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Dec 2020

Education and Equal Opportunities for all: Development of Regional Identity, the Agitation for Restructuring,  Access and Equal Opportunities for Everyone and Citizens Engagement as Conflict Prevention

By Dr Baba J Adamu

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Development of Regional Identity

Regionalism is the theory or practice of regional rather than central systems of administration or economic, cultural, or even political, acting as a subject with distinct identity, language, culture and tradition. Regionalism is an ideology and political movement that seeks to advance the causes of regions. As a process, it plays a role within the nation as well as outside the nation i.e. at the international level. Both types of regionalism have different meanings and have positive as well as a negative impacts on society, polity, diplomacy, economy, security, culture, development, dialogues, etc. Northern Nigerian’s rich diversity sometimes looks like an obstacle to unity. But the election of President Buhari's first tenure has proved that a commitment to resolving differences peacefully and democratically can transform diversity into a source of strength.

Nigeria’s representative democracy has moved closer to the people who feel more involved and show greater concern for institutions of local and regional governance, in the economic sphere, however, the situation is quite different. The process of globalization, although partial and variable, or the idea of restructuring is creating an increasingly autonomous economic certainty that interacts directly with both national and regional realities. The formation of regions takes place at the interface between global economic and technological forces and regional realities. Actors may perceive regionalism as a defence mechanism against the competitive pressures arising from globalization or otherwise and thus the clamouring for regional restructuring, a new form of “new regionalism”. The new regionalism and multi-polarity are, in fact, two sides of the same coin. The new is a more spontaneous process from within the regions, where the constituent states now experience the need for cooperation to tackle new local and security challenges. Regionalism is thus one way of coping with global transformation since most states arguably lack the capacity and the means to manage such a task at their level alone. The new is often described as “open”, and thus compatible with an interdependent world economy. It is a more comprehensive, multidimensional process. This process includes not only trade and economic development but also environment, social policy, security and religion, just to mention some imperatives pushing countries, states and communities clamouring for the new types of regionalist frameworks. The New regionalism concept forms part of a global structural transformation in which non-state actors (many different types of institutions, organizations and movements) are also active and operating at several levels of the system. In sum, the new regionalism includes economic, political, social and cultural aspects, and goes far beyond free trade, although very important. Rather, the political ambition of establishing regional coherence and regional identity seems to be of primary importance. The new regionalism is linked to globalization, as it is seen as a reaction to the selectiveness nature of globalization. So, in future, new regionalism could be the basis for multilateralism.

Although it is easily seen how regionalism could be good or bad for a nation as well for states, Nigerian Constitution gives every citizen a fundamental right to move around and settle down peacefully in any part of the country. And, as a citizen of Nigeria, everyone should respect this fundamental right of every person, avoiding clashes like calling certain ethnic groups to leave certain regional areas.

The need of the hour is to develop each region of Nigeria, through devolution of power to local governments and empowering people for their participation in decision-making and citizen engagement. The governments at state levels need to find out the alternative resources of energy, source of employment for local people, use of technology in governance, planning and for agricultural development and education, etc. In the future, further integration of the different regions, on their willing terms will give every nation due respect and due importance to their needs. Their exotic and unique things are getting exposure at the international level and no one will feel left out. The whole world will be a global village with a unique regional identity and vision within.

The Agitation for Restructuring of the Nigerian Federation

Just as regionalism is an ideology and political movement that seeks to advance the causes of regions, democracy is a political system of representative government, while federalism represents a governmental system of the political, economic, social and administrative organization of States for effective management of diversity. Federalism is said to be effective when cooperation, mutual relationship, shared rule and shared responsibility in a constitutionally premised autonomous climate exist between the central government and constituent units. While democracy is the general condition under which federalism thrives, it does not owe its existence essentially from the federal arrangement, but the two principles complement each other.

