Alleged non-consultation on critical education matters creates disaffection between Adamu Adamu and his Minister of State counterpart, Prof. Anwukah
It’s a figment of your imagination – media aides
Inside the alleged silent war
From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Some kind of cold war is said be going on between the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, and the Minister of State for Education, Prof. Anthony Anwukah. Alleged non-consultation in critical education matters is said to be the cause of the mutual distrust between the senior and junior minister.
Some of the most recent, sources said, include the alleged single-handed selection and recommendations by Adamu, to President Muhammadu Buhari, of appointees chosen to replace the sacked Chief Executive Officers of the 17 parastatals, agencies and commissions, without some input from Anwukah, under whose purview some of them fall.
Appointments and increment
The development was said to have led Anwukah to decide to shun any public event that may bring two of them together. He was conspicuously absent from the inauguration of the new CEOs of the 17 parastatals as well as during the flag-off of the 2016 Teachers’ Professional Development Workshop organised by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and held in Abuja on August 1. But when he did not attend the inauguration and dissemination of the National Quality Assurance Handbook for Basic Secondary Education in Nigeria, this prompted the newsmen covering the occasion to query Adamu about it, especially after he failed to acknowledge Anwukah’s absence during the launch.
“I am not aware of any rift between us and I am not aware that he (Anwukah) has been sidelined, but you can go and find out from the source that told you,” he said to them.
A source said that although Prof. Anwukah was in town that day, he was not aware of the event held at Jabi Junior Secondary School, Abuja and therefore could not attend nor send representative.
Adamu also denied knowledge of the rumoured increment in the school fees payable by students of Unity schools or Federal Government colleges, on resumption for the next academic session. The rumoured increase said to be about 300 per cent prompted some of their parents/guardians to stage a protest to decry what they termed undue “commercialisation of Nigeria’s education.”
The news of the increment from N20, 000 to N75, 000, he said, was strange to him. “I am not aware that the Unity School fees have been increased,” he insisted. “As the Minister of Education, I am not aware, but I will try and find out.” But in what appeared to be a contradiction of the Minister’s stance, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan, confirmed the increment.
“The school fees of the Federal Government Colleges have been increased, but by not up to the 300 per cent being claimed,” Yemi-Esan said. “You must be aware of the reality in the country. It is important for the Federal Government Colleges to maintain the students that are there and you must also be aware that these schools are tuition free. What has been increased is the boarding fee, but it is not up to N75, 000.”
In a related development, the Minister was said to cancel the Parents Teachers Association fees being paid by parents and guardians of students of Federal government colleges. The Sun Education understands that this was done to whittle down what the Minister perceives as too much power being wielded by the association over Principals of the colleges so much that they arrogate to themselves the power to “approbate and reprobate” in almost all administrative matters concerning the colleges.
Responsibilities, duties and frustration
The schedule of duty and responsibilities stipulate that among other official functions as may be assigned by the President, the Minister of State for Education supervises the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), National Commission For Colleges of Education (NCCE) Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) Federal Unity Schools, and some other parastatals under the Ministry.
But when the Minister assumed office, he allegedly was not too comfortable with the arrangement. A source said that the Minister began by writing a letter to the immediate past Executive Secretary of UBEC, Dr. Suleiman Dikko, asking that he be reporting to him. But Dr. Dikko replied, reminding him that the schedule of the Commission demands that he (Dikko) reports to the Minister of State.
The Minister of State was said to have confronted the Minister on this, at a management meeting, resulting in a heated argument. The ex-UBEC ES, trying to play safe while operating within the ambits of his schedules, continued to report to the Minister of State. He was later fired for some undisclosed reasons.
Several attempts made to reach Dikko over the development were unsuccessful as his telephone line was switched off. A source told our correspondent that he might have changed his phone number to avoid calls from people, especially journalists.
Confronted with the allegation, the Special Adviser to the Minister of Education on Technology, Muhammad Sani Mahmood, denied knowledge of any letter emanating from the office of the Minister to the ex UBEC ES, to that effect. “Both Ministers were appointed to serve in the same government,” he said. “Secondly, the ex ES of UBEC or any other agency among the 21 parastatals under the Ministry of Education were employed by the President and not by the Minister directly, meaning that the President who hired them can also fire them at will. The recent sack affected 17 Executive Secretaries and DGs of the parastatals and not only the ex-UBEC ES.”
The Sun Education learnt that the Minister of State feels frustrated by the development, which sources say, has forced him to write a letter to the President through the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) threatening to resign.
Official reactions to the allegations
But in a chat with The Sun Education, the Deputy Director (Press and Public Relations), Federal Ministry of Education, Mr. Ben Bem Goong, and Senior Special Assistant on Media to Prof. Anwukah, Mr. Anthony Akuneme, dismissed as baseless, the allegations of a rift between the two Ministers.
“I cannot answer questions on the baseless allegations because you know as much as I do that they are not true,” Goong said. Citing Prof Anwukah’s address at the presentation of “Education for Change: A Ministerial Strategic Plan (2016-2019), held on August 29, at NICON Luxury Hotel, Abuja, in which he took time not only to praise the minister for coming up with the idea but also described him as a man of multiple credentials whose passion and efforts to take the education sector to higher levels are highly commendable, and a photograph taken at the opening ceremony of the 2016 Joint Consultative Commission on Education held in Abuja, last Monday, in which the two ministers were captured exchanging handshakes, Akuneme, like Goong, dismissed the allegations as rumour emanating from idle minds.
“Even before these events, the two ministers were present at the presidential reception held for the visiting Director of UNESCO, Mrs. Irina Bokova, on August 10 and had cause to exchange pleasantries,” he remarked. He was to later send to The Sun Education photographs of those events as a further proof of what he was talking about. “They say photographs cannot lie,” he said. “These photos speak for themselves.”
A source recalls how often the minister would stroll down to the minister of state’s office to exchange banters with him and sometimes invite him to his office to break the fast with him during Ramadan fasting.