Opinion: The Man Adamu Adamu
By Ayobami Oyalowo
Nigeria’s outgoing education minister, Adamu Adamu did stun many people some days ago when he did what many public office holders would not even contemplate.
He apologized for his inability to reduce the number of out-of-school children in the country at a valedictory press briefing at the Education ministry in Abuja.
Adamu said: “When I attend conferences outside the country and the issue of out-of-school children is being discussed, I feel embarrassed. It is a big mark of shame to me as a person and to us as a nation. Nigeria is the highest even though we are not known for poverty.
“When I came on board, I promised to bring the number of out-of-school children to half. I must apologize for this but I believe the new minister will bring this number down.”
What manner of public officer would buck the trend and apologize for his failure to reverse a trend that he was not responsible for?
This was the question that was on the mind of many Nigerians especially those who are used to government officials not accepting responsibility for their action and inaction in office.
So who exactly is Adamu Adamu, the man with the double-barrel name?
Born May 25 1956, in Katagum, Bauchi State, Adamu graduated from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria with a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and later obtained master’s degree in Journalism from the Columbia University School of Journalism.
Little was known about him before he became minister outside of the FCT but Adamu Adamu is actually a man of many parts who started life as an accountant but later veered into journalism where he rose through the ranks to become the Deputy Editor of the now defunct New Nigerian newspaper.
It was however at Daily Trust that he made a name for himself as a columnist and became better known especially in Northern Nigeria as an acerbic, yet active commentator on political events in the country.
Another side of him that is unknown is that he is a polyglot, who is quite fluent in Arabic, Persian, Fulfude, Hausa, and French aside from English,of course.
His foray into the real world of politics began when he was appointed a personal assistant to the then National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Solomon Lar but he soon fell out of favour when it was discovered that he had an affinity for Muhammad Buhari.
Adamu’s years of loyalty to Buhari’s cause was rewarded with his appointment as the Secretary of the transition committee before the President assumed office. His good work in the course of carrying out that assignment did not go unnoticed as he was handed the most important cabinet position in November 2015.
For the next four years, Adamu quietly but deftly went about his work in a most efficient manner and brought lots of progress to education in Nigeria.
Under his watch, there was a spike in enrollment figures in primary school and the number of out-of-school children dropped significantly.
But like many Nigerians got to know recently, he was not satisfied with the drop in the figure from 13.2 million to 10.5 million and duly apologized for not meeting his target of reducing the number by 50\ per cent as he had promised.
One of the novel ideas that the minister brought to the education ministry was the weekend briefings which are available on its website. For example, it was at one of the briefings that he disclosed federal government’s plan to provide insurance cover for students in Unity schools so that nothing including death or bankruptcy of parents/guardian would stop their education.
Another of such briefings was on the award of contracts for the installation of Closed Circuit Television CCTV surveillance cameras in Unity schools.
In spite of the fact that primary and secondary education are in the hands of state government, the minister ensured the release of UBEC funds to support basic education at state level which several governors have failed to access due to their unwillingness to pay the counterpart fund. This is a shame and a painful reminder of how many states are paying lip service to development, while deliberately under-funding basic education to the detriment of the poor and vulnerable in the society.
Adamu has also pushed for Primary and secondary education to be removed from the control of state governors who do not prioritize them. Most of them have not built a classroom, employed teachers or train existing ones in the last 4 years. Apart from a handful of governors who have prioritized education, most of them do not care and this is obvious in their handling of basic education.
As minister, Adamu Adamu pushed for an Education Bank, similar to the Bank of Industries to provide educational loans to students fund the education sector as well as authors and mobilize grants from the public and private sector amongst others.
Under Adamu’s watch, WAEC has been re-positioned to meet up with the challenges of modern times.
The minister is known to have organized competency tests for teachers, something that had not been done in a long while. This test is aimed at ensuring that quacks and non-qualified teachers are exposed and replaced with better qualified and motivated personnel
Have you heard about the Bilateral Education Agreement programme? It is a scholarship agreement with other countries to support education in Nigeria and is yet another initiative of Minister Adamu Adamu.
How about the personnel audit of schools nationwide which was last done in 2010!
The education ministry under Adamu embarked on this audit for the first time in years to sort out personnel and staffing issues.
Under the supervision of Adamu, The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has been re-positioned and every Nigerian can attest to this. He has also brought an end to the BSc / HND dichotomy which had been a vexatious issue in the country for so long. In his words “The HND certificate will remain a legal tender in Nigeria and holders of such certificate will continue to be recognized as the equivalent of first degree holders without discriminatory remunerations and limit to progression in the work place.”
Have you heard about the exploits of the National Universities Commission (NUC) especially in the area of improvement in accreditation exercises and the increase in the number of courses accredited. All these were achieved with Adamu Adamu as minister of Education.
Then there is the National Polytechnic reform he is spearheading. This is to eventually lead to the restructuring of Yaba College of Technology and the Kaduna Polytechnic into degree awarding Universities while only technical courses will be offered in polytechnics.
Another one is the National Teacher Development Policy, which is yet to be implemented by states? He has done everything in his power for state governments to implement it and as he bows out of office, it is the hope of this writer that the next education minister will not relent until this policy is fully implemented.
Based on all these, it is clear that Adamu Adamu has done a yeoman’s job at the helm of the education ministry without making any noise in his less than four years reign. This is hoping that his successor continues from where he stopped and that the education sector continues to have a pride of place in the polity.
Ayobami Oyalowo is a Political Economist. He writes from Abuja, and can be reached on Twitter @Ayourb