The closure of five Federal Government Colleges in the North-eastern part of the country is exactly what Boko Haram wants. It is absolutely the wrong way to go and I am really shocked and surprised that government came up with this decision. Is this then not a victory by Boko Haram, who has targeted schools with its attack in order to prevent the spread of “Boko” (Western education)? Who then is the winner here?
The nasty incident that occurred on February 24 in Buni Yadi, Yobe state – and many others before it – in which tens of pupils were slaughtered or burnt to death was profoundly shocking and abhorrent. On the spur of emotions, any decision taken to ensure safety of the rest of the children will be right. But governments are not run that way. At a time when men lose their heads, leaders are those who keep theirs.
As a result of this decision, an estimated 10,000 have been asked to leave Federal Government Girls’ College, Munguno, College of Science and Technology, Lassa, both in Borno state; Federal Government Girls’ College, Potiskum and the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, both in Yobe state and the College of Science and Technology in Michika, Adamawa state. Reports quoted the Special Assistant on Media to the Supervising Minister of Education, Simeon Nwakandu, announcing the directive of the Minister that the students who are not writing examinations be relocated to unity colleges in Kaduna, Bauchi, Katsina, Gombe states. As a consequence, the Daily Trust on Monday, reported thousands of these students have been left in the lurch with their parents, who are plunged into a sea of worries, opposing their transfer. The parents have been told to pay for the relocation of their children and wards.
Many of them say their children are not going anywhere. I don’t think it is right to push this financial burden to parents. Government has also given conflicting directives on the status of students due to start writing their final examinations in a month’s time. In one breath, government says, as earlier indicated here, that those with exams to write should remain in the schools ordered shut. It says, in another, that those students should sit for their examinations elsewhere.
As many parents have continued to argue, the solution to the problems does not lie in the closure of schools. The North-east zonal branch of the National Parent-Teacher Association which met in Bauchi at the weekend captured those concerns and put the point succinctly when they announced that the federal government was merely shirking its responsibility of providing security by shutting down the colleges. They demanded that the decision be rescinded and security be provided at the colleges. Reports also quoted unity colleges’ teachers and staff as objecting to the school closure, saying this would merely confirm assumptions, widely held, that government is unable to provide security. The schools’ closure only smacks of government’s off-handed handling of the situation in the North-east.
It is difficult to understand why government has stuck to violence as the only solution to the crisis. When they speak about the issue as the President usually does whenever he attends church these days, he mouthes a commitment to dialogue and a peaceful resolution but it is hard to see them making any effort in that direction. Violence on both sides continues to damage the image of Nigeria as a whole. While government has set up at least three committees to explore the possibilities of peaceful settlement of the violence, to wit, the Galtimari Committee; the Maitama Sule-led Northern Elders Forum, and the latest which was headed by a Minister of the government, Mr. Kabiru Turaki (SAN) which submitted its report amid fanfare and high hopes, nothing by way of a final decision or whitepaper has come from the administration. Yet, the whole world continues to tell this country that violence alone won’t solve these problems.
In our own experience, we tried the soldiers and the air force jets against the rising militancy in the Niger Delta back a few years ago. In the end, it was dialogue that brought the violence to a cessation. The excuse often tendered by government apologists that with the Boko Haram there are no negotiating partners is rubbish. If Pakistan is talking to Taliban and Israel talking to Palestinians albeit through third parties, there is nothing wrong in holding the thread out to Boko Haram, which governors in the region say they have found. Rarely has a democratic government anywhere so consciously avoided dialogue. Even so, patriotic citizens must not be deterred from advocating for dialogue and demanding comprehensive and competent security cover for schools, places of worship, markets and just everywhere to protect life.
The only plausible interpretation of the action by the government in closing down schools is that it has failed to provide them with security. Boko Haram must be having a good laugh. This is what they wish to see. But watch out. Government may be laying another veritable minefield.