BY CHIMA CHRISTIAN
The Anambra governorship election is now upon us. And as such, it is incumbent on the candidates to present their bona fides to the electorate. Interestingly, some candidates are doing this with vigour. Others seem to consistently evade the issues; busying themselves with irrelevant political talks and innuendos that have little or no bearing on the lives of the people they aspire to continue governing or govern.
One major contender has, however, remained focused on the issues. Utilizing every opportunity to espouse his views, which often times, reflect his deep thinking and character. That candidate is Mr. Oseloka H. Obaze, the PDP’s flag bearer.
Not yielding to temptations of being drawn in to the fray of name calling, mud slinging, character assassination and campaign of calumny that seems to have dominated the campaign, Obaze has insisted on discussing only the issues. Thus, living up to his professional bidding as a career diplomat and a well refined gentleman.
Obaze leaves no one in doubt as to what he intends doing in office, if given the privilege to serve Anambra State in the capacity of an Executive Governor. His towering edge over the competition is his clear understanding of what the issues are and a piece by piece plan of how to address them.
Obaze’s manifesto is clear and concise. No promises of building castles in the air, turning water into wine or making a Naira equal to a Dollar. Peharps, nothing in his plan stands out like his proposed education policy framework for Anambra. And none does he communicate more frequently and eloquently to the voting public.
Apparently because of his international exposure and experience at the United Nations where he formerly served as a top official, the core theme of Obaze’s education plan for Anambra is to adopt the UNESCO policy recommendation of 26% budgetary allocation to education. He further plans to devote 10% of the 26% allocation to private schools and schools run by missions. His reasoning being that such schools also train Anambra children.
As at today, only two states in Nigeria – Kwara and Sokoto states – have met this 26% threshold. Anambra state government currently devotes a paltry 3% of its budget to education. Thus starving the all important sector the much needed steam.
The PDP candidate sees a new Anambra where amenities in Anambra schools will be greatly improved to meet mordern standards. Beyond amenities, qualified and properly remunerated teachers, teacher training and retraining, access to computer and Internet facilities, teaching and learning aids, appropriately sized classrooms, as well as well furnished laboratories – which are all essential to 21st century learning – will be catered for by the greatly increased funding.
With 10.5 million Nigerian children currently not enrolled in school, statistics say Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children. Agreed, the largest chunk of this people group are not domiciled in the state Obaze aspires to serve, but he has plans to ensure that all Anambra children, regardless of parent’s income cadre, have access to quality education.
The public policy expert agrees with Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which makes a case for basic education for all. The declaration has it that “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages.” Obaze proposes to give all Anambra school children from Nursery School to JSS 3 free but quality education.
Unlike conventional politicians who mouth campaign rhetorics and promises they have little or no grasp of, Obaze has worked out the number of school children in this target group and knows the exact amount of money the state government needs to invest to achieve that purpose. He also factored into his plans how to secure the grants and finances needed to kickstart and sustain the policy initiative.
In addition to ensuring free basic education, Obaze plans to run an inclusive education system. To him, the state has a responsibility to ensure that people living with disabilities enjoy all privileges, human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with others. While it is true that no government originally sets out to marginalize people living with disabilities, the inability of policy formulators to deliberately make plans for such people group technically sidelines them in the scheme of things.
On the flip side, Obaze has said his administration will pay extra attention to school children with special needs. Offering specifics in a particular gathering, Obaze gave illustrations with how government-backed subsidy of sun screens and reading lenses to students living with albinism can ensure a more inclusive education system.
Obaze proposes, as an official government policy, that classroom teachers be provided supplementary trainings on how to handle special needs children. This is in addition to his stated plans of properly funding special needs schools like schools for the; blind, deaf, dumb, autistic, etc.
With the understanding that Mid-level manpower or blue collar skilled personnel are imperative to the development of any nation, Obaze’s education plan pays acute attention to vocational training and professions that require certification. The PDP governorship candidate plans to fund tertiary institutions and other institutes in Anambra to run short certification courses for masons, bricklayers, carpenters, painters, cobblers, electricians, mechanics, vulcanizers, bakers, caterers, farmers and the likes.
This idea of tertiary education stems from the glaring fact that not all can afford University degrees, the way our education system is currently structured. Obaze believes our society will be better for it if we have people trained, skilled and certified in Mid-level manpower jobs.
With his comprehensive education policy framework, Obaze has shown that his government, if elected, will prioritise education andw ensure that Anambra children are properly equipped to excel in a highly competitive 21st century global marketplace.
While other candidates make promises, Obaze, as an expert in public policy, goes the extra mile of laying down step by step plans of how to achieve his visions for Anambra. One added advantage is that he served as the ninth Secretary to the Anambra State Government. In his days as the SSG under Gov. Peter Obi, he put these plans to bear and, for the first time, Anambra really became the “Light of the Nation.” Will Ndi Anambra elect him come November 18 to serve in a higher capacity? Nobody knows. But one thing is sure: the coming election will be a referendum between a new way of doing things and the old way.
Chima, a good governance advocate and a public policy analyst, writes from Nnewi, Anambra state.