Lord Henry Peter Brougham lived between September 19, 1778 and May 7, 1868. As a British statesman, Brougham was involved in the transformation of Great Britain. He participated actively in the birth of the 1832 Reform Act and the 1833 Slave Abolition Act. His greatest weapon in abolishing slavery was education. His most memorable quote: “Education makes a people easy to lead but difficult to drive, easy to govern but difficult to enslave”, remains evergreen. He followed his principle about the invaluable importance of education all through his political careers. The greatest of his achievements was the establishment of the University College London. He later became Rector, University of Edinburgh and also established the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. That is how good leaders transform the lives of their people. But not so with Adamu Adamu and the government he serves as Minister of Education.
Adamu’s Wikipedia entry says: “He is a polyglot and speaks Hausa, English, Persian, Arabic and French”. That is where the beauty of his personage ends. He has been in government as a minister in charge of the nation’s education for almost eight years now. In government and governance, Adamu Adamu is a monumental failure. He admitted that himself on Thursday, November 3, 2022. He spoke at the 66th Meeting of the National Council on Education (NCE), which was held in Abuja. Most media platforms that reported the event had similar and fascinating headlines; “I have failed – Education Minister Adamu Regrets Not Ending Out-of-School Children Crisis”, the platforms reported. We are in the season of elections. Adamu’s ruling APC is seeking a revalidation of the mandates Nigerians gave to it in 2015 and 2019. Like the witches of old confessed their atrocities at the village square, Adamu was out on Thursday to confess his abysmal performance in the Ministry of Education, where he has ruined everything noble and ideal about that sector.
When you look at Adamu and his confession of failure, one cannot divorce him from his appointing authority, President Muhammadu Buhari. The elders say no one can cut the thumb into two and conclude that the head is not a relation of the neck. What the Buhari-led administration cannot destroy does not exist. Or, better still, what the Buhari-led administration has not destroyed since the Daura retired General came to Aso Rock Villa in 2015 does not exist. Fights against corruption and insecurity, which Buhari and his promoters anchored the Daura General’s quest for the presidency on, have since gone to the dogs. Name any segment of Nigeria’s national life that is still standing under the administration; you will find none! But I digress! Let us return to Adamu and his lamentations. The minister, who once walked out on Nigerian students on a live TV interaction, said that he noticed that with almost seven years in the saddle as the Minister of Education, he is the longest serving minister in that ministry. That is highly commendable. Buhari has retained him in that position not because of Adamu’s sterling performances, but because the appointing authority does not appear to have put any measure in place to estimate the performances of his appointees. In a cabinet where the man in charge is truly in charge, an Adamu Adamu would not have lasted six months. So it is not shocking that the man came to openly admit that he had failed. According to him, his priority while coming to the office was to solve the problem of out-of-school children. Amend that to read: “not-in-school children”. Seven years down the line, Adamu’s scorecard reads: “Seven years ago, when I became Minister, I made it (out-of-school-children challenge) my priority and up till this moment, it is my priority. I recently received a phone call from one of our elders where he informed me that I am now the longest-serving Minister of Education. I didn’t know and I didn’t really care because the only thing that worried me was that I came into office with the resolve to remove out-of-school children and I have failed so for seven years. I have been unable to do this”. That is another novel happening in the Buhari regime; where a student will score himself F9 and will still be retained as the Head Boy!
Adamu is from Bauchi State. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), recently released its data on out-of-school-children. According to the report as published by most media in Nigeria on August 26, 2022, Bauchi State has the highest number of 1,239,759 out-of-school children. The records are there in the archives of the Ministry of Education, where Adamu holds sway as the tormentor-in-chief of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, and other allied unions in our universities. It is also not an irony that Katsina State, the home state of President Buhari, follows Bauchi State with 781,500 out-of-school children amongst the educationally-disadvantaged states of the North. In performance, using all indices, Adamu and Buhari are dizygotic twins! One can now see why Buhari has not noticed that Adamu has been a non-performing minister in his cabinet. When an administration has the penchant to reward failure with political patronage like the Buhari administration does, an Adamu will be in that cabinet for its entire lifespan! Why should anybody be worried about Buhari again? A man who steps on his own white garment will not blink an eyelid before he sets another man’s babariga on fire! Little wonder that while the entire country is shouting itself hoarse about the insecurity and mindless bloodletting in the country, Buhari sits in his parlour drinking fura da nunu, picking his teeth while crossing his legs.
