Former Minister of Education and Leader of the #BringBackOurGirls group, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, yesterday in Lagos, identified inequality as one of the things plaguing Nigeria’s economic development.
In an address titled: “Towards An Equitable Society; the Role of Empathy in Economic Development of Nigeria,” at the 6th Anniversary of Women in Successful Careers (WISCAR), Ezekwesili noted that the society does not offer equal opportunity to everyone.
The former minister said that this was what the government intended to address when it introduced the federal character, which was enshrined in Nigeria’s Constitution since 1979.
Its aim was to prevent tribal or regional domination of any government or its agency. However, its inappropriate application has created mediocrity, inequality, corruption and lack of transparency, among others.
“For the society to offer equal opportunity to everyone, the maxim of equality of opportunity is central to building an inclusive society,” Ezekwesili said.
“We pride to get into equality of opportunity by creating something called federal character, but it was designed and operated in the breach. So equality of opportunity ended up becoming a race to the bottom where the lowest common denominator becomes the basis of achieving inclusion and that, accelerated our part to dismal economic development outcome,” she said.
The former minister therefore stressed that for any society to develop, there has to be equal opportunity for everyone.
Speaking further, Ezekwesili noted that “Education is a part of economic development. If you want to create an equitable and just society, give quality education.
“I have been part of an advocacy for 219 young women who were abducted for having gone to school. The fact that today (Saturday) is 229 days since the girls were abducted is the best possible indicator for us to understand what empathy deficit does to the society.
“You can imagine what it was for government to convince young women of the north-east to sign up to acquire education, despite all the socio-religious constraints that stand on the way of families to allow girls go to school.
“When 276 of them turned up in school on the April, 4,brutal killers arrived and took them away forcefully and till now those girls are still missing. And you know what; the empathy deficit in our society actually shows up.
“The Chibok girls have suffered empathy deficit simply because we are a society that has been comfortable with inequality.
“If the society had difficulty with inequality, there is no way the girls would have been victims of any incompetent rescue.
“Firstly, it was indifference, denigration and later repugnant acknowledgement and then ineptitude in the rescue operation and then, we have moved on. Empathy deficit!”
“Why would all the infrastructure of rescue, the infrastructure of security of a nation, be activated on behalf of the top five per cent in the society?
“That is because of inequality. So poor governance, whether it is health, education, roads, water, agriculture, etc, happens not because of the failure of the institution, but mostly because of the deficit of empathy.
“When the society excludes, the excluded will someday wake up and demand their rights. Today, the rich cannot sleep any more because the poor are awake,” she added.
How did your Obasanjo regime confront it in 8 years? Inequality can not be eradicated over night. Even in America it still exists.