Weekly Trust

A letter to northern states’ governors (II)

Continued from last week…

It is not my intention, Your Excellencies, to take much of your precious time with a lengthy letter of this nature. However, I guess the issues being raised are worth the thoughts they are likely to provoke. Kindly forgive my sins if this letter sounds insulting or injurious to your personalities. Your Excellencies! Do not to take offence from my failure to sing your praises in this correspondence. Achievements are actually worth commending but the challenges confronting the north are so cyclopean that doing so would undercut the moral responsibility which this column, Philosofaith, owes you. In the past, billions were mathematical expressions one came across mainly in geography when calculating the distance (in meters) between the nine planets and the sun. Today, the appropriation bill of every state in the north is in billions of naira. Yet, the infrastructural development in the region is, to speak the minds of many, not commensurate with the N8.3 trillion that accrued to the 19 northern states in 11 years!

Your Excellencies! You would agree with me that the job being done by the nineteen of you today was what Late Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello (Sardaunan Sokoto) did alone as the Premier of Northern Nigeria. Yet, the region under Sardauna reflected quality progress which cannot be compared with what leaders in the north today define as ‘development’. These days, we have more schools with little education; more people to feed but few farmers and fewer tractors; and more diseases to fight with limited access to healthcare facilities.

Some members of the NSGF recently re-opened the on-shore/off-shore controversy. Sir, you need to appreciate the vast agricultural potentials of the north with a view to exploring and developing them. Agriculture is a viable and sustainable alternative to the politics of on-shore/off-shore dichotomy. The vast arable land of the north including the lake-Chad basin can, in my conservative and exaggerated opinion, feed the entire African continent.

Another disturbing trend that requires the urgent attention of the NSGF is the repeated abysmal failure of students especially in northern states in the school certificate examinations of WAEC and NECO. While poor performance in national examinations is attributable to a variety of inter-related factors, the very woeful result of candidates from the northern states speaks of a shoddier situation in the region. Results released by WAEC for the entire country indicate that candidates who obtained five credits and above including English Language and Mathematics from 2009 to 2012 were 26.56%; 23.36%; 30.9%; and 39%. NECO which has been far worse except for the slight improvement in 2012 shows that only 10.6% of candidates who sat for the examination in 2009 obtained five credits and above including English Language and Mathematics; 9.36% in 2010; 8.06% in 2011; and 31.58% this year.

Permit me, Your Excellencies, to give some specific statistics on students’ performance in the 19 northern states of Nigeria during the last WAEC and NECO examinations. This may guide you to appreciate the enormity and critical nature of educational challenges in the north. Candidates who obtained credit passes in five subjects and above including English Language and Mathematics during the May/June 2012 WAEC examination for the 19 States in the north show Yobe 1.5%; Gombe 4.2%; Adamawa 5.26%, Kebbi 7.44%; Bauchi 9.2%; Zamfara 9.5%; Sokoto 10.69%; Katsina 10.74%; Jigawa 13.3%; Borno 13.8%; Kwara 17.6%; Taraba 18.25%; Kano 22.71%, Niger 23.27%; plateau 25.98%; Nasarawa 29.9%; Benue 37.80%; Kogi 40.18% and Kaduna 44.4%.

Further analysis shows that 10 out of a total of 17 states in the southern part of the country attained 50% or more in the same May/June 2012 WAEC result under reference with Abia state achieving the highest at 76% and Oyo state having the lowest at 21%; which is, yet, higher than what 12 of the 19 northern states attained separately. States that failed very badly are all in the north: Zamfara, Bauchi, Yobe, Taraba, Sokoto, Katsina, Kebbi, Gombe, Borno, and Jigawa. The very low success rate in school certificate examinations in the northern states is arguably a mirror image of the large number of unqualified teachers in the region. The states’ commissioners of education are, besides, not helping matters. At this year’s stakeholders’ conference on national examinations held recently, only the Commissioners of Education from Kano and Nasarawa States were in attendance. The remaining seventeen of them from the north were absent. Something needs to be done urgently.

If Your Excellencies would grant me the privilege to make few suggestions, there’s need for a strategic development plan for the region. Similarly, I suggest you have a rethink over some needless “projects”. It would be good to discontinue the use of public funds for complimentary annual (Muslim/Christian) pilgrimage seats. Any chief executive who desires to sponsor such trips should do so with his personal and not state resources.

It would equally be cost effective to reduce the sky-high number of political aides appointed by some of you. Government properties should only be disposed with a view to replacing them with new, and if possible, better ones. Breeding of thugs which is a practice common to the character of typical Nigerian politicians should be discouraged. As chief executives in your states, you could rid the political space of hooligans by empowering the unemployed and under-employed to become gainfully employed. Furthermore, I exhort you to fear Allah (SWT) and remain sensitive to the feelings of the people you lead.

I appreciate your patience for sparing time to read through this open letter. We have no choice but to blow our own trumpets (whether of success or failure) because as Sardaunan Sokoto put it in his speech of January 1, 1966 on the birth of the New Nigerian newspaper: “If you do not blow your own trumpet, nobody will blow it for you for the simple reason that others are too busy blowing theirs”. I wish us all Allah’s guidance in our responsibilities to God and man. Thank you and Allah bless.

Yours sincerely,

Philosofaith.

Cc:

1. Chaiman (ACF) Alh Aliko Mohd

2. Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd),

3. Gen Muhammadu Buhari (rtd),

4. Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (rtd),

5. Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar

(rtd),

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