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Background of the Study
Before and after the contact between Africa and Europe, ancient Nigerian societies had a stock of great exemplary leaders and torch-bearers at various facets of life. Colonial and post-modern Nigeria has continued to witness the emergence of great leaders whom in all their uniqueness have led Nigerians from one level to another like a driver who has a lot of commuters, full of human potentials heading towards a special task. Certainly, the commuters’ life, at the interim, is at the mercy of the driver.
The life and mission of those commuters is in serious jeopardy if the driver is untrained, do not know the actual route to the intended destination, drives recklessly or has an ulterior motive, such as, leading his passengers to armed bandits or ritual killers or the similitude of the listed evil intentions. By this illustration, it arrives at asserting that to assess the validity of a good leader is as the resolve that his followers are happy with him, fulfilled and ends expectantly.
If the above illustration is fit to serve as a template for determining, criticizing or judging an ideal leader/leadership, what would be the common take of Nigerians on leadership in Nigeria?
One thing we must get a grip of is that leadership is not only consigned to political leadership. It cuts across, political, economic and socio-cultural boundaries. And as a Nigerian, my general assessment of leadership in Nigeria may not differ from the hue and cry of Nigerians: the country is moving backward at every count, development is replaced with stagnation while corruption is drastically at the increase, and Nigerians are continually loosing their breathe on the looming fate of their destiny. These drivers are the problem. Chinna Achebe in his booklet, the Problem with Nigeria, opines that the problem lies squarely on leadership failure, else there is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land, climate, water, air or anything else:
“The Nigerian Problem is the unwillingness of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the true hallmark of leadership”.
The central problems that have so far succeeded to unit Nigerians as a matter of reaching a consensus are often on the topic of bad leadership. It is however, not an entirely bad experience. This is because; men may not value or appreciate a flicker of light if they had not known a deep and tiring state of perpetual darkness. Nigerians are fagged out and are most willing to cast their lot on any true leader if they find one. Like the biblical nomads who kept watch at NIGHT and waited hopefully and patiently for that great messiah. Nigerians are looking forward to the emergence of such leaders that can salvage them from their dungeon of socio-political and socio-economic quagmire. These leaders are expected to sprout from all the areas of the indices of developmental avenues such as, industrial, traditional, professional, political, cultural, economic, religious, scientific, social, technological and educational aspects of life.
The institutions mentioned above are primordial and inherent to human existence. They are lurked up inside man from the origin of existence and could only come to life by the aid of education. Indeed, education is an illuminator. No society can rise above its lower level to a higher level without the aid of education. This means that education is the cornerstone for any development in man and his society. Thus, all the necessary channels and off-shoots of real development are the offspring of education. This may account for why Nigerian government placed premium on education. The report of the presidential committee on the preview of the 1999 Constitution states that:
“Government shall make Education the pivot of the nation’s social development, mobilization and ethical re-orientation of the citizens”.
It is unequivocally true that education is the hope of a realizable dream-Nigeria. It is also true that our leaders has also failed in the area of education, even though it is given a premium on our national (written) course. The Nigerian constitution stipulates that the government will provide free education to her citizens from the primary to secondary levels of education and through to tertiary level. The question is: is that what is obtainable in Nigeria of today? The answer is No! Our leaders have continued to fail. It shows their lack of vision and unpatriotic attitude by relegating the invaluable place of education to national development and their deaf ears to the agonizing cry of the masses. Yet, in spite of the popularities of bad leadership there are yet some exemptions.
However reluctant Nigerian government has been to educational concern, individuals, organisations as well as institutions are springing up educational centres to make up for the vacuum and loopholes, even though it has its drawbacks. The drawback is that these schools are expensive, thereby sidelining the larger percentage of Nigerians who are languishing in poverty. This is not to say that there are no well-meaning Nigerians, organisations and institutions who do not sponsor the less privileged to get education. There are a number of them. And anytime there is a mention of good-willed Nigerian or organisation with a passion for promoting literacy in Nigeria through voluntary donations and scholarship, the first name that readily comes to the mind of most Nigerians from the six geo-political zones is “Rochas Okorocha” or “Rochas Foundation”.
