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Academics want a system thinker appointed as education minister


Peter Okebukola

As President Muhammadu Buhari begins his second term in office, the former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Peter Okebukola has advised that individuals who must head the education ministry must have passion for reforms as well as demonstrable skills for problem solving in the complex sector.

Okebukola in a chat with The Guardian, said though former minister, Mallam Adamu Adamu has the capacity to move the sector to greater heights if allowed to stay longer, but in the event of change, the President must “appoint persons who have demonstrable and uncommon fervour and passion for reforms in education, administrative and diplomatic dexterity to handle unions that have a penchant for strikes and disruption of the academic calendar. Someone who is a systems thinker rather than someone with a narrow view of education.”

While pointing out that the country has been blessed with good ministers of education over the last 20 years, the former NUC chief lamented that the brevity of their tenure, poor financial resourcing of the sector and lack of a systems approach to addressing the challenges in the sector stunted the desired growth.

He said, “Over the years, the appointment of education ministers has been by the president selecting persons from the pool of nominees from the states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and a sprinkle of technocrats who have been cleared by Senate to head the education ministry. This procedure in itself is not bad if the states can put their best candidates forward rather than nominating poorer quality candidates on the basis of political patronage and affiliation.

“And so going forward, the standard should be for political parties or state governors who are nominating to put forward what can be described as members of their first eleven to represent them at the federal level as ministers. The standard should also be to allow an appointee to be in post long enough for his or her programmes and projects to mature to a point of no return. More importantly, the standard is to resource education well enough especially with funds for the appointee to perform optimally.”

Former vice chancellor of Bells University of Technology, Prof. Isaac Adeyemi said it is imperative to consider the background of prospective education minister, just as it is done for health ministers. “A check on their past and potential contributions is desirable. Moreover, it may be required for a prospective minister to present his or her vision for the ministry while an annual and objective performance rating is represented not only to Mr. President but to all the relevant stakeholders.”

He further advised that the practice for public officers to present detailed accounts of their stewardship to the public be formally entrenched in the polity so as to aid in the objective assessment of the officers.


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