By Tope Lanre Bello

I think the right thing to do in this challenge is to, on behalf of Nigeria, plead guilty to all charges. Nigeria is perhaps one of the worst places to live on the planet Earth. However, in this midst of gloom and doom, there are some dim rays of hope here and there. The one I can coherently talk about is in education. Yes, education – the very sector that represents the chaos, directionless-ness and hopelessness of our country. So, how did I see any glimmer of hope in this sector? Where one thing stands, there is another thing standing beside it, as often said by Chinua Achebe. We just have to look, and look well and perhaps, look again.

My secondary education was totally tuition free. I learnt that even in some of the most advanced countries of the world, education is not so free. I have the governments of Lam Adesina (2000-2003) and Rashidi Ladoja (2003-2006) of Oyo State to thank for this opportunity. The eleven months Obasanjo-led Federal Government’s sponsored anarchy in 2006 was responsible for my (my parent paid, actually) payment of WASSCE and SSCE’s fees. I am aware many states in Nigeria are offering free education, maybe not genuinely, though.

Education in all Federal Government owned tertiary institutions is tuition free in Nigeria. Except for winning scholarships and some other tuition-free awards, education in most developed countries including the United States is very expensive. With the exception of Germany, I am not aware of any other European country where education is completely free at the tertiary level. I am lucky to have attended one of the best among the very bad Nigerian universities and I make bold to say I did not pay any penny for tuition throughout my four years. Of course, I paid for the use of laboratories I never saw; I even paid for the identity card I was never issued. Despite these, I am proud of the solid education I got and it, in no small way, contributed to the sharpening of my critical mind.

Our Yoruba elders say a lengthy speech only aims at marketing lies. I need not say more. Once again, I very much admit Nigeria is not a country to be proud of. Yet, believe we have not lost it all as the very sector most have given up on is a reason we can still hope. We only have to wake the sleeping giant in this country and on the right track, we go.

(c) Tope Lanre Bello 2020