By Obansa Nimah
It’s the year 2050. I’m on the balcony of my smart home in Port-Harcourt, waiting for the arrival of my last son, who is on his way to becoming the youngest medical doctor in Africa. At 18, Tariq is in his final year at the University of Abuja Medical College. Then I remembered how the last 3-decades saw a revolution in tertiary education that eliminated industrial actions from various unions in the sector and saw the emergence and proliferation of world-class, affordable public and private varsities.
The Nigerian government, in May 2023, after a 10-month-long strike by varsity lecturers and closure of universities, signed into law “The Tertiary Education Revolution Act”. The Act saw an allocation of 20% of the national budget to education across all levels, allowed for a public-private partnership, implemented a citizen-funded education trust fund in the form of “tax-ED”, and gave universities the autonomy to channel human and internally generated resources to local and international partnerships in research, technology and innovation.
The Act also issued a clause that banned the elites from sending more than a child abroad for school and a fine of 500 million naira for violators of the ruling, to be donated to government-owned varsities. I smiled as I remembered the war that the Act sparked at its outset and how the stakeholders ensured that its implementation not only raised the country to the educational capital of the world but also reduced poverty, created jobs, improved security, grew the economy, increased admission into schools, and improved the overall well-being of Nigerian students.
Tax-ED saw Nigerian citizens donate 5% of their call airtime to education. It meant that 100 million mobile users donated 500 million naira whenever they recharged at least N100. I remember how enthusiastic my parents were to publicise and implement tax ED. I couldn’t blame them as I was the first of 6 children, and it was my 8th year in the university studying a 6-year course, all thanks to the incessant strikes.
It was a moment of agony and intense psychological distress for millions of Nigerian students and their families. As I delved deeper into the memories of those days, including how I had to hurriedly marry Tariq’s father because I wasn’t getting any younger, I began to giggle. I stared at the horizon with gratitude to a wonderful Lord for bringing us this far.
Tax–ED not only revolutionised the educational sector, but it also united the country towards a goal. For the first time, there was a concerted effort towards ensuring the revolution yields fruition. Everyone had a role to play, and they did it so well. It made Nigerians realise that more could be achieved outside the terrain of ethno-religious sentiments. All were united to accomplish a common goal. The success of tax ED led the government to launch another revolution in the healthcare sector. In about five years, sure-MED was found, and the national health bill was fully implemented. Sure-MED had two components: “Tax-MED” and “enjoy-MED”.
Tax-MED was a 5% upgrade from the Tax-ED dividends and either a $5 charge for each diaspora ticket bought by Nigerian Airways or a $10 charge for tickets to other airlines. Enjoy-MED saw the wealthy Nigerians paying for poorer Nigerians through a scheme that ensured 2.5% of their wealth was donated to the trust fund in return for being allowed to continue medical tourism abroad and having few shares of the now booming mechanised agricultural farming coordinated by the Central bank to achieve national and continental food sufficiency.
As I got to this part of the flashback, I thought about how cheap I got the bananas on my table. Hunger, poverty and ignorance have drastically reduced nationwide due to the 3-decade long interventions. The country has become so secure and united that I could decide to live anywhere, everywhere!
The nation’s oil and gas sector now uses artificial intelligence for most of its work; it is now powered by a Nigerian-modified solar world in the north. Morality classes are now held in every home where elders exhort and reward moral values. The government and law enforcement agencies uphold justice for or against anyone. CCTV cameras and robots now man our roads, railways, airports and public spaces. Artificial intelligence is now the norm, even in homes. The country is thriving. The ideal Nigeria has arrived, I grinned and mumbled to myself. As I moved to sit down, I heard Effle, the robotic security alarm, announce that Tariq was there. I left the balcony to embrace him, only for him to excitedly tell me he got to Port-Harcourt using the world’s first solar-powered speed rail.
Obansa Nimah wrote via firstname.lastname@example.org.