“Mr. Sanwo-Olu directed engagement of engineering students at the State-owned Lagos State University (LASU), University of Lagos (UNILAG), and Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH) through internship program to enable them to have practical knowledge of rail construction”. – Premium Times, 26/9/2021
“We will be working with LASU, UNILAG, and Yabatech, where we will be having students of Engineering that will have a feel of what rail construction is all about… They will come and see the bridge, road, and rail construction as a learning tool so that they can see how these are being done. So, our contractors can take them as interns,” he said after inspecting the projects. – Thisday, 26/9/2021
When I ran for president in 2019, I wasn’t under the illusion that I could win. Ordinarily, I am a very private person, but the unforgivable failure of the Buhari government left one with no options other than to find how we could organize ourselves into new political parties and ensure we tried. We needed to make our points that we had ideas, energy, and were potentially part of the solution to Nigeria’s problems. The only things I had were my ideas, my passion, my innocence, and my energy. Before I contested, I was already a known face at many TV and Radio stations across the country. So, it was just as well to see how my connection with the media could help. Joining the old parties was out of the question because most of us who formed new parties were unknown quantities as far as the dirty, murky politics of Nigeria was concerned. Why did I run for president and not something else? I knew that that was the best way of propagating my ideas and pushing hard. No matter how Nigerians may dismiss your ambition, some folks will listen to what you have to say. I wouldn’t say it was a waste of time that I did. Far from it.
Since that time, I have been invited to many high-profile events and have had opportunities to speak and continue to prick the conscience of the nation. Running for president has allowed many people to take me even more seriously. And by all means, that position is absolutely key in setting direction for a country adrift. The president can change the country quicker than anyone. It was about a sense of urgency.
As far back as 2016, while speaking with students of the University of Ilorin at an event on their campus, I let them know that only the youths had the solution to Nigeria’s problem. See https://www.opinionnigeria.com/why-success-or-failure-is-always-in-the-details-by-tope-fasua/. Then one of the key out-of-the-box ideas I propagated right from the first debate for aspiring 2019 candidates in November 2018, was that Nigerian students will have to be a lot more involved if the country was to make progress. I had incorporated this idea into my campaign materials and brochures. I printed about 50 different designs of flyers, where on the front and back, I had detailed a lot of my ideas, sectorally. One thread that ran through most of the ideas was that Nigeria’s only remaining opportunity seemed to be the unleashing of the passion, energy, innocence, and tech-savvy of her burgeoning youths.
To thunderous applause on a few occasions, I spoke about how engineering students in our universities and polytechnics were the only ones who could solve Nigeria’s embarrassing energy and infrastructure problems. I even stretched it further, that no course of study was useless and even students of history and languages could be equally engaged in projects to document Nigeria’s language and detailed history. I wagered that they could be paid tokens for their contribution and that this will make the act of attending higher institutions even more high-profile. The idea, I said, was to get electrical engineering students to take on small projects – in groups – to light up the villages around their schools, and then scale up. I wondered why universities and polytechnics had bad roads and failing infrastructure inside them when they had students and faculty of civil engineering.
I imagined the sheer amount of productivity that this could unleash, how the curriculum vitae of our students could become transformed right from school, given the projects that they involved in, how they would no longer be asked to go and bring impossible years of experience when they enter the job market, how they will feel ownership of the nation because they are contributing to her progress, and how, through the tokens, they are paid (at that time I suggested about N40,000 per semester for students who got involved in projects), the indigent ones will help their families – if only by reducing the financial burden on their parents and wards. Of course, a lot will depend on the sincerity of purpose, if students will not attempt to get these suggested allowances without working, but technology can help. I referenced the impact that Stanford University has had in California, and also how this involvement of undergraduates has helped a number of countries around the world (many times unspoken). The idea was actually no big deal, but it takes someone who tries to think to come up with such. And the idea is still valid as I type this.
Instead of my idea, Nigerians voted for Buhari. Now, look where Buhari has taken Nigeria? Rather than invest in the youth, he sells them to despair. A video clip of Buhari still circulates where he said even if they attended the best schools and get the best degrees there were no vacancies for them. Yet, he and his friends smuggle their overfed children into the best parastatals in Nigeria on a daily basis. See the path that Buhari chose instead? It’s a path whereby the young people of today no longer have any respect for or hope in the country. I am hoping we pull through. And of course, I cannot forget that rather than at least ignore people like me and our young political parties, as we try to churn out ideas, Buhari leaned on INEC to deregister us. They would rather strangle little babies in their cots. But see what he has made of Nigeria?
