EDUCATION AND NIGERIA’S SECURITY: THE URGENCY OF NOW!
Angelicus-M. Onasanya, DBA.
An address delivered at the
136th Annual Anniversary celebration of
Methodist Boys High School, Lagos,
Ogun State Branch.
Please permit me to stand on all existing protocols. I consider the invitation to deliver this address a singular honour from one of Nigeria’s oldest “citadels of learning,” and as such, it is my intention to take full advantage of the privileged opportunity to address the subject-matter of “Education and Nigeria’s Security: The Urgency of Now.”
A few preliminaries though. Let me seize this opportunity to congratulate the organizers of this event, especially, the Methodist Boys’ High School, Lagos’ Old Students Association, and the individual members for their thoughtfulness and hard work; I am sure that it is reminiscent of what they had to go through as students in the hallowed halls and classrooms of MBHS in those days!
Secondly, I have attended a few of this congregation of old boys myself to be aware of the need to get to the menu and the jollity aspects of the programme in time. However, I am going to crave your indulgence for time because of the critical national implications of the topic you have assigned to me. Please accept my appreciations for this generousity on your parts. Thank you.
The assignment underscores three key concepts; Education, Nigeria’s Security and Urgency, all of which converge to emphasize the need for some imminent action or actions. I will examine each of these.
What is education? To most, education is about reading and writing; the possession of literary skills. In reality however, education is more than these. Personally, my humble opinion is that it is a profound philosophical exploration of how we transmit knowledge in human society and how we think about accomplishing that vital task of transmission. It is the medium for the transmission of knowledge and worthwhile values from a person to another; which transcends generations. Wikipedia encapsulated its definition of education thus: “an act or process of developing and cultivating (whether physically or mentally or morally) ones mental activity or senses; the expansion, strengthening, and discipline of one's mind, faculty, etc; the forming and regulation of principles and character in order to prepare and fit for any calling or business by systematic instruction.”
Human beings today need to have a specific set of skills to survive in this competitive world as well as progress. The process of acquiring these, which we have called education, conveys a number of important advantages on society.
Education helps people become better Citizens of society:
Education allows people to become aware of the socio-economic scenarios of their societies such that they can help in the progress and development of such societies. It could be in as simple a thing like using water sparingly, ensuring sanitary environments to prevent pandemics, taking a bus to work instead of using a car in order to save fuel. An educated mass, one way or the other knows how to contribute towards a society’s well-being. One of the reasons for their awareness is because these values have been transmitted to them in school, colleges, universities and places of work.
Education helps in developing the skills for getting jobs:
It goes without saying that, these days, unless a person is educated, he or she cannot get a worthwhile job. Unemployment is a serious obstacle in the development and progress in a country’s economic status, thus posing a hindrance to the growth of the nation. The economic status of so many countries in the world is pathetic, due to the predominance of people without education who do not possess adequate knowledge and skills and thus cannot be employed.
Given these advantages, education should be a means to empower a country’s citizenry, children and adults alike, to become active participants in the transformation of their societies. Such education and learning should also focus on the values, attitudes and behaviours which enable individuals to learn how to live together in a world that is increasingly becoming characterized by diversity and pluralism.
Education makes the World a Better Place:
When boys, girls and adults acquire education by learning to read, write and count, they get prepared to providing a better future for their families and societies. And, with improved education, so many other areas become positively affected. In short, education has the power to make the world a better place; by helping to reduce poverty, making people healthier thus saving lives, increasing their incomes, promoting civic and human rights, boosting economic growth, increasing crop and agricultural yields, and fostering peace.
It was in realization of these benefits that in 1960, the UNESCO adopted the Convention against Discrimination in Education. The Convention acknowledges the crucial role of education in ensuring equality of opportunity for members of all racial, national or ethnic groups. It was the very first time that a binding instrument in the United Nations system contained a detailed definition of the term discrimination to include the indicated categories and gender.
And now the issue of national security?
