Former President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has charged university lecturers to protect the integrity of the nation’s democracy by resisting the entreaties and pressure from politicians to rig elections in their favour.
The former President stated this Saturday in an address he delivered at the 10th anniversary celebration of Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu.
He also urged Nigerian students to shun cultism and aspire to become agents of change, adding that society profits more when the recipients of knowledge are led by the virtues of honesty and hardwork to positively influence their environment.
Speaking on the role of academia in good governance and nation building, the former President said: “The involvement of the academia in our electoral process is premised on the assumption that academics are people of proven integrity, who cannot be compromised. However, our scholars should know that they bear the responsibility of justifying the trust placed on them by other members of the society in the management of elections. Any member of the academia who compromises what he stands for, by getting involved in the manipulation of elections, betrays that trust.
“Like parents, lecturers and teachers should always bear in mind that the important part they play in nurturing and guiding of younger ones project them as consequential role models. It is dangerous for members of the academia to get involved in election malpractices because of its wider implication for the future of our country.”
The former President also pointed that there is a need to reform the academic programmes of the nation’s educational institutions and make them more responsive to the needs of today’s economy.
He said: “The time has come for our universities to adjust their programmes, rejig their curricula and equip students with requisite skills that will make them compete favourably with their colleagues all over the world.
This is what is required in order to create the kind of citizens that can adequately fit into the demands of today’s information and knowledge-driven economies.”
Below is the full text of the speech:
THE ACADEMIA, GOOD GOVERNANCE
AND NATION BUILDING
ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY DR. GOODLUCK EBELE JONATHAN, GCFR GCON, AT THE CONVOCATION CEREMONY OF GODFREY OKOYE UNIVERSITY ON
NOVEMBER 23, 2019
ENUGU, ENUGU STATE
I am delighted to be here as a Special Guest of Honour at this year’s convocation of the Godfrey Okoye University, which also serves as the 10th anniversary ceremony of this great institution. I thank the University management for naming the school’s convocation arena after me.
I commend the Catholic Church that established this University and other faith-based institutions, who despite their primary focus of winning souls, are also intervening directly in the education of our youth. Their involvement in education at all levels are laudable gestures that complement government efforts and adds immense value to our educational and capacity building programmes.
Whenever I am in an academic environment, I always take the liberty to emphasise on the importance of education in the search for peace, growth and development. The link between national prosperity, economic stability and functional education is self-evident.
Nations that stand out today as most peaceful, prosperous and stable are those with well-established educational system. Every progressive society makes conscious and pragmatic efforts to envision education models that purposefully develop the capacities of her people.
The fact that education serves as a major tool for national transformation and sustainable development, is obvious. Just as we Christians believe in the power of prayer; education stands out as a key that unlocks many development-oriented doors and heals many social infirmities.
“Collapsing any nation does not require the use of atomic bombs or the use of long-range missiles. Just lower the quality of its education, the country will come to ruin.” This axiom captures the importance of education in our society.
One major problem that our tertiary institutions face today is building human capital that can fit into the global knowledge-based economy. It is in this regard that the content of the core academic programmes of our educational institutions and its relevance in today’s world calls for urgent attention. Education is no longer about rote learning; memorising theories and principles alone. It is about creativity, innovations and solving problems. The time has come for our universities to adjust their programmes, rejig their curricula and equip students with requisite skills that will make them compete favourably with their colleagues all over the world.
This is what is required in order to create the kind of citizens that can adequately fit into the demands of today’s information and knowledge-driven economies.
In the last 20 years, scientific revolutions and innovations in new technologies have always been led by the United States followed by china, Japan and India, in that order. In fact, the last decade has seen Indians lead no fewer than nine of the leading United States top tech companies.
I took interest in India because the country shares some similarities with our own nation. Beyond being regional giants by way of demography and sharing the same colonial experience, both nations also have the same youthful disposition, because of the dominant youth population.
