By Akin Ojumu

President Muhammadu Buhari was at the Global Education Summit: Financing GPE 2021-2025 which took place in London on July 28 and July 29, 2021. On the last day of the summit, Buhari joined four other African Heads of State namely, Uhuru Kenyatta (President of Kenya), Nana Akufo-Addo (President of Ghana), Lazarus Chakwera (President of Malawi), and Faure Gnassingbé (President of Togo), in a panel session titled, “Financing for Transformation,” where they discussed the way forward for transforming education outcomes for developing nations. 

One by one, the five African leaders fielded questions from the moderator on their individual assessments of the challenges they’ve encountered in making education available, accessible, and affordable for their citizens. The Presidents of Kenya, Ghana, Togo, and Malawi each succinctly elucidated the challenges in his own country and intelligently articulated the programs and plans they’ve put in place to close the education gap among their own citizens. By their response, you could tell these four leaders had a good grasp of the issue. They acquitted themselves well and their citizens should be proud.

When it came to Buhari’s turn, shockingly but not surprisingly, the President of the giant of African mumbled and fumbled his way through the response without making much sense at all. His answer to the question he was asked was a tangential rigmarole that exposed his lack of preparation for the summit and, once again, proved he is not mentally equipped for the office he holds. It was another disastrous performance and a national embarrassment that played out on a global stage.

Asked by the moderator to give his thoughts on the educational disparities that exist in Nigeria, President Buhari replied and said, “Nigerians are acutely aware of the priorities of education, and they are going all out to make the necessary savings and make necessary inputs to make sure that their children and their wards get the opportunity to get the best of education.”

By rambling about how Nigerian parents frantically save up in order to be able to provide education for their children, one cannot but conclude that President Buhari doesn’t quite understand the singularly vital role the government of any nation plays in establishing a functioning education system and providing a transformative education for its citizen. It is alarming to think that’s the case.

A chasm of difference in mental acuity exists between President Buhari on one hand and Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta and Nana Akufo-Addo on the other hand. As much as it pains me to admit it, being a proud Nigerian that I am, still the truth must be told, and I’ll be deluding myself not to say it. Hearing Kenyatta and Akufo-Addo speak, you’d immediately realize that these two African leaders are smart, vast, and well read. When it comes to understanding policy issues and 21st century international diplomacy, the gulf of difference between them and Buhari is jarring. While the Presidents of Kenya and Ghana look and sound like true statesmen, the Nigerian President come across as a herdsman. As a Nigerian, that hurts deeply.

Below is the transcript of the exchange between the panel moderator and President Buhari. Read it and weep.

MODERATOR: Let me come to you President Buhari because in some ways you represent what we fondly call the giant of Africa. You are the largest economy on the continent, the most populous economy on the continent. A significant part of that economy are young people. And in my mind Nigeria has always held the place that education, at an individual and societal level, was seen as such a critical issue. That it was a real predictor of social mobility; that individuals could use education to pull themselves up from poverty into success and then our society would transform itself, at an aggregate level, because it was educated and it could be better citizens.

How do you think about that critical challenge given the significant numbers of people in Nigeria and the various disparities that exist?

BUHARI: Thank you, thank you very much. I think you said it all. Being over 200 million and the size of the country itself is a major challenge for any administration. Umm. But lately, people have realized that education is a starting point. Anybody who missed the opportunity of receiving education has missed everything because you cannot succeed outside your educational qualification. This is very clear to everybody, hence the fight for opportunity for education is very very severe. 

The problem of infrastructure – physical and intellectual. Physical in the sense of classrooms, equipment. Intellectual – the teachers and convincing those who are really qualified to go into teaching profession. They would rather go where engineers are wanted, where they would award contracts rather than fight children day in and day out. So, I assure you that umm…Nigerians are acutely aware of the priorities of education, and they are going all out to make the necessary savings and make necessary inputs to make sure that their children and their wards get the opportunity to get the best of education.


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