The late American President Ronald Reagan, in a briefing of the US National Security Council staff on the Libya Bombing on 15 April 1986, defined national security as: “the requirement to maintain the survival of the state through the use of economic power, diplomacy, power projection and political power.” It is a concept first developed and pursued by the United States after World War II. Its initial focus was on the use of military might. Today, national security encompasses a broad range of facets, all of which impinge on the non-military or economic security of the nation and the values espoused by the national society. It has seven fundamental elements:
1. The first and foremost element is socio-political stability. A nation must have peace and harmony among all its citizens, regardless of creed, ethnic origin or social status. The government and the people must engage in nation-building under the rule of law, constitutional democracy and the full respect for human rights.
2. The second is territorial integrity. The government must ensure the permanent inviolability of its national territory and must exercise effective and full control of the territory by both the government and the state. It must provide the nation’s with protection from illegal incursions into its territory and the unlawful and illegal resource exploitation.
3. The third is economic solidarity and strength. A country must vigorously pursue a free-market economy through responsible entrepreneurship based on social conscience, respect for the dignity of labor and concern for the public interest. We must perpetuate an economic regime where the people take command of their own lives, their livelihood and their economic destiny.
4. The fourth is ecological balance. National survival rests upon the effective conservation of our natural environment in the face of industrial and agricultural expansion and population growth. We must promote sustainable development side by side with social justice.
5. The fifth is cultural cohesiveness. Our lives as a people must be ruled by a common set of values and beliefs grounded on high moral and ethical standards, drawn from our heritage and embodying a Nigerian standard, drawn from our heritage and embodying a Nigerian identity transcending religious, ethnic and linguistic differences.
6. The sixth is moral-spiritual consensus. We must be propelled by a national vision inspired, and manifested in our words and deeds, by patriotism, national pride and the advancement of national goals and objectives.
7. The seventh is external peace. We must pursue constructive and cordial relations with all nations and peoples, even as our nation itself must chart an independent course, free from external control, interference or threat of aggression.
Accordingly, in order to possess national security, a nation needs to possess economic security, energy security, environmental security, etc. Security threats involve not only conventional foes such as other nation-states but also non-state actors such as violent non-state actors, narcotic cartels, multinational corporations and non-governmental organizations; some authorities include natural disasters and events causing severe environmental damage in this category. Essentially, national security covers a nation’s interest in the following areas:
territorial security: this would be jeopardized by an event such as a military occupation, also by prolonged flooding and other such disasters;
economic security: a major internet or electrical breakdown would disrupt online financial transactions and send jitters through financial markets;
ecological security: damage to the environment from pollution or extreme heat or drought;
physical security: deaths, injuries and chronic illnesses caused by flooding or a pandemic; and
social and political stability: violations of the rule of law caused by tensions between communities, for instance.
In other words, a government ensures national security when it tries to protect society from any and all disruptions [regarded as threats] due to disasters, crisis or any other such events. Measures taken to ensure national security include:
a. using diplomacy to rally allies and isolate threats;
b. marshalling economic power to facilitate or compel cooperation maintaining effective armed forces;
f. using counterintelligence services or secret police to protect the nation from internal and external threats.
National security is threatened when one or more of our country’s vital interests are threatened by either internal or external forces. These are described as follows:
A. INTERNAL THREATS
1. The main internal threat arises from the activities of quasi military, religious or activist groups, pan-ethnic associations and the like who pose an open rebellion against the government, and have the avowed objective of establishing either an independent Islamic or other religious or secular state in Nigeria. The armed activities of these groups continue to be a source of serious concern, particularly in the build-up of their defensive and offensive capabilities.
2. The Political Parties: The vitriolic and despicable, irresponsible pronouncements of political leaders continue to pose a serious threat to national security. While the nation has been able to nullify the undesirable effects of these pronouncements, for now, there continues to be an incipient increase of dangerously inimical underground activities in the various areas of the country that is disconcerting
3. Organized crime is always a national security concern anywhere, anytime and anyway. The challenge of illegal drugs, in particular, has grown into a major threat to the national community and how to control it a major focus of the various governments. The national anti-drug campaign is a major cornerstone of the government’s law and order drive, involving the police, the Local Governments, NDLEA, Customs, Police, NAFDAC, other law enforcement units, the private sector and cooperation with international agencies. Drug use among the youth continues to rise alarmingly with worrying implications over the national crime rate which is exacerbated by the drug trade, which involves crime syndicates.
