Let me from the onset, come clean, by saving the reader from having to guess the raison d’etre of this piece, which is a salute to two visionary individuals from Borno state and proud sons of Biu. They are Lt. Gen. Tukur Y. Buratai an army general par excellence and Dr. Bukar Usman, a near recluse but erudite writer. The duo though coming from different career backgrounds, do share enormous passion and commitment for the development of education and knowledge. Under the watch of the former, a Nigerian Army University was established in Biu while the latter’s works have put Northern Nigeria on the global literary map. Bukar Usman writes in both Hausa and English on diverse subjects such as; History, Literature, Folklore and Educational Development. He also provides incisive commentaries on contemporary issues of Political Economy, Diplomacy and International Relations. Dr. Usman’s nearly 500-page book, “A History of Biu,” is arguably a masterpiece of a research endeavor. So are his discourses in, “My Literary Journey”, “Girl-Child Education in Biu Emirate” and the Hausa folklore. These works of Usman apart from filling the yawning gap in sphere of publication in Northern Nigeria, will leverage the current national desire to start early learning with mother tongue(s). In fact and since the times of late Abubakar Imam, Dr. Bala Usman, and the likes, the North has not witnessed such volume of works by an individual on culture, folklore and history as done by Bukar Usman. Kudos to Dr. Usman for giving us hope in reviving reading and writing culture in a nation that most people find it tasking to reply a simple text message! The reading and writing culture nowadays in Nigeria is so poor that, jokes have it that, if you want to hide something highly valuable from the people, place it between the pages of a book and for certain it will be safe for ages as only few will be curious to touch it. Bukar Usman is changing this narrative for the better. He is a real inspiration in building a knowledge-based society.
As for Buratai, his accomplishments as Chief of Army Staff are glaring. Under his command Boko Haram has been decimated. Hope has been restored across most of the North East region. He has also checkmated the secessionist IPOB movement by Nnamdi Kanu and his co-travelers. Furthermore, under his watch the army was able to maintain calm across the Niger Delta region. As a team player Buratai built operational cooperation with countries of the Lake Chad Basin, namely, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin republics with a view to routing Boko Haram from the region. On the whole, therefore, this son of Biu has so far discharged his national assignment creditably under the direction, and enormous support of his Commander-in-Chief, President Muhammadu Buhari. Together, they have been able to save the nation from ultimate disintegration. But then Buratai is not all about guns and bombs. The security challenge in Nigeria is a passing phase in nation building which will eventually be surmounted. And when the history of the unfortunate would undoubtedly be written, Buratai’s name will be in gold. But by far his enduring national legacy shall be in the realms of knowledge and educational development. Buratai like most great soldiers knows that sustainable peace and progress can only be achieved through knowledge and enlightenment. He places unprecedented high premium on the training and motivation of officers and men of the army and crowned it with a Nigerian Army University, Biu (NAUB), Borno state. It is thus, this vision that unites him with his fellow compatriot from Biu, Dr. Bukar Usman, one of the prolific writers of our time. The establishment of NAUB in Biu is strategic and humbling to the Nigerian Army and the people of Biu, respectively. The NAUB with its express goal of promoting “national defense and development activities” would have profound impacts on international, national, regional spheres. It is on record that NAUB is the first and only Army university in the Lake Chad Basin region of Africa comprising Cameroon, Chad, Niger and the Central Africa Republic. Though the institution would operate under different political, economic and social orientations, its research activities would benefit this group of countries immensely, as they face common security and developmental challenges. Nationally, it is a welcome addition to the stock of comparatively limited universities in Northern Nigeria. A region that is educationally disadvantaged. Of the 164 universities in the nation (NUC, 2018), less than 50 are located in the North which has over 50% of the nation’s population of about 190 million people. By implication the development of manpower (doctors, lawyers, bankers, engineers, etc) would naturally be asymmetric with far reaching acrimonious consequences for national harmony and stability as sections of the country jostle for limited opportunities in the future. And at present, the UNICEF (2018) indicates that about 11.5 million are out of the school system in Nigeria. Sixty seven percent (67%) of this number are in the north, the bulk of which are domiciled in the North East. They are NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training). With no education, skills or know-how, these classes of young men and women end up being jobless, poor and disillusioned: a ready-made recipe for crisis. Under the circumstance any move aimed at increasing the number of educational institutions in the area would have a salutary effect.
