The West African Examination Council (WAEC) has just released the results of the 2013 November/December West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) and the results as expected, “experiencing a free fall under gravity”, pointed in the “right” direction – Downward! Why? Quality Education has become history in Nigeria, especially in the Public Institutions of Learning.
Yeye, my great Grand-mother, always said to me while growing up as a boy in Ikogosi-Ekiti, “Ti Iwaju O ba se lo, eyin a se pada si”, meaning, if it becomes impracticable for you to move in the forward direction, it must be possible to take a reverse”. I think this is dependent on the route. There is clearly no alternative route to getting a sum right than doing it right; starting from, and according to, basic principles. Therefore, a mirror reflection on how the system of education was before our “uncommon” era is in order.
Teaching was, and still is, a profession for the erudite in any given society. As such, Teachers must be respected, well remunerated and encouraged. That was the case in the golden era of The Nigerian Educational System. Teachers were paid comparatively higher than most workers and were among the few individuals who had bicycles or cars. To qualify to teach, you must know your subject well enough and must pass requisite examinations unaided by examination mal-practices. Yes, Teachers were the “Alphas” and the” Omegas”. They were feared and respected because they represented the needed back-up for Parents when their children proved stubborn at home. Teaching was a profession of well-disciplined individuals. Undertaking Teacher training made you aware of this. Teacher Training was an on-going exercise. From graduation to becoming a Teacher, throughout the School Term, and some good part of the School Holiday, a Teacher was required to undertake a form of training or the other. Every weekend within a School term, a Teacher had to prepare notes of planned lessons for the week ahead. This afforded the opportunity to prepare for the needs of each member of a sizeable class. The notes of lessons would be critically assessed by the Head Teacher or anyone designated. Useful comments were made by the reviewing Teacher and where appropriate, re-submission of planned work may be demanded if there was evidence of gross unpreparedness for the Lessons of the Week. This way, it would be easy to spot, not for victimisation, the training needs of individual Teachers to be saddled with the responsibility of shaping the future of the lives of the children, the nation! The Head Teacher would often be a Teacher too and certainly not a money collector nor a Finance Director!
A typical note of lesson from Teachers would be synonymous with plenty of worked examples, illustrations, graphs, analyses, proofs, ingenuity, ethics, and a lot more, depending on the subject. It was a must to include “Home-Work” which helped the supervising Teacher to be aware of the depth and thoroughness of the Teachers as key Text Books and other sources of material references were usually quoted. More-Importantly, “Home-Works” were marked on time, corrections made, re-submission by erring students demanded until most students reached the satisfactory level of performance. Thus, students and Teachers had the impetus to become progressive members of the society and were helped to reach their full potential.
A proper register of attendance was kept, not only for Teachers, but also for students. Late-coming was a taboo, or was forcefully made a taboo by the unwelcomed strokes of cane on your buttocks or at your back. Any perpetual late-comer was sent home and reasonable explanation had to be provided by one or both parents who must visit the School to tender explanation before their ward or child was re-admitted to School. Unjustifiable absence from School was unheard of. Record of every activity (including extracurricular activities) which took place in the School Calendar year would be kept for the Inspectors. Oh, the Inspectors!!! When the time arrived for the Inspectors to visit your School, even the leaves and the Blocks of the Walls surrounding the Perimeter of the School Knew of the visit! It was a time for Proper Accounting for the belongings of the master – The children of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Inspectors were thorough and diligent. Lesson notes for Teachers and Notebooks for randomly selected Students from the School being inspected were checked for forensic examination and validation of the status of education the School claims to have among other things. This way, the quality and quantity of work done by the Teachers were verified independent of the School Authority as a form of check and balance. A report was written which would be taken seriously by the Investigated School as well as the Local Education Authority. The Schools’ Management Committee (SMC), working in partnership with the Schools’ Management Board (SMB), collated and evaluated the reports from Inspectors. It ensured necessary actions were taken to put things right in the Schools within its domain and required query and disciplinary actions were also provided.
