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Friday, July 24, 2009

Discourse 255: FMOE: Suspend 9-3-4 Now

Discourse 255

FMOE: Suspend 9-3-4 Now

Honestly, I have no idea of what sufficient good informed the adoption of the present 9-3-4 system of education in place of the previous 6-3-3-4 which was introduced in the early eighties. I am not alone in my ignorance. Many stakeholders – parents, proprietors, teachers and students – have also been bitterly complaining about the change in policy. Practically, the policy is ruining education in many communities. Many children are left stranded, while many will forever blame the authors of this poorly conceived policy for denying them the chance of acquiring any good education. But those who deserve a greater blame are the public officers who fail to listen, for ulterior motives, to the complaints of these parents or respond to their appeal. This article is an expression of their tears because it knows very well that the country is sufficiently blessed with insensitive officials.
The 9-3-4 resulted from fusing the 6 years and 3 years in 6-3-3-4 system to form 9 years of basic education. This arose, I suspect, from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) dream of providing, among other things, compulsory ‘basic’ education of nine years to every child instead of the previous primary education target. That is why the previous scheme was called Universal Primary Education, and the new one Universal Basic Education (UBE). Appropriately, the former boards of primary education at national and state levels were renamed from National Primary Education Commission (NPEC) and State Universal Primary Education Board (SUPEB) to Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) respectively.
I am not unaware that many countries have adopted it. Ghana has introduced it and as I saw last year when I visited in one of its villages, Akosumbo, they seem to be better prepared for it, given the good standard of their primary education and small population. What our policy makers refuse to appreciate is the inability of our educational system, like a very weak patient, to adopt changes that are both structural and functional. I will liken it to a very weak patient who can hardly breathe. He needs his condition to be stabilized before undergoing a surgery. This is the simple thing that our policy makers fail to consider. Policies are adopted without any recognition for the dilapidated state of our the sub-sector. For example, 32 two years after the introduction of free primary education, government has not met a quarter of its commitment under the scheme. And no policy has destroyed our standard of education as the overambitious free primary education.
The fact is that by expecting children to spend three additional years in their primary schools and earn a certificate of basic education in the end under the 9-3-4 scheme portends serious social, financial and structural adjustments. Adequate arrangements need to be made in terms of space (classrooms, laboratories, libraries, workshops) and function (administrative staff teachers and equipment). This will require billions to cater for construction, recruitment and running cost. I am confident that this has not escaped the mind of our policy makers. What seemed to escape their minds is the necessity for the program and the success of its immediate adoption given the bad state of the education sub-sector in this country.
Majority of our primary schools have not attained half of the goals set for them back in 1977 in terms of standard of education. In one of the states, 31,000 Primary VI pupils were interviewed in a state-wide admission exercise into JSS1 in 2003. They are admitted once they could read a paragraph from Primary II English text containing sentences like ‘Musa is running.’ Only 6,000 of them were able to read such sentences; 25,000 could not! This means 81% of primary school products in the state can barely read anything beyond their names.
This level of poor performance is not new or restricted to that state, which in any case, within the context of the North, can be included among the fair ones. At least for the North, I consider the 80% failure to read basic sentences as average. What is surprising is how despite this dismal performance, 9-3-4 ultimately expects them to remain in these poor schools for another three years to cover their junior secondary school education. In the end, they are expected to compete in Junior Secondary School Certificate Examination with products of staff and private schools.
The relevance of maintaining a complete secondary school system at least for now can easily be derived from the weak state of our public primary schools. The junior secondary school level then offers the opportunity to bridge the gap in the standard of a child from a poor background, as exemplified by the story of a friend who told me that when he was admitted into a federal government college in the south in 1973, he could hardly construct a single sentence in English. However, within a short time he was able to catch up so much so that he passed his WAEC with a very good result. Four years later he was a graduate. Today he is a successful engineer. Now, the argument is that 9-3-4, when fully implemented as the government is pressing for, would deny children from such poor backgrounds this opportunity to ‘catch-up.’