Arguably, while on one hand, democracy can prosper independent of a federal system, on the other hand, the practice of a federal system under a democratic system of government, if fully utilized through fairness, equity and balanced development, can engender the greatest satisfaction for the greatest number of individuals and groups. This is possible because the ability to provide platforms on which to express both collective and group interests, and also minimize social dissent mostly finds expression in a federal system that practices a democratic system of government.

National Political Science Association (NPSA), North-west zone posits that indeed, it is within the context of establishing a nexus between the process of achieving democracy, that is democratization, in a plural society and the practice of federalism in an ethnically diverse society like Nigeria that one can appreciate the agitation for and resurgence of demand for political restructuring since the return to democracy in 1999. But going back in memory lane, the Nigerian population has changed beyond recognition. From about 50 million in 1960 to 200 million now in 2020; and growing; and in 1960 there was only three regions and 24 provinces, subdivided into divisions and districts. The country went from three regions to four. In 1967, States were created; abandoning British Parliamentary System to Presidential System modelled according to the USA. The States were later increased to 19, then 21, then 30, then 36 plus one Capital called FCT – Federal Capital Territory. In 1976 when the country restructured Native Authorities into local government areas [LGAs], there were 300 of them. Over the years these ballooned to 774, each with its bureaucracy that mostly functions but once in a month, on payday. So, needless to say, political agitation is both a universal phenomenon mostly in plural federal states, but in the case of Nigeria, it is exacerbated by real or imaginary false outcries of marginalization.

One would recall that, with the return to civilian rule after a prolonged period of the experimentation of a quasi-federal system, which was guided by an elusive federal construct characterized by Unitarian, agitation for political reforms becomes obvious. Loud voices of groups calling for the restructuring of the Nigerian federation become strident from the Southern part of the country. In an eight-point communiqué of the South-West Zone on August 18, 2016, the region posited that “meaningful progress and socio-economic development of the Nigerian nation is unattainable without restructuring the extant, largely Unitarian geopolitical arrangement”. “It is by such re-arrangement, leading to genuine and true political and fiscal federalism that the innate energies of the people of Nigeria can be released and new vistas of human development opened up.” Similarly, the South-East and South-South geo-political zones (region), have called for the restructuring of the country to allow each region to feel equal and to control their resources for the betterment of their people while the separatist movement from the South-East is advocating for the independence of Biafra from Nigeria.

Although the concept has been challenged by some, especially from northern Nigeria, perhaps due to globalization and the fact that there is no ideal federal system or true federalism across the world, the central questions to ask about restructuring the Nigerian federation in the face of the country’s democratization are:

  • What are the catchy points in the call for restructuring by southern interest groups and civil society organizations in the country?

  • Are the calls for restructuring exclusively dominated by the aggrieved politicians whose political interests are at stake or patriots in favour of a united Nigeria?

  • Does the Nigerian federation need restructuring in the 21st century?

  • What are the economic, political and social implications of unbundling the structural and systemic configurations of the Nigerian society?

  • What is the position of the academia, the civil society organizations, the labour union, the business class and investors; and other interest groups in both Northern and Southern regions on the issue of restructuring?

  • What would be the best form of restructuring for Nigeria? Can that still be realized through a sovereign national conference or referendum?

