Buhari’s Reign of Error

Hometruths By Adeola Akinremi, Email: adeola.akinremi@thisdaylive.com

Believe me; President Muhammadu Buhari should face stiff political headwinds, if he goes against his conscience to seek re-election. Look everywhere, but at the truth. In April 2015, days before his inauguration, Buhari penned an op-ed for the New York Times. It was a clever propaganda to present himself to the world as a ready-man. In that op-ed, Buhari quoted former South African President, Nelson Mandela, to make essential his message.

“Boosting education will be a direct counterbalance to Boko Haram’s appeal,” reads the op-ed. “In particular we must educate more young girls, ensuring they will grow up to be empowered through learning to play their full part as citizens of Nigeria and pull themselves up and out of poverty. Indeed, we owe it to the schoolgirls of Chibok to provide as best an education as possible for their fellow young citizens.”

But statistics don’t lie. It is incontestable that Mr. Buhari ditched his words on making education a prime part of his work in Aso Rock. He started by cutting budget to education. We all know that budgets are statements of priority, but Buhari’s budgets for education since he came to power send clear message that education is not his priority.

True, the budgetary allocation to education under Buhari paled in comparison to what his predecessor had given, and in defiance to what the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), recommends.

Here is the figure: In the 2017 government budget, N448.01billion was allocated to education, representing about six per cent of the N7.30 trillion budget, a far less investment in education per UNESCO recommendation. Of the allocated fund, N398.01billion was allocated to recurrent expenditure (wages and salaries etc) and the balance of N50 billion allocated to capital projects (building of schools etc).

In 2016, N367.73 billion was budgeted for education—a decrease from the allocations during the Jonathan years.
The figures for the Jonathan years include N492.34 billion in 2015, N493 billion in 2014, N426.53 billion in 2013, N400.15billion in 2012, N306.3 billion in 2011 and N249.086 billion in 2010.

Admittedly, it is unfair to compare Goodluck Jonathan regime to Buhari administration, but education tippy-toed under Jonathan—he increased budgets and built new universities. His budgets for education remain the largest contributions to the sector since 1999—something that placed him above Buhari in commitment to education.

Mr. Buhari has neglected the promise he made on the memory of Nelson Mandela, that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” So the headwinds should come from the students who have seen how budget cut to education made it impossible for them to get quality education from elementary to tertiary level. The headwinds should come from the students who continue to face frustration in finding acceptance into colleges, because the facilities are not there to increase the annual quotas the universities can admit. The headwinds should come from the undergraduates who have had their graduation date extended, because the teachers went on strike over unpaid wages and decrepit state of facilities at our ivory towers. The headwinds should come from the university teachers who had their colleagues (Vice Chancellors of 12 new federal universities) sacked in February 2016, by Buhari, before reason prevailed on him to restore them to their positions.

Really, this is an important moment in our history, when politicians seeking to protect nepotism and the beneficiaries of the old order are out to make us feel like dummies. It is impossible to say too often or loudly how we feel about this government. The number of youngsters who couldn’t make it to universities should remind us. The figure of 13.2 million out of school children, the largest in the world should unite us to push for true change.

Why did Buhari choose April 14, 2015, the memorial of the Kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls to write an op-ed for New York Times and not any Nigerian newspaper? It is one of two things: not his idea or he was brainwashed.
If he wanted to genuinely speak to Nigerians about his commitment to education, he will probably use any of Nigeria’s first tier newspapers.

Granted, he wanted to appeal to international community, but the tone of the op-ed suggested he was having conversation more with Nigerians.

This is what I think: well-off consultants in search of rich rewards may have persuaded Buhari as president-elect to have the op-ed under his byline. The hunt for cash rather than genuine concern for Nigeria may have prompted it. As it turns out, it’s not straight from Buhari’s heart.

Rebecca Winthrop, director of the Centre for Universal Education and senior fellow at U.S.-based Brookings Institution followed up on Buhari’s op-ed, telling him “This will take strong political leadership not only from him but all the way down the chain. And, it will take a sustained commitment to ensuring the north’s education system receives its fair share of resources.”

But that has not happened. Individuals, scholars, experts, groups, activists, senators, even his own minister in the Education Ministry have asked Buhari to declare emergency in education, yet he has been reluctant.

Last November, the Minister of Education Adamu Adamu, told Buhari of the danger of his poor investment in education and the need to declare immediate emergency, still Mr. President turned-deaf ears.

“Mr. President, to achieve the desired change that education needs, there is the need for improved funding and a measure of political will in national governance,” Adamu said. “Such is the weight of the problems that beset our education and the deleterious effect it has had on our national development efforts that I believe that this retreat should end with a declaration of a state of emergency in education so that we can face the challenges frontally and squarely.”