The Federal Ministry of Education has already scrapped JSS I-III, from all our federal government colleges, despite agitation from the public and staff in those schools, though it is so far unable to convince military and private schools to do so. The chances are bleaker for students in schools owned by state and local governments. The future of millions of poor children is doomed. The nation expects them to pass their JSCE and compete with other pupils from better schools for admission into SSCE.
The end results are obvious: only staff and private schools’ products would gain admission into any good senior secondary schools, including model schools and unity schools owned by the state and federal governments. The second result, when 9-3-4 is fully implemented, is further deterioration in the standard of our state public schools, as the quality of their intakes from ‘basic’ schools worsens. SSCE results of students from such poor schools will inevitably worsen.
Officials will quickly react to my judgements as unfair, claiming that they are not that stupid, that 9-3-4 is implemented in stages. However, facts on the ground at both federal and state levels point show that serious changes have already been made. The federal government scrapped the National Common Entrance Examination in 2005 which many schools, public and private, use to admit primary school pupils. The underlying assumption is that every child is now required to proceed to JSS without any measurement of his primary education standard. In effect, recognition of primary education was instantly withdrawn since 2005. One.
Also, the federal government during Obasanjo went ahead to scrap junior classes in all its 102 unity schools instantly, in 2005. When the Yar’adua administration came it raised our hope by rescinding that decision. The National Common Entrance Examination was reintroduced last layer, 2007, and many children sat for it as usual. For the FGCs, children were invited for interview into JSSI. We parents and other stakeholders were happy in no small measure. The federal government released sufficient funds to principals to enable them prepare for receiving the fresh JSS I students. I was among the parents who for three months waited for admission of their wards. However, the admission never came. A new permanent secretary was appointed and he vetoed that ‘there will be no going back on the reforms.’ Do you blame him since he is a former assistant of Ezesikwele (please pardon me if I do not get the name right), the Minister whom we saw desperately championing the scrapping of the FGCs?
Our children were thus left hanging to date because no school could admit them in January this year since they were late by a term; and next year they cannot be admitted into JSS II because hardly do you find a reasonable school which admits fresh students into JSS II. Despite the loud cry from staff of FGCs, many of whom have nowhere to take their children due to the remoteness of their location or the shallowness of their pockets, the Ministry remains defiant. And no Yar’adua can save us from the ravage of this permanent secretary since his children are not affected. Where are the children of the former Minister, for example? Abroad, of course. Two ke nan.
Three. I have witnessed how state governments were forced in 2006 to start implementing the program in a very bizarre manner. They rushed to start junior secondary schools where there are no sufficient teachers to handle all their primary school classes; the few qualified primary school teachers were transferred to junior secondary schools all in the bid to satisfy the policy. In boarding schools, the administration of each school was divided into two: one for junior section and the other for senior section, each with its principal, vice principals, etc. This is temporary, they said, because when 9-3-4 comes in full force, the junior sections will be scrapped and every village child will be asked to stay there until he is due to join senior secondary school. Every boarding school would then in effect be senior secondary school only.
For limitation of space, I will limit myself to the above three examples in my effort to rebuff any claim that the authorities are implementing 9-3-4 in tandem with our needs. The question to ask here is: for whom is this 9-3-4? Is its doctrine a revelation that cannot be challenged? Why should officials continue to be defiant to our concerns? When will we stop becoming slaves to foreign and private interests? I mention private because there are strong indications that proprietors of private schools are deliberately blocking the reintroduction of JSS in FGCs specifically because allowing them reduce their intakes, a view that is widespread among staff of FGCs. Obasanjo has built a private school and it is running JSS! See the hypocrisy?
Well, our children will also grow and learn the true nature of this country. It is a place run by arrogant officials who are always glad to copy foreigners blindly. Then they will know that the tale of our independence in 1960 is the biggest lie written in their textbooks.
If this article will perchance gain the readership of anyone in the corridors of power, it would have satisfied the desire of its author. If it persuades him or her to take the right step of suspending the 9-3-4 until we are really prepared for it would come as a big surprise. The article was a cry, not an appeal because the former is the fate of the helpless, the latter a tradition of the privileged. And we, the ordinary citizens of this country, are helpless before a cabal that is insensitive, corrupt and narrow-minded.

