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Buhari’s Speech That Changed The North By Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo

I’m proposing a paradigm shift for us all. For a democratic society to sincerely demand personal responsibility, it must first deliver to the people the minimal educational development. It is a fundamental exchange needed for the creation of an egregious society.


(An English translation of a speech delivered in Hausa by President Muhammadu Buhari on July 26, 2015 in front of Queen Amina Hall at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State. The speech was made in the presence of Aliko Dangote, Gov. El-Rufai, Senator Shehu Musa, Emir of Kano Lamido Sanusi, Sultan of Sokoto, Islamic Cleric Abubakar Gumi, Former Vice President Atiku Abubarkar, Former Head of State Abdulsalami Abubakar, Dr. Aliyu Umar, Engineer Sani Bako, amongst others. It was broadcast live on BBC Hausa Service, VOA Hausa Service, NTA Hausa Service with livestream on and other online forums.)

On one bright day like today, our campaign plane landed at Bauchi airport. I looked through the window and saw a sea of people at the tarmac. It was the same panoramic view that I see in front of this Queen Amina Hall today. It was a common sight in those days but this one was different. As the plane taxied to a stop, the crowd surged towards it. They got right onto the runway. Security men and women tried to stop the crowd but gave up at one point. The security personnel, too, ran towards our plane. From the window of the aircraft, I took a deep look at the crowd; some barefooted, some well dressed as if it was Salah; some young, some old, some rich, some poor. A look at many in the crowd showed people who have had a tough life. Yet, the enthusiasm on their faces, the passion in their steps, the gusto of their chant, Sai Buhari, touched my heart. I said right there, before I got off the plane, that if I win the election, I would come back to those people that I saw, I would find them across Northern Nigeria and I would make a deal with them.

I am here today to make a deal with you all.

I have asked parents, old and young, men and women, young children, boys and girls, everyone of you who shared the hope for change that we promised, to come out here today. I chose this backdrop, the Queen Amina Hall, inside of Ahmadu Bello University, to illustrate the point I want to make. I want those of you who have never been inside the four walls of a university to come in here. I want you to come in front of this hall named after an extraordinary woman who was a trailblazer in our history, a woman who defied all the odds and wrote her name in marble. I want to invoke Queen Amina who was not just a leader by accident, but one who was also schooled. She fought her way to the top. She was the epitome of the ideal that I envision.

I want to make things better for you, for us. But I also realize that the greatest change there is, is the one that we all, each of us, can make in ourselves.

In the 2014- 2015 WAEC statistics, South-West had a total of 400, 445 students who registered for the examination. Out of that number, 130, 365 passed while 270, 080 failed. That is 33% pass versus 67% fail. In the South-East a total of 184, 970 registered for the examination. Out of that, 118, 985 passed while 65 985 failed. That is 64% versus 36%. In the South-South a total of 305,183 students registered with 13, 072 passing while 174, 111 failed which is 43% vs 57%. In the North West, 309, 139 took the examination, 66, 295 passed while 242, 844 failed, that is 22% vs 78%. In the North Central minus F.C.T, 279, 558 students took the examination, 62, 499 passed while 217, 059 failed, that is 22% vs 78%. In the North East, 150, 951 students took the examination, 14, 772 passed while 136, 179 failed, which is 10% vs 90%. In the F.C.T, a total of 18,153 took the examination, 5,568 passed while 12 , 585 failed, which is 31% vs 69%. Looking at the population of young people in these regions, these figures for the North are unacceptable. Mind you those were our best outing in years. We need to change that. And we need to change that together.

To all the parents out here and those watching at home, I want you to bring your children to me. I want you to get them off the farm, off the streets, off the business of life and bring them to me. Leave them with me for twelve years. Just twelve years. From the time they are six to the time they are eighteen and I will turn them into what my children have become, what Atiku’s children have become, what Dantata’s children have become, what Shagari’s children have become.

I’m proposing a paradigm shift for us all. For a democratic society to sincerely demand personal responsibility, it must first deliver to the people the minimal educational development. It is a fundamental exchange needed for the creation of an egregious society.

I want your children to be educated like my children, like Atiku’s children, like Shagari’s children, like Sanusi’s children. I want your children to stop coming to the table of the Dantatas, the Shagaris, and the Umars, the Buharis to be given food to eat. I want your children to sit on the same boardroom with our children; be in the same university campus with our children; to work in the same laboratory; to manage the same hospitals as doctors; to design the same roads as engineers; and fly the same airplanes as pilots.

I want them to go as far as their brains can take them. I want them to go to the best schools all over the world, from Zaria to Zambia, from London to Moscow, from New Delhi to New York.  In 30 years, I want to have equal number of children from Northern Nigeria competing on equal footing in JAMB and WAEC and Cambridge examinations and in entrance examinations to Federal Government schools across Nigeria.

This is why it is important: the best investment we can make in the North is not in finding oil in the Chad basin. It is in investing in the potentials of our children. And so it is that the greatest security we can provide for our society is equality of opportunity. It starts with equality of education. Equality of education guarantees equal access to knowledge. Knowledge, you know, is not just power, knowledge is also health; it is also wealth and it is also an antidote to ignorance.

I charge you to join me as we build a new Northern Nigeria in a generation. We will start with one local government in each state until we get to every school in all of Northern Nigeria. Our goal is that in three years from today, there will be a free and compulsory primary and secondary school education for all children across Northern Nigeria from the ages of six to eighteen.

We will feed your children. We will provide them books and pencils and desks and dresses and anything they need to go to school. We will find new teachers to teach them and retrain and retain the ones we have now. We will build the new schools where they will learn and repair the ones we have now. All that we want you to do as parents is to free your children. Free them and watch them fly. Free them for six hours of every weekday and we will do the rest.

While we adore the ways of the past, tomorrow runs on new tools.  We need to acquire these new tools to be able to propel tomorrow. The empires of today are not the type our forefathers built with arrows, guns and enslavement – empires that need to be protected with high walls. The empires of today are the type Aliko Dangote builds with knowledge and information from the mountains of Tanzania to the Sahel of Senegal. If such ventures have been good to Dangote, they will also be good to your own children.

Amfanin hankali aiki da shi. (The value of good sense is making use of it.)

For long, we, your leaders, have pointed at some other places and some other people as those responsible for your challenging lives. We did it to cover up our own failures to lift you up the way we lifted our own children. We did it to protect ourselves from being at the receiving end of your wrath. But we should have known that our long-term fate depends on you, the people, and not just in giving our children the best that the world has. Now, we are ready to make amends.

It took me a long time to realize it but the only way to preserve our society, our cherished history and heritage is to secure an educated and informed citizenry. Those who are not hooked to the tap of knowledge find themselves deep in the valley of ignorance.

I ask that you trust me on this mission. By lifting your children, our children, we will lift up our society. By giving them education, we will be making them competitive. They will go to the moon and back, exploring and tolerating of the different world out there. But most importantly, by pulling them up, we will maximize the potentials that I know are in them.

To this end, I have secured a northern rehabilitation fund approved by the National Assembly. It is part of our effort to rebuild the North after the devastation of Boko Haram insurgency. I have also consulted our partners in the private sector to team up with us in putting the necessary resources needed for this mission to be a success. They have signed on to this mission and have donated their time and billions of naira to make this happen. They are here with me in a show of commitment to you.

So, please, join me as we unleash the promises currently locked up in all of our children. There is no injustice worse than wasting the God given potentials of our children.

Join me, my brothers and sisters and let us finish the work or forefather, Ahmadu Bello started.

Hana wani, hana kai.(If one refuses another, one refuses oneself.)

Thank you for listening and may Allah bless us all.