These and many other questions need to be answered within the context of theoretical, empirical, historical and circumstantial bases of the Nigeria society; and to discuss the various issues raised in the bewildered questions around the political restructuring of the Nigerian federation, which have been nagging in the minds of Nigerians, or rather the South-West. Already, the South-West is pushing for restructuring and strategizing for their regional growth plans with the constitution of a Regional Technical Working Group (RTWG) to tackle integrated infrastructure development on the multi-modal transportation system to take care of highways; rail and water sectors and have adopted the south-west Regional Integrated Commercial Agriculture Development Program (RICADP), with Lagos state to champion a structured regional food-exchange-program. All these clamours are based on the fact that many Southerners erroneously believe that Northerners are backward and uneducated and think that the North is dependent on the south simply because they have oil.  The reverse might be the case, because, presumably, the North has oil too and so many natural mineral resources, like Gold; and so many more. Also, the south depends on the north for staple foods as about 80% of the staple food consumed in the entire South of Nigeria, asides from cassava, is produced in the North. This is not a mere conjecture; it is borne out of deliberate institutional researches. Ordinary onion, the entire South is incapable to attain sufficiency in its production. Rice, beans, maize, guinea corn, yam, wheat, tomatoes, pepper, onions, spices, meat and other essential commodities are produced and grown locally in the North. Questions are asked, “who will suffer, in terms of food security, between the South and the North if Nigeria should break”? Some southerners have never, in their entire life, stepped out of their zone. Yet, one finds them propounding uninformed hypothesis and theories on social media on how the North is the parasite that should be dealt with. It is not a crime if one is ignorant or doesn’t know, but the real crime is when one doesn’t know and keeps pontificating based on half-and-ill-baked knowledge on a crucial matter like this. Instead, it is argued that its best if the government is pressured to come up with sustainable agricultural programs on food security and peaceful co-existence with one another. For someone to say “Northerners are parasites and that the north feared domination by the more advanced south, and, hence, was unenthusiastic about independence” is an insult to the intelligence of the northern peoples; as clearly pointed out by President Muhammadu Buhari on Sept 20, 2014, saying “it is the highest level of an insult considering the contributions of the region to the growth and development of the country in the areas it has comparative advantages”.

But new development from the south-west on Thursday, October 1, 2020, showcased the Congress of Oduduwa Descendants (COD), holding a one million-man rally in Lagos in solidarity with a united, indivisible Nigeria. On the occasion of the country’s diamond jubilee, the group said it is not a case of east, south, west or north, but one Nigeria. President-General, Otunba Arokoyo Olumide Peterson, speaking on behalf of the group pledged total allegiance to the country saying “the enemies of Nigeria have attempted to fester conflict in our polity. They have made insinuations and postulations to divide us, but we have remained united to the chagrin of the enemies of Nigeria”. While admitting the challenges confronting the nation, the group expressed confidence that together it will triumph over her adversaries. The Congress of Oduduwa Descendants, however, called on Nigerians to “consolidate on the unity of purpose and diversity of strength of our dear country”. It assured that Nigeria shall stay united for many years ahead in its quest for greatness. “The words of Sir Tafawa Balewa on 1st of October 1960 still resonate in our consciousness”. “Words cannot adequately express my joy and pride at being the Nigerian citizen privileged to accept from Her Royal Highness these Constitutional Instruments which are the symbols of Nigeria’s Independence. It is a unique privilege which I shall remember forever, and it gives me strength and courage as I dedicate my life to the service of our country.”

But in a new twist, the north, which appeared to be against restructuring, has come out clearly in support of it, advocating for a return to the 12-state federal structure of 1967 and 100 percent resource control, this has suddenly made the south-west and the south-south jittery. They, in a memorandum to the National Assembly Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution had, among other recommendations, said: “The 12 states shall be designated as regions and shall have control of their resources while paying appropriate taxes to the Federal Government.” They also canvassed that “mining should be reassigned to the concurrent list with on-land mining under the federating units and off-land mining under the control of the government of the federation.’’ While according to Dr. Baba Adamu, restructuring is good for the North...” the North has so many Potentials”. He further postulates that the potential of Solid Mineral Exploration in the north is so great that by the time the northern  Governors realize it they will almost forget about allocation funds coming from FG (FAAC) and too much Taxes on its citizens to generate more internally generated revenue (IGR). The potential is great and better than crude oil of the south. Gold, Uranium, Iron Ore, Gemstones, Columbite/Tantalite and other precious minerals are everywhere across the north, but also Lithium brine rocks (lithium-bearing pegmatite and spodumene), a critical component for making electric car batteries. By 2030, the oil will no longer be that important as electric cars will take over, lithium batteries will also be used for powerhouses and so much more. The potentials for export of these natural minerals and local use in manufacturing from the north are unparalleled. “The Southerners are just beginning to realize the potentials and if we begin to explore them, what it will mean to their so-called oil; and clamour for Restructuring”. That is why some of them are beginning to downplay the issue of restructuring now: every region to control its resources, but the north must insist on Restructuring Now. Because the southerners erroneously believe that northerners are backward and uneducated and think that the north is dependent on the south simply because they have oil while forgetting that the south depends on the north for its staple foods. 80% of food consumed in the south, apart from cassava comes from the north: rice, beans, maize, guinea corn, yam, wheat, tomatoes, onions, pepper, meat (cow, goat, donkey), spices, etc. Also, the north has oil too but abundant of natural resources: solid minerals. “The North must get its act right and the future will be much brighter, more prosperous and better. The teaming Youths will have ample jobs and things to do; and for every mining job, 4 more jobs will be created and the north will virtually have near-zero-unemployment”.