4 July 2009

Discourse 257: Yuguda, What goes round...

Discourse (257)

Demolition of Gadi’s House
Yuguda, What Goes Round…

The Deputy Governor of Bauchi State, Alhaji Garba Gadi, did not seem to accept my advice for his resignation in light of the impending intention of his Governor, Malam Isa Yuguda to impeach him. Whatever wrong the Governor would accuse Gadi of, I know, he – the governor – has done many worse. However, I just thought it was not wise for him not to doge such a politically destructive missile. I saw it in military terms, a tactical withdrawal in wait for an opportunity to fiercely fight back in 2011. However, the Deputy, Gadi, sees it differently, not in that context of a long term strategy; or perhaps the advice simply came too late. This is a fight to finish, he thinks, challenging the Governor to prove his guilt and impeach him. That is history now as the outcome of the panel can hardly be doubted by any.
Today, my discussion borders on an escalation of that conflict, the intention of the Governor to demolish a house of the deputy. The article is not directed at Gadi, but at Yuguda who has been reckless with the exercise of his powers since he assumed office. This is self-destructive to a prince, undoubtedly, though it seems he has bought all the mouths that would tell him so. I came to know about the issue in Daily Trust of Wednesday, July 8, 2009, which reported as follows:
“The deputy governor, whose travails started soon after he refused to decamp to the PDP along with his boss, Governor Isa Yuguda, already received a revocation notice yesterday on the 1,463.76 square meter plot of land attached to his residence situated behind the Bauchi State Hotel in the GRA area of the capital city. The notice dated the 7th of July, 2009 with reference number GO/GA/S/BLD/9/S.1/T.9 signed by Mukhtar Hamid Alhaji on behalf of the state’s Head of Civil Service, which asked the deputy governor to liaise with the Ministry of Finance for the refund of his money, did not give any reason for the revocation. Speaking to our correspondent in his office yesterday, the deputy governor said he purchased the plot of land at the cost of N2.35m and issued a treasury receipt number 188005 on the 25th of December, 2008 after getting approval from the state governor and Certificate of Occupancy No. BA/33335.”
Now, I must confess that I was shocked by this report. The last time we witnessed something like this was in 1983 when late Sabo Bakin-Zuwo, a onetime governor of Kano State, terrorized his arch-rival, Abubakar Rimi with whom he contested the gubernatorial seat during the 1983 election, by issuing him a demolition notice and stationing a bulldozer near his house for weeks. It was really a drama which must have kept the mind of his rival disturbed. However, Sabo was not careless enough to carry out the threat, unlike Yuguda who seems bent on carrying out his.
Someone needs to tell him that this does not in any way serve his political interest, near or distant. There are many such colonial houses allocated to the privileged in Bauchi. Why only that of Gadi? That the revocation came barely after a panel to investigate him was constituted shows clearly that Yuguda is really alone, lacking good advisers, elders or scholars that will tell him the truth and prevent him from treading the path of self-destruction. Or is it true, as the Hausa adage goes, that “only the stupid would tell a prince the truth?” Well, today I have many times chosen to be stupid.
One would think that President Yar’adua will somehow restrain Yuguda, being his father-in-law and more experienced than the governor in politics. However, my hope was quickly dashed on two grounds. One is how Yar’adua himself engaged in such vindictive habits against people that he once had misunderstandings, people like El-Rufa’i and Ribadu. Have the two committed a sin greater than that Peter Odili or others that surround Yar’adua today?
The other was when I heard the President preaching the doctrine of Yuguda’s persecution on national television when he visited Bauchi two weeks ago, depicting him as a victim of a crime which the President himself has committed when he was a governor in Katsina and all other outgoing governors for that matter, which was, simply put, dictating who will be their successors. Listen to the President:
“Somehow, in the year 2006/2007 when we were preparing to face the 2007 election, Malam Isa Yuguda as a loyal and dedicated party member expressed his aspiration, and members of the PDP in Bauchi State expressed their support for him to contest for the governorship of Bauchi State. Unfortunately, at the time the party did certain actions that denied internal democracy in the PDP in Bauchi State and frustrated Malam Isa Yuguda out and the teaming members and supporters advised him to go and contest under the platform of the ANPP. He did and he won the election… What we are celebrating today, giving Isa Yuguda the PDP flag, welcoming him back as an honoured PDP member and receiving him into our fold again has a lesson… for all political parties and the political institutions and organs in this country… Not only the PDP, but all political parties, must ensure that they entrench internal democracy in all what we do... Malam Isa Yuguda what you did is the right thing…”
It is my strong opinion that by tradition it was immodest for the President to go this far in supporting the clearly unpopular defection of his son-in-law to PDP midway into his tenure. He should have advised him to remain in ANPP until the end of this term, then defect to PDP and contest for a second term; then no one would have accused him of cin amana, or breach of trust, which the masses are bitterly complaining of now. His reluctance to see through this mistake makes me lose hope in his ability to call the son-in-law to order on crucial matters that will affect the latter’s political future.
Since he became Governor, Yuguda has proved that he has zero tolerance for opposition. Many times he has listened and acted on rumour and relentlessly pursued every enemy, genuine or fake, using state apparatuses. As he decamped to PDP, he discounted the relevance of anybody’s contribution to his victory, except God’s, whose he acknowledges conveniently. He has dismissed the role of his party – ANPP which gave him the platform to contest, of Buhari who toured sixteen local governments in Bauchi, of very close political associates like Shehu Gabam whom he dismissed on frivolous matters, people that would have come to his aid in any future political battle. And now, even his fanatical supporter and former adviser on House of Assembly matters, Abdulmumini Kundak, is heading for his gulag on the basis of conspiracy. This prince has become paranoid since he assumed office and I am afraid to say that he may end up lonely.
