By Kasim Isa Muhammad
Since 1999, the people of Yobe have continued to give mandates to the ruling party, what is now known as the All Progressive Congress (APC), hoping that their lives will be better on all fronts- particularly in the education sector. Unfortunately, the Yobe education sector is known to be one of the worst in the nation. This is manifested by a legacy of dilapidated blocks of classrooms, a lack of laboratories; a lack of teachers; no teacher promotions, and the list goes on.
With the emergence of Mai-Mala Buni as the Governor in 2019, he, on the inaugural date, in the most dramatic manner, convinced the nation that the education sector in Yobe is rotten-Yes, rotten! He declared what was known as an “emergency” in the sector. He announced his aim and gathered a committee to work out a plan for the sector. Millions of naira were spent on meetings, travel, and photography on a matter that a single administrative circular could have solved.
Two years into the administration of Buni, not a single milestone was made in the education sector. The State Basic Education Board could not recruit trackers, teachers’ promotions stalled, teachers’ salaries were mutilated, and the hardworking principal of secondary schools was bullied by the business that leads the ministry of education. The sad news continues, and the peak was the video of Fika Government Secondary School that rattled the government. One could ask, what exactly is the problem? Is Buni the problem, or is his team at the peak of insubordination?
One of the most dramatic events that put the Yobe education sector in the spot was the case of the Buni Foreign Scholarship Scheme (BFSS), a scheme managed by a few of Buni’s trusted men. BFSS is characterised by poor stipend payment, poor academic quality, etc. Today, the BFSS is still a problem that will continue to make the Buni government unpopular and give the opposition a chance to punch the APC hard.
The local scholarship allowance is also an area where there is a hitched to pin network of students and their families to dispense protest votes against Buni and give the upper hand to opposition parties like the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP). It was only last week when NNPP moved to consolidate its gains by inviting Stand Up and Be Involved (SUBI) to adopt its party and contest all elections. Should this partnership work as planned, the APC will likely experience the most effective and fierce opposition in its history in Yobe State.
The local scholarship allowance payment has been epileptic, inconsistent, and marred by a lack of competence in leadership. One can quickly note that this administration has provided the most inexperienced and inefficient leadership of the board in the history of Yobe. No one knows if the Yobe State Scholarships Board (YSSB) has adequate access to its budgetary allocations. If, in any case, it has access to funds, who can defend Buni or his proxy at the head of the YSSB for the lack of payment of local scholarship allowances? An act that even the military administration did well in Yobe!
One might wonder if paying for local scholarships was related to the massive fund-raising effort for the 2023 elections. It is terrific, and only in APC’s Yobe State one can find people heading a government parastatal that failed to perform in contesting elections. Does this mean that Buni is impressed with the performance of the scandal-marred YSSB?
Buni needs to know that there is significant dissatisfaction with his administration and team. Everything that the government does seems suspicious such as the maiden Education Appeal Fund, where billions of Naira were accumulated. Whether Buni knew or knew not, there is speculation on the ground that the education fund was a cover to grasp financial muscles to fight for the 2023 elections. Whether true or political, this sentiment makes up the opposition, and the chances to pin the people against the APC are high. It has always been easy to blackmail a government that cares less about its spending, budget performance, and revenue base.
It is, however, clear that whatever sterling personal qualities a governor may have, of which Buni has many, the chances of failure can be significant. The popular opinion is that Buni is highly unlikely to succeed with his existing team. Buni must change gears and relate to reality on the ground and begin to listen to others rather than his yes-men. Those who tell him that he is always right even when he is wrong—for no one can always be right. We are calling for Buni to search for a new effective team should the 2023 election tide blow in his favour. Whereas the YSSB Chairman has a dual and conflicting constituency that rests with the constituents to decide. Ultimately, the YSSB has failed the children of the poor.
Kasim Isa Muhammad wrote from Potiskum, Yobe State via firstname.lastname@example.org.