The National Universities Commission (NUC) recently approved the establishment of Gombe State University of Science and Technology making it the 154th university in Nigeria. The epoch-making event was witnessed by the State governor, Dr. Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, who apparently had looked forward to the day when his well-envisioned dream of creating an enduring legacy in education in a state that was hitherto at the bottom of the ladder.
The approval followed an application by the governor for an upgrade of the College of Science and Remedial Studies, located in Kumo, Akko local government area of the state, to a full-fledged state university of science and technology. An elated governor Dankwambo, there and then assured that the universityâ€™s faculty of medicine and that of pharmacy would commence full operation by January. â€œWe are ready for the project and by January, faculty of medicine and pharmacy will be functioning properly. He said about 150 hectares of land has been set aside for Gombe State University of Science and Technology, assuring government total commitment to providing sound and quality education in the state. He also said that the emergence of the new university will not affect the development of the existing state university.
Securing an approval for a second state university for Gombe less than two years into the end of his second term tenure might well be a climax for Dankwambo, one that relieves a sense of hopelessness that characterised its first four months in office in 2011 when the whole of 19,000 students that sat for the yearsâ€™ Senior Secondary School Examination (WAEC/SSCE) failed woefully. The result presented a sad spectacle of an education sector in dire need of emergency. The governor took the bull by the horn by first identifying the problems and proffering solutions. For him, the challenges of mass illiteracy in a zone that is facing a problem of insurgency is huge. Gombe state in the volatile northeast shares border with Yobe and Borno States, the epicenters of the Boko Haram insurgents. According to Dankwambo, â€œmost internally-displaced persons have relocated to Gombe State and experts have proffered a lasting solution to insurgency and it is learning.â€
Jolted by this reality and to guarantee quality education, the governor and his team had to come up with remedies to raise learning standard. And to reverse the poor academic performance in the state, the governor recognised the urgent need to review the entire education architectures beginning from the teachers, who obviously needed refresher courses to update their knowledge to enable them impact positively. In order to lay an enduring foundation for sound and qualitative education, the Dankwambo administration set up teachers training colleges across the senatorial districts in the state to carter for both western and Islamic education. He started building new classrooms and upgrading old ones. To make the learning environment more attractive and conducive especially for out-of-school children of school age, Dankwambo embarked on free-meal and free-education for students from primary to secondary levels. He also built schools for science and remedial studies to up the preparation for WAEC/SSCE. The efforts yielded spectacular results. With 400 blocks of classroom built, enrolment figure doubled and by the end of first four-year tenure, the state recorded over 90percent successes in WAEC and other external examinations. Additionally, the state government built Technical Colleges for those that have chosen to pursue technical education. Already, 15,000 youths have been trained and employed by the state from the scheme.
But then, the governor, a doctoral degree holder, was not oblivious of the inadequate space for admission placement into the nationâ€™s 153 universities. He expanded the space for tertiary enrolment by building tertiary institutions. Consequently, he commenced an expansion program for facilities in the existing state-owned university and looking ahead to carter for the surplus university admission applicants. Hence, the decision to upgrade the School of Science and Remedial Studies in Kumo to accommodate the new Gombe State University of Science and Technology. The Executive Secretary of (NUC), Abubakar Rasheed, who announced the approval, said the University becomes the 46th state-owned university and 154th in Nigeria. According to him, there are 153 universities in Nigeria, out of which 40 are owned by the federal government, including the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna and Police Academy in Kano. Indeed, Mr. Rasheed acknowledging the countryâ€™s need for more universities, noted that Nigeria would not achieve a knowledge-based economy without huge investment in education. â€œMore than 1.5 million candidates write JAMB every year to get admission into the University, but Nigeria universities can only admit less than a million. Every year, youths are frustrated because they cannot get admitted into the University, the NUC boss said while welcoming the creation of the new GSUST. â€œNUC welcomes anyone that wants to establish a university in order to assist our population. But we do not compromise on standard. We have sent seven proposals for private universities to the Minister of Education, he said adding that JAMB, TETFUND and NYSC had been informed of the creation of the university.
This partly explains why Gombe State under Governor Dankwambo remains peaceful and attractive to many especially from the crisis-ridden north-east zone. With the 2019 presidential contest beckoning to all northerners, those with track record of economic and political successes are well-situated to seek popular mandate. Little wonder, eyes are on the governor of Gombe State, a man with an impressive, albeit, largely unsung track record who is today the underdog among PDP contenders. Two indisputable facts appear to have favoured him ahead of others. First, is his performance record in Gombe where he is leaving enduring legacies especially in education, health, security and infrastructural development. Dr. Dankwambo cuts the image of Nigeriaâ€™s first-generation leaders like, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello (Sardauna of Sokoto) and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, with his inspiring visionary leadership style. His giant stride in primary, secondary and tertiary education is certain to benefit generations yet unborn in the state. Second is his unshaken loyalty to the party even at a time when it was politically suicidal in that part of the country to identify with PDP. As the only PDP 2nd term governor from the entire northern region, Dr. Dankwambo remained resolute even in the days of adversity, crisscrossing the length and breadth of Nigeria, seeking solution to reunite his party.
– Bakare is an Abuja based journalist