When you come into contact with the vision and the creative capacity of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, you are left with no other option than to marvel at his exploits.
He was a man who opted to stay awake when some were snoring away the lives of their people. While many of his contemporaries opted to invest in physical structures, he opted to go for the development of the human mind.
He designed the academic project that has put the Yoruba people ahead of others. He erected schools, introduced free education as early as 1955 and created the opportunity for the Yoruba to raise an army of intellectuals across Yorubaland. It is incontrovertible that the Southwest is reputed to be among (if not) the most sophisticated tribe in black Africa because of the free education policy he introduced in the defunct Western region. It is also a fact beyond contestation that the South West is reputed to be the only part of the country that has exploited the weapon of intellectualism to wrest the Presidency from the talons of oppressive regimes even in the face of intimidating odds.
Today, while many state governors are engrossed in adding their voices to the deafening lamentations about the biting economic recession in the country, the Governor of Bayelsa State Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson, has opted to commit scarce state funds to the development of the human mind with the introduction free education at the primary and secondary school levels. Already, there are 14 functional free public boarding secondary schools in Bayelsa State. It is the burning preoccupation of the Governor to establish more constituency boarding schools to take quality education to the doorsteps of Bayelsans.
In one of the model boarding schools established by the Governor, the Ijaw National Academy, Kaiama, there are over 1,600 students who are receiving free quality education at no cost to their parents. It must be mentioned that students from communities across Ijawland (beyond the borders of Bayelsa) have been assembled at the INA in Kaiama, the home town of the Ijaw hero, Jasper Isaac Adaka Boro, to get equipped to be part of the freedom orchestra in the future.
The Ijaw nation cannot forget in a hurry that prior to Dickson, it was the standard in many of our communities that the most brilliant Ijaw children across the land were shackled to the poisonous ropes of illiteracy because of lack of financial capacity on the part of their parents. This is the story Dickson’s policy in education in Bayelsa, the heartland of the Ijaw nation, has rewritten. Today, what you need to get a good education, a good life and the expression of your destiny is a good brain!
Those children who are seen swotting, and running around in Kaiama, represent the next generation of youths being equipped to chant songs of freedom in a ruthlessly oppressive Nigerian society. Certainly, like Allan Paton, they would write, ask for repatriation and ‘Cry for the beloved Country’ to question the ills of this society. Expectedly, education will open their eyes to see beyond the borders of the River Nun to attract renewed international attention to the mindless pillaging of our resources and the devastation of the Niger Delta environment by the Nigerian state.
Education is a lethal weapon against injustice and oppression. Education is cancer to the strongest foundation of repression! What Dickson has done is the planting of a giant shrub of freedom in Kaiama, which the storm of oppression will not desecrate. From this shrub shall come those voices that will see the repulsiveness of the poverty of Oloibiri in the wealth of choice cities and locations built from her resources across Nigeria.
Surely, they will ask those questions that would nag the conscience of a people whose actions have transformed the Niger Delta from a bride prepared by God for admiration by all to an agonizing old woman decked in pathos, with the tears from the blood of her fallen children.
Surely, I am in love with Kaiama for all its stands for. In the past, it was the coming of Boro who displayed nausea and the revulsion against oppression; yesterday, it was the bold declaration for resource control by aggrieved youths across a bleeding land; today, a tree of Ijaw intellectualism is firmly planted in the quest for this date with justice.
I love the Ijaw National Academy, I love education and its effect on the human mind. I love the creative genius that has started this silent revolution against the altars of oppression.
No doubt, education is expensive; quality education must come with some sacrifice. Any society with no sense of sacrifice is doomed. God forbid! In all, what we need is the verdict of time, not the selfish testimony of the rapacious power mongers whose eyes are set only on today.
The Yorubas Love Awolowo (and rightly too). Like the late sage, Dickson has started a revolution in Kaima, a revolution that will crumble the walls of oppression in Ijaw land.
Fidelis Soriwei is Special Adviser, Media Relations to the Governor of Bayelsa State