*Address delivered to Ogun State House of Assembly, Abeokuta on Monday 21st January, 1980.
I have two claims to Abeokuta; it is the home of my maternal ancestress; it is also the place where I successfully pursued the last three years of my primary education.
On 20 April, 1921, I arrived in Abeokuta in quest of education. My schooling career here was chequered. Since my father’s death a year before, Fate itself appeared determined to deny me opportunity for education. Though a lad of only twelve years of age, I was also resolute that Fate should not have its way; and so, I went all out to do every kind of legitimate labour to earn my school fees. Outside Lagos at that time, Abeokuta was, to my knowledge, the only place where there were avenues for young people to earn some money, before and after school hours, and during holidays. At the end of my primary-school pupilage, I became a Pupil Teacher at Imo Wesleyan (now Methodist) School, Abeokuta in 1926; and, after a year’s spell at Wesley College, Ibadan, I became a Provisional Teacher at Ogbe Wesleyan (now Methodist) School, Abeokuta in 1928 and 1929.
I grew up here. I am proud of and fondly cherish my maternal-ancestral and scholastic connections with this historic city which is the capital of the great Egba people, and the capital of Ogun State. Abeokuta is also the cradle of Western education, and Western civilization, in Nigeria.
It is, therefore, with profound joy and gratitude that I seize the unique opportunity which is afforded me today to address this Hon House of Assembly of Ogun State. My joy and gratitude are all the more profound because the occasion is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the introduction of Free Universal Primary Education in the old Western Region out of which Ogun State was carved. The speaker in the Oyo State House of Assembly rightly observed that we are all, young and old, beneficiaries — some direct and the rest indirect beneficiaries — of the Free Universal Primary Education introduced here in 1955. We all, therefore, have cause to rejoice on this historic occasion and to celebrate the anniversary of the advent, twenty-five years ago, of the free primary education. Indeed we should all rejoice because the twenty-fifth anniversary marks the beginning of a new and momentous educational era – the introduction and pursuit of Free Education at all levels here in Ogun State, and in the other UPN-controlled States – Oyo, Ondo, Bendel and Lagos.
It is with all my heart that I congratulate all of you – the Governor of Ogun State, Chief Bisi Onabanjo, his Deputy, Chief Olusesan Soluade, the Commissioners, the Speaker and Hon. Members of this House of Assembly, all other government functionaries, and the entire people of Ogun State, especially the children and adolescents who are the current direct beneficiaries of Free Education at all levels.
In the continuous implementation of this gargantuan educational scheme, difficulty of one kind or another is sure to arise. It may be physical, administrative, or financial. Whichever it is, I am sure that if we all continue, as we now do, to cooperate wholeheartedly with the Government and to give our unalloyed loyalty to it at all times and in every circumstances, any obstacle that appears will not only be overcome, but will also become a stimulus and a stepping stone to greater endeavours and achievements.
In this connection, it will be recalled that the scheme, the Silver Jubilee of which we are celebrating today, was greeted at birth with hostility designed to kill it and wipe its traces out of existence. But with the loyalty and cooperation of the majority of our people at the time, the scheme survived the initial as well as subsequent difficulties. However it is reassuring that, for the new scheme on which we have now wisely embarked, the circumstances are certainly much more favourable and auspicious; and I am confident that, God being our Helper, we shall succeed in this bolder and greater venture more gloriously than we had done with its predecessor.
Before the detailed arrangements for these Silver Jubilee Celebrations were communicated to me, you, Mr. Speaker, Sir, had been good enough to convey to me the resolution of this Hon. House inviting me to visit the House and address its Hon. Members on the four cardinal programmes of the Unity Party of Nigeria. As education is central to our cardinal programmes, I decided in response to your invitation, that my address to this Hon. House on the occasion should cover a brief discussion and a restatement of our four cardinal programmes and their underlying principles.
We hold certain principles to be true, indefeasible over time, and not negotiable. Some of them are stated as follows:
- Man has natural and inalienable rights.
- Some of these rights are: the right of life, to education, to health, to work, to live a decent life befitting his dignity, as the monarch of earth.
- Every citizen of a country has a right to enjoy all fundamental human rights on the basis of equality with his fellow citizens, regardless of the circumstances of his birth.
- Man is the sole creative and purposive dynamic in nature: all the other resources of nature – mineral, agricultural, forest, marine, and lower animal – are passive.
- The economic, social and political development of a society is a function of the aggregate efforts of the entire members of the society.
- It follows that the more of the members of the society that are developed, the greater the development of the society itself.
- A country is underdeveloped because its people are underdeveloped; and as a corollary, the pre-condition of a country’s development is the development of its people.
Having refreshed the memories of Hon. Members of this august House of some of the underlying principles, we shall now have a quick look at some of the arguments in support of the four cardinal programmes.
Nigeria is among the poorest and the most underdeveloped countries in the world. Underdeveloped economies have common characteristics which have been empirically demonstrated.
The rate of illiteracy for those aged ten years and above ranges between 32 per cent in Sri Lanka and 92 per cent in Indonesia. The average for Africa is 84 per cent (thanks·to Africa’s white population) and the estimate for Nigeria is about 87 per cent. As against this, the average rate of illiteracy in developed economies is below 5 per cent. As much as between 67 per cent and 80 per cent of the people in underdeveloped economies engage in subsistence farming. Again in Nigeria, the estimate is appropriately 80 per cent. As against this, in developed economies, only between 5 and 19 per cent of the people engage in what can be described as lucrative agriculture. Furthermore it is estimated that the productivity of one farmer in a developed economy is equal to that of between twenty farmers in underdeveloped economies – and hence in Nigeria.
To be continued