Confab: Technical education, panacea to national growth — Former FCT REC

Dr. Abdu Bulama is a former INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in FCT, and currently a delegate from Borno state at the ongoing National Conference. In this interview with Emeka Nze, he speaks on polytechnic education and other sundry matters.

Do you think it is necessary to hold the National Conference now?
It is my conviction that the convocation of the National Confab now is very appropriate and necessary. As a formal political entity, Nigeria is today one hundred years old. In the context of the history and experiences of other most developed nations, 100 years in the life of a nation may not be too significant, but over this period of our survival as a nation, we have had our moments of joy and disappointments, our ups and downs, but have continued to forge ahead. Today we are confronted with the challenges of building a modern nation which essentially borders on our socio-political and economic challenges. These challenges constitute formidable obstacles to the way forward, and they are the main issues in our current national debate. It will amount to a wishful thinking to assume that these problems will disappear on their own, instead they could grow more dangerous and bigger with more serious consequences.

We must therefore as a people collectively and squarely face these challenges, and as Mr. President rightly said in his inaugural speech, the coming together of Nigeria of all interest groups, socio-political, religious, labour, professional, youth, women etc, under the same roof to confer and build a fresh national consensus for the amicable resolution of all issues”, is an important and relevant component of the building process of a more united, strong and progressive nation. It is pertinent to mention at this point that the National Conference is apt in line with the position taken by the Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC) after due consultation with all geopolitical zones of the country. In order words, the National Confab is a brain child of PAC.

There is a general consensus in the current National debate that the primary challenge facing us as a nation is the nature (or defect) of the political structure and to some extent the form of government we operate. Nigeria is a heterogeneous political nation with many ethnic groups having different cultures, social and religious differences. Even the geography is diverse ranging from the rain and mangrove forest in the south, to the Sudan and arid zone in the North.

But the diversity is a blessing and should be exploited to be a source of growth. Our Political structure should be a function of this diversity. On a general note, I believe there is the need for a renewed restructuring in governance, which would give a federalism made up of viable federating unit capable of generating their resources and managing their own affairs with healthy competition amongst themselves, and contributing meaningfully to the unity government.

What are the burning issues that should form the basis for discussion at the confab?
On a more specific note, I am more concerned in government creating enabling environment. Two issues are worth mentioning here, discipline and education. By discipline, I am referring to indiscipline (in the society) with its attendant challenges. Corruption is yet another major cankerworm which has eaten too deep into the fabric of our society. Its manifestation includes amongst others, fraud, bribery, extortion, exam malpractice, nepotism, adulteration, election malpractice etc.

Corruption is so prevalent in our society that it has become our way of life. In our current national delegates, there are some who believe that there is nothing wrong with our law and political structure. It all boils down to political will on the part of our leaders. We all agree that corruption has done more harm in our endeavours towards nation building, and we must face it head long in order to achieve our national objectives.

Technical education has been relegated to the background. What do you think should be done to address this challenge?
Education is life and power and no nation can afford to neglect its educational sector. In the context of our key national objectives, education plays a more important role than any other factors. This conference must further review the education policies to face the challenges, especially in the world of science and technology.

The issue of insurgence is a recurring decimal in Nigeria today.  What is the way out?
Insecurity, by any means should top our agenda today in Nigeria. In view of the current situation in Nigeria, it is necessary at this point to say that we should as a nation, be more concerned about the root cause. I strongly believe that insecurity is a manifestation of indiscipline and bad governance in the society. Corruption makes it nearly impossible to develop the economy and to provide jobs for the teeming youth. Corruption has made it difficult to have justice and equity. Corruption has made it difficult to conduct an acceptable election. These are the underlying factors and you cannot fight insecurity without tackling the root course. Polytechnic education is the panacea to our industrial/technological and economic development. In this world of science and technology, no nation can afford to neglect the technical education sector.

Paradoxically, polytechnic education in Nigeria is not given the necessary attention it deserves. Currently, the polytechnics are closed for nearly a year. We as a people must collectively remove this negative attitude towards technical education if we are to compete favourably with other nations in this modern time.

The government must overhaul polytechnic education in our country by providing the enabling environment for the polytechnics to develop their unique identities capable of providing unlimited growth and development. The concept of looking at the polytechnic for providing “middle level” man power must be re-considered, and polytechnic graduates should be allowed to compete with their counter part in other tertiary institution.

Are you satisfied with the quality of debate in the Confab?
I am happy and really satisfied with the national delegates’ deliberation on the president’s inaugural speech. Delegates are very frank and spoke with one mind. Delegates are very passionate for a more united and stronger, working federation. This is indeed the vision of the president and it has as well become our collective national dream.

The 2015 general elections are  around the corner and political gladiators are warming up. What is your general advice as a former INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner?
Election is a game and like any game it is governed by rules and regulations to be accepted by all stakeholders. National election in a democratic nation however is a major game where the stakes are high. The destiny of a nation is tied to this, and it must be played according to the rule of the game.

Therefore I urge all stakeholders to look at national election in this perspective. Let the political parties imbibe the spirit of internal democracy. The election must truly face the challenges of concluding it better. On the part of the media and the civil society groups, they must rise up to the occasion. The proven civil society group and others must continue to pay special attention to all issues of the electoral activities for a better and credible election. On the part of the electorate, we believe that at the election period, the electorate must carry out their civic responsibilities according to their convictions and shun all forms of influences and non-democratic attitudes of desperate politicians.

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