Rochas Okorocha and his Foundation is a household name in Nigeria in respect to educational support and promotion. He has demonstrated his strong passion for the development of education in Nigeria by issuing free education to the less-privileged Nigerians through his Rochas Foundation College Project as an individual philanthropist and revivalist. His wisdom is made bare by his clench to the popular Chinese adage that says, “Don’t give me fish, but teach me how to fish”. Himself, rising from a very poor background and grabbing an hold to an enviable national glory, did not attain this height by a mere chance, but by the leverage of education. For this reason, Rochas Okorocha channels his energy at alleviating the plight of Nigerians by offering free education to Nigerian children from basic education to tertiary education at his own cost as a businessman. This favour has been spread out to all Nigerians irrespective of tribe or religion. The same feat is being replicated in Imo State as he is now the governor of the state.
This paper is therefore concerned with the person of Owelle Rochas Anayo Okorocha, as can be gleaned from the caption. It intends to x-ray his efforts at entrenching an enlightened Nigerian populace and development of the human capacity for a virile Nigeria. Its motive should not be misinterpreted as a substitute for the stock-pile of works of recommendation and bootlicking of the person of Rochas Okorocha. Its main purpose is to score a point and fill a gap, and a very important one by considering his hitherto efforts towards the educational sector and the expected end. Thus, it shall examine Rochas Okorocha as an individual and his revolutionary steps at combating illiteracy in Nigeria. Finally, it shall consider his conventional approach towards his passion.
ROCHAS OKOROCHA AND EDUCATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Rochas Okorocha has achieved tremendous success and prominence socially, economically and political with a particular intimidating high track record he has set in the support and encouragement of educational studies. And his profile is still rising.
The man, Owelle Rochas Anayo Okorocha (OON) was born on September 22, 1962 in Ogboko, Ideato South Local Government Area of Imo State. Coming from a humble beginning, he rose from grace to grace. He began the struggle for survival with hawking of groceries in Barkin Ladi, Jos and rose to become a proprietor of a commercial school.
In 1976, Rochas Okorocha started his secondary education amidst a life of privation, by the 1990s, Rochas was fully into public service. But he did not put aside academic life, and so combined both activities. His academic strife was quite rewarding as he was today adorned with quite a number of academic laurels among which are LLL.B and LL.M from university of Jos. Advanced Diploma in Public Administration, Diploma in Law and conflict management and PGD in management.
By 1996, Rochas Okorocha founded the Rochas Foundation as a philanthropy organisation, and in 2001 Rochas Foundation gave birth to Rochas Foundation College, which today has campuses across the Federation. This wing of Rochas Foundation is poised with offering free education to indigent Nigerian students irrespective of tribe or creed. The establishment was propelled by his passion for salvaging the suffering Nigerian masses by rendering free education to many Nigerian students so as to live above the penury line.
As a passionate humanitarian, Rochas is the president of the Nigerian Red Cross Society which is now waxing stronger than when he met it. Yet unsatisfied with his input to humanitarian work through his work at the Nigerian Red Cross Society, Rochas took a dive into politics at both state and national levels, so as to touch the lives of a greater percentage of Nigerians. In 1999, he represented Ideato South and North Federal Constituency were he served as the Federal Commissioner representing Imo State in the Federal Character Commission, and also won the position of the chairman of the Youth wing of Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in the same year; 1999.
In the same year (1999), Rochas contested the gubernatorial election in Imo State but could emerge as the governor which he purportedly won but was denied the right to emerge due to the monster of god-fatherism prevalent in the Nigerian Politics. He further went on to contest for the ultimate position in Nigerian under the platform of All Nigerians Peoples Party (ANPP) in the presidential bid of 2003. Gaining the reputation as very stiff contenders for the 2003 presidential contestants, Rochas was later called upon and appointed the special adviser to the president on inter-party affairs.