The North must respectfully ask President Buhari to do these for now before 2023:

  • Complete the dredging of River Niger up-North so that ships can dock and berth in Kogi, Kaduna, up to Sokoto. Arguably, the dredging was 80% completed in 2015;

  • Complete Mambila Hydro Dam Power Project, which is expected to provide 3.05GW, the largest power-generating installation in the country, one of the largest in Africa and the largest water reservoirs in West Africa;

  • Complete the Kashimbila Dam, which when completed will provide 40MW and drinking water to 400,000 people. It was arguably, 90% completed in 2019;

  • Complete the Katsina Wind Mill Farm Project, many FG northern infrastructure projects initiated like: railways and rail-lines, roads, water sopply, health centers, gas pipelines; and other smaller dams like Itisi in Kaduna, Kiri in Adamawa; and others all across the north.

The northern demographic shifts will fuel the growth of new sectors, markets and service lines. They will begin to innovate and with creativity build viable businesses in areas of the business supply chain, and in agriculture, livestock mainstreaming, no more transporting live animals to the south but slaughtered and freight in refrigerated trucks, renewable energy like solar farming, ICT, Business Processing Outsourcing and in healthcare,  manufacturing and revitalize the Kannywood entertainment industry in partnership with Indian Bollywood. Staple food commodity would no longer be transported to the south but buying-zones can be created along the borderlines between north and south for southerners to come and purchase there. “Wallahi it is a matter of time and the time is very soon, it has already begun. The unity of northern diversity is the power that will propel the business communities and consequently, the northern upcoming industries into new dimensions of performance. Soon there will be on the horizon, more northern banks, northern media and corporations; and northern intelligentsia that will meet every contemporary challenge; build capacity and human capital knowledge-pool; and the end of youths banditry, kidnappings, communal crises, terrorism and religious violence because everyone will have work and meaningful things to do under strong, compassionate leadership, propelling the country to a Greater Height as a whole. ICT-enabled solutions in healthcare, agriculture, education, financial services and States-public services will drive socio-economic inclusion of everyone in the region and the country faster, cheaper and more efficient than traditional methods. Indeed, the North; and Nigeria will be Great Again. The PAN-Niger Delta Forum said that the news that Northern leaders, who identified themselves as Friends of Democracy, advocated a return to the 12-state federal structure of 1967 and 100 percent resource control was thought-provoking but calls for restraint and further cross-questioning. The Pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, said it agrees with most of the views of the northern leaders and hoped to inter-face with them later, but said for a group of northerners to now be advocating for 100 percent resource control, calls for caution and further interrogation.

