Art, education solution for Nigeria at 59
I recall that as a postgraduate student of International Relations and Strategic Studies, some 22 years ago, we were asked to debate Huntington’s A Clash of Civilisations, first published in Foreign Affairs of Summer 1993.
In this thesis, Samuel Huntington posits that the basis of identify for states would shift from economy and/or ideology — as it was in the cold war era — to culture. He says states having similar cultures will group together into civilisation clusters. He identifies such groupings as: Western (United States and Europe), Confusion (Chinese), Japanese, Islamic (Arab, Turk, Malay, North Africa), and possibly African. He said globalisation would cause these different civilisations to rub against one another, resulting in international conflict. If there will be a third World War, Huntington predicts that it is a clash of civilisations that will cause it.
I argued on Huntington’s side. Professor Christopher Clapham, who gave the assignment, remarked on my paper that I had put up a courageous case. His comments suggested that no one else in our class had sided with Huntington. I acknowledge that I am not blessed with the ability to follow the crowd. I did not, however, take ‘the road less travelled’ in this debate out of routine but because I saw reason.
While the nature of conflict on the world stage in this new millennium lends credence to Huntington’s case, we see that this ‘Clash of Civilisations’ is not restricted to international relations. It takes place within nations, families, between generations, between different social strata, etc.
This conflict is unconventional. Its army is fluid. It is a movement of minds. Its Generals are influencers in various fields with a teeming population of young followers residing mainly in cyperspace. We should be concerned how this kind of warfare is playing out in our national life.
As Nigeria turns 59th, it is as good a time as any to take a reading of our national barometer, note the index of our collective wellbeing, see how this may be affecting the ‘Clash of Civilisations’ going on within our boarders and begin to put in place a long-term plan to channel it to our advantage.
According to the CIA’s World Factbook, ‘over 62 per cent of Nigeria’s over 180 million people still live in extreme poverty’. In short, life is unbearable for most Nigerians. When people lose hope they become desperate and their minds become fertile ground for a revolution. If nothing is done to address this, it is a matter of time before an implosion occurs.
A UNESCO slogan says ‘since it is in the mind of man that war was conceived then it is in the mind of man that peace must be constructed’.
In effect, the mind is the epicentre in the ‘Clash of Civilisations’. We can wield influence on the mind either to build or to destroy. This is where education is key. Education develops the mind, shapes our thinking and opens us up to different possibilities. We can be intentionally about using education to equip our populace as positive architects of society.
But to effectively deploy education as a tool for national development, we need a clear national ethos. Others have this. For America it is one word – Freedom. For France it is Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. It is not obvious what Nigeria’s is but we can begin with the inscription on our coat of arms – Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress. These words should shape our national life and one way this can be achieved is by deliberately embedding them in our education.
The case for strengthening our formal education system has been made over and over. Today, I wish to emphasize on the importance of informal and non-formal education to Nigeria’s development.
Alongside what we are taught within the four walls of a classroom, learning takes place daily – in our homes, on the play grounds, in the market place, in our places of worship, in our social gatherings and through media. We (parents, teachers, the corporate world, religious organisations, other influencers, and of course government) all have a part to play in the effort to turn things around through these streams of education.
Today, the heroes of popular culture wield tremendous influence that translates into movements, culture and even civilisation. It would be great if they use this power to direct their followership for our collective good. This is where the Davidos, the Genevieve Nnajis, the JayJay Okochas and the Linda Ikejis come in. Our musicians should write more songs that inform and educate like Fela and Bob Marley did. That way, while we listen and dance, we also learn. Nollywood should produce more educative movies like ‘93 Days’, (on Nigeria’s Ebola crises) and ‘Oloibiri’ (a story of oil exploration in Nigeria) so that while we are at the cinema, we are also learning.
Businesses should use their Corporate Social Responsibility portfolios to do genuine good and not just as a vehicle for PR stunts. How about funding more educational programmes. There are many young people with brilliant ideas who need financial assistance to extend a lifeline to their dreams. People need to be encouraged to churn out educational games as Nimi Akinkugbe is doing through Bestman Games.
Writers need to come up with interesting, attractive and well written books to back this agenda. Well done to companies like Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas and Etisalat for encouraging the literary arts. More corporates need to follow suit.
We cannot advance an education agenda without paying attention to the written word. We need to keep encouraging reading. Here we must mention that we do not get people to read by touring Nigeria and giving speeches about reading to audiences comprising token young people who are visibly bored out of their minds. No! It is achieved by offering innovative and interesting programmes and creating appealing spaces for reading. We can begin with making our existing public libraries functional.
I think we can push the literary arts even further by collaborating with other forms of arts. So, for instance, we could transform our libraries into creative hubs where people meet for a cultural immersion that could include dance, drama, film, photography, culinary and fashion.
Pricewaterhouse Coopers’ 2016-2020 entertainment and media outlook, estimates that by 2020 income from the Nigerian music industry would reach $86 (N27bn). Meanwhile Nollywood is said to be worth over $800 Million.
Our powerful creative industry should double as a tool for social change. We can marry education and entertainment to move Nigeria forward. Formal, non-formal and informal education can work together to encourage love and unity, peace and progress.
• Kalango, MON, is the Founder, Rainbow Book Club & Project
Director, Port Harcourt World Book Capital 2014