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Nigeria: So rich, yet too poor to fund education

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Abdulgaffar Amoka

Over the last year, I have had few friends with the opinion that Nigeria is too poor to fund university education. But I am yet to be convinced. No one will see the lifestyle of the political class and believe that Nigeria is poor. You can’t be too poor to fund university but rich enough to be establishing new ones as constituency projects. I strongly believe that at the level we are now, education at all levels should be properly funded. The funding should not be a problem if we properly define our priorities.

You can’t be planning to use 305 billion naira for the election of the leaders for the people you cannot spend 305 billion naira to educate. ASUU was fighting for the release of 210 billion naira for the revitalisation of universities and FG insisted there is no money and that Nigeria is too poor to afford that. Meanwhile, we are rich enough to conduct the election of those leaders with 305 billion naira. Amazing!

The people will be counted in 2022 and about 177.33 billion naira is approved for that. Meanwhile, they can only afford 30 billion naira that was released with so much noise for the revitalisation of all public universities. The primary schools are in a sorry state, thanks to the state governors. Some state governors pay primary school teachers 30% of their salary (pre-minimum wage salary scale). Not enough funds to educate Nigerians but rich enough to count them with 177.33 billion naira.

Over the last year, Buhari added some new universities to the Jonathan’s TETFund universities. Some of the universities are the Federal University of Transportation Daura, Federal University of Agriculture, Zuru, Federal University of Health Science, Otukpo, etc. You can’t be too poor to fund the existing universities but rich enough to establish new ones.

When you watch the luxury lifestyle of the political office holders and family, it gets more difficult to convince someone that Nigeria cannot afford quality education for the people. Politics is such a lucrative business in Nigeria that every Nigerian wishes to get in. Every political office holder comes out much richer than he was before getting in, yet Nigeria is poor.

If Nigeria is actually damn broke, nobody will seek political offices. But they make elections a do-or-die affair, invest a lot of money with a hope for a good return on their investment and we are told Nigeria is broke. Nigerians in diaspora, a place where every Nigerian wish to run to, even lobby for political appointments.

Let’s just destroy the remnant of the Nigerian education system

Public University education is not a business venture and is not registered as one. It is an institution to train a skilled workforce for the nation and create new ideas and knowledge. But universities have been urged to improve on their IGR. Some people that are as poor as me or even poorer believe that FG cannot afford to fund the universities but universities should generate IGR but not from the students.

Quality Undergraduate programs are not charity training. It’s either the government pays for it as it’s done in Scandinavian countries or the students pay for it through a government-supported loan scheme as it’s done in the UK. Universities are not meant to set up industries to make money to fund their UG programs. If you agree that the government is too poor to fund it, the students will eventually pay (through parents or bank loans) for it and we are getting there very soon.

As the campaign for IGR intensified in public universities established to develop a skilled workforce for the nation, FG continue to introduce more measures to starve public universities of funds. But nobody is talking about IGR from the numerous research agencies and centres established by FG nationwide. Centre for Automotive Design and Development (CADD) produced prototype tricycles in the 90s while it was located in ABU. They have not been able to commercialise any vehicle after then. They have an annual budget. Meanwhile, you can see our roads littered with hundreds of imported tricycles (keke) from India. Imagine if we were serious and purposeful, and those Keke are produced by CADD in Nigeria.

There is the Biotechnology Development Agency with Bioresource Development Centres nationwide. The mandate is to carry out “well-focused” research and development in biotechnology in priority areas of food and agriculture, health, industry, environment, and other strategic sectors for national development. Well, go to the centres to see their “bioresource” activities and their IGR. They receive a budgetary allocation every year.

We have Research Institutes for chemical technology, Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure with subsidiaries, Institute of medical research, etc. Not sure of their outputs and products they have commercialised at these centres since establishment and their IGR. Not sure how much they are funded or they are just like the universities without research funds. But unlike the universities, IGR is not demanded from them. This is possibly because they don’t make a noise like ASUU.

Too poor to fund research but rich enough to establish all sorts of nonfunctional independent research institutions across the country. One begins to wonder the motive behind the establishment of these numerous “unproductive” supposed “research centres/Institutes” with annual budgetary allocations.

Let’s have a look at a research centre in Norway that grows from the university to become one of Europe’s largest independent research organisations.

The Norwegian Institute of Technology (NTH) established SINTEF in 1950. It is a multidisciplinary research outfit with a mission to provide solutions to the industries. NTH later merged into the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and SINTEF became an arm of NTNU. The oil companies and other industries were encouraged by the government to do business with SINTEF.

SINTEF later transformed into an independent research organisation in 2008 with 6 institutes: SINTEF Community, SINTEF Digital, SINTEF Energy Research, SINTEF Industry, SINTEF Manufacturing, and SINTEF Ocean. They shop for competent researchers from around the world to work for them. They have around 2000 employees from 75 countries. Their researches are in Health, Technology and society, Oil and energy, ICT, Materials and chemistry, Construction, and Marine Science.

