I wonder what the entire furore is over the rejection of Sule Gambari, Nigeria’s long time permanent representative to the UN as chairman of the Niger delta steering committee. Shortly after his arrival local television news channels were crammed with pictures of an athletic Gambari racing through a flight of staircase at Aso rock to meet with Nigeria’s president umaru Yar’adua. But a week after his arrival Ambassador Gambari realized this wasn’t the perfect homecoming he was expecting. What the menacing Burmese junta and monks failed to see in him the Governors and elders of the Niger delta region saw in toto; Gambari had failed the simple test of being his own man. His failure to condemn late Gen. Sani Abacha’s administration over its shoddy handling of the trial of the ogoni nine and consequently their killings has now become his Achilles heel. A number of people have argued that speaking out then would have been equivalent to performing hara-kiri. But Gambari being a tested diplomat should have known how to waddle through the twists and turns of the walkways of international diplomacy. He should have borrowed a leaf from Emeka Anyaoku who was at the same period secretary general of the commonwealth who spiced his words with wisdom saying the situation in Nigeria called for serious concern and thereafter staunchly supported the suspension of Nigeria from the colonial body. When you look back in retrospect we can say he tried. But Gambari had called saro-wiwa and his comrades’ worthless criminals deserving of the punishment they received. Those scathing and vitriolic comments now haunt him twelve years after. A friend of mine had said President Yar’adua had thought he was doing ambassador Gambari a favour by inviting him over. Well I’m almost certain someone would not be receiving a Christmas message this year. His almost untarnished record was put on the scales and he failed to measure up. I’ll place the blame on the presidency who committed the most fundamental faux pas; trying to plan for the people rather than with the people. It’s good that this happened because the region’s inhabitants might be sending a message that this would not be business as usual, possibly they’ve become wary of the growing number of talk-shops concerning its rehabilitation. This summit whenever it convenes would have a central issue to tackle; trust. It is almost unfathomable that a chairman of the committee could be appointed without consulting with the leaders of the region. A number of commentators have tried to play down this whole issue saying the appointment and rejection of a chairman is infinitesimal and diversionary. I agree it is diversionary but then maybe the whole summit is diversionary because how does the Nigerian government explain its soliciting for military aid from Britain on the one hand while on the other hand it negotiates for peace with the warring militants. Already thousands of people have fled the region’s hot spots as renewed violence commenced last week. I sit on a reclining chair flipping through several Nigeria local news channels hoping in vain to see Ambassador Gambari’s exit and I hope to God he is racing on the tarmac of Murtala Mohammed international airport
The streets of Lagos are surprisingly quiet, although the next question you’d be asking me is what time is it. ‘8 ‘0’ clock is the time for school’ so the popular primary school marching song goes, but it is indeed an ominous sign today because no school bells have gone off at the noisy oshodi primary school and it’s way past nine ‘0 clock. The students aren’t at the bus-stop, for once I miss the children-crowded bus-stops and side-walks as -they made haste to beat the 8 ‘o clock deadline. Bereft of the usual noisy chatter, not a few people wondered if something was amiss. Yes, spot on, there aren’t any school songs and empty seats have replaced crowded classrooms not because the pupils are late rather it’s the Government who’s playing catch-up according to the leadership of the national union of teachers. Its nearly two weeks since the teachers strike commenced and it’s almost apparent that every level of government is prepared to do only one thing; show-boating. Take for example the comments of the minister of education Dr igwe aja-nwachukwu saying that the teachers represented only 9% of the entire public school system, therefore they were not qualified to have the ears of the president. When asked where that left the teachers, he frowned saying ‘go to your state governments’. Most sincerely sir, the thirty 36 states of this federal republic will just be overjoyed at the prospect of leaving the teachers in the lurch-most of the states are still grappling with elementary chores such as road maintenance and clearing illegal waste dump-sites. Two years ago the former minister of education and vice president of the World Bank, Dr oby-ezekwesili postulated a similar argument when defending the need for the sale of over 102 unity schools, it was a bitter war that never saw the light of day. President umar Yar’adua ordered that the ministry revert to status quo ante, the ministry licked its wounds while the teachers celebrated. But the stone faced Dr. Nwachukwu wasn’t through with the body of teachers; he threatened to roll out the tanks if it proceeded with its plan to picket private schools. Nonetheless the belligerent leadership of the NUT says it was pushed to no man’s land when the government failed to take advantage of an earlier three day warning strike to ward off a full blown strike. Two weeks into the dispute, its stock-taking time; the rank and file of child street hawkers has been swelled since their recalcitrant guardians have found a leeway to make some extra bucks. Finding an idle hand and mind for mischief is what the devil is famed for, the grave danger however may not be the street hawkers, but rather the millions of children locked up in homes doing absolutely nothing. While the leadership of the NUT has assured its teeming followers that they wouldn’t be the first to wink, this would be an opportune moment to consider the following;
Is anyone thinking of meeting the education millennium development goal in seven years or at least vision 2020?
If this grand-standing continues where does this leave our children, and can someone please tell me what moral right a government has in abdicating its responsibility of providing standard education facilities and resources. Finally let everyone who has an ear remember that song ‘eight ‘o clock is the time for school, never be late in the morning’