One of the cardinal wrongdoings of politicians in Nigeria is that they do not keep their campaign promises. That may also give an inkling to why some voters would rather collect rice, loaves of bread stuffed with money, cash and sundry things on election day than believe that those standing elections would deliver on their promises. In spite of his superlative performance as Governor of Anambra state, which stood him in good stead to be chosen by Atiku Abubakar as his running mate, the only promise Peter Obi did not fulfil was to bring his children to public schools in the state. Obi’s word was his bond. He stands out in the comity of politicians. That unfulfilled promise tended to bring him close to the crowd of politicians from whom he had stood out like a beacon.
It was the only point Chris Ngige, who contested against Obi during Obi’s second term bid, held in a television debate at that time. That point was not strong enough to dislodge Obi. He explained the reason he reneged on that promise, though I cannot recall what he said.
Public schools have been so decrepit and rundown that they have become educational abodes for children of the flotsam and jetsam of society. At a point, it became some kind of taboo to send children there. Private school sprouted everywhere, including rural areas.
Just as President Muhammadu Buhari came under attack by his critics for seeking medical attention abroad, close watchers of the polity came down hard on politicians for sending their children to highbrow private schools, thus causing perpetual neglect of public schools, given that their children drank from another cup.
Many reasons have been proffered for not compelling public officers to send their children to public schools. It has been said that you do not compel people to seek knowledge in a certain place, or even take care of their health in certain places. They have a right to do so where they wish. When a public servant, of the rank of a governor, Nasir El-Rufai, sends his child to a public school, as he did recently, it sends a positive signal to the people.
The governor registered his six-year-old son, Siddique El-Rufai in Capital School, a public school in Kaduna, as a primary one pupil. It was in line with his pledge in 2015, to send the boy to a public school when he comes of school age. This article missed the press deadline last week, but I have resuscitated it on reading reports that the governor had begun implementation of the new minimum wage in Kaduna State. I have no confirmation beyond media reports.
I do not know all the promises he made in 2015, but I would have laughed him to scorn, knowing that politicians hardly keep promises they make on the verge of their ascendancy to the seat of power. It was, therefore, an ennobling move that the governor kept his word, in a clime where integrity seems to be in short supply. There have been allegations that he splashed N180 million on the school before taking his son there. I would rather we hailed rather than knocked him because Siddique is one of the hundreds of children there. They would partake of the largesse, if the move is so described.
Lawmakers in both chambers of the National Assembly, members of state Houses of Assembly, commissioners, permanent secretaries, directors, and others in those ranks should send their children to public schools. That way, they would ensure that budgeted funds are released for education, since they would receive the short end of the stick if they failed, and would thus undermine their children. To state that El-Rufai’s radar would now cover education more than before is to state the obvious. That would be the positive lot of schools where other top officials have their children, which implies that public servants in Kaduna ought to take a cue from their governor. The state is bound to be the better for it.
The governor’s name has been bounced around as one of those angling to replace President Muhammadu Buhari, which is why some of his political adversaries say what he has done is a “show.” I would rather we saw it from the light of impacting on the educational sector in the state. Again, if it was a show, it is a good one because his son would proceed to a public secondary school and university, a move bound to improve the fortunes of such institutions in the state. Politicians in our clime ought to imbibe El-Rufai’s brand of politics, even if they brand it showmanship. All other governors eying the presidency ought to commence this new politics of showmanship, for it is pleasing to the people. If the man has commenced payment of the new minimum wage as part of his showmanship, other governor’s should join the show forthwith. The El-Rufai political template bears a repeat in many places. We need more presidential aspirants who would pursue their ambition the El-Rufai way.
When former Ekiti State Governor Peter Ayodele Fayose attended the convocation of a private university where his son graduated, he stated he did not send the boy abroad because he believed in Nigeria. Praises rose for him because his colleagues took theirs abroad, and rubbed it on our faces with graduation photographs. Some knocked him, however, when they said he ought to have sent the boy to Ekiti State University. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. El-Rufai has made the right step in the right direction. Rather than mock him , we should hail him. it was a good thing the media gave it deserved attention. The governor’s move is commendable, and ought to be emulated.
The era of the elite looking down on the people ought to end, not when the resources belong to the people. Revolutions ensue when the people get to know that their rulers take them for granted yet spend public funds to live in opulence. I join those who have commended the Kaduna State governor. If, like his critics say, politics was his driving force, we urge his fellow politicians to play his kind of politics.