The question been are asked is that who will suffer if Nigeria is restructured or in the event of a break-up of the country in terms of food security or development? Some southerners have never, in their entire life, stepped out of their zone. Yet, one finds them propounding uninformed hypothesis and theories on social media on how the North is the parasite that should be dealt with. It is not a crime if one is ignorant or doesn’t know, but the real crime is when one doesn’t know and keeps pontificating based on half-and-ill-baked knowledge on a crucial matter like this. Instead, it is argued that its best if the government is pressured to come up with sustainable agricultural programs on food security and peaceful co-existence with one another. For someone to say “Northerners are parasites and that the north feared domination by the more advanced south, and, hence, was unenthusiastic about independence” is an insult to the intelligence of the northern peoples; as clearly pointed out by President Muhammadu Buhari on Sept 20, 2014, saying “it is the highest level of an insult considering the contributions of the region to the growth and development of the country in the areas it has comparative advantages”.

The former Kaduna State governor, late Balarabe Musa’s take on politics of restructuring and power rotation in the country took a very interesting dimension. “Which part of Nigeria do they own? He said. Igbo people are richer than Fulani people; Yoruba people are also richer than Fulani people. There are more Igbos and Yorubas in federal civil service than the Fulanis. Does any Fulani own a bank, does any Fulani own a media house. Does any Fulani own a hotel; all the hotels in Abuja and land are owned by the Igbo; is Abuja Igbo land? Can Fulani own in the East what Igbo own in the North? No. If you have never been to the North, come and see the landed properties that the Igbos have in the north, which the Fulani do not have and cannot have in Igbo land. “Whoever that says Fulani man owns Nigeria, let him come and say how. Fulani man occupies Aso Rock, and so what? An Igbo man should come and occupy Aso Rock and give the Fulanis all the material wealth he has in the North. That is nonsense. Igbos own all the hotels, they own the banks, and Yoruba own the newspapers and banks too, what do the Fulani own” said former Kaduna State governor, late Balarabe Musa. There are now more bandits, more kidnappings and killings in the North; the entire North is now insecure. The South doesn’t know what insecurity is; we are living it, but we don’t hear anything positive from the Southeast or the Southwest, but they are talking of Miyetti Allah or how Amotekun is supposed to protect the Yorubas.

Still on the issue of the break-up of Nigeria, humanity stands at a defining moment in history and Nigeria is at a crossroads. It is confronted with a perpetuation of disparities between the people as a nation having the worsening situation of poverty, hunger, ill-health, despair & hopelessness and illiteracy, including problems of Boko Haram terrorism and insurgency in the south, which led to a hike in the population of the internally displaced persons (IDPs), the influx of small arms and dangerous weapons through ports and porous borders, incessant and senseless killings and kidnappings, armed cult and youths banditry, communal & religious violence, herdsmen-farmers crisis, drug abuse by youths and young women including the issue of social exclusion of many citizens, to name a few. There is also the continuing deterioration of the ecosystems on which people depend for their well-being, the environment. These are the issues no restructuring.

Today, Nigerian ethnic diversity is not even a static phenomenon. Ethnic groups change through time in complex ways. Of course, it is natural to belong to a category or group of people that are considered to be significantly different from others in terms of culture, dialect or tribe, traditions, religion, etc., and even physical characteristics like body shape, colour etc., however, it is necessary, within the nation, and in the interest of unity, survival and goals, to suspend chauvinistic views to truly understand larger issues affecting the interests of all of the diverse groups that have been wedded together by God in terms of geographical and re-settlement of people within the location, and of course by a deliberate union of inter-marriages in such a location. Therefore there is the need for consensus bridges of understanding, tolerance and cooperation in the whole of Nigeria if people are to re-model their future and that of their children. The founders of our great nation, Sardauna, Awolowo and Zik wrestled with that understanding and concentrated on that which united them and not that which divided them although the younger generation has tended to neglect it. Successful countries today, were those whose citizens, at one time or the other, under strong and unselfish leadership, rose above personal, sectional or religious differences and worked together to build a viable nation to guarantee the welfare of its citizens in a new and improved ways. God created us from a single pair of male and female, into nations, races and tribes so that we may cherish and differentiate one another. In His Mercy and Wisdom, He gives us diversity to test our capacity for friendship and accentuates the need for unity and self-esteem. The days of ignorance were the days of feuds and falsehood attitude of trying to forget these differences rather than understand them

