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Peru presidency: Lessons for teachers in Nigeria

Born in a tiny village in one of Peru’s poorest areas, Pedro Castillo grew up

Pedro Castillo is the newly sworn-in President of the Latin country, Peru. He won the keenly contested election. The BBC news reports that Mr Castillo won after a long and tense election process, defeating his opponent, the daughter of a former president.

Born in a tiny village in one of Peru’s poorest areas, Pedro Castillo grew up helping his illiterate parents with farm work. As a young student, he had to walk for two hours to get to school. He eventually became a schoolteacher, a job he did for 25 years, and a union leader.

And in a meteoric rise to power, despite having no experience in a political office, in 2021 he was elected president of Peru, propelled by votes from the same rural populace he grew up and dined with!

In his historic address, he remarked, “This is the first time that our country will be ruled by a peasant, someone who belongs to those who have been oppressed for so many centuries.

It is difficult to express what a high honour this is for me. The pride and pain of our country runs through my veins.”

However, the challenges before the new president are daunting and enormous but not insurmountable as he outlines a vision for a much-changed country – one where attending universities would be free, but unemployed youths who were not in school would be conscripted by a military redeployed for engineering and public works projects.

Indeed, this will minimise and eradicate youth restiveness in the country.

President Castillo also vowed to rapidly create 1 million new jobs, at least some of them temporary, through public works projects and other kinds of state employment.

The rural teacher also promised to declare a national “emergency” over the need to improve education. He said he would beef up agricultural production, clean up the mining sector and attack the “cancer corruption”.

With this development, it is imperative to call on the Nigerian teachers from elementary school to the universities to get involved in the political process of our country, in order to bring about meaningful change and development. President Castillo has shown the world that the son of nobody can become a president as well.  It is on record that teachers are good managers and have performed well in public offices in the past.

For instance, the first and only Prime Minister in Nigeria, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, was a teacher by profession. The Premier of the Northern Nigeria, Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello, also began his career in teaching. He taught for several years in Sokoto. And of recent, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, the former governor of Kano State, and a present senator, also started his career as a teacher.

Therefore, the teachers performing diligently at various levels of education should be willing to join the league of people aspiring for leadership positions. They should be courageous enough to participate actively in politics. It’s time to eschew resentment, cynicism and passiveness on the part of people who mean well for the country.

The crux of the problem is that people of goodwill, proven character have shunned politics and have allowed incompetent, unschooled and corrupt elements to take over politics and rule the educated people. The infamous phrase that, “Politics is dirty” is illogical and misrepresented, and should be eliminated in our political conversation.

It’s true that if you say you’re not interested in politics, it does not mean politics is not interested in you!

As a people, we must change our mindset and worldview to join the process of electing credible individuals that will govern us, and also to contest for elective positions because many people, especially teachers, have been grooming future leaders for a long time so they possess the credentials for the highest office in the land.

The 1999 Constitution, Section 131, says thus: “A person shall be qualified for election to the office of president if he has been educated up to at least school certificate level or its equivalent”.

It’s time teachers answer this clarion call to liberate the country from the shackles of unprepared leadership.

 

Abdullateef Tanko, founder of the Smile- Face Global Peace Initi, sent in this piece.