Former Vice President and chieftain of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has advocated for all hands to be on deck to put Nigerians to work.
While speaking in Yola, the Adamawa state capital during the 11th Founders Day of the American University of Nigeria, said immediate steps must be taken to fix our roads, bridges, schools and other infrastructure.
He said, “So let us take immediate steps to put our people to work. Let’s fix our roads, bridges, schools and other infrastructure. Let us expand schooling in this zone and other parts of the country. Let’s expand enrolment, and hire and train highly qualified and motivated teachers who are paid well. Let’s resolve to strictly enforce the law that makes primary and secondary education free and compulsory in this country so that every child stays in school until at least the age of 18. Let us expand vocational training in addition to improving our universities and polytechnics.
“Let us expose our youth to entrepreneurship as part of their education, to help us to really create employment and grow the economy and income in a sustainable way. Germany seems to offer a great example on vocation training and apprenticeship. We may want to carefully study its system to see how we can adopt elements of it for our country, our people and our economy.”
The Turaki Adamawa recalled that the University had made a tremendous progress as the little acorn had grown today to a big promising Oak.
“Looking back and looking around, we have made tremendous progress. The little acorn is growing into a promising oak. But there’s a lot still left to be done. As you know, the work of building a great university never really finishes. A university is a living organism. It has to keep growing; it is continuously nourished. It becomes ever more complex but also integrated, more extended, and more interesting.
“This past year has been particularly challenging for us and for the country. The country’s economy, which had remained weak, slid into a recession. There has been little public spending as the new government in Abuja and most state capitals try to figure out how to proceed with governance, just as oil production and revenues plummeted. And when citizens, including parents, have little income to spend, especially in the midst of uncertainty, the effect spreads to various sectors of the economy, including higher education.
“It was also a year that saw significant improvement in the security situation in the North East, our catchment area. The commitment of the Federal government and the state governments in this zone, as well as the support of the governments of our neighboring countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger, have pushed back against the violent insurgency and improved the security of citizens in the area. The improvement in the security situation also means that some internally displaced persons have been able to return to their homes and try to resume normal lives. I would like to specially acknowledge the efforts of our security forces in making these possible”.
Commending the Nigerian armed forces in combating insurgency, the Turaki however, said, “more still needs to be done to restore normalcy in this area. The insurgents still occupy a specific geographical space. They still retain the capacity for occasional deadly attacks. Many citizens in the zone still remain vulnerable and live in fear; and we cannot say that the problem is over until every displaced person is able to return home, to the office, to the market, to the farm, and resume normal activities.
“We cannot say it is over until we rebuild the schools, churches, hospitals, markets, and the homes that had been destroyed. And we cannot say it’s over until the survivors of this insurgency receive the help they need, including psychological therapy to deal with the trauma that they have been through. I visited an IDP camp on Saturday and had the privilege of teaching a mathematics class to some children. But the site of hundreds of children running around unable to attend school was very gut wrenching. It still breaks my heart. So, we cannot say the insurgency is over until all the displaced children return to their schools.”
The former Vice President pointed that it would not be enough for people to simply return to their pre-insurgency lives. “We must do better, otherwise we would only have papered over the wound without really treating it. People must return to something better, to hope, to improved schools, economic opportunities, to freedom of worship and improved inter-religious harmony. People must return to the realization that it is okay, not only to be different but also to learn, including so-called Western education which really belongs to humanity since different parts of the world contributed to that which we now call Western education and culture.”
“We must no longer wait for socio-economic and political problems to fester for a long time before we tackle them, the way we routinely wait for small potholes on our roads to develop into huge gullies and death-traps before we try to fix them, if at all; that should be a critical lesson of this insurgency”, he said.
Alhaji Atiku admonished that “When we take these measures that expand educational and career opportunities for our young people, we give them hope; we give them positive things to aspire to. We must demonstrate to our youth that living is far better than dying. When we provide them these opportunities we are likely to see more of them receive the kinds of awards and honors that were bestowed on these outstanding people that were so honored here today.
“We should not stop there. Citizens are not just about jobs and incomes. We have to take measures to facilitate citizen engagement, especially the youth. Our young people have to take greater interest in public affairs. And I am not just talking about voting in elections. They should be organized and participate in debates on public policy and community service. And as a country, we have to find ways to lift up those who need help, to give voice to the voiceless, listen to the voices of those who feel marginalized and left behind, and find ways to address their concerns. The recent Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom (UK) and the November 8 Presidential election in the US hold important lessons for us. Being established and stable democracies they had peaceful outcomes. We may not be that lucky because of the fragility of our democratic and other public institutions”, he said.
The Turaki advised the students whose hard work and sacrifice he described as tremendous and worth it, to take full advantage of the opportunities they have adding that “Education is an opportunity and remains the key that unlocks opportunities and opens new horizons”.