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Ezenwo Nyesom Wike the River state born lawyer is a high flyer, politically. He was said to have risen phenomenally from the lowest rank of politics as chairman of his home council to assume the key position of the Chief of Staff to Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi of River state in the first tenure of Governor Amaechi between 2007 to 2011.

The Government of River state has become popular under the current dispensation for achieving so much in the educational sector especially with the building of infrastructure like schools and well equipped libraries even as under the current River state government, the Garden City of Port Harcourt was named by the United Nations Scientific and Educational Organization [UNESCO] as the BOOKS CAPITAL of the World.

There is no gain saying the fact that this young and upwardly mobile lawyer turned politician Mr. Ezenwo Wike may have contributed significantly to laying the groundwork for these ground breaking milestones in the educational sector of the oil rich River state when he served the state in different capacities under Governor Amaechi before political fortune smiled on him and he was elevated by the grace of President Jonathan and the support of the good people and government of River state to become the minister of the federal Republic of Nigeria and Nigerians were therefore not shocked when the former University lecturer turned President Dr. Jonathan thereafter sent Mr. Wike to the ministry of Education therefore validating the great strides made so far in the River state government as if to say the Nigerian people now wish that he brings to the fore those developmental strategies and replicate them at the national level to grow the nation’s educational sector.

Wike therefore was made a minister of the federal Republic of Nigeria and posted to the strategic ministry of education as minister of state. The nation’s education sector is tottering under the heavy weight of operational challenges and the total dearth of infrastructure necessary for t rapid human capital development of the younger population of Nigerians to compete favorably with their peers globally in the increasingly competitive global market place whereby knowledge economy is the major determinant factor of success.

Last weekend, this gentleman [Ezenwo Wike] was summoned by the people of Nigeria represented by over 40 human rights/civil society groups to appear at a round table to defend the President Goodluck Jonathan’s educational empowerment agendum for the 10 million Nigeria’s out-of- school children.

August Thursday 5th 2013 was the date set aside for him to appear before the ‘Jury’ in Abuja and 10 am was the scheduled time.

Wike, passed the first test of time set for him by appearing few minutes to 10am with a formidable team of high profile management staff of the federal ministry of education including the permanent secretary; and several directors including the Acting Executive Secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) professor.

Readers may be wondering why this gentleman minister had to appear before the jury which in legal parlance simply means “a sworn body of people convened to render an impartial verdict [a finding of fact on a question] officially submitted to them by a court, or to set a penalty or judgment”. This time around, the minister of state for education never showed up before any jury in the legal sense of it but he appeared before the COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION presided over by members and stakeholders in the organized civil/human rights community in Nigeria who sought to hear from him, first hand on what the current federal administration is doing to improve the educational rights of the millions of Nigerians especially the under privileged children of Nigeria who are born to the over one hundred million absolutely poor Nigerian families out of about the 150 million citizens.

Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, the former Education minister and former Vice President of the World Bank for Africa had told an audience drawn from the civil society community at a forum on cutting down the cost of governance in Nigeria organized by the Civil Legislative and Advocacy Action [CISLAC] of Mr. Rafsanjani in Abuja recently that the members of the civil society must properly organize themselves and educate themselves sufficiently with hard facts and figures regarding the developmental challenges confronting Nigeria as a modern state so as to be able to carry out advocacy projects that are knowledge based and respected by members of the international community.

Among the members of the civil society community that bombarded the minister of state for Education at the public event organized for over 40 civil society groups by the Human rights Writers Association of Nigeria [HRIWA]with questions probing into what government has failed to do or done in the area of education for the less privileged included several lawyers in their prime who never spared the minister who incidentally is a lawyer.

The first person to fire the salvo and barrage of questions at the direction of the minister was Mr.. Emoni Williams, a lawyer of over ten years post-call experienced who led the formidable pack of the selected audience who were over 100. Miss Ogom Kifordu and Nneka Okonkwo were some of the younger lawyers with 5 years post-call experiences who also threw probing posers to their learned colleague-Mr. Ezenwo Nyesom Wike who replied with facts and figures to the admiration of the mostly young audience. However, the audience told the minister that since seeing is believing so to say, the coalition will soon present a request to the office of the federal ministry of education so that the civil society community can visit on sight the various project sites to verify those projects that are already on ground. There was also widespread skepticism among the audience that the armed terrorists in Northern Nigeria have in the last couple of years destroyed several school buildings in the North East; North Central and the North West in their evil campaign against western education.

These audience therefore sought from the government at the center how it intends to defend those structures.

Asked to give a bird’s eye view of the educational empowerment programe for the over 10.5 million or so out-of-school children in Nigeria, the education minister said the Almajiri education programme was federal government’s panacea to the menace. He nevertheless challenged the state governments whereby those schools are now being sited to take action to protect and maintain those educational infrastructure for the benefit of their people.

He gave the following as underlying facts that necessitated the educational revolution for the street children thus; “There is high occurrence of out-of-school children in Nigeria estimated at 10.5 million; Almajiris (itinerant Qur’anic School pupils) make up over 9 million of this number; these are concentrated mainly in the Northern part of Nigeria and a significant number in South-West Nigeria; they pose a challenge to Nigeria’s attainment of EFA and the MDGs and other international conventions and protocols”.

On how the educational programme promotes social cohesion he listed the following factors; large number of out-of-school children is a threat to social cohesion and active citizenship; it breeds social exclusion and anti-social tendencies amongst youths and adults; it stunts Nigeria’s ability to grow and social, economically and politically and maintain global competitive advantage.

By all standards, the public forum was fulfilling and it afforded the audience the opportunity to find answers to their longstanding probing questions. Government of Nigeria must also find ways of introducing legal frameworks to make these educational revolutions sustainable and obligatory for the successive administration to continue the implementation of these programmes for the overall benefit of Nigerians.

Written By Emmanuel Onwubiko