Oronsaye: Adieu To A Departed Colleague By Kehinde Okunlola
It was one death too many at the Ibadan zonal office of the National Examinations Council (NECO), on Saturday 20th April, 2013.
‘O death where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory? O death where are your pains?’ (1 cor 15/55). If not the main cause, the purported NECO scrapping aggravated the cause of the death of GABRIEL ADEGBENLE, an easy-going, gentle, respectful, dutiful and most punctual staff in Ibadan office a year ago.
The news of Presidential committee on rationalisation and restructuring of federal government parastatals came as a rude shock to many NECO staff and Nigerians alike. Calls from families and friends were unparallel when several dailies broke the news.
The tension was very high in virtually all state offices. Those who were closed to the late Gabriel testified to his comportment and reactions to Stephen Oronsaye’s recommendations for NECO to be scrapped and merged with West African Examination Council (WAEC) as odd and bizarre. It was an unusual sigh. His shock absorber was not enough to save him from the cold hand of death. He gave up the ghost after Medics in Molly Specialist Hospital and University College Hospital(UCH) did what was humanly possible but their best effort to bring him back from this hypertensive state was not enough.
Although, he was interred on Monday 22nd, April, 2013, this policy somersault has created and wrecked havoc of unimaginable proportion in his family. ‘Ejo nbe lorun aro dake’ (translated as: we will give account of our misdeeds in heaven)-apology to gospel musical maestro, Tope Alabi. Where will they go, the family of deceased from here?
The Future looks bleak with sudden flight of their bread winner.
Last year, African Union Commission (AUC) advocated and appealed to member-states to reduce unemployment rate by two per cent yearly in African continent, most especially among youths and women. What Oronsaye fails to realise is that job is one of the mechanisms for economic redistribution of wealth. Aside the job loss, education in Nigeria is grossly underfunded. We don’t need a prophet or any professional in that sector to x-ray the ugly state of our educational institutions. The standard is ebbing day in day out and the infrastructure is in comatose. The Needs Assessment conducted in Nigeria Universities by Suswam led team bore eloquent testimony to this decadence. In Northern part of the country, the number of unqualified personnel in primary and post-primary institutions is untold. Despite all these challenges militating against the sector, Oronsaye threw caution to the wind and committed what many described as policy somersault that NECO with her vast human and material resources be brought down from Olympian height attained within short period of thirteen years.
Evidence abound out there that NECO has brought succour to many graduates in the labour industry who would have been eternally condemned to mediocre club. This is not to say that NECO is an institution without challenges. Whatever it may be, it is ‘summon- table’.
Rome was never built in a day. So, the panel goofed.
More so, there and then in his recommendations, he suggested that ‘TRAFFIC LIGHT MODEL’ be used to determine whose service is needed by the employer-federal government. That is: GREEN,AMBER, AND RED model. Green will stand for active and qualified workforce.
Amber will represent those who require adequate training while those classified in Red category would be laid off in the name of saving 800billion for the employer. Is downsizing part of his terms of reference (TOR)? Despite the fact that Oronsaye knew more than many Nigerians, especially being among the privileged few individuals whose life has spanned many years in public service that our education is in dire need of both human and material resources, he ignored common sense and went ahead to recommend a policy that can never or will never affect his own children and grand children. We all know where they are schooling or working. Just like Okorocha of Imo state and Danbaba Suntai of Taraba state who despite spending collosal sum on health care delivery in their respective states in Nigeria, where did they receive medical treatment when they both had accident. In LUTH? FMC IDI-ABA? UCH? GBOBI? Who is fooling who? Pretence and deceit are the words that best capture our state of affairs. For how long will this macabre story of policy inconsistencies continue?
Lest we forget the person of Oronsaye, a Nigerian that should be described as Accidental Public Servant in the history of public service as espoused by Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai in his now famous but controversial book. He spent most of his years as civil servant under military regime and later became Head of Service under former President Obasanjo. Despite spending several years in the corridor of power, he is not known for anything novel.
The like of Oronsaye was able to book a space in Nigerian terrain where merit and strength of character are never determinant factors to attain such position of responsibility. Many Nigerians will recall the dirty job he did as Vice Chairman of Ribadu led-Presidential Task Force on petroleum subsidy to rubbish the whole investigative processes that were mind-boggling and heart-aching.
Oronsaye who never participated in the processes that mid-wifed the report cast aspersion on the whole exercise by writing his own minority report. This showed his character. It was also
on record that he is a board member of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), an organisation the task force is beaming searchlight on. This is laughable. How can he be the judge in his own case. We understand that he, who pays the piper, calls the tune. He is an errand
boy who is on a mission. Running errand is not a matter of age; it is a matter of pecuniary for ‘conscienceless fossilized relics’ of his type.
Today, Ribadu’s report has been condemned to dustbin of history courtesy of Oronsaye’s act in the Banana Republic.
As I conclude, let Oronsaye panel be reminded that Nigeria budget for education is still a far cry from attaining 26 per cent recommended by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural organisation (UNESCO).
So, the decay of the sector is understandable. A yoruba adage says: ‘ori bibe koni ogun ori fifo’( beheading a man suffering headache is not the panacea to the problem). In fact, Steve Oronsaye should have recommended that whatever saving or gain government realizes from other moribund Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) should be channeled towards revamping of educational sector to save it from near-total-collapse. It is no longer news that the sector is bedeviled with myriad of problems. The federal government eight percent budgetary allocation to this sector cannot create a positive and desired result that we all can be proud of.
Let National Conference Delegates advocate for better funding and accountability in our educational sector and our nation will be better off. Back to late Gabriel, death has left a headache no one can heal, memory no one can steal ,but we are convinced that you have swallowed death in victory. Good night until we meet yonder the sky to part no more. ADIEU!
Kehinde Okunlola, a public affairs analyst lives in Ibadan.
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