Senator Ibezim Frank Nwachukwu has identified foundation education as a panecea to youth restiveness in Nigeria.
In this interview with Sundiata Post Assistant Editor, Chibuike Nwabuko, Senator Ibezim representing Imo North Senatorial District, recalled how classroom library would eradicate consumption of cannabis and other social vices.
He also narrated the important of his two bill that have passed first reading in the senate to the economic development of the nation.
Distinguished, What is your motivation in sponsoring this bill – The African Union Convention on the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Domestication and Enforcement) Bill 2021.
“Well, you can’t truly say it has not been domesticated in Nigeria. Normally that bill actually erupted from Kampala convention and you are aware right? And by 2012 we would say that we have that but you know you have bills, you need to know why that bill came into existence. For every bill that has come into existence, there must be challenge that it wanted to address.
So the Nigerian factor of it is that we have been talking about IDPs, there is a different between Internally Displaced People (IDP) and then refugees. Everybody is displaced but when you are displaced in a particular territory – a nation that is the IDP issue we are talking about. But there are so many things that come with it. You have been hearing about IDP’s in the North West. Truly speaking, in every part of Nigeria, we have internally displaced people. Whether it is because of force de jure or challenge of harsh weather, rain or displacement, whatever it is, what we are talking about is how to manage our people in Nigeria that have been displaced.
Are we talking about how to shelter them, how to feed or cloth them, how to rehabilitate them, there are a lot of issues that have not been dealt with in this country. It is a developing country and as a country is developing, we keep reviewing. So this bill is actually apt now. You can see that since the pandemic, we have had lots and lots of issues and every nation that will develop will have to deal with these issues as they come. So that is what we want to deal with now. There are so many aspect of dealing with Internal Displaced People and those aspects are the aspects we want to capture fully and holistically so that we would assure the well-being of our people.
So that is part of it and it has passed the first reading, we are gearing for the second reading when I will do the lead debate.
Yesterday, I also had the first reading on the National Research and Innovation Counseling Establishment bill 2021. See for me, any nation that would grow would at least remember his past experiences. One way that Nigeria would develop is just like every developed nation, is through Science and Technology and Research. So we need to really document research works so that we can fall back to it and also expand from it. So we have had so many ideas but I am talking about the council so that this Research Council will properly put in place to develop our science and technology. Not just about Science and Technology but other aspects without proper research and innovation and also capturing it well. Because you see a lot of people will just copy and paste and it’s not helping us as a nation.
So those two bills are dear to my heart. Besides that, I am sure that you all know that I have talked about “Classroom Library foundational education. I have always said that we have challenges in this country emanating from youth restiveness, drug infestation, unemployment and I believe that all these challenges can be solved by introducing proper foundational education.
Growing up as a child, we had libraries and during long vacation, some of us go to one library or the other and try to read one thing or the other. Today we don’t even have the culture neither do we have the books. So part of what I am working on since the past three years when I was advising the Minister of State for Education in the last dispensation, was trying to bring back class room library into our classroom and into primary and nursery school so that we can get foundation education right.
You see what we have for instance, we are talking about COVID-19 pandemic, If you have primary one and nursery kids and you are able to teach them in the way and manner kids like to learn- kids learn with colour books and you are teaching them how to fight germs as children, you are already teaching them how to fight the pandemic. These are elementary things we were being taught in school before.
But with classroom library, what we have tried to do, sometime during our second year anniversary, I visited the IDP camp and what I did was to go to IDP camp to introduce classroom library to them. And in the course of doing that, we know that there is no way you will get that done properly without getting parents and guidance, teachers involved because these children haven’t seen libraries before. If you come to the entire FCT, I heard they have three of them and I visited the one where I went and donated classroom library and it was an eye-saw, there in Wuse zone 5, you will not believe it, this is the Federal Capital Territory and you look at the quality of library that we have. So we have found that the only way we can get that back on track is to introduce classroom library and I have just explained what one book would do for you and how this book would handle the pandemic.
