A former Minister of State at the United Kingdom’s Foreign Office and now Chairman, African Matters Limited, Baroness Lynda Chalker, has advocated massive investment in Nigeria’s education sector as a major step towards making the country truly competitive among comity of nations. Chalker, who recalled that she visited Nigeria for the first time in 1966, said the present situation has shown that the country could only currently compete globally in terms of population growth, and that if not met with commensurate economic development, the country may be sitting on a keg of gunpowder.
The UK longstanding parliamentarian, who was recently appointed the President of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), spoke at the Ojo main campus of the Lagos State Uni-versity (LASU) during the event tagged: “An afternoon with Baroness Lynda Chalker,” organised by the institution.
The theme of the lecture is: “Africa in a Competitive World, Development and Business.” According to Chalker, other key factors used to assess a country’s competitiveness include among others economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency and growth, and infrastructural development. She noted that all these could be achieved with adequate investment in education, “especially at a time when the world is now building on knowledge-based economy.” She said: “Over the last five years, Africa has seen the highest rate of population growth at about 2.5 per cent annually.
By 2050, a quarter of the world’s population will be on the continent. Nigeria is set to be the third most populous country in the world. The UN World Population Prospects 2017 Report estimates that Nigeria’s population will be 411 million by 2050.
“Today Nigeria has over 250 million people with regional pockets with about 40 per cent unemployment. So, today, there is no doubt that Nigeria competes population wise, but only investment in quality education that can guarantee quality life for the growing population and make the country a destination for huge Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).” Meanwhile, the state Governor and Visitor to the university, Akinwunmi Ambode; the Senior Special Assistant on Foreign Relations and Diaspora Affairs to the President, Hon. Abike Dabiri- Erewa, and the former Executive Secretary of the National Commission (NUC), Prof. Peter Okebukola, have applauded the management of the institution for what they described as the “ongoing transformation on the campus.”
Ambode, who was represented at the event by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Hon. Kehinde Bangbetan, noted that though UNESCO recommends 26 per cent budgetary allocation to education, the state this year allocated 12.5 per cent to the sector, and is hoping to improve on this. He thanked the university’s management for working hard to bring back the institution’s lost glory, saying the government is not only satisfied with the quality of the leadership on the campus, but also committed to supporting its new drives.
He said: “The programme of today is a product of the foresight of this leadership and I am happy that we can attract to the university world leaders such as Mrs. Chalker, who is globally recognised for her knowledge and experience about African politics and leadership issues. Also speaking, Dabiri-Erewa lauded the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun for making her the Chairman of the event, saying such events were the tonics of academic institutions in the past, and that the culture that is being reintroduced in LASU will greatly boost the university’s image and international reputation.
She advises the youths against desperation to travel abroad, especially, through illegal means, saying: “It is also not always green outside there.” Fagbohun, in his remarks, thanked Chalker for finding the university worthy of her partnership, and sought for more relationship between the university and the former Minister.
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