I think the lesson that the President wants the nation to learn about internal democracy should be taught to Yuguda, first, before anyone else. His record card on internal democracy is not impressive. The governor did not exhibit the slightest internal democracy when he held the last local government elections in Bauchi State. He foisted candidates in all the 20 local governments and disqualified all the 13 formidable candidates in the opposition PDP. To prevent them from any access to justice, he disqualified them on Thursday evening, declared Friday a public holiday in the state, and held the elections on Saturday. When two of his commissioners, Shehu Barau Ningi and Ubandoman Jama’are, criticized the action at a stakeholders’ meeting held at the Banquet hall, Government House, Bauchi, on 7 July last year, he sacked them. All supporters of Baraden Katagum were also sacked, including Ibrahim Madaki, former Commissioner for Culture of Tourism who conducted the local government primaries in Bauchi Local Government and resisted the pressure of the Governor to rig the primaries in favour of Kabiru Barwa. These are not the best examples of a person who abides by the rules of internal democracy.
The press, law enforcement agents, the judiciary and his ulama have not helped matters. Early in the regime, he entered into a tacit agreement with many media houses, which in effect dispossesses them of the ability to publish anything against the interest of the administration, no matter how factual it is. That is why it is very rare to find even a paid advert against the Governor or his administration in any newspaper, particularly the northern ones. I stopped writing for a year since February 2008 precisely because a leading northern paper I used to write for became selective on the issue when I wrote Yuguda, Business More than Usual. I am equally not surprised to discover that one of the two leading websites hosted by northerners in the USA has kept the government’s rejoinder to the article as a lead article on its website for over fifteen months now, just as it has stopped publishing my articles! Even resident correspondents of foreign Hausa stations who are resident in Bauchi are compliant; one of them always sounds depressing.
So when a northern newspaper published as a cover story on the initiative of ANPP national secretariat to impeach him, Yuguda called the publisher who was in far away South Africa and demanded explanation. Do you blame him for asking why the piper in that single instance failed to blow his tone? The press must know that by this attitude it is not protecting Yuguda; it is contributing to his political demise. I am beginning to notice some changes in some of them, though; perhaps the contract has not been renewed!
The law enforcement agents in Bauchi, particularly, the former and present Commissioners of Police, have become insatiable agents ready to persecute Yuguda’s opponents at any time. When the press asked why the police arrested over a thousand youths from their homes on the eve of the President’s recent visit, he simply replied that it is a routine exercise aimed at curtailing bad eggs in the town. Even the EFCC are ready to respond to the call of the generous Governor as exemplified by the agency’s instant arrest of Sanin Malam, the State Chairman of ANPP, at the instance of Yuguda for opposing his defection to PDP. Sanin Malam is not a saint by any measure, I know, but the timing of his arrest shows that the persecution was clearly political. The same organ has been sitting on countless petitions against Yuguda and his administration for two years now.
The judiciary that is the last hope of the common man would not have saved Sanin Malam. For example, in the choice of who heads the commission of inquiry against the previous administration, Yuguda chose Justice Bitrus Sanga, thinking that the high court judge has a score to settle with Mu’azu, following a face-off the two had when the mother of the ex-governor was assaulted by Yuguda’s supporters in Azare in 2006. Sanga is now under pressure to indict Mu’azu and others who are in the bad books of Yuguda, while he was asked never to investigate the Governor’s favourites. The judiciary also approved his manipulation of local government elections; it said no wrong was done. Recently, the Chief Judge hurriedly constituted a panel of inquiry to investigate the Deputy Governor only for the panel to be embarrassingly dissolved by the House for violating constitutional procedures. The new panel, it is alleged, has some elements that are card carrying members of the PDP, in clear violation of the constitution.
The State Security Service (SSS), our version of KGB, is also not left out. Yuguda brands any discordant voice as security risk and requests the SSS to interrogate its owner. The most recent took place only two days ago, on 7 July, when ‘Baba Mai-Masara’, Kundak, Chairman of Alkaleri Local Government and his deputy were summoned early in the morning. Kundak was there until late evening, answering allegations of connivance with Kaura, the Senator of Bauchi South, against the Governor, while ‘Baba Mai-Masara’ was interrogated, for the second time, of distributing leaflets critical of the administration. This is appalling in a country where freedom of expression is enshrined in the constitution. Yuguda should instead task his media and information managers to rebut these criticisms in an atmosphere of freedom, not resort to using security operatives against innocent citizens. If there is a libel, he should resort to the courts. No one did this to him before to the extent that he instructed the former ANPP scribe to write a commendation letter to the SSS for remaining neutral during his 2007 campaign. It appears that his opponents, who are growing by the day, will have a raw deal as we approach 2011.
Finally, even ‘men of God’ are succumbing to the wishes of the prince. I remember when I met Yuguda for the first and only time at the plea of a young preacher I used to respect and an associate of Yuguda after the latter became Governor, some would even say he is his closest malam, going by the audience and gifts he enjoys from the Governor. When I saw how obsessed Yuguda was with his predecessor, I advised him to put behind him the malice of Mu’azu because it is a waste of the precious energy he needs to succeed in governance; moreover, I added, Allah enjoins us to return evil with good: “Repel evil deed with one which is better, then lo! He between whom and thee there was enmity (will become) as though he was a bosom friend.” The malam suddenly defended the Governor by citing an abrogated verse that allowed retribution: “The reward of an ill-deed is an ill the like thereof,” but refused to quote the remainder of the same verse which says: “But whosoever pardoneth and amendeth, his wage is the affair of Allah.” Such is the pitiable behaviour of the ulama surrounding Yuguda. With lavish gifts of brand new Toyota Camry, Toyota Hilux pickup, sound proof generator and large contracts, I understand that it requires great effort for the malam to restrain the Governor. Such ulama are bound to approve any persecution their benefactor would inflict on his opponents. That is why the association of ulama with power throughout history, except on few occasions, is always at the detriment of the public because the former abandons the divine task of correcting the latter. In Bauchi it provides a dilemma like that of hitherto reputable elders who enjoy the gifts of new Toyota jeeps and millions of naira in cash from the Governor.
Iisa! Duuniya boodaa..