The master and owner of the belongings (the children), is the government. Government ensured Teachers’ salaries were promptly paid and the School environment was conducive to quality learning. The Libraries were well equipped and exceptionally bright students were given sponsorships. Thus, you could guarantee to a reasonable extent that a student failed largely as a consequence of his own failure.
How did Nigeria get to this point where it is almost certain that the percentage of success in the next rounds of School Certificate Examinations would spiral downward? The value of quality education may not be readily quantified in much the same way as would the proceeds from Oil and Gas, but every income into a given society which depends on Human capital (Labour), results from some form of education and training, home or abroad. To an illiterate, investing in or spending on a sector from which you do not get “any national income” is stupendously stupid as he cannot “see” that every individual working in every other sector is a product of the educational system. What then becomes of a country ruled by Illiterates for over fourty years apart from the very early years, post-independence, when Nigeria had the kind of education described earlier? Anyway, life they say, begins at fourty and a fool at fourty is a fool forever! What an intuitive paradox!
Education is synonymous to development. But destructive factors including but not limited to the myopic , short sightedness and self-serving ideologies of “her heroes past”, absence of infrastructural development and functional industries, have reduced the impetus and desire to research, and the determination to excel in Nigerians. The environment for innovation became absent once the celebration of mediocrity became the norm as Nigeria started the misnomer called “Quota System”. Intellectual property is stolen daily with impunity. Lecturers accept bribes in cash and in kind! Focus is on buying the Teacher’s Text Book rather than the text in the Teacher’s Book. There is obviously the need for a sort of education that is linked to productivity. In the rhetorics of my bosom friend, Olumide Jejelola Emmanuel, when will we see the golden era of public schools in my motherland when the son of a sitting governor and that of a pepper seller queue up to take their Fujirege ( plastic food flask) behind their class and enjoy their lunch-break together, when Teachers collect salaries as at when due, when Teachers would organize extra classes just to make sure students excel, when students walk miles without fear of kidnappers, when Students drink potable water from any corner of the streets after playing good football in one of the football pitches around, when students were taught the ideals and not shaped by realities on ground? Can the coming generations ever witness this era again? Will it be a dream that one day the son of a carpenter and that of a president would sit together in a classroom being taught the virtues of hard work, honesty and humility as well as the sacrifices of Nigeria’s true sons and daughters, her real heroes past?
While it must be admitted that quality education is witnessing a decline in most parts of the world today even in the most technological and advanced economies such as USA and The UK, the astronomical rate of retrogression of The Nigerian Educational System is indeed worrisome. More than that, the developed countries, having realised their folly in lowering educational standards have started to retrace their own steps as far as quality education is concerned.
The whole matter, everything having being said, is captured by the motto of the best School I have ever attended, Ladipo Primary School, Matori, Mushin, Lagos, established in 1980 and built by the then Governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande. Albeit unknown and unpopular, the motto of my School affected my attitude, and those of my very amiable colleagues, towards education right from primary School – “Knowledge is Power”! Now that Nigeria lacks electric “Power”? Does she need Knowledge? She certainly does!
Idowu Oyebanjo is a Power System Engineer from The United Kingdom.
The performance of the reform before now has been extolled and described as largely successful especially because it is the first of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa and remains a model to be followed by all other African Nations and some countries from other parts of the world. Yet, the full extent of its success shall be tested with realities on ground in the months and years ahead. The positives and negatives of the reform would be the subject of major worldwide discussions, conferences and reports when issues of Power System reforms are being considered. While accepting the obvious that no reform process can be perfect, it is not a licence to make mistakes that could otherwise have been avoided.
