Friday, 26 June 2015

El-Rufai, Education and Ramadan Iftar things (1)



El-Rufai, Education and Ramadan Iftar things (1)
I have heard someone say – I can’t remember whom, though – that you should be careful what you pray for. In other words, can you stand God’s answer to your prayer?
Last week, Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State stunned many people in the State when he came out to categorically declare that, under him, the State will no longer fund the spiritual, or religious, bills of anybody. Such include the State paying for people to go on pilgrimages to Mecca and Jerusalem, and also giving people foodstuff and the likes for the breaking of fast during the period of Ramadan and also during festive periods like Eids and Christmas. According to the governor, all of those religious endeavours are a personal affair and must, therefore, be kept as such without bringing the state government into it. He also went ahead, when he received a group of religious leaders at the weekend, to justify his government’s position with the argument that such policies, instead of benefiting the poor whom they are purportedly for, have only served to line up the pockets of a few through the granting of political favours by way of contracts and also in order to curry political patronage.
Only naturally, many people have been crying wolf on the governor’s decision, some of them the very poor for whom he intends that the policy ultimately benefits. The governor has argued that under the present state of finances in the State, and even the nation at large, he cannot afford to use State funds on such endeavours as there are more pressing challenges which, if met with the limited resource available, will benefit the generality of the people of the state. Of course the most vitriolic of the critics are the opponents of the ruling party in the state. But that is not unexpected; and this is the period of Ramadan, quite apt for the whipping up of sentiments on such an issue.
The scenario playing out in Kaduna State presently is a metaphor of the larger state of things in northern Nigeria. How it pans out is going to determine how serious the entire region is about the change that it clamoured for in the run up to the last elections. Of course on virtually all indices of development, the north sorely lags behind. Is it in health, in education or in economics? One readily remembers the figures that the erstwhile governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Charles Chukwuma Soludo, released on the north while he held sway in the apex bank: despite the controversy that the Soludo report stirred, and despite the living in denial, the reality on ground in the north only points to fact that the region indeed in the margins of the socio-economics of the nation. Little wonder that analysts, including elements in and from the north, have attributed the appeal of the Boko Haram ideology to the youths of the region to the sorry state of things in the region, hence the belief they can find in the group a way out of a system that has oppressed them.
The clamour for change boomed in the north of this country more than any other part, and the change was realized at the polls but it looks like the people are not yet ready to let go of old habits. I am trying to remember the name someone called a person that does the same thing and expects a different result…
It was in one of the northern states that a certain former governor was challenged by the press that he never delivered on the mandate that his people gave him to govern them. The ex-governor in question brazenly argued that he more than delivered on his campaign promise. He said that he made three promises to his people: to establish Shariah in the state, to sponsor people to go on Hajj, and to feed people especially the indigent during the Ramadan fast for free; all of which he infact did. But really, as someone upon whom trust is reposed to lead masses out of the woods, is that just? We have also seen other governors in the region who, apart from doing such things, have gone ahead to sponsor mass weddings for divorcees in their respective states from government coffers.
It is not necessarily wrong for government to do all of these for her citizens where possible, but sure enough, we all know that these governors who have done all of these never did them with any sense of altruism because given the reality that has persisted in northern Nigeria, it is easy to see that there have been more pressing needs confronting the people which have required urgent attention. These needs border on the dignity of the people as human persons. These needs border on equipping the people to face the challenges of the twenty-first century with their heads above their shoulders.
To be continued…

 

BLUEPRINT Newspaper; Thur. June 25, 2015; p2

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