The question is: why is India succeeding in science and technology whereas Nigeria seems not to be competing well in these areas. It is because India has made huge investments in modern education which has positioned it as a technology superpower. As a nation, we need to increase our investment in science and technology. This is a task that should be prioritised by the different tiers of government.
As a response to the challenge of technology we were facing as a country when I was in office, we introduced the Presidential Special Scholarship Scheme for Innovations and Development (PRESSID) with the intention to cultivate a crop of highly skilled manpower that could transform the nation’s technological development.
We set up this programme because we wanted Nigeria to be among nations that are making waves in scientific and technological innovation. Every year, we recruited about the best 100 first class graduates from a pool of numerous first-class applicants for this initiative in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines.
For a country like ours which is in dire need of a technological base for its growth, especially in this age of fast-paced knowledge economy, we were convinced that an innovation like PRESSID was the way to go. We saw in it the potential to provide the required backbone that would make our economy industrially and economically competitive. I wanted a Nigeria where citizens could win Nobel Prizes in the sciences, medicine and technology.
Nigeria can no longer afford to be described as potentially great without making reasonable contributions to the global body of knowledge, as it pertains to scientific innovation.
As Benjamin Franklin once said; “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” As a nation therefore, we must never be weary of prioritizing education, especially the type that is anchored on ethics and innovation, because it is the path towards a secure future and sustainable peace.
It is not surprising therefore to see that the United Nation (UN) Sustainable Development Goals 1, 14 and 16 are linked to the extent that they promote functional education, under strong institutions, as a weapon for fighting poverty and attaining peace and justice.
I commend the founders of this institution and everyone who has contributed to keeping this dream alive for the past ten years.
The fact that we are here to celebrate your 10th anniversary is a testimony of your commitment and passion in training a generation of godly leaders who, I believe, will positively transform our nation in their different walks of life.
As an institution founded on moral principles, I believe that this University will be deeply rooted in both ethics and scholarship. Education is of no essence if it does not place a high premium on productivity as well as the character of the citizen. That is why you will often hear in events of this nature that graduating students have been found worthy both in character and in learning, before degrees are awarded to them.
Universities, as institutions of learning, are designed to build young people to fit into their societies. The priority is the issue of morals. Universities should not create criminals.
It is unfortunate that some universities are becoming breeding grounds for cultism, this is a major burden to civilization and social transformation. My happiness is that this University is not one of such, because of its strong moral base.
It is a sad development for our educational system that our students, lecturers, and other members of the university community can no longer move freely in campuses without fear. In our days, students didn’t have to bother about their safety while on campus at any time of day. This is no longer the case. No nation can develop if it does not find answers to such an unfortunate state of affairs in an environment where we groom our future leaders.
It is apt to say that character which is manifested in the virtues of honesty, integrity and courage, is the strength of education. A society profits more when the recipients of knowledge are led by these traits to positively influence their environment.
I therefore congratulate this year’s graduands who have been found worthy in character and learning. I urge you to go forth and show the light of the knowledge that you acquired in the past years, as you prime yourself for the task of national service and nation building. I am also charging you that your ambition should not be limited to your nation alone. You should aspire to play big on the global stage.
The seed of greatness and sufficiency has been planted in you. You have been watered on the soil of success. Now it is left for you to ensure that the seed not only germinates in you but also grows to bear good fruits.
As you go to the larger society to aspire to live your dreams, do not expect that life will be so easy. It will not be out of place to face challenges on some fronts. I must caution that some of you will be tempted to despair by conflicting realities. It is only through the strength of your character and faith in God that you will triumph over the challenges of life.
The solutions to the troubles of our land are with many of you seated here. So do not hesitate to offer yourself as an agent of transformation.
One thing is clear: opportunities abound in the midst of adversity. To the un-discerning, difficulties are moments to despair but to the courageous and enlightened, it is an opportunity to excel.
