Professor Remi Sonaiya needs no introduction in the Nigerian political scene as she was the only female presidential candidate in the 2015 General Elections. In this interview with EduCeleb.com, the retired professor of French and Applied Linguistics at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife talks about politics, education and development.
What is your evaluation of the state of language education in Nigeria today?
I would wish that we pay more attention to French because of its importance in our sub-region. If we were to talk about languages in general, I think that the emphasis on science and technology tend to have diverted attention from the importance of the humanities and definitely from languages. What we see is that the level of competence has gone down a lot.
In terms of English, for instance, very poor English is being spoken in Nigeria today. I honestly hope that we would be able to reverse this trend.
What do you think can be done about improving proficiency in French in Nigeria?
We have to start teaching it early. If it is introduced early and we have qualified teachers with competence (things would be different). This is not limited to French.
Teachers need constant upgrading of their skills so that they would be able to give the best to their students.
You were in the political scene before the last elections. What motivated your involvement in that?
I was interested in a Nigeria that was better run. Given the resources available to us as a nation, I find it very shameful that we are living the quality of life that we have as citizens of Nigeria.
We are much richer in terms of both human and natural resources and our standard of living. I realised that it is the politicians that determine the quality of our lives.
So, I thought that it would be important for good quality people to also go into politics.
Do you still have future political ambition?
Hmm… I’m interested in the development of Nigeria. There is noway that politics does not play a role in the development of the country.
So, definitely, I am going to be in politics for a long time – for as long as I live. It doesn’t mean that I will constantly be running for office. But I’m definitely interested in political outcomes.
Would you make a case for an educationist as Minister of Education in Nigeria considering that most previous appointees are career politicians?
I believe that what we need are competent people in every position. Our focus should be on people who know what right and are able to get the right people to do the job.
You don’t have to do the job yourself. You just have to get people do it well.
So, it doesn’t matter if they are educationists or not?
Being a minister is more of management. Yes, you should be knowledgeable about the area. But it is really more about the proper management of resources.
What’s your message for women and girls out there…?
(cuts in) No, I wouldn’t answer that. It’s not about women or girls. It’s about citizenship. I don’t want people to be constantly asking me about women and girls. If you’re interviewing a man, you are not going to be asking that.