“Today, communities within States are grappling with long-term unemployment, environmental challenges, widening economic disparity, growing social unrest, generational shifts in the workforce, and a more complex economic development playing field that offers compelling opportunities and poses significant challenges. Spurring the movement of ideas into action in an agile manner and creating a single standard would define the promise of economic development for the entire northern region through the creation of wealth and attraction of Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs)” said the Chairman of Arewa Center for Regional Development (ACRD).

Although most Southern Senators have refused the ratification of the Foreign Investment Protection Agreement (FIPA) signed between Nigeria and Canada in 2014 because Canadians have expressed willingness to invest in northern Nigeria in the areas of mining, information and communication technology (ICT), oil exploration, mechanized agriculture and education. “The signing of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) by President Muhammadu Buhari, is in line with the northern Nigeria global agenda”, said Arewa youths. The Southerners have also advised the government against signing the EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the American version of AGOA, simply because the north stands to benefit more. “Our northern leaders (Governors and Senators) are looking at this critically as more countries in Europe, America and Asia will come on board when they see new revitalized northern Nigeria ready for business” according to ACRD.

Access and Equal Opportunities for Everyone

More than ever, the advent of the knowledge economy and global economic competition compel governments to priorities educational quality, lifelong learning and the provision of educational opportunities for all. Policymakers widely accept that access to information and communication technology (ICT) in education can help individuals to compete in a global economy by creating a skilled workforce and facilitating social mobility. It has been argued extensively that each century has its unique challenges and educational qualification and requirement, which must evolve as well. The 20th-century educational system was designed to prepare people to work in offices and farms, and unfortunately, Nigeria still runs this type of educational system in the 21st century, when the developed nations have spaceships, electric, driverless cars, the internet of things and where human intelligence has now turned to artificial intelligence (AI); and much more. In this era, of constant learning and skills development, education is not exclusive to school for one to be known even those that go to school, what they learn from school become out-dated quickly.

Access to smartphones gives more computing power and access to education has never been so level yet today, a teaming large number of youths in the country are illiterates. In today’s job market, “we no longer need workers who can retain and reproduce a large amount of information, what we need are people who can sort through information and organize or use it effectively. We need a new form of intelligence: learning must be reformed to enable us to change the way we see and approach the world”.  If the government can strategically subject our educational system to an individual’s passion, style of learning and chosen timeframe, people would be surprised by what we can learn within a short time. If people can be judged by their skills, application, comprehension and motivations, the unemployment rate will be reduced significantly.

As postulated, once we subject employment to grade, then everyone will compete for the grade instead of skills and comprehension, and without skills, people will have to keep waiting for the diminishing white-collar jobs, and more graduates are being produced daily, flooding the labour market, unemployment rate rising. The competition should be on skill acquisition, talent, access, opportunities and knowledge application, and to do this, one would need a shorter time, and would not have to go to school all the time. In this century, the emphasis should be on innovation and creativity; and the ability to apply the knowledge with tenacity.  Technology has replaced the human requirement for growth, so human beings must do what machines cannot do, and this cannot be achieved by just competing for who can remember facts better. Life skills have changed due to technological advancement, new economies and opportunities. So, the school’s curriculum must prepare students for these, otherwise, the students will remain unemployed. Most of the skills that would be needed on a job are not being taught in classrooms, and that’s why most job seekers are not fit for the job. That’s why there is high structural unemployment. On the other side, some people didn’t finish school or do not rely on their certificates creating jobs, and even employing graduates, an example is the Billionaire Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft.

