Below is an excerpt from a lecture delivered by Obafemi Awolowo, Leader of Opposition in the Nigerian Federal Parliament, to Nigerian Students in London, on 3rd September, 1961.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

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“Education is still in its inchoate stages. The masses hunger after education but are not being satisfied. In regard to primary education, the position in the South is good. All children of school-going age are now in school in the South. But it is very far from being so in the North. A little over 250,000 children are now receiving primary education in the North, as against 1.3 million in the East and 1.2 million in the West.Secondary education ought to be free, but only the well-to-do can afford to send their children to any post-primary schools. The award of scholarships tenable in Institutions of Higher Learning, and for technical and vocational studies, now lags very much behind the present needs of the country, with the result that many a lustrous talent is wasting and rotting away either in a soul-depressing job or in an asylum. The finances of the Federation are being very badly managed. We are now right on the brink of a balance of payments crisis.Yet, according to the latest pronouncement by the Federal Minister of Finance, our imports of consumer goods have increased appreciably; but as far as is known no visible effort is being made for a big export drive. I have told the Federal Government, on a number of occasions, that unless the present adverse trends which. have continued for four years are checked, Nigeria will, figuratively speaking, one day find herself in a debtor’s prison! Bribery and corruption, especially in high places, are alarmingly on the increase. A large percentage of monies which are voted for expenditure on public projects find their way into the pockets of certain individuals. There is unemployment everywhere. The standard of living in the country as a whole is very low, and in most parts of the country the peasantry and the working class wallow in abject poverty and misery.”

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Read the full speech here [pdf]

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