Is Nigeria A Knowledge Based Society?


Knowledge and skills have become the global currency of 21st century- economic…if you really want to know how a country is going to do in the 21st century don’t count its oil reserves or gold mines, count its highly effective teachers, involved parents and committed students- Thomas L. Friedman
Knowledge is sacrosanct to the development of any society. Education no doubt nurtures, preserves and widen the horizons, creativity, talents and potentials of its members, visa-vie their contribution to societal development. Under normal circumstance, knowledge also promotes social change. The role of functional knowledge based educational system infast-tracking development over the years in some countries attested to the facts that, education is a cornerstone and cardinal pillars to societal rejuvenation. Countries that have pursuits an indigenous educational system informed by their cultural and religious persuasion, are today in the zenith of developmental ladders. While does that relegated such as crippling for development.
The development of any society is premise on the level of development of its educational system. Knowledge is the foundation of progress and development. A nation with high level of knowledgeable, educated and well informed citizens are easy to governed, mobilize, conscientise, and energies in the same direction of transformation with the spirits of patriotism. While nations that have high degree of ignorant and uneducated people are often easy prey to manipulation, exploitation and destruction by the elite in and out government. In such society’s chaos, confusion, despair, ethno-religious crisis and conflicts, poverty and underdevelopment are the underline factors of engagement due to the general apathy and mutual suspicious among the various nationalities.
Interestingly, societies that get addicted to their natural resources seem to develop parents and young people who lose some of the instincts, habits, and incentives for doing hard work and learning skills. In contrast with a countries with little in the way of natural resources – Finland, Singapore, or Japan – education has strong outcomes and a high status at least in part because the public at large has understood that the country must live by it knowledge and skills and these depend on the quality of education. Every parents and child in these countries knows that skill will decide the life chances of the child and nothing else is going to rescue them. So they build a whole culture and education system around it. This is the hallmark of a knowledge driven society.
Scholars and researchers have continued to examine the crisis of nation building facing the Nigeria state. While some argued that, leadership failure has being the major impediments to Nigeria development; others believed that, the failure of well inform citizens have being the major factor to hold leaders accountable for their stewardship. However, it is safer to say, that, a blend of the two are at the centre of the crisis of national development. Interestingly, the kind of educational system in the country is primarily responsible for the docility and non -chalantant attitude of Nigerians towards holding and mobilizing themselves against the unproductive elite in government. An educational system that alienates the students from their socio-cultural and environment realities; thus inculcating the culture of imitation and inferiority complex in the minds and souls of her citizenries, which has an advance effects on their psychological and physiological balance. It is the knowledge that is acquired that propels people into positive or negative action towards their society.
Then the question is with all the vast network of educated people and institutions, can we regard Nigeria as knowledge based society? The answer is No! The reality is that, you can be educated in certificate form but, not knowledgeable. Education is the ability to read and write; but, knowledge nurtures the culture of creativity, humility, and critical thinking, understanding, logical, reasoning. A knowledge base society is never prisoner of any theory. What guided such society are reason and reality. Therefore, Nigerian state is not a knowledge based society, rather a certificate awarding society. A society which places more emphasis on paper qualification, instead, of individual competence, creativity, hard work, geniuses of individuals visa vie their expected contribution to their society.
The certificate awarding nature of our society, has made the tertiary institutions vulnerable for manipulation and abuses, due to caliber and population of men and women of different creeds, seeking for one paper certificate or the other, not with the mindset of contributing to the development of the Nigeria state, but, with the intents of ravaging the already ravaged system for their selfish advantage. The educational system and failure of sincere leadership are two factors that delay the development of this country. However, we have seen a country where the leadership is hopeless but the societies are well informed; which triggers the followers taking their destiny in their hands; changing their hopeless government with a better one. Our educational system has no propellers that will energies, conscientise, mobilize, motivate and radically change the mindsets of students to change these historical injustices, hopelessness and confusion. This is a deliberate policy of government in order not to threaten their power based.
A Knowledge based society integrates the fabrics of its cultures and religion into its curriculum, for effective building process of a virile human engine for development. A system that is imbued with culture of co-operation instead of competition, honesty and dedication, patriotism and wholesale building of a virile human personality that think and dream about his country and her various problems, with the, mindset of providing solutions to such. A knowledge based society, is mostly informs by the environmental and historical realities of their coexistence. Ironically, most of the knowledge acquired these days in various schools in Nigeria, only makes us more of imitators rather than inventors, half intelligent and smart, arrogant rather than humble, individualistic instead of co-operative, greedy rather than piteous, promote immorality instead of morality, unpatriotic citizens instead of patriotic ones, corrupt desires and lacking enzymatic followers.
Our failure over the years to scientifically domesticate the colonial educational curriculum, mindset and heritage immediately after independent has been the greatest misadventure and policy flip-flog. This only affirmed the argument of Alan Burn, a former Deputy Chief Secretary in the Colonial administration of Nigeria, when he was quoted to have said “The worst effect of British style education in Nigeria had been the manufacture of bad imitations of Europeans instead of good Africans”. This is the hallmark in which our educational system banqueted to us had been built upon all this while. The colonial education made Nigerians more of imitators to the Western culture than being Nigerians themselves.
