School Resumption: An Open Letter To The Federal Minister Of Education

I read on one of the social media platforms an open letter to Malam Adamu Adamu, the Honorable Minister of Education by our Ambassador in Mexico, to which I think I should make a contribution that may interest the minister in addressing the issues at stake.
In February 1971, almost 50 years ago, I became the Permanent Secretary Federal Ministry of Education. When I entered the office, I found two files on the table. One was the handing over note by the departed Permanent Secretary, the other was a very thick file that contained four sets of documents: the first was a report from the Federal Scholarship Board describing the processes that led to the selection and recommendation of awards of the Federal Scholarships and Bursaries for the 19171/72 Academic Year. The second was the full list of the names of the successful candidates and third, the Council Memorandum by the Federal Minister of Education recommending  the Federal Executive Council to approve the list and the fourth, the Council Conclusion giving its approval.
All that was required of me was to sign for the public announcement of the awards for that academic year. Even if I was of the mind to go through the three thousand names on the list, I could not have changed anything because all the necessary processes had been complied with and the highest authority in the land had approved.
The awards were duly published and all hell was let loose. In 1971, the Federation of Nigeria had 12 states; the six northern states and six southern states. There were 3000 awards. These were shared about 2,750 to the six southern states and 250 to the six northern states.
When further analyzed, more than 500 went to the two North Central states of Kwara and Benue Plateau. No one analyzed what the figures for the two main religions were.
There was an angry outburst at the “lopsidedness of the Award” for the North. The anger was targeted at me personally, because I was the Permanent Secretary who signed the “Release Document” and because as a northerner just having “crossed the Carter Bridge and drank the lagoon water”, I had forgotten my roots. The governors, the Kaduna press and radio were unanimous in calling for my immediate removal.
While I was trying to understand the situation I had found myself in, I received a midnight call from the Head of State who asked me whether I had been reading the northern press and listening to their radio. And whether I had any satisfactory explanation to give.
At that point I realized that although the attacks were directed at me personally, any response must be the government’s response and must be based on all the available facts. I requested 48 hours to prepare the response.
Within those hours, the facts were gathered and subjected to detailed analysis. The conclusions were inescapable. The defunct government of Northern Nigeria and the successor governments of the six Northern states bear the full responsibility for what they were now complaining about. Not the Federal Government of Nigeria. Why is this so? Because of the following:
  • a) Under the Constitution of Nigeria, Primary and Secondary Education including Teachers education is the responsibility of the Regional/State Governments NOT that of the Federal Government. It is also not a responsibility that is shared between the two tiers. The class of students in consideration are candidates who have completed their secondary education

  • b) Only those who apply in response to invitation to apply for Federal Government scholarships and who qualify can be considered. In some of the Northern states only very few applications were received. The official explanation was that newspapers did not circulate in the North generally and that, in any case most northern students either did not have access to newspapers or did not have the reading culture of newspapers
These points were obviously not taken into account by the board. In subsequent years, action was taken to remedy the situation, but it did not lead to increased numbers of applications from the northern states. The reason given was that the northern governments’ scholarships were more attractive than the federal ones.

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