Did Buhari Just Shoehorn Southeasterners into APC?

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Hometruths By Adeola Akinremi: adeola.akinremi@thisdaylive.com

Enugu opened up to make President Muhammadu Buhari happy on Tuesday. The amazing excitement seen at the airport and on the corners of the streets about his visit to the Coal City must be a pleasant surprise to a man who has been reluctant to make a single passage to the South-east since he came to power.

To my mind, with this passage to the South-east, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and his colleagues have helped Buhari to do one thing: rethink his political calculation for 2019.

Of course, the real truth behind this visit at this time, when Buhari has had low moments in execution of government programmes is to shore up relations with Southeasterners and their leaders, and to give hope to those who have reclined their seats about his administration or adopted “Siddon Look” approach in the late civil rights activist and former Attorney General’s words, Chief Bola Ige.

As good luck would have it, it’s been a great trip for Buhari and very interesting to see how his hosts turned him into an Igbo icon with chieftaincy titles and extravagant praise and parades.
On this tour, Buhari has equally lived up to expectation with smiles and comforting words for his hosts.
The president’s clever use of words to connect what happened in his office—when some Southeastern leaders visited him—to his action during this tour reveals his hidden strength: stakeholder management.

This example of multicultural appeal is what Buhari often needs in order to overcome being tagged a reclusive leader.
“When I met with leaders of the South-east last month in Abuja, they raised several issues of concern including the state of roads in the region. I want to assure you that we will deliver on our promise. Our 2018 budget include many strategic projects for the region in roads, power, agriculture and social sector,” the president said.
To be sure, I have looked at the speech and its imagery, and I think the conversation that Buhari had with Southeasterners reflects deeply on our political system, one that gives space to endeavour and not buck-passing.

Though, the fact that the governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were his hosts may have played a significant role on the theme of the speech, I still believe he had a good outing.
And if Buhari can sustain this trend, cutting out buck-passing, focusing on progress being made, and doing more in coming out of Aso Villa to the streets, he may not know how fast that can win the hearts and minds of his very enemies.

But Buhari will need strong surrogates and strategists who can establish an upsurge of support in a region where the PDP have its hope.
Yes, he needs more than a trip to lay the foundation for a market building and cut the ribbon to open bridges.
I have always said to my friends that Buhari’s appeal to the electorate will need to be holistic, much more than being an anti-corruption messiah, and now that he has found his rhythm with just about six months into party politics for nomination of candidates for the 2019 elections, Buhari may have shoehorned the Southeasterners into his party, the All progressives Congress.

Already, before he embarked on his trip, he spoke out his mind about the retrogression in Nigeria’s educational system. Oddly enough, Buhari didn’t show that seriousness from start by making himself the Minister of Education. Nevertheless, I’m thrilled that the summit on education is coming on at a time the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, is courting controversy over his plan to sack lazy and dullard pedagogues in his state.

Truly, the real thing that will propel our country into an enviable future is education. I’m glad Buhari spoke with lamentation at the summit, but summit after summit has not helped in transforming the system. So what is wrong?
The federal government’s top-down approach cannot reform education in a federal system. I agree with the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu that “If education is weak or dysfunctional, society and its development will also be weak and dysfunctional. And all change including our very change agenda begins with education; because it is education that shapes, corrects and restores society. But to be able to restore order to society, education has to be made a national priority.”

But Adamu is a typical African government official looking for money to fund no strategy. Where is the strategy to fund with N1 trillion?
In the international meetings, where I have worked with diplomats, it has always been a joke that African delegates come to treaty meetings to ask for money, but when they are asked of strategy they like to implement with the money they often have nothing to show. It is like putting the cart before the horse.

Honestly, investment in education is more than budget line of a government department.
The social economic challenges we’re facing should inspire our goal for education reform. The countries where education reform is taking place or has taking place decide their goal first and that moves them into strategic thinking on how to reform. It is a common knowledge that Nigerians go to school just to get the certificates and we need a path to take us beyond mastery of academic content. Our curriculum should focus on critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity. How can we create jobs, when nothing is being done to encourage the discipline of science, technology, engineering and mathematics right from primary school?
It is disheartening that science students only learn from the book as laboratories for subjects like Biology and Chemistry have completely disappeared at our public schools.

The other piece is the social-emotional competencies. We love to hear American politicians speak, but we don’t like the way Nigerian politicians speak. It is not because of accent, it has much to do with interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. Our schools need to teach communication and collaboration, self-direction, and motivation.

For our education reform, I’m a proponent of reform first at the very basic level. Our primary and secondary education is where the problem lies. Let each local governments decide the curriculum and teachers they will need for a kind of educational system that will make the world to cite them as examples. Let the local governments creatively raise the money to fund education. That fund could come from property tax. Let them decide who sits on the board of education. The state then can focus on secondary and tertiary education in a similar way. I have looked at Canada, Finland Singapore, Australia, United States and other countries with better system to think this way.