Today, Nigerian Engineers enjoys packaging or assembling foreign products rather than the inventors themselves. The lawyers look so clownish in their British borrowed whips instead of having well tailored Nigeria lingerie. The judicial system in Nigeria seriously alienated Nigerians from having access to justice, thus the shyness of the people to report cases in courts, due to the cumbersome nature and processes and the amount involves in hiring lawyers and time frame before justice is been disperse. No wonder, people still prefers traditional ways of settling whatever crisis instead of going to court. The political scientists have failed to come up with a viable political system; instead they keep insisting that there is no alternative to democracy, who said there is no alternative to democracy?
Years in, years out, economists continues to bamboozle us with economic statistics and theory without any economic miracle. Some theories are so alien to the environment called Nigeria. I believe what our economist have succeeded in doing is surrendering our destiny to international financials and monetary agencies. These agencies are not interested in the transformation of the country, except deepening poverty, inequality, exploitation and underdevelopment. These economists without pity and the fear of God partake in the crippling of their country to further their position and selfish gains in the organization they represents. All these factors are product of our educational system without local contents. How can you have an educational system that seriously alienates the minds of its subjects to its religious, social-cultural and environmental realities? An educational system that has no direct linkages between what is been taught in primary- secondary- Tertiary and the realities of life after studies in the real world of opportunity, hopelessness and confusion in today’s Nigeria today.
It is interesting to say, that, the essence of knowledge is to liberate and expand the horizons of intelligence of the people. It’s aimed at mobilizing, energizing, concretizing the people towards a patriotic zeal to transform their country. But, our educational system have alienated the majority of it inhabitants. Instead of patriotism, dedication, national pride, determination towards our dear country; students and leaders are all head on collision on how to get the spoiled of office. Poverty of spirits has pervaded the landscape of Nigeria. On a normal circumstance, access to knowledge and education shouldn’t be for monetary gains, but, to expands and nurture the souls and bodies of people to understand their environment and contributes to its development. Unfortunately, our parents and society sees knowledge from monetary points of view. Knowledge is not seeing in this part of country as a liberating instrument, but, as the only arbiter for social wealth and social status; a kind of investment that is requiring profitability in the future. This is not only misleading and unfortunate, but, has been the major contribution to corruption and hopelessness in the country. Knowledge and education are fundamental human duty, requires to free man from primitivism, bondage; thereby, nurturing and rediscovering his self, potentials, and mission visa via his contribution to national development.
The Nigerian tertiary institutions used to be the centre of research and development; a centre of mobilization of revolutionary vanguards in the past due to quality of lecturers and their methods of impacting knowledge to the students. Unfortunately today, the institutions are shadows of its former self; nothing seems to be happening except disco dancing youths and half crazy Nigerians. These youths, are not in-tuned with the realities of their society. Students, that are not conscious of the crumbs that are falling from the tables of their disgruntle elders and Lilliputian leaders. Students that waste their precious time discussing and attending to frivolous activities such as football matches, latest musical, films and cars; instead of discussing, crying and regrouping to challenges the ills of their society and the disgruntled leadership. The way and manners in which these youngsters discuss and analysis football matches with accuracy and objective commentaries; I often wonder if they can do same to the historical, political and economic problems and development of the Nigerian state from independent to date and offers strategies that will ameliorates the problem as students of research and intellectualism in Nigerian tertiary institutions.
1970sand 1980s represent the most memorable moment for students of intellectualism. This was a golden era of educational development; where the tertiary institutions were the centre of academic excellence, revolutionary vanguards and change. This was due to the caliber of men and women who provided the much needed consciousness and motivation for their students to partake in actions and struggle against visionless elite in power. Unfortunately, today, the tertiary institutions across the federation are populated by men and women who are appointed by accident as lecturers; when in the real sense they need to be taught themselves; because of moral and intellectual deficiencies. These were men and women who demand for gratification in cash and in kind to award degrees to un-deserving students. These unqualified graduates were later employed into the system, what do you think will happen? Your guess is as good as mine! Although, the long years of military rules seriously affected the educational sector. This was the period that brightest and articulates tutors, teachers, mentors and lecturers were weeded out of the educational system. These men and women of intellectual prowess, not only conscientise, energized, motivated and impacted knowledge but, provide the parading shift and opposition against the dictatorial rule and economic thieveries by the men and women in the uniform
The failure of our educational system to be a catalyst for national development, reminded me about the warning by the 20th century Islamic revivalist and the leader and guardian of Islamic Revolution in Iran, Ayatollah Ruhula Mustapha Musawi Khomeini when he was quoted to have said that “when a nation is heading towards doom, it compromises its educational sector”.  Nigeria failure to build aknowledge and educational system is the by product of forceful divorce engineered by past colonial administrators and contemporary leaders, between knowledge and faith. No doubt; we are people of faith, so, any education and knowledge that alienated the role of faith in its curriculum will lead to what Arthur Wellesley observed as “Educate people without religion and make them nothing but clever devils…. Universities are turning out highly skilled barbarians because we don’t provide framework of values to young people… who are searching for it.” The role of these two most especially religious teachings is sacrosanct to the development of a morally upright person and society. Remember the Missionary schools and religion teachings in schools in northern Nigerians: that was a period of spiritual and moral uprightness of pupils and students who passed through these schools system; but, as they say, everything is history.
