I left Fiditi when I was 15 years old. That was 36 years ago. I am now 51 years old. My daughter is my inheritor, and thirty six years after my own graduation, my daughter’s experiences, offers us a window into the future of Nigeria, and the picture I glean is scary in the extreme…
Yesterday, my first fruit, my daughter Igbayilola, graduated High School, and being out of town, I was sent videos and pictures of the event. The visuals brought back memories of my own graduation, and I was left with a lot of pains, at the realization of how far backwards we have traveled as a people, and just how alarming our situation is.
Fiditi Grammar School is located in the village from whence it took its name. The school is similar to several others that you would find all over the western part of Nigeria. They were built by the communities, and the government of the then western region partnered with the town unions to staff them, and to generally manage them. The Christian missionaries were also very instrumental to their growth, and Muslim faith organizations were also involved in the proliferation. Fiditi Grammar School was founded in 1954, and I am the third generation of my mother’s family to be enrolled and graduated from its precincts.
I had Mr. Khan, a Pakistani teaching Physics, Mr. Suvi Rajah Kumar, teaching Biology, Oduro Mensah taught Fine Arts, he was Ghanaian. Mr. Roberts the Canadian taught English Language and English Literature, and these merely complimented a rich army of Nigerian teachers of all ethnic nationalities. Baba Peter, an Igbo man stayed in Fiditi through the Nigerian civil war, and I believe that he was ultimately buried in Fiditi itself. This was the school I attended.
In my time at Fiditi Grammar School, the science laboratories were in the same building, and they were well resourced, and awe inspiring. The library was my refuge, and I was always in a race to read through the fiction shelves that bulged with books. The classrooms were well appointed, very well lit, and excellently ventilated. We had a lawn tennis court, several regulation sized football pitches, hockey pitches, basketball court, and athletic tracks. My school would compare favorably against any of the very best private schools in Nigeria today, but in my time, my tuition and books, were completely free, and we Boarding House students were the only fee payers.
I left my secondary school, thirty-six years ago. My daughter went to what is considered one of the very best of the private schools in Lagos today. She traveled vast distances every day to get to school, from Lekki to Ikeja, every day of school. A choice forced on me by my refusal to subcontract her upbringing to strangers in the hostel, and one that was paid for in hours stuck in traffic on every school day. I will not talk about the tolls paid over the years, to attend the school the government has refused to either build, or resource.
We all, my daughter, wife, and self, made enormous sacrifices to ensure that we train my girl. We paid through our nose to get her as good an education as we could, within the decadent system, and I am grateful to God that she is done. But her graduation has now presented a teachable moment, especially in view of our collective inability to connect the dots. Cause and effect, action, inaction, and consequences.
I left Fiditi when I was 15 years old. That was 36 years ago. I am now 51 years old. My daughter is my inheritor, and thirty six years after my own graduation, my daughter’s experiences, offers us a window into the future of Nigeria, and the picture I glean is scary in the extreme, and the corporate inability to see this, even scarier.
When I was in the university, the generation before mine told tales of functional universities, of hostel rooms with no more than 2 students, of canteens with abundance, and of meal tickets that comes with fruits and ice creams. I went to Abadina Primary School, and I inhaled the tear gasses of Ali must go. My generation went to university as the decay in the system began to show.
36 years after graduating from the school in my mother’s village, Nigeria has deteriorated to the point we are at today, where do you think we are bound, at the speed we’re traveling, and without a course correction? What Nigeria shall we have bequeathed to our children, in another 36 years?
There was indeed a country.
First published 23 June, 2019.