Uncle Aliko, Look Locally

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EducationLetters & Essays

How is our refinery coming up? It’s been in the news that work is progressing well there. I hear it’s a really important project to you and for the country, and though I have not had the privilege to go see for myself, I can only imagine the magnitude of it.

Thank you for your magnanimity the other day; for coming to the assistance of hundreds of traders at the Kano market that was gutted by an unknown fire. Your N500 million will go such a long way, if properly applied, to ameliorate the agonies inflicted on many of those persons who boost our economy with their hardwork. I am particularly happy about this generosity of yours because it will ensure many of our brothers from the East will have no reason to want to relocate home following the decimation of their means of livelihood. Coupled with the withdrawal of the eviction notice, I am now very confident they will have a happy Independence Day over there.

Did you see that painful game at Stoke last weekend? I must say we played well, sir, but if you cast the blame on Arsene for wrong substitutions, I would have to agree with you. He’s been great for our club you know, and I am not convinced that firing him would change an awful lot in the short term. But I guess if you shell out of those Sterlings to gain control, then you can be free to do with him whatever you will.

It is actually on the matter of spending that I wish to call your attention to.

Sir, have you heard that today is the last work day of Dr Joe Abah as the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms? I can tell you that his colleagues think very highly of him, and I am sure the successive administrations he has served also appraise him with top grades. He has maintained the popular vote of the Twitter Republic of Nigeria; I believe they have the greatest esteem of his dedication and professional service.

dr_joe_abah

Dr Joe Abah, ends his service as the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms today, August 25, 2017 (Source:
@DrJoeAbah on Twitter)

He always seemed to have a very profound understanding of his job, both the technical components and the administrative aspects, and to relate convivially with the public for whom the public service reforms are made.

Would it not be wonderful, sir, if Dr Abah, and others like him who leave their years of commendable service in Government, were to occupy a chair in one of our top Universities in the country? Dr Abah, for instance, could occupy an endowed Chair for ‘Policy and Governance’ at the University of Lagos; of this I will be an immediate beneficiary. There are other examples: Dr Reuben Abati has been doing great as an independent media consultant, but would he not be of more service to the nation on another endowed Chair, this time for ‘Media in Public Administration’ at the University of Benin?

Even Mr Reno Omokri could be given a petite chaise, perhaps of ‘Disruptive Communications’, at the Federal University of Otuoke. Like the two mentioned above, he could do a job of improving the reputation of the faculties of the related programmes in those schools, and the general reputation of the Universities overall. Students need to look forward to their lecturers as mentors and guiding lights, a lacking feature not usually mentioned in the analysis of the causes of lethargy in our tertiary education. But with these chairs which you endow with eminently qualified persons, local morale will be boosted and we will finally start attracting international students, like Ghana does.

Perhaps when Governments hear that you have these ‘big men’ in public universities, they will be more willing to negotiate with ASUU before they embark on strikes, else you threaten them with your trillions in the Stock Exchange!

Pardon the petty digression, but, sir, it is about time you bring your leverage in other sectors of the economy into public education. It did not seat well to see that your newly recruited engineers had to go to India for training, when we have 140 public universities within our shores. All of our textbooks are now written by Indians; not just those of Math and Science, but even of Economics, Sociology and Law. If the rot continues, sir, we will be importing Igbo and Hausa texts written by Indians; should we not have a radical intervention to prevent this occurrence?

It is my assumption that the ASUU are seeking radical and far reaching solutions to the problems of decaying standards in the schools, caused to large extents by the absence of funding and sponsorships of research programmes.

I also assume they will not find my suggestion of endowments too radical for their comfort. If they do, perhaps we can make those Chairs of a visiting structure, even further opening the doors for more of what Prof Tade Aina told me are ‘pracademics’ – able academics who are professionals in real world practice.

If ASUU will indulge us, we could extend this convocation of pracademics to include Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, Kemi Adetiba and Folarin ‘Falz the Bahd Guy’ Falana to occupy a joint – what now? – sofa at the Faculty of Law at the University of Ibadan; (hope I am not taking this too far?)

ebuka_obi_uchendu

LLB, Called to the Bar, and with a Masters in Intellectual Property and Communications Law, doesn’t Ebuka look good for the class? (Source: Konbini)

Sir, I decided to write this short correspondence to you after your interview with Bloomberg where you re-iterated your interest to buy Arsenal, our dear club, after the completion of our refinery in our mega city of Lagos. I thought it would make a global statement if a Nigerian would stump up #2 billion pounds for a world-renowned establishment like Arsenal; that would put you on the world map, and Nigerians will have some more respect on the Gooners twitter banter. However, you, sir, already have a reservation on that global map, while there remains a great urgency to stop the belittlement of our universities being lower in quality and budget than secondary schools in North London and other parts of the United Kingdom, as a recent editorial by the Guardian (Nigeria) shows.

Two billion pounds in today’s naira breaks my calculator, but will heal a lot of the cracks in our tertiary education sector. I am not advocating for a charity donation; sir, this is a business proposition. I have not done all the numbers but I rely on the acumen of Prof Rasheed Ojikutu, a foremost statistician, who tells me that an endowment in a University is an investment which yields income, and given the characters we are bringing to the show, sir, all you’ll do is “win! win! win!”.

As I conclude, I suppose this is the turn of those at my level to finally get to directly wish you a happy 60th Birthday, and that you will continue to be fulfilled in your endeavours, see joy in your family and be a reference of excellence and the fruits of hardwork for this and future generations of Nigerians and Africans.

It will be really nice doing business with you.

By Alexander O. Onukwue

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