People have different ways of selecting who they trust and befriend. The key requirements for me are consistency in character, values and ideology. I closely watch what people do against what they say. Deliberately, I have spent time to research into the past and current developments around many of our political leaders in Nigeria, and what I have discovered about H.E. Atiku Abubakar stands him out and makes him the right man for this moment in our beleaguered nation, and the best choice for me as far as the 2023 presidential election is concerned.
Last week, I listened to him while at the NBA conference in Lagos and the short comment he made regarding the status of federal universities in Nigeria. Obviously, he did not have enough time to elaborate on the subject matter. However, today, I stumbled on a copy of the speech he delivered “at the inaugural D.M. Ukpe Lecture celebrating the 35th Anniversary Homecoming of the Federal Government College, Okigwe Old Students’ Association, Okigwe, Imo State, on 17 November 2012”.
Below is an excerpt from the speech:
“In addition to making the necessary investments in education, we must decentralize education among other sectors of our society. I will disappoint some of you, who are products of the so-called unity schools, the Federal Government Colleges. Consistent with my call for restructuring of the federation and devolution of powers to the constituent regions/states, I call on the Federal Government to hands off the direct control and administration of schools in the country. This should include ‘unity schools’. The resources that go to them should be passed on to those States where they are located.”
Atiku continued . . .
“I know that some will say that the objective of promoting national unity will be compromised; others are likely to argue that their quality will further decline. I reject those arguments. They presuppose that the Federal Government has done a better job of managing resources and administering institutions in this country. That is arguable! Who would say that the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, University of Ife (now OAU), or Ahmadu Bello University Zaria were better run after they were taken over by the Federal Government than the regional governments that established them? Concentration of power and centralization of resources do not necessarily promote unity or achieve efficiency as Nigeria’s case amply demonstrates.”
Atiku went further. . .
“And today we have a bizarre situation where states and even local communities on which Federal universities are located insist that the leaders of those universities must come from the locality. And they have largely been having their way. This completely negates the whole idea of University as an international Centre of Excellence, which should scour the world in search of the best talent to recruit as teachers and administrators. Some will say that the states are too poor to adequately resource these schools and other institutions. Again, that is a spurious argument. They are poor to the extent that the Federal Government is rich. The resources will have to be transferred to them as the responsibilities are. And the states, realizing that they can no longer blame the Federal Government for their own inadequacies, will sit up or be pressured by their people to do so. They will also sooner or later see the need to pool resources with their neighbouring states to provide infrastructure and services which would be more efficiently provided collaboratively. This will enable them to realise efficiencies and ensure more seamless service delivery. While public education is not for profit making, it will certainly benefit from such business principles as efficiency, accountability, and economies of scale.”
Finally, Atiku posited…
“When and if the Federal Government pulls out of building roads as I have advocated, and repatriates the funds to the states, what prevents Imo and Abia States from jointly rebuilding and dualizing the Owerri-Aba road or their portion of the Enugu-Port Harcourt highway? Why can’t Imo, Abia and Anambra States, for instance, collapse the various public universities located in them into a single University system with multiple campuses and facilities with reduced administrative costs so that they spend more on the students’ learning? To me, it can be done across the entire South-East geopolitical zone, and other zones in the country. We must begin to think differently, think big, and come out of our comfort zones so that the world would not continue to leave us behind.”
I agree with him completely on these noble ideas and I welcome any intellectual engagement on the subject, even from our friends from the opposition parties. The reality is that we are at a juncture in our national history when we have to make tough choices, embark on disruptive models, quit our comfort lanes and travel the new paradigm channels that can lead us to an assured future. That is the crux of such proposals.
Odundun Kayode Adaramodu, Public Policy & Infrastructure Finance Consultant & 2022 Governorship Aspirant, Ekiti State.