Gbaja-Biamila: Shocked Beyond Belief...
Agha Ibiam was on tour with Hon. Femi Gbaja-Biamila, a member of the House of Reps from Surulere Federal Constituency and reports the shock of a lifetime the lawyer came face-to-face with in his domain.

When Femi Gbaja-Biamila took the decision to answer the call of public service through the electoral process, he knew it was not going to be a child's play. The decision was informed by his belief that his generation needed to take its destiny into its hands and assume the difficult challenge of charting a course that would ultimately transform the society.

To actualise his dreams, Gbaja-Biamila, under the platform of Action for Democracy (AD), engaged in an exciting and colourful campaign for the House of Representatives seat within the Surulere Constituency of Lagos State, which he won. The ebullient lawyer, during his campaign days, aptly told his people that "help is on the way", and this he has come to fulfill.

His contract with his constituency first and Nigerians in general, was also subsumed in the bills he planned to propose to the House. For many years, he had envisioned a near Utopian Nigerian society. To realise this vision, moves he said are on top gear to propose and ensure the passage of the bills like the one education, he calls "no child is left behind policy", health insurance, electoral campaign finance law, agriculture and food bill and society security to the House.

Distance and time did not dissuade the lawmaker who recently embarked on a five day familiarisation working tour of a constituency that consists of political and non-political classes. The non-political class he said is made up of corporate bodies like banks, industries, hospitals, schools, fast food joints and market places, etc.

The purpose of such a visit was to establish a symbiotic relationship between him and the constituency and some organisations that engages in business activities in Surulere. "I was only doing what I am supposed to do as a legislator. As you know, my constituency like any other place is unique. You have the corporate bodies that provide, grow and develop the constituency. They provide services that are beneficial to the people, and I as their representative should make everything possible to alleviate whatever problem they may be facing."

He claimed he cannot be comfortable in his exalted position while the people that voted him into power are neglected. He believed that if the problems that would have engulfed them are not solved completely, at least something commendable will be done on their behalf. The importance to education cannot be overemphasised. Recognising it as the pivot of the wheel upon which a nation through its people develops, informed his decision to consider schools as his first port of call during the visits. Some of the primary and secondary schools like Surulere Baptist, Akin-Jacops primary, Adebola Baptist and Estate schools visited were nothing to write home about. THISDAY observed children studying under dilapidated classrooms, void of widows and furniture. The libraries and home economics centres lacked the prerequisite materials to upgrade students intelligent quotient. Most of the computer systems are no longer in use as they were not networked.

Iponri High School is also in a sorry stage. The library built in 1980 has virtually out-dated books, stock-pilled in shaky and unbalanced shelves, while the science laboratory has no functional and up-to-date equipment. One of the teachers told THISDAY that during rainy season the laboratory block become water-logged due to the carnal that passed through the building.

In a constituency that has about 62 primary schools and 32 junior secondary schools, Gbaja-Biamila said he was shocked by their conditions. "Believe me, when I went round, I realised they had a lot of problems common to them. I found myself standing in what I will best call carcasses of building. We had schools that had no laboratories and libraries. Schools where children had no textbooks. We had schools where the classrooms are best shanties. The atmosphere was unbelievable", he lamented.

He needed no more prompting to tell that a lot has gone wrong in Nigeria academic system. Feeling nostalgic, he noted that present day schools could not be likened to what obtained in the past when he attended Igbobi College, before he proceeded to King Williams College, Isle of Man, England for further studies.

He noted that no matter how intelligent a child is, his intelligence cannot be tapped at its optimum if suitable learning environment is not created. Contrasting his view, he said in the developed countries, schools are a delight. The environment is enough for the child's physical and mental development.

"You know when you come to a school where there are no ceiling fans, let alone air-conditioners, students will never be relaxed for study. It is very sad, a pathetic story indeed. There was a particular school I went and I was close to tears. The teachers were even proud to tell me that it was one of the best in Surulere", he explained.

However, even as funding and management of both primary and secondary schools falls within the purview of the State Government, Gbaja-Biamila said that some states should be exonerated from blame over the deplorable condition of schools in their domain. For instance, he said Lagos State, compared to other states, has the highest population density from within and outside the country, should not be castigated if its schools are not up to standard.

He said huge potentials that would lead to maintaining those schools abound in his constituency if the blue-chip companies exercise their social responsibility. "I believe the State Government is doing its best. But there is still a lot to be done. Tinubu, who I know, believes very much in education, and he has tried within his limitation to do everything he could to make sure children in the state are educated under good environment", he said.

Gbaja-Biamila has mapped out strategies aimed at corporate organisations in his constituency to give a helping hand to education. "In as much as we strive to be good hosts or landlords to some companies, I also believe they have a role, as it is the trend globally now to plough back some funds into the community that is hosting them."

The gentleman also intend launching the First Surulere Education Fund (FSEF). He hopes all well meaning members of Surulere constituency or even those that have any remote connection will participate fully.

Having made his findings known to Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the chairman committee on education, the lawmaker no doubt was convinced that help is on the way to some moribund schools that have become an eyesore in his constituency.

Having identified some problems that cut across all facets like electricity supply which has added to the cost of doing business generally, road networks, flooding and problems of area boys who trouble them constantly, Gbaja-Biamila assured they will be tackled in due course.

"Some of the problems should also be addressed by the local government, state and the federal, like that of electricity. But beyond demarcating whose responsibility it is to help the people, I believe again that whatever is my responsibility will be definitely looked into. Areas that don't have transformers, I hope something would be done to help them get one", he promised.

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