Despite its independence, SINTEF maintained its close collaboration with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and the University of Oslo without conflict of interests. Some of the SINTEF Institutes are located close to the relevant department in the universities. For example, SINTEF Energy Research is sharing a wall with the Department of Electric Power Engineering of NTNU.

A part of SINTEF’s social mission is the commercialisation of research results. Their research outputs gave birth to about 19 companies in Norway. SINTEF has 2,500 industrial partners, and a turnover of about €353M. Over 90% of its income is through bilateral industrial research contracts and participation in European or national research projects.

That is a brief on a research organisation that is established as a public institution with lessons to learn. They would not have been able to achieve all that if their employment is not on competence but who you know. Most of our research agencies and subsidiaries are established as independent institutions with a weak link with the universities and zero links with the industries.

Why are ours different? Why are these Agencies and their subsidiaries established? What interests are they serving? With the annual budgetary allocations over these years, what is the technological and economic contribution of these numerous research centres? What is their IGR? How much are they generating from their research to support their activities?

We travel to all these countries where things are working. We saw, returned and instead of making efforts to replicate the system we have seen out there, we choose to focus on making money out of our system and leave it poor. Just imagine if we had managed our Research Agencies/Institutes the way Norwegians are running SINTEF. Imagine if our universities and other institutions are handled the way the Norwegian government is handling theirs.

It appears most of our institutions were not established to succeed but to serve some interests. You can’t be too rich to establish institutions without a set key performance indicator to measure productivity and output. Few guys will possibly make some money out of it and it ends there. Meanwhile, they are too poor to fund public universities and tirelessly working towards adding the universities to the list of our institutions that must not work. Unfortunately, Nigeria cannot work without making these institutions to work. So, who will make these systems work, and who will save the rich but poor Nigeria?

We need to properly define our priorities. We can’t keep doing politics with critical sectors like education and health sectors and expect a different result. You can’t litter the country with research agencies that are not productive and expect development. They should be streamlined and there should be a mandatory link between such centres and the nearby universities.

You can’t keep establishing more tertiary institutions when the existing ones are not properly funded. It makes no sense to be rich enough to establish more public institutions but claim to be so poor to inject the necessary funds to sustain them and make them purposeful. Focus on the existing ones and make them world-class and you will see the flow of revenue from forex to sustain it.

We need re-orientation. We (the leaders and the followers) need attitudinal change towards public institutions. We need to kill the evil of greed and self-centredness that is destroying the country and dragging Nigeria backward.

Meanwhile, on a lighter note, instead of spending N305 billion on elections in 2023 that may most likely be rigged, I think we should consider begging President Buhari, as a man of “integrity”, to appoint his successor, the NASS members, the governors, etc., and save the 305 billion naira for education.

Amoka is a Lecturer in the Department Of Physics Ahmadu Bello University Zaria Road

Features

HKS Diary (25): One holiday, eight cities

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Dr Muhammad Jameel Second from left with his hosts

 

Dr Muhammad Jameel Yushau

Last week was the #thanksgiving holiday in the United States. It is perhaps the biggest holiday season in the United States as many people told me. After the marathon of assignments, essays and reflections, a break from school is the sweetest gift to students.

Ahead of the holiday, I have received invitations from families to spend time together during the holiday. As a family, we also planned to visit some of the people we knew in the United States.

On Wednesday 22nd November, 2022, my family and I hit the road. We travelled from #boston through #Connecticut, to #NewYork, #NewJersey, #Phildelphia, #Delaware, #maryland and then #Virginia. A journey that normally takes around 8 hours ended up taking 14 hours. It was my longest driving ever. We underestimated the traffic ahead as most people travel for the holiday. The traffic was so heavy from Boston to New York that it moves at Snail’s speed in some areas.

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We were hosted in Virginia by Danielle Callaway Njama, former Editor-in-Chief of The Africa Policy Journal at Harvard Kennedy School, and her husband Philip Njama. A family with cross cultural ties and affinity to North America, Africa and the Middle East. They treated us to a memorable feast on Thanksgiving. We also met new friends who joined the family from Sudan and Nigeria. I had a mobile free day for a long time.

From there we travelled to Washington DC (another post coming on this). Then we proceeded to Maryland where we visited two families, one originally from #senegal and the second from #Kano. We spent the night in Maryland where we had another feast, this time local African dishes such as rice cake (waina), mashed rice (tuwon shinkafa), pepper soup, vegetable soup (miyar taushe) and jollof rice. It was brilliant.

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Then we drove back to New Jersey at the invitation of my classmate at Harvard Kennedy School, Omar Awad and his wife Marwa. They also gave us a treat to an Egyptian cuisine. This time it was #seafood. After which they took us to New York, starting from Hamilton Park, to Manhattan’s Time Square. It was a great family time.