Enen fulbe faa aardiibe men bi’i laamu hoolataake. Eesa, kulaa Allah, kulaa laamu, ngam haande ngu maada njaango boo ngu nganyoo maada. Kala ko a jabbi haande fuu, a towai dum e dum hedi ma njaango. Ngan non Annabijo (SAW) bi’i to a wanyai tagu wanyu mo sese-sese; to a yidai tagu bo, yidu mo sese-sese, ngam a aandaa deengo ngayoo maada haande kanko wartata giddo mada njaango. Non non bo, giddo maada haande, sai warta nganyoo mada njaango. A burii koowa andugo haala ka…
Garba Gadi doo bo, Allah am, naa bandiraawo maada na, pullo, juuldo? Ngam dume habdataa bee maako faa bi’a a jabtai wuro maako? Ashe a fotaay mahanaamo nwongo ngo buri ngo o mari njoonta? Haani a tefa yimbe boodbe heddinaabe dab maada be hecce saawara ngooga. To a sali, to njoga ngoondi mada haande ngam bojji njaango. Sakka wala.
Min, Chuuso, mi tindiniima. Ko fe’i fuu, Iisa, mi wala shaka. To a nani nasiiha dum, a hoosii dum, a bo’inii laamu maada, a wadii sulhu hakkude maada e yimbe, Allah barkide. To bo a berni, Allah peunin berde sumpo.
Here, I must stop to salute the courage of Malam Idris Abdulaziz, the only cleric who supported Yuguda in 2007 but who did not fail in his duty as a malam. Yuguda included him in the Hajj team of 2008, to become ‘his eye’ on the committee. He did his job and reported to the Governor a fraud of N100million, right there in the presence of other committee members. Though the members did not deny it, Yuguda was not impressed by the cleric! The cleric opted out of the committee and the government promptly responded by stopping his preaching programmes on the state radio. He never received any Toyota jeep or Camry, sound proof generator or other gifts from the governor. He even returned the government’s gift of a bull and some rams during the last Eid el-Kabir festival. He should rule out enjoying any free hajj seat this year. I salute his courage, once more.
The demolition of his deputy’s house must therefore be seen in this context of political persecution. All supporters of Yuguda, including the President, should discourage him from going further on this self-destructive lane, if possible. Leaders must learn to tolerate and overlook petty things and, sometimes, even gross ones if doing so will further public interest. But that interest must be transparent not stained by the vice of malice, translucent not contaminated by the sin of vendetta. I have not found a more eloquent authority that epitomized this advice than the following verdict of the Federal Court of Appeal in Nwanko v. State (FCA/E/111/83 of 27th July, 1983):
“Criticism is indispensable in a free society. In view of the freedom of speech and of the press, those who occupy sensitive posts must be prepared to face criticism in respect of their office so as to ensure that they are accountable to the people. They should not be made to feel that they live in an ivory tower and therefore belong to a different class. They must develop thick skin and where possible plug their ears with wool if they feel too sensitive or irascible.”
Yuguda must expect more opposition voices as we approach 2011, when the level of Yuguda’s commitment to internal democracy and tolerance will be tested most. Going by his record as a governor, however, I am afraid that he will be found more wanting than his predecessor.
Sincerely, he has gone too far in handling the case of Garba Gadi, his deputy whom he used to address as yayana – ‘my elder brother.’ It would have sufficed him to impeach the old man if he could not tolerate his presence in his cabinet or he believes that doing so will help to further stabilize his government; however, picking on his properties surely smacks of victimisation. Gadi too should have been more intelligent in gauging Yuguda’s degree of intolerance beforehand. He thought they may never separate, and might have himself supported the persecution of others when the going was good between him and the Governor. However, he and his party must now be questioning their wisdom when they unconditionally surrendered its gubernatorial flag to a person whose intention they misjudged and of whose character they knew very little.
In conclusion, I plead with Gadi and with all those currently persecuted by Yuguda to forgive the Governor if he heeds my advice and makes amends, for no one is above error. If the Governor repels my voice, as he is most likely to do, then let them be patient, peacefully, and find solace in the universal law that says what goes round comes round.

