OPINION: Mallam Rafiu Ajakaye and the burden of office by Tajudeen Habeeb

Date: 2021-12-21

Positions, be it appointed or elected, come with burden of responsibilities. As rightly noted by the executive Governor of Kano State, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje, during his interview with Seun Okinbaloye of Channels TV on the dethronement of the former Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi; offices come with assets and liabilities.

The peak of the liabilities attached to being a spokesperson to political office holders is that mandate of defending them, even in the face of obvious errors and misjudgements. As such, I find it difficult castigating any position related to defending the government, especially through the media narratives churned out by aides saddled with such responsibilities.

Mallam Rafiu Ajakaye is, no doubt, a very good brother. I have on so many occasions alluded to the fact that he is one of the best brains in Kwara government of the day, if not the best. But then, he has a difficult task in between staying true to his person and satisfying his official responsibilities. This again is understandable.

However, some issues need not be politicised and personalised, and one of such is that of education. Reading political meaning to any issue that pertains to education inevitably leads to derailing off the path that leads to the attainment of quality and accessible education for all. You can’t say because the truth is coming from a perceived opposition, it can’t be the truth.

In responding to the article written by Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi titled “Kwara: It Takes Leadership, Not 15 Years”, Ajakaye, rather than tackle the issues head-on, using data, facts and figures to arrive at informed position on the issue of discourse; instead took to the path of personality attack and a rehash of the same worn out propaganda. The truth is, I wouldn’t know what changed the Ajakaye that I knew to someone who now takes to the path that leads directly to the gutter; where name calling is the order of the day. I trust he will adjust after today.

Before I delve into the meat of my contribution, I should note a very appalling assertion in the third paragraph of Ajakaiye s rejoinder which concluded that Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi wrote what he wrote as “…a survivalist attempt to warm himself into the heart of the emperor who holds the key to his political future.” How someone we all consider as a man of God and a man of faith would even go low to the extent of ascribing the future of anyone, whether political or otherwise, to the will of another creature of God beats me. In other words, even Ajakaiye himself must believe that his avowed ability and dexterity in attacking the political enemies of his boss, both real and imagined, must have been the reason why he is still in office; and not because of Allah’s will and permission. This kind of thinking from an Alfa is, to say the least, disappointing.

Also, I believed it would have taken a huge courage for Mallam Ajakaye to asked Bolaji Abdullahi to go update his knowledge on a subject he has, even nationally, been applauded. But I would like to say this, and I don’t need Mallam Abdullahi’s permission; I think the best way to assess who needs to update his knowledge is for all those involved in the affairs of governance in the state to publish their CVs and credentials for public scrutiny. Or better still, before Ajakaye would say academic qualifications do not reflect knowledge; I will hope for a debate platform to be set up for both the governor and the former minister, if truly the CPS is convinced of the depth and genuineness of their education policy.

In any case, there wouldn’t have been any need for a response if the CPS had taken Mallam up with verifiable facts and not conjectures. For 4 years, I have thrown up the challenge worth a hundred thousand naira around the same lie that Ajakaiye repeated twice in his article under reference, asking anyone who desire to win my monetary offer to simply produce the teacher Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi allegedly slapped while serving as Commissioner of Education. Till date, no one has taken the challenge, and it is now my wish that the CPS will take the challenge and win the 100k premium placed on it. If that proves impossible, I do hope that he will take the path of honour by first accepting the fact that he gave his voice to support propaganda/lies, apologise and subsequently desist from towing such path in future.

In driving home his political thoughts, rather than facts, the CPS insisted that all that were attempted by the administration in which Bolaji Abdullahi served were merely on paper, an illogical assertion that reaffirmed what the former Education Commissioner was saying about the temptation of the present government to always create the impression that nothing was achieved in Kwara before 2019. I couldn’t but laugh at that particular insinuation, especially considering the status of the CPS as a communication ‘expert’ with unrestrained access to information as a government official. He ought to have with him facts of the matter, especially the efforts put in place by the administration in which Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi served as a Commissioner, which recorded a verifiable rating by WAEC and earned Kwara State commendation and recognition from the exam body as a state tackling the endemic exam malpractices in the country.

Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, in tackling the endemic examination malpractices while at the same time improving the learning and teaching ability in schools, took so many risks, moving from one school to the other to ensure compliance; closing down schools that engaged in the act, both private and public irrespective of those involved, and also insisting that students involved in malpractices of any kind be demoted to serve as a deterrent to others who may contemplate such a contemptuous act. The resultant effect of Abdullahi’s efforts was the improvement in the pass rate at WAEC level, which rose by at least 15 percent during those period. Yet to Mallam Ajakaye, this verifiable achievement was only on paper.

Understanding the inherent problems that serve as major obstacles to the development of teachers, Abdullahi as a commissioner conducted the widely adjudged best education reform moves in the history of Nigeria, the Teachers Need Development Assessment (TDNA) aimed at creating a system that work on sustainable basis and deliver the required teaching manpower for the State. Those among the teachers who passed assessments were trained by UK aid, treating them to the best standard of teaching in primary education. These trainees in turn became trainers and were clustered under the State School Improvemt Team (SSIT) to train the School Support Officers (SSO) who serve as the monitoring team for school development in term of education and management. These interventions did not only win the state awards by the UKAid and the DFID but also called the attention of other States to Kwara as a model State for educational development. How on earth did the CPS missed this history as a government official?