On Sunday evening, we drove back to Boston in the midsts of another traffic and persistent rain. But the family time was worth it.

Takeaway: Taking time to learn about society is another form of knowledge. It is worthy that people take time to reflect on God’s bounties upon them.

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Adieu Dr. Kurami – Adamu S. Ladan

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Late Dr Kurami

 

Adamu S Ladan

Innalillahi wa inna illahirraji’un. Allah SWT says “Every soul shall taste death, and only on the Day of Judgment will you be paid your full recompense.” At another place, the Quran urges mankind: “And die not except in a state of Islam” (3:102).
Althou¹gh often forgotten about or guiltily pushed away from our thoughts, the fact remains that this world is but temporal. Death is the only thing certain for us all, and is the only thing truly guaranteed in this life.

But Islam teaches us not to fear death, and to embrace our fate with the next world. While it is easy to fear the pain of death or the unknown, it is in fact our lives here on earth today that we must fear the most. For those who truly believe in Allah, death is a welcome passage.

To this end Allah commands us to prepare for the death specially in order not regret when the ultimate time comes. ‘And spend [in the way of Allah ] from what We have provided you before death approaches one of you and he says, ‘My Lord, if only You would delay me for a brief term so I would give charity and be among the righteous’. But never will Allah delay a soul when its time has come. And Allah is Acquainted with what you do.” (Quran, 63:10-11)
The Quran reminds us time and time again to never take this life for granted – and to never overestimate how long we have on this earth. We must continously strive towards becoming better Muslims, lest we regret it when it is too late.
“Indeed, Allah [alone] has knowledge of the Hour and sends down the rain and knows what is in the wombs. And no soul perceives what it will earn tomorrow, and no soul perceives in what land it will die. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” (Quran, 31:34)

To truly understand tawheed, the Oneness of Allah, will be a lifelong journey – and this verse is a powerful reminder of how much at mercy we are with Allah. None of us can know when our time with death has come, and we must truly believe, accept, and embrace whatever Allah has Planned for us.

When their specified time arrives, they cannot delay it for a single hour nor can they bring it forward.” (Quran, 16:61)

Here again, we are reminded of our fate with death – none of us can change it. As much as we like to believe we are in control of our lives – even our health, we must submit to Allah’s Will at all times and accept death as a blessing and a preordained end to our life here on earth.

We are this Monday 9th October, 2022 awakened by the shocking news of the death of our dear friend, Hon. Dr. Ibrahim Aminu Kurami, Member representing Bakori at Katsina state House of Assembly. When
we heard that he was no more we were shocked and saddened. Death has taken away a genuinely warm individual, more importantly a loving husband and father and deprived so many others, including us all, of a good friend. Neither of us have the inkling that the end was near when we spoke last Thursday night hoping to see next day. Seen that never be.
While we mourn the loss of a friend we pay tribute and celebrate a life that was
well lived. A life committed to the cause of his own people and the country at large.
A Vet. Doctor Kurami as popularly known was an epitaph of true love for peace, Concord and harmony. Not many leave behind a legacy of such dedication and accomplishment as did Dr.Kurami.
According to a family source, Kurami died after a brief illness in Madinah, Saudi Arabia at around 2:00 am Nigerian time after he had gone to perform a lesser Hajj otherwise called Umrah.

The deceased left behind two wives, 11 children, and three grandchildren.

Kurami was elected into the Katsina State House of Assembly under the All Progressives Congress (APC) in a by-election conducted on Saturday, October 31st, 2020 following the death of his predecessor

He was professional to the core in all issues he came to deal with. He had served the state ministry of agriculture before venturing into politics in 2003. As accomplished vet doctor with successful poultry business, Kurami was at hand helping poultry and other livestock farmers whenever the occasion arose.
A true representative, the deceased was always at hand demonstrating uncommon dedication to deal with issues regarding his constituency and his legislative duties.
Although his stint at the House of Assembly was not too long, he has left a lasting impression in the minds of his acquaintances at the house. Colleagues whom I met with at his Kurami country home Monday morning to consoled with the family members described him as an affable, cooperative, helpful and dedicated member. Despite his established
background and position, Kurami was a modest man; a real gentleman, not reluctant to organize and execute his own responsibilities.
He faced a challenge to his life with great courage. This was seen when he suffered intractable banditry instances affecting himself, his immediate family and members of his extended family all within a short span of time. others in his circumstance would have given up. But Kurami fought till the last. His
determination to carry on despite trying personal circumstances demonstrated his
commitment to duties and responsibilities. In his own quiet and calm manner, he showed how to work through challenging times and to carry everyone along.
Life can be fleeting. But a life lived to the fullest stays in fond memories. Kurami
through his decorum and grace endeared himself to many.