This country is one of the most blessed countries in the world and I can tell why because I have travelled to so many continents and I am yet to find any country that has the kind of weather we have in this country and we also have the vegetation. Criss-cross Nigeria and you will find out that we are blessed but I believe that its that blessing that is also our challenge because truly you cannot grow as a nation without challenge.
They say for you to invent anything there would be need, even the early man was able to find light when he was so cold and couldn’t help it and he started heating stones together – the stone age. So yes, we are blessed in Nigeria because of what we have. We are talking about Nigeria, unity in diversity. Somebody will tell you that because we have Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo that is why we have problems, its not true. If you go back to Yoruba land you will find out that you have brothers fighting to kill. The other day, I was with one of my colleagues and they are calling from Cross River where sister localities were dismembering each other. Also go to South East you must have heard about Aguleri and Umuleri, so the truth of the matter is that Nigeria is blessed.
Unity in diversity but we have to teach unity to these children from day one so they understand, if you don’t teach people to discuss more of the things that brings them together and less of the things that separate them, how would they work together. Nigeria is such a great country that I want to be able to eat ewedu, I want to go to the north and eat mashed rice, it is beautiful.
But the truth of the matter is that we don’t understand that because of our blessings we don’t understand that there is need for us to develop. And that is why I believe that even in this anarchy; I believe in this country, I believe that because of this challenge – all these restiveness issues, Nigerians have the right human capital, Nigeria will just think a little out of the box because of this hunger challenge and begin to solve our issues.
All over the world Nigerians are there. Anytime we put our mind to doing something we rule the world in soccer in different sports activities even without facility. Did it happen? Without facilities we ruled the world so think of it if we begin to think that we should have the right facilities and train Nigerians, sports alone can drive our foreign exchange and make us a rich country.
We have about 200 million Nigerians or thereabout, we have what it takes to feed our people. I have looked at it and no matter how you look at it, we just need to go back to teaching our children based on foundation education. I talked about a book and every book that is here will teach our children about one thing or the other. All these youth restiveness we are talking about starts with bullying in classroom. We have to teach our children not to bully, such that they will not grow up to be cultists because it is when you are bullied in school, you are afraid you will go and look for how to join cult by the time you get to secondary school or university you now join cult for protection and you think you are being protected you don’t know that from there you start doing drugs.
Right now we are talking about cannabis and they tell you Nigeria is number one headquarters of cannabis, people don’t believe it until you go to the rural areas. The rural areas, in the morning you see a lots of young men sitting around and you think they are doing breakfast – bread, you don’t know that the things they are mixing with the bread are all cannabis. So we have to tackle all these things and let me tell you something, it would happen that way if we don’t tackle them.
Whether you are in America or anywhere, you have to devote time and organise on how to clean up your system otherwise Nigeria will be infested by drugs and that is why we are having all these youth restiveness, that is why somebody will come and tell you that you should go and fight for something, go and destroy police station when you know that if you are in your right senses you know that when you destroy the police station if these area boys come and knock at your door in the night there will be nobody to rescue you from them.
The regular common sense that we have, we are out of it because we are not trying to be a little realistic. All of us here are Nigerians and it’s the same blood that runs in our system, if you have not eaten since morning by now you would be fainting. If you are hungry it doesn’t matter whether you are a Yoruba man, Hausa or Igbo man. We are all Nigerians, there is no ethnic group that is the bad one, we have armed robbers in every part of Nigeria and we have good people from every part of Nigeria. So let us begin to relate with those good ones. If a criminal is an Igbo man will I say because I am an Igbo man let me protect him to come and kill me?
So what it means is that there is pressure and its not only in Nigeria but Nigeria should take advantage of what we have and realize that this is the time to develop our country. The days of colonization is gone, if we allow foreigner to come back and recolonize us it would be worse for us. We have to take our lucks into our hands and make a difference.
