Gov. Aper Aku’s Lesson for Kwankwaso,By Garba Shehu

garbaShehu 600The hard-working Governor of Kano State, Engineer Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso scored high marks with the Transparency International in Nigeria, TIN for out-performing the 35 other Governors in matters of budget discipline and transparency in governance.

My interest in his administration is in respect of his education and I will say my reasons.

The state government made the news when they decided to dispatch 500 university graduates to 14 different countries to undertake higher degree studies. Shortly after, they announced the sponsorship of 200 students to study medicine abroad. The government is currently sponsoring 100 students in Jordan who are training as pilots. Two weeks ago, this governor announced that 100 female students are also being sponsored abroad to read medicine.

In addition to all these, there are reports that there are 300 students currently being processed for sponsorship by the state to read for first degrees at three prestigious universities here in Nigeria, the Crescent University, Abeokuta; Bells University at Ota and the American University of Nigeria, Yola. Money in billions of Naira is being spent to undertake these sponsorships. In terms of real politik, it takes courage for a politician to invest massively in projects such as education that have no visibility. If a governor builds 1000 houses, these new homes will be on display as a mark of achievement. So are roads, flyovers and storey buildings. When you invest in education, scholars say it takes 16 years for the education circle to be complete. If a governor will count the gains of his investment in education, it will be at a time well past his tenure and requirements for re-election.

This was the kind of vision that the late Second Republic Governor of Benue State, Mr. Aper Aku had. He didn’t do many roads and other physical infrastructure. His people were very impatient with him and called him a “do-nothing-Governor” and other derogatory names. But Aper Aku was investing very wisely in human capital . He deployed a massive chunk of the state’s resources in funding scholarships. Benue indigenes, irrespective of tribe or creed picked up graduate scholarships on demand. I was to see the result of this man’s foresight on a visit to the United States of , years after the governor had died.

As part of a group on a U.S. government – sponsored tour to understudy the under-pinnings of the U.S. foreign policy, we were subjected to a briefing in the White House, the Federal Reserve, at the leading media and many other places. At the Capitol, which is the equivalent of our , this international group was shown a petition signed by 40 ethnic Tiv professors of Nigerian origin who had successfully got the United States government to slap a series of sanctions against the Nigerian government for its act of genocide against the Tiv in Odi, Benue State.

This particular sanction, if I remember well, disallowed the sale of a certain line of technology products to Nigeria. The nature of the sanction was repetitive, which is to say that it will subsist and remain a feature of each year’s budget until a redress was obtained by the way of the payment of full compensation for the killings by the Nigerian government.

Much later, a Federal High Court in Enugu, Nigeria followed up with an award of a little over Forty-one Billion Naira to the victims’ families although the money still unpaid.

The important thing the late Aper Aku did was to empower his people with education. To be useful to Benue State, its people and people of Nigeria, they don’t have to be resident in Nigeria. It is also important to note that all but a few of these professors got into the United States using scholarship Aper Aku had given.

The more important message Benue and now Kano are sending to all of Nigeria is that human , not oil is the short-cut to national . Another thing is that quality education cannot be available to those wealthy enough to send their children abroad. Lastly, we must appreciate that to ensure standards and quality at home, Nigerians must gain exposure to the international environment.

I myself have respect for the education system in the country otherwise I would have renounced my own degrees.

In the 60s, 70s and the 80s, Nigerian Universities produced graduates that have made other countries great. I therefore don’t have any doubts that we produce quality graduates at home although there are lingering concerns about drop in quality.

Some, in fact many of our universities are in a shambolic state. Perhaps the biggest problem they have is their alienation from the world – they lack money to buy journals; money to sponsor academics to conferences abroad or do collaborative researches, all of these that can them to compare themselves with other universities around the globe. Our universities have to engage the rest of the world. That is why they are called universities – the word universal is contained in the name university.

A silver-lining in the sky for the country is in the mounting determination on the part of university unions to force increased government funding of the institutions and the licensing by the government of more and more universities managed by businesses and private philanthropists. When you look at the economy, you see that the telecommunications, banks and the all got better after reforms were made which opened them to private businesses. The more the government interferes, the less there will be in our universities.

Given the growing number of young men and women leaving secondary schools with increasingly good grades, again following years and years of improvement of facilities as well as standards, there is an urgent need to expand opportunities for tertiary education and I think this is the very essence of what they are trying to do in Kano.   In addition to the sponsorship of students to study abroad, three new state universities have been set up. These universities must all aim to recruit teachers prepared to teach and students who are prepared to learn. They should have no place for mediocrity. Faculty and students should be international. That would be the way to sustain the current gains and make the education revolution succeed. The Governor of Kano must not allow himself to be distracted from this laudable path trodden by late Aper Aku. History will be kind to him.


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