4. Grave incidence of poverty is also a serious threat to national security, especially to the extent that it breeds and abets civil disobedience that could degenerate into rebellion, crime and dissidence. Consequently, the distribution of wealth has been skewed in favor of a wealthy minority.
5. Economic sabotage undermines the market economy, the financial system and the nation’s resources. Under this category are underground activities such as counterfeiting, money laundering, large-scale smuggling, inter-oceanic poaching, commercial dumping, oil bunkering, and pipeline vandalism. These are being addressed through vigilant economic intelligence and the strict enforcement of maritime and trade laws.
6. Graft and corruption has become the biggest threats to our national security by virtue of the huge scale by which it saps public resources, undermines the morale of the civil service and affects the delivery of quality basic services. It has also become a disincentive to investment by foreigners. Various administrations have waged vigorous campaigns against the twin evils for decades to no avail.
7. Severe calamities cause serious food shortages, abet hoarding and profiteering and cause hunger, disease and deprivation. Over the years, the disaster toll has been enormous and billions worth of property destroyed by natural and man-made disasters. The National Emergency Management Agency [NEMA] ensures the focused, coordinated and systematic application of government and private manpower and resources to the tasks of disaster mitigation, community rehabilitation and reconstruction.
8. Persistent environment degradation poses a long-term security threat. The attrition of forests and watersheds, air-land-water pollution and the proliferation of toxic substances are causes of sickness, death and the diminution of national productivity and well-being. Environmental protection has assumed a high priority in defense and law enforcement concerns and is an institutional area of emphasis in the educational system.
B. EXTERNAL THREATS
While a threat of external aggression against Nigeria remains remote occurrence, a number of uncertainties in regional and world environments predicate the issues that constitute external national security threats to Nigeria.
1. Multilateral disputes over the Chad Basin, Bakassi, and other such issues constitute a source of intermittent tensions between Nigeria and its neighbours that is being addressed through a comprehensive package of diplomatic initiatives.
2. The smuggling of firearms and contraband goods, illegal migration and the occasional movement of foreign terrorists through our porous, unguarded borders continue to draw attention to a transnational concern. Law enforcement agencies are working closely with international police organizations, use bilateral and multilateral agreements with other countries, to check these activities.
3. The lingering effects of the world financial and currency crisis are a cause of national and regional anxieties. These tend to aggravate political instabilities and socio-economic dislocations involving the poorest peoples.
4. The serious economic disparity between rich and poor nations keeps the world in a state of instability and virtually on the brink of war in many places. Local or regional shortages of fresh water, arable land, food, fisheries, and energy are already causing tensions.
5. Ethnic, religious and cultural conflicts pervade many regions and nations. Nigeria is no exception. The situation is constantly exacerbated by mass poverty, limited access to resources, denial of human rights, lack of national integration, local and international issues.
6. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is a threat to global security. With the emergence of rogue nations, nuclear materials and technologies are more accessible to any and all now than at any other time in history. The relative ease of production of both chemical and biological weapons has made these weapons attractive to terrorists.
7. Transnational organized crime has proliferated in the era of globalization. The International Monetary Fund estimates that global drug trafficking now accounts for two percent of the world economy. This excludes illicit capital flight and money-laundering activity. There are links among drug trafficking, terrorism, smuggling of illegal aliens, massive financial and bank fraud, arms smuggling and political corruption.
8. Natural disasters and environmental issues continue to pervade the global security agenda. Our activities in the areas of population growth, resource consumption, pollution, urbanization, industrialization, desertification and deforestation, continue to increasingly impact the climate and weather patterns, strain fragile ecosystems, and put more pressure on health and social support systems.
