony, Obasanjo in his brief speech said ” I thought if I leave Abeokuta at 4.30am that I will get to ABUAD at 10am. But when we got to the middle of the journey, the conditions of our roads were bad.
“We started asking which was the best route to take to get to Ado Ekiti . It was tough before we could get here, kindly pardon me”.
Obasanjo lauded the university’s founder, Aare Afe Babalola(SAN) for replicating and surpassing in ABUAD, what he did at the University of Lagos, when he ( Obasanjo) appointed him the Pro- Chancellor and Chairman of Governing Council, saying, “I am proud to associate with ABUAD”.
At the lecture, Babalola expressed concern over Nigeria’s total debt profile, saying as at March, 2022 her total debt profile was N41.60tr.
The legal icon who described the debt as alarming, urged that the federal government and patriotic Nigerians must take proactive measures to offset the debt.
Babalola suggested that Nigerians, who are private jet owners, proprietors of universities, all presidential aspirants , owners of multinational companies and successful individuals to contribute millions to defray the debt.
Delivering his lecture, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), who described Nigeria as a ‘failed state” identified
increase in school abduction, banditry and endless borrowing as negative ingredients affecting Nigeria’s education system.
The Human Rights lawyer said to re-establish sanity in the sector, Nigeria needs proactive and aggressive actions in tackling the ills such as “corruption, poverty, insecurity, commercialisation, mediocrity, illegality, deprivation, cultism, poor funding” affecting the education sector.
He advised against poor budgetary allocation to education, saying allotting a paltry of 7.7% to the education rather than the prescribed 20-25%, may continually dim Nigeria’s future and create despondency for many citizens.
Ozekhome added; “We have gotten to a terrifying situation where armed bandits and kidnappers now hoist flags on Nigerian soil, collect taxes from Nigerians; and give them identity cards and passes. They challenge Nigeria’s sovereignty. Some hold school children hostage and demand from their parents, bags of salt, rice, maize, millet, and beans; baskets of tomatoes, pepper, tatashe and onions.
“They also demand for jerry cans of palm oil, vegetable oil; maggie cubes, and other condiments. These are necessary to feed the children of traumatized Nigerians held firmly in their gulag, to keep them alive for payment of enforced ransoms.
“Herdsmen invade homes and farms freely. They kill, maim, rape and pillage. The government appears helpless. When non- state actors are more powerful than the state actors, when we keep on borrowing endlessly, if these are not symptomatic of a failed state, then tell me what a failed state is.
“These alarming figures were corroborated by the United Nations International Children’s Fund in a statement to mark the International Day of Education the 24th day of January, 2022. According to the world body, In 2021, there were 25 attacks on schools, 1,440 children were abducted, and 16 children killed.
“In March 2021, no fewer than 618 schools were closed in six northern states of Sokoto, Zamfara, Kano, Katsina, Niger and Yobe over the fear of attack and abduction of pupils and members of staff. The closure of schools in these states significantly contributed to learning losses for over two months”.
On the increasing number of school dropouts in Nigeria, Ozekhome, said ; “The UNICEF said it was tragic how 35% of children who make it to a classroom, but never make the transition from primary school to secondary school, thereby cutting off their changes for a secured future”.