Before I go further, let me also congratulate the honorary awardees including the host Governor, His Excellency Right Honourable Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Governor of Sokoto State, His Excellency Right Honourable Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Julius Okojie. I am pleased to know that these people are being honoured for their worthy contributions to the growth of society and their efforts towards improving the overall academic environment of this university.
As it is often said, the reward for good work is more work. I therefore encourage them and others like them to do more to ensure that education in Nigeria becomes more functional and globally competitive.
The place of the Academia in Nation-Building
I always feel excited whenever I am asked to share my thoughts on issues pertaining to nation-building and good governance.
This is consistent with my personal philosophy of promoting credible elections and peaceful transfer of power in the interest of peace and development in Africa.
Conversations around these subjects will continue to remain dominant themes in our national discourse until the promises and expectations of political sovereignty become manifest realities in all spheres of our nations. Promises like freedom and justice and expectations of peace and unity are the premise upon which many institutions such as the Godfrey Okoye University are established
In most countries, the academia plays a pivotal role in nation building and good governance. This is because as a critical segment of the society, the academia is a community of persons within the education sector who are engaged in intellectual tasks such as research, teaching and other relevant activities that advance the course of human knowledge and development. The university is a place where new concepts are formulated.
By its special position, the academia is mostly responsible for the training and grooming of members of every society’s workforce, to such an extent that most professions depend and rely on their wisdom, standards and practices to function effectively.
It is this pivotal role that has placed members of the academia in the pole position as torch-bearers towards good governance and nation building. In Nigeria, across different fields and disciplines, the task for the academia is to leverage this special position and become key drivers in the nation’s journey towards stability and prosperity. They can do this through transformative academic curricula, innovations, development theories and ethical solutions that will transform our society and sharpen the course of our national life.
For instance, the academia owes it as a duty to continue to play an exemplary role in the sustainability of Nigeria’s democracy. Over time, the place of the academia in our democratic process has become more pronounced, with more members taking the centre stage in election administration in the country. In recent times, successive chairmen of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have come from the ivory tower.
These chairmen also have made it a standard to appoint colleagues from universities and polytechnics in the country as electoral officials at various levels of elections. In most cases, vice chancellors of universities serve as returning officers during gubernatorial elections, while professors and other senior members of the academia preside over other levels.
The involvement of the academia in our electoral process is premised on the assumption that academics are people of proven integrity, who cannot be compromised. Many of them have actually been at the forefront of the campaign for transparency in elections and sustainability of democracy on the continent.
The involvement of the academia in the management of elections is therefore a good idea. However, our scholars should know that they bear the responsibility of justifying the trust placed on them by other members of the society in the management of elections. Any member of the academia who compromises what he stands for, by getting involved in the manipulation of elections, betrays that trust.
It is instructive that while on election duty, these eggheads work with youth especially members of the national Youth Service Corps (NYSC) who are usually deployed as ad-hoc staff on election days.
Like parents, lecturers and teachers should always bear in mind that the important part they play in nurturing and guiding of younger ones project them as consequential role models. It is dangerous for members of the academia to get involved in election malpractices because of its wider implication for the future of our country. Once the youth corps members observe these lecturers and professors who they hold in high esteem attempt to change or falsify elections results, they might begin to see such criminality as the new norm in our country.
Let me use this opportunity to appeal to members of the academia that get recruited for election duties to do the right thing and not compromise their integrity, no matter the pressure on them.
In concluding, let me reiterate that for our own survival as a people, there is the urgent need for the overhaul of our educational system. If we must remain competitive as a nation, our universities should produce the kind of workforce that will make Nigeria economically viable.
Universities, as centres of learning, should not produce misguided graduates who behave like dangerous robots by getting involved in various crimes.
Our universities should produce rational beings that will be able to distinguish between good and bad. It is the responsibility of the universities to create humanists, scientists and engineers with moral and ethical standing. They, in turn, will be the ones to build the robots that would power our industries and our economy, to make the lives of our citizens more meaningful.
I thank you all.