9. Cybernetic crime is a growing global national security threat. Computer viruses, Melissa and Chernobyl, for example, have attacked isolated or networked information systems through the internet or through software carriers and devices. In view of the fact that many vital decision-making processes of government are increasingly becoming electronically-based, they have become vulnerable to this threat.
Having comprehensively described education and national security, the next question becomes “Is there a nexus between the two?
Ladies and gentlemen, let us benefit from the United States once again. In March of 2012, the Council of Foreign Relations [a US think-tank on Foreign Affairs], released the report of a task force that was headed by a former head of New York City Public schools and now a News Corp. Executive Vice-President and close advisor to the media giant’s Chairman and Chief Executive, Rupert Murdoch, Joel I. Klein and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The report U.S. Education Reform and National Security makes education a national security issue. An Associated Press report on the document appeared in the March 19, 2012 edition of the New York Times in the following vein:
“WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation’s security and economic prosperity are at risk if schools do not improve, warns a report by a panel led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Joel I. Klein, a former Chancellor of New York City’s school system.” . . . “The dominant power of the 21st century will depend on human capital,” and “failure to produce that capital will undermine American security.”
The report was controversial and received such scathing criticism from, even, members of the task force. We will not dwell on the controversies but utilize the nexus which the report made between national security and education.
According to the report, there are seven signs that U.S. Education decline is jeopardizing its national security interests. These were listed as follows:
1. The United States invests more in K-12 public education than many other developed countries, yet U.S. students remain poorly prepared to compete with global peers. The CFR task force cites an international test frequently noted in previous Crotty columns, the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which measures the performance of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics, and science every three years. As discussed in a previous Crotty post, according to the 2009 PISA, U.S. students ranked fourteenth in reading, twenty-fifth in math, and seventeenth in science compared to students in other developed countries.
2. More than 25 percent of U.S. students fail to graduate high school in four years; for Hispanic and African-American students, the number approaches 40 percent.
3. Only 25% of U.S. students are proficient or better in civics, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
4. In a global economy, where foreign language competency is critical, eight in ten Americans only speak English (with no foreign language capability at all). Sadly, my second language of American, extolled in my bathroom-reading Bible, How to Talk American, is not yet recognized as a foreign language. In addition, an increasing number of schools are dropping their foreign language programs. Meanwhile, only 1.4% of American students study abroad, mostly in Europe. I stand guilty. For my junior year abroad from my undergraduate alma mater of Northwestern, I chose the University of Sussex in Falmer, England in part because of my weak foreign language skills (though the London new wave and post-punk scene was another un-mentioned draw). This lack of foreign language training (long an American Achilles heel frequently noted by my Swiss and French compadres) means the U.S. State Department is experiencing a lack of trained linguists in the mission critical languages of Korean, Russian, Chinese, Turk, and Dari. Yes, Dari (the most widely spoken language in Afghanistan).
5. According to a recent report by the not-for-profit testing organization, ACT, only 22 percent of U.S. high school students met “college ready” standards in all of their core subjects; these figures are even lower for Hispanic and African-American students. The College Board reported that even among the narrower cohort of college-bound seniors, only 43 percent met college-ready standards. This means that, upon graduating high school, more than 50% of college-bound students need to take remedial classes in one or more subjects, though a far lower percentage actually do.
6. Despite high U.S. unemployment, and far higher under-employment, major U.S. employers cannot find qualified American applicants to fill their job openings. For instance, 63% of aerospace and life science firms report shortages of “qualified workers.” While the collapse of the real estate market and the rise of dual-income families make it harder for normally mobile Americans to take job openings in high job growth states like North Dakota, South Dakota, Virginia and Kansas, a March 2012 McKinsey Global Institute Report, “Help Wanted: The Future of Work in Advanced Economies” lists skill mismatches and educationally unprepared applicants as chief reasons why millions of jobs go unfilled in America every day.
