By AWHARIADO BELIEF AKPOME
?What offence have we committed in choosing a path of peace and pursuing academic excellence that we now have to come out of school and be punished with unemployment? Must all of us take up militancy or Boko Haramism before the Government knows that the educated ones are part of the society and they too needed to be provided for and taken care of? Let us all be vigilant lest those who think they are standing fall?
The above quotation was a Facebook update of a good friend of mine who was a year my senior in the university and is presently undergoing his Masters Degree program in one of the federal universities in Nigeria. His thought above represents the thoughts of the majority of educated youths from the Niger-Delta of Nigeria. I had thought along same line many times. I have been seeing updates from Niger-Delta friends on social sites, some of whom have Masters Degrees, asking whether education or simply put, spending 4-6years in the university in the present Nigeria is of any worth. A neutral person from the west, east and north of Nigeria or any other part of the world, I am sure, will hurriedly say yes to the question above; but not an educated home-bred, young Niger-Deltan. An educated, young Niger-Deltan will give you a ?yes and no? answer.
This reminds me of an argument that ensued in the Corps members? lodge I was staying during my service year. The nucleus of the argument was the reason why people go to school. While most of us were of the view that people go to school to acquire and broaden their knowledge, very few of us dissented on the ground that people go to school, majorly, for economic reasons because as at the time of beginning to go to school, the young child, usually 3-6years, had no idea of the reasons for his/her being sent to school by his/her parents. I was the chief proponent of the latter school. I told my fellow Corps members that if we had no idea of what school was all about when we started schooling, then it was, at least for all intents and purposes, the reason(s) of our parents, at that time, for sending us to school that must be adopted as the reason(s) for our going to school and we do know that majority of Nigerian parents send their ward to school for economic reasons ? to end the sufferings and poverty in the family. To drive home my point, I asked them how many of them, while in the university or polytechnic, dreamed of graduating on time with a good grade that will fetch them get a good job, buy a nice car, marry, rent or build a good house and live a comfortable life? All of them did. I again asked how many of them had hoped to acquire their degree and go back to their father?s house to stay with their knowledge? None did. It was then I submitted that though the need for knowledge is an inseparable, though infinitesimal, part of the reasons why people go to school in Nigeria today; the need to have food on the table, shelter to lay the head, clothes to cover the body and send some cash home at the end of the month is the be-all-and-end-all as the desire to acquire knowledge is no more what it used to be in the days of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, etc., when knowledge alone was sufficient. After all, any knowledge that cannot be converted to economic realities is as good as cow dung. It is in the light of this argument above that an educated young Niger-Deltan, like my friend I quoted above and my humble self, will answer you ?yes and no? if you ask us whether spending 4-6years in the university in the present Nigeria is of any worth.
The reason we (most young and educated Niger-Deltans) will tell you ?yes? if you ask us whether education or simply put, spending 4-6years in the university in the present Nigeria is of any worth is because, lack of education or ignorance is in itself a disease ? a chronic one; a disease that all men must strive to cure. However, we will tell you ?no? because, in the Nigeria of today the government at all levels exalt, beautify and glorify crimes and criminals while conversely, by their acts and omissions, make hard work and education crimes.
Living in Warri, Yenogoa, Port-Harcourt, Uyo and most cities in the Niger-Delta will give you a vivid and practical picture of what I am saying. In these cities, you see young men of your age living in mansions and driving flashy cars. Some have fleets of cars. However, majority of them are chronic illiterates who got their wealth from militancy and continue, even after laying down their weapons, to receive ?allowance? of N65, 000 minimum, depending on your rank in militancy, from the federal government of Nigeria. They do not work, yet the least of them who cannot write his name collects at least N65, 000 monthly. They have millions in their accounts. One was reported last week to be an ex-militant billionaire. Only God knows how many professors in Nigeria have seen a million naira other than the figures they read in newspapers as loots by our politicians talk more of having millions of naira in their accounts.
