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State of Education in Kaduna: Issues and Politics – Letter to Kaduna State APC Stakeholders, By Salihu Moh. Lukman

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Email: smlukman@gmail.com

I resolved to write to Kaduna State APC Stakeholders in order to further stress my call for caution against politicizing the future of our children, which I posted on my facebook wall, hereby reproduced again:

We need to caution against politicizing the future of our children. We can disagree with Mallam Nasir on many issues but on the issue of fixing public education, we need to exercise restraints. Many of us, if not all, wouldn’t have been where we are if not for the privilege of access to good quality public education. We are all products of public education on accounts of which we are globally competitive. This is not the case with our children. Our children are in most cases products of private education and hardly competitive locally. Looking at these scripts, there is no question about why this is so.

We can disagree with the approach of the state government, but the way to go is not to politicize this matter. We must do all we can to support the state government to get this reform right. Those politicizing this matter, including labour leaders need to make public declarations about how many of their children are attending these schools. We need to come to terms with the reality that governance is not popularity contest. 

On the part of Mallam Nasir and officials of the state government, I will commend them for taking up this matter but appeal for restraints against making public commentaries that would indulge those seeking for cheap publicity. I will use other avenues to give my recommendations on the way forward. 

Following this post, some media people have made further enquiries basically around the question of whether sacking the teachers affected is the solution. Some APC leaders in the state have drawn my attention to the approach of HE Abubakar Bukola Saraki to the same challenge in Kwara State when he was a Governor.

Perhaps, let me state clearly, this letter is only going to address issues of the politics that is driving the debate and what needs to be done. Although there will be some inferences on matters of recommendation, but substantively, I intend to handle the question of proposed recommendations separately and it will not be a public matter, at least for now.

Politics and Conceptual Eclipse 

Much of the agitations against some of the initiatives of the State Government are largely on account of the facts of exclusion as a result of the role of many stakeholders, including myself in the runoff to the party primaries for 2015 elections. Many of us had the mentality of entitlement, which could be legitimate. Somehow, unfortunately this was dashed.

I am sure Mallam Nasir will have reasons to justify his decision to exclude most, if not all of us who were opposed to his candidature. What I know from a distance is that he made overtures to some of us and I was informed that some of those approached made demands for some ‘strategic’ offices, which were not granted. I also know that some other elected representatives made demands for positions in Local Governments. Inability to get most of these demands has influenced the current negative relations between most stakeholders and the state government.

Where do I stand in the politics of the state? Am I on the side of Mallam Nasir? That would appear to be the subtle blackmail confronting all politicians, especially APC leaders in the state. This is more so because to a large extent many policies of the state government under the tenure of Mallam Nasir have become controversial and in many respects compounded by official public pronouncements either directly by the Governor or very senior government officials but also often suspected to be so.

May I therefore start with the declaration that I am a loyal member of our party, APC. I strongly believe that contestations in the party and society are very healthy and needs to be promoted in order for our democracy to grow. When in 2014, I decided to join the race for the Governorship, I wrote to the party state leadership and requested for the opportunity to meet them and share with them my vision. It wasn’t grated but I had the opportunity to have a phone conversation with Arc. Barnabas Bala Bantex, who was the State Chairman and current Deputy Governor. One of the things I told Arc. Bantex was that whoever wins the primaries, it is the party that won.

The rest is now history, Mallam Nasir won and out of the five of us that contested, I came last. Partly on account of that, I didn’t have the privilege of any recognition. While others that contested were visited, on the other hand, I am the one that visited Mallam Nasir. Unlike perhaps others, I didn’t make any demand but restated my support for the candidature of Mallam Nasir. The only indirect contact I got thereafter was from Arc. Bantex, doubling both as State Party Chairman and Running Mate to Mallam Nasir who sent message of request for me to approve the release of my Kafanchan campaign office, which I granted.

I am giving this background so as to emphatically state that we all have reasons to justify opposition to Mallam Nasir. My view however is that we need to see the bigger picture. Our politics must not be driven by narrow demands for recognition and the privileges that come with it. I know it is easy to say but very painful to bear. And for those who spent huge amount of  money during primaries, they must imagine that those spending should count as investment.

The sad reality is that this could only be personal investment on account of which beneficiaries are able to contract their loyalties only to the aspirant and not the party. This will require further investment to sustain. The beneficiaries would also have to create needed incentives for the investment as a result of which political investors are convinced about their electoral prospects in the next elections. Alternative scenarios backed with doomsday imagery laced with anti party positions are constant projections. This is the equilibrium that drive the politics of all those who once aspired for elective positions and lost. This is the conceptual eclipse that deludes almost all politicians that present themselves for elective positions and were not victorious.

Any Prospect for Party Building

Manifestation of this conceptual eclipse in the way we conduct our politics clearly means that we are still trapped in the old political culture of individuals exercising entrepreneurial hold on party machinery and political contestation is all about that. Once this is the reality, it will be a vicious circle. It was the reality that consumed PDP. This is one reality that undermined party building and so long as that is the orientation, our politics will be unstable.

We just need to return to basic principles of building the party. The principles that drove the merger of opposition parties between 2012 and 2014 was basically about making some fundamental sacrifices in order for us to be able to build the strength to defeat PDP. Yes, there was the threat posed to our corporate existence as a nation by the reckless way PDP was running the country. But we need to also recognize that victory in 2015 election has not completely removed those threats. As things stand, we risked creating the opportunity for our own defeat simply because we hoodwinked ourselves into believing that we are popular, no matter what.

