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Why govt must develop Nigeria’s human capital – BOBA president

Dahiru Ibrahim, an engineer, is the national president of the Barewa Old Boys Association (BOBA). In this interview, he highlighted why the government must advance…

Dahiru Ibrahim, an engineer, is the national president of the Barewa Old Boys Association (BOBA). In this interview, he highlighted why the government must advance human capital development, which aligns with the theme of the 2023 national conference by the association. He also discussed why the association is honouring some members who have distinguished themselves in different fields.


The theme of this year’s event is Investing in Nigeria’s Greatest Assets. How do you think the country can achieve that?

Nigeria’s greatest asset is no doubt its human capital. With a population of over 200million and projection for it to be one of the top most populated countries in the world in the next few decades, Nigeria has to invest a lot to improve and manage its huge human resource.

As it were, the government of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has tasked Barewa Old Students to help in proffering solutions to some of the key challenges that would impede the attainment of Nigeria’s desired greatness.

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The challenges include the need to provide adequately for the health and social well-being of Nigerians. There is also a high level of poverty among the larger population of Nigeria. We are confronted also with a high level of environmental degradation that could hinder effective utilisation of our abundant arable and aquatic environment.

Another important challenge is the pervasive ignorance and lack of education for a large population of Nigeria, especially in the North.

President Tinubu, in his wisdom, assigned the key ministries of health and social welfare, agriculture and food security, as well as environment to old students of Barewa.

We have confidence in the capacity of the ministers to their assigned tasks and pray that their tenures would bring significant improvements in the lives of Nigerians through the policies and activities of their respective ministries.

What informed the decision to always host annual lectures and awards by the Barewa Old Boys Association?

The Barewa Old Boys Association (BOBA) instituted an annual lecture series in 1986 to provide an avenue to discuss and proffer solutions to topical national issues.

The decision to always organise the lectures was informed by the pivotal role Barewa College has played in producing quality leadership in all aspects of the Nigerian society from pre-independence till date.

The BOBA felt it necessary to initiate this thought leadership engagements through the several old students to speak on any current issue of interest in the governance and policy formulation of Nigeria. From 1976 till date, we have held 28 lectures on varied topics, and all the lectures were delivered by prominent old students of Barewa at various locations across the country.

Previous lectures were delivered by eminent old students, such as General Yakubu Gowon; Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar; the late Prof Emeritus Umaru Shehu; the late Malam Ahmed Joda; the late Malam Hamza Zayyad; the late Etsu Nupe Umaru Sanda.

Others were Justice Lawal Uwais (B.946); Justice Lawal Gumi;  Senator Ahmadu Ali; General Alwali Kazir; General Abdulrahman Dambazau; Chief Raymond Ihyembe and Professor Jibo Ibrahim, to mention a few.

The economic situation in the country is not favourable; how do you think we can get back on track?

I am hopeful that the approach of the present administration to governance may lead us out of the woods. I observe that this is the first time we are having a ppresident with a private sector background to lead the country. The government has taken some bold steps and introduced policies that appear tough on the populace. I hope that in the long run these policies would be beneficial in improving the economic situation and have a meaningful impact on the lives of the citizens.

What do you think can be done to boost youth entrepreneurship?

The youth constitute the largest component of our burgeoning population. It is imperative that the potentials of the youth are well harnessed and channelled towards positivity.

Since we are in the super information technology age, we must ensure that the policies of the government will aim at engaging and empowering the youth towards gainful employment. Allowing the youth to be on their own without proper guidance could be very dangerous as they could use their ingenuity, with the help of technology, to cause havoc in the society. The ‘yahoo-yahoo’ phenomenon and the high incidents of banking frauds are indicators of what unguided youths could do. The appointment of so many youths in several governmental positions is a good step towards positively engaging them.

What is your general advice for the government of the day, considering the current situation of the country?

I think that whatever the government does, the interest of the people should be paramount. The government must find a way of ensuring that it carries the people along in the implementation of its policies. If the people do not understand the objectives of the government in the formulation and execution of policies, that would alienate the people from the government. This could hinder effective implementation of policies, no matter how well intentioned or useful they would be to the people.

What is unique about this year’s annual awards and lectures?

There is nothing significantly unique about this year’s lecture as the lecture will be delivered by another illustrious member, Professor Muhammad Ali Pate, the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare. Probably, the only unique thing about it is that this is the first time we selected an old student from the diaspora to come back and speak to a local audience.

As for the honours awards, we selected 24 old students from the inception of the college in 1921 till date for award of the 2023 BOBA Honours. All of them made significant contributions, not only to Nigeria but also to the international community. Many of them will be honoured posthumously, while there is also a blend of the living, retired and active personalities. For instance, the late Alhaji Sulaiman Barau, who was among the pioneer intakes of the college in 1921, eventually became the Emir of Zazzau.

We are also honouring Professor Lawrence Ageyeman Sereboe, a Ghanaian Professor of Cardiothorocic Surgery, who was also our old student. Again, we included Dr Akpaka Kalu Akpaka, who is a regional representative of the World Health Organisation in Congo.

Take us through the categories of awards and how you arrived at the awardees?

The awards are the same but the recipients comprise those who would be honoured posthumously and living recipients. Again, some of the recipients are retired while others are current holders of eminent positions. They are all being honoured for their contributions to national and global development.

Who are we expecting at this year’s event?

We have done our best to reach out deeply by extending the invitation widely to all the governors and ministers of the federation. We invited the leadership of the National Assembly, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), National Security Adviser (NSA) and the service chiefs. We also invited the High Commissioner of Ghana, as well as some prominent traditional rulers.  These are besides the honours awardees, who would naturally come with their families.

The Father of the Nation, General Yakubu Gowon (GCFR), who is also the BOBA Board of Trustees chairman, His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, and all the members of our BoT and Board of Patrons are also expected to grace the occasion.

We also invited some captains of industry, our old students in the diaspora, other old students of the college, as well as leaders of sister prominent old students’ associations, and the general public.

As a way of giving back to your alma mater, what projects has your association carried out so far at Barewa College?

Several interventions have been carried out – some are near completion in terms of infrastructure, road networks, reconstruction of hostels, providing solar installations, as well as donations of books, consumables and drugs for the college dispensary etc.

What are the future plans of the association?

Our plan is to move with the trend of development in all spheres and continue to contribute positively to project Nigeria. We shall intensify efforts to continue to seek and find as enjoined by the motto of our school: Man Jadda wa Jada (He who Seeketh Findeth).”

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