So, I am writing on this today, not only to demand compensation from Sanwoolu for taking my idea but more importantly, to let him know that he is on the right track and should double down on this idea big time. Actually, I waive the compensation because Sanwo Eko is one of my most admired leaders in this country right now. He has discharged his duty with aplomb. He is savvy, rugged, and smart. There’s nothing they haven’t put the man through but he emerges stronger and smarter. The guys who run Lagos have always been top-notch. Fashola was in his own class too. Even Ambode wasn’t bad. I am not however saying they have no faults. I want Sanwoolu to expand the idea. He should formalize it and use the idea to open new vistas in Lagos. Let other governors continue sleeping. Sanwoolu should make the mass internship of uni and poly students precondition to some types of contract in Lagos. He should also invest in technology that will ensure that any student that applies themselves will get some benefit from the government, which will encourage them to do more.
Apart from my campaign materials, here is an article I wrote on the subject matter in November 2018, titled “The Greatest Conspiracy Against the Nigerian Youth”: https://opinion.premiumtimesng.com/2018/11/19/the-greatest-conspiracy-against-the-nigerian-youth-by-tope-fasua/. I averred in that article that it paled into insignificance that Nigerian youths were excluded from politics using the power of money – all those huge fees demanded by the two large parties – but that it was even more evil than they were being systematically disbarred from contributing to the development of their nation through the building of infrastructure. I quote extensively from the article:
“I say that the biggest conspiracy against the youth of Nigeria is the refusal of the political elders to allow them to be part of the solutions to our problems as a nation… the fact that there is much to be built in Nigeria, and they have the energy, passion, exposure, imagination, connectedness, innocence, clear-mindedness, agility to build up the country, but are decidedly being obstructed….Imagine if students of civil engineering in polytechnics and universities begin to get involved in building small street roads? Imagine if students of urban and regional planning actually helped in planning and opening up our villages, small towns, and inner cities? Imagine if students of geography and regional planning actually helped find solutions to our many erosions and helped in planting trees and grass where we are suffering from desertification? Imagine if students of electrical engineering were the ones building and operating mini-hydro turbines, solar, windmills, biomass, and other clever ideas that will light up Nigeria from the ground up? Will that not be better than these mass importation of power plants that we cannot maintain? Will that not begin to short-circuit our inefficient transmission system? Imagine if students of history were helping to collate the histories of all our small settlements and students in computer science helped to create the websites and upload our dying languages on the internet? Who says we cannot build a Google full of Nigerian and African content? The amount of data entry required for the issues besetting Nigeria is endless! No one should think these ideas will take away jobs from those looking for them with their certificates presently.
These ideas can only open the space. For we can employ the same long-suffering graduates to supervise these projects. These ideas aren’t too far-fetched. I realized there is an intricate link between society, companies, the public sector, and universities everywhere else in the developed world. Stanford University built Silicon Valley, for starters. And Stanfordites still troop there, even while in school. I see Nigerian higher institutions with no roads, no water, no light… dilapidated infrastructure, abandoned projects and I wonder why they cannot help themselves. What is the essence of a degree if you cannot solve problems? Ok, incentivize the students. Let them experiment. Make them feel appreciated. They will create a new Nigeria… The dispersion of these schools all over Nigeria also means we can begin to specially diversify and open up this country, which had been hemmed in since our leaders focused only on state capitals. This will be a remarkable project and I am sure our youth will appreciate it.”
Who took my advise? Nobody, until Sanwoolu made this statement. He may have thought it up on his own anyway. Or many of his very smart people may have done so. Lagos has some of the smartest administrators in Nigeria, even though I hear some stories of incredible corruption. God help us. But there is hope. In Lagos, we are offered something better than what they do at the Federal. Imagine that rather than engaging the youths the way I suggested years ago, and have labored for ever since, Mr. Buhari would rather disenfranchise them, remove whatever little hope they have, and watch them join secession groups and become yahoo-yahoo boys? Truly, leadership is key. That, again, is why running for president is important. We may have smart governors, but a terrible president will always spoil their work. Sanwoolu, carry go, smart Unilag boy! Please dig in and expand that idea. You are on the right path! Yes, I just waived my royalty in full. I only used the title to attract your attention, dear reader.