7. 75% of U.S. citizens ages 17-24 cannot pass military entrance exams because they are not physically fit, have criminal records, or because they lack critical skills needed in modern warfare, including how to locate on a map military theaters in which the U.S. is fulsomely engaged, such as Afghanistan. Ancient Greece the U.S. is certainly not. The CFR Report argues that this egregious knowledge gap will make it increasingly hard to fill the ranks of U.S. Foreign Service, intelligence, and armed forces. Moreover, contrary to popular belief, the 25% of American students who drop out of high school will not be able to serve in the U.S. military. In addition, 30% of those who do graduate high school still lack the basic math, science, and English competency to pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery.
The report concluded that based on America’s unpreparedness, the country’s national security interests are compromised and threatened in five areas thus:
· Economic Growth and Competitiveness;
· Physical Safety;
· Intellectual Property;
· U.S. Global Awareness; and
· U.S. Unity and Cohesion.
Back to Nigeria.
Otive Igbuzor, PhD, Country Director, ActionAid International Nigeria in a keynote address delivered to a roundtable organized by the Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All on 3rd July, 2006 aptly summarized the state of education in Nigeria thus:
“2. THE STATE OF EDUCATION IN NIGERIA
The severe decline of the oil market in the early eighties, combined with the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), led to drastic reductions in spending on education. The result was unpaid teacher salaries, degradation of education facilities at all levels and strikes in universities and schools. The end result is declining literacy rates in the country.
The poor state of education in Nigeria is aptly captured in the National Empowerment Development Strategy as follows:
…the delivery of education in Nigeria has suffered from years of neglect, compounded by inadequate attention to policy frameworks within the sector. Findings from an ongoing educational sector analysis confirm the poor state of education in Nigeria. The national literacy rate is currently 57 percent. Some 49 percent of the teaching force is unqualified. There are acute shortages of infrastructure and facilities at all levels. Access to basic education is inhibited by gender issues and socio-cultural beliefs and practices, among other factors. Wide disparities persist in educational standards and learning achievements. The system emphasizes theoretical knowledge at the expense of technical, vocational, and entrepreneurial education. School curricula need urgent review to make them relevant and practice oriented.[iii]
Similarly, according to the Nigeria Millennium Development Goals 2005 report,
Literacy level in the country has steadily and gradually deteriorated, especially within the 15-24 years group. By 1999, the overall literacy rate had declined to 64.1 % from 71.9 % in 1991. The trend was in the same direction for male and female members of the 15-24 years age bracket. Among the male, the rate declined from 81.35 % in 1991 to 69.8 % in 1999. The decline among the female was from 62.49 % to 59.3 % during the same period.”
In the same vein, brother and senior colleague Professor Ibrahim A. Gambari, CFR (Former Under-Secretary General, United Nations) in a Pre- 3rd Annual Convocation Lecture delivered at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) said:
“Let us begin with some sober reflections and stock-taking. And in order to fully appreciate where we are as a people and as a country, we should consider that today we live in a Nigeria where:
– 68% of Nigerians live below the poverty line of less than $1.25, as defined by UNDP and World Bank, in terms of income poverty;
– The multidimensional poverty headcount is at 54%, the difference between the income and multidimensional poverty, being non-income related resources available to Nigerians in the latter category (As you know we Nigerians know how to manage our wahala with the support of friends and family);
– 143 out of 1000 Nigerians die before the age of 5 years old;
– Maternal mortality ratio is 630 – meaning that 630 women out of 100,000 die in child birth;
– Adult literacy is at 61% and only 56% of school aged Nigerians, that is from primary school to tertiary institutions are enrolled;
– Primary school enrollment dropped from 103% in 2005 to 83% in 2010 (primary school enrolment data can be higher than 100% due to enrolment to primary school);
– The primary school situation is alarming because if Nigeria continues on this course, the literacy level should even drop further in the coming years due to the drop of enrolment in primary schools;
– All these put Nigeria at 153 among countries on the HDI at 0.471, the highest since the HDI was introduced in 1990 and lower than the sub-Saharan Africa average of 0.475;
– Thus with all our wealth, Nigeria belongs to the low human development category where its 2012 HDI (0.471) is higher than the global average value of that the category of 0.466, but lower as noted than the sub-Saharan Africa average;
– Nigeria is ranked 16th on the Fund for Peace Index of Failed States with the 5-year trend showing that the situation is deteriorating; and
– Transparency International ranks Nigeria 144 (out of 175) on its 2013 corruption index.