I doubt, even if Buhari declares state of emergency in education, he may still go to sleep. He has antecedent in doing do.
As a candidate, Buhari gave a “do not lose hope” message to Nigerians on January 1, 2015. In a statement by Dele Alake, the director of communications for Buhari Campaign Organisation, Mr. Buhari explained what change means this way: “A Nigeria where citizens get the education that is competitive and outcome-oriented in a knowledge-economy.”

Rhetorically he asked, “Are these things truly possible?” “Of course. That is the essence and outcome of leadership, and that is what my party and I promise you as we get into 2015,” he answered his own query. He even said: “I have faith that 2015 is the year we shall begin to write a new story –a story of genuine investment in our children and students be they in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka or in the Delta State University, Abraka.”

Sadly, Buhari’s leadership is ineffective in education. The lack of political will has made the states to give paltry investment to education since he came to power. The message is simple: the president shillyshallied on education.

And when you look at many data on our students’ mobility, you will agree that another four year term for Buhari will be a waste of time.
The World Education Service, a global nonprofit organisation that provides credential evaluations for international students recently alerted colleges in the United States and Canada to the problem with education in Nigeria as their own opportunities.

“The continued outward drive is likely due in no small measure to the lack of options at home: The nation produces some 1.5 million high school graduates each year. Only a quarter to a third can find placement in the country’s own institutions,” the WES report reads.
I will be the first to admit that it is hard to trust politicians, but the trust placed in Buhari to reform education was not a political trust. It was moral trust. That public trust is what Buhari has violated by not fixing the education sector since he came to power.

The promise of “genuine investment in our children and students, be they in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka or in the Delta State University, Abraka…” has been broken.

Truth is hard. Buhari has no passionate personal commitment to education, despite coming from a region where education is a big concern. There’s nothing in his heart to create equal opportunity for kids to receive quality education in order to have chance in their future. He cannot be trusted with another four years. It didn’t take me much effort to come to that conclusion.

Side Effects

Duke’s Daring Move
We all know Donald Duke. The former governor of Cross River State, who turned the city of Calabar into a beehive for tourism lovers in December of every year, is set to test the strength of disruptive politics in Nigeria. The suave and superstar politician wants to be president in 2019. This is a clear dare move in the face of Nigeria’s ‘analogue politics’ that prioritise ethnicity above individual rights to seek political office. Who knows, Duke may be walking into OBJ’s Coalition of Nigeria (OCN). I welcome anyone who dares like Duke. If he wins, we will call it the season of Donalds, but not in the sense of current American politics.

Elumelu’s Exchange
The pilgrimage to Omaha, NE, in the United States, by business leaders to take lessons from America’s business magnate, investor and philanthropist, Warren Buffet, is happening in Nigeria.
This time, the pilgrimage is to Nigeria’s stylish banker and billionaire businessman,

Tony Elumelu.
Well-known for his Africapitalist idea, budding entrepreneurs and business leaders are coming from all over Africa to sit at Elumelu’s feet.
It is interesting to also see the military leaders sitting at Elumelu’s feet recently to take business lessons on self-reliance in the production of military hardware and other sophisticated weaponry for the country’s national security.
In sharing his business experience with others, Elumelu, a noble business mogul, who has his hands in almost every business you can think of with love for mankind as a philanthropist, is building unusual legacy that we are all proud of as Nigerians. Thank you Tony!

OBJ’s Ballet and Bullet

After doing the “doctoral dance” with his wife the previous night to celebrate his doctoral award, the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, reached for his bullet the day after. It was interesting to know that his victim would be President Muhammadu Buhari—a man he campaigned for to such an extent that he called it quit with his own political party, the Peoples Democratic Party. This letter to Buhari will be the third time Obasanjo is using published letter against a sitting president with whom he once had fellowship. He did with Umaru Yar’Adua, and Goodluck Jonathan. He has done similar thing with some chairmen of PDP and even his longtime friend, late Chief Sunday Awoniyi. They all went down. Will Buhari go down with OBJ’s letter? Time they say, will tell.

Downtown at Davos
Once a special bride, Nigeria is not one of the biggest stories from the World Economic Forum (WEF) this year. We started taking steps backward in the last two years with no serious efforts to reinforce economic ties with countries that were in courtship with us. It is a lesson in foreign relations that this government placed at the bottom. But I got one sound bite from the chief executive officer of Diamond Bank, Uzoma Dozie. ‘‘I am here to tell the Nigerian story, how we are using new technology to drive financial inclusion,” he said. Let’s just call Nigeria’s show at WEF a downtime and not meltdown for now.

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