As a naturally born revivalist, Rochas Founded a new political party known as Action Alliance, with the mission to ouster the old order and forge a new road map for a positive future: A Dream-Nigeria!
By 2007, Rochas Okorocha has built a strong political awareness for himself which instigated his move to run again for the presidential position in the 2007 general election under PDP. To prove his popularity, he came second in the PDP’s primary election after Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. Dissatisfied with the way things are done in PDP both at the state and national levels. Mostly dissatisfied with the way things are done in PDP, Imo State, Rochas decided to join All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) in the build-up to the 2011 general election. He was picked to gun for the gubernatorial contest by APGA for Imo State governorship position. And with a landslide victory over his competitors, Owelle Rochas Anayo Okorocha emerged as the undisputed governor of Imo State and was sworn in on May 29, 2011.
Rochas Foundation Education Wing
Rochas Foundation (RF) Group is a non-governmental, non-profit and non-political organisation incorporated in February 1998 in Nigeria, with a firm commitment to charity and philanthropy. The primary focus is to ensure a credible future for Africans by offering free education to indigent Nigerians from the primary level to secondary levels.
The Rochas Foundation College began from Owerri in 2001. Today, it has five colleges at Kano, Jos, Ibadan, Owerri and Ogboko in Imo State; the home town of its founder. The foundation provides free tuition, books, uniforms, boarding and hostel facilities. Free feeding, medicare, transportation and monthly allowances for its students. Additionally, an exchange programme is sponsored by Rochas Foundation for students who excel in their studies. Over 4,000 students applies every year for Rochas Foundation College.
The College is not blinkered with only curricular activities, it also exposes its students to some extra-curricular activities in the areas of sports development, communication, sewing, arts and crafts. The foundation is planning to establish more colleges and launch a free university education in Ogboko as the first in Africa. Of over 6,000 students who have benefited from the Rochas Foundation Colleges, 700 are currently in various universities under the Rochas Foundation University scheme.
Education in Imo State under Okorocha
Rochas Okorocha has also moved on with his passion for a literate society from the level of a personal businessman and philanthropist to his public portfolio as the governor of Imo State.
Eighteen months after resumption of office as the governor of Imo State, the government of Rochas Okorocha, on November 13, 2012 launched the free education campaign for all indigenes of Imo State. Even though he inherited an empty treasury from Ikedi Ohakim, Okorocha still continued to pursue his policy of free and compulsory education programme for all indigenes of Imo State in the state, from primary to tertiary levels. To ensure the actualization of this programme, notwithstanding the empty treasury he inherited, Rochas converted his budgeted security vote to encourage this bid. The free education bid for tertiary levels is awesome as it covers university undergraduates of state-owned university and undergraduates of state-owned polytechnic/colleges of education. This offer also included a promised grant of One Hundred Thousand Naira (100,000) for university undergraduates, and Eighty Thousand Naira (N80,000) for undergraduates of polytechnic/colleges of education for Imo State indigenes in Imo State owned tertiary institutions as bursary allowances.
A call for relevance is a call for nation-building. A progressive Nigerian can hardly afford to treat those who demand for national forwardness and the demand for Nigerians to make themselves relevant with contempt or levity. Rochas Okorocha matches into that kind of leader Achebe describes as to rise “to the challenge of personal example which is the hallmark of true leadership”.
LEADERSHIP, EDUCATION AND NATION BUILDING
Justice Chikwudifu Oputa believes that Nigeria can be better “if and only if (her) leaders had the sagacity of Otto Von Bismarck, the wisdom of Cavour, the adroitness of Mazini, the patriotism of Ghandi and the selflessness of Nyereye”. As for Chinua Achebe, he suggests that Nigeria can change “if she discovers leaders who have the will, the ability and the vision. Such people are rare in any time and place. But it is the duty of enlightened citizens to lead the way in their discovery and to create an atmosphere conducive for their emergence”.
The string that runs through the crafting of this work or article is the seminal fluid that paves the way for emergence” Achebe talks about. This is the point this work intends to score.
