THE very rapid development of Britain in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; of the USA in the nineteenth century; of Japan in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and of the U.S.S.R in this twentieth century, has been brought about primarily by the men of education, science and technology in these countries.
And the example of these highly developed countries, among others not mentioned here, are enough for us to reiterate categorically that at every stage of human development or advancement, the moving Innovations and Progress i11 Former Western Nigeria spirits are invariably the men of education, science, and technology.
The more of them a country has, the brighter are its prospects for rapid economic progress, for social justice, and for political stability.
It is generally agreed, and in any case the fact stares us in the face, that in spite of her enormous economic potentialities, Nigeria is one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries of the world. She has been in this shameful position for very many years. We must not allow her to remain this way for much longer. All those who share the view that rapid development of Nigeria by Nigerians for Nigerians is a matter of urgent necessity must agree to do first things first, no matter to which political party they may belong. And that first thing is the full development and full employment of every Nigerian citizen.
Already, most parts of the country have lost twenty-five years in the matter of the development of our people. The reason is that many of our leaders and so-called intellectuals instead of girding their loins and doing likewise for our people in their respective areas of influence, have elected to spend a-quarter-of-a-century in deriding and jeering at a great scheme which was introduced here in 1955, and which has in the course of years produced many of the most brilliant and ablest Nigerian youths who abound today in the professions, in industry and commerce, in parastatal organisations, and in government.
I seize this auspicious occasion to appeal to those Nigerian leaders who may still be inclined that way, to desist NOW from playing a stupid and dangerous game which experience of twenty- five years has shown to be fit only for nation-wreckers, and for “the envious and asses that bray.”
We must always bear in mind that our constitution enjoins us, as and when practicable, to provide free education at all levels for our children and adolescents. I declare for the umpteenth time that all the good things of life provided for in our constitution are practicable now.
Those who foolishly and recklessly maintain that, compared with the other parts of the country the primary education given in the five UPN-controlled states is lacking in quality will do themselves a lot of good by looking at Pages 25 and 27 of THE ANNUAL REPORT OF THE WEST AFRICAN EXAMINATION COUNCIL FOR THE YEAR ENDED MARCH 31, 1977. At page 25
Distinction Passes Percentage of
those who sat
Western States 72 0.2
Eastern States 51 0.1
Northern States 37 0.25
Western States 1151 2.6
Eastern States 1087 3.1
Northern States 462
Western States 3545 8.8
Eastern States 3381 10.5
Northern States 969 5.7
Western States 13494 28.6
Eastern States 9060 27.6
Northern States 3834 22.4
The results for GCE (Advanced Level) Examination held in November-December 1976 showed that the Western States had 6492 passes which was 48.8 per cent of those who sat for the examination from those states; the Eastern states had 2500 passes which was 37.9 per cent of those who sat; while the Northern states had 1251 passes, that is 41 per cent of those who sat. At page 27 the results of GCE (Ordinary Level) Examinations held in May June 1975, may be tabulated as follows:
It is crystal clear from these figures that the products of the Free Universal Primary Education who have been thoughtlessly described as “semiliterates” are indisputably in the lead in all the GCE (Ordinary Level) and GCE (Advanced Level) Examinations held in 1975 and 1976 respectively.
Alhaji Shagari, in the face of these and other facts at his disposal, should no longer drag his feet on the question of free education at all levels on the pretext that he wants something better than what obtains in the UPN-controlled states. From the percentages of passes, there is no doubt that there is considerable room for improvement in all the states. But more so in the Northern states where the total number of candidates who passed these examinations is comparatively very, very low indeed.
The educational gap between the Western states and the Northern states is too wide for comfort. And it would be criminal for anyone who has the power and the means to close it, to allow it to widen further. It cannot be closed by trying to halt the forward march of the Western or Eastern states as someone had suggested some three or so years ago. For one thing, this is an impossible proposition. For another, such an attempt would be certain to provoke an emotional reaction of frightful proportions among those affected. The gap can only-therefore, be closed by embarking now, throughout the country, on Free and Compulsory Primary Education, Free and Compulsory Secondary Education, and Free Education at Post-Secondary levels. If we do this now, the existing educational gap will be permanently closed in fifteen to twenty yenrs’ time.
In closing, I wholeheartedly congratulate our five governors—Ajasin, Onabanjo, Jakande, Ige, and Alli; and with them I associate the names of Abubakar Rimi. Governor of Kano State, and Abdulkadir Balarabe, Governor of Kaduna State—for blazing these new beneficial educational trails of free education at all levels. Obstacles there must be in the path of every pilgrim or pioneer in search and pursuit of noble and humane objectives. I have no doubt that when they do appear, as they are bound to, we shall, with Almighty God on our side, overcome them even more gloriously than the pioneers of twenty years ago did in their time.