Ladies and Gentlemen – Dear Graduates,
The above figures and data are cited in order to highlight the situation we find ourselves in today. We may have issues with some of the organizations that collect these data and/or produce these reports. I am sure some of these reports are distasteful, particularly the notion of a failing state which measures:
– Demographic pressure;
– Group Grievances;
– Human Flight;
– Uneven Development;
– Poverty and Economic Decline;
– Legitimacy of the State;
– Public Services;
– Human Rights;
– Security Apparatus;
– Factionalized Elites;
– External Intervention.
Objective or subjective, it is obvious that we have serious concerns in most of these areas and anyway the Nigerian situation is assessed, the life of the ordinary Nigerian is nasty. And indeed, to paraphrase Thomas Hobbes the lives of very many Nigerians nasty, brutish and short.”
In these observations of unpreparedness, lack of focus and dazed befuddlement exist the “urgency of now” for Nigeria’s education! If a country as developed and educated as the United States of America can express a concern over its education and its relevance to its national security, why not Nigeria?
President John F. Kennedy had noted that ”Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.” Now is the call to action for attention to be paid to the various challenges confronting education in Nigeria so that we can fashion Nigeria’s fundamental resource; its minds. If nation-building is defined as the implementation of processes geared towards recomposing the nation’s institutions so that they can reflect the wishes, needs, aspirations and security of the wider society, then education becomes the gateway to any nation-building enterprise or efforts.
Nigeria needs its education and educated people now so that it can enjoy the fruits of the abundance that education confers on nations! As Abdulai Taylor-Kamara wrote:
“Firstly, education creates an enlightened society. This is a crucial prerequisite to nation–building because the more a people become enlightened the more they would refrain from doing practices that will endanger the nation-building efforts. For example, educated elites will always tend to be responsive and responsible citizens. By this I mean, they obey state laws and properties. Without this, no nation-building efforts will be set in earnest.
Secondly, nation-building requires a ‘meritocratic’ bureaucracy in order to make the state’s institutions effective. Therefore, with education, the country will have the best human resources that are competent enough to carry the day-to-day affairs of the state. Most states collapse as a result of a low level of education because the human resource is so weak that it is incapable of filling state institutions. But with education, this problem is averted.
Thirdly, nation-building requires a democratic society that allows the contribution of all, rich or poor. With education, there will always be an increase in democratic participation. This participation will in turn enhance nation-building initiative because the participation of all the citizens is counted in nation-building.
Fourthly, education is very crucial in the formation of cross-cutting cleavages
that embraces diversity. Accepting differences therefore is very important to nation building because until we accept our differences and come together to build the nation, progress will never be made. With education, this fear is allayed.
Fifthly, education creates a large middle-class (professionals, teachers, doctors, technicians etc).This class is very important to nation-building because they provide the necessary expertise that is needed to building a nation. This is the more reason why emphasis has been laid on education because an educated society is always a strong society, and a society that is set for development.
Overall therefore, education correlates with nation-build. Both of them complement each other. A nation cannot be built without education. With education, professionals are nurtured that will enhance nation-building. In the same way, education leads to efficient usage of a nation’s resources which in turn is very crucial to nation-building because without efficient usage of a nation’s resources, nation-building will not be successful. This is evident in the developed nations. To continue to build their nations, they educate their citizens, because education shapes the attitudes and behaviors and values of citizens. These are qualities that are needed for nation-building and it is only education that will bring those mechanics.”
Let me, in conclusion, say that education has opened many, many doors for many. However, there are still innumerable doors shut tight yet unopened. These are the doors of the future and Nigeria’s national security. Perhaps, one of the children; our children will open one of these doors. Let us help to give him/her the key. Thanks for your patience. Thanks for listening.
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