By Adesina Wahab
Befrore the Federal Government eventually bowed down to pressure to allow Nigerian candidates take part in this year’s West African Secondary School Certificate Examination,WASSCE, there was serious controversy over whether state governments could go ahead and register their own candidates for the examination not minding the po
sition of the FG.
Going by the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, education is on the Concurrent List and therefore both federal and state governments have powers to legislate on it and take some actions in respect of it.
Out of the three major examination bodies for secondary school students in Nigeria, namely the West African Examinations Council, WAEC, the National Examinations Council, NECO, and the National Business and Technical Examinations Council, NABTEB, it is only WAEC that is multinational and it is also the oldest and the most widely recognised.
The 19 Northern States were the first to align with the section of the FG then, as they met in Kaduna to endorse it.
However, most states in the Southern part of the country were preparing to damn the consequence before the FG had a rethink about the matter.
Speaking on the matter in a post he made on an online platform, a public commentator, Femi Animasahun, said, “There has been a lot of debate as to whether other state governments should follow the move by the Oyo State Government to open its schools and let their students sit for the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations this year.
“I think this is a right move in the right direction and it’s a move that should be applauded by all rather than being vilified. Once again, it seems the Oyo State Government is living up to its slogan of Pace Setter.
“Contrary to what some persons have said that the state government has no power to do this, it’s totally untrue. Education is on the Concurrent Legislative List, meaning both the State and Federal Government can legislate on it and that’s why the Minister merely advised and not compelled State Governments to reconsider their decision to open schools. The Federal Government can only enlist the support of State Governments in this and not coerce them.
“Evidence suggests that the Federal Government has not shown enough commitment to education. This lack of commitment can be seen in the ever dwindling budgetary allocation to the sector over the years.
“While some State Governments are being proactive by ensuring their schools are COVID-19 procedure compliant, one can say, the Federal Ministry has been largely slumbering.
“I personally saw officials of the Rivers State Government fumigating state-owned schools about three weeks ago. I doubt if the same can be said about Federal government-owned schools at this point. I stand to be corrected though.
“The only problem that may arise is Oyo State may be a lone voice in the wilderness in this bold step but if many state governments who, unlike the Federal Government think they are ready to follow suit, there’s absolutely nothing the Federal Government can do about it.
“The Federal Government can only try to bully the Council because of its stake in WAEC heaped on our numerical strength as a nation. Remember, WAEC is not owned by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“One wonders why other smaller and poorer West African States are ready for the conduct of the examinations but the giant is not ready. Very sad indeed. Who knows whether this bold move will wake up the sleeping giant in us.
“Since the Federal Government is appealing to State Governments not to go ahead with their plans, I’ll also use this medium to appeal to the Federal Government to allow State Governments decide what is best for them in line with what the President said in one of his broadcasts.
“Majority of private schools and some state schools are ready and prepared. Let’s not punish the majority because of lack of preparedness by the minority. An academic term is a huge milestone in the life of a student.
“COVID-19 is real and we have to accept the fact that it is deadly but we also need to accept the fact that it has come to stay and we need to be prepared for it. Postponing the examinations without utilizing the time to judiciously ensure the right things are in place is a colossal waste of time. We need to be proactive,” he said.
For the National President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, the huge influence Nigeria wields in WAEC would not make the body ignore the country.
“It is true that Nigeria is one of the five member states of WAEC but its influence there is huge and WAEC cannot ignore that fact. It is like saying that Nigeria is also a member of the United Nations Security Council like Russia, America, China or Britain, but does Nigeria have the Veto Power those other countries have? The difference is clear. WAEC cannot ignore Nigeria,” he said.
A lawyer, Mr Tolu Ayodele, said the only solution to ending such a controversy is the to enshrine and practice true federalism in the country.
“It is when we adopt and really practise true federalism in the country that we won’t have a situation whereby those who are not prepared for progress won’t be able to hold down others who are ready,” he said.