Governor Nasir el-Rufai may jolly well be an impostor or a Smart Alec. Or a genuine patriot who is bothered by governmental mis-contributions to the massive underdevelopment in the land. This is because he mirrors the traits of these three persons. He is suave, calculative, effervescent and, if you like, mercurial. Why the first two epithets of genuineness and patriotism may not rightly fit him is if you remember his brutal bluntness as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory FCT) under Olusegun Obasanjo. He dispensed pain with the carefree attitude of a cold-blooded murderer but he stuck to his guns that it was all aimed at making the FCT a better place to live. Today, Abuja residents would tell you that el-Rufai’s cold-blooded governance of the FCT is the precursor of the aesthetics that is enjoyed in the city today.
As governor, this seeming conjurer with a swagger stick has also let out some birds from his magic box. His brutal frankness and unconventional governance have been the norm in his Kaduna State home. During the week, the diminutive governor let out another bird. This time, it was to enroll his three-year old child, Al-Siddique el-Rufai, in Islamiyya Play/Early School in Kaduna, a public school. This is ostensibly a demonstration of leadership to other Nigerian leaders whose penchant for acting the converse of what they preach is legendary. Whether he was acting out a script like a demagogue does, or he was exhibiting the mercurial trait of calculative impostor, the fact remains that el-Rufai’s public example of enrolling his child in a public school chronicles him as about the first Nigerian ruler in recent time to tow the path of a leadership that does not enunciate policy in Mars and live in Jupiter.
The bane of Nigerian leadership has always been that they are so near yet so distant from the people they govern. It is akin to the parable of the baker who cannot stand the bakery. The paradox is that, while in the latter, the house that is divided against itself will surely fall, in the former, Nigerian leaders have been externalizing themselves from the very broth they cook without an adverse effect on them. For, how do you contextualize a President who is preaching a good country but whose children do not partake of the country supposedly inching towards goodness? How do you have a minister who, at the snap of a finger, is in the air to countries that have overcome the drudgery of existence and are almost an El-dorado? How does such a leader appreciate the colour of national progress or its tenor?
Take for instance, education. Nigerian leaders are the guiltiest of the current stasis in that sector. While they claim to be investing in education, they scarcely have their children school in the country. They pay heavily with our stolen money to fund these children in Ivy League schools abroad, yet proclaim redemption or redemptive steps that they are allegedly taking on the path of making education worthwhile.
The other day, the President and his spouse celebrated the graduation of their children from high-brow universities in the UK in a nation where recession is gripping the throats of his constituents and the people live on less than 50 cents a day. Virtually all the governors of the federation have their children in high-brow schools abroad, paying heavily with our stolen money. While, for the sake of argument, you can excuse their stealing us blind, who can legitimize taking such stolen wealth to other nations’ economies for the betterment of the progenies of those who threw out our forefathers from the slave ship into the sea at the approach of slave raiders and when sea illnesses gripped them, believing it was uneconomical to ferry sickly slaves across?
The day Nigerian leaders bakers begin to stay in their bakery, love the bakery, eat from the bakery, partake of its comfort and discomfort, Nigeria would be on its way out of its problems. A sincere leadership would make a move towards ensuring that the National Assembly criminalizes any public official owning houses abroad and sending their wards abroad. States’ Houses of Assembly should also criminalize any attempt by state public officials to enroll their children and wards in private schools, not to talk of taking them outside the country. This will be a sure remedy to the stagnation and the sorry pass that our educational system has become.
The logic is, there is no way a governor whose children attend a public school will not make urgent and redemptive moves to tame the slide therein. Because public officials have externalized themselves from education of their respective states and the country at large, it becomes rather easy for them to treat it peremptorily. It is an anathema to send one’s wards to a Nigerian public school today as it is akin to grafting them into a sure bleak future. This is because the governors and their public official allies have conspiratorially destroyed education in Nigeria by their passive involvement in their affairs.
This is why, all lovers of goodwill should commend the Smart Alec spirit or the public-spirited goal of Governor El-Rufai in taking his child to a public school. It could be a mere tokenism but it is a sure pointer to the path that the country and its leadership must tread if indeed we all seek redemption for this country that is gasping for breath. As an aside, this writer was in Rotimi Amaechi’s Rivers State in 2013 and visited many public schools in the state. It was like one was in Paradise. Primary schools had stand-by generators, clinics, with each pupil having a computer in his front and model secondary schools, said to be in all the councils, were like an average university here in the South West in standard, with Indian teachers to boots. The trend then, I learnt, was that parents were withdrawing their wards from private schools to Amaechi’s public schools. Is the trend still operative?