“USOSA…!!! Better together!”
That’s how they proudly saluted themselves. I sat, watched and listened with interest through both sessions. The entire five hours fascinated by the glitz and fanfare dazzled by the exquisite organisational finesse and excellence. But more enthralled by their strong, tangible bond of oneness and collective commitment to the unity and progress of their fatherland.
The occasion was the 38th Plenary and Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Unity Schools Old Students Association (USOSA) which held at the AGNL Garden, Gudu, Abuja on 13th of November, 2021. A gathering of alumni of all the 104 Federal Government owned unity colleges in the country. I paid rapt attention as speech after speech was delivered and
followed by comments, observations, questions and answers. The refrain was consistent all through, and in tandem with the day’s theme: “The Role of Unity Schools Old Students Association (USOSA) in Uniting Nigeria.”
It was not the first time a group of alumni or other persons with common ties would converge to discuss a grand opportune theme of national import. But this was different.The participants cut across all ethnic, religious, social, age and vocational strata of the Nigerian society. For example, the age difference ranged from as high as 85 or more to as low as 18 years.
Nonetheless all the discussants and their colleague audience were of one mind and exhibited deep, clear understanding of the issues. They talked about Nigeria and its varied peoples like they were conversing about their individual families and beloved kindred. You could tell they believed in every word expressed. There was no politics involved. No patronage nor slander of any individual, government, corporate or other entity. No unholy religiosity or selfish, nepotic, ethnocentric or other sectional undertones. Just a crystal clear, passionate, insightful coalescence of exceptionally brilliant ideas and unparalleled commitment to save, unite and build Nigeria.
You would be readily forgiven if you mistook a Yoruba man there for an Idoma man, or aFulfude lady for an Efik lady.
Through one of my most thrilling moments in over five decades
on this planet I heard Nigerians from various cultural backgrounds openly admit shortcomings and mistakes by aborigines of their own native localities and extol the fine qualities of people from other parts of the country. Many disclosed how they and their best friends and confidants are from utterly different tribes and communities hundreds of miles apart. Some from the South celebrated the fact that their spouses and closest associates are of Northern origin, and affirmed that they would never have it otherwise. Two sisters from the North attested that both their husbands are Igbos from the East. One of the ladies further
declared that even whilst she was single she never dated a fellow Northerner. That fact didn’t matter to her. She was and still remains Nigerian first and foremost! The unequivocal consensus was that Nigeria’s disunity is majorly “official,” existing and thriving mainly in high official circles and not nearly so much amongst the masses.
It is an artificial phenomenon, wholly contrived and hyped by unscrupulous politicians for selfish gains. And with one voice the USOSAns pledged to oppose all divisive tendencies and threats to the continued unity and progress of Nigeria.
I was not surprised. That was the USOSAn spirit in manifestation. As on countless other occasions it was also distinctly palpable at a party organised for everyone by the Abuja Chapter of the association the preceding night. The camaraderie was incredibly uninhibited despite the fact that many of the attendees were meeting the others for the first time. It was a delight seeing them mingle and interact, wine, dine, dance and play with one another with familial glee like inseparable soul mates bound by unalloyed love, affinity and mutual acceptance that belie and transcend all divisive ethno-religious and socio-cultural sentimentalities.
The speech by Lawrence Anirejuoritse Wilbert, the President General of USOSA,encapsulated their resolute nationalistic mindset and vision. It aptly summarised Nigeria’s decrepit state of affairs and decried the evident helplessness of successive governments and other public institutions at all levels to stem the “myriad of discordant, convulsive tunes and virulent echoes of division, separatism and armed conflicts from within and beyond our borders” and reverse the steep slide to total anarchy and disintegration of the country.
He observed a need for restoration of “socio-economic prosperity, ethno-religious co-existence and mutual trust, sound moral quotient, palpable patriotic spirit, people-oriented political leadership and other vital features of our national fabric” to salvage the nation, and asserted that the citizenry are “aghast and desperately groaning for help.”