As mentioned, the mentality of running after good grades in school to secure jobs after graduation is unfortunate. Pursuing knowledge is the ultimate. The first and major thing education should do in a person is behavioural reform. Everyone should be able to see and say that one is educated through one’s behaviour. One’s actions, decisions making process and choices should reflect behavioural reform, that what education is first foremost about. Secondly, as an educated fellow, securing a government or private job is a plus. If this does not come or has not come, it does not mean that your education is a waste. Rather, look deep into your wealth of knowledge and figure out what you can do. Humanity needs ingenuity. Skills and skill acquisition are and have always been key, and one’s education should be a boost to success in it. Everything in today’s world is the packaging. Also, your personality comes into play. There is no skill that is not fruitful. Shoemaking, hairstyling, tailoring, fashion-designing, farming, catering, carpentering, plumbing, tiling, roofing, watch-repairing, ICT services like handset repairing, computer-repairing, food and beverages among others are examples of viable skills. Everyone should learn at least, a skill or set up a trade. Every paid job has a retirement date while one’s established skill or trade continues after one’s exit.

It is said that instead of being a good fortune, however, certificate metamorphosis into a source of misery for many Nigerian young graduates; it blocked their view of the world, they completely lose sight, and blind to the fortune around them, thereby unable to utilize the prolific opportunities knocking on their doors. Creativity is gone; skills are dissipating; vision is blurry, confidence is eroding; ideas and reasoning are disappearing, innovation and inventiveness are lost in the brain of most of these graduates. It is disturbing and even a pity to watch these contemporary graduates wasting their precious time looking for a job whose take-home pay can't afford to put a decent meal on their table instead of self-reliant toward wealth creation.

Conclusively, conventional schooling is an out-dated system, education is the new system, and for education to take place, one doesn’t need conventional schools. So, to address illiteracy, there is the need to create education beyond school taking the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications (ICT). Schools do not have space capacity to accommodate educational needs. Most of the valuable education is not acquired in school. The school learning system is not always fair, because it teaches what may not be needed - teaching what to learn not how to learn. A school grade makes students redirect their energy towards grade competition instead of skill competition, and as a result, graduates become unemployable. There are no enough opportunities to absorb the graduating students, they have to be trained to create opportunities for themselves, and otherwise, the unemployment rate will only be on the rise. So, it is necessary to reform the school system and the perception about school and taking benefits of new technologies, especially “ICT” (UN). Moreover, while not mentioned explicitly in the education for all goals, arguably ICT plays a pivotal role in achieving these goals, including broadening access, eliminating exclusion, and improving quality, according to UNESCO. That is why, more than ever, there is a need for a comparative analysis of ICT integration and e-readiness in schools across the country.

Citizens Engagement as Conflict Prevention

In today’s increasingly interconnected world, citizen engagement can have a great impact on development outcomes and conflict prevention. Around the world, it has been observed that when citizens are engaged, when they participate, they can improve policymaking and service delivery by government, of course, when the government has a sound economic policy, because as documented; peace is linked to development as development is the satisfaction of needs, which, if they remain unsatisfied, will propel people into conflict.

Kin-based societies from East Africa to the Amazonian rainforest have traditionally made decisions by consensus and persuasion rather than by top-down diktat. Some 2,500 years ago the city-state of ancient Athens rose to unprecedented political and economic power by giving its citizens a direct voice and an active role in civic governance. Countries that are not democracies, such as China, have also sought out forms of citizen engagement. History has shown that engaging citizens has led to more sustainable, open and just governance thus preventing conflicts from arising. Whether formally integrated into documents such as the Magna Carta and the Code Napoleon, or informally presented at local levels, the concept of citizen engagement is widely global. Going back in history, the first Islamic State has based its “Medina Compact” on a social contract whereby it clearly explains the nature of collaboration and accord between the citizens and the state, shaping the relationship governing them. World Bank also draws on a long history of advancing governance reforms, multi-stakeholder engagement, citizen participation, social accountability, and government transparency. An important development was the establishment in 2012 of the Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA), to enable civil society organizations to work together with their governments to solve difficult governance problems using citizen engagement and social accountability mechanisms. The 2017 World Bank Development Report, on Governance and the Law, also highlights the importance of creating the space for citizens to affect government policies. The Report focuses on the determinants of policy effectiveness, exploring how policies for security, growth and equity can more effectively achieve their goals by taking the underlying drivers that influence governance into account. Given the complex landscape of citizen feedback with so many experiments underway around the world, the time is ripe now for the Nigerian Government to look at citizen engagement holistically as a game-changer for national development and very critical for maintaining the country’s security.

