By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
EARLY this week, reports emerged that Vice President Namadi Sambo, on behalf of the Federal Government, had “sought the support of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) for the provision of about $450M to expand the power transmission system to wheel up to 20, 000 megawatts of electricity”.
Namadi Sambo made the demand during a courtesy visit by the IDB President, Dr. Ahmed Ali, in Saudi Arabia, where the vice president is performing Umrah, the lesser hajj. Dr. Ali who received a list of other requests from the vice president, revealed that the bank had approved three of five projects that Nigeria submitted.
These are the construction of four new science secondary schools in Kaduna state worth $17.9M; construction of a 300-bed specialist hospital in Kaduna state at $43.15M; and the Zaria water supply project worth $81.0M. All are in Sambo’s home state.
It is interesting that monies are being sourced for projects, ostensibly to improve the quality of lives of Nigerians. We have the negative experience in the recent past of foreign loans that were badly applied for which our country suffered dire consequences. Kaduna is my second home, so I follow its development issues very keenly.
The numbers crunching around the IDB loan reveals that the devil is always in the detail, with these foreign loans and what they are meant to finance. A good friend pointed this out to me during the week and I will like to share it. The IDB loan will construct four new science secondary schools at $17.9M. At today’s official CBN rate of N155.25 to the USD, that translates to about N2.778B.
Divided by four, the number of schools to be built, each school will cost about N694, 743. 750M. The professionals in the construction industry need to explain and justify these costs; but more poignantly, from the cost element, how many graduate teachers in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology are there to employ in Kaduna state for these schools? And is thought given to that vital component of the project?
These schools are to be located around the state, but how will laboratories run where there is no regular electricity supply? If they use generators how do they guarantee regular supply of diesel and what is the cost component for diesel supply?
The second interrogation relates to the construction of a 300-bed specialist hospital at $43.15M; which is N6.7B. In Kaduna State, ABU Teaching Hospital is already located in Shika, in Namadi Sambo’s hometown of Zaria. The Barau Dikko Specialist Hospital is being upgraded into a teaching hospital for the Kaduna State University. With two teaching hospitals in the state, what’s the reason for a third specialist hospital? Besides, there is also the 200-bed 44 Military Reference Hospital in Kaduna.
It was upgraded to UN standard by General Abdulrahman Danbazau, former Chief of Army Staff. In addition to provision of health services to members of our armed forces, the hospital is open to civilians. There is even provision for a Presidential Wing, rather like a hospital within a hospital. All radiological equipment came from GE; it had over 20 consultants covering most areas of medicine.
If Namadi Sambo’s specialist hospital comes on board, how functional will it become, with the epileptic power supply. And are we not better off investing in preventive, primary health care than the prestigious, money-consuming curative levels?
The third item is the Zaria water supply project at $81M or N17.9B. The project has gone on for a very long time and it is interesting that people allege that the vice president’s company is the contractor for the water project! The money is actually the capital component of the project, without much thought going into the recurrent cost that will be incurred, long after the capital spending has been done.
Let me point out as a matter of interest, that according to the Debt Management Office (DMO), Kaduna is only second to Lagos in the level of foreign indebtedness at $215. 68M, as at 2012. We must now add to that, Namadi Sambo’s new IDB debt of $142. 050M.
Those who know how these things work, say there are dangers ahead: the international price of oil can drop; the theft of oil in the Niger Delta may assume a worse dimension, especially with Petroleum Minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke saying not much can be done to find restitution for twenty years; Nigeria’s dollar revenue can drop, while the CBN might be unable to support the naira, with serious consequences for dollar denominated loans, such as Namadi Sambo’s IDB loan.
Then there is the huge domestic debt profile too. How will Kaduna state cope? Namadi Sambo will be long gone from the scene but the consequences will be there into the future. We must give ourselves the pause about these foreign loans and projects they are incurred for.
In truth, these problems are nationwide. In my other home, Kwara state, in the eight years of Bukola Saraki, billions of naira went into appropriations for the Ilorin water supply project and till today, the jury is out about how much water has come out of our taps! We in dire straits indeed!
