PERSONALITY OF THE WEEK
It’s no longer news that the standard of education in Nigeria is on the decline, particularly in government owned schools as products of both primary and secondary schools, including tertiary institutions no longer live up to expectations after graduating from school. For this reason, many Nigerians are blaming the government for not providing the conducive environment for teaching and learning which will enable them to thrive. Some Ika indigenes have equally blamed the government for the decay saying that Nigeria is becoming difficult for many of its citizens to live in, not just because a good percentage of its public office holders are corrupt, but also because the government has failed to invest in the youths for as the saying goes, nothing in life comes easy, especially those thing that will take someone to the zenith of achievement.
One of those Nigerians who believes that parents can make the difference in their children’s lives, irrespective of government attitude toward investing in the youths is Prof. Wilfred Okoh. In this interview with Ika Weekly at his Agbor residence, Delta State recently, this erudit scholar and illustrious son of Ika Land, a distinguished Professor of International Relations at Webster University, United States of America. Spoke on how his late mother encouraged his educational endeavour.
He also bared his mind on the need for every individual, irrespective of background to be resolute in whatever goal they have set to achieve for themselves in life. Excerpt:
Sir, may we meet you?
I am Professor Wilfred Ijeamaka Okoh . I am from Ogbe Akina in Ime Obi and my mother, is from Ohumere Quarters, Agbor Kingdom, both in Ika South Local Government Area of Delta State. I started my early Secondary School in Ijebu ode at Ago Iwoye secondary school between 1958 and 1963 before proceeding to St. Anthony Grammar School also in Ijebu ode between 1963 and 1965
Did you work anywhere in Nigeria before travelling abroad?
It is a long story. After my Secondary School Education, I worked briefly as an estate clerk in the now defunt Lagos Executive Development Board, from 1968,Febuary 1st, 1970, before proceeding to the United States of America, I arrived in the U.S on 2nd of February .1971, after which I was admitted into Harvard University.
I finished from Harvard University in 1974, obtaining my B.sc degree in Political Science. I later proceeded to the American University and I was admitted into the graduate school of International Studies, where I applied for a graduate Examination scholarship because I could not afford to pay my fees. By 1976, I got admission to study masters degree in International Relations at American University. Late in the school I was allowed to transfer my scholarship to Georgetown University to finish the programme, I started my Ph.D programme in the same George town University, After spending a year at the University, I realized that I did not just want to major in one field as other students do after master’s degree, Normally you need only two years in addition to your master Degree to obtain a Ph.D, which is only in one field but I wanted to acquire as many fields as possible.
What happened then?
I was still highly motivated as I wasn’t satisfied with my educational qualification since my ultimate goal was to attain as many fields as possible, so I decided to specialize in four major fields, which include, International Relations, Comparative Politics, American Government, the Regional Politics of North Africa and the Sahara Africa.
How did you transfer your Admission from Harvard University to George Town University?
Yes, I later realized that Harvard University has all it takes to transfer any student to Georgetown University that are on scholarship. The programme that would have taken me two years extended to fifteen years. So, in 1991, I obtained my Ph.D from Harvard University in Political Science. In addition to the International Relations, Political Science, Political Economic, Sahara Africa and Regional Studies of the Middle East and the comparison in Law. I taught at American University, and Mogamin College briefly.
After working briefly in these schools where are you presently?
In 1994 Webster University employed me as a full time professor, so I have been with the University teaching, graduate school in International Relations. Presently, I am at Andrews Air force Base. Andrews Air force Base is a very important place in the U.S
Sir how old are you?
As you can see, I am very young, I was born on June 6, 1943, and I was brought up in Lagos, I speak Yoruba fluently more than Agbor language because I grew up in Lagos but I thank God I still speak Agbor language.
How many are you in your family
We are 19, number because my father was a polygamist, On my mother’s side we are seven in number and I am the eldest child.
Can you compare Nigerian Education to that of United States Educational system?
Well, I am not a Sociologist, with the comparison, there is tendency to be partial, being that I live in the United States, If I should say that the United State system is more advanced than that of Nigeria. Both systems are very good in terms of education. This is what I keep on stressing to our people, the institutions are there with the same standard and textbooks for students to develop their knowledge.The institutions will not make the students, it is the students that make themselves out of the institution. If you want to say that the educational system in the . U.S. A is better than the one in Nigeria, that should be a very incorrect statement to be made on my own part because my formative years of education started here in Nigeria. That is where I took my root as far as education is concerned, because that educational root which I got from Nigeria helped me in my Academic endeavor in the United States.
In Nigeria Education system was very sound during our secondary school days, as that placed me in a much advantageous position when I got to the United States. Why I am saying this is that, I was able to compete in graduate examination which is a prerequisite for admission in to various universities across United States. If I were not well rooted during my educational system in Nigeria I would not have been able to pass the examination in the United States. I would say they are more or less equal, but one thing is that the United States has more institutions than Nigeria. In terms of extensive research facilities, the United States as a country has the most resources in the whole world and they can afford all the facilities to develop the students. Out Nigeria as a developing country is limited in terms of facilities to students.Having said that, I will say that I appreciate the educational system in Nigeria and that of the United States equally.
Sir, are you married?
Yes I am married with two kids
Who and who do you attribute your success in life to?
In fact I am very grateful to all those who have helped me in one way or the other, especially my late mother, Mrs. Janet Onyinwa Okoh, I cannot forget her, She made sure all her children studied, if I did not get her support, I would not have been able to go far in life.
What exactly do you think will reduce crime in Ika land?
Unemployment is the reason why there is a lot of crime in the country. We now see graduate driving okada because there are no jobs.
What is your take on development in Ika land.
If you are talking about development, every illustrious son and daughter of Ika land has a role to play. Don’t quote me wrong, the government alone can’t provide everything for the masses. The masses also have to participate in the development agenda, but sometimes people’s ability to do things is hampered because the society lacks basic amenities like water, electricity, and good roads.
What advise do you have for the government particular on youth development My advise for Delta State government in respect of Ika youths is that they should empower them, so as to enable them achieve their goals in life. Ika youths are really making impacts, they are really working hard to make sure that they have a bright future, So the government should ensure that all that the youths deserve in order to be good citizens should be provided for them
Are you really sure that Ika youths are industrious
Yes, as a professor in International Relations, I am fully aware of the industrious nature of Ika youths, and I found out that all they need for them to do better is adequate support. Students should be given scholarship and adequate research facilities to enable them perform well in their chosen fields of study and at the same time compete favorably with their international counterpart. I think if all these things are put in order, the youths will achieve better goal in life.
What is your message to Ika people?
Generally, my message to all Ika indigenes is that we should look into the future with hope and ensure that we. work hard nothing good comes easy.You must be focus and be ready to face challenges, no odd is insurmountable .
What are your prayers for Ika people, particularly the political leaders?
My prayer for our people is that they will prosper in all things. It is also my prayer that God should open the eyes of the government to address the infrastructural problems in Ika land.