By SONI AKOJI
It is no longer news that Sokoto State opened its own university on October 29th, 2013. With this development, the state has been deleted from the list of educationally less developed states as it now has two universities – a Federal government owned Usman Dan Fodio University and the newly commissioned state owned, Sokoto State University, SSU, by the government headed by His Excellency, Alhaji (Dr) Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko (Sarkin Yamman Sokoto), Executive Governor of Sokoto State.
A popular adage says that, until Lions begin to tell the stories of the hunt, others will tell the stories and distort the facts. The present government of Sokoto state led by taciturn but amiable Aluu , came into office with a promise of taking Sokoto state to greater heights through a revolution in the education sector. My decision to write this brief review as Sokoto State University berths in the North Western geographic landscape of Nigeria is for others to read, verify and come to their own conclusions that the Sokoto State University is indeed a University with a difference and Aluu is indeed a man who now transcends mawkish sentiment, contrary to what is being portrayed by his detractors.
Like most Nigerians, I nearly missed the news, partly because very few newspapers (Daily Trust, Leadership, The Nation) considered it newsworthy and partly because the occasion coincided with the distractions and anxiety created by the politics of the ‘old’ and ‘new’ PDP brouhaha alongside the political crinkum crankum of the factional NGF, coupled up with the realignment of the nation’s political equation APC willing to provide an alternative platform for the aggrieved G-7 governors of the PDP, of which Aluu is a dependable and indefatigable ally.
At his inauguration, after winning a fiercely contested political battle for the soul of the seat of the state of the caliphate, Governor Aluu captures the policy thrust of his administration with Education as the launching pad of his vision for Sokoto state.
According to the Sarkin Yamman Sokoto, on 29th of May, 2007 when he took oath of office, he spoke inter alia. In his words, “the present socio-economic and political realities are worrisome and require immediate intervention of all and sundry to check the ugly trend to hopelessness and return the state to the path of recovery, growth and development.”
True to his words, at its inception in 2007 Wamakko’s administration declared a state emergency in the educational sector and committed 22 percent of the state’s budget to the sector.
Structures such as classrooms, libraries, workshops, hostels etc are important considering the fact that effective teaching and learning process can only take place in a conducive learning environment. It is with this fact in mind, that the sokoto state government expended over 3 billion naira into the construction, rehabilitation and expansion of most primary and secondary schools in the state.
Poverty is the main reason often given by parents as to why they keep their children, especially the girl child out of school and send them hawking as street traders and vendors. Education no doubt is a potent weapon against poverty. This statement of fact translates the cardinal policy of the Aluu led government. At the inception of the administration in 2007, the Governor entered a pact of poverty reduction with the citizens of the state. In the pact, he stated inter alia: “Our focus and policy direction will be anchored on the objectives of poverty reduction, wealth creation and education empowerment. This policy thrust rests squarely on the core values of fulfilling our people’s demands through the reduction of poverty, illiteracy and wealth creation as catalyst for sustainable development and empowerment.”
The administration took measures to arrest this situation by abolishing fees from the school system in sokoto including examination fees, for all students in Sokoto state with non indigenes inclusive. It also increased the feeding allowance of its students by 100 percent. These policies have since yielded results, as student enrolment in schools is above 50% according to a recent survey.
The fact that many women get married without completing their secondary education, prompted the creation of women education centers within the state, with one in each of the three senatorial districts of the state. This is to enable married women to enrol for their secondary education so as to qualify them for tertiary education. This policy has given married women a renewed boast and opportunity to acquire higher education and marriage is no longer seen as an end to ones educational pursuit, among the married women.
Qualified and competent teaching force, is essential for any educational reform. The administration has so far recruited over 1000 additional primary school teachers, 1000 secondary school teachers, 300 teachers for arabic and islamic board and over 200 lectures and support staffs for its college of education and polytechnic.
There is a tremendous increase in the provision of teaching and learning materials. Textbooks, science equipments and other related learning materials are being provided to all schools in the state. It is in-line with its drive to foster effective learning that the administration recently approved a 46 million naira one laptop per child pilot programme, that will introduce its students to the new global ICT trend.
