Education: PMB not leading by example
Prof Abdussamad Umar Jibia
Late Alhaji Wada Nas was a prolific writer, an astute politician and a former Minister of state for Education and later Special duties in the regime of Late General Sani Abatcha. When the military relinquished power in 1999 he joined the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and was vividly in the train of Buhari campaign when the retired General joined politics in 2002.
Many people remember him for different things but one thing I always remember Wada Nas for was his advocacy for a law banning Government officials from taking their children to private schools. The Funtua born politician started calling for the enactment of that law when he was a minister in Abatcha regime. But in military regime civilian appointees had limited say as they were not members of the Supreme military council or the Armed Forces Ruling Council whose prerogative it was to make decrees and/or repeal same.
When I saw Nas in Buhari campaign train, it gave me more courage to continue to support the General. At least there will be some level of sanity in the Education sector. The good old days in which an almajiri like me was in the same class as the governorís child shall be back. The practice of Government officials taking their children abroad while killing our local universities or to private schools while leaving our public schools to rot will soon be over. Wada Nas died along the way but my confidence in Buhari as the best person to solve the problems of the Nigeriaís education sector remained intact.
Politicking, elections and PDP rigging continued until 2015 when the time came and our votes counted. Our own man had won, not under ANPP or CPC but in the name of another concoction unknown to Late Wada Nas. It is a new party called APC. The nomenclature didnít matter. We were happy.
During the campaign preceding the 2015 election, Alhaji Aminu Masari, the APC gubernatorial candidate of Katsina state came to Kano to address Katsina indigenes living in Kano. One of the things he promised to do as he told those of us who were in Royal Tropicana Hotel that day was that he will make a law banning all senior Government officials, elected or appointed including himself from taking their children to private schools. If Masari, who was seen as PDP man in progressives skin could do that why not PMB? Thus for people like me, it was a dream come true when PMB became the president.
I must confess that up to May 2015 I knew very little about PMBís family. I knew he was married to one Hajiya Safinatu who was said to come from Mani in Katsina state. According to the rumuors, when Buhari was in detention after the 1985 coup she kept visiting Maryam Babangida. When Buhari was released and he learnt about it he divorced her and married a 20 year old girl from Adamawa state. How many children did Buhari have from his first wife and from the Adamawa lady? Up to what level were they educated and where? What is the nature of relationship between Buhariís children and his new wife? Even by way of rumuor I didnít know.
By the way, what was Buhariís view about educational institutions being run with public funds? I knew General Buhari the Head of State removed feeding subsidy from public universities. That was just before I enrolled as a Predegree student in Bayero University. Although I didnít meet the subsidy, people who enjoyed it were not happy with Buhari. But life then was not as harsh as it is now; so it could continue. I didnít know about anyone who dropped out of the university due to the removal of feeding subsidy but I know people suffered and they were not happy.
When, after PMB took over in 2015, pictures of his childrenís convocation in a UK university flooded the public space my disappointment began. How can someone who has been the massesí choice in his struggle to become the President feel that the schools being attended by massesí children are not good enough for his own? Well, he was not the yet the president when he registered his children for degree programmes in the UK, I decided to give him that benefit of doubt.
This Tuesday, the third of December 2019 I was forced to withdraw that benefit of doubt. The Adamawa wife of Mr. President has posted the pictures of her daughterís graduation from a foreign university. I wouldnít want to believe that the mother of this girl registered her daughter against the wish of the President. That would be a total condemnation of the man I love so much. But what message is the President sending by registering his daughter to follow a degree programme in a foreign university when he is the President? That Nigerian universities under his watch are not good? That he doesnít want his children to mix with the children of people who lost their lives in the struggle to see that he become the president, people who drank gutter water and trekked hundreds of kilometers out of joy that he won election?
That he spent his personal money to educate her is not a valid explanation. What made his money personal when he has confessed to being a public servant all his life? Umar bn Alkhattab reduced his salary when he realized that it was in excess of his daily needs. Where did Mr. President, a public servant for life get excess money to send his daughter abroad? But even if the daughter is sponsored by a friend or a relation, PMB is not supposed to allow it for the bad impression it gives about himself and his government.
If we add this to the poor budgetary allocation to education since PMB came to power and the way his administration is condemning public universities as parasites who must join the killer IPPIS against money-generating agencies who are exempted, one cannot help being disappointed.
Finally, is PMB now telling us that Masari, ElRufai and other Ďboysí who are known to take their children to public schools are better than him or did they make a mistake?