Nigeria now has a new Minister of Education. Appointed by the incumbent President Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Professor Tahir Mamman hails from Michika in Adamawa State. He was born on Wednesday 7 July 1954. He got his Bachelor of Laws degree from Ahmadu Bello University in 1983. He went to Nigerian Law School in 1984, and earned his Master’s from the University of Warwick. He holds an LL.B, a BL, LLM and a PhD. He became a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, in 2015 and was a Member of the Board of Benchers. Until his new appointment, Professor Mamman was the Vice Chancellor of Baze University.
He served as the Director-General of the Nigeria Law School from 2005 to 2013. Between 1974 and 1984, he worked in the Adamawa State Judiciary. He was Head, Department of Common Law, University of Maiduguri, 1991-1997; Member of the National Universities Commission (N.U.C) Accreditation Panel to University Law Faculties – Eastern States,1996-1997; Member, Local Government Election Tribunal, Adamawa State, 1997; Dean, Students Affairs Division, Office of the Vice-Chancellor, University of Maiduguri, 1997-2000; Co-Ordinator, Parliamentary Study Project, 1992-2001; Adviser/Part-Time Consultant, Houses of Assembly of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States, 1999-2000; Member, Federal Government Technical Committee on Privatization (Transport Sector), 2000-2001.
He was Member, Steering Committee on the Establishment of Adamawa State University, 2000-2001; External Examiner, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, 2001-2002; Patron, Youth Federation of Nigeria; Patron, Michika Local Government Students Union; Patron, Nigeria Youth Organization (UNIMAID Branch); Member, Michika Development Trust Fund; Member, Maryam Wapper Education Trust Fund, Michika.
Professor Mamman was Director General, Nigerian Law School, 2005-2013; Member, Committee on All Nigerian Laws Project, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Lagos; Member, Nigerian Bar Association; Member, Nigerian Association Of Law Teachers; Member, Commonwealth Legal Education Association; Member, Centre for Computer Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI), USA; Member, United Kingdom Centre for Legal Education (UKCLE); Member, African Network of Constitutional Lawyers; Member Governing Board, International Association of Law Schools, 2011- 2013; Member, International Bar Association; Member, International Association of Law Schools (IALS).
He holds the titles of Dokaji Mubi, Mubi Emirate, Adamawa State; Dan Ruwata Adamawa, Adamawa State Emirate; Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON); Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
Professor Mamman has authored several books on Law and the Constitution including: “The Law and Politics of Constitution Making in Nigeria, 1900 – 1989: Issues, Interests and Compromises 1998”; “Legal Education and the Socio-Political Process In Nigeria”, “Accountability and the Civil Service” and “The Evolution and Character of Constitutional and Democratic Institutions in Nigeria.” He has also contributed immensely to several Nigerian and international Law journals.
The erudite Professor will obviously have a huge task at hand to revamp the education sector in Nigeria. What would he need to do to put the educational sector back to fall in line with the aspirations of Nigerians?
At the point of his entry as Minister of Education, Nigeria’s educational standards had come to an all-time low in practically every aspect. In virtually all states of the north, in Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Nasarawa, Niger, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara particularly, the vandalous activities of insurgents had made it most difficult if not impossible for children to go to school any more. The many cases of kidnappings of hundreds of children from their schools made many parents afraid of sending their kids and wards back to school.
In the south, many young adults who felt they were no longer of school age simply dropped out in the middle of secondary school, most claiming financial constraints. All these raise a pertinent question that the new minister has to address: in states that claim education is free and compulsory, how compulsory has it been in actual fact? In other words, the new minister must put in place a programme that will impress it upon Nigerian youths that education has no age limit because there is no age any man can say “I have known it all.”
As things stand now, Nigeria is known to have one of the highest number of out-of-school children in the world. With all the enormous mineral resources nature graciously endowed us, this should not be so, by any stretch of the imagination. The new minister must begin to think of how to put strategies in place to rein Nigerian children back into the education sector. It is important that these youths are taken out of the streets, and out of crime and criminal tendencies.
Another area the new minister must reform is the underfunding of education in Nigeria. Teachers at all levels must be well paid in comparison with their counterparts in middle class African and European countries – countries like Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Romania, Denmark, Norway, and Finland. The minister must study what makes it possible for teachers in these countries to have steady school hours and adapt his findings to the Nigerian system of education. More than that, lecture rooms and laboratories must be well equipped with modern facilities. The discussion with ASUU must take a key from what happens in other countries the size and financial status of Nigeria.
