It was still a few minutes after 7. 00 a.m last Friday. The burial which had brought everyone to the village was not due yet. So, why won’t people who call themselves comrades take a few minutes to check the local school and the local health facility for whatever such was worth? It was not Socialism. It was an enactment of the three leading impulses that move members of this specie. That is the spirit of communalism, the Christian ethic of being one’s brother’s keeper and the ingrained elitist concern for merit or the sites for production of merit.
So, the threesome went, first, to St Michael’s Primary School, Ajide but which, like all such schools in the state and perhaps the country, is now more popularly called LGEA Primary School, Ajide, LGEA being abbreviation for Local Government Education Authority School. The problem, as some people have argued, might actually lie in that change of ownership and name from the missions to the government. It turned out that there is basically nothing that anyone can call a school there anymore. Certainly nothing comparable to the time the John Odahs of this world had their primary school there in the early 1970s.
Except the 2009 building credited to the ETF, all the buildings are ancient stuff built around the early 1940s. Then, there were only three of such primary schools in the entire Edemoga District. One was at Akpoga, the most interior of the district which must have got the school only because the colonialists were disinterested practitioners of diversity. If it were Nigeria of today, it would never have happened. The third one must be at Olanyega or Ugbokolo.
The first shocker is how it is the 1940s buildings that are still standing except the roofs which have turned completely brown instead of white. There are desks but, certainly, our children deserve a better deal. It was a sadness inducing adventure in the end. Even the school pitch is so abandoned that cow have taken it over. Yet, Nigeria expects pupils from this sort of place to write common entrance examination and compete with their counterpart from the urban centres. The nearby rural health centre was an even worse apologia, better imagined than mentioned. And this is the eve of the second decade of uninterrupted democracy in the giant of Africa.
The tragedy is just about to begin. In the immediate post-Independence era, every political leader understood what a development strategy referred to and how to implement it. Today, there are about twenty presidential aspirants for 2019, NONE of whom has made reference to a development strategy of any kind whatsoever. Governance has effectively been reduced to projectisation in Nigeria. So, projects exist, from road to hospital to school to whatever projects but without reference to the value framework that ties them all together into an integrated attack on manifestations of poverty such as St Michael’s Primary School, Ajide.
Unfortunately, St Michael’s Primary School, Ajide, sends a reminder to every single member of the Nigerian elite – elite are supposed to be about merit. How come the Nigerian elite is hawking mediocrity to their people by denying them good schools, functional health care facilities, passable roads, etc, etc?
This must be what Comrade John Odah was pondering upon in the cover picture? Because, the question is, what does he do now? He is not the government. Yet, he cannot come to terms with the reality of his own community being without a primary school. Interestingly, Odah is not alone. Virtually all members of the elite have no good schools back home. The only difference is that it is not an issue for some, some are quietly concerned while a third category are those who as comrades or former General Secretary of the continent’s largest national labour centre, cannot but be sensitive to such a reality! John Odah must be in trouble!