It is no doubt that Rochas is cut out for the advancement and betterment of Nigeria by his personally placed premium on education. He has demonstrated that as an entrepreneur and philanthropist, and as a public servant (Governor). Such move is plausible and second to none in Nigeria, but that is not all. There is more to it than offering free education, because “free” education may slacken the value that benefactors places on learning, hence it costs them nothing. They may not be stirred to live above board and distinguish themselves, this is because they may begin to perceive life-after-school as bed of rises. In other words, neither do I object to free education. This is because neither education gotten at ones striving nor freely gotten could stand as a cross-bar to make one distinguished, hence you can only force somebody to lean, but you cannot force the person to be productive, which is the original essence of acquiring education. Thus, what is science if it cannot be applied? The answer is abject futility. Of what use is the labour in arts and humanities without its socio-developmental impact to the society and nation at large? This is the gap this work intends to fill up. This is the gap Rochas Okorocha and Rochas Foundation must fill up if the effort at revitalizing Nigeria is a top priority task on the front burner of their objective and not just an ostentations display or means of political brouhaha.
Education for National Development
Nigeria is placed as one of the nations that are plagued with illiteracy. The greater percentage of Nigerians are illiterates, consequently leading to the stagnation towards development. The importance of education is that it serve as a vehicle to national development and that cannot be over-ruled; and that may be the reason education is given a premium place on our national course. Yet our leaders treat its implementation with careless abandon, paying lip service to its implementation. The sector has been carted away by private individuals and is now turned into money spinning venture. Education, for these reasons, is rapidly metamorphosed into a domain and an exclusive reserve of the elitist. The less-privileged class, almost from whom the bulk of human potentials are dug up from, are now cut-short from getting education; being sidelined and marginalized.
The privileged class do not need education to become productive. They need it for sophist reason; to garnish their social status and to decorate their resumé. Whereas the indigent Nigerian will take it and run the race to the finishing line, because he has to overcome his present state of life. But the situation ought to be so. Education, both at the advantage of the elites and at the reach of a few less-privileged in Nigeria was lost its salt, being swallowed up by the monster of un-productivity. And who is to blame? Yet despite repeat calls on Nigerian leaders for a change of heart, it is still business as usual.
Notwithstanding the prevalent decay, Nigerians could now rest their confidence on a leader who exercises his passion for education, both as a businessman and as a public servant. And that man is Owelle Rochas Anayo Okorocha. He has a set-mind to revamp the decadent state of Nigeria through education, and he is willing to invest more to augment the state of Nigeria. But one thing is to have zeal and another is to achieve the purpose of a pursuit.
What is the need to spread corn seeds on an infertile land? What is the need to offer education (whether for free or not) when the educated walks out of an institution with a certificate to live at par with the uneducated: where a graduate of pharmacy is competing with an Ariaria Market trader, as next-door neighbour in the sale and distribution of patent drugs? Where ill-patients will substitute between medical practitioner to a quark who operates a little patent drug shop by the street? Where a graduate of Theatre Arts is competing in an audition with a primary school drop-out, or where a professor is caught in the net of an alleged rigging of election. Rochas Okorocha has done very well, but there is one more step to finish the race.
It is good to give a student education to graduate as a mathematician, but it would be better if the benefactor produces few Philip Emeagwalis and Chike Obis than more mathematicians. It is good to train many medical practioner, but it would be best if we have a few Ben Carsons. It is good to have many professors of English language and literary studies, but it is better to have few Chinua Achebes, Wole Soyinkas and Chimamanda Adichies.
The importance of education to national development cannot be under-valued. It bridges ethnic divides and racial disunity, encourages political awareness and participation, stimulates innovation and the realization of oneself as well as national history. If we had positive visionary leaders, the Nigerian educated youths will grow above the mediocrity level to super-human personalities and move Nigeria forward to the level of the vanguard of world leading nations. Nigerian Youths and students, in the colonial days and early post colonial period have rendered positive valuable contributions to the struggle for liberation and national development. They can constitute a reservoir of energy and dynamism for any national struggle or campaign if correctly guided.
