Awolowo’s free education has benefited his people —Emir Sanusi

•We can’t be happy about 87% poverty in the North, he says •9 northern states contributing 50% of Nigeria’s malnutrition burden, he adds ‘North will suffer if constitution amendment addresses quota system, federal character’

THE Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammad Sanusi, on Monday, said the free education policy of the sage and Premier of the defunct Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, has greatly benefited the people of the region.

The emir disclosed this at the 60th birthday anniversary of the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, as he charged the governor to continue his reform on education.

At a ceremony held at Sir Kashim Ibrahim Government House, the emir said “there is the story of Chief Obafemi Awolowo when he started the free education in the South-West.

“Some people demonstrated it and the women came out naked. The fathers refused to pay taxes. He has to force them to pay.

“Today, all those people whose parents were complaining or against the policy then are thankful as they are professors, doctors and engineers.”

The traditional ruler said the North must change and embrace education just like the South-West if it would come out of its present state of backwardness, adding that anything contrary, the North would destroy itself.

“We have been saying this for 20 to 30 years. If the North does not change, the North will destroy itself. The country is moving on. The quota system that everybody talks about must have a sunset clause,” he said.

According to the first-class monarch,’ When we talk about birthday, we talk about happiness.

“Just last week, someone asked me, are you happy? I said ‘I am not.’ And the person was surprised. Nobody who is a leader in Northern Nigeria today can afford to be happy. You cannot be happy about 87 per cent of poverty in Nigeria being in the North.

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“You can’t be happy with millions of Northern children out of school. You can’t be happy with nine states in the North contributing almost 50 per cent of the entire malnutrition burden in the country.

“You can’t be happy with the drug problem, you can’t be happy with the Boko Haram problem. You can’t be happy with political thuggery. You can’t be happy with all the issues the Almajiri problem that we have.

“So, we wish Nasir a happy birthday, but we do not want him to be happy as a leader. Because you are happy when you think you have reached a state of delivering and taking your people to where you want them to be,” he added.

Sanusi, who is the chairman of the Kano State Council of Chiefs, noted that because of the condition of Northern Nigeria, if anyone as a governor in the North or leader continued to do what the predecessors had been doing and normalizing it, then there is something wrong with such person.

“The real change in the North will come from those who are considered mad people, because you look around and say if this is the way we have been doing things, and this is where we have ended up, maybe we need to do things differently.

“If we have populated the government with middle-aged men, maybe we need to try younger people, maybe we need to try women. If we have spent our money and time on physical structures, maybe we need to invest more in the education of our children. Maybe we need to invest more in nutrition. Maybe we need to invest more in primary healthcare.

“And the truth is, if you look at what Nasir is doing in Kaduna, with 40 per cent of his budget in education, that is the only thing that is going to save the North. I know that, when we say these things, they don’t go down well.

“The reason that people like Nasir stand up and they are nationalists is that they don’t have any sense of inadequacy. You don’t need to rise on being from Kaduna State or being from the North or being a Muslim to get a job, you come with your credentials, you go with your competence, you can compete with any Nigerian from anywhere.

“We need to get our northern youths to a point where they don’t need to come from a part of the country to get a job. And believe me, if we don’t listen, there would be a day when there would be a constitutional amendment that addresses these issues of a quota system and federal character.

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“The rest of the country cannot be investing, educating its children, producing graduates and then they watch us, they can’t get jobs because they come from the wrong state when we have not invested in the future of our own children,” he said.

Also speaking at the event, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, said that the country is at a crossroads, stressing that there was the need for leaders from the six geopolitical zones to come together and discuss the unity of the country.

According to him, what was needed in the country today is not building infrastructures alone but the capacity building of the people.

“Nothing has been done to address the multifaceted problems bedevilling the country like the issue of out-of-school children. To me, this is a time bomb.

“Those of us in leadership positions, we know what we need to do. We need to have courage and commitment and sustain them.

“Nigeria is at a crossroads and more than ever now require the unity of the people. The issues bedevilling Nigeria today requires that all leaders, at all levels and in all parts of Nigeria, need to come together,” he said.

Lawan, therefore, called on the Federal Government to immediately introduce policies that would return the over 13 million out-of-school-children back to school, so as to curb the rising number of illiteracy in Nigeria.

The Senate President said the report of 13 million or 14 million out-of-school children mostly in the North was dangerous for the country.

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Earlier, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, had paid tribute to Governor el-Rufai, saying that Nigeria needed leaders like him who would take tough decisions to achieve great results.

He described the governor as a small-statured man with a massive engine capable of pulling anything to achieve the result.

While thanking everyone who has been part of his success story, Governor El-Rufai said the most daring of the decisions he had ever made in selecting a woman and Muslim as running mate.

According to him, the choice of Dr Hadiza Balarabe was made to take religion and ethnicity off the table in Kaduna State.

The governor lamented that he inherited a state where everything had been religionised and ethnicised, adding that his government was implementing a pragmatic agenda because it wanted to solve the problem to make Kaduna home of pride for every Nigeria.

“A lot has been said about some decisions I have taken over the years, what people call daring decisions. Let me make a confession today, all the examples of the decisions I have made that are supposed to be daring and courageous, the most daring one is that last year, I picked a woman, a Muslim as my running mate to contest election in Kaduna State.

“It was the most daring decision I have taken because, in this state, everything is religionised. If you invite someone to lunch, he would try to put religion connotation to it.

“We are trying to cure our state of that religion nation and ethnicisation and I thought the best way to do it is to take religion off the table of Kaduna State politics. That was why we finally settled for Dr Hadiza Balarabe.

“She confessed to me months after we had won the election that when I called to inform her of her nomination as my running mate, she thought, ‘oh, this man is going to lose the election because of me.’ But, we won. And I say we probably won because of her, not the other way round.

“I have been blessed to have hard-working, intelligent people around me, who do all the work while I end up taking the credit that I don’t deserve,” he said.

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