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Monday, July 15, 2024

Onyeka Nwelue: An Open Letter To President Buhari [The Trent Voices]

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Onyeka Nwelue | The Trent Voice
Onyeka Nwelue | The Trent Voicehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onyeka_Nwelue
Onyeka Nwelue is an author and founding member of The Trent Voices and visiting lecturer of African Studies at The University of Hong Kong and Manipur University, India. He won a Prince Claus Ticket Grant in 2013. He lives in Puebla and Paris.

by Onyeka Nwelue

Mr. President, sir,

Pardon my manners, sir. My name is Onyeka Nwelue, a young Nigerian, with so much hate in his heart for conventions and methods, clearly interested in education but in a realistic and holistic way.  

I have been considered to be crude, rude and disrespectful by many people, including family members and seen to have an uncouth mouth. But in years, you are the only public office holder or politician I truly cherish and love and respect and support. You will always have my support, morally and where needs be, I shall always support you.

The day your predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan handed over to you, I actually cried. I was in one of the dingy, dirty and scurfy rooms in the guest house at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. The TV was the only thing that was alive there.

I cried, not because Mr. Jonathan was going back to Otuoke; I really wanted him to go. I cried, because of what you said about him: “If Mr. President wanted to make things difficult for Nigerians, he would have.” That was what you said.

Two months on, one is tempted to ask, “Are you going to make things difficult for us, young Nigerians, by allowing the kind of politicians we see around you, exist?” Don’t make things difficult for us, Mr. President. We genuinely love you.

Mr. President, sir, last week, the Internet was awash with Mr. Rochas Okorocha, a sitting Governor of Imo State, celebrating the graduation of his son, Aham, bagging a first class degree in God-knows-what at the University of Manchester. I am not begrudging Aham the right to study abroad. I am only appalled that you allow people like Mr. Okorocha ‘litter’ themselves around you, like waste, when an institution like Imo State University is there, in shambles. The lecturers are all dull-brained and the students completely clueless of what they are doing there because there are no facilities. I have found out that not only Mr. Okorocha’s children are in foreign universities while they treat our universities like scum.

Mr. President, if I showed you the pictures of the buildings of Nigerian universities, you would not be able to eat. I think you’d have seen them and I believe you will act on them but please sir, I am your supporter, so I have every right to impatiently demand for every thing. 

Speak to the governors! If the universities are not well-equipped, we will keep producing politicians who are not articulate. Our parents will go and farm, get money and send us to Ghana and then we’ll brag about foreign university certificates in Nigeria. Mr. President. Are you not ashamed of this? How can there be no one in government whose certificates are all issued by Nigerian universities? Even your wife, Mr. President, those who show off her CV make a case of telling us how she acquired this and that from France and other countries. I haven’t seen Americans boast of foreign university certificates. They can boast of having exchange programs, but why do we cherish Americans and desperately want to be like them, but can’t? What is it that the Americans have gotten right that we haven’t, Mr. President?

Mr. President, I am elated that you’re travelling to the United States of America. I wouldn’t compare you now with any other world leader. You’re a king of your kingdom. You are very experienced. I will wait to see what the trip to the US brings, but then please pay attention to what I am about to say.

One night in Abuja, I drove with my friends, David Nnaji, Mitt Okorie, Ifeanyi Orazulike and my cousin, Gerald Konwea, all great young Nigerians, struggling so hard to leave legacies behind, to the Nordic Residence in Jabi, to see a friend, Gossy Ukanwoke. It was raining. 

At 25, Mr. Ukanwoke is the founder of Beni American University (BAU), Nigeria’s first private online university. It was launched in 2012 and allows students to access their classes at any time of the day with any internet-enabled device. Now, they have over 16,000 students. He is getting it right but on the surface of this perceived glory, Mr. President, I am sure that if you signed into a bill a law that prohibits children of public officers from using public funds to study abroad, their parents would be forced to improve the quality of education in Nigeria and make sure that their children get the best. 

