Monday, September 29, 2014

The Poverty of Sycophancy

By Biko Agozino
Say that Chime did not say! (Shikwanu la Chime ashivo!)

While reporting that the Vice President of Nigeria, Namadi Sambo, brought the generous campaign promise from President Jonathan that Turkish Airlines will now fly to Enugu from Ankara, Governor Chime of Enugu was quoted as making the following unfortunate sycophantic assertion that he should repudiate as a mis-speak or misquotation:

"Chime urged the president not to waste energy and resources campaigning in Enugu State, rather the president should channel the resources to other states where there is need for campaign.

“You can go to neighboring states but not Enugu, Enugu is hundred percent for Jonathan and PDP, we started this journey in 2011, we have been doing it and we will be ready to deliver PDP in the forthcoming 2015 Presidential election” he stated.

Anambra State Governor, Chief Willy Obiano, who also spoke at the occasion, assured President Jonathan that the All Progressive Grand Alliance and Anambra State would deliver him hundred percent in 2015.

Obiano noted that APGA adopted Jonathan even before the ruling People’s Democratic Party and further called for collective support from the people of the South East Zone to ensure absolute realization of Jonathan’s reelection bid."

What was Governor Chime thinking when he said that devoting campaign resources to win Enugu was a waste of energy? With the state as the second to last in Federal allocations, we should be making huge demands on any candidate for president. The Promise of Turkish Airlines is an indication that the candidate will not take Enugu seriously if he wins. It is politically immature to promise 100% of the votes of Enugu to any candidate in a democratic election unless there is a plan for wuluwulu.But it is up to the electorate to prove this hubris wrong when the time comes.

The Jonathan administration commissioned the construction of seven new multi-billion dollar hydro electric power plants with none in the South East (which gave the administration the largest proportion of votes in the previous elections without much to show for it). The administration also established nine new universities with only one in the South East (which incidentally leads the country in educational attainment). The administration is also reported to have promised a coal-fired power plant in Enugu without any of the environmental health evaluations that have forced industrialized countries to increasingly rethink coal as a safe source of energy. Chime could have asked for a wind farm to be sited along the hilltop across the state to enable us to harvest energy from the wind more sustainably and supplement with solar for homes in more remote villages. 
The South East states should support the presidential candidate who commits to the implementation of the National Confab recommendation for a sixth state in the region to make it equitable with all the other five regions with six states each. Enugu state should insist on being classified as an oil-producing state because the state has oil and gas deposits in commercial quantities especially in the Awgu Shale Formation that is identified as part of the Niger Delta Basin in the geological maps but the state receives no derivation revenue while that oil is probably being siphoned down the river under our feet where it probably flows like an underground river. Only a presidential candidate who commits to paying reparations for the Igbo genocide deserves to expect overwhelming support from the South East.

Similarly, instead of Governor Willy Obiano of Anambra state beating his chest to announce that APGA was the first to endorse President Jonathan for re-election even before the PDP adopted him, he should have been demanding that PDP should endorse APGA for the governorship of Imo State in return, at least because his party won that state but the sitting governor chose to decamp to the APC. Azikiwe did form alliances with other parties but his own party also always fought to win the national election too.Why are the governors of the South East shying away so brazenly? Perhaps because the minority parties are not living up to their tasks.

What? Are they thinking at all? Uwawa (No)!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Education State Of Emergency

By Biko Agozino

The annual embarrassment of news of mass failure by High School students in Nigeria, especially in English language and Mathematics examinations, calls for concerted efforts by all to improve the success of our students. Although the South East states continue to emerge as the leading successful region with 53% success this year, the South East results are still less than satisfactory and need a lot of improvement.

Awgu Community USA is taking up the challenge by fund-raising to buy SAT study guides and run workshops for the secondary schools in their community in Nigeria. Since SAT tests are based on Mathematics and English, preparing for the SAT should contribute to transferable knowledge that could improve West African School Certificate examination performances in these subjects while offering the candidates a bonus chance to earn admission to top universities in the US.

