Dream of the late statesman, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, to make every Yoruba man functionally literate and use education to drive socio-economic transformation may be close to being fulfilled, amid fresh initiatives to reenact the incredible developmental strides recorded under the late sage’s free universal primary education in the defunct Western Region.
The move, being spearheaded by a Yoruba think-tank and advocacy group, The Yoruba Leadership and Peace Initiative (TYLPI) seeks to ensure enforcement of the Compulsory Free Basic Universal Education Act 2004.
The law requires government at all levels to fund and provide all necessities for the education of every Nigerian child from primary up to Junior Secondary School (JSS) level.
It prescribes fines and jail terms ranging between one and two months for parents who failed to send their children to school and benefit from the scheme.
Despite this, there are many children of school age who are illiterate, begging for alms, idling away or doing menial jobs.
Standards of education have also fallen due to poor funding by government resulting in dearth of learning facilities, decrepit infrastructure, inefficiency and low morale among teachers.
Speaking at the first meeting of the group in the year held at the Lead City University, Ibadan, TYLPI’s President, Mr. Olusegun Ahmadu, noted that the situation had particularly deteriorated in the southwest, such that the region that used to lead in education and development now lagged behind other sections of the country especially in external examinations and other indices of academic distinction. Describing this as unacceptable, the TYLPI boss said the organization comprising prominent Yoruba intellectuals, professionals, technocrats and businessmen, was poised to holding parents and the state governments in the geo-political zones to their responsibility under the basic education law.
He lamented the prevailing decay in the school system, amid reports that billions of naira in the Universal Basic Education (UBEC) Fund specially provided by the law to finance this tier of education have remained in the coffers unutilised because some governors failed to pay their own counterpart funds that would enable them draw and benefit from the federal grant!
He also called for innovative review or development of educational curricular in line with emerging realities, increased roles and delegation of authority on education to the regions, as well as the implementation of the compulsory basic education law to ensure 100 percent literacy in the southwest.
Ahmadu said there was need to salvage the Southwest from perceived adverse effects of Nigeria’s “inequitable and dysfunctional federal system” and not only rejuvenate but also improve on the legacies of the region’s founding fathers in setting the pace in development, education and other spheres of life by prioritizing education and using it as the linchpin for innovation and transformative change as in the first republic.
Reviewing preliminary reports of the panels it raised to revitalise critical sectors including education, agriculture and power in the Southwest, the TYLPI President charged the chairmen and members to work harder and tapped the expertise within and outside the group so as to produce credible and comprehensive roadmaps that would jump-start the region’s development and restore it to its erstwhile leading position not only in Nigeria but also on the African continent.
TYLPI vowed to defend the region and its people against anything that could be inimical to their interest. However, while it expressed readiness to partner with the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission and other groups championing similar ideals, Ahmadu emphasized that the group would strictly maintain its identity, focus and policy of non- violent advocacy as means of achieving its objectives.
He urged every Yoruba to rally round and support the Amotekun initiative which, he stressed, must be seen beyond merely providing security for Yorubaland, but as also providing immense possibilities for rapid and holistic transformation and uplifting of diverse aspects of life of the people of the Southwest geo-political zone.
At the meeting were: the Vice President, Chief Femi Alafe-Aluko,; General Secretary, Arakunrin Olufemi J Adefemiwa; Assistant Secretary, Mr. Oluwakayode F. Adeyemi; Profs Adebisi Sowunmi and Soji Adejumo.
Others were: Chief Babajide Olatunde-Agbeja, Chairman, Education committee; Agbaakin Labi Adeyemi, Treasurer and Mr. Abiola Olagunju, Legal Adviser.