Aninyem Isioma is a calm, pious, soft spoken and intelligent Librarian and Researcher.
In an answer to a questionnaire sent to him by Jerome-Mario Utomi, Special Project Officer, Ika Weekly Newspaper, this well informed and quietly influential man from Ogwuashi Uku, Aniocha South Local Government Area of Delta state, absolved the nation’s education system of any wrong doing in the unemployment situation in the country. Among other remarks, Isioma speaks on other burning issues ranging from politics, economy, the nation restructuring and youth unemployment in the country
One major reason that made this interview a must read is that he has a way of penetrating the fog of accounts and expressing with unique clarity the issues of our time and ways to tackle them in a synoptic manner.
For the benefits of our readers, kindly say some words to enable the readers understand more fully your background? What was your growing up like?
I am from a very conservative family where discipline is the second nature of our behaviour. Life then was traditional and living was enjoyable.
Without fear of contradiction, you are an authority in Library science and management; so tell us, what informed your choice of Library studies in the first place?
I was influenced by love for reading. My father had love for reading the newspapers and often subscribed for such titles as Concord Newspapers, Vanguard and Daily Times of old. Opinions and views of the journalists in their writings geared my love for my profession.
Again, our readers would like to understand the difference between a Librarian and a Researcher? Is there any relationship?
Traditionally, a librarian is a researcher, a general custodian of all aspects of human knowledge generation. While a researcher focuses on a specific human knowledge activity, a librarian covers all. A librarian is a researcher in scientific, arts and social sciences.
As someone very close to the nation’s educational sector, will it be a wrong claim to say that there is something troubling with the educational policies in the country?
The current educational policies at the current–6—3—3—4 American system is excellent in policy statement but the inability of the financiers to prioritise the teaching tools for its success has truncated its intended goals and objectives.
Stakeholders are particularly worried about the educational sector’s inability to produce graduates tailored to meet the industrial needs. Is such assertion correct?
I do not share such opinion. The sector has been able to produce excellent graduates in different fields of human endeavors. But industry is a different field. If the industry co-opts the graduates through industrial training or management trainee programmes, the industrial needs of the nation would be achieved.
From what NBS is saying, unemployment in the country is presently at 28% and under—employment at 16%? What is the way out of this challenge that appears to have defiled every solution proffered by successive administrations?
Entrepreneurial programmes/studies should be integrated into the educational system i.e from the primary schools to the university levels. Creativity, endurance and courage are skills that should be taught by psychologists to students in all classes of our educational system.
Apart from being familiar with the nation’s education sector, you exude great knowledge of development, entrepreneurship and political economy. Beginning with the last observation, could you please give an objective analysis of the nation’s (Nigeria) democratic experience or is it experiment in the past two decades?
The democratic system has opened up the economy in such areas as privatisation, deregulation and free market economy. Nigerians have more to wealth than before. Freedom of the press and access to justice are better when you contrast them with the military regimes of the past.
From the above response, can you say that democracy is best for us as a nation or should we go back to the regional system of old as currently clamoured in some quarters?
Regionalism is different from democracy. I do not agree that Nigeria is ripe for regionalism. Federalism is a fair practice now if you juxtaposed it with tribalism, nepotism and political tribal lords that the country is facing today. I will advocate for fiscal federalism where each state generates and spends its wealth ungenerated by federal government.
What is your position on the nation’s restructuring?
True federalism should be practised. The constitution should be amended to give more powers to the states in conduct of their affairs. Concurrent and residual lists should be left entirely for the states while the exclusive lists should be managed solely by the federal government.
Going by the National Bureau of statistics (NBS) recent reports; over 13.2 million Nigerian children are presently out of school. About 112 million Nigerians now live below the UN poverty line? Also, the world-poverty-clock (WPC) in mid 2018 declared that 86.9 million Nigerians are extremely poor and has overtaken India as a host to the largest number of world’s poorest people? The country has equally been declared lately by the world financial market as a very high risked borrower despite the abundant natural resources.
Sir, looking at this catalogue of negative reports, what would you say is the problem? Is it leadership? If yes, what is the way out of this appalling situation? What is it that our leaders are not doing well that impedes socio-economic development of the nation?
Nigerian leaders, especially in this current dispensation are not patriotic. Ethnicity and region—biased readers do not view Nigeria as a country. Poverty, greed and avarice are seen in Nigerian leaders. These have created psychological problems in their reasoning. They are ethnic champions with ruthless adherents.
Specifically, what is your personal impression concerning the much talked about Corona virus? The orchestrated palliatives (Food Bank) by the State Government? Has the government (both state and Federal) been fair to the people? What is your take on the current global call for sanction against China for their inglorious role in this troubling moment?
The palliative was a farce. It was intended to imitate what the western world did; a (propaganda) government publicity stunts. Why didn’t they sustain it till this day? The citizens did not believe the government anyway. China should be called to pay reparations to every nation of the world for their negligence or willful intention to cause calamity to the world-personal, institutional and national loss.
