By Donu Kogbara
ACCORDING to Elder Markson Fefegha, Commissioner of Education, the Bayelsa State Government has pledged to continue investing in education because of its strong commitment to developing human capital.
Fefegha recently made this solemn promise when he was officiating as the special guest of honour at the first Bayelsa Essay Writing competition for secondary schools, a programme organised by the Robert Sunday Iworiso Foundation, in conjunction with the Bayelsa State Ministry of Education and Bayelsa State branch of the Association of Nigeria Authors.
Fefegha outlined some of the vital interventions undertaken by Henry Seriake Dickson’s administration within the education arena and expressed excitement about the tremendous progress that has been made.
He also thanked the organisers of the essay competition for keying into the state government’s vision and determination to promote academic excellence.
Earlier, during his welcome address, the Director of the Robert Sunday Iworiso Foundation, Chief John Alphonsus Iworiso, urged the winner of the first prize to go beyond enjoying the limelight to make his family and Bayelsa State proud.
Iworiso further reiterated the Foundation’s dedication to its motto: To fulfil dreams and turn smiles into laughter, especially amongst the less privileged.
“The Essay competition is,” he said, warming to his theme, “one of several ways through which we hope to discover untapped potential and truly engage students and inspire them to become change agents and…true leaders of tomorrow that they are born to be.”
Iworiso concluded by profusely thanking Governor Dickson for taking education so seriously and by advising the winners’ parents to encourage their children to see writing as a noble career instead of forcing them into other careers that might not interest them.
The organising committee chairman, Mike Afenfia, then pointed out that the competition (which will become an annual event), will be a blessing to brilliant youngsters who may not otherwise have been able to fund tertiary studies.
The essay writing competition, which kicked off with a Writer’s Workshop, came to a climax with Master Martin Franklin (Jnr) of the Ijaw National Academy bagging the star prize of N1 million, Sweet-Owei Blessed Tari of Tare Pet Montessori School coming in second and picking up N250, 000 and Ayamieye Tamara-Ifie of Biedomo Premiere School coming third and going home with N150,000. Prize cheques were presented by Sterling Bank.
Hearty congrats to these talented juveniles who display such creative and intellectual flair when invited to express themselves in writing. Perhaps they will be the Vanguard columnists and Nobel Literature Laureates of tomorrow!
I am sceptical!
A COMMITTEE, chaired by Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, has just been set up by the Northern Governors Forum and the Northern Traditional Rulers Council.
The committee’s brief is to drive in-depth conversations about the ramifications of restructuring and find out what Northerners feel about this burning issue that is generating so much debate in all four corners of our Federation.
Public hearings will be held in the 19 states of the region and extensive consultations with stakeholders and leaders of thought will take place, with a view to coming up with a position that will reflect the view of the entire North.
“We have,” declares Tambuwal, “reaffirmed our commitment to ensuring Nigeria remains a strong, united country. We have also decided to present the case of the North as a single entity desirous of a prosperous country…
“…We are not limiting the area of discussion because it is better to put all questions on the table…We will discuss on federalism, fiscal federalism, state police, revenue structure and any other issue of interest.
“We have also decided to analyse previous documents and position papers that proffered viable options to Northern development. A technical committee will study these documents, talk to the authors and present the report to us at our next meeting on October 24…
“We will key into the opportunity provided by the ongoing amendment of the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly to see how our position can be reflected in the larger scheme of things,” he added.
Such fine words! But I am not buying them!
Perhaps I have become too cynical as curmudgeonly old age gradually creeps up on me. Perhaps I’ve endured so many disappointments for so many years that I unfairly struggle to think the best of my fellow human beings nowadays.
But I am extremely skeptical about the upcoming gatherings of Northern grandees and very much doubt that they will result in any objective resolutions.
I predict that famous “progressives” like the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, and Nasir El-Rufai, the Kaduna State Governor, will make civilized noises and say clever stuff that the Southern and foreign chattering classes can relate to.
But will the Northern leadership agree to substantial changes that will banish the frustrations of, for example, natives of oil-producing areas who want to be liberated from the status quo? Will people like me wind up feeling that there is hope? Will the Niger Delta Development Commission, for example, be left alone to exclusively focus on the folks it was supposedly established to help? And what about the NNPC Board and all those other injustices, big and small?
Watch this space!
I’m not expecting miracles but perhaps our Northern brethren will pleasantly surprise me this time around by adopting a less strangulating stance and real federalism that will, ultimately, benefit everyone including Northerners.
The North can do fantastically well in so many different ways, if it transforms its modus operandi. It’s not just about being fairer to other regions. It’s also about respecting itself…and proving that it can be hugely successful.
By the way, if El Rufai et al DO pleasantly surprise me, I will hail them from here to Jericho so loudly and so repeatedly that you will all beg me to shut up!