Opinion by Emeka Chiakwelu-- Governor Obi of Anambra State and his administration deserves unequivocal applaud on transferring 1,040 schools back to the original owners. It is important to highlight such an important and affirmative move by Obi's administration to show that we are all committed to the truth and a better Anambra state. When the government of Governor Obi misplaced his steps in governance, it should not be neglected or left un-criticized. But at same time when he put up a sound policy he should also be acknowledged and commended. All of us who cares for Anambra’s development and wellbeing must be consistent and committed to truth and justice. And we will not hesitate to call it the way we saw it and let the chips fall where they may. This time around Governor Peter Obi got it right.
The constructive criticism of the government of Obi cannot be perceived by his administration as bitterness towards the governor. When mishaps, bad policy and poor workings of the government are shaded from the light of the day everyone becomes complicit to the process. And that is not healthy for the emerging democracy in the state and in Nigeria. That is why it is necessary to give kudos to the governor on his recent move to restore the schools to the original owners.
Vanguard newspaper reported that, "The N6 billion will be shared among the Catholic Church, Anglican Church and remaining government schools in four installments. In the first installment, the Catholic Church, which owns a lion’s share of 453 schools, will receive over N762 milion, while its Anglican counterpart will get over N498 million. The remaining public schools not taken from the churches will share over N489 million out of a total of N1.75 billion. The second and third installments will gulp N1.25 billion each, while the fourth and last installment will cost the government N1.75 billion."
Majority of the schools were owned by religious institutions notably the Catholic and Anglican Churches. The remaining schools were owned by non-profit organization and private organizations. At the end of Nigerian civil war the then government of East Central State in the cloak of the implementation of the Universal free Education took over schools owned by private and religious institutions.
Since the takeover of the schools by the government the management was below the standard benchmark. The high benchmark quality set by Christian’s administration and management was relegated to poor quality and poor results. The worst of the all is the emergence of social breakdown and social ills epitomized by gangs, hazing, criminality and nefarious activities. The former schools of notably high morality, decency and uprightness later decomposed and metamorphosed to den of robbers, prostitutions and moral delinquency.
As those schools became government owned the teaching and upholding of Christian mores, values and customs were abandoned. The saturation of student's minds with worldly and mundane values subsequently brought the total breakdown of the requisites values needed to sustain a decent and law abiding societies. The government was not interested in improving the moral integrity of the pupils and students and the large segment of the student body became wayward and criminals. In religious settings the study of Christology was richly emphasized that became the basis to build an orderly society.
Comrade Micheal Alogba Olukoya, President of National Executive Council, National Union of Teachers (NUT) criticized the handover and said: “It is a parody and travesty of governance that as the world moves progressively toward mass education through public funding, the Governor of Anambra
State is all out to returning education to elitist project, undeserving for the children of the poor masses.” But that is not necessarily the prevailing case.
It must be noted that Christian schools had a history of taking care of the poor and will not abandon the children of poor masses but rather help to direct them in better direction for a successful lives.
Also, there were naysayers and cynical individuals that believed Governor Obi did not turn over the schools for benevolent reasons. They were adamant that the Governor Obi could not pay the new lawful approved minimum wages; therefore he transferred the responsibilities to the private sector.
But in supposedly federal system of government, decentralization enables the state government to make the best possible decisions without interference from outside. Anambra state has decided to give back schools to the original owners and that is their prerogative and that’s how federalism works. The government has been in the control of these schools for over forty years and has not improved the moral integrity and wellbeing of the poor masses. Let's give the private sector the chance to try something new and creatively original that may have better answers to the societal problems.
Governor Peter Obi turning over the schools is justifiable in a democratic society that needs the growth and development of a strong private sector. The reality is that he handed the schools to the original owners and he deserved the kudos for his thoughtful act.
*Chiakwelu (email@example.com) is the Principal Policy Strategist at Afripol Organization. Africa Political and Economic Strategic Center (Afripol) is foremost a public policy center whose fundamental objective is to broaden the parameters of public policy debates in Africa. To advocate, promote and encourage free enterprise, democracy, sustainable green environment, human rights, conflict resolutions, transparency and probity in Africa.