By Gimba Kakanda
“A professor who had run a university should not be a sidekick to an accountant-turned-columnist… It can only happen in a country like this.”
This statement was attributed to a certain Professor Akin Oyebode in an interview on Channels TV. Like him, regiments of our friends have expressed resentment to what they considered another of President Buhari’s oversights; Malam Adamu Adamu’s appointment as Nigeria’s substantive Minister of Education, with the mistake, according to them, being a seasoned academic and former university administrator, Professor Anthony Anwuka, made his junior.
The argument seems intelligent, and the concerns honest, from the surface. We are told Adamu Adamu is just an “ordinary journalist” with no administrative experience, and that it’s a taboo to have him instructing a Professor on the complex art of restructuring an institution in which he is a novice.
The critics exhibit flawed understanding of Public Administration as a forte of only the technically skilled. They missed that a Minister is a top-ranking executive whose most required assets are conceptual skills. And who possesses these skills more than an uncompromising and first-rate social critic whose revolutionary ideas and audacious ways of observing our world and its strangest aberrations had been persistent and unwavering, instigating fierce debates amongst us?
Adamu’s career, unlike the professor’s, can’t be easily calibrated to present his accomplishments. And, for a man of such proven cerebral verve, if the years actively spent in journalism were in pursuits of academic scholarship, he would’ve equally been at the top of the cadre. Despite its bastardization by unmotivated rookies and avaricious editors, there’s no profession that is as close to humans, to their reality and yearnings, as journalism. Every day in active journalism is a lesson on the waywardness of our politicians and the impacts of their selfish agendas against the general welfare of the society.
If journalism had been as hierarchically organized and defined as the academia and as, say, the military, there’s no way that a longstanding and consistent reporter and analyst of Adamu’s pedigree won’t be a Professor or General, respectively. Was Wole Soyinka, a Professor of Comparative Literature, a public administrator when he was appointed pioneer Chairman of Federal Road Safety Corps by General Ibrahim Babangida? What has Literature got to do with road safety? Soyinka was chosen, despite what some may consider administrative naïveté, for his consistent reflections on the state of the nation and the prescriptions he recommended. Though the circumstances are different, aside from their persistent vending of ideas, the inclusion of conscious minds in government is because, in the words of Soyinka, “the process of change is a collective struggle… what I did (at FRSC) is not appointment… I accepted an assignment, a people’s assignment.”
And I see myself as a constituent of Adamu’s intellectual realm, one who must endorse his selection to practise what he had preached, and then return to the very seat he vacated, to remind him of the debt he owes us, the debt of exemplification of honesty. It seems vulgar to dismiss the appointment of such a refined thinker as head of a ministry once headed by the Shekaraus of this world, simply because a certain Professor is made his junior. In fact, to say that a seasoned journalist isn’t an asset in a cabinet dominated by lawyers is disdainful, ignorant and mischievous. Is lawyering an administrative role? Even our bright stars of the new administration like Kayode Fayemi and Babatunde Raji Fashola were similarly administratively “naive” before securing mandates to prove themselves, beyond lecturing and lawyering, respectively.
We are being told now that Professor Anwuka is the best man to fix the sector, even with our fresh memory of fellow Professors who, fresh out of the administrative matrix of the ivory tower, came and failed to make a difference. Like Anwuka, Professor Ruqayyah Ahmed Rufa’i who was in charge of the ministry between 2010 and 2013 is also a Professor of Education, and she left the ministry with no praiseworthy accomplishments, with the universities, of which she was a communal member, on strike. So, how’s Anwuka’s different?
Anwuka was Vice-Chancellor of Imo State University for five years, and the last time I checked, the university wasn’t among the top 5 best state universities in Nigeria. So, what are we talking about? That he’s a magician whose miracle would only manifest as Minister?
That we are yearning more for the academically certified in a country only recently mismanaged by a PhD is a frightening scenario for study of Stockholm syndrome. What Nigeria needs are not political captors, what Nigeria needs are morally conscious patriots who have proven themselves as resiliently uncompromising; and this, this identification with the suffering, which isn’t a part of an academic’s life, even Anwuka cannot claim to have actualized, let alone be compared to Adamu.
We should all be outraged that the amnesic reduced Adamu’s years of exceptional existence as a journalist and critic of politics and life to a non-event that doesn’t deserve such key administrative responsibility in overhauling our national institutions. It’s sad that we only prefer our journalists, writers and thinkers who, from obsessive criticism have become the most informed of the many wrongs of the nation, to be messed up as inconsequential media aides to thieving politicians and self-styled technocrats. It’s sad that we think a man who has maintained a model reputation and abhorrence to corruption that has consumed a legion of his contemporaries in a career that started before some of us even learned to read ABC, isn’t qualified to instruct a professor.
What difference could Adamu Adamu make? In his preliminary thought on the ministerial inauguration, my big brother, Barrister Deji Toye, highlighted the challenge before our new Minister. “Adamu Adamu,” he wrote “has the opportunity to make the most difference in a fundamental way. In the Education portfolio, he has to open two fronts in his battle – (i) the issue of basic access in Northern Nigeria and (ii) Overall reform for quality and content everywhere. Performance in the first is the easier and quicker to measure, but seeing how almost perennially intractable it has become, would be tasking nonetheless. A number of targets have been missed in closing the education gap between the regions with substantial Federal funding (the UBE of the 1970s and the soon-to-close MDGs). So merely throwing more money at it will almost certainly be to little avail. The problem, at its root, is cultural. Perhaps, working with the emerging political and cultural leadership of the region (from Emir Lamido Sanusi to Governor ElRufai), a new social attitude to education could be fashioned in that region that guarantees new investments and helps to close that gap at secondary school level within the next decade.”
On November 15, at his first public outing after leaving office, addressing a mixed demographic of students and guests of Newgate College of Health Technology in its first annual lecture series in Minna, the former Governor of Niger State, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, also called on the new Education Minister to take advantage of “a subsisting Supreme Court Judgment for the establishment of Education Bank…” The financial institution, he explained, is proposed to offer student educational loans to the underprivileged, as found in countries that have recognized the essence of a literate nation.
Ideas were never ever scarce, and they had been shared almost per minute by pundits; our frustrations had always been paucity of upright men to walk the talk. President Buhari is an easy example of our eventual recognition of honesty and growing sensitivity to the bamboozlement of “Big English-speaking” technocrats who came from big institutions with their big ideas, apologies to Sam Nda-Isaiah, and, instead of “reforming the unreformable” – again apology to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala – only succeeded in outclassing their predecessors in earning medals for reforming their personal bank accounts. May God save us from us!
By Gimba Kakanda