By Haruna Mohammed Salisu
Since the emergence of Mallam Nasiru El’Rufa’i as the Governor of Kaduna state, it was not difficult for many political pundits, spectators, journalists and writers to predict that the Governor may likely replicate what he did when he was a minister during President Obasanjo’s administration—demolition of illegal structures.
Unarguably, what is difficult among politicians in Nigeria is a strong zeal and enthusiasm to take decisive decisions unmindful of whose interest they will go against provided they are taking in the best interest of the general public. Such decisions are not hard to take by Governor El’Rufa’i whose political body language does not suggest fear or favour. But I shall return to this later.
Since assumption of office as the Governor of northern Nigeria’s most elitist state, El’Rufa’i wasted no time in declaring a state of emergency in the education sector. In view of the sickening state of affairs in this sector which suffered neglect and ill-informed policies and lack of strong commitments by past administrations to boost the sector, the governor made a quick u-turn to turn the tide of things.
To kick the ball rolling, the Governor unveiled a 13.7 billion naira yearly education project for primary and secondary schools which include free tuition fees, free school feeding and uniforms coupled with rehabilitation of dilapidated structures. Despite heavy debt placed on the coffers of the state government which culminated to over N74.27 billion, recklessly “siphoned’ by the past administration, El’Rufa’i still found succor not to relent.
The Governor who nurtured a strong passion to improve the education sector believes that such a gesture will not only lay a foundation for development, but will also free humanity from bondage. “We are determined that one legacy for the rebirth of our country will be the restoration of education as a tool to free our people from the fetters of ignorance”, El’Rufa’i was quoted as saying when unveiling the package to reinvigorate the sector.
Indeed any sensible government whose interest is to develop its people will stop at nothing to improve its education, for; the popular minds believe that the bedrock of any meaningful development is education.
In my opinion, El’Rufai has characteristically chosen to boost the education sector for two reasons: first, the Governor is not only a beneficiary of education which liberated him from all forms of bondage and placed him where he is today, but is also a first class guru whose passion to see many of his likes among the masses is not far from being sighted. Secondly, the Governor knew too well that with education accorded priority, the economic, social and political malfeasances that have eaten deep into the fabrics of the state will be history and dubious politicians who see nothing wrong in hiring the uneducated disadvantaged youths as political thugs will have to make a rethink.
Despite the economic quagmire that has ravaged the country because of the dwindling prices of oil in the world market, which has impact on the monthly allocation from the federal government, coupled with entrenched culture of impunity and systemic corruption that looted the state dry, the governor still insists, such will not be an excuse not to discharge his responsibilities.
The apparent rendition of El’Rufa’i to boost the sector started with the introduction of school feeding which has so far redoubled school attendance among pupils in the state. Kaduna state is not only the pioneering state in this regard, but a serious minded one whose Governor has generated about 125, 000 jobs in nine months and the larger chunk of those employed are in the education sector. With reports from various national and international NGOs such as UNICEF suggesting that Nigeria has the highest out of school children in the world, El’Rufa’i’s resolve to revitalize education is not only timely but, commendable.
In his quest to achieve success, the Governor also pledged to distribute free customized tablets to enhance e-learning among secondary school students, as well as training and retraining of teachers has since been factored in.
To make all these policies a realization, Mr. ElRufai has demonstrated a strong commitment to hold any public official to ransom who is found wanting in diverting what is meant for the public to their private use. And so far, a school headmaster and support officer that were apprehended and relieved of their duties and suspending two other culprits for allegedly benefitting personally from the school feeding programme is a glaring demonstration of his cohesive approach to rekindle life back to the sector.
Demolition of illegal structures
To demonstrate his doggedness on the notoriously “untouched” Kaduna mafia—a composition of elites, business moguls and top civil servants who have grown fat at the detriment of the common folks, the fearless El’Rufa’i has since started what he was best known for as a minister—demolition of illegal structures.
The people’s Governor is strongly bent on his resolve not to renege his campaign promises, part of which was to fight the Kaduna mafia who illegally allocated hectares of land to themselves and their families.
What is unarguably unpardonable according to the Governor was how these mafias confiscated hectares of land which belong to schools supposedly meant for their expansion and development. El’Rufa’i who defied being “afflicted with a course” from the so called mafia is not only healthy and physically fit to fight back, but has turned his war fare on promoters of endemic corruption, entrenched culture of impunity and the mafia have since started reaping what they have sown.
And gradually with the help of the Almighty and the dysfunction of the mafia, the Governor is getting more grounded in his ambition to peep up the education sector and bulldoze the mafia simultaneously.
The momentum gathered so far is also translating in several other sectors too numerous to mention because of time and space, but this writer will keenly monitor developments in the state to keep readers abreast and to encourage other state Governors to emulate El’Rufai’s model of development.
Haruna Mohammed Salisu writes from Bauchi. He could be reached at 08063180608 or [email protected]