There is probably no industry better than the Power Industry to showcase the systemic failure in Nigeria and if possible, provide her with the opportunity to retrace her step in doing things the right way. To set matters straight, there can be no short cut to realising sustainable electricity systems. Beginning from allowing qualified Power System Professionals to handle the vastly technical industry, to employing seasoned administrators and Project Managers to mediate the transition from the status quo ante of “constant Power outage” to the eagerly awaited “UP NEPA”, it is imperative to put square pegs in square holes. Make no mistake, Nigeria is endowed, to an exceeding degree, with human and natural resources going by the pedigree of their performances in all walks of life home and abroad. But when these key resources are poorly harnessed, Nigeria will NEVER realise this feat of uninterrupted power supply from the public electricity systems. Who amongst us will want to build a house and will not first of all, count the cost? How come a nation builds a Gas Power Station with millions of dollars unaccounted for, yet only woke up at the end of the project that there was no single Gas pipeline laid to the site. What happened to Project Planning? Project Management? Project Reviews? and we can go on. Where was Knowledge with understanding? They have all been replaced with the nonsense called Quota System! No one is advocating that Nigeria will not make mistakes in the reform process. Making mistakes, and putting up determined effort to correct matters, is an integral part of learning.
According to my Lecturer whilst studying at The Federal Polytechnic Ilaro, Ogun State, “Electricity is a good servant, but a bad master”. The risk of not giving full consideration to the main technical issues relating to a power system is DEATH. Yes, electric current flow will kill innocent citizens going about their normal day-to-day activities if adequate attention is not giving to technical considerations. For example, it has been advocated that Lafarge Cement WAPCO Nigeria Plc and other Large industrial customers (Distributed Generation)will contribute to the power portfolio of the national grid without proper consideration to the possibility of an “Islanding” condition (when the Distributed Generation, running in parallel with the public electricity network, continues to generate and supply electricity to a part of the public electricity network which has been disconnected from the main grid, a condition that will lead to untold number of deaths, equipment damage and liabilities to mention a few). For this, there is need to provide anti-islanding Relays such as those which determine Loss Of Mains Voltage or Frequency among others. Yes, there can be a mad rush towards ensuring electricity for all but there needs to be a cautious and careful approach to achieving this because electricity is dangerous.
Privatised electricity business is a Regulated business. For NERC which is in charge of Regulation, clear, pragmatic and decisive actions are required at every step on the way and beyond. Worldwide, Regulatory officers tend to think of Power Systems as a commodity just like they are used to in microeconomics, and to be frank, which they can deal with easily. The reality is, it is not! More often than not, they end up becoming confused than when they started. The main reason for this is in the Physics of Electricity Generation, Transmission and Distribution. They could employ consultants but most of the consultants you have rushing towards less developed economies like Nigeria are the “hit and Run” types who for lack of competency, do a shoddy job, and move away to another less developed country to dupe them. Thus, the vicious cycle of Blinds, Guiding Blinds continues.
There is no industry in Nigeria where we will see the level of knowledge gap that the Power Industry will create in months to come for very obvious reasons. Therefore, conscientious efforts need to be put in place to ameliorate the detrimental effects this can have on the whole reform exercise. In this regard, the National Power Training Institute (NAPTIN) is supposed to provide guidance. But with those taking the lead lacking a proper understanding of what is required by way of skills set and training requirements for individuals who will work in the Industry, a vicious cycle of blinds guiding blinds develops. This is unhealthy.
Nigerians for good reasons expect the new owners of the power network to perform wonders and make electricity available within reasonable time. The reality however is that this will not be the case. Again, the rules set out at the beginning of the reform exercise had been constantly changed during and after the take-over of Assets to the extent that New Investors already have doubts as to the realisation of a quantum leap in electricity supply to households in Nigeria. The rules for the technical evaluation in my opinion did not ensure that those who lack adequate experience did not become the preferred Bidders irrespective of their commercial attractiveness. This is a case of Blinds guiding Blinds because the end result will be that the new owners will not be able to deliver to the agreed levels of service delivery not because they don’t want to, but because they simply can’t do it! To make matters worse, some Nigerian Banks have been led along by these blind guides by investing in this reform process. The danger in this is that such Banks have unfortunately invested funds of the hitherto struggling and suffering masses who as yet remain “blind” in darkness.
The attendant problems we are about to face in the new Power sector in Nigeria could have been avoided if more time was taken to think things through during the design and planning stages of the entire privatisation process. Although we must be quick to mention that speed of delivery has always been of essence to minimise the obvious possibility of having the Nigerian Oligarchies and most powerful vested interests derail the programme as they have successfully done in the past. This has resulted in the lack of adequate preparation for some of the very complicated technical issues that we might face now that the Assets have been transferred to the new owners.