We shall take a look at what education really entails, and to see if it fits with what is available in Nigeria.
Definitions of Education
Onwuka defines education as ‘a process of influencing the young and inexperienced so that they may become worthy human beings and citizens”. Jonah Onuoha holds that it is a process of learning of harmonizing the individual with a given environment in such a manner as to enable him to develop his physical, mental, emotional and volitional capabilities for the happiness and welfare of all”. Jonah’s citation of Monroe’s (1957) opinion of education strongly relates to education for national development. He puts it this way, “education is a process of relating the individual to society so as to secure the development of personality and social welfare”.
The aim of this work is to stir the likes of Rochas Okorocha to aspire to lift Nigeria from the mere traditional rite of acquiring education as a mere meal ticket or passbook. But to also back it up with an innovative programme that will challenge students and scholars, ingenuity to live a life of pure distinction, productivity and a laid down legacy for the younger generation to trail on, as the hallmark of the nations’ idiosyncrasy or culture towards education.
To install a consolidate culture where education will be highly valued and tailored to the restoration of ancient African technological prowess. Egbeke Aja has this to say:
“Together with Western education, African has gobbled up the emptiness of Western values and is now waking up from the nightmare. Because Africa does have a profound wisdom, a philosophy of which pulsates under the heavy coating of western civilization, most western-educated Africans, on their return to their countries, no longer feel at home”.
China is rapidly gaining much stronghold to the world’s greatest economy. India is on their meteoric rise to the league of world’s industrialized nation and the Asian Tigers are gaining much momentum in the comity of nations. They did not attain such heights by swallowing western education hole, line and sinker. Rather, they went back to the drawing board; to their ancient technology through the aid of education. And this supports what Julius Nyereye said in 1997 that. “of all the sins that Africa can commit the sin of despair would be the most unforgivable”.
The month of October is marked as Black History Month by black people in Britain when they celebrate the great and good in the long history of their mother continent and people in humanizing the world. This is organised to disprove European entrenched notion that Africa has no history, without wits and unproductive.
Education and technology for national growth
Modern ethnologists found the ancient arts of the Yorubas so astonishingly of high quality that they did not ascribe it to a Negro race at first. Still in Nigeria, the Igbo-Ukwu civilization so dazzled Peter Garlake, one of European archaeological experts that he had to submit that “Igbo-Ukwu is probably the most enigmatic prehistonic sites in Africa. It represents an almost unparalleled concentration of wealth”. Upon a critical examination, Garlake’s team of fellow experts mumbled, “Primitive peoples do not produce metal work of anything like this quality”. Robin Walker Observed that in Nigeria, a hitherto unsuspected culture blossomed between 1000 BC to 1000 AD. The Europeans who came across the antiquities of ancient African civilization in Nigeria could not but get dazzled and astounded by the level of ancient civilization and technology that Africans managed in the primitive age, which in reality, far outweighed those in Europe and America at the comparative age.
If this is the case, could it be deduced that Nigeria as well as Africa is on the fast lane of retrogression? Why was ancient African more productive than Africa of modern age? This, irrespective of the spread of advanced formal education. After the critical examination and analysis on Igbo-Ukwu discoveries, Peter Garlake expressed his awe but has this to say: “at present, Igbo Ukwu makes no economic sense”. Same is applicable to all Nigerian societies and Africa as a whole.
The problem is not the adoption of western education, rather, the problem lies in the fact that Nigeria has not found or discovered the uniqueness as a stock of the Negro race (their Africaness) through education. The ingenuity in the average Nigerian has not died. It is only suppressed by aping the Whiteman and the dearth of visionary leaders to reactivate the economy of post-colonial Nigeria, to re-engineer its social values, and to re-capture its contribution to world art and culture which is to re-integrate it essentially back into social and human values of pre-colonial Africa.
Adiba recited Chukwuemeka Ojukwu’s statement.
“In the three years of war, necessity gave both to invention… Blockaded without hope of imports, we maintained engines, machines, and technological equipment… we spoke to the world through a telecommunication system engineered by local ingenuity…. In three years, we became… the most technologically advanced black people on earth”.
