Chinedu E. Okonkwo
A silent revolution is taking place in the Seat of the Caliphate, Sokoto State, if it fully crystallizes, not only the state, but the entire country and beyond, will be greatly, positively, impacted.
The revolution is the wind of change sweeping through the education sector of the state, being carefully engineered by Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal himself.
As Speaker of the last House of Representatives, he acquitted himself very creditably, but because the achievements of the legislature are not as visible to the common eye as those of the executive, and because he must have felt that his home state needed to be steered onto a path of dramatic and irreversible change, the young lawyer left politics at the federal level and headed home to be governor.
About two years in the saddle now, the people of the state and indeed, Nigerians at large are already very conscious that the wind of change is truly blowing in Sokoto State and that a real revolutionary is on the seat of power.
In every facet of life, change is being seriously felt. In the power sector, in agriculture, in the health sector, in roads, water supply, housing, to name but a few, the people of Sokoto State feel as though they have woken up from a deep and long slumber.
But the sector that is witnessing the revolution whose full impact will be fully felt in the years to come is the education sector, where Governor Tambuwal seems to have, for good reasons, beamed his search light a little more than the other sectors.
Early in the life of his administration, he declared a State of Emergency in this sector, and to show the seriousness he attached to the declaration, he appointed a thorough-bred academic, the former Vice Chancellor of the Usmanu Danfodio University, Sokoto, Professor Riskuwa Shehu the Chairman of the Technical Committee on the State of Emergency.
A needs assessment was conducted and the challenges were identified and are now being systematically and frontally tackled.
For instance, it was discovered that more than half of the structures in basic and secondary schools in the state are dilapidated and that over 60 per cent of the teachers in these schools are unqualified. Besides, school enrolment was also seen to be far below what it should be.
In recognition of the key role that education plays in the lives of individuals and societies, Governor Tambuwal set out to dramatically reverse the serious deficits he met in this sector.
Aware also of the fact that mere declaration of a State of Emergency would not lead to the achievement of his desired goal, especially without the full backing of the law, he sent an Executive Bill to the State House of Assembly, which expeditiously passed the bill, which among others, makes education a justiciable right in Sokoto State, making the state the first in the country to enact such legislation.
The Bill also provides for free and compulsory basic education for all children between age six and 18, and prescribes punishment for parents and guardians who refuse to let their children or wards attend school.
With this law in place and the Governor’s resolve as resolute as ever, the sky seems to be the starting point for the children of Sokoto State and hopefully for the children of other states in the country whose Governors would want to follow the very example of Governor Tambuwal.
But aware of the dramatic increase in enrolment that the new law would engender, the forward-looking leader has set in motion the construction of about 160 new schools – 100 new primary schools, 45 new senior and 15 new junior secondary schools, all in 2017.
This, again, is unprecedented, especially given that rehabilitation and equipment of the old, hitherto dilapidated schools is also on-going.
Conscious, also, of the need to give special attention to the educationally disadvantaged girl-child, Governor Tambuwal has gone ahead to put in place an agency for girl-child education, which will co-ordinate issues related to girl-child education in the state, from the basic to the tertiary level.
While this revolution is sweeping through the basic to tertiary levels of education in the state, Governor Tambuwal has jolted the civil service with a directive that all workers in the state must be computer literate if they expect to progress in the service.
This commendable directive has been followed by the commencement of training of 23,000 civi servants in computer appreciation.
For a state that won the Award of Best State in ICT from the Nigerian Information and Technology Development Agency, (NITDA) based on what Governor Tambuwal has been able to put in place in less than two years in office, it can only be imagined what would begin to happen when all the investments in school infrastructure, teachers’ training, overhaul of basic to tertiary levels of education, and even the computer training for civil servants begin to yield the expected bountiful fruits.
It could well match the achievements of the late legend, Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the education sector of the then Western Region of Nigeria, the fruits of which the South West geo-political zone of the country is still reaping now, many years after the seeds were sown.
But beautiful as the vision and actions of Governor Tambuwal may be and waterproof as the law backing the vision may be, however, the people must massively and enthusiastically buy into them for the huge success anticipated to be realized.
Luckily, donor agencies and friendly foreign governments, like UNICEF and the United Kingdom’s DFID, have embraced this great move, and are doing much more than they have done in the past, conscious of the fact that the success of this revolution would positively impact, not only Sokoto State, the North West geo-political zone or Nigeria, but the entire word.
*Chinedu E. Okonkwo writes from Bende in Port Harcourt, Rivers State