Saturday, October 30, 2010

Adamawa Politics and Its New Entrants

The crisis-ridden and complex Adamawa political environment is witnessing an influx of new entrants. The State’s political environment is already jam-packed with diverse political and social interests, in addition to lots of political gladiators, who are engaged in high-wired politics of intrigues.

These new entrants of Adamawa politics are aware that to attain relevance in the system, they must align with a particular political bloc. Apart from identifying with a particular bloc, the platform they intend to contest on must also reflect the views and aspirations of their constituencies. This is a knotty issue they have to tackle, because any slight mistake would cost them a great political fortune.

More than 95% of the new entrants to Adamawa politics are people seeking political offices. And one good thing about it is that quite are few of them are professionals and some of them are young. Notable among them are Nuhu Ribadu the former EFCC helmsman, Dr. Aliyu Idi Hong, the current Minister of State Foreign Affairs, Zira Maigadi, the former Managing Director of one of the country’s biggest oil companies, Dr. Tukur Liman an academician and a seasoned technocrat, Aisha Dahiru Ahmed, the Chief Executive of Binani Group and host of others. As professionals in their own fields, these individuals are caught between what they think politics is and what obtains in the real life situation. They will, without doubt, discover that politics is indeed as described by pundits- beyond anyone’s imaginations.

For them to succeed, they have to play it as technocrats as well as borrow from the ways of educated and non educated career politicians. That is, they have to combine their excellent leadership skills, education and charisma with Law Number 25 of the 48 laws of power; i.e. re-creating themselves through forging a new identity that commands attention from politicians.They must also be able to convince the public that they have come to the public sector with new ideology and vigour through generation of feasible ideas that would trigger development, eradicate poverty by uplifting individuals; bring dynamism into governance, as well as provide broad variety of services, ranging from healthcare, agriculture, social programs, critical infrastructure and the revitalization of the education system.

The new entrants to Adamawa politics have come at a time that the State’s political environment is highly polarised between three very strong blocs: the Nyako, Jibrin Amin and Atiku blocs, who are immersed in high-wired politics. This is of course a dicey situation and at the same time a big opportunity for the new entrants, depending on how they play their cards. It is dicey because at the end of the day there will be big losers and winners. It is also a good opportunity for them, if they can be proactive. For example, during the 1983 elections in the defunct Gongola State, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur won the governorship election by being politically smarter than his opponents. His Kontigi Movement was instrumental to his victory at the polls- Kontigi Movement was able to complement the major weaknesses of the then NPN. It is depressing that politics has so much been ‘commercialised’ to the extent that such truly political movements like the Bamanga Tukur’s Kontigi are no longer relevant in Adamawa politics. However, those seeking political offices in Adamawa, especially the governorship position, have an opportunity at hand. If any of them can endure the painstaking task of forming a political movement which will bring together interest from Kautal Pulaka, the Fulani socio-cultural-economic organization and Adamawa Minority Forum. The ride to government House, Yola will be very easy. This is because there are cracks in the system which requires honest amends. Another reason is, Kautal Pulaka, controls over 80% of Adamawa economy and constitutes 30% of Adamawa population, and Adamawa minority ethnic groups collectively constitutes nearly 70% of the state’s population. For hundreds of years these two groups have built a strong political, cultural and social relationship with each other.

For several decades, from the former Gongola State to the present Adamawa State, ‘old school’ politicians have dominated the political environment of the state. Despite the present ‘good shows’ displayed by the new entrants, the old politicians seem to have dominated the contest for the governorship position, and each one of them is out with sophisticated game plan. For example, Governor Nyako is heavily relying on incumbency and his stronghold in the PDP structures. Another of Nyako’s game plan was the drafting of his Chief of Staff and his Commissioner of Local Government into the governorship race. Senator Jibrin Amin is playing his game as professor of medicine- he is studying various options, thus Dr. Aliyu Idi Hong candidacy is part of his game. Others seeking the PDP ticket are General Buba Marwa. Marwa has all the credentials but he has been far away from local politics. Awwla Tukur will ride on his father’s back. Atiku Abubakar’s tactics is that of wait then pull from any angle; this is because he has not openly showed his preference. However, pundits are of the opinion that Adamu Mu’azu’s taking over of Labour Party structures in Adamawa State is part of Atiku’s strategy. The story is same in other political parties- in the ACN; three groups will size up one another. Despite the fact that former Governor Boni Haruna has not publicly identified with the party nor resigned from the PDP, those who served in his administration are very strong in the party, the second group is Nuhu Ribadu’s while the third is Dr. Tukur Liman’s. In the ANPP, it will be either former Minister of State Defence Abdurrahman Adamu or anyone he endorses.

