Last week, former minister of defence General Theophilus Y. Danjuma donated the princely sum of N2.2 billion to the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria. He made the donation at the launch of the university's N50bn Phase II Development Project. Significantly, former military president Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and Sultan of Sokoto Muhammed Sa'ad Abubakar were present. Both decried poverty and insecurity in the country, which, according to them, were caused by lack of access to education. Others who graced the occasion where Danjuma was honoured with a doctorate degree award included Vice President Namadi Sambo, speaker of the House of Representatives Aminu Tambuwal, Governor Mukhtar Ramalan Yero of Kaduna State, Prof. Jerry Gana, Niger State governor Babangida Aliyu and former Senate president Ken Nnamani.
Beyond breaking his own philanthropic record of the largest single donation by an individual, Danjuma, more importantly, made a powerful statement on the strength of the generous human spirit. It speaks also to the possibility of a single individual meaningfully impacting humanity, especially in a milieu rubbished by shocking poverty of vision of its political leadership.
The education sector, especially tertiary education, the world over, is the preeminent nursery of knowledge and the cornerstone of both national socio-economic progression. It is fundamentally the bulwark of national security. Insightful observations made by the Sultan and Babangida on the occasion obviously key into this reality.
It does not require rocket science to link northern poverty and searing insecurity to shocking gaps in the region's educational infrastructure. This alarming scenario must change. Until government wakes up from its puzzling slumber, we implore wealthy Nigerians to rise up and meaningfully intervene. Examples abound in many parts of the world where wealthy individuals enhance change by supporting their education sectors. Nigeria need not be different.
On another front, we recall that, in December 2008, the TY Danjuma Foundation was created in Nigeria. The foundation's principal aims are to provide durable advantages through the implementation of development programmes. Using this powerful philanthropic machine, the foundation also seeks to alleviate poverty in communities by providing basic amenities, education for children and young adults while also providing free medical care for indigent people. Currently, USD500, 000 has been given out by the foundation as grants to NGOs working to relieve suffering in Danjuma's home state of Taraba. The TY Danjuma Foundation is currently partnering with over 50 NGOs throughout Nigeria with the support and cooperation of 36 state governors.
We commend the generosity of General Danjuma and recommend this intervention model to other wealthy Nigerians, especially northerners. The slide in the quality of our educational institutions - both in form and substance -- ought to worry every Nigerian with any smattering of conscience. The clear atrophy in the vision of minders of this sector is hardly comforting.