By Ladipo Adamolekun
An essential quick fix (pending the longer route of constitutional amendment) is the issuance of Guidelines on the Application of the Federal Character Constitutional Clause with respect to the public services in the form of an Executive Order.
The Guidelines should include (a) affirmation of the primacy of the merit principle in recruitment into the federal public service (outside positions that are categorised as political appointments) and obligation of all recruiting and appointing bodies to be open and transparent in the application of federal character, including explicating whether states or geopolitical zones are used for determining quotas and (b) formal and unequivocal exemption of specific rare skills from the application of the principle (as is the case in India) – senior technical posts in research and development, specialties in medicine and engineering, areas of nuclear and space applications in aviation, and aspects of electronics.
Finally, it is important to add that the strong case made here for the primacy of the merit principle in the recruitment of staff to public services is also dependent, to a considerable extent, on the restoration of excellence and meritocracy in the education sector. This will be a desirable re-creation of the alignment that helped ensure good development performance in the country up to the 1970s.
- Reinventing and Sustaining the Elite Status of Christ’s School
I am aware of the steadfast efforts of Christ’s School Alumni Association to reinvent the elite status of the School since the early 2000s. Chapter 12 of In Deed and In Truth (2013) “Reformation Agenda: Master Plan, Academic and Physical” provides an overview of the Report of “Project Christ’s School Renewal” Committee constituted in 2003. The update provided in the book is that the existing Report needed to be reviewed, including attention to how best to ensure sustainability.
The incumbent National Executive of the Alumni Association has produced a new Report (with a detailed 25-year master plan) on the transfer of proprietorship of the School back to Anglican Communion, Ekiti (the original owners) to run it jointly with the Alumni Association, as a private boarding school. The Report was submitted to Ekiti State Government jointly by the Alumni Association and the Anglican Communion, Ekiti on June 17th 2017. Predictably, the emphasis in the Report is on excellence and meritocracy and admission into the School will be through competitive examinations open to candidates from across the country. This contrasts markedly with the School’s virtual localisation in recent decades with the derisive alternative name, “Agidimo High School”.
I would like to suggest for consideration the introduction of a Degree Foundation Year Programme (DFYP) in the new Christ’s School. Concretely, the DFYP will be a one-year version of the Higher School Certificate (HSC) programme run successfully in the School for about two decades between 1960 and 1981. Students will be prepared for the General Certificate of Education (“A” Level) and qualified to seek direct entry admission into universities (public and private), that is, at the 200-level of degree programmes. It is very likely that a well-run Degree Foundation Year Programme will both enhance the visibility of the new Christ’s School and contribute significantly towards assuring its sustainability.
I would like to conclude by highlighting three key messages.
- Elite educational institutions that are characterised by excellence and meritocracy at the higher education level contribute hugely to the prosperity of their respective societies. This explains why the emphasis on excellence and meritocracy at the higher education level is world-wide. Today, the original elite higher education institution in the country barely merits that categorization when the country’s goal should be to have at least six universities that rank among the top 500 in the world by 2030.
- For elite educational institutions to impact positively on national development, recruitment into public services must be based on the primacy of the merit principle as is the case in well-performing economies across continents. I have argued that the subordination of the merit principle to a constitutional “federal character” principle interpreted as a crude quota system needs urgent radical amendment. And I suggest that a couple of interim corrective measures should be introduced through a presidential Executive Order.
- Although an emphasis on elite educational institutions at the secondary education level is not a worldwide phenomenon, Nigeria inherited the practice under colonial rule and maintained it for a few decades after independence. I wholeheartedly support the on-going efforts to re-invent Christ’s School as a private-owned elite boarding secondary school run co-jointly by the Anglican Communion, Ekiti and Christ’s School Alumni Association.
- Prof. Ladipo Adamolekun writes from Iju, Akure North, Ondo State.