The main thrust of this is that an urgent review of the status and structure of the Nigerian Educational System is necessary to cope with the huge knowledge gap about to be thrown up by the Blind guides who led us into the darkness of this Reform Process.
Idowu Oyebanjo is a Power System Engineer from The United Kingdom.
The Senate has refused to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). The caricature of issues and counter-issues surrounding the accent of the Petroleum Industry Bill is nothing but incredulous. Corruption is a cankerworm that destroys. No country that celebrates and honour perpetrators of corruption will make meaningful progress. There is corruption everywhere in the world. Afterall, corruption is not a “Nigerian” word. It is very easy for the International Oil Companies (IOCs) or Multi-National Oil companies to influence decision making for bad in Nigeria once the decision makers are corrupt. But this need not be the case. What father wants good for his children and future generations yet unborn will not think of the whole picture before taking a decision? First and foremost, the mineral resource is in Nigeria. The interest of Nigeria and Nigerians should be first not those of the individual members of the elite society in Nigeria nor the so-called Investors or multi-national companies. Multi-National companies know very well that what they practice in Nigeria is unacceptable in their home countries. Yet, they get away with illegal activities in Nigeria because of corruption. I spoke with a few of the “who is who” in the developed economies and they all agree that once their exists a Nigerian who could sell his country for money sake, the international community recognises that she would never become a threat to the socio-economic world order in place. This was the miscalculation with China. When China pretended in years that have past, the movers and shakers of the world did not pay attention to her and this allowed, albeit slowly but surreptitiously, the development in China the world suddenly woke up to witness today. The attempt is now to use another misnomer “climate change” to curtail the rate of growth of China and other rapidly developing economies. Hence, every climate change summit depends on an agreement or perhaps I should say negotiation between China and the rest of the “Developed” economies. There is no other name to call anyone who makes money and comfort from Oil but tries by all means to prevent another from enjoying the same. In another school of thought, the argument will be that the onus is on Nigeria to take corrective and decisive action. This is true. It will not be easy to begin with, but the end will justify the means. This brings the very pertinent question. What do you, Nigeria, want? Do you want to look like other Developed economies with Oil and Gas? Do you want your cities and the prospects of your future generations to be like those of the Countries with natural resources such as Oil and Gas? Then act like them in every good way possible. Some International Oil Companies want to hide behind indigenous companies to re-buy oil blocks. This sounds ludicrous. Where will they operate from? The people in charge must be able to ensure that such evaders of tax laws and royalties meant to benefit Nigeria and Nigerians are removed from the level playing field. Their indigenous partners too need to be banned for up to twenty years from participating in any activity in the energy related sector (Oil, Gas and Power). I say this because all those who knowingly or unknowingly work against the Petroleum Industry Bill are asking Nigerians to remain in perpetual darkness. One aspect of the Bill is the opportunity for Gas to be available to fire the Turbines that will produce electrical energy required to drive mechanically coupled Generators that will produce electricity and make the ailing power sector reform to achieve a measure of success. These ones recognise that electricity is directly proportional to economic vibrancy. These ones recognise that millions of Nigerians in Diaspora who long to return to their home land to contribute their experience and knowledge towards development would not do so if there is no electricity to support their innovative ideas. So who hates you Nigeria? Look at the Bill from the eyes of the Power Sector Reform. Some have expressed fears that the International Oil Companies might leave Nigeria if the rules are made too tight. No one is making rules to be tight. I mean one is trying to get a fair share of the bargain. This happens to us all as individuals. Let’s face it, it is foolishness that makes anyone to believe that the Nigerians working in the Oil Industry today, who have worked for many years with the so called less educated expatriates whom they themselves have trained will not be able to run the industry, process plants and so on. I am very sure they can. I know it also. What may be lacking is proper Management. Take a hard look at the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas project in Bonny Island, River State. This is a classic example that Nigerian workers in the Oil and Gas Industry, under well structured, trained and challenged Management will do wonders. You cannot hold the Managers by the hand and expect them to perform wonders. Give them a free hand, make them accountable and responsible and they will perform.
