In a country of misfits, misfiring tailors and hideous sartorial choices, the appointment of Dr. Tahir Mamman as Nigeria’s minister of Education is a masterstroke.
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s presidency may reek of illegitimacy for many Nigerians as they eagerly await the September verdict of the Presidential Election Petition Court, but while the court decides, the man himself continues to show that he has a nose for the right people, at least in some respects.
His masterful distribution of security chiefs to every part of the country has doused historical tension. He has also successfully comforted long-suffering indigenes of the FCT by his decision to appoint as minister Zephaniah Bitrus Jisalo, a native. That singular act has laid to rest a 47-year-old grievance.
If Nigerians are still skeptical about the value of a Tinubu presidency, it is because they have been failed many times in the past. A country accustomed to seeing promises bleed to death on the altar of convenience and expedience has earned the right to some cynicism.
The choice of his ministers hardly inspired any hope, as did the screening conducted by the Senate. However, in apportioning portfolios to the ministers, Tinubu has shown that there may yet be life in his presidency.
Between 2005 and 2013, Mamman was the Director General of the Nigerian Law School. He has also been the Vice Chancellor of Baze University, Abuja. An astute administrator, compassionate and consummate professional, the learned law teacher revolutionized the Nigerian Law School. The lawyers who passed under his hand on their way to the Nigerian bar bear testimony to his uncanny mix of uncompromising integrity and adamantine adeptness.
It was only fitting that It was under his watch that the Nigeria Law School clocked 50 years. He is the one now chosen to head Nigeria’s ministry of education. What an appointment!
For long in Nigeria, the alarm bells have long pealed to announce the demise of education and its lofty standards. It is no coincidence that Nigeria’s free fall into decadence has continued just as the standard of education has slipped.
History is unerring in teaching that education liberates a people, invariably setting them up for prosperity and peace.
However, education has remained haunted in Nigeria for many years now. Improving education has simply not been a priority for successive governments. As a result, the canker worm of corruption and negligence had had its fill of Nigeria’s most precious resource.
The disillusionment with education in Nigeria usually starts early. When rural children are greeted by crumbling classrooms and broken windows on their first day in school, it becomes almost impossible to pick things up from there.
When strike after strike sucks the life out of the academic calendars, reducing students to dolls stuffed with worry, the task of redeeming education becomes a forbidding one.
In 2022, Nigerian undergraduates sat at home for eight months as university lecturers downed tools. For much of the eight months, the government conveniently looked away in what was one of the gravest attacks on education in Nigeria.
While many Nigerian students know a dearth of educational infrastructure, many teachers know the frustrations of poor welfare.
Tahir Mamman has already promised to work like a bricklayer to fix the leaking roof of education in Nigeria. Given his antecedents, he will give it his best. But, will his best be enough?
To fix education in Nigeria, the educational sector has to move up the list of government priorities. Declaring a state of emergency in education will not be a bad first step.
The budgetary allocation made annually to education must also improve dramatically because a lot of funding is needed to improve educational infrastructural and train teachers.
Education should not be cheap. What it must however be is accessible. Quality education is never cheap, but with proper funding and commitment, it can become available to every Nigeria.
Ignorance is easy but expensive beyond all description. Education is the great equalizer and with it, Nigeria may begin to take the right redemptive steps.
Now that the right horse is sat in the saddle of the education sector, he must be supported to fix things there.
The bricklayer may have come, but without the right materials to lay bricks, the house will continue to crumble.