This is particularly a difficult and painful time for his family and us as friends. In extending my sincere heartfelt condolences, I pray Almighty Allah to give us all the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss. It is also my Prayer that may Allah repose his soul in jannnatul fiddaus. As Allah says:

“O soul that are at rest! Return to your Lord, well-pleased (with him), well-pleasing (Him), So enter among My servants, And enter into My garden.” (Quran, 89:27-30)

Finally, to us left behind, it’s instructive to know that despite our innate fears around death, we must be assured that to embrace death is perhaps the only true comfort we have in this world – we are finally returing to Allah and inshallah, will be blessed with His Glad-Tidings. All we can do is pray for the strength to welcome our death as the last of Allah’s blessings here on earth.

Adamu Ladan is a veteran Journalist,wrote this from Kano

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Kano City Wall Under Threat:Who Will Save Our Heritage

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Kabiru Haruna Isa

“Heritage is our collective treasure, given to us and ours to bequeath to our children”. Margaret MacMillan

History is made by both great and ordinary people in the society. The ordinary people can transform and propel themselves into the position of greatness by doing ordinary thing in a great way. The cultural heritage in form of monuments, relics, artefacts and paintings were mostly constructed and produced by the labour of ordinary people often based on the directive/guidance of leaders of the society. Each society has a number of structures that it identifies and reveres as its heritage which are bequeathed from one generation to another. These monuments and structures connect current generations with their ancestors. They help reenact the past and instill the sense of pride, glory and dignity. Heritage and monuments have power to make impact on the economies and revenue generations of many
countries. Therefore, heritage can be seen as an economic unit or firm that provides certain
services to visitors in return for payment. Substantial amount of money is spent when
visiting monuments both in terms of entry fees to museums, shops and restaurants’ bills, as well as other logistics – hotel/guest house. The visitors have strong effects on local economies.

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The importance of heritage makes advanced countries and civilizations to jealously preserve and conserve them for the younger generations to appreciate and learn from them. Canada, as one of the most civilized and developed countries in the world, established a Department of Canadian Heritage in 1993 ostensibly to promote and support national identity and values, cultural development and heritage. This should serve as a lesson to less technologically advanced societies in Africa and other parts of the globe.

Kano is an ancient city, whose tangible and intangible history attracts attention of researchers and scholars both within and without Africa to investigate and reconstruct its fascinating past. One of the material and tangible histories of Kano is the ganuwa (the city-wall), which encircled, fortified, enclosed, beautified and decorated ancient human settlements including the historic Gidan Rumfa (Emir’s Palace). According to many historical sources, the construction of the city-wall started in the 12th century during the reign of Sarki Gijimasu (c. 1095 -1134) and continued in the subsequent centuries up to the completion level. The wall served as a defensive mechanism and fortification to the city and its growing population, burgeoning economy and culture. It has more than a dozen gates and is about 24 kilometres long, 40 feet wide and at the base, and 30 to 50 feet high. The wall had been in existence for over 800 years and the successive leaders, both traditional and political, helped in its preservation and conservation because, to use Macmillan words, it is our collective treasure given to us and ours to bequeath to the generations yet unborn. But alas, the wall is now facing extinction in the 21st century due to illegal encroachment, mind-boggling plundering and atrocious destruction.

As a student of history and patriotic son of Kano, I have a responsibility to remind my fellow citizens, especially those who are accomplices, as the constructors of the wall made good history, which makes us to celebrate them, they are conversely making another history of destroying and expropriating our collective heritage.

The city wall symbolizes our identity, cultural artefact, civilization and material history, which earns our society’s respect. The wall, coupled with other historic sites, attract tourists from different continents who patronize local economy and entrepreneurs in our various markets such as Kurmi, Kwari, Sabon Gari and the likes. The existence of the wall gives protection to polluted, yet environmentally functional, ponds, which recharge city’s table water and aquifers and contribute in averting water scarcity. In recent years, Kano city has been experiencing unprecedented floods occasioned mostly by the destruction of the wall and conversion of ponds into settlements. In addition, the destruction and conversion of the wall into commercial plots deprive the city of its open space, which serves as a place for recreation and sports to ever exploding youth population.

At this juncture, I will conclude with a submission that our traditional rulers, whose ancestors built the wall, Kano elders, environmentalists/environmental activists, UNESCO, National Commission for Museums and Monuments and intellectuals have significant role to play in saving the monument from the ‘spectacular demolition’ and imminent extinction.

Finally, I exhort the authority concerned to immediately stop the ongoing destruction of the wall in order to preserve our history and identity and, more importantly, to protect our settlements from seasonal flood. I will close with the words of wisdom of Wendell Phillips, “the heritage of the past is the seed that brings forth the harvest of the future”.

Kabiru writes from the Department of History, Bayero University Kano

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