This summer, I traveled to Awgu community for my mother’s funeral and I took with me, copies of the SAT and GRE study guides. On arrival, I worked with teachers in several secondary schools to set up workshops on successful study skills for the students. Surprisingly, none of the students had ever heard of the SAT exams but many were eager to register for the tests after the workshops.  Some of them went ahead to check with the SAT test center at Government Technical College (GTC), Enugu, to see if they could register but could not find out how to register.

I went to the GTC and met with the principal who gave me the phone number of the staff of the West African Examination Council in the Enugu office who invigilates the SAT tests at GTC. I called him and he gave me the phone number and address of the office that handles the SAT registrations in Enugu. I passed the information to the students and their parents. Here it is: Prize Winners, Independence Layout, Enugu, Cell: 07039023193.

Finally, I placed the copies of the SAT and GRE study guides in Awgu Zonal Library for the students to consult. I found that the library was in bad shape with leaking roof sheets, cracked walls and crumbling pillars (just like the walls of some of the halls in the secondary schools that I visited). I emailed the Senator representing the constituency (Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu) about the condition of the library, hoping that he would intervene to secure funding for the maintenance of the library for the safety of the students. The community members praised him for attracting the library and other projects to the community.

Previously, following complaints from some students that they were frustrated by the alleged closing of the SAT test center in Enugu, Awgu Community USA mandated me to find out from the College Board which organizes the tests, what it would take to reopen the Enugu test center. I wrote to the head of the international division of College Board in January 2014 as follows:

“Dear Dr Judith Hegedus,

May I know if you have any plans to re-open the SAT center in the city of Enugu, Nigeria? I understand that you used to have a center in the city but it was closed for some reason.

I have received numerous requests to appeal to you to consider re-opening a center in Enugu. Your representative, GIEVA, only operates two centers in Nigeria - Abuja in the North and Lagos in the West. This leaves numerous high-achieving students from the South East handicapped because the cost of traveling all day to Lagos or Abuja for the exam discourages many poor parents from supporting their children.

It may interest you to know that the South East of Nigeria is a leading region in academic achievements with the rare exception of having more female students participating in higher education than their male counterparts, compared to other regions in which their male participation do not equal or exceed the records of the South Eastern states in male participation. Moreover, the residents of the Eastern region are renowned globally for their traditional democratic institutions, entrepreneurship, sporting excellence and willingness to venture into distant lands in search of opportunities. This will make them ideal candidates for admission to US colleges to help to increase diversity and excellence if given the chance to access SAT exams more easily.

It may also interest you to know that Enugu was the capital city of the former Eastern Region and remains a central city easily accessible to residents of the region. It has an international airport and there are highly reputable institutions of higher learning that your representatives could collaborate with to provide a venue for the SAT exams. These include The University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus; The Nigerian Law School, Enugu Campus; Enugu State University of Technology, Enugu; University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu; Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu; and the Federal Leadership Training Center, Awgu.

Please let me know if I can be of any assistance to facilitate the urgent re-opening of the SAT center in Enugu.

Yours truly,

Dr. Biko Agozino”

In February 2014, I got the following reply from Kerry Quin, the International Program Specialist at College Board:

“Dear Dr. Agozino,

I hope this finds you well. Thank you for your email and for bringing this to our attention. The SAT test center, Government Tech College, in Enugu, Nigeria is currently opened and offers the SAT in January, May, and June.

We hope you find this information helpful to you and the students in Enugu.

Kind regards,

Kerry Quin”

Myself and Dr. Augustine Agu (an educationist who had more than 20 years experience as a senior program officer with UNICEF) had earlier developed a Successful Study Skills manual and presented it during a conference at the UNICEF headquarters in New York in 2009. We have shared our strategy with many officials but we are yet to receive any expression of interest for the implementation of our proposed action research for the possible improvement of the academic success of students. If you are interested in supporting this work, please contact us.