The role of both faith and knowledge in building societies cannot be romanticizes from the facts that they play complimentary role in building societies and pious human engine of development and patriotism over the years. Historical experience has shown that separation between knowledge and faith has caused irreparable losses. “Faith should be identified in the light of knowledge, which saves it from being mixed up with myths. Faith without knowledge ends in stagnation and blind prejudice, and can achieve no purpose. Where there is no knowledge, faith of the believer becomes a tool in the hands of the clever hypocrites”
Interestingly, Late Murtaza Mutahheri (1997:16) an Iranian philosopher gave us a graphic and symbiotic relationship between knowledge and faith in his book “Man and Universe”. Heargued that; Knowledge gives us light and power; faith gives us love, hope and warmth. Knowledge helps make implements and appliance and accelerates progress; faith determines the purpose of human efforts and gives direction to them. Knowledge brings about outer revolution; faith cause inner revolution. Knowledge makes the world man’s world; faith makes life the life of humanity. Knowledge expands the existence of man horizontally; faith lifts it up vertically. Knowledge trains man’s temperament; faith reforms man. Both knowledge and faith give power to man; but the power given by faith is continuous, whereas the power given by knowledge is disjointed. Knowledge is beauty; faith is beauty too. But knowledge beautifies reason and thought; faith beautifies spirit and feeling. Both knowledge and faith give man security. But knowledge provides outer security, whereas faith provides inner security. Knowledge gives protection against diseases, floods, earthquakes and storm. Faith provides security against restlessness, loneliness, sense of insecurity and low thinking. Knowledge harmonizes the world with man, faith harmonizes man with himself.”
Therefore, we must individually and collectively embark on value reorientation, to change our psyche from colonial imitators and pretenders to ethics and values thatimprove and transforms ourselves and our society. Our educational system must provide a platform where we discuss our problems and provide a curriculum that is a product of Nigeria society, so that our children will grow up in an environment where each will have the freewill to contribute his best and potentials towards the development of the country. We must discourage the over insistence of certificate as panacea to job recruitment, but, emphasis should be places on individual ability and competence. Creativity schools and vocational schools should be established for smarts and creative people to expand their geniuses.
Government must encourage research in various fields of endeavour in order to challenge the lecturers to come up with far-reaching recommendations on how to re-invert this country. The government must empower the tertiary institutions with credible, energetic and competence tutor, teachers and lecturers, with high moral and spiritual acumen. The current crisis between ASUU and the Federal Government should be amicably settled for the development of the tertiary institutions. The welfare of the teachers/lecturers in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions’ should be a major concern to the government. Until the teachers and lecturers are stable both physical and spiritual before they will be able to impact knowledge. The government must see the teachers and lecturers as partners in progress, not enemy that need to be crushed at all cost.
Failure to provide these services will portents dooms for this country which the leadership and their supposed well trained children from oversee schools will not escape from. The silent revolutionary sounds and dance steps in Niger-Delta, Boko Haram in the north, kidnapping in South East, and Area boys in South West, will be a child play if an army of disgruntle unemployed, frustrated youths decides to voice their angers against the Nigerian state, I hope we will survive it.  The society must encourage what is right and discourage what is wrong. We must encourage reading culture as first step to acquisition of knowledge. Let our leaders past and present develop the habits of writing memoirs to share their experiences, challenges, successes and regrets in life.
It is interesting to conclude with a quotation from Lee Kuan Yew, the architect of Modern Singapore and development in South East Asia, when he advise his country men and women and leaders with this wise counseling which I believe is also important to our contemporary challenges as a nation and people. Lee was quoted to have caution, that “The future is as full of promise as it is fraught with uncertainty.  The industrial society is giving way to one based on knowledge. The new divide in the world will be between those with the knowledge and those without. We must learn and be part of the knowledge –based world. That we have succeeded in the last three decades does not ensure our doing so in the future. However, we stand a better chance of not falling if we abide by the basic principles that have helped us progress: social cohesion through sharing the benefits of progress, equal opportunities for all, and meritocracy, with the best man or woman for the job, especially as leaders in government”   This is the hallmark of a knowledge base society. I still believe building knowledgebase society remain the panacea to the vertical and horizontal integration and development of Nigeria in 21st century.
Bello Jega writes from Wuse Zone 4, Abuja,

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