Alas! We are popular to the extent of our selflessness. The depth of our tolerance for one another will be a major determinant of our capacity to build our party and prepare it for 2019 electoral victory. Those of us swimming in the pool of conceptual eclipse can continue to delude ourselves but 2019 is fast approaching. I only hope it will not be too late before we realize how bad we have demolished ourselves.

My big appeal is that Mallam Nasir needs to come down from his present irreconcilable pedestal. This will require strong acts of forgiveness on both sides. We can’t continue like this.

Reforming Education: Separating our Politics from the task at Hand

On this note, I will want to return to the discussion of reforming education in Kaduna State. May I therefore start by providing some background information as follows:

  1. As at 2013/2014 Kaduna State School Census Report, there are 4,225 public primary schools, 1,312,996 pupils and 36,669 teachers. Enrollment was reported to have increased to 2.1 million between 2015 – 2017;
  2. Public schools pupil – classroom ratio is reported at 70:1 as against private school pupil – classroom ratio of 26:1;
  3. In terms of secondary education, there were 716 Junior and Senior Schools in 2013/2014, 279,874 students and 10,840 teachers;
  4. Students – classroom ratio for Junior schools was 53:1 and Senior Schools 48:1.
  5. As at 2010, the state was reported to have recorded only 4% WAEC pass rate, 10% in 2011 and 44% in 2012; and
  6. Since the assumption of the current APC government, budgetary allocation to education has geometrically increased to 35% (2016 and 2017) as against less than 10% under PDP between 2000 and 2015.

This background is important in order to understand our current situation. I don’t think it is a matter of simply expressing opinion. May be the issue is that we need to push the state government under APC to do more. In advocating for that we must not make the mistake of making comparative analysis. For instance, to argue that HE Saraki has approached it differently is only a convenient argument. Indulging in such simplistic argument will push us into asking the question how is that reflected in for instance exams pass rate in Kwara? With Kaduna reported to have 44% in 2012 and the first among all the Northern states, it will not be complementary.

It is important however to acknowledge that we are dealing with a dynamic challenge that requires consistency. It is on this score that I will also strongly disagree with the attempt by Prof. Pius Adesanmi to liberally use Kaduna to dismiss the initiative of Sokoto State government. The fact that Sokoto State Government is rolling out initiative on the matter should be commended. We are dealing with states that have complete different assessments of the challenges, with different administrative orientations. It will amount to lazy scholarship, with due respect to our Professor to simplistically embark on comparative analysis with subjective conclusions.

To return to Kaduna therefore, my position is that this matter is only a public issue because the APC government under Mallam Nasir has escalated it. It has been there since 1999 under the PDP government. It was never prioritized under PDP. We need to acknowledge as much, based on which we should commend the state government for prioritizing it.

What is to be Done

Having prioritized it and got the shocking result that more than 20,000 teachers in primary schools are not qualified, what is the way forward? Should we just put a blind eye and support the state government to keep them in the public payroll? Or should we endorse the decision of the state government to sack them?

Be that as it may, I don’t subscribe to the notion that popular choices should determine our recommendations. If that is adopted, government will in the long run not be able to address all our critical problems. I accept that in between the two extreme options of keeping these teachers in public payroll and sacking them, there are so many options. We need to innovatively open up avenues for negotiating those options.

To negotiate basically requires making proposals and not passing judgements. The unfortunate reality is that what is going on now is more about passing judgements against the leadership of Mallam Nasir. This is quite attractive but I wish we can do things differently. It is quite painful that hardly any structure exists in the party to facilitate uptake of proposals and recommendations with respect management of the state government. That it doesn’t exist doesn’t make it impossible. In any way, we were told that it is impossible for opposition parties to merge. Didn’t we succeed in merging our old parties against all odds?

Appeal

There is nothing that is impossible in life and in politics. Like we engaged issues of merger, we can engage the issues of reforming our party and politics. A critical determinant is our selflessness. We must approach the issues not based on strategic positioning.

In making this appeal, Mallam Nasir and all officials of the state government need to first and foremost recognize that they are serving under an APC Government. This therefore requires that they must do everything possible to open themselves up especially to party members. What is the value of being in the same party but not being able to access officials and representatives of governments produced by the party? The challenge is to be able to manage the expectations that come with that.

On the other hand, all of us who are members of the party need to accept the reality that the state government is our government, no matter what Mallam Nasir and other officials of government would want to claim. We should be ready to relate with the government in the same way we relate with our children no matter their behavior and conduct.

Conclusion

A strong motivator is the fact that notwithstanding all our grievances, progresses are being recorded both at the state and federal levels. No doubt, like every human endeavor there are mistakes and shortcomings. As loyal party members, our approach should not be to use the mistakes and shortcomings to undermine the governments produced by the party. Doing that will mean undermining the party and its electoral potentials.

I am proud that as a party, we are able to terminate the 16-year rule of PDP. But that is just the beginning of the challenge. I see the current debate around the initiative of the state government regarding what to do with unqualified teachers as a very healthy progression. In fact, if you ask me, I will say it is coming rather late, but better late than never.

Like I said earlier, I will use all avenues at my disposal to forward my recommendations as a demonstration of my loyalty to the party. I will do that unsolicited and not expecting anything from the state government. I will also add, I am not preparing for anything as I have made my personal decisions not to aspire for any position as we move towards 2019. No matter what happens, I will support all candidates on the platform of the party without expecting anything in return. I will exercise my constitutional right as a party member to influence the choice of credible candidates to fly the party flag for the 2019 elections.

The important thing is that our party, APC, must serve as the vehicle for moving our state and nation forward! 

 

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