Let me begin this piece with the saying of Nelson Mandela that “Education is the best weapon you can use to change the world,” and that of the youngest Nobel Laureate and human right activist, Malala Yousafzai, “All I want is Education and I am afraid of no one.”
A critical perusal of these aforementioned quotations, it will be safe to hit the nail on the head that education is an integral and sine qua non to the development of every nation. Education is indeed an eye opener to the people in all area of ramification. Education is all encompassing as there is no aspect of life that does not require education for its development and progress. It is against this backdrop that every government and leader that does not make educating its citizenry a priority should not be taken serious because even as parents, education is the best legacy we can give to our children. It is therefore the duty and the responsibility of a every responsible government both at the Federal, state and the local government to provide a qualitative and affordable education for its citizenry. Education is a constitutional right of every citizen of Nigeria and the government have a duty and responsibility in creating an enabling and conducive environment for learning.
Meanwhile, after the return of Democratic governance in Nigeria since 1999, I have observed with keen interest without prejudice that to my knowledge and on available records, the likes of a performing and an indefatigable Governor like Mallam Nasir El- Rufai are not many. His sincerity to governance is second to none and he is “primus interpares”. More especially in the aspect of educational reforms. He is More proactive and pragmatic to the development of education sector in Kaduna state that I suggests other Governors should also take a cue from him. His actions right from his first tenure and that of his recent development is highly commendable. On a more sincere note, his focus on education could only be compared with that of Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s unprecedented achievement in the western region when he was the premier western region in the sixties. Most of his people enjoyed free and qualitative education then.
As an advocate of good governance and human rights, it is not in my nature to praise political office holders unless they are worthy of commendation. And perhaps a political office is a call to serve the people efficiently and effectively. It is therefore axiomatic that sovereignty belongs to the people as enshrined in section 14(2)a of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended. However, as a believer in one Nigeria and putting sentiment aside, political, religion or tribal difference should not be a yardstick in public analysis and criticism. Personally, my view and perception of most Governor’s in Nigeria is that of corruption and highhandedness. But El-Rufai and very few Governors have impressed me since 1999, especially on their quest to make education affordable to the common man and revival of the public primary and secondary schools.
The former Governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomole and currently the APC National chairman tried his part during his tenure in reviving public schools.The former Governor of Osun state and the current minister of interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola also tried in fixing infrastructure in public schools during his days as the chief executive.
The current Governor of Oyo state, Seyi Makinde also displayed some seriousness in education within the shortest time as governor. Among them is the reduction of the fees of the state owned university, scholarship to law graduates at law school and settlement of arrears of teachers. They tried but El-rufai is all encompassing because he had laid a precedent in the educational sector where he began with the sacking of unqualified teachers and replacing them with more qualified ones. Although it generated a lot of criticisms from most quarters more especially from the National Union of teachers and the labor unions. Their reactions should be expected since they are there to protect the interest of their members which is in contrast with the good intention and sincerity of Mallam Nasir to also protect the future of Kaduna state children and posterity. It is better for a leader to make unpopular decisions sometimes as long as he has good intention and the wherewithal to accomplish that decision. We need to strengthen our institutions and change the status quo. Mallam El-rufai also srived in the revamping of the educational sector of Kaduna state by construction and rehabilitation of dilapidated structures of public schools in order to ease the suffering of students and pupils and thereby providing an enabling environment for learning.
The major quality required of a leader is the fulfillment of promise and democracy is a social contract and a bound between the people and the government. It is therefore the duty of a responsible government to fulfill its electoral promises. El-rufai had displayed this unprecedented and exemplary leadership in keeping to his electoral bound. The recent one is the promise he made to the people of Kaduna state that he is going to enroll his son, Abubakar Sadiq into a public primary school if he reaches the age of six years whether he is re elected or not. He made the statement two years ago when his son was four years of age. I was so impressed that he actually fulfilled that promise. This is indeed a challenge to most Governors and other public office holders because if their children attends public schools with the children of the poor, they will deem it fit to put the facilities of the public schools in place and the days of diverting funds meant for public schools will be over. It is sad to know that most of the so called elites of today attended public schools in their days. Some schools like Barewa college Zaria, Government secondary schools across States, federal government colleges, Technical colleges etc. But what they feel to give back to their alma mata is neglect and deprivation.
Furthermore, another giant stride by the El-rufai administration is the fulfilment and implementation of the 30 thousand naira minimum wage to workers. He promised to pay by September 2019 and he fulfilled his promise. It will be recalled that the National assembly recently passed the long over due minimum wage into law and it is therefore imperative for the federal and the state government to implement it as required by law. El-rufai was the first to implement this even before the federal government. He also added special packages for teachers, particularly teachers in the rural areas.
Therefore, this is why Governor Nasir El-rufai will continue to earn my respect because he has laid a solid foundation on education, more especially the revamping and revival of public schools that have generally suffered neglect in Nigeria. The rest of the Governor’s, political office holders and the elites in general should take a cue from this indefatigable leader by putting an end in sending their children to private schools and abroad to acquire education.Because if they fail to educate the children of the poor, it will come back to hunt them and their children. Thank God this statement was once made by Senator Kashim Shettima, the former Governor of Bornu state on the need to revamp the educational sector at the floor of the Senate, after the inauguration of the 9th Senate earlier this year. The aftermath of this neglect is glaring throughout the states in Nigeria where criminality is now the order of the day. Kidnapping and armed robbery are now lucrative businesses across board. It is better other political office holders follow the part of El-Rufai for posterity. This is indeed a challenge to many and Mallam Nasir El-rufai is a role model, an exemplary leader and he is indeed worthy of emulation.
Nurudeen Idris, is an Author, Public Affairs Analyst, Advocate of Good Governance and Human rights.
He writes from Ilorin and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.