The uniqueness of this test and its end product is the fact that against sacking those that failed the test as obtainable in the State of recent, and adjudged incompetent were summarily dismissed; the teachers who didn’t pass the test at that time were rather subjected to rigorous training and retraining exercise, thus ensuring a consistency in teacher-pupil relationship as it aids understanding and learning.

Abdullahi, understanding the fact that the teachers were themselves a victim of the collapsed education system of many years, invested in them rather than adding them to the ever rising unemployment rate in the country as it is the case of the ” Sunset” teachers; and in two years, the result of this investment became obvious in improved teaching technicality and skillsets.

To restore the dignity of teachers and boost their confidence, Omoluabi eradicated the ever dubious means of salary payment system that subject the teachers to long hours of queue to receive salary, that which encouraged short change and sharp practices in their payments. He mobilised them to a more advanced payment system that guarantees full payment of their salaries and ensure their dignity as builders of the future is restored.

I understand though, that the government of the day do not want the name Saraki mentioned in any positive context, but then, Like the Powerful CPS is working today for AA, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi worked for Saraki and he is humble enough to give the credit for all his achievements to his boss, because he knows that without the Governor’s political will, leadership and cover, he would not have gone far in achieving his intended education reforms. It is an historical fact that all that I have enumerated happened under Saraki’s leadership. You don’t like that? I can’t help. For I am sure the CPS and other governor Abdulrasak appointees will take personal credit for whatever they may achieve.

Again, knowing that the problem of poor education stems from the quality of graduates from our Colleges of Education who went on to become teachers at the basic education level; Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi resorted to a radical reform of the Colleges of Education, with the one in Oro serving as pilot institution, in an effort to deliver the best teaching professionals for the State.

The college of education reform agenda sought to change the institutions from merely certificate-awarding Colleges to one which focused on training for the classrooms in pre-primary courses, primary courses, and post primary courses. The idea behind this was the understanding that colleges of education were training ‘professionals’ who are not fit for primary education, considering the courses they offer; or how do one rationalise the idea of somebody who studied political science education teaching in primary school? This reform did not only earn the state an award and commendation from the National Commission for Colleges of Education, it equally served as a prototype adopted by the Federal Government.

It baffles me when the CPS, in defending the 15 years assertion of His Excellency, used the newly launched development plans that have been shrouded in secrecy all along to further affirm their preparedness to bring quality education to children in Kwara State after almost three years in office. At the minimum, one wonder how the document being touted is expected to get to anybody’s hands without the government making it available to the general populace. Do we now have witchcraft to know what is contained in the much trumpeted but exclusive document for education reform by this current government? Logically, and may be in simple terms, what the CPS is saying is that no matter what anybody says, Kwarans must wait for 15 years for their children and wards to enjoy quality education; as the government can’t combine building a system with building a structure.

On the invitation of Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi to the education summit organised by the state government, Ajakaye again deliberately delivered half-truth in order to mislead the reading public. And considering my love and respect for the CPS, I seek forgiveness from Allah on his behalf because I am convinced that he lied. To prove me wrong, I will like the CPS to publish the letter sent to Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi to invite him for the said summit and mention any personnel or aide who work for Mallam that collected and acknowledge the letter.

The truth of the matter, which Ajakaiye deliberately hid, was that as it is customary with this government, with its lack of basic etiquette, courtesy and propensity for blackmail; a female employee was merely instructed to call up and invite Mallam through the phone, knowing fully well that he won’t condone such disrespect. For heaven’s sake, who invites a former minister to an important occasion through a phone call? Not even the CPS will take such as an invitation. While I do not want to sound petty, it is important I sound a note of warning that if this insolence is taken further, I may be forced to narrate what transpired behind the scene and how unorganized and untidy some of the employees of the Abdulrazaq government can be.

It is imperative I reiterate the point Mallam was making in his article, for which the state government media hirelings went on overdrive. If the CPS was not enmeshed in the politics of the whole saga, he would have been able to draw the important message contained in Abdullahi’s piece. And the message is simple: developing education isn’t in the structure. If it were, many of those who went to the famous Jakande schools in Lagos would not have amounted to anything today, and I bet even the honourable CPS did not have an aesthetic classroom while in primary school. What makes the difference in the lives of many of us today was the competent teachers with good skills that we were fortunate to have.

Therefore, what Mallam was saying was simple, and it is simply that building conducive classrooms for learning in our schools was not bad, afterall, like he said, previous governments also built classrooms; but delivering quality education required a certain kind of deliberate policy that would not require an article by an opposition politician for the public to be aware of.

In developing this policy and plan, no 15 years is required, because while the classrooms house the physical body of students and provides the right environment for learning, education itself is a goal that can only be achieved through effective system of teaching and learning. And building this system, not the physical classroom structures, won’t take 15years. How difficult can that be to grasp? It is, indeed, very illogical to say that until we have 2trillion naira and build the physical classrooms before we can give quality education. Dear CPS, oo wrong Nah!

Dear CPS, as a reminder, Bolaji Abdullahi’s era as the Commissioner of education is till today adjudged by Kwarans as the best of any commissioner in the State, both in term of policy and sincerity of purpose towards revamping the education system. No matter how much you tried sir, that history can’t be rewritten easily. “Won ba ti!”

While I rise, shall we pray? May the good Lord give the the CPS the ability to take the truth as the truth and take the lesson therein. May the Government the CPS is serving succeed, for that would be the gain of Kwarans.

Tajudeen Habeeb writes from Ilorin.

 


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