AFTER launching the free primary education programme in the morning twenty-five years ago, I also did a radio broadcast to the people of the Western Region, on the night of the same day. I concluded the broadcast with the following words:
… The opportunity which the Government of this 0Region offers to all of us in the way of education of our children is far-reaching. I appeal to all of you to seize this opportunity in real earnest, I do not at all minimize the problems that are bound to confront us as we proceed with the execution of all our educational schemes,
But if all of you will co-operate, in a spirit of, willing-ness and loyalty, with the Government, the task of tackling and solving any problems that may arise, will, God being our helper, be considerably lightened,
This appeal which was made twenty-five years ago inures today for each of our five States, and for any State in the Federation which may wish to embark on the Scheme of free education at all levels.
As the Scheme unfolds and progresses, difficulties of various kinds will be encountered. There will be administrative, executive and financial difficulties, among others. But the knottiest of them all is the financial difficulty. Even, this, like the other two can and ought to be tackled vigorously and solved,
The country has enough manpower and financial resources to cope with its social and economic problems including in particular the introduction of free education at all levels. But of course it all depends on what we regard as national priorities, and on how our resources are husbanded and deployed for the greatest good of all our people without any discrimination whatsoever.
In this connection, it is imperative that all the relevant arguments should be mustered and directed with unrelenting and unabating persistence, at the “densely-compacted intellect” of the Federal Government to the end that it may awaken to the very urgent need for promoting the immediate introduction of free education at all levels, free health care, integrated rural development, and full employment of our human resources throughout the country.
There is one and only one primary and over-riding objective which all the twenty Governments in our Federation, and all the leaders in the country must recognise: it is the full development and full employment of every Nigerian citizen, This objective, to the exclusion of any other, deserves to be given first priority in all our national endeavours. Any policy or programme which relegates this objective to the second place is sure to come to grief, and to fail woefully in its bid to advance our economic development, and to promote social justice and political stability.
No one in his senses has ever denied and can ever deny that man is the sole dynamic in nature. He is the innovator in any economy and at any stage of human advancement. He is the producer of all raw materials and secondary goods; he is the distributor, exchanger and final consumer of everything that is ever produced. In all of these activities, he alone has the capacity to make or mar: nothing else on earth has. Man, is ordained to have dominion and be monarch over the earth. The vagaries of nature and the acts of God which now and again affect him adversely, do so because of his lack of sufficient knowledge to eliminate such causes when he ascertains them or to cope successfully with their effects.
The point in controversy as far as some people are concerned is whether man’s development should have or should not have priority over the development of natural resources into raw materials and then into secondary goods for man’s final consumption.
In this regard, there is a feudalist-capitalist veil which has, for centuries, and until recently, obscured the prime importance of the developed man in economic development process, in any kind of development process, for that matter. The Japanese were the first to peep seriously behind the veil; and the U.S.S.R was the first to tear the veil asunder; and both of them have thus revealed that the prime mover, the prime dynamic of all development or advancement – be it economic, social or political – is the developed man. Accordingly, they have both given the prime of place to the development – that is, the education and health – of everyone of their respective citizens.
Look in whichever direction you like, and you will see for yourselves that in the long saga of man’s multifarious adventures, nothing worthwhile has been initiated and achieved without the motivating impulse and sustaining direction of the man of education, science, and technology. From the earliest days of man, and centuries before the establishment of institutions for formal education or health care, we see the slave-owner and feudalist, in all parts of the world, taking great pains to develop his offsprings, while he sedulously forbids similar facility for his slaves and serfs.
The early capitalists also took after the feudalists whom they had displaced. They made sure that their own children were sufficiently developed to take over from them, and that the working classes and their descendants remained as mentally underdeveloped as was compatible with the functions and operations they were called upon to perform.
Some of us do speak glibly, indeed thoughtlessly, of the industrial revolution in Britain as being the precursor of Britain’s rapid economic development in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
But such people carelessly overlook the fact that, without the men of education, science and technology, like Richard Arkwright, James Hargreaves, Revd Edmund Cartwright, James Watt, and a multitude of others, the Industrial Revolution could not have taken place. Some of the main characteristics of the Revolution can be mentioned as proof of this assertion. These are:
1.) the discovery and utilisation of new energy sources;
2.) the invention and fabrication of new machines and other mechanical devices;
3.) and the invention and development of faster forms of transportation and communication.