The vexed issue of almajiri also received a commendable attention from the government. It committed over 70 million naira in the establishment of a specially equipped boarding school that incorporates western and islamic education in the curriculum. The school now has an enrolment of over 600 children. The government provides feeding, clothing and other needs of the these children. The federal government has also partnered the state in this regard as it recently built and equipped another almajiri modern school in the state.
The sokoto state government, has secured admissions for its indigenes in various higher institutions within and outside the country. NECO,WAEC,JAMB and Direct Entry forms are also being purchased on a yearly basis for distribution to its students free of charge. Over 1000 students with deficiencies in o/level were registered for extra moral lessons. The programme is being supervised by a consultant with coordinators that engaged qualified teachers.
The administration also secured NUC’s accreditation for seventeen  Bachelor of Education, B. ed programmes in its college of education and secured HND courses accreditation for its polytechnic.
The final icing on the cake was the commissioning of the Sokoto state university that shall accommodate the envisaged turnover of secondary school leavers.
These projects and policies are all on ground in sokoto state today for individuals or groups to come and verify. Please come to Sokoto and ask about this revolutionary initiatives of the Aluu’s administration. For emphasis, let me reiterate that Aluu declared education as uncompromising right of the child irrespective of parental background.
Children of indigent families enjoy unfettered access to education.
The administration mounted a serious campaign for girl-child education.
The previously neglected or dilapidated schools across the state have been renovated; additional classrooms were constructed; new schools were constructed for proximity to children of school age.
Teaching and learning materials and equipment were provided. Before then teachers used to buy their teaching materials. Teachers were recruited and motivational packages for greater productivity are being provided.
Through the Department of Higher Education extra mural classes are instituted to encourage students to make up their deficiencies in SSCE or NECO to qualify them for tertiary education.
Governor Wamakko’s administration on coming into power abolished discriminatory school fees in all schools in the state.
The administration also pays WAEC and NECO examinations fees for all students.
As a result of all these measures, there is inevitable upsurge in school enrolment which put much pressure on available tertiary institutions in the state.
Sequel to these successes recorded in the battle against illiteracy and in line with the declaration of a state of emergency in the education sector, Shehu Shagari College of Education and the State Polytechnic received government assistance to expand, introduce new courses and accredit them to degree and Higher National Diploma programs respectively. The two institutions that have students from all over the country are now enviable and can compare favourably with their peers in other parts of the country.
There is no gainsaying that in the area of education, the administration of Aluu has invested massively in this sub-sector to reverse his inaugural lamentation.
The state owned university is a welcome development in this regard and it is our hope and prayers, that Sokoto state University lives and performs above expectations in line with the true ideology of a truly 21st century university. With the dearth of the university ideology in Nigeria, given the frauds that has characterized the establishment of various state government universities in Nigeria, where state governors wake up one morning, simply paint the gate of a secondary school, call an artist to write an inscription in Latin and thereafter announced that a state university has been established, the Sokoto State University is completely different in this regard. It is a brand new university from the scratch. It did not inherit any structure from any school. All the state of the finest art structures and architectural master pieces were constructed from the scratch.
Cynics regard the establishment of the state varsity as grandiose and irrelevant project owing to the fact that Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto still has the capacity to absorb Sokoto State students. But the Special Adviser to the governor on Higher Education, stated during the commissioning of the State University that less than 20% qualified indigenes of Sokoto State who apply every year for admission to Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto and other places were successful. This is so because being a federal institution, the quota system eliminates a large chunk of the candidates; thus the imperative of the State University.
Governor Wamakko at the occasion described the University as a legacy to the educational culture of the Caliphate that would beam its light to other parts of the country and beyond.
We are delighted the administrative focus of taciturn but amiable Governor Wamakko now transcends mawkish sentiment. He is indeed a rebel with a cause and a man of immense vision, goodwill and above all, he has the principles of a statesman.
He is leaving indelible marks in the hearts of Sokoto citizens in particular and Nigerians in general as he deploys educational as the launching pad to the economic and sociopolitical emancipation of the downtrodden and bourgeoisie alike.
Long Live The Peoples General
Long Live Sarkin Yamman Sokoto
Long Live Sokoto State University
Long Live Sokoto State
Long Live Nigeria……