Not many believed or gave Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State the benefit of the doubt when he told the world of his plans to enrol his kids in public schools in the state. The governor had in 2017 as part of his plans to revive the almost comatose public education system in the state advocated the need for public office holders to send their kids to government-owned schools. He said the move would not only restore public confidence in the public education sector, but guarantee quality and standards.
But given our politicians’ penchant for political gimmickry, doublespeak and deceit, Nigerians have learned to be wary of statements credited to politicians in this part of the world. So, those who took his statement with a pinch of salt probably acted based on past experiences of unfulfilled promises and dashed hopes.
Since political actors in this clime have perfected the habit of trading in falsehood and lies, the masses have resolved not to expect much from their leaders. There is this feeling of disbelief, pessimism and lack of trust between the leaders and their followers, especially on issues that border on good governance and sincerity of purpose. The masses have become wiser by cleverly choosing not to invest too much hope in statements credited to either their elected or appointed representatives. Government has a lot of work to do in order to earn the trust and confidence of the people.
Love or loathe him, Governor Nasir El-Rufai is one leader who manifestly understands the nuances of power and public office, and knows how to strike the right cord unblemishedly. He’s both strategic and cosmopolitan in his world view, and this explains why he stands out in the comity of governors or politicians of his generation.
The governor scored another first yesterday when he matched his word with action by enrolling his 6-year old son, Abubakar Ahmed El-Rufai in a public primary school called Capital School, Malali, Kaduna state. The governor, alongside his wife and some personal aides accompanied little Abubakar to join other kids in his new school. The look on the faces of Abubakar’s classmates and even his teachers confirms the fact that the governor did surprise everyone, including his virulent critics.
No one had thought that an executive governor of El-Rufai’s pedigree and class, with enormous power and influence could think of enrolling his child in a public school. El-Rufai has not only walked his talk, but has set a positive precedent and example worthy of emulation especially by the elites. Nigeria would be better for it should our leaders across all levels accord priority to public education through sustained funding and favourable policies. It is a paradox that the same set of leaders who benefited from public education almost at no cost are still the same people who have left public schools to rot away.
The salient and silent message in governor Nasir El-Rufai’s action is that our public education system can still be salvaged when the right policies and programmes are put in place. El-Rufai’s action is patriotic, commendable, exemplary and clearly gives a scintilla of hope that Nigeria still has some patriotic leaders.
With this action by El-Rufai coming long after the 2019 general elections and more than three years away from the 2023 general elections, his move is devoid of any political motive or underpinning. Even if this is politics, then it is good and progressive politics. After all politics, we are told is about growth and development of the people and society.
Regardless of some of his personal frailties, which are quite normal, i have never hidden my admiration for Governor Nasir El-Rufai. He is in the class of cosmopolitan, innovative, hardworking and patriotic leaders like Babatunde Raji Fashola, Muazu Babangida Aliyu, Rochas Okorocha, late Chuba Okadigbo, Abike Dabiri Erewa, Sharon Ikeazor, late Dora Akunyili, Chukwuma Soludo, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Frank Nweke and Labaran Maku. These distinguished Nigerians are good examples of the calibre of people who should occupy public office in our country.
State governors in Nigeria should emulate Nasir El-Rufai’s commendable strides in the education sector, especially in the areas of funding, policy formulation, teacher development and provision of basic infrastructure across government owned schools. Education occupies a prime position in our drive to realize the Nigeria of our dream.
The el-Rufai example isn’t too difficult a task to achieve by any leader who is desirous of building a 21st century society where education isn’t just seen as a privilege, but a right to be enjoyed by all. This singular act of patriotism and leadership has earned El-Rufai a place in history as a leader whose word is his bond.
Like I’ve always maintained, Malam Nasir El-Rufai is a presidential material whose knowledge, wealth of experience, global exposure, network and net-worth put him far above his contemporaries in all spheres of life. For doing what many, including me, thought was impossible especially by the elites, you have my support and best wishes in your desire to build a 21st century state.
Yunusa writes from CRD, FHA Lugbe, Abuja. [email protected]