If brilliance and intelligence were to be factors that guarantee winning elections in Nigeria, the former Governor of Kano State and new Minister of Education, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, would have been the President of Nigeria.
This is because many Nigerians were outright overwhelmed by the brilliance and oratorical prowess of the new Minister when he participated in the Presidential Debate organised by NN24, an international cable television station, for the aspirants competing in the April 19 2011 presidential elections. The debate held on March 18, 2011 at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.
As the presidential candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Mallam Shekarau featured at the debate with the presidential candidates of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu. Even before the organisers declared him winner, everyone knew that Shekarau’s performance was stellar for which he deserved gold.
He was also declared winner at another debate, a youth-themed version, hosted by the notable writer, Chimamanda Adichie, at the Abuja studio of Channels television around the same time. That was how many Nigerians came to respect the Governor who many seemed to misunderstand then for delivering on his promises to his people of Kano State.
Now, though few people fancy the politics of Shekarau and the ideological vacuity underpinning it, his appointment as Education Minister is a welcome development, a round peg in a round hole. A former teacher and school principal, indeed the principal of school principals in Nigeria, Mallam Shekarau has the pedigree and the clout to restore peace to our troubled education sector.
While swearing in Shekarau and other new Ministers last Wednesday (July 9, 2014), President Goodluck Jonathan gave them a good charge. The charge was spot on especially in the context of the then ongoing international football competition in Brazil. President Jonathan said in a football match, “when you get to the injury time and a player is brought in you expect goals. This government has less than a year to go and you have been brought
in this time, so you know the reason why you have been brought in”.
With the speed that would be reminiscent of the dramatic encounter between Germany and Brazil in the just concluded World Cup, hardly had the game begun than Minister Shekarau started to score goals. With a stroke of the hand, the embarrassingly long strike of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) was suspended after a meeting he had with its leadership on Thursday, barely few hours after he was sworn in. The strike was suspended last Saturday.
It was a good score or a Win-Win for both ASUP and Shekarau. For ASUP, the strike was getting to the boiling point of non-popularity as we read every now and then of polytechnics jumping out of the strike. It was almost becoming a forgotten strike as business continued as usual and Government is pre-occupied with politics and insecurity on the one hand and the politics of insecurity and insecurity of politics on the other.
It was very good and strategic of ASUP leaders to have taken advantage of the Minister’s olive branch. Without that, the leadership and the strike were headed for disaster due to lack of public support. I had written here, in solidarity with the polytechnic lecturers on May 7, 2014 in the article, “Is ASUP in soup?”, but noted at the same time that “the attitude of the public to them is OYO (‘On Your Own’)”.
For the Minister, it is an indication that he probably has the magic wand to cure the ills bedeviling our critical education sector. That singular achievement has boosted his image and he has all the support of the stakeholders as he begins his assignment. He should therefore not allow the confidence reposed in him by the President and the lecturers to be misplaced. He should hit the ground running by shaking the system up fast.