Education has again become casualty to former Kano governor Senator Rab’iu Musa Kwankwaso’s politics of trickery. From his so-called abstruse ‘free’ education policy introduced at the tail end of his second tenure in office between 2011 and 2015, calculatingly with the sole intent to leave the encumbrance on the incoming administration of Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, desertion of hundreds of dilapidated education infrastructure in all the nooks and crannies of the state and rehabilitation of few on major roads and painted with the Kwankwasiyya inscription for public eye, to the fraudulent foreign scholarship scheme he initiated as the Governor of Kano state, Kwankwaso has been using education to achieve political scores.
No doubt, Kwakwaso is among the prominent Nigerian politicians who are still exasperating in the defeat they suffered in the just concluded 2019 general elections The eccentric politician was not only petrified out of the Upper Chamber by Senator Ibrahim Shekarau who, roundly defeated his political god-son, he was also dealt a big blow by His Excellency, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje who was massively voted into office, the second time, by the good people of Kano state in appreciation to his uncommon achievements in all facets of governance, including education, during his first tenure. To the chagrin of Senator Kwankwaso, Ganduje defeated his stooge, in-law and political god-son, Abba Yusuf; as a result, killing Kwankwaso’s (third-term) dream of returning to Kano Government House by proxy.
Having been beaten hands-down, Kwankwaso is enveloped with the damning apprehension and stark realities of returning to political oblivion. But as smart as he is, he dusted his Kwankwassiyya Development Foundation through which platform he recently launched a phantom appeal fund-raising for some selected First Class students. The whole idea of the fraudulent scheme is using it to re-launch himself into political relevance, a mission that turned out to become a mishap.
Before this, in desperate move to placate the beneficiaries of the foreign scholarship and their parents, Kwankwaso had last year organized a fund-raising for such students he deceived. Only the Kwankwasiyya group can tell exactly what has been done with the proceeds of that fund-raising.
One would have expected that very important personalities, particularly the Kwankwasiyya chieftains would have attended the poorly organized event held last Saturday to donate generously for the group. That was why the groups’ hoodlums being used by Senator Kwankwaso had a field day, and the event ended abruptly.
Funny enough, the Chief Launcher of that programme who made an irredeemable pledge of N30 million is known to all as an average Nigerian who is still struggling to put food on the table, hence, exposing the real intent and purposes of the Kwankwassiyya Fund-raising. In all, the organizers claimed that about N87, 727.000 was realized during the fund-raising; but the question remains, where is this money and how has it been distributed to the so-called beneficiaries? The mere pledges made by ordinary members of the Kwankwasiyya Group may not be redeemed. Kwankwaso should have sold one of his mansions in either Abuja, Kano, Dubai, Egypt or Morocco to pay for the students rather than organising an appeal fund.
It is at the backdrop of the empty promises that one Haroun Muhammad who identified himself as a Port-Harcourt-based Kwankwassiyya follower wrote a rather satirical article published in an online news portal, First Reports, entitled: “Kwankwaso: The Sage Of Ours And A Legend Of His Own Time.” In that article, Haroun Muhammad made a surprising mockery of his master when he equaled Kwankwaso to leaders such as the late Obafemi Awolowo, Winston Churchill, Lloyd George, Kwame Nkrumah, Jerry Rawlings, Mahatma Gandhi, Lee Kwan, Kemal Ataturk and many more that were contained in his long list. In fact, Muhammad wrote as if he has close-ended readers of the “o yes” Kwankwassiyya folks who have been sunk in the blind river of hypnotism.
The same Kwankwaso who is being eulogized as the “father” of free education runs a private college in Abuja where students pay as much as N1.5 million! In that very school, there is no student of Kano origin that is enjoying free education or subsidized tuition fee or scholarship even for the best brains of students from Kano or elsewhere in Nigeria. Who is fooling who?
Kwankwaso’s gimmicks and political tactics are well known to all discernable minds. This is a man who testified to have benefitted from government’s free education from primary to university levels, but only to use the foreign scholarship scheme he introduced during his second-tenure as Governor of Kano state to enrich himself and his cronies at the detriment of Kano students who were sent out of the country with high hopes, but were made to regret their decision of being part of the beneficiaries of a well-publicized government scheme, designed to change their lives for the better. Kudos to the policy of government of continuity of Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, who did not only offset the backlog of debts owed most of the foreign institutions, but also rekindled the hope of the students by ensuring their welfare which scaled up their academic performance.
