Dr. Amiso George, an Associate Professor of Strategic Communication, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas, United States, spoke with EBENEZER ADUROKIYA during a short sabbatical at Pan Atlantic University (PAU). She urged the Federal Government to fund more technical
What is your impression so far about Nigeria?
I think a lot of things have changed and some things have gotten worse. Nigerians are very hardworking people. I was here 2015 in Lagos and I’ve seen so many buildings, businesses, lots of development; but at the same time I am quite concerned about the state of security, particularly with some of the stories I’ve been reading about. Of course, we have the big one still going on, the Boko Haram. The ritual killing of innocent people is very troubling. But I should also tell you that as a country, Nigeria is very resilient. Nigerians are very resilient, very hardworking people.
How best do you think Nigeria can tackle the Boko Haram debacle?
It’s not an easy thing, but I think one of the mistakes the government made was saying, (I think I can paraphrase) ‘We can defeat Boko Haram by seven to eight weeks’. That was not the smartest thing to say, in my opinion. And I could remember listening to the Chief of Army Staff on BBC a couple of months ago and the journalists kept pressing him. So, when you say you want to defeat Boko Haram within this period of time (well they are still there, they keep cropping up in different forms), how do you respond to that? He was trying to get around the question, and I listened to that and I said, ‘not the best response’. Well, this is not an easy issue and I think it’s very important to really level with the people. The government is doing its best; it’s very hard to really route out a guerilla organization such as Boko Haram because we really never know when or where they are going to strike, but I think it’s important to level with the country and say that is not something we could defeat overnight.
I also know, from talking to a lot of people and reading the papers, that the unemployment level is very high. A lot of young people, impressionable young people graduate from high school, no jobs. I don’t believe college is for everybody, but I believe very strongly that people could learn some technical skills, and I know that some state governments are doing that. I’m not quite sure what the federal government is doing, but it should get people to engage in skills; not everybody is cut out for the university. People could learn skills whereby they can earn an honest living. If people are engaged in one productive skill or the other, I think it would be very difficult for all kinds of fringe groups to tell them that you will have a reward in Heaven if you were to kill these many people.
Let’s talk about the country at the educational level. Looking at the tertiary education sub-sector, we have the issue of strikes here and there. Where do you think we are actually missing it?
Of course, I don’t know all the details, so I’m just making these comments based on what I’ve read. I think all sides, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the government really need to come together to work on these issues, because the people who are suffering are the students. Not every parent can afford to send their children to Pan Atlantic or Covenant University where the school fee is quite prohibitive. I think the government and ASUU really need to sit down. If they can’t talk to each other directly, then this is where a mediator comes in.
Now, ASUU talked about the government not really funding the sector. What do you think government should do to inject more funds into the sector?
Well, if they are going to establish many universities, they should find a way of funding them. Certainly, government should provide seed money. Why have so many universities if you can’t fund them? And I have been to few (which I won’t mention) in the east, where some buildings have not been maintained for quite some time; the labs are not up-to-date, and I saw these with my own eyes. The students study in really dire circumstances that you wouldn’t expect university students to study in. I went to the University of Lagos; I was there for a year. I went to a mission school. I went to primary and secondary schools here. Things have gotten worse, except for people who can afford to send their children to private schools. But how many can afford private schools? So, I think it’s not about establishing so many universities; fund very well the ones you have established so that if a kid comes out having studied Biochemistry, they should have some experience working with those things that they need to work with in the lab and not just the theory of biochemistry.
schools where people can learn skills to earn a decent living.