By Umar Idris Yaqub
“If we don’t figure out a way to create equity, real equity, of opportunity and access, to good schools, housing, health care, and decent paying jobs, we’re not going to survive as a productive and healthy society” – Tim Wise
The above maxim of the notable American activist and writer, Timothy Jacob Wise, merely rehashes the most conspicuous yearnings of both well-meaning minds in the Nigerian elite circle and the masses. From the era of the fathers of an independent Nigeria to the contemporary age, a leader who depicts the real colour of a nation devoid of staccato direction of the people in terms of tribal or religious favouritism, has seemingly eluded the most populous Black nation in the planet earth, with exclusion of the vitiated twilight of 2011-2015.
Nigeria as an emerging nation about to be admitted into the league of developed economies of the globe, so to speak, under the presidency of Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, was ingloriously hampered on the basis of ethnicity and bitter politics – and the biggest losers – the health workers whose careers were already thriving in the rehabilitated medical facilities with constant and sustainable emoluments and other welfare packages.
Also among the losers included the school children at the foundation level in every part of the country, but especially in the north, where Jonathan endeavoured to ensure that no child roams the streets anymore while others are in school, thereby checkmating the level of illiteracy, especially in that part of the country.
I need not bore the reader with the already widely-known fact that President Jonathan backed his dream of enthroning a sanitised, enlightened and educated society for Nigerians with the establishment of at least eight (8) almajiri schools in every state of northern Nigeria, consummating into about 165 schools, all of which have, regrettably, been taken over by weeds and rodents since he left office in 2015.
As captured by The Guardian in its October 5, 2019, edition, headlined ‘Jonathan’s N15b almajiri schools rot away,’ the paper noted that “the almajiri schools in the North on which former President Goodluck Jonathan spent a whopping N15 billion are waiting for the undertaker. That they are in ruins is, to put it mildly.”
The erudite academic was never deterred or put into consideration which part of the country loves him most or gave him the highest number of votes in his quest to give the entire country a face lift. This he confirmed in his address at the Peace Summit at the Junior Chamber International, JCI, in Malaysia in 2018.
He noted that when he became Nigeria’s president, at least 10.5 million children school age across the country were out of school.
“Over 80 percent of these children for which majority are known as Almajiri came from the northern part of Nigeria, where I recorded the least votes in the elections I contested.
“Knowing the value of education, I could see that the ugly situation was limiting the opportunities of these children and negatively affecting the development of my country.
“That was why my administration decided to build 165 Almajiri Integrated Model Schools which combined both western and Islamic education in its curricula,” he said.
Do I need to mention the famers and job seekers who are today still counting their losses since the Jonathan administration was cut short by bitter politics? In 2012, President Jonathan launched the dry farming scheme in Nigeria which provided thousands of jobs and ensured food security for the country…