The truth that hurt Onoja

Over the weekend, convener of #RevolutionNow movement and publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore and the Deputy Governor of Kogi State, Edward Onoja, were involved in a social media war of words.

Edward’s daughter was recently admitted into the prestigious Nile University as a student. ( I have to put that student there to avoid Nigerians asking me whether she was admitted as a patient or a security agent).

An elated Edward Onoja took to his Twitter handle to wish his beloved daughter God speed ( whatever that means. You know in the Federal Religious Republic of Nigeria,  we can coin anything to make our religiosity appear top notch. It is almost another kind of sin to not be religious in my country.)

I don’t think Edward did anything wrong by taking his daughter to school, taking photographs with her and wishing her success. After all , success is what we all wish for our children. I was happy for him and the young lady, who was all smiles in the picture.

Omoyele Sowore also added a voice to the many congratulatory comments pouring in for the Onojas as a well wisher. In his prayers, he wished Edward’s daughter what a parent would naturally wish a beloved child.

But that obviously didn’t go down well with our darling deputy. He could not hold his emotions and consternation. What followed was a litany on invective. What is in Sowore’s prayer?

He prayed that the child;

  1. May graduate and get a job.
  2. May not be owed salaries when eventually employed.
  3. May not be denied her pension after retirement.

Personally, I do not see anything wrong with this prayer. I do not think that any Nigerian would find fault with it. After all,  Nigeria is the most religious in the world. The deputy governor himself goes to church. He has, on several occasions, demonstrated his sublime love for God by dedicating all his success to Him. So why the vituperation?

I would tell you why. Omoyele seemed to have touched the very truth through that cynical prayer.  He squarely addressed the problems of Kogi State. The first truth glaring at Edward in the face is the total neglect of education in Kogi State. From primary to university education in Kogi State, it is a tale of deprivation and neglect.

The Kogi state University is the worst, and is being referred to as a glorified secondary school by mockers. I personally spoke to a professor from the school. The erudite man complained of being owed salaries and even the current ones are paid at the discretion of the government. A lot of professors are abandoning the school for acolytes of the government.

The dream of the founder of the school, Prince Abubakar Audu , to be a world class institution and also affordable to the less privileged has been washed down the drain by a government in which Edward is a key player. The school now ranks 89th in Nigeria and 10477th in the world. A shameful reversal of fortune for a school which hasn’t lasted up to 30 years.

At the moment, the school fees have more than tripled for new and old students. For new students who are from the state, the school fees range between N57,000 and N68,000, while for those who are not from Kogi State it ranges from approximately N100,000 to N150,000.

Before you say it is still normal, please consider that in that state, many people are owed salaries. The said salaries are anything from N30,000 to N100,000, of which percentages are paid reluctantly by the government when they feel like.

These salaries are earned by only about less than 30% of Kogi’s 3.4 million strong population. The remaining over 70% are farmers, who struggle with the stubborn soil to eke out a living. These are men and women who believe that their children would one day put smiles on their faces when they are out of school.

The university education is being pushed out of their reach by means of the increased fees. Their parents, those who are lucky to work in government are not paid salaries and the school fees are not affordable.

We haven’t talked about primary and secondary education. The teachers are owed multiple salaries, and are forced back into the farms. They come to school when they are free. There is no government presence in the villages. The parent-teacher associations of most village and suburban schools have decided to find a way around the problem.

They have resorted to employing secondary school leavers and other volunteers to teach in those secondary and primary schools under the title of PTA teachers. Their responsibility is on the association which pays them anything from N2,000 to N10,000 monthly.

Pray, what kind of service would anyone expect from such a situation? The first problem is that they are not qualified to teach. So, they would end up churning out half baked students and continue a circle of mediocrity. When their products get to the university, they are behind their peers on many fronts.

Secondly, a man who is receiving that kind of wage is not happy. What can N10,000 buy in today’s Nigeria? They too would look for alternatives that would better their living standard.

The story of Kogi state is a litany of woes. Edward should have simply said Amen to Sowore’s prayer instead of trying to put up a face saving argument that didn’t even come close to address the subtle indictment.

He stated that Sowore should have kept family out of politics. I want to ask Edward a simple question. Is it not politics that made his family the second family in Kogi state? The children they employ as thugs in Kogi state to run their political races for them are also people’s children. 

They education system that has died in their hands are to breed good and responsible children. How can you destroy the future of other  people’s children and be angry that yours was mentioned? Are some children more children than others?

Lastly, the kinds of words and angry vituperation that oozed from his response to Sowore are totally unbecoming of a man of his class. They are so vitriolic and completely lacking in substance. It shows one thing. That the man and his boss do not brook any other opinion that does not serve their interests. They want to be praised, worshipped and called ‘Excelon..’, whatever that means.

What is good for the goose is good for the gender. That’s what Sowore has implied. Edward had better sit down and provide the answer. He should stop those use of grammar that say nothing to us.

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