And every day we keep talking about the reason why we are backward is the military. Is it the military that did our constitution for us? Is it not civilians that did the constitution even in the military era – justices, respected men and women. There has never been a time the military did constitution for Nigeria and every day we will be saying we have been going through this or that. Anywhere in the world you must review constitution because the more you grow the more you have different views and ideas that you must review constitution. I am sitting here today as the senator, we all think. If we are a peaceful nation our young men and women would go to right school and graduate and have work. We don’t all have to be graduates in Nigeria, the technical schools we are getting people from Togo, how big is Togo. I can tell you right now, if you want Nigerians to come and do the technical work, nobody wants to do the work. Everybody wants to make it big overnight. Nobody wants to structure things – get people who are painter who will be able to paint well. Somebody will tell you he is a painter and he would do haphazard work and want to collect the money from you and will be angry if you are telling him that this job is not done well.
But this is not the Nigeria that we all new from time. I am just saying that we have to wake up and it’s not better overseas, it’s worse. There are fellow Nigerians overseas in a very cold or hot weather but in this country, look at the kind of weather we have. Why can’t we live together? When we go outside Nigeria, If you go to America, the whole world is there Nigerians will now live together with even white people but when they come to Nigeria, the same colour, just because somebody told you that you are this. We have a lot of Nigerians that are mixed like your mother Hausa and your father is Yoruba. If your mother is Yoruba and your father is Igbo are you not a Nigerians? Do you throw away your mother because she is Yoruba and your father is Igbo.
So for me, whether you are a senator or you are a journalist, let us try to do our work and be sincere about it. This country belongs to all of us. Let’s not say because somebody is Igbo and he’s done something wrong and when you ask me I am careful because I don’t want to condemn it , what does that mean? I remember when I was a board member in Federal College of Education Technical, Gombe and they were trying to interview teachers, and in the board they said there is quota system they have to consider and I said no write exams first for them. Some of the people there then said they will rebel and report me to an Emir and the Emir is an educated man and he said this young man is saying the truth. If you set exam for them and even if the best teacher is from one ethnic group, they will teach your children and by the time they finish teaching your children in two or three years, your children now become good teachers and then they will in turn be the one teaching their own brothers and sisters. But if you say well, this is what it is, you must take this, it will only churn out illiterates, illiterates will be teaching illiterates. Now let them teach your own people well and the people can now teach your children.
So for me, yes we are in the Senate we are going try and do bills, I don’t like talking about what I haven’t done before. But I can tell you that this bill is my passion, this is it. I believe that we have to have new Nigeria and this new Nigeria will be Nigeria that is colourless, that has the heart beat to be the best it can be in this world and that Nigeria will start with going back to those nursery and primary kids, teach them how to read and write and teach them the right set of books.
They are very young Nigerians that wrote these books about forty something book here and there is none of this book that you will raise that will not teach your children e.g Gratitude, be thankful. We must teach our children how to read and write. You cannot write if you can’t read. So you have to start reading and I have told you that growing up, you can become a bad person because you are not taught. You can only exute what your thought is. So even if your parents are not educated there are relations that are educated therefore we must teach the children how to read the books.
So I am very glad that federal government has keyed into it already. Last year they donated ten classroom libraries to each senatorial zone in this country. And thank God I am a member of Basic and Secondary Committee, what we have done now is to make sure that our oversight function, I started with my senatorial zone and I went there yesterday and I asked them; the ten classroom libraries that were donated where are they? Everybody was running helter skelter. Guess what? You know where they were? Storage! And I can tell you Nigerians are good people. Nigeria has all the laws in the world that you can think of, our challenge is implementation.
Somebody will start something, it’s a novel idea, would start that thing immediately all of a sudden the zeal is gone and we don’t ask again but there comes a time when we would have to ask because we can’t continue like this. Let me tell you, if we don’t do it, this country is under pressure to develop because right now other continents are developed and there is pressure on Nigeria to develop and Nigeria is the key country blessed with all sorts of natural resources. So what are we going to do, stay here and go hungry everytime? No as the population is growing up, if we don’t wear the right thinking cap, we would suffocate each other in this country.