4 December 2012

Nigeria: Shame - Pi'ty Years of Abu


Shortly after President Olusegun Obasanjo opened the new Kaduna State University built by Governor Ahmed Makarfi in 2005, I went to take a look at it. I subsequently wrote a long essay titled "Age of Pure Water" as a result of that and visits to other schools at around the same time.

In it, I noted that a student hostel was being constructed at the new university as a public and private sector partnership project. I have recently learnt that the car dealer who built that hostel was actually granted a certificate of occupancy for the measured section of the college land on which he built the hostel which is now letting out bed space at thirty thousand naira a session: a certificate within a certificate. In a university.

If that isn't bad enough, during a brief drive around the much older Government Secondary School in Zaria City accompanied by one of its old boys one day this month, I saw that substantial parts of its grounds have been taken over by private residential developments, currently at various stages of completion, the access to which is only through the main gate of the walled school; strange families living or coming to live with students in a school. It should be taken for granted that they too have title deeds.

Are those the actions of straightened out persons who should lead us? Are those examples worthy of being handed down to a younger generation?

At the same secondary school, a new ICT Centre, an invaluable resource to have, has been built though not yet fully completed and functional; although there were no workmen about, there were signs of on-going work.

It is known that Namadi Sambo, an architect and our current Vice President is also an old boy of the school. It is also known that the CBN provided a generous grant for its construction but it is not known whether the CBN can or will remain responsible for its running cost, nor whether it will prove ultimately beneficial. The building housing it has been dumped right in front of one of the best designed buildings in Zaria, the main school building which is an imposing edifice that will not look much out of place at a school in Wales. If you stand back and look askance, you will see that the older building is the work of imaginative and devoted architects and builders who conceived it as the centrepiece in a plan which incorporated the other still fine buildings housing dormitories and classrooms; the newer ICT block the hurried work of their poor imitators who have no sense of taste nor refinement, whose only vision, despite their access to technological tools and methods vastly superior to those of an older age, is of their deeper pockets, and who have thus ruined the magic of the old edifice and its surrounds.

This in Zaria, once home to Babban Gwani.

Is it really a hard ask, to demand of our leaders today vision matched by careful thought, painstaking planning and vigilant execution?

Also this month, there has been much commentary and celebration and even some cautionary words about the fiftieth birthday of Ahmadu Bello University but I have not read one word of wounding shame about how its home is now a vast rubbish dump despite its being the responsibility of graduates of ABU.

Zaria is practically dead. ABU has proved unable to imbue it with such moral and mental qualities as to provide it sustainable life. A place where people cook bang in the middle of a busy main road of toxic exhaust fumes and have buyers of their fare is useless as a habitat let alone a place for any schooling much less real learning. It should be embarrassed to say that it is host to a university. A university should be ashamed to say that it resides there. How can anyone who spent three or four or as many as seven years of reading and looking and examining and experimenting and demonstrating at the original promising ABU and left a more knowledgeable and more understanding and more critical person fail to notice and be disturbed by a spectacle of ruin and decay and a disorder which says that had there been no government of any type at all in the last thirty years and longer, things could not be imaginably worse?

Shame on you if you are one of its unworthy graduates who have lacked the moral sense to notice and be disturbed.

Of what value our time spent at the old highly competitive ABU or at one of its slightly poorer or richer cousins at considerable cost to an earlier generation of people who loved us if you and I do not say, from this day forward shame on us if we do not persistently demand of all persons who aspire howsoever to lead us, that they must show us their vision of a good habitat matched by demonstrable, cost plans and programmes; and are not afterwards led to support them until we see clear and abundant evidence of their being possessed of the right measures of uncommon motivation and unwavering commitment required to make that vision a living and enduring reality?

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