Education And Politics In Nigeria: The Pseudo Relation
By Olabode Olanrewaju Reactivated
“The value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning of many facts, but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks.” – Albert Einstein.
Simply put – Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.
It is a sad reality that the gargantuan number of illiterates and semi-literates in Nigeria inadvertently determine the crops of politicians (demagogues) that are entrenched with political power in the country. When I say illiterates and semi-literates, what do I mean? Illiterates are those who have little or no ‘real’ education and therefore not familiarized with the fundamentals (theoretical and practical) of a particular field of knowledge. When I say ‘real’ education I mean the type of education that doesn’t necessarily indoctrinates but liberates, reaches the liberal (free man) standard, the standard to be a thinker. Semi-literates are those who have taken ‘fake’ education up to a certain middle level; education as predominant in most present schools which is meant to program students with some skills and facts for employability and therefore lack the deep act of critical thinking.
How do you explain an education system which programs students to be robots?
How do you explain an education system which teaches ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘when’ with little or no recourse to ‘why’ and ‘how’?
How do you explain a society with supposedly literate air which cannot see with its eyes closed?
How do you explain education that makes people act strictly on emotions, impetus and experience and not reason?
Albert Einstein words may seem obscure to the empty minds. The good minds should stretch their minds more through careful examination. Our loss of contact with our sad reality is damning us in the darkest skein. The liberal genius was saying something which is universal yet predominantly affecting our milieu. For the purpose of Nigeria, the illiterates are the man of the street and the woman of the market square. The semi-literates can appear anywhere, from the danfo omnibus to an office room or even a political seat. Like a maze, the system is itself confusing and haunting like the traditional political schemes in Nigeria.
The traditional political strategists (the capitalist oppressors) haunt and exploit the illiterate which in the depth of critical thinking turns out that the illiterate does not know his/her left from his/her right yet thinks he/she does. To the pragmatic elitists, like the average Nigerian politicians, the illiterates are useful as long as they will serve their political agenda. To the sophists, like some Nigerian politicians half-honest, half-corrupt, the illiterates are a challenge that should be watched, pampered and made socially useful for the political agenda and, in turn, they (the illiterates) can have better life by some political grace. Sophists are usually self-aware of their hypocrisies and manipulations, but they find ways to moralize them on the outside and on the inside. Their strongest weapon is art conduction. For example, people are tricked into doing what the leader wants yet they feel convinced that they want it too. Such is the common scenario of the men of the street fighting one another – bloodbath on the mottled yard at the polling station – for the leader (or political persona).
One of the dangers to Nigerian politics is that frustrated geniuses, most of the real educated may never be able to help in steadying the Nigerian ship from its interminable meander towards ruin. The reason is because indirectly their fate is determined by the illiterate mainly, and semi-literate.
Nigerian population is around 170-180 million. Sadly, over 100 million of the Nigerian population belongs to the illiterate bracket (the man of the street and the woman of the market square). Some of them are in the rural areas. Some of them are in some villages some places in the country. Some of them are in the ghetto.
Sadly, they are all poor and always feel the need to meet their immediate wants and needs.
Sadly, many of those illiterates will vote.
Sadly, they lack critical thinking faculty and skills, skills that the green eyes of hunger had beaten out of them; their emotions now rule over their reasoning.
Sadly, they don’t need to have the same ability as the politicians to vote.
Sadly, all the ability they need is their ability to identify a broom, an umbrella, a corn, an acronym or what have you, and they will thumbprint on Election Day.
Sadly, the average Nigerian politician and his agents know those and are ready to manipulate the illiterate and poor for perverse goals. Of course, it is called grassroots. And the grassroots leaders and influencers from traditional leaders to union chairmen and women will be tools in the hands of the political personae.