Let us teach our children History
I DON’T know if it is apocryphal, but I read that students in Ikenne, the Ogun state homestead of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, were asked what they knew about the nationalist and one of the greatest politicians and administrators Nigeria ever had. Most of the children answered that the Obafemi they knew was the football player, Obafemi Martins, not Chief Obafemi Awolowo!
That story conveys vividly, the tragedy of a country that has conspired against its own best interest, by dropping or relegating utterly, the teaching of history, in the school system. At which point this happened, I cannot exactly recall, but it crept upon us, against some frightening backdrops. Imperialism beginning to intervene to influence the curricular of studies in neo-colonial countries like Nigeria, by the mid-1980s, during military dictatorship.
They launched a frontal attack on subjects that reinforced anti-imperialist consciousness, and history was one of them. It should be recalled that from the 1940s, pioneering African historians like Prof. Kenneth Dike; Prof. Cheikh Anta Diop and others, had made African history very much a part of the struggle for our African identities in the struggle against colonialism.
The African Personality and his traditions, including the oral traditions; the peopling and construction of the African continent; the empires; the struggle to master nature within the settings of Africa, entered the terrain of history, much against the racist stereotypes of colonial historiography.
In the end colonialism retreated from the scene, to be replaced by neocolonialism. The imperialist countries needed to retain their hegemony in Africa and the minds of Africans has always been a contested terrain, in terms of the knowledge these minds are exposed to.
An assertive knowledge of history is not in the long-term interest of capitalist exploitation in Africa. So an offensive was launched on history and other subjects that create African personalities conscious of and proud in their history. The citizen and African patriot endanger the imperialist agenda.
They want zombies and unthinking consumers of the products of the imperialist world. They want Africans enamoured of Kentucky Fried Chickens; who enjoy holidaying at Disney world in Orland, Florida, not Africans hacking back to the grandeurs of Africa’s past to recreate them in the new, historical conditions. They introduced a disdain for history as a subject, substituting with the nebulous subject called “Social Studies”.
Today, most Departments of History in Nigerian universities survive only in combination with “International Studies”; and very few students enroll to study history.
Yet, this is a country that had a remarkable tradition of world-class, Africanist historians: Prof. Kenneth Dike; Prof. Ade Ajayi; Prof. Afigbo; Prof. Fred Omu; Prof. Alayande; Prof. Abdullahi Smith; Prof. Balogun; Dr. Yusufu Bala Usman; Prof. Ade Obayemi, to mention just a few!
Today about 75 percent of our population is under the age of 35. Please check online chat rooms to gauge the depth of ignorance about Nigeria and its peoples.
We are doing a great disservice to Nigeria’s future with an educational system that does not make history a compulsory subject right through the school system; for our children to take courses in Nigerian, West African, African and World history, right from primary schools. It doesn’t matter what course of study the student is specialising in, he/she must take these compulsory electives. When one doesn’t know where he is coming from, he cannot make a correct judgment of where he is headed.
It is the same for a country. Our children must be given a rich diet of historical knowledge to orient them into the world they are growing into. Where there is surety about history and profound knowledge and pride in its course, children will grow into their world with remarkable confidence.
I face this problem of the disappearance of history in my role in parenting my children. My forefathers were scholars who wrote history, in the Arabic language. I try to help my children to understand the historical forces that moulded and brought us to where we have arrived today. Every family faces the same problem today in our country.
In my case, I combine the oral traditions handed over to me, with trying to encourage interest in a systematic appreciation of history so that my children can at least understand and appreciate their heritage and grow up as proud citizens of Nigeria, Africa and the world of the Twenty-First Century. But the individual effort like mine can only go that far. It is the duty of the Nigerian state to provide education for our children, which reinstates the teaching and valorization of history.
I hope the consciousness will spread like veldt fire and all parents in Nigeria will demand the teaching of Nigeria, African and World history as compulsory subjects for all children in the Nigerian school system. That is the right way to go!