By Usman Tanze Danjuma
What a country! Will Nigeria ever change from its absurd and disgusting approaches to important and sensitive issues? Must everything be subjected to partisan politics of bullying; who will win and who will lose? In which clime is education ever subjected to politics and pulldown syndrome in the world space? These are some of the salient questions to the political-class in the Federal Republic of Nigeria who take joy in frustrating any government’s good initiatives and policies for selfish interests.
On 6 December, 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari ignited the entire nation with jubilation by giving assent to the controversial National Open University of Nigeria Act known as NOUN (Amendment) Act 2018. The entire nation jubilated and hailed the Presidential intervention hoping that the crisis which held over a thousand of law students of the federal government-owned Open and Distance Learning (ODL) institution to ransom since 2013 the first set of the Faculty of Law graduated has been brought to final end.
The amendment by the Senate after a public-hearing remedied the controversial clause “Correspondence” in the hitherto NOUN Act and changed it to “Full-time” which the Council of Legal Education (CLE) and Body of Benchers (BOB) capitalized on to deny the graduates of the university admission quota into the Nigerian Law School for their vocational training like their counterparts from other universities in and outside the country.
The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu has shown profound commitment toward resolving the protracted crisis in numerous ways by liaising with his Ministry of Justice counterpart, Abubakar Malami but to no avail. The question is; how long will innocent citizens that got admission in a federal university and graduated from their accredited programme be allowed to be roaming the streets for no just course? Again, what are those bodies; CLE and BOB endlessly deliberating on a university that is accredited by the National Universities Commission (NUC)?
Section 4 of the Legal Education (Consolidation, etc) Act states; “Subject to this Act, the Attorney-General of the Federation may give the Council directions of a general character with regard to the exercise by the Council of its functions and it shall be the duty of the Council to comply with such directives”.
Could the AGF-Abubakar Malami claim not to know of the above provision since President Buhari gave assent to the NOUN Amendment Act about two years ago toward resolving the problems that crippled innocent citizens? Or is President Buhari’s assent so cheap to be thrown into a dustbin? Or could a sensitive position as that of the Attorney-General of the Federation become a tool for some persons to settle scores against perceived enemies? These questions should be answered by the ‘almighty’ AGF-Abubakar Malami.
President Buhari has positioned a renowned career diplomat, experienced administrator and academic of high standing, Professor Ibrahim Gambari as his Chief of Staff after the demise of Malam Abba Kyari. The difference must be clear. Nigerians must see the difference. A professor of global repute that knows the value of education and lives by it like Professor Gambari cannot watch and allow subordinates in the government destroy good policies of the government.
There is no excuse for these innocent citizens to continue to remain victims of power-plays merely because some cabals that attended conventional institutions didn’t like ODL (Open and Distance Learning) which is NOUN exceptional mode. Interestingly, virtual learning or Correspondence education which the cabal fumed over against NOUN has become the robust means of education following the outbreak of the dreaded coronavirus pandemic around the world.
Most terrible is that on 6 December 2020, it will complete two years President Buhari gave assent to resolve the crisis but some cabals using some persons in his cabinet stood against it using diverse tricks and delay-tactics. The second anniversary of the assent is few months away. This is the height of disrespect to the Office of the President of a nation, and a slap on President Buhari.
At the peak of the pandemic, federal government through the Minister of Education, Adamu issued directives to all tertiary institutions in the country to adopt Virtual/Online learning which most of the universities embraced to prevent lagging behind. Thus, virtual learning and ODL, hitherto rejected have become chief cornerstones. The world is changing rapidly and the pandemic has inarguably forced those that preferred to be anachronistic to forcefully think and make a move. Those that don’t believe in advancement or technological innovation should give space.
Another painful part is that those witch-hunted NOUN law students in a National Moot-Court competition for Faculty of Law in all federal, state and private universities in Nigeria defeated all their counterparts; and represented the country in India prior to their exclusion from the contest. Is this the way to reward and encourage hardworking and excellence? Apart from legislative amendment and presidential assent, the contention has been reduced to naught by Coronavirus contagion as virtual/online learning has become the way to go across the world.
To conclude, the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Gambari as an academic should ensure that this absurdity; deliberate delays and frustration of helpless qualified NOUN law graduates from admission into the Nigerian Law School for their vocational training comes to an end. The office of the COS for the first time in the democratic dispensation rests on a renowned academic of international repute and career diplomat demonstrating President Buhari’s determination to make a difference in his final term in office.
As an icon of the academic world, the nation obviously earnestly awaits to benefit from such positive action of Mr. President on account of experiences, skills and exposures Gambari garnered over the years. Those that are bent on frustrating government policies from within for selfish interests should either retrace their steps or take the exit door. Witch-hunting an educational policy is a national tragedy. Let these witch-hunted NOUN law graduates be set free without further delay.
Danjuma, a social activist wrote from Sokoto State.