The politically impotent intellectuals and frustrated geniuses are indirectly defeated in their quest for change. Their light may remain darkness in this democracy. Abraham Lincoln said, “Democracy is the government of the people by the people and for the people.” As true the statement is, it is a sad truth that our government, our democracy is the government of the people, by the people and not for the people. And when I say of the people and by the people, I mean the illiterates and semi-literates. As democracy itself implies a system where the majority rules and the interest of the minority should be catered for, the vast majority of the people in the Nigerian system are the illiterates and the minorities are the real educated. The illiterates have always been the major diluent that ushers in the democratically elected government in this country both on the macro level and the micro level who perpetually fail the people who bring them in. That’s why the top politicians do not crave much the support of the teeming educated youth; their political banters and philippic against political ineptitude will also count less, the top politicians know who will decide their fate on Election Day. And it is not you and I. (Few politicians are exceptions perhaps some sophists). In the neo-marxist vein, the few elite (the minority) rule the poor (the majority). However, in the case of Nigeria’s democracy, the two points of view are true.
That truth brings forth the statement from Martin Luther King jnr. that, “The greatest sin of our time is not the few who have destroyed but the many that have remained silent.” Therefore it is the duty of the hoarse voices of the real educated in the country, not the politically impotent intellectuals who enjoy vicarious power – puppets of political hyenas, to champion the course of a new Nigeria. However, some have tried and failed. And some will still try and fail. And some will keep trying and keep failing, backward. Why? Poor strategy. They think we are in the age of social media and social media will do the magic.
True, we are in the age of social media. Many years back, a war that the American troop would fight for twenty years may actually be won by an American teenager in twenty minutes nowadays, because of the social media. But while that is possible in such environment that its illiterate level is low, such cannot be said of ours. The social media cannot be relied on for the electoral change of demagogues and kleptocrats. It can put pressure on them for them to renege on some poor or selfish plans or rescind some inefficient policies. (It can also mobilize some people, only to a certain extent that will never be sufficient). History of Nigerian politics has shown us that social media may still fail in its function of putting pressure on some political personae. How does one explain the hundreds of complaints and tongue-lashings at the building of a statue of a foreign president in our country with a humongous amount when our president does not even have his statue in his own state, and the complaints were to no avail? How does one explain the incessant futile calls of Nigerians on social media and wherever to the government to make political offices less luxurious and attractive as politics is supposed to be a form of service? How does one explain the social media traffic on the call for restructuring to no avail but the government had to wait for a supposed pressure group to self-destruct and thus pounce on it?
The illiterates and semi-literates in Nigeria, most of them are not even on social media. The ones that are see social media (Facebook most especially) only as a platform of maintaining social intercourse with friends. And in reality, they are like slaves who are designed and programmed to learn some facts and skills that are necessary to perform some duties and work for their lords either directly or indirectly. Even the averagely intelligent who has gone to school is lingering at those brackets; he/she learns some facts and skills that the elite employers need to employ him/her for the boss’ work. Superior form of education will break those chains of control and allow the individual to learn to think critically – what cannot be learned from textbooks as Einstein had said – and in turn be prone to make better decisions and have a liberal life. For the illiterates who determine the fate of the literates during elections, they need most importantly the liberal arts: the trivium (rhetoric, logic and grammar) in addition to their manual and technical skills.
That is many years project for a new Nigeria. The education system needs restructuring as much as the country itself perhaps more as far as I am concerned. This is the project of the men of intellectual independence in Nigeria. The hyenas and jackals, cubs and broods of vile hybrids (The capitalist oppressors and the pragmatic elitists) of Nigerian politics will want the illiterates, dumb, to remain as such in their large numbers. Why? They need people who will keep affirming and assuring their political importance to a great course.
Although, they (the illiterates and ‘dumb’) will continue to exist out of their failure to compete as a Darwinian believes perhaps as the average Nigerian politician also believes. The idealist believes they can be made more useful to themselves and the society they belong, and in turn, their usefulness will trickle down to a gargantuan number of individuals perhaps as I also believe even as a realist.
All in all, ‘honest’ men of intellectual independence not currently in politics should not shy away from politics. For now, they should engage in indirect politics. This call is obviously for them and not the illiterate and semi-literate. For a man to truly break free from the enchainment of ‘a control and indoctrination system’ that our society and its education (not necessarily academic) system provides, the men of intellectual independence must come together and start to make direct contacts with the vast majority of the illiterates. The contact must be in form of intra-country direct enlightenment that will bring about their sense of belonging to some of the literate’s opportunities. And also the men of intellectual independence must be rendering social help in addition. That is the fisherman approach, the approach the politically impotent intellectual in Nigeria does not know.