Cultural, religious and political forces have ensured that Northern Nigeria has trailed the rest of the country in matters of education and innovation. Successive military and civilian governments have made efforts to jumpstart the education sector and renew interest but all of that money and attention has done little to change perspectives on the ground and impact the lives of the young people whom illiteracy harms the most.
Zamfara as a state has had the misfortune of electing leaders who have no idea how to advocate properly to meet its needs. The state’s two million inhabitants have been led over by individuals that could at worse be referred to as mediocre.
The former Governor of the state Sani Yerima nearly plunged Nigeria into a religious crisis during his tenure as the Governor between 1999-2007. Yerima tried to impose his self-found love for Shari’a on the whole of Northern Nigeria, the clamour for Shari’a which former President Olusegun Obasanjo referred to as political Shari’a spread like wildfire across the Northern region, while Yerima was busy with Shari’a, other social amenities in the state were collapsing one after the other, most especially education. Throughout his 8-year tenure as the Governor, the average performance of Zamfara in external examinations was between 10-12.8%.
This ignoble trend has not fared better under the new administration of Governor Abdulaziz Yari who also doubles as the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum. Like Yerima, Yari has routinely used religion as a foil to deflect criticisms of his incompetence and stirred up religious sentiment to get his way. While Meningitis was ravaging the state last year, Yari had no clue of what to do as a leader and he chose the Nigerian way by heaping the blame of his incompetence on God.
In education, it’s still the same with Zamfara consistently earning the last position across the country. Between 2015-2017 the average Performance of Zamfara State in external examinations is 12.1%. The recently released NECO result shows the state registered a paltry 186 students for the examination while 24 students passed. 24 students represent less than 0.01 percent of the population in Zamfara state, numbers that are worrying by any metric.
The governor of Zamfara state needs to follow in the footsteps of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna and take drastic measures to turn this around. The alternative is too terrifying to contemplate.