BY REV. FR. GERALD NWAFOR
When I was studying economics in secondary school, one of the topics that captured my interest was the scale of preference. Although I did not major in economics, I have continued to use the knowledge to prioritize my value chain.
(From Wikipedia: In economics and other social sciences, preference refers to an order by which an agent ranks alternatives based on their relative utility, typically in search of an “optimal choice”. Preferences are evaluations and concern matters of value, typically in relation to practical reasoning.)In 1990, my parents were in a dilemma of whether I should take the JAMB (Joint Admission and Matriculation Board) exam, or WAEC (West African Examination Council).
My father echoed the words of my economics teacher by saying that on the scale of preference, WAEC should go first because you cannot get into the university if you do not clear your papers in the WAEC exam. So, JAMB was sacrificed so I could take the WAEC. I am not sure if the present Nigerian government has a table of preferences at all. I am sure that almost all of them had a first degree in one subject or another but the reason why they do not see that Education is more important in a country called Nigeria compared to the Vice Presidential lodge.
I look at the budget where the money allocated to presidential vehicles is more than what the whole university system in Nigeria was asking for only one year ago, and consequently went on strike for eight months. The village woman would always ask the mocking question to the bad-titled man, “Who did this to us?” My question today to the political class would be to say, “Who did this to us Nigerians?” I watched with tears where the disHONORABLE minister Mr. Wike was defending the 15 billion earmarked for the building of the new VP house.
With a lot of incoherent statements and gaffs, he was struggling to make sense, but sense eluded him in the public debate. Since then, I have begun to believe that some of the fairy tales are stories about how kings keep most of the people uneducated so that they can continue to be in power forever.Mr. Peter Obi, who was the governor of Anambra state from 2007 to 2013 and raised the standard of education from zero to hero in Anambra, also faulted the move to allocate 15 billion to the VP mansion and 5 billion to education for the whole country.
I read somewhere that the Vice President, Mr. Kashim Shettima, was replying to Peter Obi and was defending the 15 billion allocated to his illusionary mansion. Among other things, he called Peter Obi a sore loser who should stop talking because he lost the presidential election.
I will not go into the election matters again because we know what happened on election day, and we also see in real-time what the APC government is trying to do with elections and the court system in Nigeria. Therefore, I will not delve into that territory.But let us look at the facts to compare and contrast. When Peter Obi became the governor of Anambra State in 2007, the school system was in shambles.
The state was rated 27th out of 36 states in Nigeria; but by the time he finished his first term in office, the state was in 1st and 2nd position for the whole time he was the governor. He received numerous awards from the Bill Gates Foundation, and he also became number one on the list of states that put into practice the MDG (Millennium Development Goals). At the same time, Mr. Kashim Shettima was the Governor of Borno State in the North. Under his watch as governor of Borno, Chibok girls were kidnapped from school and many schools were bombed. Do I need to say more? So, you can see that education is not something that would make his list of priorities.
Moreover, I am not sure the Vice President knows the importance of an opposition voice in a liberal democracy. When we talk about checks and balances, it is all about different and critical views and opinions that create a stable democracy.How I wish that the Nigerian government would prove me wrong, retrace their steps and cancel this mansion project.
More disturbing to me was the fundamental discovery that there was a Vice Presidential mansion built in 2010 with 7 billion, which was unoccupied. Why should a Wike want to spend 15 billion for another VP who will be in office for only 4 years, and maybe the next VP would say that it is too expensive to be occupied by him/her? As we speak, remember that two VP lodges have been renovated by this government since July, and each of them gulped over 2 billion and change. And now the third one is being built from the start.
May I ask, please, would the VP have houses across the 36 states in Nigeria? The senators needed to tell us what they thought about this budget because it should not go down into the water wells in the same way the senate president Mr. Godswill Akpabio sent little prayers into the account of the senators. The citizens would like to know what the final decisions of the Senate on the bill were for 15 billion mansions for the Vice President.
Or, the reason why the VP mansion of 7 billion was abandoned by the PDP and APC government. Who said we are in need in Nigeria today? We are not in need: we are only suffering from the words of Yakubu Gowan in 1973 that, “We do not have a problem at all because we have enough money, but we do not know what to do with it.”
That prophecy is coming true today. How do I explain the fact that amid hunger and poverty, the government has enough courage to write that kind of budget for the public to see?Finally, I should reserve some energy to discuss the 442 government-sponsored delegates to Dubai. Although they said that Nigeria had 1,400 delegates, the government said only 442 were sponsored by the government. We would like to know who sponsored the rest and how much it costs to sponsor one delegate because the money spent in Dubai belongs to us.