Noting that USOSAns in their vast numbers have come of age and are “particularly prominent in the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government, the military, police and paramilitary bodies, commerce and industry, banking and finance, the academia, civil service, sports and entertainment, faith organisations, etc.,” Wilbert then charged them all to rise to the challenge of reuniting and rebuilding Nigeria.
He affirmed that their past
experience as children and students of unity schools was a unique orientation and tutelage in patriotism and national empathy which distinguishes them for the work at hand.
His parting words: “We were raised for such a time as this, and must not let our country’s unity go asunder. If Nigeria fails, we, more than any other Nigerian or body of Nigerians,have failed. Because we are the nation’s finest and greatest investment, soundest minds, elite force, and surest hope. Simply put, my brothers and sisters, we are Nigeria! Our country’s unity is dependent on us.
It is our calling, and we must rise to the occasion.”Wow! I do not recall ever hearing any more visionary, constructive, concise and unabashedly patriotic speech on our national unity and progress. Yea and amen was the unanimous response from other speakers and commentators.
The massive hall was filled to capacity, while multitudes of other USOSAns participated and expressed their views from
elsewhere in Nigeria and the diaspora via online internet media. They all spoke in the same vein. Such insightful understanding of the nation and challenges confronting it! Such dogged sense of responsibility! Such unwavering faith and love for country! Every word delivered with uncommon fervour, echoing a collective call to duty! Every voice a war cry!I was astounded. So Nigeria has such strong army of fiercely patriotic, exceptionally competent and vastly knowledgeable citizens? One of the speakers mentioned that USOSA’s membership is in excess of one million! How then is the country so disunited? How could any nation possessing such unique, deliberately cultivated mass of quality human resources be in such complete disarray and so far from attaining its enormous potentials? How? How?
How? Then it hit me. Abject failure by the Federal Government, sole initiator and owner of the unity schools, to harness the products of the schools for national unity, growth,development and progress. Akin to a farmer who tediously prepares very fertile land, painstakingly selects, sows and cultivates the best seedlings to maturity and fruition, only to ignominiously forget, abandon and walk away from the glorious harvest instead of reaping and raking same into his barn. Like a woman who serially labours through multiple child deliveries after long, stressful months of pregnancy, patiently nurtures the children to illustrious adulthood, then succumbs to dementia and forgets that she has grown, dependable offsprings she could call on in time of need. Pray, who in his right mind does such? What enterprise diligently makes sizable investment and subsequently neglects to fully claim and appropriate the ensuing dividends to optimal benefit? Analogous to the foregoing is the government’s apparent indifference to the mass exodus of homegrown medical doctors, nurses, scientists, lecturers, athletes, etc.
There are even many high-ranking Nigerians excelling in the military of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Germany and other Western nations, while our dear country inexcusably
fumbles,wallows and writhes in the throes of wars with ragtag bandits, Boko Haram and other insurgent forces. Yet the cumulative effects of all these sad losses pale in comparison
to the debilitating consequences of losing one million of the country’s best to the wind!
One million prime human capital that include a large percentage of the aforementioned professionals and many others within and outside Nigeria, all trained entirely from the national purse or at substantially subsidised rates.Commentaries at the USOSA plenary recalled how unity schools suffered near total infrastructural decay occasioned principally by prolonged neglect and mismanagement by the government. By the year 2006 the situation had degenerated to its lowest ebb, so much that then Minister of Education, Mrs. Obiageli Ezekwesili, proposed transfer of the schools to private interests. That proposition was fervidly opposed by angry unity school alumni who considered it defeatist and antithetical to national interest, and was a major catalyst for the formation of USOSA.
Equally celebrated was the fact that each school’s Old Students Association thenceforth upscaled their interventionist efforts to salvage their respective alma maters through provision, renovation and maintenance of classrooms, hostels, water, electricity, toilets, dining halls and kitchen tools, medical supplies, sports facilities, books and other study materials, science equipment, internal road networks, perimeter fences, etc.
