For daring to ask bold and probing questions bordering on unity, fairness and equality, the Nigerian Minister of Education, Adama Adamau, who was represented by his spokesman, reportedly sent a participant out of the venue of the 19th All Stakeholders Meeting on Unity Schools and Colleges, held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
Dr. Modestus Ezenwa, an invited participant, in an email to The Legend, explained how he was asked to leave the centre by the spokesman of the Education Minister, Priscilla Ihuoma, after asking questions that touched certain ethno-religious challenges and which the Nigerian government has never wanted answers to, following the systemic belief that the North has greater part of the Nigerian resources.
In his long narrative, Ezenwa said the order came in such an uncharitable and malevolent manner as he was not allowed to pick his files and say a few words to his colleagues and he was sent out of the hall in split of seconds.
According to him, a total of 71,294 young boys and girls were registered for the 2018 common entrance examination, the number was a little lower than the number that registered for 2017 entrance exams which was about 81,930 in 2017.
He said: “Lagos state hit the top with 24,465, FCT came next with 7, 699. Of course you know why? Igbos in Lagos and FCT are included! Then, she murmured a well rehearsed statement: Zamfara 28, Kebbi 50, Taraba 95. These three states came first from behind.”
He said the minister’s spokesman went ahead to tell the obvious: “that the nation has 104 unity schools; that most of these unity schools do not get up to their carrying capacity; a budget, running into billions of naira goes into their maintenance each year and that the unity schools take up to 45% of the budgetary allocation of the ministry of education.”
Following the announcement of the spokesman of the minister, Ezenwa said he was full of rage as he has seen the inequality in the system as the eastern states which have the largest number of students have less unity schools but with higher admission requirement than the Northern schools which have very few qualified students but with higher number of unity schools and also lowest admission requirement.
Consequently, he said: “I was bitter. I was overtly burning with rage and hate. I couldn’t wait for the question and answer session. I did all I could to get hold of the microphone and finally, I got to the aisle, looked directly to the raised table and heaved a sigh of relief. I glanced through my notes and let loose the canons.
“Why do we have 12 unity schools in the East where more than 50% of candidates come from? Mr. Minister, why are kids from Igboland not given admission to those unity schools that do not get up to their quota/carrying capacity?
“Honorable Minister, can you explain why a young girl from Imo state, seeking admission into any of the country’s 104 Federal Government Colleges (unity schools) must score 139 points out of a possible 300 to stand a chance of being taken. But her counterpart from Zamfara state only needs to guess two answers right?
“Why does the young boy from Abia be denied admission even when he scores 198 while his counterpart from Gombe who merely wrote the examination (but scored zero) is allowed to study in any unity school of his choice?
“Why do we have only two Igbo principals in the 105 unity schools in Nigeria? Does this reflect intellectual preparedness or merely a reflection of the wishes of the leadership of the nation and that of the ministry?
“Why must the federal government set up a well funded advocacy team to persuade villagers, traditional rulers in North and clergy to encourage their citizens to send their wards to unity colleges while efforts are not made to accommodate thousands of kids from the East who are denied admission yearly?
“Our Minister, I hope you are aware that last year, Nigeria’s four federal government colleges did not produce a single candidate that scored five credits that included English and Mathematics, needed to gain admission into the university?
“Honorable minister, I hope you are aware that in 2013, human rights lawyer and former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, filed a suit at a Federal High Court in Lagos over admission inequality in federal government colleges. The court declared as unconstitutional, the decades-long state-based, quota system admission into federal government colleges.
“John Tsoho, the trial Judge, in his ruling declared that the action of the Minister of Education in prescribing and applying different requirements for candidates seeking admission into unity schools is in violation of Section 42(1) of the 1999 constitution.
“If this is the case, and definitely that is the case, Why, does the Ministry of Education under you refuse to adhere to the court ruling?”
He questioned why should Zamfara state with only 28 candidates for the 2018 common entrance examination have three unity schools while Imo state has only two, just as three unity schools are in Taraba state, a state that has only 95 students while Enugu state has only two.
He said his questions seemed to have angered members of the high table, consequently he was shouted down while some who felt he had spoken their minds clapped and applauded his boldness.
Following his audacity, he was asked to leave the International Conference Centre as it is believed that his questions threatened those who have been benefitting from the situation surrounding the unity schools in Nigeria.
“I was ordered and whisked away from the ICC, venue of the stakeholders meeting. No harm befell on me. I retired to my hotel room, got enough rest and made a Lagos-bound journey. I am sure, the organizers wouldn’t invite me to subsequent meetings. But who cares?”