9 July 2009


Discourse 259: I am Stupid

Discourse 259

I Am Stupid

Among the responses I got following the publication of Yuguda, What Goes Round… two deserve to be commented upon publicly. One was the reaction of a young malam I referred to in the publication, citing him as one of the many who collect gifts from the governor – cars, cash, hajj seats, etc but fail to advise him appropriately. He called me first praying for my abode in Jahannam if I was lying. But in the course of the next 24 hrs, I repeated my accusations and added many more through text messages. He technically denied some, admitted knowing something about Toyota Camry and Hilux but kept silent on many like money and an the authorship of a rejoinder to one of my articles in 2008.
I was happy when he became so compassionate about me in the end, asking “Allah to forgive him if what I said is right, and to forgive me if I was wrong.” That is dialogue with the learned. My fate was elevated, just through text messages, from the misery of living in Jahannam to the bliss of Allah’s forgiveness! I was so moved that I requested him to permit publish our sms exchanges in my column such that people we can share the experience with my readers and his followers. The reply of that text is yet to come. Later I sat to wondered what will God benefit from if he roasts me in jahannam. No, He won’t, for I remember Him say, “And your Lord is oft forgiving, owner of mercy…”
The second response was very explosive, coming from a friend with whom we will never part because he has an analytical mind. Such people are an asset to the society, even if I disagree with them sometimes. My friend accused me of a natural hatred for Yuguda. He said, “I told you the truth that Garba Gadi was never issued any letter. Did you see the letter? You see he has just succeeded in turning public opinion against the governor… Yet, you did not believe me and went ahead to write this junk. Dr. Badara, the commissioner for special duties, has addressed a press conference denying that any letter was ever sent to Gadi. Why didn’t you quote him but decided to only use Gadi’s claims? Dr., this is the least I expect from you. I expect you to carry out investigative journalism.”
Mhm. As my voice trembled, I put up a meek defence: “But it was reported by Daily Trust and I quoted the letter which the reporter said he saw… I am not a journalist. I am just a writer; so I am free to use reports once I am convinced they are genuine…”
But my friend did not believe me. “Kai dai you have a natural hatred for Yuguda…”
“No, no.” I pleaded. I am just advising him such that he will make amends.” This also provoked further fury from my friend: “How could amends be made when you people have succeeded in tarnishing his image before everyone… 2011 is coming and the worst anyone can do is to unseat him. Then you can mince his meat and distribute it in Bauchi… May God make you the governor in 2011 and see if you can correct things in this country or Bauchi. Yuguda himself promised that but it is impossible… Ka san Allah, if the government in Bauchi will take my advice, I will just advise them not to care answering any critic again because it is needless…”
After the call, I conferred in myself: “Aliyu, do you really hate Yuguda, naturally, for no sake…? Were you so foolish to use the Daily Trust report? Could it be true that Garba Gadi was forging documents just to blackmail the governor and gain sympathy?”
However, I was vindicated the following day by the reporter of Desert Herald who called to tell me that Garba Gadi has shown him three letters written him by the Ministry for Lands on the matter. Alhamdulillah. So I sms my friend and told him that the letters in fact exist and that they are even three. However, my friend insisted that they are forged. Meanwhile while driving into Bauchi, I passed by Gadi’s house and saw it marked in red: XXX… STOP… X… Honestly, I do not know if anyone, not least my friend who is a successful lawyer, will blame me for upholding documentary evidence over an oral one, or at least for believing my eyes. At least, I am not totally a layman when it comes to law; I also have a degree in law, though a 2:2.
But that leaves the question of my alleged pathological hatred for Yuguda unanswered. I really do not know how to convince my friend or Yuguda on this. I am not easily given to swearing but I can for sure say that the grounds for hate are simply not there. Yuguda is a person I met only twice in my life. We were never in the same spot except on those two occasions. Even our professions are different. The only thing that joins us is the governorship of my state. To me, that is not sufficient to provoke my hate, though, I must admit, it is enough to attract my scrutiny. However, my critical attitude is not limited to Yuguda; that is how I treated anyone who happened to be my leader since 1979, be he or she my teacher, my vice chancellor, my head of department, my president or my governor.
If my dad were alive, he would have testified to the notes I used to send him on some domestic matters and for which I earned his praise. My fellow villagers can also remember the pamphlets I used to distribute between 1979 and 1980, addressing the ills of our society. My undergraduate mates too will remember how vocal I was whenever we had a problem with a teacher or head of department. In 1980, a British professor passed some uncomplimentary remarks about our class which I judged racist and I promptly reported him to the head of department. When in 1981 on a field trip to Lagos, a teacher arrogantly addressed us at Unilag, I called him to order that evening when we returned to our station at National Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research. So we reclaimed our dignity for the rest of the trip.
When our head of department in A.B.U. wanted to include teaching undergraduates in our M.Sc curriculum in 1985, I promptly looked at him in the eye and said, “We do not belong to the department, but the Postgraduate School.” He stared at me and left, terribly disappointed. The matter died there. The same year, a professor in the department presented a worthless seminar paper on aquatic weeds. The audience was disappointed. I rose and told him that this is not a seminar paper but a lecture note. A stunning silence overtook the room for many seconds. The British professor that was moderating the seminar could not agree more.
My colleagues at Usmanu Danfodio University where I taught for ten years and the larger Sokoto community will remember my role in exposing the Odinga library books acquisition scandal; my weekly Islam Calling pamphlets which I used to distribute at Farfaru mosque every Friday as the secretary of the Muslim Circle of the University; my letters to the Governor, Daku, on molestation of girls in a secondary school and the arrests of Muslims in Gusau for protesting against the Kafancan crisis of 1987; the publication of my stand during the Sultan Dasuki’s ascendancy crisis; etc. During my PhD in A.B.U., I started a publication of four A4 pages that I used to sell 40k in various halls. My advice to the university authority through late Abdullahi Shika led to the allocation of Akenzua hall to girls, and subsequent halls later, in addition to Amina Hall, instead of sending them off-campus which I argued was repugnant to our culture.
The general public however got to know my opinions largely from my column – Friday Discourse – in the Weekly Trust. I started writing that column purposely to express the dissatisfaction of the North against the marginalisation policies of Obasanjo in 1999 when the region was gripped in horrendous shock and despair, having realised the mistake of unconditionally surrendering power to the South. That column also carried many dangerously critical articles on society, some attracting strong criticism as strong as labelling me a kafir (infidel), like when I wrote Sharia in Zamfara. Many also called me a kafir recently when I wrote in support of Saddam’s execution. I did not care because I know I am not an infidel, by any measure.