One of the most important areas Professor Mamman must look into is the curriculum content of the education sector. This must be adapted to the needs and aspirations of the people of Nigeria and their tradition and culture. Right now, the wrong indoctrination at school that money is the answer to all problems has to be reversed. We already know how much that philosophy is costing the country. In the banking sector, in the educational sector, in the religious sector, in the political sector, in the military and police forces, even in the various ministries and parastatals, the emphasis government and the people of Nigeria decided to place on money only led to ever increasing crimes, corruption, impunity, kidnapping and mindless killing of innocent citizens, some of them permanently displaced from their ancestral homes.
In the new dispensation, the educational curriculum must make it clear that people should only be recognised by how useful they have been to their communities, not by how fat their bank accounts are or by the number of certificates they have acquired. We will no longer need to recognise people by their lengthy degrees or by their pecuniary wealth because both money and education share a common denominational factor. Like education, like money. The more you have it, the more you realize you don’t have enough of it, and the more you want it. So, while you keep wanting, you cannot serve your country well enough. It is as simple as that. So we need a paradigm shift from the current emphasis on education and wealth to service to community. The minister should see to that.
In many advanced democracies, institutions of higher learning are linked to employers and the ministry of employment and productivity. Students should not find it difficult to do their industrial training in workplaces that are linked to their educational institutions via the ministry of employment. When students are skilled in their chosen professions, they can do better when they are out from school and the country stands to gain from their competence.
The minister will also need to put in place strategies that will abrogate malpractices in examinations. The frequency of examination fraud in Nigeria is alarming. There should be no reason for this. In a similar development, entry cut-off marks must be made the same in every state of the country. A situation where cut-off marks in states like Imo, Anambra, Enugu and Lagos are 65 or 64 and a state like Adamawa is 12, Yobe 13, Borno 11 and so on, is not only unjustifiable but also self defeating. It is a two-edge sword that does no good to the country.
When students from Lagos or parts of the East know that their cut-off marks are high, they study hard to meet up with those standards. When the cut-off marks are low in the north for whatever reason, students from the north are not encouraged to study hard to make it to the top. As a matter of fact many Nigerians believe this is a deliberate way the northern elites want to deny the poor families education so they can remain perpetually subjected to mental slavery. In this century, the minister will have to decide if that is the right way Nigerian democracy should be practised.
The students’ loan programme is one other important area that the office of the minister has to be very active, coordinating between the loans companies and employers. At the moment, loans that cover only tuition must be reviewed to include accommodation, meals and transportation. Because of the unnecessarily very high cost of governance in Nigeria, this might be difficult for the National Assembly to accept. The minister must work hard to get them to understand that this is a loan, not free money. If necessary, an interest of 5% can come with the loan, but it must be enough to see the students through their first to their last year in university. But that is not all.
Many students have expressed their concern about getting a job after their university education. How do they pay back their loans if they have no jobs after university? This calls for a serious coordination between employers at local council levels, the ministry of employment and productivity and the institutions of higher learning which must hold the certificates of ex-students until they are informed by the loans companies that they have completely paid off their loans. The minister must liaise with the employment ministry to find jobs for Nigerian graduates to enable them pay off their loans so that others can loan and go to school too. One more area the minister must take seriously is the area of substance abuse by students, especially in secondary schools and institutions of higher learning.
The frustration that came in the wake of so many months the Academic Staff Union of Universities were on industrial action goaded many students into the use and often abuse of drugs, especially the one they call mkpuru-mmiri. The drug rendered so many Nigerian youths mentally challenged and yet they still find pleasure in its consumption. That and other hard drugs are turning Nigerian youths into hardened criminals. The minister must liaise with the necessary arms of the law to ensure that youths who indulge in illegal drug use are sent to rehabilitation centres for cure. Nigeria cannot continue to lose the cream of its youths to unnecessary evils that can be halted by government policies.
We wish Professor Mamman well in his new job and hope that he will deploy his wealth of experience in showing the difference between the old and the New Nigeria that so many citizens are anxiously waiting to embrace.