On the Army’s part, as a national defense outfit, NAUB would serve as “laboratory” of sort in the research and study of insurgency/national security, among others, in Nigeria and beyond. It would also underscore the Army’s quest for its transformation into one of the best in the world through technological development and innovations. The NAUB location is ideal for this task, in terms of access and serenity. Within the host North East region of Nigeria, Biu is an equidistant from the extreme ends of the states that constitute its catchment area of the university, namely, Toro (Bauchi) to Biu, Nguru (Yobe) to Biu, Gashaka/Bali (Taraba) to Biu, Mubi (Adamawa) to Biu, Damasak (Borno) to Biu and lastly Gombe. On the part of the host community, Biu people, the development is humbling for which they will forever be grateful. The community had for long been yearning for a university given the fact that apart from agriculture, the pursuit of education is the next industry in Biu and indeed Borno South. Successive governments in Borno have, arguably, appreciated the critical role of education in engendering sustainable human development. Presumably, most governors of Borno appreciated this fact but failed to act beyond rhetoric. No thanks to the fact that governance in Borno is usually held captive by the state’s power structure and socio-cultural forces. Thus, instead of adopting holistic approach to educational development the government focuses attention largely on the state capital,Maiduguri, to the exclusion of the northern and southern axis of the state. This is a trend that started even before the rise of Boko Haram insurgency in 2009 or thereabout. Today, aside Maiduguri, even relatively safe parts of the state have been rendered desolate as capital projects in tertiary institutions, are concentrated in the capital. While security challenge has been cited as a major factor in the uneven distribution of capital projects, geopolitical sentiment is at its core, especially with regard to the southern part of the state. There has been this long held view that persons from that region constitute the bulk of the lower and middle manpower cadres of the state civil service. As a consequence, larger chunk of the state resources is spent onsalaries and pension. It is thus felt in certain quarters that extending capital projects to the southern axis of Borno would amount to “undue favor”. Plausible as this argument may seem on face value, it has serious down sides.
For instance, meaningful development is never achieved in environments where parts are held-down for others. Such approach retards the whole and renders it vulnerable. It’s like neglecting one’s backyard, forgetting that the security architecture of the compound would become compromised. Furthermore manpower-stock advantage is a temporary phenomenon, as time progresses policies of governments have a way of balancing things out. Many states in Nigeria are succeeding in addressing manpower imbalance devoid of penalty, thus reducing feeling of alienation and frustration in the polity. A handy illustration is the distribution of tertiary institutions especially universities within most states of the country. Closer home, Yobe State University is in Gujba while the Federal University is at Gashua. Adamawa has Modibo Adama in Yola and state university in Mubi. Bauchi has ATBU in the capital and Itas-Gadau hosts the one owned by the state. The two state universities in Kano are located in Wudil and Gwarzo, respectively, while BUK is in the capital. Farther away, Kogi state university is in Ayangba while Lokoja the state capital hosts the Federal university. The list goes on and on. In Borno state for inexplicable reasons 90% of tertiary institutions are concentrated in Maiduguri metropolis. The latest being the Borno State University. The list includes; University of Maiduguri (Federal), University Teaching Hospital (Federal), Ramat Polytechnic, Kashim Ibrahim College of Education, School of Health Technology, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Elkanemi College of Islamic Theology, Borno College of Legal and Islamic Studies.
This development, despite its perceived negative consequences for unity, may not be unconnected with Borno geopolitics and policy deficits. For, ordinarily Kukawa/Monguno axis should host the state university. Or better still Biu in Southern Borno where the facilities at College of Education, Waka-Biu are more than enough for a cost effective take off of such institution. The college’s infrastructure comprising hostels, Staff quarters, classrooms, lecture halls, recreational facilities, etc were put in place by American missionaries in the 1930s, before it was taken over by government in the 70s. Had it happened that way, the current College of Education could move to Gwoza or Uba (Askira/Uba LGA) using existing post primary schools for takeoff. Furthermore, if security challenges permit, Monguno or Kukawa could have Borno’s second state university which maybe dedicated to science and environmental/ecological studies, similar to the Kano State Medical University, Gwarzo. However, should resources constitute a constraint, the existing state university in the metropolis could be moved to either Kukawa or Monguno at the appropriate time. By so doing, the perception of governance deficit in the state would be redressed, thereby fostering even development, peace and security in the polity. It is probably out of realization of this fact, and the quest for sustainable peace and progress in Borno that the Nigerian Army, under Lt. Gen. Tukur Y. Buratai established the “Nigerian Army University” in the state. We salute the General, a nationalist and a proud son of Borno from Biu. Similar salute goes to Dr. Bukar Usman, a literary giant. Their unprecedented contributions to the development of education and knowledge in Nigeria shall forever be cherished.
Abubakar, former Director, National Directorate of Employment (NDE), writes from Kaduna