When you do this, what do you get? Initial reactions from everywhere! That is expected. It will settle down. Next will be negotiations. Those who threatened to take their flight off the business will now begin to beg for the same opportunity. Then it is time to act. The new rules will then become more stringent and more favourable to Nigeria and Nigerians.
But any action that must be taken should not stifle investment in the Industry. The fiscal package should be conducive enough to investors who wish to make reasonable profit but not milking others dry. Issues such as gas pricing, market structure and infrastructure should be addressed. The people to address this fine-tuning are the same top executives of Nigerian origin who work for the International Oil Companies. They know what to do.
What can be learnt from all of these? If you do not develop skills and manpower in-country in any area that bear direct relationship with economic prosperity, you will remain under the control of those with the technical know-how. My bias is in the Power Sector. With regards to the Power Sector, Nigeria must never degenerate to the level that investors will hold her to ransom as we now have it in the Oil and Gas Industry.
Another lesson that can be learnt from this episode is not putting a square peg in a round hole. The existing Production Sharing Contract (PSC) signed by the country in 1993 with Joint Venture Partners is flawed with lack of vision, mediocrity and poor judgement. One is happy that a knowledgeable member of the House of Representatives agrees with that. What may have led to this? The misnomer called “quota system”. If those who would negotiate the rules have to be selected on geo-political affiliations, this is the kind of regret you get 20 years down the line. 20 years is quite a time but it catches up with you soon enough when you exhibit idiocy. Let those who have practiced in the oil industry within and outside the shores of the country participate in the negotiations and or stipulation of the rules of the game. They are familiar with what obtains in the industrialised nations as per Joint Ventures in the oil and gas industry and so they will be able to perform better if they do not succumb to bribery and corruption. The truth is that there are areas where the quota system can be useful, but definitely not in an area where sound knowledge of a subject matter is required.
Furthermore, the royalties and oil glut derived from the sale of Crude Oil and products should be used to develop Agriculture in Nigeria. This is one business that no one will do and remain poor. Plant oil palms to a great degree. Get the expertise of the Nigerians at IITA in Ibadan and other similar outfits. Without adequate investment in Agriculture, Nigeria will be behind among the comity of Nations.
The key lies in education. I mean quality education. What then is required? Education! Education!! Education!!! You need to note my emphasis. It is quality education and wisdom that make a person see beyond the present and take a decision that will affect the future. It is quality education that makes a person think of not attacking a problem from the middle but from the root.
One of the myriads of problems bedevilling the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry is the dearth of knowledge of Power Systems in Nigeria and unfortunately worldwide. Having an efficient and reliable Power System requires dedication and hard work. To this end, there must be a clear focus on recruiting, training, and keeping the workforce for today and tomorrow. There is also the risk that developed countries will poach our Engineers once they have been trained, attracting them to say the least, with offers of citizenship in “greener pastures”. Hence, a well articulated and constructive approach is required to ensure we meet this challenge and keep a sufficient level of expertise adequate for the survival of the Power Industry in Nigeria! How can this be done?
The foremost requirement is a regulation backed by law to ensure that various enablers are in place to support the deliberate development and optimal utilization of Nigerian human resources for the provision of electricity services in the Power Industry. The emphasis should be on ensuring the active participation and growth of the Nigerian Industry and citizenry in the various services and activities that will be witnessed as Nigeria rebuilds her Power Network and Infrastructure. I say active here because lazy, selfish and myopic investors will partner technical companies from the developed economies who, for many good reasons, will prefer to carry out the actual design, fabrication, manufacturing and testing of equipment from their overseas offices and locations. This will create jobs and opportunities overseas and add little to our subject matter. With foot on the ground, business economics will prevail and within a reasonable period of time, so many companies will shift base to Nigeria to carry out these activities and more. Ofcourse some balance is required here as the intention is not to stifle the development of the Power Industry and this is why those who understand the business of Electricity Generation, Transmission, Distribution and Supply are required to manage the process. In addition, there is need to track, monitor, review and measure the development of this objective at every stage. Statistical methods showing status quo ante and progress in the many areas is a must.
