By Ikechukwu Amaechi
ONCE again, President Muhammadu Buhari is in London, primarily on medical tourism, but also to attend a Summit on Financing Global Partnership for Education, GPE, 2021-2025. According to the presidency, the summit will bring together heads of state and government, as well as stakeholders and youth leaders, and provide a platform for partners to chart a way forward toward transforming education systems in partner countries through exchange of best practices.
The presidency disclosed that deliberations at the summit which will focus on issues such as the power of education, transforming education for girls, priorities for transforming education in the next five years, etc., will also offer the leaders the opportunity to make five-year pledges to support GPE’s work in transforming education systems in at least 90 countries. Taking at face value, the idea of the one-day education summit is cheering news, but hyping a meeting, scheduled to be virtual, as the reason for the president’s trip is deceitful. But that should not surprise anyone.
Buhari’s government is a study in deception. For instance, speaking during an interview on Channels Television’s Politics Today on Tuesday, Femi Adesina, media adviser to the president, said his principal’s incessant medical tourism was because he has been with the same doctors and medical team in the United Kingdom for upward of 40 years. “It is advisable that he continues with those who know his medical history and that is why he comes to London to see them. He has used the same medical team for over 40 years. Once you can afford it, then stay with the team that has your history.”
To be clear, I agree with Adesina that anyone who can afford it should not hesitate to seek medical attention from anywhere. But Buhari is not just anyone. Aside being the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, leadership is about integrity. A leader’s word must be his bond. Uprightness means doing what one has promised to do because as the saying goes, “My Word is My Bond … and it is all I have of worth.”
In a speech to the Nigeria Medical Association in April 2016, Buhari, just one year into his presidency, vowed that government’s hard-earned cash would not be spent on treating officials overseas, especially in cases where Nigeria had the requisite expertise.
When the President flew to London in June 2016 to be treated for what his office described as a ‘persistent” ear infection, Dr. Osahon Enabulele, the then Vice-President of the Commonwealth Medical Association, said it was a “national shame” that he not only reneged on his promise to end “medical tourism” but actually went to the UK for treatment when Nigeria had more than 250 ear, nose and throat, ENT, specialists, as well as a National Ear Centre.
But that is no longer an issue. If the only place the president feels comfortable seeking medical help is London, so be it since Nigeria can afford to pay the bills, as ironic as that may be. But there is something hypocritical in the noise being made on the education summit.
Buhari is expected to make a presentation on Thursday. In the Channels Television interview, Adesina claimed, without any statistics, that there was a reduction in the number of out-of-school children in the country, promising that Buhari would brief participants at the summit, which would be co-hosted by the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, on that.
That claim is spurious. What possibly could have led to the reduction in the embarrassing number of out-of-school children in Nigeria? On the eve of Buhari’s departure to London on Tuesday, July 27, Kaduna State government suspended, indefinitely, the resumption of schools across the state. Governor Nasir el-Rufai told stakeholders that he took the decision due to an “ongoing aggressive military operation against bandits in most parts of the state”.
While the jury is still out on why el-Rufai decided to launch “aggressive military operation” against mere “businessmen” – alias bandits – it is curious that no arrests are ever made by the same security personnel that have the expertise to smoke out the likes of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, and Sunday Igboho, Yoruba Nation agitator, from foreign countries.
On July 6, el-Rufai had ordered the closure of 13 schools he considered vulnerable to attacks by terrorists following the mass abduction of students at the Bethel Baptist Secondary School, Kajuma, Chikun Local Government Area. Before then, he had quietly withdrawn his son from a public school in a desperate bid to escape the snare of kidnappers. Two days before Buhari jetted out of the country, terrorists who abducted 121 students of the Bethel Baptist Secondary School on July 5, 2021 released just 28 of them after their parents reportedly paid N60 million ransom, leaving behind 93 others.
While these lucky 28 spent 20 days in captivity without government lifting a finger, only God knows how long the remaining 93 will spend and whether they will all come out alive considering how bad the lucky 28 were upon their release.
As at the time Adesina was boasting in London that the Buhari government has reduced the number of out-of-school children in Nigeria, 136 pupils of the Salihu Tanko Islamiyya School, Tegina in Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State, kidnapped by terrorists since May 30 were still in captivity. On the day Buhari hopped into the presidential jet and flew to London to discuss education, the man, Kasimu Barangana, who went alongside six others to deliver N30 million ransom to the evil souls but was seized over an alleged shortfall of N4.6 million, finally regained his freedom.
And it was a tale of woes. Barangana said the pupils, some as young as six years in nursery school, were in very poor health conditions in the 25 different camps they are kept. Why won’t they be in poor health conditions having been left at the mercy of the elements in the forests for almost 60 days?
Yet, none of the children was released even after the terrorists collected the N30 million. Instead, they, according to Barangana, are now demanding five new motorcycles as further ransom, even when they had reportedly collected N25 million earlier from the beleaguered parents as disclosed by one of the school teachers, Yakubu Idris, to Premium Times.
Where did the ransom money come from? The school head, Abubakar Alhassan, disclosed that some parents sold their landed properties and his school sold a portion of its land to raise the N30 million. Two of the parents who could no longer take it have reportedly died of shock after waiting endlessly for the return of their children. And we claim we have a government. This can only happen in a Nigeria under Buhari’s watch. It takes an extreme measure of shamelessness and impertinence for a regime that is posting this level of depressing records to be walking around with the swagger of accomplishments.
All over Northern Nigeria, schools are being shut down and parents are withdrawing their children from schools. Who will blame them if el-Rufai with all the security paraphernalia around him could withdraw his own son? Those who don’t have enough resources like el-Rufai to hire private teachers would prefer that their wards stay with them alive at home without any education than being in school without any guarantee that they would return home at the end of the day. This has only made an already bad situation worse.
Yet, Adesina is claiming that the number of out-of-school children is reducing under Buhari’s watch. That is, perhaps, part of the presentation Buhari will make at the education summit in London today. He will conjure how his administration’s nebulous school feeding programme has orchestrated a miracle in school enrolment figures. Going to London for an education summit when Nigerian children, in their hundreds, are languishing in kidnappers’ dungeons, is tantamount to one having a good laugh with the carcass of a hen in his mouth. Ndigbo frown at such idiocy.
The worst tragedy of the Buhari misadventure in power is not necessarily the incompetence and lack of capacity, but the wholesale adoption of chicanery as a governance tool.