Now, Let’s talk politics! Do you think PDP is prepared to bounce back to power at the federal level, especially the Presidency in 2023?
I do not know if they are prepared, but the current APC-led federal government has performed woefully—in infrastructure, human development and in foreign affairs of the nation. Willful killings, clear support for the Fulani Herdsmen, the west-north against the east—south in all aspects of the nations policy are enough to knock out the current powers sitting in Abuja.
How would you evaluate the Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s led administration?
There is still much to be done by the Okowa’s led administration
As you are well aware, the state has the Delta State Capital Development Agency, there is also the Warri/Uwie Development Agency, and the people of coastal region of the state are clamouring for the Coastal Area Development Agency (CADA). Do you think that the Delta State Capital Development Agency is serving the interest of Anioma people or should Ndi Anioma clamour for the creation of Anioma Area Development Agency?
I agree that Ndi Anioma should request for the Anioma Area Development Agency. These are the reasons: Anioma land hosts other ethnic groups of the Wetland when there is overflow of the sea/ocean (flood) or environmental pollution. Second, there is visible lack of development in the area. Third, the level of literacy is low.
The nation is presently facing a lot of security challenges, what would you profer as solution to the security threats in the country?
The country should create quassi—military outfits devoid of ethnic colourations. Such creations should be given specific mandates to deal with herdsmen, conmen (419), ritualists and kidnappers. They should be equipped with communication tools while being supervised by the Nigerian Police Force. Again, industrialisation of the country will help to draw the youth out of criminal intentions.
Stakeholders are calling for regional outfits as a way forward while others are saying true federalism. What are your thoughts about this?
Yes, states should create their own security outfits but should be supervised by the federal police. It should not be regional. If it becomes regional, you will begin to see ethnic and tribal colourations. The states should employ and fund it under the supervision of the States Commissioner of police.
Apart from call for restructuring, is there any other thing you think is wrong with the Nigerian nation?
Politically, in history, the country with its traditional administrative system is different. This often becomes glaring when voting in democracy. Literacy of the voters in the South is higher than when contrasted with those in the North. Again, government (federal) should deregulate the mining sector, the railway system, the oil and gas, electricity sector, and so on.
What are the issues?
Overbearing power of the Federal Government of Nigeria, ethnicity/tribal bearing, fiscal federalism that is absent, God fatherism in the choice of leadership, Duplication of legislature chambers, unicameral (one) legislature chamber should be allowed.
In a recent conversation, you advocated for the abrogation of the Local Government system and method of appointment/election of officials into local council positions. Sir, our readers would want to understand more fully this position of yours. Please, be explicit?
The representative system of electing local government officials is a fraud. It has achieved nothing beneficial for the citizens of the local government area. Therefore, I advise that men and women of good character who has had good experience in the public and private sectors including good clergy men should be appointed to manage the local government council with no salary, but should be paid allowances. They should not come from the political class. This selection should be done by the judges and magistrate of the states.
There is so much corruption in the country, does it worry you?
Of course, it does worry me. It will go worse in time to come. Corrupt officials either in the public or private sectors should be sent to jail if found guilty with no option of fine or bail. The laws on offenders should be fully applied and should be apolitical. Institutions should be strengthened to fight corruption.
Ndi Anioma would like to know the Anioma Cultural practices that you cherish so much and would not like to fade away? Please, be explicit
Iwa-ji (New yam festival) and Inne festival should never be allowed to fade out. Again, these festivals could be used to bring tourists to Anioma when these are turned into carnivals. Traditional marriage culture should be strengthened.
Sir, your final message for Anioma people particularly our youth
A man’s handwork is what he is. Our youths should go into commercial farming whether it is cash crops or animal husbandry and also seek outlets to sell their farm produce. Trading of essential goods is also a fair business to do. Morally, they should stop engaging in fraudulent activities like OBT, rituals and cultism.
Ways of tackling unemployment in Nigeria
- Corporate organisations and entrepreneurs should engage in production of domestic and industrial goods. Factories should be set up to produce essential and luxury goods for the population. And a long term goal of exporting such goods to West/African markets should be brought into focus.
- Commercial farming into such specialised areas of dairy farming, essential fruits such as apple, etc. will help to reduce unemployment.
- Carpentry (modern), bricklaying, tiling, painting, shoe-making are trades that Nigerian graduates should engage in.
- The State Government should engage in owning business and manufacturing outfits like what was done in the 1970s-1990s in Nigeria. Companies and factories wholly owned by state governments under a new management system should be built to absorb graduates and skilled workers. It is still possible to operate profitable businesses by state government using the Indian/Lebanese system of business model. Independent auditors should be hired to check their books.
It is not right for State and Federal Governments of Nigeria to create agencies that dole money to Nigerian youths with the aim of eradicating poverty. Such huge resources do not have economic value. Instead, such amount should be used to build industries and factories of production.
- Less emphasis on university education should be done. Technical and Commercial colleges should be established and funded to produce graduates that are technically fit.