In 2002, I joined the voices that appealed to Buhari to join politics and believed that he should contest the 2003 elections. I wrote many articles that declared my unconditional support for him because I saw in him the personification of the ideals I have been propagating in my writings. I left my position in Bauchi State government that year to assist him, knowing that ordinary politicians will ask him money which he every Nigerian knows he does not have. Alhamdulillah, Buhari still enjoys massive support. Though some from Bauchi (I am restraining myself not to mention the name of a serving minister who was temporarily in TBO) in order to dupe him tried hard to tarnish my image before him in 2003 elections and almost succeeded, he knows now, after their exposition, that I am innocent. That caused my temporary withdrawal, though I continued to visit him with my children in Kaduna or Bauchi. Since the air is now clear, I have resumed my support for his political cause in full.
I paid dearly for that support when, as a result, I lost my Friday Discourse column immediately after the 2003 elections. The publisher claimed that I was too partisan; while in journalism they wanted a balance. Then I shifted to Thisday, which agreed to publish my comments on their backpage until I rejoined the services of Bauchi state government in November 2003, a move that did not go well also with many people in Bauchi and TBO. My talent is mine and I stand vindicated today, given the achievement of my participation.
The debut of Leadership newspaper in 2005, presented another opportunity and it published all my comments until December 2007 when I requested for remuneration and syndication of the column in the Trust. My friend stopped the column thinking that problems have started to creep in. Leaving Leadership was a mistake, as I recently confided in Dr. Mahmud Tukur, for, again, I parted ways with Trust in February 2008 just after writing seven articles. They declined the eighth on the pretext that it was not balanced. I said I am writing a column, not a report. But after understanding what was going on and the shock that came with that discovery, I preferred to stop the writing.
Recently, Mamu, the Publisher of Desert Herald graciously agreed to carry my articles unconditionally without any censor. And that is how I started again six weeks ago. Despite efforts from some quarters to persuade to stop me, he has remained resolved on his promise.
The content of my articles, numbering not less than 259 now, over the past ten years, has on many occasions been very critical of governments and personalities. Many of them are accessible in the net at or or in the archives of the Trust, Thisday, or Leadership. I criticised Obasanjo, Atiku, many governors, including even Mu’azu under whom I served, apart from my perpetual dissent voice at his council meetings. I do not think I criticised these people because I hated them. Never. I criticised them because I disagree with some of their policies and doing so is my constitutional right.
The same thing with Yuguda today, who I rarely write about anyway, only three articles in two years, despite being my governor. My relative silence on Yuguda is informed by three things: the risk associated with criticising him, the sympathy he has among my publishers, and the intimidating media team who were ready to defend him to the tooth using whatever means, including lies and denial of facts. In fact, I can count more critical articles about Mu’azu. My friend used to read some of them before they were even published. And Mu’azu did not like them a bit, but he was more tolerant than Yuguda, I must say. How fair is it for the same friend now to turn around and accuse me of a pathological hatred for Yuguda?
All my three articles about Yuguda have been accusatorial in tone, but advisory in motive and conclusion. I decided to make them public for the benefit of others, but more for lack of direct access to him. But the risks are real, not necessarily coming from Yuguda but from his army of supporters then and from his few remaining cronies now. When I was to write the Yuguda Revolution in April 2007 a lady colleague cautioned me against it, judging from how negative public opinion was in Bauchi against anyone that served in Mu’azu’s government in the aftermath of the election. I just told her that she should not bother; that is me. But she was right. While some rejoined on pages of newspaper, many wanted my head for prophesying the failure of the revolution if the governor did not heed to my advice. Some even went as far as attempting to assassinate me, twice, at that time, because they did not want any prudent voice around. They were sharpening their knives for a deep cut into the flesh of the treasury to which they came, they saw, and they looted.
Today, I stand vindicated. Yuguda did not care to follow my advice and the consequences are the blunders that his administration has been committing. As I write this article, a text came in from one of those who rejoined my April 2007 article in the Daily Trust. He said; “I reacted to The Yuguda Revolution with what I called ‘The many faces of Dr. Tilde.’ I regret this now. All you predicted are happening now. We are really disappointed.” Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah.
Yuguda, Business More than Usual was brutally suppressed in the media. I could not publish it in my column in Daily Trust, except on the net. So I sent a copy via courier to the governor, emirs and distributed many physically in Bauchi. I was shocked that the facts in it were denied by his media team and to find out that has kept that denial for over 15 months now in its front webpage. However, today, the prophecies of that article are not too far from reality.
When I saw that Yuguda is becoming more power drunk and the league of police, security agents, judiciary and media houses are not helping to moderate him, that is when I decided to write another article last week, the first in 16 months. In it, I pleaded with Yuguda to show discretion in his use of power. I even went, against the norm and at the risk of being accused of tribalism, as far as addressing him in Fulfulde, knowing his strong attachment to the language; after all, he may not have the time to read the whole article.
Well, I will continue writing my advices to him whenever necessary, perchance he would one day say, “kai, let me listen to this Dr. Tilde”. If that day fails to turn up, another would, when he will definitely regret believing those who, in order to prevent him from listening, told him that I am just his enemy, nothing else.
It is about time to give you a break, my dear reader. You must have found my personal narration indecent. I did not enjoy it either. Forgive my indulgence, please. You have been very patient with me, though still I have to chip in this final remark. Last week, I quoted the Hausa adage that says only the stupid tells the truth to a prince. I agree that I am stupid. But my stupidity does not arise from an infirmity. Rather, it is a product of the belief that unless some call to the good and discourage evil, our society will continue to sink. It is a message I learnt first from Usman Bugaje and Ibrahim Suleiman during the 1976 MSS national meeting held at St. Jones College, Jos. Later, I would hear the philosopher say that the only thing that evil needs in order to flourish is for good people to remain silent. Though my sins and shortcomings deny me the immodesty of claiming any good, my actions compel me to humbly declare that I am stupid.
18 July 2009

