Time for a ministry of national unification
“USOSA…!!! Better together!”
That’s how they proudly saluted themselves. The occasion was the 38th Plenary and Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Unity Schools Old Students Association (USOSA) which held at the AGNL Garden, Gudu, Abuja on 13th of November, 2021. Gathered were alumni of all the 104 Federal Government owned unity colleges in the country to discuss “The Role of Unity Schools Old Students Association (USOSA) in Uniting Nigeria.”
The participants cut across all ethnic, religious, social, age and vocational strata of the Nigerian society.
The camaraderie was incredible as they mingled and interacted with one another with familial glee like inseparable soul mates bound by unalloyed love, affinity and mutual acceptance that belie and transcend all divisive ethno-religious and socio-cultural sentimentalities.
There was no politics involved. Neither patronage nor slander of any individual, government, corporate or other entity. No bias, sectional undertones. Just a crystal clear, passionate, insightful coalescence of exceptionally brilliant ideas and unparalleled commitment to save, unite and build Nigeria.
The speech by Lawrence Anirejuoritse Wilbert, the President General of USOSA, encapsulated their resolute nationalistic mindset and vision. It aptly summarised Nigeria’s decrepit state of affairs and decried the evident helplessness of successive governments and other public institutions at all levels to stem the “myriad of discordant, convulsive tunes and virulent echoes of division, separatism and armed conflicts from within and beyond our borders” and reverse the steep slide to total anarchy and disintegration of the country. He observed a need for restoration of “socio-economic prosperity, ethno-religious co-existence and mutual trust, sound moral quotient, palpable patriotic spirit, people-oriented political leadership and other vital features of our national fabric” while lamenting that the citizenry are “aghast and desperately groaning for help.”
Noting that USOSAns in their vast numbers have come of age and are “particularly prominent in the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government, the military, police and paramilitary bodies, commerce and industry, banking and finance, the academia, civil service, sports and entertainment, faith organisations, etc.,” Wilbert then charged them all to rise to the challenge of reuniting and rebuilding Nigeria. He affirmed that their past experience as children and students of unity schools was a unique orientation and tutelage in patriotism and national empathy which distinguishes them for the work at hand. His parting words: “We were raised for such a time as this, and must not let our country’s unity go asunder… we must rise to the occasion.”
I was astounded. So Nigeria has such strong army of fiercely patriotic, exceptionally competent and vastly knowledgeable citizens? One of the speakers mentioned that USOSA’s membership is in excess of one million! How then is the country so disunited? How could any nation possessing such unique, deliberately cultivated mass of quality human resources be in such complete disarray and so far from attaining its enormous potentials? How? How? How?
Then it hit me. Decades of abject failure by the Federal Government, sole initiator and owner of the unity schools, to harness products of the schools for national unity, growth, development and progress. Like a woman who serially labours through multiple child deliveries after long, stressful months of pregnancy, patiently nurtures the children to illustrious adulthood, then succumbs to dementia and forgets she has grown, dependable offsprings she could call on in time of need.
Commentaries at the plenary recalled how USOSAns have salvaged their respective alma maters through provision, renovation and maintenance of classrooms, hostels, water, electricity, toilets, dining halls, medical supplies, sports facilities, books and other study materials, science equipment, internal road networks, perimeter fences, etc. after decades of near total infrastructural decay occasioned principally by prolonged neglect and mismanagement by successive governments. And they avowed readiness to do much more for their fatherland.
Of course USOSAns are not the Federal Government’s only human capital investments. Youth corps members under the aegis of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and members of the armed forces, police and paramilitary bodies are too, and are similarly encouraged to facilitate national cohesion. But the USOSAns are a peculiar species: the unity gospel is in not just in their heads. It is in their bones, veins and souls, for they imbibed it not in adulthood but from their formative years. They are Nigeria’s firstborns. Their blood is green!
Surely it is time for mother Nigeria to stop playing barren. Time for the Federal Government to reach out and beckon on the distinguished products of unity schools to help reunite the country and lift it out of the doldrums as they were specifically intended and trained to do. It is particularly recommended that the government should create a Ministry of National Reconciliation and Unification (MNRU) peopled solely by USOSAns. The least option should be a National Agency for Reconciliation and Unification (NARU). The government would also do well to adopt a policy of appointing only USOSAns to the headship and staff positions of all unity schools as well as the Federal Ministry of Education (or the secondary education department of the Ministry). The NYSC and the National Orientation Agency (NOA) should benefit from the same policy too. And it is imperative for the government to solicit and enlist the active support and involvement of USOSA in the conceptualisation and implementation of that policy from start to finish.
Yes, unity schools should be managed exclusively by persons who were raised with the pro unitate orientation and enjoyed first-hand experience of the workings of the schools’ founding philosophy. It is a gross aberration drafting alumni of state, private and community secondary schools to run and manage the affairs of federal unity schools. Their lack of the fundamental orientation and philosophical background for the job is a huge demerit, and hampers actualisation of the vision of the schools. They should be redeployed to ministries/departments where their services will be more appropriate and beneficial to the nation.
USOSAns traverse all walks of life and are already contributing significantly to national development in various ways, even in government. Nonetheless it is needful to strategically retain and engage a special nucleus of them working as one strong unit within the federal governance structure to co-ordinate and harness their collective competencies and potentials.
Nigeria certainly needs a large dose of the USOSAn spirit going forward. It is a colossal waste and disservice to the nation to have its thorough-bred, one million strong prime human capital dispersed abroad (within and outside the country) in such random, unhinged fashion that negates full ambit to maximally tap their resourcefulness for national unity and growth. You don’t let loose your best so asininely.
There is urgent need to rejig the system and place the right people in the right places. The USOSAns are obviously ready to answer the call to help midwife a new, truly united, progressive Nigeria. Is the Government of Nigeria ready to make that call to its own?
Simeso Amachree (firstname.lastname@example.org; 07038958968) wrote from Port Harcourt.