The new-found glory of unity schools is largely attributable to such extensive support. And the USOSAns assert that they have only just begun. They are ready and rearing to do a great deal more for Nigeria, especially in unifying the country and propping up the education sector, if only Nigeria would engage and let them.
Most compatriots today profess loss of faith in Nigeria. Such persons needed to be at that event. To experience instant rebirth, their faith renewed. Reconverted by a special squad of one million believers imbued and nurtured from their infancy with the fluid of undying patriotic zeal, national unity and superlative greatness. Of course products of unity schools are not the Federal Government’s only human capital investments over time. Youth corps members under the aegis of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) are similarly encouraged to facilitate national cohesion, while all members of the armed forces, police and the paramilitary bodies have that same objective as one of their mandates. But these latter categories of persons have the gospel of Nigeria’s togetherness, peace and progress in their minds, having been introduced to same as adults.
The USOSAns are a totally different species: the unity gospel is in their bones, veins and souls, for they imbibed it as children in their formative years. They are Nigeria’s firstborns. Their blood is green! Surely it is time for mother Nigeria to stop playing barren. It is time for the Federal Government to reach out and beckon on the distinguished products of unity schools to help reunite the country and lift it out of the doldrums as they were specifically intended and trained to do.
It is particularly recommended that the government should create a Ministry of National Reconciliation and Unification (MNRU) peopled solely by USOSAns. The least option should be a National Agency for Reconciliation and Unification (NARU). The government would also do well to adopt a policy of appointing only USOSAns to the headship and staff positions of all unity schools as well as the Federal Ministry of Education (or the secondary education department of the Ministry).
The NYSC and the National Orientation Agency (NOA) should benefit from the same policy too. And it is imperative for the government to solicit and enlist the active support and involvement of USOSA in the conceptualisation and implementation of that policy from start to finish. Yes, unity schools should be managed exclusively by persons who were raised with the pro unitate orientation and enjoyed first-hand experience of the workings of the philosophy behind the establishment of the schools.
It is a gross aberration drafting alumni of state, private and community secondary schools to run and manage the affairs of federal unity schools whose founding philosophy and orientation they have no grasp of. That practice hampers and derails actualisation of the vision of the schools. Same way it would be illadvised to draft a naval officer to do the work of an airforce or army officer and vice versa, even if they are all of the same military. You similarly do not engage a striker to be the goalkeeper of a football team even though both players share the same broad objectives. Their strengths and areas of specialisation differ. One is not in doubt that the non-USOSAns have proper academic certificates, but their lack of the fundamental orientation and philosophical background for the job is a huge demerit. You can’t give what you don’t have. They should be redeployed to ministries/departments where their services will be more appropriate and beneficial to the nation.
USOSAns possess more than the relevant academic qualifications. They have the requisite orientation, mindset, competencies, vision and personality. Indeed their blood is green!
It is indubitable that USOSAns traverse all walks of life and are already contributing significantly to national development in various ways, even in government. But it is needful to strategically retain and engage a special nucleus of them working as one strong unit within the federal governance structure to co-ordinate and harness their collective competencies and potentials to more effectively actualise the vision and deliver the greater dividends for which they were raised.
Nigeria certainly needs a large dose of the USOSAn spirit going forward. It is a colossal waste and disservice to the nation to have its thoroughbred elite force dispersed abroad (within and outside the country) in such random, unhinged fashion that negates full ambit to maximally tap their resourcefulness for national unity and growth. You don’t let loose your best so asininely. There is urgent need to rejig the system and place the right people in the right places. The USOSAns I saw at that plenary are definitely upbeat and ready to answer the call to help midwife a new, truly united and progressive Nigeria. Is the Government of Nigeria ready to make that call to its own?
Our blood is green!
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
Simeso Amachree is a proud USOSAn and alumnus of Federal Government College, Sokoto; a former
Acting Secretary General of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC); former Senior Special Assistant in
the Government of Rivers State; a lawyer and biographer; and Managing Director of Datawise Consult.
He wrote in from Port Harcourt.