✕ CLOSE Online Special City News Entrepreneurship Environment Factcheck Everything Woman Home Front Islamic Forum Life Xtra Property Travel & Leisure Viewpoint Vox Pop Women In Business Art and Ideas Bookshelf Labour Law Letters
Click Here To Listen To Trust Radio Live

Zaria conversations on improving security and national unity (II)

Benchmark eight is the imperative of teaching our children that we ALL worship the same God. In 1958, the Northern Nigerian Government published “A Book…

Benchmark eight is the imperative of teaching our children that we ALL worship the same God. In 1958, the Northern Nigerian Government published “A Book of Prayers and Readings” for use in mixed assemblies of Muslim and Christian students. In his forward to the book, Minister Aliyu Makama made the important point that:

“Both Muslims and Christians are people of the Book and it is my earnest prayer and hope that from this book of prayers and readings the younger generation in particular may learn the vital truth that the things, which unite us are far more important than the things that divide us.”

The chapters in the book cover themes such as the unity of God, creation, God’s love, courtesy and kindness, the value of knowledge, humility and penitence and spiritual combat with very similar quotations from Islam, Christianity and other religions. We have lost the approach to building ecumenic unity based on understanding which we need to regain.

Benchmark nine is the imperative of fulfilling our national pledge on education for ALL. The greatest challenge facing Nigeria today is that of rebuilding a high-quality educational system that could build knowledge, skills, civic education and critical thinking for our young ones. That would be the basis on which they can have confidence in a future that could provide jobs, opportunities and progress for the majority. It was the late elder statesman, Ahmed Joda, who drew our attention to the National Pledge made by Nigeria in 1973 when the Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon called a government retreat and asked for one policy recommendation that would ensure Nigeria would never again run the risk of another civil war. The decision was a National Pledge that every Nigerian child born from the end of the civil war – January 1970, would be guaranteed free, qualitative and compulsory primary education. Subsequently, we extended the promise from primary to basic education – nine years of free and qualitative education for all Nigerian children. All governments were to ensure that each year, sufficient resources are made available to ensure that every child is in school. Currently, at least 11 million Nigerian children between the ages of 5 and 14 are out of school. This is the largest number of out of school children in the world today and a collective shame to all of us Nigerians.

Benchmark ten is to remind ourselves that we told our children to go forth and inter-marry. Our Constitution is one of the few in the world that advices citizens to inter-marry between cultures. Article 15,3(C) states:

“Encourage inter-marriage among persons from different places of origin, or of different religions, ethnic or linguistic association or ties.”

Believe me, Nigerians have been doing just that. There is massive inter-marriage, especially among young Nigerians who have grown up in urban centres and have married into the families of neighbours they have grown up with. Even if for the sake of these rising numbers of cosmopolitan Nigerians, to keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done.

The final benchmark – eleven, is the need for collective consciousness that the state of the Nigerian State is serious and each day we appear to be sinking deeper into the abyss. Our Constitution defines the purpose of the state as the protection of the security of Nigerians and the pursuit of their welfare. That is not happening and Nigerians know it. The pathway we are on could lead us to anarchy. The task before us is the reconstruction of the Nigerian State. We cannot allow our political community to continue to crumble and suffer the outcome of State collapse, which Thomas Hobbes had assured us will make our lives “nasty, brutish and short”. We now know what that means and rebuilding the State must take the form of a new approach based on good governance in which there is effective, transparent and accountable use of public resources to provide public goods for citizens. If those who exercise State power cannot use it to improve the lives and livelihoods of citizens, then they would have to be replaced. 

In the debate that followed, one key point that emerged as maybe the most important benchmark, no 12, was missing. WHO would provide the leadership for the comprehensive reforms suggested and how would agency for institutional reform be activated and sustained. As many scholars pointed out during the discussions, most of our leaders are in positions of power to extract from the nation rather than contribute to its development. The way forward therefore is to develop a strategy that could produce a new form of leadership that changes the paradigm and effectively mobilises the country’s potentials for its development.

The second lecture I gave was on the ECOWAS Crisis, French Neo-colonialism and the Return of Coups to West Africa. I argued that the decline of governance observed in Nigeria has been replicated throughout the West African region, which has been in deep existential crisis since the draught of 1973. The authoritarianism of the region’s regimes in the 1970s and 1980s precipitated political instability, coups, civil wars and the season of anomie that made life “nasty, brutish and short.” That was the context of the return of multiparty democracy from the early 1990s that opened a new lease of life for the region. Over the past decade however, democratic erosion has been deep and widespread as authoritarianism and disregard for the rule of law grew. That was the context for the return of the coup d’état in West Africa.

The coups in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Niger have placed two issues, one negative and the other positive on the agenda. The negative element is the deepening of democratic erosion as they seek to create justifications for the prolongation of military rule. The positive one is placing the dismantling of French neo-colonialism on the agenda of Francophone countries.

Both the Vice Chancellor and his deputy, Professors Kabiru Bala and Raymond Bako were at the lectures signalling their commitment to bringing back the culture of academic debates to the university.

Physically, one is struck by three perspectives in the university. The main campus has become congested with too many students and buildings. The second is that the Phase 2 Campus coming up is vast, open beautiful and developing rapidly so more programmes should be transferred to that section. Thirdly, the opening of the new phase has brought into light the massive afforestation programme initiated by the late Professor Abdullahi Mahdi who planted tens of thousands of trees that have now grown into a forest deserving the funnelling of carbon credits to the university. The crowning glory is the lake side gulf course that has been developed.

Ahmadu Belo University is a massive establishment composed of 18 faculties, 110 departments, 98 undergraduate (43,319 students) and 453 post graduate (7,714 students) programmes. The faculty is huge, 2,939 lecturers, 641 of whom are full professors. There is hope for the university illustrated by my good friend Prof Ken Okoli, a sculptor who has designed and is constructing a two-seater three-wheel car so that he and his wife can drive down ABU boulevard to celebrate after his inaugural lecture next month. Even more so for my “happening” buddy, Raymond Bako, whose African Centre of Excellence on New Pedagogies in Engineering Education has raised millions of dollars for state-of-the-art training and scholarship support for engineering students. The programme is also recruiting foreign students. The African Centre of Excellence on Neglected Tropical Diseases and Forensic Biotechnology is of course the most outstanding symbol of the university. The will of the founder of the university, Sir Ahmadu Bello must triumph:

“Ahmadu Bello University shall be a world-class university comparable to any other, engaged in imparting contemporary knowledge, using high quality facilities and multi-disciplinary approaches, to men and women of all races, as well as generating new ideas and intellectual practices relevant to the needs of its immediate community, Nigeria and the world at large.” 



Join Daily Trust WhatsApp Community For Quick Access To News and Happenings Around You.

Do you need your monthly pay in US Dollars? Acquire premium domains for as low as $1500 and have it resold for as much as $17,000 (₦27 million).

Click here to see how Nigerians are making it.