As the 2011 elections approach, old times politicians will play politics as they knew it, while the new entrants to Adamawa politics will rely on the strong public endorsement of their entrance into the game. For instance, through grassroots approach, Aisha Dahiru Ahmed who is seeking to be a member in the House of Representatives has succeeded in winning the hearts of her constituency- the politically complex and conservative Yola-North, Yola-South and Girei Federal constituency. If election is to be held today, she will win with a landslide.

One interesting thing about politics is, it is full of so many intrigues, each day, one finds some new and amazing thing about it. Both the old and new politicians in Adamawa State are for sure finding mindboggling things especially at these times that politicking in the State is like walking on burbles- it may burst at any time.

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State,, 08036070980.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Yet, Another Education Summit

Nigeria has for the several years organised so many summits, seminars and conferences. The country has formulated quite a number of education policies, collected voluminous proposals and blueprints from both local and international experts, on how to salvage the education sector. Yet the problems in the education sector persist.

Does it mean that all those past efforts were not in the right direction? And the ongoing National Stakeholders Summit on "Reclamation, Restoration and Sustenance of Quality and Ethics in Education in Nigeria" will not produce a feasible blueprint for Nigeria’s education sector? Of course not, what was missing was the leadership’s political will, and the right team to push the right button

Nigeria is witnessing systems deterioration. The most worrying and one that requires urgent, systematic and systemic attention, is the education sector. The recent mass failure at the senior secondary school examinations organized by both West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and National Examination Council (NECO) are signals of the continuing troubles in the education sector.

The confusion, lack of stability and misdirection in the Nigerian education sector has reached a stage that the sector needs a radical restructuring and galvanization composing of reforms similar to that of Soviet Union 1980’s Glasnost and Perestroika reforms and the 1947 European Recovery Program,- The Marshall Plan. One may sound as an alarmist; but we need such kind of reforms in order to further liberalize the sector, recreate and rebuild its hitherto strong foundation and bring new ideas and thinking to policy planning and effective management of the sector. President Goodluck Jonathan has hinted that the Federal Government would review the strict guidelines of the special intervention funds like the Universal Basic Education (UBE) and the Education Trust Funds (ETF), to attain faster delivery of education at the basic levels. Will that be enough? Certainly no. Nigeria needs massive intervention in the education sector. Though, this not a call for the usual way Nigerian government does things. We really need a shift in the way our schools are run. And we have to put up a system that will provide adequate funding and help in improving the standard and quality of both teachers and students; a system that will completely aid in shifting away from the tradition- where government is the provider, administrator, monitor and assessor of how fund are utilized. Though, he who pays the piper calls the tune.

Nigeria as a nation has three options on how to breathe life into the education sector: first is outright government shouldering of the management of the sector; the second is leaving everything to the private sector; while the third option is opting for Public Private Partnership.

The first option, i.e. outright government shouldering the management of the education sector seems to have failed, largely due to corruption and mismanagement, because the system has worked before. During the 50’s 60’s and even early 70’s the Nigerian education system has clothed, fed, educated and provided readily available jobs for the teaming educated Nigerians. However, the irony is; those who had benefited from the system, are the ones who destroyed it.

The second option i.e. leaving everything to private sector hands, should not be in anybody’s mine, as it would be detrimental to the progress of Nigeria. This is because once the education sector is left to the mercy of private hands; many Nigerian children would be shut-out of school, since majority of Nigerians cannot afford the fees charged by privately owned educational institution. Thus the nation would miss the opportunity of developing the best of her human capital.

Looking at the present state of administration of our education system, it seems private sector participation in the sector is inevitable. This writer is a strong advocate of private sector greater participation in managing our public schools; but not a ‘bulldozer’ kind of participation, where government will entirely surrender these schools to private entrepreneurs- thus, students, teachers and parents would be at the mercy of private hands. What we need is, a ‘measured’ Public Private Partnership, where government should build new schools, equip old ones. Then take a benchmark from a well-run private school on what it costs per student-head in running a school; then a gradual entrusting of public schools to private sector, where government provides the funds, taking into cognizance the cost per student; as it is in private schools, while the private sector manages it especially in the area of infrastructures maintenance, provision of teaching tools, management of training programmes for teachers - hence, our educational system will be run efficiently, new sustainable jobs will be created and government will be relieved from the burden of ‘ carrying the camel and its loads’. This suggestion may appear odd. However, an honest assessment of the budgetary spending per student head by the three tiers of government will for sure show that the amount spent by the government per student head exceeds the one the best schools in Nigeria charge per student head.

In his opening remarks at the summit, President Goodluck Jonathan said: “Nigeria’s educational system needs a rebirth for better delivery of education in the basic, secondary and tertiary institutions across the country”. Most Nigerians are of the opinion that the rebirth should be systematic as well as systemic. It has to cover primary, secondary and tertiary schools, at the same give emphasis to prioritization of need. And all the three tiers of government as well as the private sector should participate effectively and efficiently with well-spelled roles to be played by each

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State,, 08036070980.