Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, says the country’s security challenges are a consequence of the 1975 coup d’état.
The coup, which took place on July 29, 1975, overthrew Yakubu Gowon and brought Murtala Muhammed to power.
Speaking when he featured on Channels Television’s Newsnight on Monday, Mohammed said the lead discussant at the town-hall meeting on national security organised by the federal government narrated how the Gowon government was planning to ensure free and compulsory primary education for children of school age.
He said the decision was arrived at then, as part of efforts to avoid another civil war in the country.
The minister said, regrettably, the idea was jettisoned after the 1975 coup which sacked Gowon.
He said failure to execute the plan is responsible for Nigeria’s large number of out-of-school children.
According to him, militant and insurgent groups have a ready army to recruit from the country’s 13.2 million out-of-school children, hence the heightened insecurity in Nigeria.
“The fact is that in 1973, we were informed by the lead discussant and that the government of the day then had a retreat and said there must be a national pledge that what is that thing that we must do to ensure that we did not go through another civil war.
The government of that day came out with a decision that what will prevent another civil war is to ensure that anybody born after January 1970 has free and compulsory primary education,” Mohammed said.
“Regrettably that administration was overthrown two years later and all the lofty ideas and all the preparations that were needed to ensure that every child of school age acquired free and compulsory education were jettisoned.
“And we are paying the price today because if you have 13.2 million children of school-age out of school that is the market which Boko Haram, bandits, IPOB and other militants, that is the market where they recruit people.”
The minister said it was consequently resolved at the town-hall meeting that all three levels of government “must ensure that we go back to that and ensure at least free primary education for the first nine years for each child”.