You know what Rochas Okorocha will be saying to IMSU students, Mr. President, sir? He will say – and I say this because I know how he sounds: “My people, my people, do what makes you happy there in Owerri, because my children no dey here.” If any lecturer is owed, it is their own cross to bear, their own tale to tell.

Mr. President, some of us graduate from Nigerian universities after studying a four-year course for 7 years, because of strike and other related issues meted out by lecturers. And then we find ourselves behind glass showcases at eateries selling doughnuts and rice and plantain. 

I’m suggesting this, Mr. President, that we begin to get easy on bureaucracy; just like India, where you get all kinds of institutions – colleges, institutes, universities and vocational training centres awarding certificates (credits or no credits, everyone’s paperwork matters). My point is this, we can recreate the system and flush away the conventions. The Senate is filled with people who don’t care, anyway – Senator Ben Murray Bruce’s children are in foreign universities, so how would he care about such a bill that will make the educational system work? No one even cares about this sector.

Mr. President, I can see Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili parading herself as a purist. Now, you must ignore her completely and question her past as Education Minister. Find someone who can channel their energy into pursuing a mission that would be to provide young Nigerians with a solid foundation in the craft of thinking for themselves and engaging in intensive training to put in a position to compete with the world of employment, where they can easily employ themselves.

Mr. President, please, when you get to America, tell Mr. Obama to take you on a tour of Silicon Valley. Enugu could be our own Silicon Valley, but what have we made of it? We all know that Enugu is every creative person’s dream. It has incredible landscapes, amazing varieties of light and hills, a dynamic scene, and an unbeatable cultural history.

You might have heard the music of William Onyeabor, the classical Nigerian musician whose funky psychedelic sounds engulfed the airwaves in the ’70s and ’80s. When we forgot Mr. Onyeabor, white people rediscovered him and now, Mr. President, do you know how many young people in Europe and America who have gained employment just because of Mr. Onyeabor’s music? Doing tours? DJ-ing his music at beach parties and making money off him? What education in Nigeria allows us to know our history, to know about Mr. Onyeabor?

Mr. President, Flora Nwapa lived in Enugu. Does she also need an introduction? Is her story not relevant? I am not saying this should be your job but what way can one talk about Nwapa without making it part of the curricula? Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie both lived in Nsukka too as well as other highly respected creative people. Mr. President, I believe you will speak to the Governor of Enugu State. If some of these Governors are not educated enough to make things happen in their states, let them not be stumbling blocks to the ramifications of young people like us who want to restructure the educational system by setting up creative schools all over Nigeria. Deal with bureaucracy for us, Mr. President!

In writing to you, Mr. President, I strongly believe that I know lots of young people who have graduated from foreign universities, with different structures in their heads, hoping they would come make a CHANGE in your government, not inside Aso Rock, but by having easy access to different departments to establish a system that will be beneficial to anyone. They will need to build their faculties from the top talents in the creative industries and partner with institutions both in Nigeria and abroad to provide Nigerians with a unique educational experience.

Mr. President, I want to end this letter by reminding you that till now, Nigeria has no functioning railway system and Mr. Babatunde Fashola who always sounds so intelligent, speaking grammar up and down, could not manage to build a METRO railway system in his mega-city, Lagos!

Sir, the road ahead is dark and your burden is heavy. I know you are up to to the task. I have never been this optimistic about Nigeria or anything else before. If you surround yourself with people who won’t block your ears with wool, then, you’re on the right track and maybe, some of us will all stay in Nigeria.

I speak on behalf of over 170 million Nigerians when I say that the country will appreciate if you start working now! Thank you so much for your patience.


Onyeka Nwelue

Onyeka Nwelue is an Assistant Professor of African Literature and Studies at the University of Manipur, Imphal and Visiting Lecturer of African Studies at the University of Hong Kong. He is currently on the Jury of the Woodpecker International Film Festival in India and his latest book is Hip-Hop is Only for Children.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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