This shows that the Igbo man as well as the Nigerian is innately an inventor and can achieve technological breakthrough and reach the industrial hallmark even in this era when the monster of imperialism relentlessly does everything to stampede African’s progress and Nigeria’s march to a world class developed nation.
Basher sees development as “a process of enhancing the productive forces of a country for the actualization of more prosperous and meaningful life for all its citizens” Martin Ezeh emphasizes particularly on human development by asserting that, “human development means getting backward people in the right frame of mind for doing things”. He also advocates that “the wealth of Africa (as well as Nigeria) is very great and it belongs to the people. The challenge before us now is to develop the riches that are already in the people”. To attain this height, Nigeria needs the right education, motivation and inspiration. If innovative strategies are not employed by well-meaning Nigerians to facilitate an environment that supports productivity and ingenuity, mediocrity will continue to rule in the affairs of Nigeria.
Let us consider this illustration: A medical practioner who tackles fever as an ailment is a quark: fever is only a symptom, probably of malaria. A specialist would tackle the bacteria’s responsible for the malaria, and fever will literarily disappear. Thus, to overcome the order of mediocrity, mere education is not enough. And this is where Owelle Rochas Anayo Okorocha has to step up. Nwokafor U.C. was very displeased with the turn out of Nigerian educated young men and women, and so, has this to say:
“A society where a medical doctor cannot do more than a street chemist, cannot diagnose or treat malaria effectively. Where liver transplant is a thing of western culture. An engineer only ends up carrying home large salary sum every month-end from an oil company and manufacturing a car is a thing of western origin… proffering ideological solution to political matters are exclusively reserved for the Aristotle’s and the Karl Max”.
In a third-world country like Nigeria, development is seen as the building of good roads, installation of communication system, stable power supply and the availability of basic amenities.
Several literatures on development had over the years performed the function of glorified novels because of their gross inclination to structural and physical development. Much attention has been sacrificed and consumed by the western born insistence on micro and macro economic development leaving out man who is the central focus of development. This costly omission has led our political leaders into erroneous policy decisions, which have brought pernicious consequences on this country. It will be wrong to suggest that these factors above are not signs of development, but qualify more as outcomes of the collective efforts of the developed man. There is therefore a dire need for the redefinition of both concepts, emphasis and approach to development, especially within the Nigerian socio-development context.
This study would have achieved its aim if it succeeds to corner Rochas Foundation and its like to begin to seek out ways to redefine its approach towards bringing out the best from the educated Nigerian. This redefinition is to be based on two independent variables: that development is for man, and that development is possible through man, hence, development should be “human oriented” and just like the biblical injunction, “seek ye first the development of man and other forms shall be added”.
Four basic questions agitated the reason for this exercise. They are:
(1) In what human and social conditions does our country find itself in the world of today?
(2) What form of education shall we give to our younger generations so that the wealth of the privileged nations does not cause destitution of the country and indeed, the whole continent?
(3) What should we produce, for whom, how, and how do we encourage ingenuity?
(4) What more should we expect from Rochas Anayo Okorocha and his Foundation?
It is appealing to find that Nigerian universities often struggle to maintain the bottom rung in the yearly ranking of the best universities in Africa, let alone, at the international rankings. Worst of it, favouritism and nepotism has a stamped foot on the order of admission of possible students, consequently producing quarks and unfit graduates and scholars. In Nigeria, certificates has been drastically reduced to a mere “meal ticket”, whereas there could not be found any clear-cut difference between a graduate and a non-educated person. Generally, education has lost its salt in Nigeria as can be seen by the huge turn out of unproductive graduates.
Such a sordid state leaves the future of Nigeria in a looming trepidation. We need visionary and able leaders who can save Nigeria from the impending doom. We call on Nigerians with a true patriotic spirit to wage in to save the situation. This paper, can serve as a clarion call on the Owelle Rochas Okorocha; the visionary leader, educational pilot but one step more.
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