But Adamu should not be delusional that he has only failed in the primary education segment. The Bauchi-born “polyglot” (of what use?) should equally know that he has taken our educational architecture back to the Stone Age. While we will concede to him the garland of the longest serving minister of education, we will also like to add to his laurels, the trophy for scoring a hat trick as the only minister of education who has succeeded in keeping our children out of their campuses for nine months in 2022 and eight months in 2022. Yet, we are still on the verge of another ASUU strike! Why Adamu and Buhari have decided to attack education in such a vicious manner requires our collective enquiry.
President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, a clear postulant in esoteric matters, thought he could pacify the wizards of the North by taking their out-of-school-children off the streets. He established 165 Almajiri schools all over the northern zone. When the agents of change kicked him out of power and handed over the leash to Buhari, the first thing the new administration did in 2015 was to discontinue the Almajiri schools’ programme. No explanation was given. One can only hazard a guess. The most probable cause is the lazy argument that the Almajiri phenomenon is a religious thing- an argument that flies in the face of logic when one considers the fact that the elites of the north have their children in choice schools outside the shores of Nigeria.
If indeed Almajiri is all about the Islamic religion, how come that Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) remains one of the most educated prophets in history? If Almajiri is about religion, is the north of Adamu and Buhari more Islamic than Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirate, UAE or Qatar? In the UNICEF report of June 2022, the world body listed the number of out-of-school-children in Saudi Arabia to be 177, 254 (2020); UAE, 947 (2020) and Qatar, 2, 947 (2019). But in Adamu’s Bauchi, the figure is 1,239,759 and Buhari’s Katsina State records 781,500. The ‘two gentlemen’ go to Mecca for the holy pilgrimage. Then you wonder what they learn from the holy land! In Qatar for example, an Education City spanning 12 kilometres was established to house multiple educational and research institutes. This is how one website describes the city: “Education City, our flagship initiative, is a pretty unique place. During just one short walk—or tram ride—around campus, you could be visiting an Ivy League university, cross the street to browse one of the region’s largest libraries, and then attend an open-mic at the neighboring university behind it”. Check how many Nigerian leaders go to these Arab countries for holidays and you will be tempted to wish them ill luck in their next voyage!
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As we speak, due to the lack of fidelity on the part of the current government and its congenital tendencies to always break its own truces, our children will soon be back home as another strike action looms. Following the injunction secured by the government against the eight-month old strike action by ASUU, and the intervention of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, the university lecturers called off the strike on the understanding that 50 percent of their withheld salaries would be paid immediately and the balance spread over months. What did the government do after the lecturers honoured their own side of the bargain? Rather than pay the agreed percentage of the withheld salaries, the Ministry of Labour and Employment advised the government to pay a “pro-rata” salary to the university’s teachers. Olajide Oshundun, the Public Relations Officer for the ministry, while justifying the government’s betrayal of its own cause, said that the lecturers “were paid pro-rata according to the number of days they worked in October. You cannot pay them for work not done. Everybody’s hands are tied”. Crass arrogance. But a more cerebral body, the Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (CVCNU) has faulted that, warning that the Federal Government cannot apply for no work, no pay policy to the university lecturers. Professor Yakubu Ochefu, CVCNU Secretary General, reminded the government that the lecturers reluctantly suspended their eight month-strike on the basis of “trust” and urged the government not to play pranks on the intelligence of the lecturers. You ask me: Ochefu can as well take his counsel to the Marines. This government is not just deaf and dumb; it finds it difficult to comprehend any logic. What will follow Chris Ngige’s “pro-rata” salary for ASUU members is pregnant, nursing a set of triplets and at the same time asking for conjugal benevolence from the husband!
Already, the University of Jos chapter of ASUU has set the ball rolling. On Friday last week, the UNIJOS ASUU asked all its members to stay at home until their withheld salaries are paid. Professor Lazarus Maigoro, the branch chairman of ASUU who issued the directive in UNIJOS said: “In view of the bottleneck placed by Ngige towards paying our members the backlog of our salaries, the congress of ASUU, University of Jos met today 4th November, 2022 and resolved to stay at home, though not on strike until the backlog of the withheld salaries are paid. For the avoidance of doubt, our members are back to work, willing and ready to work but are unable to work. Based on the revised academic calendar for the 2020/2021 session approved by the senate of the university, lectures should have started already but the challenge of lack of payment of salaries has constrained our members from going to the classroom to teach. What this implies is that the students who have resumed already will have to wait indefinitely while we wait for our withheld salaries to be paid to us, unfortunately, the struggle continues”. Game! ASUU, as I was penning this, had called its NEC meeting to review the whole issue. It is now clear, even to the blind that Adamu has not only failed in his “priority” of putting an end to the growing out-of-school-children in Nigeria, he has equally succeeded in making our university undergraduates become not-in-school-children! May posterity judge between us and our leaders of this epoch!