The importance of basic education as the pillar of all levels of education cannot be over emphasized, considering the vast challenges in the sector which Kwankwaso relegated while giving emphasis to the issue foreign scholarship. This is because, he and his followers used it as conduit pipe to drain the state resources That was why Ganduje inherited a dilapidated infrastructure in the education sector, with the quality of basic education degenerating, leading to unacceptably low academic performance. In virtually all public educational institutions, primary secondary or tertiary, classes were overcrowded. Basic amenities are either lacking or obsolete.
As at 29th May, 2015, there were only 25,000 habitable classrooms out of the 30,000 available whereas the total requirement in our 3,000, 000 public primary schools is 45, 000 classrooms. Similarly, there were only 18, 000 toilets as against the total requirement of 35, 000, while 3-seater pupils’ desks were only 198, 832 as against the need of 914, 000. In addition to all these, instructional materials were inadequate while staff morale was at its lowest ebb and as a matter of fact about 50 per cent of the teachers were unqualified.
The Ganduje administration had to act swiftly by introducing far-reaching measures to reverse the ugly trend. The government reached out to the federal government in accessing the counterpart funding of about N2 billion, which Kwankwaso did not pay attention to. This enabled the rehabilitation of classroom blocks to replace the decrepit ones that previously dignified places where roaming animals are reared, building libraries, sinking boreholes, provision of over 15,000 pupils’ furniture and instructional materials, etc.
Governor Ganduje also affirmed the need for community participation and therefore established the Education Promotion Committee (EPC) both at the state level and in all the 44 local government areas and provided them with a takeoff grant of N440 million, that is, N10 million for each local government. The committee used the fund to rehabilitate 490 blocks consisting of 981 classrooms, one block of two classrooms, provided 7,915 3-seater desks and various instructional materials.
Apart from project execution in the basic education sector, the Ganduje administration also remains committed to raising the morale of teachers through prompt payment of salaries and capacity building. Over 30, 000 in-service trained teachers in 3 programmes; Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE), Professional Diploma in Education (PDE) and Bachelor in Education (B.Ed) have graduated or on the verge of graduation as part of effort to ensuring that only qualified teachers are allowed in our schools. Before the intervention, Kano had the highest number of unqualified teachers in the country.
This is in addition to other interventions by the state government like the Summer Camp for female students, which has trained over 10,000 all of whom have passed their common entrance examinations, making the programme a huge success. Other interventions include promotion of teachers, which has not been done for over a decade.
There is no gain saying the fact that it is on the basis of Governor Ganduje’s grand commitment to educational development that led to the spiral increases in school enrolment and pupils’ improved performance.
The ill-conceived foreign scholarship scheme of Kwankwaso’s administration is a case on point, confirming self-guilty for Kwankwaso and his followers, because when he thought he was fooling the good people of Kano, he was unaware that the judgment day, when the people would take their own pound of flesh, was even closer. Avalanches of facts have emerged on how Kwankwaso and his co-travelers allegedly used the foreign scholarship scheme to swindle the good people of Kano and Kano state government. Apart from leaving behind a debt of over N4 billion on the foreign scholarship scheme, recent discoveries have also shown how millions of dollars were purportedly laundered into private accounts, using the scholarship scheme as a conduit pipe. In one of the universities abroad, a whopping sum of $1 million was allegedly paid as tuition fees and allowances without sending students to study there. The money was meant to be diverted! The Ganduje’s administration is painfully sustaining that programme, simply because of its policy of continuity.
The question still remains, how does the Kwankwaso or Kwankwassiyya political philosophy tally with those statesmen? In Morocco today, Kwankwaso is a major investor in that country. His mansions in that country are said to have stand out as among the best situated in highbrow areas. How will you judge a politician who plunged Kano state into harsh economic condition while leaving office, clearing the treasury and leaving behind a whopping debt profile of over N400 billion, including numerous uncompleted projects, most of which were white elephant projects?
It is high time that Senator Kwankwaso stopped the politicization of education at his whim and fancy. He should halt putting the cart before the horse. I consider it hypocritical that while in office, he deliberately refused to provide for the basic education of our children by laying a strong foundation in the primary and junior secondary tiers of education, and still out of office, you want to ‘mobilise resources’ to send them abroad merely for massaging your ego and trying to ingratiate yourself with the gullible children and their parents.
Kwankwaso should realize that he does not have to deceive the people in his desperate bid to win their hearts. For the good people of Kano state, Kwankwaso could be the sage of his few Kwankwassiyya followers, but the legend of his political misdemeanors and the albatross of educational development in Kano state.
Abubakar is an activists and public affairs commentator