In view of the dearth of Knowledge of Power Systems in-country, the new owners of the Nigerian Power Assets, their technical consultants and Nigerian Professionals home and abroad should be asked to submit a list of the activities that they believe would be carried out in the short and long-term in the Power Industry. They should equally state those activities they would be more likely to provide services for pre-qualification and assessment of their capabilities or otherwise, to acceptable international standards. This should form a database akin to the Joint Qualification System (JQS) in use in the Oil and Gas Industry. The Nigerian Content Division of NNPC could be approached for help in this area.
In parallel, there is need to establish support industries that will sustain the operations of the electricity supply industry. For example, the stakeholders in the Power Industries could fund the operations of an association that looks after the Research and Development of Technology, Industry Standards, Equipment Specification, Power Groups and Fora, Conferences etc that are unique to the Power Industry. This is not usurping the powers or duplicating the position of Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) which focuses on all industries, rather, it is as described, unique to the Power Industry. Another opportunity exists for Government or private organizations to fund Accredited organizations that will provide Training to international Standards for Nigerians or anyone working in the Power Industry. The certificates issued by these organizations shall be well recognized in the Power Industry and could soon be a basis for assessing staff competency levels, training needs and development. In this regard, Nigeria should take the lead in establishing these organizations to service the entire African Continent with a long term vision in view.
A national orientation, preferably carried out by the appropriate Government Agency, to educate, re-orientate, and keep Nigerians abreast of the goings-on in the Power Industry is required. This will focus on issues of consumer interests, successful projects, energy conservation, TV adverts and educative programmes specific to the Power Industry, available opportunities for employments and or provision of services. Take for example, if a parent is aware that a job opportunity is available in a suitable location for his ward, the lazy individual with requisite skill and qualification would be helped to eschew laziness and pursue industriousness and dexterity.
There will be an opportunity for “expatriates” to work in the Power Industry going forward. But the same was true when Oil was discovered in Oloibiri on Sunday 15th January 1956. What was missing is a clear focus on how to “Nigerianize” the Industry that would emerge. The result? Half baked and unqualified “Expatriates”, not qualified in their countries of origin to practice Engineering, flocked into Nigeria, were trained by Nigerians only to become the Managers of the sector. Also, little or no transfer of Technology and Management of the oil and Gas Industry resulted from the nepotism, anachronism, prochialism, parochialism and political jingoism that permeated the era. To prevent the unwholesome outcome like the foot dragging we see with the Petroleum Industry Bill in the Power Industry of the future, any expatriate coming to work in the Power industry must be required to have demonstrable experience in number of years (you may wish to specify a minimum of years of cognate experience depending on skill and level of job to be carried out) relevant to the job specification, commensurate degree of education and membership of an internationally recognised professional Engineering Institution such as IEEE, IET etc. This is to prevent the situation which occurred in the Oil industry where so called expatriates lacking requisite skills to do the job were trained by Nigerian Operators in the Industry only to become their Managers in the course of few months down the line. In a similar vein, consultants to the Nigerian Power Industry should be so registered at an appropriate level to the services rendered. Also, every International or multi-national Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) having the intention of carrying on business in Nigeria should take appropriate steps to obtain incorporation as a separate entity in Nigeria in line with the provisions of the Companies and Allied Matters Act 1990. Attempts to maintain superficial presence in Nigeria, but carry on services using expertise from their parent companies overseas should be prevented. This will include works such as design, settings calculation, etc. There are many ways, and these are well documented, to incentivise companies, organizations or institutions that demonstrate their full support of these initiatives. These will include but not limited to giving them special considerations among bidders for jobs, deliberately asking them to carry out the tasks if they have the requisite experience, asking them to do Engineering, Research and Development, Procurement, Training and other Technical and non- technical Services as may be required.
To be continued………………….
Idowu Oyebanjo writes from the UK