To start with, what is the agenda of your state, Nasarawa at the national conference?
Of course every section of country has their agenda at the conference. We from Nasarawa State are at the conference to ensure that we get equity in the configuration of what Nigeria is. We are also at the confab to highlight the fact that we have a lot of resources that government has not turned its attention to. This is because if the government has done so, these resources will be exploited and we will be talking about derivation from these resources and we will not be disadvantaged.
At the moment, Nasarawa state is the least in the federal allocation. So we are not developing as we should be, because we are not getting the resources that should be commensurate to us, based on our land mass and population.
We learn that some states in the federation are pushing for confederation at the confab. Does Nasarawa State fall within this group?
The whole of the southern part of this country is pushing for a confederation, but most of us from the northern part are thinking about a federation where the centre will not be made too weak. Our fear is that when the centre becomes too weak, the country may fall apart. You need to keep a centre that should be in control of the system.
Since many of you from the northern part of this country believe that confederation is not the best option for this country, what then are your options, or do you want the status quo ante to remain
Well, there are people who talking about regionalism, in terms of the six geo-political zones becoming regions. There are people who are saying that we should go back to the immediate post-independence regional arrangements.
However the idea of going back to the regional system has not received good acceptability. Most people believe that the states as it exist at the moment should continue to exist and the federal government should be the centre. So the idea of regionalism is not getting good support. So far, since we are going into the committees, the issue will be discussed at plenary session and final decision made. But I don’t think that the idea of regions is widely accepted.
Recently, some delegate members have challenged their exclusion from membership of certain sensitive committees. How do you resolve this?
Well, I think that what we should understand is that where over 492 persons are gathered, interest must differ. What the conference chairman, Justice Kutigi tried to do was to allow people indicate the type of committees they would like to serve in. I believe he was just being liberal. So, when people submitted their names choosing their various committees, it couldn’t be accommodated in the actual selection of committees. This is because there is no way you can have 492 people choosing their own committees when there are only 20 committees.
So in the end, some of these choices were not respected, because all committees have to include all sorts of people to bring in ideas, marry them together and so and so forth.
Women in particular, are saying that they have not been treated fairly in the allocation of committee, because they have been more concerned about gender sensitivity. In each committee there is a woman, but the felt that not enough of them have been given leadership of the committees. I think that is the bases for all their agitation, but the chairman has said that if anybody has a complaint, such a person should submit such a complaint to the secretariat for prompt action. That is the situation so far.
As an educationist, and a former teacher, what contribution are you going to make at the floor of the confab to advance educational development in this country.
If I am to talk about the education system of this country, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that the educational system of this country has totally collapsed. The public schools in most states are not being properly run. First and foremost you will find students who are said to have completed secondary school, but they cannot write their names. So, there is something basically wrong with an education system, where a child will spend six years in primary school and another six years in the secondary school and still cannot write his name.
That is an indication that the education system has totally collapsed. There are reasons for this collapsed. The reasons are not far-fetched from the reasons why things cannot work properly in Nigeria. This must be related with the corruption that has engulfed the system.
For instance in Nasarawa State, I have told the commissioner of education that something was wrong if you find a level 15 officer working under a level 12 officer. Sure enough, that level 15 will not be willing to give his best. Again the way leadership in the education system also calls for a serious reconsideration, because you cannot make a junior officer to head a senior officer.
Secondary, the kind of people appointed to head a place is also worrisome, because you may get an ill-qualifies person being appointed to run a place he is not qualified to run. I must mention that the collapse is both at the primary, secondary and the tertiary levels.
You were in the system before now. What do you think actually caused this problem
Yes, you see our education system used to be very strong in the past. I spoke with a Ghanaian who told me that our education was stronger than theirs about ten years ago, but today our education system has collapsed to the point that Nigerians are now sending their children to Ghana for studies. We can trace this collapse to as far back as 1976 when General Yakubu Gowon introduced the Universal Primary Education programme (UPE) without adequately preparing for the programme. We all know that before you introduce such a programme you must first of all train the personnel required drive that programme, but this was not done.
Rather what government did was to go to the streets and recruit people who were not qualified to be trained as teachers and then send them to teachers training colleges and they came out half-baked. So since that time our education system has continued to go down the drain. Since that time we have always been ready to compromise a lot of things.
Do you think the confab is going to address this problem?
The confab is examining all aspect of our national life. We believe that members of the confab that will serve in a committee related to education would critically examine these issues. I am sure that everybody in this country knows that there is a collapse in our education system and would like to make appropriate recommendations that would resuscitate the system. (Leadership)