By Chidozie Chukwubuike (Guest Blogger)
Umu nne m na umu nna m, Ndi nwe m na Ndi m nwe, it is out of a moment of deep introspection that I decided to write this letter to all of us, Ndi Igbo, with the hope that all of us would not go deaf at the same time. I was not yet born during the war but have read Achebe’s There Was a Country and many other older books about Nigeria’s interesting history and I am horrified by the fact that we have made of ourselves willing instruments in the hands of those that want to destroy us. It will be futile trying to take us through over-flogged history. However it is pertinent that we remember that ours have been a case of battling against principalities and powers; the British Igbo-phobia and its consequent selective oppression, Hausa-Fulani campaign of Igbo extermination, Yoruba superiority struggle for Igbo serfdom, South-South pathological distrust of Ndi Igbo, etc. We have battled all these and, though bruised, remain standing! Like the proverbial character that swam great seas and returned only to drown in an old woman’s soup pot, it is ironic that having survived the big enemies outside, we are about to be destroyed by our own machinations and negative indulgences.
We are told that the South-West encountered western education before us but our culture of industry and noble achievement soon gave us the lead in both public and private enterprises which we quickly lost to the travails of the genocide we suffered. However, instead of us to come together to find a positive way out of our unfortunate situation, we are insidiously toeing a path that, if not urgently checked, will be our final undoing. I am only an ordinary school teacher in a private secondary school in Owerri, the Imo State capital city but what I am about to reveal should rankle the sensibilities of both the lowly and the nobilities of Igbo stock. At this juncture, I call on every Igbo person occupying any position of influence, teachers at all levels of our educational system, politicians in positions of authority, and religious leaders of whatever persuasion, to stop whatever you are doing and hear my tale.
Recently I was part of a panel that interviewed university graduates for teaching jobs. Out of the twenty four (24) graduates interviewed only two (2) passed. Twenty three of the graduates were Igbo young men and women and one was Hausa. The Hausa man graduated from university of Maiduguri. And out of the twenty three Igbo graduates, one (a man) graduated from the University of Jos ( UNIJOS ). The shocker is that it was the Hausa man and the UNIJOS graduate that passed! All the others, my Igbo brothers and sisters, failed abysmally. I felt ashamed. I wept for their parents. I wept because the twenty two of them had second class honours degree (upper division). I wept because it was universities in Igbo land that graduated them. I wept not just because they failed the interview but for their level of failure. They are all supposed to go back to JSS 2. You might be thinking that I exaggerated the issue, perhaps a description of two encounters that day can help you appreciate the matter better.
One of the ladies was called in to be interviewed for English Language. She indicated her bias in favour of phonetics, which prompted the question: “Demonstrate to us how you can solve the problem of mother-tongue interference among JSS 1 students”. I could not control my shock when this 28 year old lady opened her mouth and told us that she would invite their mothers one by one to teach the students mother-tongue very well. We asked her to go home! The second case was a graduate of plant science who could not describe any simple experiment to show phototropism.
My dear brothers and sisters, the sad aspect of this is that many of the lecturers in the universities and colleges of education outside Igbo land are sound Igbo sons and daughters who were frustrated out of this place by the mediocrities that now masquerade as our intellectuals feeding our children academic poison while our good heads are elsewhere developing the children of other ethnicities. Recently one of the federal colleges of education in the South-East recruited lecturers and the chairman of the governing council, who hails from somewhere within the middle-belt, imported his brothers and sisters (even those that did not attend the interview) and made them lecturers. Our leaders saw this and kept quiet! These mediocrities parade themselves as academics teaching our children how to be “good” teachers. They are all over the place exchanging sex for grades. I know some exceptionally brilliant Igbo scholars who attended that interview and were never offered the job. Today corruption within the schools located in the South-East rates higher than any other part of the country and corrupt academics from other parts of the country now work their transfer to Ala Igbo because that is where corruption is the norm. That is the same way police men work their transfer down here to the land of unquestioned ‘roger’. We have bastardized everything here. While they deny Ndi Igbo merit at the national level using quota system, down here we have buried merit in the grave yard of “connection”. Have we taken time to reflect on why there is a high rate of armed robbery, kidnapping and internet fraud among Igbo youths? Our universities are churning out criminals instead of high level man-power.
Every people at some point in their history must by collective action decide which direction they intend to go and be ready to accept collective culpability for the outcome of their decision. It is time for Ndi Igbo to save themselves from anomy. This letter is a cry out to Teachers at all levels, University Administrators, Trade Union leaders, Town Union Executives, Ward Councillors, LGA Chairmen, State and Federal legislators, Executive Governors, Diplomats, Government appointees at all levels, Technocrats, and the leadership of the Ohaneze Ndi Igbo to step out now and take action. Someone may feel he/she has grown above the issues raised here but I bet you if nothing proactive is done now, very soon we may have to take our children to either the far West or the far North to give them good education and, God forbid it, Ala Igbo becomes a ghost zone!
Thank you all, May God bless us and our land.
Owerri, Imo State