By Gambo Dori
LAST week when I commented on the celebrations that followed the extraordinary achievement of Zakari Israel Galadima who topped this year’s United Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME – popularly known as Jamb), I believed it was just an opportunity to identify with, and celebrate excellence that came out of the Boko Haram-ravaged, war-weary Borno State. However, discerning readers were quick to point out to me that Galadima, though a Borno boy, was actually brought up entirely in Lagos, in an environment conducive for the talents of the young prodigy to flourish and excel. Many who commented either via e-mail or by other social media means asked that celebrating the boy’s achievement was not enough without drawing lessons from the event as well as facing up to the challenges facing similar ladswho are within the confines of Borno State.
No doubt many of us who marked the event along with Kashim Shettima, the Borno State Governor who was reported to have showered the boy with a N5 million scholarship and other gifts, must have done so to accentuate the fact that excellent students can come from any part of the country. Obviously the celebration was to focus on the achievements of the boy, to showcase him to prospective Jamb candidates in Borno State that despite the present difficulties they are just as good as any other student from other parts of the country and can excel. However, this must not be construed to be downplaying the flip-side of the deficit in educational infrastructure in Borno State and all the states in the North-East affected by insurgency.
The situation of schools and students in the affected states is grim and is even grimmer in Borno State, the epicentre of the crisis. There, the educational sector is said to be deeply injured in a structural and very human way. Schools were always the first targets of the terrorist to burn and destroy. The teachers and students were always killed or abducted to be conscripted into the terrorists’ ragtag army. Where female students were available they were similarly abducted and kept as trophies for the pleasures of the commanders and men alike.
At the height of the insurgency in Borno State in 2014 all public schools in 22 out of the 27 local governments areas were not functioning. Those that continued to function were mostly private schools in the heavily fortified Maiduguri and Biu and environs. Even by 2016 when the Nigerian Army had degraded the terrorists, schools were still out of bounds for the students as their facilities were mostly being used to provide emergency shelter to the teeming internally displaced persons (now known as IDPs) who could not readily relocate to their homesteads. Some of the school buildings were actually occupied by the army units.
The destruction to educational infrastructure in the affected states was near total. In Borno State it was in colossal proportion. Only those who have lived through it and those who have been there to see it can tell the story. The consequences will be felt for many generations. One report that captured the situation eloquently said: ‘In addition to devastation, violence and outbreak of cholera, the attacks on schools are in danger of creating a lost generation of children, threatening their and the country’s future’. The challenge of dealing with the situation is indeed enormous and one must appreciate the tenacity of those states coping with it.
Interestingly even at the height of the insurgency some semblance of learning was still taking place in the IDP camps. I had the privilege to visit one of the last IDP camps in Damaturu, Yobe State, last year. It was there that I even watched a class in progress in a learning centre, in a tent within the camp. In Maiduguri which I frequent, the evidence is there that most of the school buildings destroyed are wearing new and even better looks. The schools are also teeming with students. In most of the local government areas similar rehabilitation of schools have taken place even though it is a challenge getting people back to their villages for fear of the insurgents. A more onerous challenge is even getting the required number of teachers to man the schools in the areas that are still unsafe.
A friend posted to my WhatsApp site a video of the Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, making a speech at a Nigerian Medical Association event that took place in May. A lawyer, an academic, a priest and a politician, a mix that would make the Vice-President an exceptional raconteur when he chooses to be. I downloaded and transcribed the speech for the delight of my readers. Please read:
Vice President Osinbajo: It is a special privilege and pleasure to be here. Aside from lawyers, doctors are the next most important profession (Laughter). And otherwise that – as one rather rude fellow said, it is lawyers who usually cause peoples medical problems, and of course doctors benefit from treating them. Mr. President – that is when I say Mr. President, I mean Mr. President of the Federal Republic (Laughter), also recognises the place of lawyers and that is why he appointed seven lawyers into the federal cabinet. We are closely followed by doctors (laughter), four of them are in the cabinet. But you know doctors, and I think this is to be expected, have a never-say-die approach to life. So when we thought we had won, we found a doctor sitting in the position of the president of the lawmakers (laughter and clapping). By that I mean of course the distinguished Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki. But we are comforted by the fact that he is now more a legal personality than a doctor. I trust that none of us will take our medical problems to him (laughter).
I must wish you a very successful, rancor-free proceedings as you elect new officers. I’m always impressed by the excellent example of orderly elections and transitions displayed by the Nigerian Medical Association. Please keep it up. But I must not fail to convey to you the sentiments of your compatriots of the legal profession – my profession.
On this trend, your undisputed election deprives us of very lucrative briefs (Laughter), which we will have had, were you to prefer the route of litigation (Laughter). While not encouraging that course of conduct I must remind you that whenever people pray on the 31st of December of every year, that ‘may we not see litigations’, some people do not say ‘amen’! (Laughter)
Dr. Bukola Saraki: I thought I should come here and give the medical association, the doctors, moral support because I know the lawyers and the SANS were coming and they might intimidate you (Laughter and clapping). So I thought at least if you have your own you will feel a bit not too intimidated. Your excellency.
From my mail bag: Re-Of herders and farmers
Thank you for affording your readers the opportunity to share from the wisdom of HRH Abbas Tafida, Emir of Muri on his position on crisis in Nigeria which you accurately captured “one clear voice of reason”. This is one very good speech our “educated illiterates(elites)”, leaders and all of us should imbibe. We must stop fanning embers of disunity and promotion of crisis in whichever form for Nigeria to grow and achieve greatness and development of our desired dreams. Thank you Gambo and God bless. Salihu Makoju, Kaduna.
I almost wept reading this beautiful speech of HRH the Emir of Muri. He has made the absolute solution to this crisis. Alibe Ajimi Bukar.
Best piece I’ve read on this issue. Please find a way to re circulate this article round the country. Tuoyo Ejoor