In these same cities I mentioned above, there are graduates who have paid the bitter price of schooling in Nigerian unfriendly universities and polytechnics. They have graduated for years without a job. To make ends meet, majority, who do not want to go into crime, ride motor-cycle, drive taxis, sell recharge cards or simply ?hustle? to survive. The proceeds of these businesses/hustling cannot get you a decent accommodation in Warri, Yenogoa, Port-Harcourt, etc., where oil monies talk, hence they still stay with friends and families. They trek on the streets while their ex-militant age mates drive latest cars and splash dirty water on their bodies. The same government, who could not give them scholarships or pay bursaries as undergraduates or provide job for them as graduates, is the same government that pays these militants the millions of naira used in buying these cars. The same government that could not pay N18,000 minimum wage until the Nigerian Labour Congress declared a nationwide strike is the same government that is paying the minimum allowance of N65,000 to these uneducated ex-militants. As an educated, jobless young man seeing this scenario, the question that often comes to your mind is: is going to school and choosing to lead a lawful and peaceful life a crime in Nigeria?
The north is not left out of the whole issue. It was reported earlier in January this year that the reason, claimed a Boko Haram source, why the activities of the sect was reduced during Obasanjo?s administration was because he played his cards well. The reason why he was not killed or attacked when he visited the late Boko Haram leader, Babakura Fuggu, on September 15th, 2011 was put thus: ?Obasanjo was good to us. We had no problem with Obasanjo?. When a terrorist says a Nigerian politician is good to him, you and I know what that means. It was also reported in the same story that former Kano State governor, Mallam Shekarau reached an agreement with the terrorist group in late 2004 for monthly disbursement of N5million which increased to N10m in 2009. In a similar vein, Mallam Yuguda of Bauchi, in June, 2008, was also reported to pay the sect N10m monthly with provision of training grounds on the many scattered mountains of Bauchi. Although the authenticity of these claims by Boko Haram could not be verified, we do know that in every rumour, there is an iota of truth. Now the federal government is reportedly negotiating with the members of the sect. Surely, it will end, inter alia, with an agreement which must lead to some money flowing from the government to the terrorists monthly if eventually an agreement is struck.
On the pages of newspapers, we daily read of kidnappers in the eastern part of Nigeria demanding awfully huge sums of money from their victims? families, the latest being the vice chancellor of Enugu State University. We read of political office holders looting billions. All these criminals become instant millionaires and billionaires. When charged to court, they negotiate with the government through the dubious doctrine called plea bargain or as an alternative, a nolle prosequi is entered by the law officers and soon, they are back home. They join and sponsor political parties. Sooner than later, they are given national honours by the federal government. ?Who said crime does not pay? seems to be the motto of this generation. Little by little, the government, in negotiating with criminals, is legalizing crimes and illegalizing hard work and peace amongst the youths. It seems, today in Nigeria, that those who wish to suffer and wallow in poverty are the ones that go to school. ?If you want to make it in Nigeria and make it fast and big, pick up arms and do some havoc?, the government seem to be saying. ?When you do that, the government will come waving an olive-branch and begging with billions of naira?. There appears to be no end in sight to how long the government will continue to pat and negotiate with criminals while recklessly abandoning the graduates who have suffered to go to school. They are nobody; the government seems to be saying by its acts and omissions.
The writings on the wall are clear. The government neither value nor care for the youths except you are a militant, terrorist or a kidnapper. Though needless, the government should know that these ones ?are part of the society and they too needed to be provided for and taken care of.? Their continuous abandonment in favour of criminals amounts to indirect information to them to do what the militants, kidnappers and terrorists are doing in order to gain the attention of government. An idle hand, automatically, will be the devil?s tool. Many Nigerian graduates today are frustrated with the Nigerian system. But it is more frustrating when you see an illiterate militant, kidnapper and terrorist reaping fruits of crime, living in mansions and driving flashy cars while you, a peaceful and hardworking graduate cannot even eat three times a day. While I encourage my fellow youths not to take to crime notwithstanding the carelessness on the part of government, but to continue to strive, as I can see lights at the end of our tunnels, the government should be reminded of its responsibilities that the welfare of the people is the supreme task of government, as my friend in the quote above warned: ?lest those who think they are standing fall? into the temptation of crimes. Any government that neglects its youth will surely reap the bitter fruits of its neglect.