Aisha Buhari, Nigerian education system and the proposed Muhammadu Buhari University
The wife of the president, Aisha Buhari, during a town hall meeting in Adamawa State, on April 20, announced plans to establish a university in honour of her husband. Though she did not reveal where the university would be sited, she said it would be established with partnership from investors from Sudan and Qatar. Why foreign investors? If Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello and their like were alive today, the First Lady and her foreign investors would have been crucified on the cross of true nationalism.
Mrs Buhari, given her special niche in the corridors of power, is an influential woman with a seeming mania for attention. She was the one that exposed the corruption in the Aso Rock Clinic. She was the one that told Nigerians about the faceless cabals frustrating her husband’s government and the sycophants licking his shoes. It would be a betrayal to be proposing a university to be named after her husband when the citizenry need the activist and the humanist in her to be geared towards the championing of the redemption of the comatic Nigerian education system, which during the 2015 and the 2019 election campaigns, her husband promised to improve.
High literacy rate, according to UNESCO, simply suggests the existence of an effective primary education system [not university system] that enables a large proportion of the population to acquire the ability of using written word in daily life and to continue learning. Unfortunately, Nigerian politicians, including Buhari and his wife, seem not to care about Nigerian basic education because their children seldom attend the schools in the country. They do not care that Nigerian literacy rate is pegged at 66.7 per cent, while many African countries are rated higher.
Mrs Buhari, through her huband’s government, should place more premium on the funding and building of more primary and secondary schools, and the upgrading of existing ones; not on a proposed private university whose sole aim would be to enrich some investors, whose fees most Nigerians living below the poverty line would not afford, and more importantly which could not solve the overwhelming education and economic problems of the country.
With her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and her diplomas in beauty therapy, Mrs Buhari is well educated to know that the name of a university is not what does the job, but the quality of research, teaching staff and students in a university. Furthermore, given the lip service her husband’s government has been paying to education, allocating less than a nuisance eight per cent of the national budget to education since 2015 till date, against the fifteen to twenty per cent recommended by the United Nations for developing countries, and the alarming number of out-of-school children in Nigeria, perhaps the highest in the world, naming any university after Buhari now he is still in power, with all these negative indices disgracing the country and his administration, is not the right thing to do.
It is not that Buhari has not achieved some feats in his political stewardship to Nigeria. However, landmarks like universities are not just named after people because they are politicians. They are named after people who have made great impacts in the educational or national life of a country. On the other hand, given that Buhari is a celebrated authoritarian general and a conservative president with a seeming phobia for the academia and the intelligentsias, one may not object if a military barracks or a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) camp is built or named after him.
Furthermore, one wonders if Buhari has made any impact in education or otherwise of this country like Awolowo, Azikiwe and their like. Former President Goodluck Jonathan established nine federal universities in 2011, yet he did not name any one after himself. Some decades ago, the government wanted to rename the University of Nigeria after Nnamdi Azikiwe who founded it in 1955, but he, Azikiwe himself, resisted it till he died in 1996.
Perhaps the problem of Nigerian education system is not the lack of universities, but the lack of and dysfunctional primary and secondary schools. Things started to fall apart when the standards of primary and secondary schools in the country started declining. This decline, because it was not checked, contaminated the tertiary institutions. The advent of private universities, though a welcome development to absorb the teeming university applicants, did not help matters. Even with the rot and impunities in government universities, most of the private ones are not a match for them. These private universities seldom solve pressing national problems. And, the proposed Mahummadu Buhari University (MBU) would not be an exception.
The aspect of the proposed MBU that is giving Nigerians great concern is its funding. Mrs Buhari’s statement as regards the university did not include anything about its funding, except that it would be built with collaborations with investors from Sudan and Qatar. This begs the question: How much would the Buharis contribute to the deal? Nigerians have seen how their past president and vice president have used their commonwealth to build privately-owned university and library; and Buhari, with ‘fight against corruption’ never leaving his lips, regards these past leaders as the most corrupt people in the country.
Moreover, in September 2015, the presidency stated that Buhari has 30 million naira in his account. In March 2019, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said Buhari is perhaps even poorer than he was in 2015. If these were true, the Buharis do not have the financial capacity to establish a university, even with the help of investors. Buhari, his wife and his government, should know that they would be discriminated into the same category with the people they have labelled corrupt for using public fund to build universities and other businesses.
It is unfortunate that Aisha Buhari has allowed herself to be caught in the crossroads of the Nigerian shambolic education system and the proposition of an uncalled-for MBU. History does not remember people because they are named after universities. History remembers people because of their invaluable contributions and long-lasting impacts on humanity. Mrs Buhari should consider the increasing out-of-school children, the rot in primary and secondary schools, and the low literacy rate of the country, particularly in the North where she hails from, and have a rethink. The President and the First Lady should focus on Nigeria and its numerous challenges, because leaders who focus more on their privileges than on their people soon lose both.
Festus Adedayo, in his recent Sunday Tribune column article titled ‘Nigeria and violent revolt of the Almajirai’ stressed a vivid relationship among the reoccurring crimes, the decline in quality of education and the number of out-of-school children in the country. In the article, he stated, “When the uncatered-for children in the North jam the catered-for but jobless children in the South, the clash could be akin to what Marxian theorists call the clash of the thesis and antithesis. Perhaps, the resultant synthesis is what some call a revolution, which Nigeria needs very badly.”
Without mincing words, Nigerians need people like Aisha Buhari to prevent this looming revolution that would plunge the country into disaster. This is the best time Nigerians need Mrs Buhari to speak truth to power, just like she has done in the past. History would remember her more for standing and fighting for the people than building a university with the name of her husband on its walls.
Kingsley Alumona is with the Nigerian Tribune