On Monday and Tuesday, Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun announced two major decisions: One was about teachers in his state and the other was about Laycon, winner of the Big Brother Naija Lockdown Edition. These decisions made me both sad and happy. It also made me wonder about what we consider important in life. Our scale of judgment comes into focus for me after weighing these two decisions.
First, let us look at what Abiodun did on Monday during the World Teachers’ Day. The governor announced the donation of a two-bedroom bungalow to Mr. Odegbola Ayodele, a Junior Secondary School (JSS) teacher in Abeokuta Grammar School. The house is located at the state-owned Princes Court, Abeokuta. Ayodele got the house for emerging the overall best teacher in the state.
Abiodun also gave N2.5 million to Mr. Adewale Abayomi of the Odua Comprehensive High School, Imoru, Ijebu-Ode, for emerging the best teacher in the senior secondary school category. Mrs. Mary Adeyemi of the St. Paul’s School II, Sagamu, who emerged the best primary school teacher, got N2 million from the governor.
“We will continue to celebrate innovation. We will encourage consistency. Our administration will continue to make the welfare of our teachers our priority. Our teachers’ reward will not be in heaven, but here on earth,” he said.
The following day, the governor celebrated another kind of innovation, this time he honoured the BBN winner. He appointed Laycon, whose real name is Olamilekan Moshood Agbelesebioba, the state’s Youth Ambassador. Abiodun also gave Laycon a three-bedroom bungalow and five million naira, when all the best teacher got was a two-bedroom apartment. What Laycon alone got is more than what the overall best teacher, the best teacher in secondary school and the best teacher in primary school got. He sure has more than one head!
The governor, who described Laycon’s conduct in the House as demonstrating the Omoluabi ethos, said: “It is hoped that you will help inspire our teeming youths to channel their energies towards positive engagements and shun vices such as robbery, drug abuse, cultism, advanced fee fraud, cybercrimes and kidnapping among other negative tendencies.”
While I do not doubt Laycon’s talent and intelligence, I find it hard to understand why he deserves more than the overall best teacher, the best teacher in secondary school and the best teacher in primary school. Without teachers, Laycon would not have been able to display the intelligence appreciated by the governor. Even the governor would not have become what he is today without teachers. I am waiting to be convinced that Laycon has contributed more to our society than teachers. Teachers are influential forces for equity, access and quality in education.
The governor is certainly not alone in placing more value on the like of Laycon than teachers or other professionals. It is a Nigerian malaise. While the BBN show lasted, millions were not only glued to the show, with companies falling over one another to sponsor it, they also spent their hard-earned money supporting their favourite housemates. Ask these companies to sponsor a research by Hallowed Olaoluwa, who is seen as Africa’s Albert Einstein, and all you will get are excuses. Olaoluwa earned First Class in Mathematics and Physics at 18 and had two Master’s degrees in Physics and Mathematics at 19. He earned his doctorate degree at 24. His governor is yet to invite him for any form of recognition.
When Nigerians do well outside our shores, their host nations worship them. Recently, the British government honoured Victor Osagie, a Nigerian Information Technology Consultant, for his ingenuity in the mass production of ventilators to boost the National Health System (NHS) fight against the Coronavirus pandemic. The Cabinet office believes Osagie is one of the best Britain has to offer.
Osagie’s team delivered the quality control system that rapidly converted disused warehouses into assembly lines. His team converted Ford Motors vehicle production lines and Airbus Aircraft production lines into ventilator production lines. Osagie and his team produced over 14,000 ventilators in 90 days. This boosted the NHS ventilator capacity from less than 9,000 pre-COVID-19 era to the over 25,000 capacity in July 2020.
And in the United States, our own Lt. Victor Agunbiade was honoured with the Navy and Marine Corps Development Medal for effectively managing its largest overseas cash disbursement of $45 million (N17.5 billion). Agunbiade, who joined the US Navy in 2008, managed the money and was able to account for every penny.
I am still waiting for Nigeria to honour Ikenna Nweke, a Nigerian, who returned a missing wallet with foreign currency in Japan even when no one was watching him. Nweke, a doctorate student in a Japanese university, turned down the offer of compensation. He projected honesty, integrity and contentment, which the bulk of Nigerians represent. By now, he should have become a brand ambassador to serious firms but he has no entertainment value and will not appeal to the mass market that firms target around here.
Big businesses, including Nigerian Breweries, Nigerian Bottling Company, Coca-Cola and United Bank for Africa, readily support musical shows and even shower multi-millions on musicians as ambassadors. Ask them to institute a prize for teachers and they will throw pittance at it. Ask them to choose between supporting Wizkid and Booker Prize-winning novelist Bernardine Evaristo, or ‘An Orchestra of Minorities’ author Chigozie Obioma, and your guess is as good as mine.
My final take: I thank Abiodun for honouring teachers in Ogun State but I am at a loss about the factors that valued them less than Laycon whose only passport to fame is winning the BBN. Whatever the factors are, they need to be reconsidered. Teachers’ contributions cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be compared with Laycon’s. They are poles and miles apart.
Culled from The Nation