At global forum, Joseph criminalises Nigeria’s posture on 13 million out-of-school children
Foremost political scientist and emeritus professor, Richard Joseph, has condemned the posture of the Nigerian government on its over 13 million out-of-school children, saying that this is worrisome and should be addressed as soon as possible.
Joseph, a social scientist, policy and governance specialist of high caliber and intellectual gravitas, made these remarks while featuring on the Toyin Falola Interview series.
The interview series, which is a brainchild of renown historian and distinguished professor, Toyin Falola, has featured prominent individuals, policymakers, politicians, academics, captains of industries across the African continent.
Professor Joseph noted that the trend of migrating youth from Africa and Nigeria to other continents “has not always been this dramatic too. How do we deal with failure of democracy and development and at the same time not embrace authoritarianism and the trolls of underdevelopment? This is a very important topic. In my writings, I refer to the fact that a concept was used: ‘a futureless youth.’ I think that our youths are really been deprived of a very fundamental right and that’s a right to an education. Education was as important as what you’re having for breakfast and dinner. We don’t joke with education.
“I was part of the independent movement that there should be education. Chief Awolowo and his colleagues ensured free education at all levels. Education was seen as a very fundamental part of the liberation. We have over 13 million children in Nigeria who are not in school. I mean that’s a crime. All children should be entitled to schooling up to a certain level. We have hundreds of millions taken away for all kinds of processes and not educating our children. I just feel like we’ve got some fundamental work to do. If the children are not being educated, what’s the prospect of them going forward? It is a loss to the society if they cannot function at a certain level. I wouldn’t be here in front of you if it was not for an insistence on education.”
The panel of interviewers led by Professor Falola was made of prominent academics and critical stakeholders. The audience included Professor Olajumoke Yacob-Haliso, Professor Tunde Adeleke, Professor Ayo Banjo, Professor Niyi Osundare, Professor Nuhu Yacob, Professor Femi Osofisan, Professor Celestin Monga, Professor Attahiru Jega, Dr. Tokunbo Awolowo Dosumu, Governor Kayode Fayemi, Professor Femi Mimiko, Abena P.A. Busia, Professor Nuhu Yaqub, Adam Mayer, Olabode Ibironke, Michael Vickers, Femi Owoseni, Uzoma Osuala, Elias Bongmba, among others.
While reacting to a question from Professor Monga on nature and character of democracy, Professor Joseph said: “One of my teachers said that democracy derives from the demos, the greater majority of the people. But if it is democracy, it means the demos (the greater majority) must be involved in its construction. Wole Soyinka said some years ago that the Nigerian people have always been ready to approach democracy and these elites have always pushed them, because they come forward with their own notions of democracy.
“The idea about democracy is that it is continuous; the institutions will be continuous, and it does not have to be the same all over the world. You have travelled across the world and seen democracies in many countries but these countries don’t have a queen like England; they don’t have a House of Lords like England. Democracy must continue to refract itself; it must continue to be inclusive. It also nourishes itself from the institutions and cultures of the particular countries. Right now, I am fascinated with the cultural repertoires that we have in Africa. This is what we need in our institutions.
“Let me take two countries that I was involved in: Ghana and Zambia. At Zambia, we were involved in that process of opening up the country in terms of election and all those processes. Much of what we did is really unknown. The whole process of getting involved in Ghana, Rawlings was not ready to have the kind of system that has taken roots in Ghana. It took a real process. Making space for those voices to be able to speak up and then for the leaders to start listening was important. Sometimes, they don’t listen.
“In America, we are very fortunate. Our democracy was greatly challenged. We are learning that not only were they preventing the constitutional handover of power, but even after that occurred, this fellow was actually trying to get people remove Biden from office. This is the actual case of a congressman. But this is supposed to be the great democracy that you are talking about a coup d’état. He was not going to wait till 2024. They were trying to reach out to Venezuela. Do you know the country with the highest number of refugees in recent years? After Ukraine, it is Venezuela. There are about 2 million Venezuelans who have had to flee their countries.
“Zambia was a great country and process with Kenneth Kaunda. The people voted and there was an overwhelming acceptance by the people to bring back the person who was committed to them. What do the African people want? They want to have a democratic system. When you have these coups, it is not because the people have lost it but because the people are thoroughly fed up with those regimes in place. It is like ‘Yes, remove them’. Then you find these soldiers showing up in their new khakis and reading from the scripts. That doesn’t mean that the people are voting for these guys.”
Joseph called for more representative voices from Africa which can raise critical issues that can improve on the development of the continent.