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The unforeseen twinning of Tinubu and OBJ

Recently, a photograph of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the First Lady, Oluremi Tinubu, was all over the internet. The world has however been left…

Recently, a photograph of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the First Lady, Oluremi Tinubu, was all over the internet. The world has however been left to hazard only guesses on the subject of their discussion when they met before or after posing for the historic photograph.

Neither Dame Tinubu nor OBJ has been forthcoming on this. Not even the fact that OBJ spotted a cap adorned with a symbol popularly associated with President Tinubu seems to barely signal, far from revealing reality.  Is it time for some convergence or review of otherwise irreconcilable differences? So much to interrogate

Prophetic (?) and uncommonly witty newspaper columnist, Sam Omatseye, during his National Concord days once asserted in an article: In Abuja the federal capital city of Nigeria the tempo is always false.  Omatseye, at that time found most decisions taken by the then Gen Sani Abacha regime unimaginably laughable, always at variance with the reality, hence his verdict.   It therefore never occurred to anyone that a government to be run by the avowed enemy of that military government, the then Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, would validate Omatseye’s thesis.

Indeed, more ludicrous is the fact that even as President Obasanjo seemed to be severely adversarial to the Bola Tinubu-led government of Lagos State, President Tinubu feels so confident validating a failed   policy of the Obasanjo administration.

Until last week, I had always been enthusiastic retransmitting The Explainer, an online newspaper innovated by Alhaji Lanre Isa Onilu, my friend and professional colleague, now the Director General of National Orientation Agency, NOA.

The edition for that week I found incredible was that heralding the Tinubu government’s plan to invite investors to partake in the ownership of Nigerian universities. Not a few Nigerians had fiercely spoken against the immorality in former President Obasanjo’s ownership of a university to rival those owned by government.

Obasanjo founded The Bell University, Ota, Ogun State. His deputy, Atiku Abubakar, that he has had to vilify repeatedly including publishing his (Atiku’s contents) moral ineptitude in a book also established America University in Yola. Nigerians have been unsparing in condemning OBJ and Atiku on their deliberate sabotaging of the public universities in favour of theirs and those of their cronies.

As at today, there are no fewer than 147 private universities in Nigeria. Some of them are suspected to have sprouted from illicit funds stolen by their owners. Indeed, one of them, NOK University, Kaduna State, was recently ordered to be forfeited to the Federal Government, by a law court.

And although the private universities seem to be in clear competition with the government owned universities and are often quick to orchestrate their rating by just any group or individual, they have been strident in making persistent calls to get some share of TETFUND funding which statutorily should go only to universities, polytechnics and colleges of education owned by the federal and state governments.  For them, the little commonwealth dedicated to public schools must still accrue to the schools owned by the rich class never compelled to establish any.

So, beyond The Explainer, the regular newspapers and other media published the same story and never had to retract for lack of any denial. Indeed, for many who don’t have access to The Explainer, it was the regular media that broke the news. Then came further reinforcement at the inauguration of the newly constituted councils for the federal universities.  So, the truism of the unity of bias and preference for the political class no longer take time to manifest? So the philosophical approach to governance by OBJ and Tinubu is the same afterall? So the interest of the people may never matter in our dear country?

So the people’s triumph over and above the machinations of Obasanjo’s education minister, Oby Ezekwesili, is only temporary? Is this how Nigeria will keep defeating her own people like another columnist once posited?  When you begin to heave some sighs of relief in Nigeria is when the political class signal to you that uhuru remains a saddening mirage.

This is what the plan to bring in foreign investors to come and exploit supposed beneficiaries of our national heritage portends unmistakably. It particularly smacks of lazy thinking appropriating no gain to the sacrifices made by some past, heroic Nigerians.  If anyone is in doubt, what spectacular good have the DisCos impacted on electricity distribution?

The government of President Olusegun Obasanjo convened a presidential summit on education in Abuja. Contrary to the usual practice, late Sultan Maccido specially invited to that meeting was made to fly in a commercial aircraft to that event in Abuja.  The summit over, Sultan never made it back home. The commercial aircraft he used crashed and the story ended there.

Soon afterwards, the Education Minister announced that they had perfected the policy to sell off all the  Unity Schools otherwise known as Federal Government Colleges. Pronto, they summoned the principals of the Unity Schools. They read out the plan they had formulated for the principal to go and implement. The NUC facility used for the frustrating meeting became dead silent as soon as Ezekwesili’s address was over.

One of the school principals at the meeting stood up to reconfirm their status as the marketing officers of the new policy to sell of the schools to new investors which would mean increase in fees payable by the pupils as well as the commercialist reconceptualization of the employment terms for the staff.  He wondered why the ‘big bosses’ never deemed it fit to get them involved in the process of the formulation of the new, anti-people policy.

Within me on that day, the feeling was that of extreme bitterness against the Nigerian state. As the Special Assistant to the Minister of State in that Ministry, Late Dr Sayyadi Abba Ruma (of blessed memory) that morning was the first time I also got to know about the sinister plan. Incidentally, I was just grooming my son to enroll at King’s College in Lagos.  The new policy however seemed hell-bent on forestalling my son’s dream school.

But the prayers of poor Nigerians were answered with the intense public outcry against the obnoxious agenda. Eventually, the admission was stalled for a year or so.  When it was clear that the sadists’ plan could no longer take off, the admission process into those schools was re-opened thus clearing the road for my son, now a COREN-accredited engineer.

But we have always had this thought that the Tinubu government is never in want of ideas before taking off. The journey so far, however, has not been quite reassuring with avoidable errors in a number of situations. It needs be clearly stated here that the commencement of the loan scheme for students may not be sufficient to stem the chaos that the investors may likely generate with possible profiteering like their counterparts in the power sector are slapping on Nigerians.

Must this government do back and forth like it did in the banking sector, announcing a policy and withdrawing same within hours?  Must we wait till we have to confront a re-play of the political storm raging in Kenya?

Unlike some leaders with unenviable political trajectories, President Tinubu, is still perceived as one that should be guided by history especially with his obvious and not so obvious, radical background dating back to the anti-military struggle years.

If the planned sale of the unity schools failed, why would anyone think that the euphemism of bringing in investors into the management of our grand commonwealth in the education sector not fail?  Will TETFUND be scrapped? Is the newly introduced loan scheme intended to subtly undermine the overall public interest? Nigerians will always stand up to protect their commonwealth, it is certain, especially as also encouraged by President Tinubu renowned for his support for this.

As was the case with the Lagos Local Governments funds withheld by the OBJ government, so shall Nigerians triumph on the imminent avoidable crisis in the public universities.

 

Akanni is an associate professor of journalism at the Lagos State University  

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