By Ayo Akinfe
(1) As Christmas approaches and everyone gets into the festive mood, I ask whether we actually ever use this opportunity to set ourselves annual national goals. Growing up as kids, we were all told to make new year resolutions. I wonder why this does not extend to national and developmental matters
(2) Only yesterday, President Muhammadu Buhari approved the 2020 budget of $28bn. Unfortunately Nigerians were too busy engrossed in the festive spirit to even notice it. For instance, are we aware of the fact that Unesco advised Nigeria to spend 26% of her national budget on education? Has anyone checked to see if the 2020 budget meets this threshold?
(3) Do you know in the E9 Group of Developing Nations, everyone except Nigeria spends over 20% of their budget on education? The E9 is made up Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan. The same goes for the D8 group of countries made up of Bangladesh, Egypt, Nigeria, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Turkey
(4) One person who shares my passion on this subject is Peter Okebukola, the former secretary of the Nigerian Universities Commission and the the president of Global University Network for Innovation. In 2017, he said: “ I believe we should strive for a minimum of 30% for the next 20 years to clear the mess in the sector.”
(5) As we all know, Nigeria is not only the poverty capital of the world but also has the ignominy of having the highest number of out-of-school children on the planet. With 13m of our children not in education, either roaming around as urchins or being married off as child brides, we are sitting on a ticking time bomb
(6) How many of us know that by 2050, Nigeria is set to become the world’s third most populous nation after India and China? We are expected to have a population of 402m by then. Now if a third of Nigerians are living in poverty then as is the case now, this will mean that 134m human beings will be living below the poverty line. You do not need to be a rocket scientist to realise that if this happens, we will become the terrorist capital of the world, worse than Afghanistan and Somalia combined
(7) Experts say until social structures like education and health are improved, the odds are that Nigeria’s population will continue to increase and may even surpass the 2050 projection. Let us please start remedial action in 2020 by investing in education or this ticking time bomb will explode underneath all of us consuming everyone the way say a meteorite does when it hits a planet
(8) In Nigeria’s 2018 budget, the government allocated just 7% of expenditure to education. Personally, I would rather we spend 25% on education and a further 5% on outreach programmes to reorientate our people, debunking cultural myths and provide family planning facilities. A total of 30% of our budget should be devoted to this matter as a matter of urgency. We can make cutbacks elsewhere to pay for this by scrapping states subsidies on religious pilgrimages, ending the funding of feudal monarchies, slashing the salaries of legislators, ending the Boko Haram crisis which consumes 25% of our budget under the guise of “security” and renegotiating our debt servicing
(9) One of my big beefs with many of my friends in the alumni associations of girls schools is that they are more interested in socialising than addressing these crucial issues. Refurbishing a few classroom blocks and sponsoring half a dozen children a year is no substitute for effective education policy. I expect old girls associations to be at the forefront of this fight for the girl child but alas, Christmas gala dinners where everyone turns up in Luis Vitton ball gowns and Gucci handbags appears to be more important at the moment
(10) More child brides means more Almajiris, prostitutes, omo oniles, area boys, Fulani herdsmen, Yahoo Yahoo boys, religious zealots, drug dealers, armed robbers and kidnappers. We ignore this ticking time bomb at our collective peril!