Citizen Engagement: Reduce Poverty and Improve Well-Being of Marginalized Communities: Citizen Engagement is not the state against citizens or citizens against the state. Many citizen engagement approaches focus on building supportive pro-accountability networks across “state” and “society”. The approaches need to be tailor-made, designed to fully utilize the inherent economic, cultural and even religious challenges and opportunities, increase economic viability and address the problem of poverty and despair to bring prosperity to the people and create wealth while preventing ethnic conflict or crisis. Engaging citizens is not a one-size-fits-all approach that can solve huge problems all by itself, but it can bolster good governance, especially if it is combined with other efforts to strengthen government responsiveness and the rule of law (justice). Here is the argument: If one unpacks the impact evaluation evidence, it tests two very different approaches under the broad Citizen Engagement umbrella: tactical and strategic.

·         Tactical citizen engagement initiatives are those that are short-term, address a particular issue with just one tool, and are limited to the very local level, while;

·         Strategic citizen engagement initiatives refer to long-term campaigns that combine multiple tactics and are scaled up beyond the local level - so they are both broader and deeper at state, regional and national levels.

So how does citizen engagement help reduce poverty and improve the well-being of marginalized communities? Poverty is a multidimensional process, so engagement isn't just about dealing with economic poverty, or income poverty, or material poverty, which is very important, but it is also about overcoming social exclusion, it's about overcoming what is known as voice poverty, it's about overcoming inequities in who has power and who doesn't. And how can those multiple aspects of poverty be dealt with, unless people themselves are involved, using their voices, using their knowledge with support from the government with sound economic policy? To shift to real export-led growth economic-policy that would create higher income from exports through the supply value chain, increasing foreign exchange earnings that will trickle down leading to wealth-creation and self-reliance. Reducing poverty is all about strengthening people's assets.

Communities can be looked at to determine what they don't have or an individual to evaluate his/her capacity and skills and determine what is required to upgrade the skills or access, or look at the communities and ask “where are the assets which they can begin to mobilize to improve their well-being?” And that approach gives a different set of answers. Rather than asking “what we can do to help the poor”, a question like this can be asked: “how do poor people strengthen their own lives starting with their assets, starting with what they have, to get what they don't have to get what they need”. And that is the process of mobilizing one's assets to build the power from within one's communities to have the power to act, to make a difference in the long term of one’s life, to create wealth and become self-reliant.

Barriers that Impede the Process of Poverty Reduction: Often, citizens don't have the core capacities, they don't know to engage and those that do have may not have the access or the opportunities. This is where the government engagement will not only provide equal access for example to education, skill development/capacity building, healthcare, security, access to finance for SMEs and other needed infrastructure but also opportunities to every citizen to pursue and develop his/her God-given talent to maximize his/her capacity as a citizen.

Particularly, the government, in this regard should always be apt in what is referred to as Social Accountability Support, building multi-stakeholder coalitions, partnerships and collaboration and not have bureaucratic inertia. In light of the need to build coalitions, maintain strong relationships across state governments and outside of it and help solve collective problems that are adaptive and flexible in this area, recognizing these multiple pathways for change, and multiple ways of working to deliver scorecard approaches, could be a crucial first step to effective citizens’ engagement. This way will eliminate barriers that impede the process of poverty reduction and engagement.

 

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