Discourse 258: Obama, yes we can

Discourse 258

Obama, Yes We Can

The popular perception is that Obama did not come to Nigeria two weeks ago. He only visited Ghana. I have a different opinion. Obama was here. We felt him. We saw him. We heard him. We received his message of hope, encouragement and support. As a side show, many of us were so happy that for the first time, Nigerian rulers got what they deserve. A fatal snub that expresses the non-recognition of their practices; that they are dealers, not leaders…

As we rejoiced in the import of his message, they anguished in the pain of his snub. They retaliated by not allowing NTA to cover the visit or broadcast its message that day. They just proved what Obama was accusing them of. Were it a vanity taking place there, millions would have been spent to give it a live coverage. But since it was an honest message of salvation from their claws, their screen went off. One of them, my mentor for that matter, even publicly said on the BBC Hausa Service that “it was a slap on the face of Nigeria.” Just imagine. Oga, na lie wo. Obama did not slap Nigeria. He slapped irresponsible dealers. And why did they feel guilty, anyway? Another said that “Nigeria does not need any stamp of recognition from any country.” Chineke! How could a former minister of foreign affairs so underrate the most fundamental demand of international relations: recognition?
Obama did not call for any civil disobedience, coup d’etat or the dethronement of any dictator. He called for transparency in the conduct of government, sovereignty of the people that is expressed through elections, and the rule of law. Only these three. Nothing else. And in line with his belief, he chose to visit and send this message from one of the few countries on the continent that have made honest effort to achieve them. He shook the hands of the leaders who helped Ghana chart that course: Rawlings, Mills, Kufor, etc. This measure of respect is something they earned. They suppressed the temptation to loot public treasury, guaranteed their people the constitutional rights to liberty and democratic freedom, and enthroned the rule of law. They may not be perfect, but their strides were honest, giant and purposeful.
To the dealers of African Obama chose the language of absence, which has now appeared to be as painful as an arrow. Were he to come here, for example, along with all the pastors and Imams of this world and preach democracy, human rights and rule of law to our rulers, it would have meant nothing. But by avoiding them, he revealed their status as part of the problem.
Our rulers were given to undeserved recognition, the ‘giant’ of Africa. They enjoyed the state visits of Presidents and Prime Ministers who, in defiance of its poor human rights and democratic credentials, included this country in their itinerary. They will rig elections here and go on tour overseas to enjoy red carpet receptions, wining and dining with any one that matters. They were told, impliedly, that the world did not care about your records.
In fact, what I still cannot figure out is how these characters failed to perceive the wind of change whose velocity is increasing by the day. They think the old order is here to stay, at least until the end of their lifetime; what happens thereafter is the survivors’ business. Their radar is so poor that Obama’s snub caught them by surprise. I assure them, this is 1-0. Unless they change their behaviour Obama will score more goals, some very devastating.
How could a country where rigging elections and looting public funds are celebrated think it deserves better recognition than another which is more transparent and give consideration to the voice of its people in the 21st Century? How could a country that cannot provide six hours of electricity nationwide for over twenty years now due to the preoccupation of its rulers with corruption claim a right of recognition over another that has celebrated its uninterrupted power supply nationwide for a complete year, simply because the former boasts of accommodating the largest number of Africans, 70% of whom shamefully lives under the poverty line? Actually, Nigerian rulers got what they deserve. Their expectations were misplaced in the archives of history. In private, though I believe, they will readily agree that we indeed have problems with corruption and holding credible elections. Why deny the obvious then? We are not talking here about the PDP cartel alone. Many of us have repeated the point that rigging elections is not limited to PDP; the ANPP and most other opposition parties are equally ruthless. They too rig wherever possible, as exemplified in the conduct of their state ‘independent’ electoral commissions. The insistence of governors that these commissions remain in place eloquently expresses their desire to continue rigging. In many cases, the PDP governments even perform better than the ANPP, who in most cases are preoccupied with looting the treasury in the most bizarre forms.
Yet, our rulers should better listen to Obama and act correctly. He is not joking. This guy has been consistent on his intention not to recognise any African government that sustains power through non-transparent electoral process or is corrupt in its practices. How Professor Jibril Aminu’s team was dismissed in the State Department recently when it went to PR for this government is a clear signal that it will not be business as usual. For us in Nigeria, 2011 elections are just by the corner, less than 20 months away. One thing that our rulers must know is that this time America, and by extension, Britain, will not recognize any discredited elections. The European Union has already been very vocal on this. Their monitors have consistently issued a disastrous scorecard on our elections.
America under George Bush has always persuaded other countries to tolerate our ignominious conduct. He did the same in Kenya last year. I am happy that he will not be there come 2011. It will be Obama, God willing, who put it so blunt in Ghana: “we have a responsibility to support those who act responsibly and to isolate those who don’t, and that is exactly what America will do.” This is the greatest service that any American President would give to Africa. And no one could do it with a greater authority than Obama who is African. If isolation could bring down the Apartheid regime in South Africa, formidable as it was, it is kidding for anyone to think that it cannot cause trouble for the regime in Nigeria. The rulers know this very well. Their bravado is a farce. Let them attempt rigging 2011, and I assure them, the sky will fall on them.
I do not expect Obama’s cure to come from his warnings or threat, but from his actions. It will be a miracle if 2011 elections are not rigged. We have started seeing the signs already. The President’s heavy doctoring of Justice Uwais Committee’s most important recommendations did not send any signal of hope. Also, the sudden decision by INEC to use electronic voting machines (EVMs) in 2011, certainly, smacks of the desire to defraud the electorate. INEC simply does not have the capacity or the time to deploy the EVMs in 2011 transparently. It is a simple truth. But I will handle this in a different discourse shortly.
What will take us forward, therefore, is yet to come. If 2011 is rigged, as it is most likely to be, the isolation of America will certainly precipitate a political crisis that will ultimately, if not immediately, lead to our political freedom. If I were Yar’adua, therefore, I will rather take Obama’s threat seriously and heed to his advice: conduct free and fair elections and, by so doing, gain glory. That is far better than facing the obvious crisis that will arise from America’s lack of recognition. Niger Delta is enough a problem.
Some may ward off this warning by citing Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, etc. But we differ from those countries in that our citizens are poles apart from our government. Any external isolation will be readily interpreted by citizens as a permission to send the government packing through any means. It is this catastrophe that must be avoided. A word is enough for the wise.
The threat of Obama notwithstanding, we the citizens must be ready to also play our part of the bargain. He emphasized our role in reclaiming our rights and building a better future for ourselves and generations to come. Our conduct during and between elections is important. Now is the time for every one of us to fight corruption by exposing it, at least, mobilize people to know their constitutional rights and participate in the evolution of a responsible leadership.
Let us, therefore, keenly prepare for 2011, when the next elections will be held, and the story will be different, now that the world has promised to be on our side. Let us not gladden ourselves by waiting for Obama to carry out his threat if the elections are rigged; rather, we should prepare to sent the dealers packing or force them to change become transparent. We will then invite him as a special guest speaker at the presidential inauguration ceremony even if Yar’adua were to legitimately emerge the winner. Then only he would be glad to attend and rejoice with us in his victory slogan, yes we can.
23 July 2008