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Ita Faji and politicisation of national tragedy


A rescue team search for more victims from the scene of a building, which collapsed at Itafaji on the Lagos Island on Wednesday. Kayode Oladapo/JAU/BJO/NAN

The penchant to politicize national tragedies has reached alarming proportion in our dear nation. Could it be a hangover of the 2019 election or a build up to the 2023 change of baton? Does the ambition of anyone really worth the life of any other person? I ask these pertinent questions because I cannot bring myself to reconcile with some comments on social and print media, of late. I wonder where morality, empathy and sympathy have gone. Humanity has given way to bestiality. Compassion has taken flight and hatred firm rooted in its place.

Recently, some Facebook friends carpeted victims, survivors and relations of the senseless bandit attacks in Zamfara, Katsina, Yobe and Borno States as reaping the consequences of their indiscretion and uninformed decision to vote the President after they had been warned. It was their dividend of the “next level”, they enthused. However, the same people have maintained stoic silence about the Tiv/Jukun war and the wanton killings that followed. When there was any infraction bothering on resource control and access between the farmers and herders, they are quick to allege that it was the President that was out to decimate the Christian population.

Having gone through some of these stories, one is not really supposed to be bordered by the piece titled Ita Faji and the Legacy of “Progressivism” by Feyi Fawehinmi which was published in the Guardian of Tuesday, April 9, 2019 because it falls in the category of what I term politicizing tragedy. For crying out loud, the Ita Faji building collapse tragedy which claimed lives, especially of young school children, deserves to be treated with caution and empathy. It is expected that those passing commentaries on the incidence should be strictly concerned with seeking solutions, and not peddling of falsehood all in an attempt to disparage perceived political foes.

It is, therefore, against this background that one finds it compelling to correct some impressions that the said piece sought to create in the minds of the people. While it is true that Private Schools have a substantial number of pupils and students in their care, it is not correct to say that only 451,000 were in State Schools when the real figures are 497,318 in Primary Schools, 316,419 in Junior Secondary Schools and 248,339 in Senior Secondary Schools. Also, it is not fair to state that a State like Lagos, which in 2016 Budgeted N113.3bn representing 17.11% of the State’s budget and about one-third of the N369bn budgeted by the Federal Government for education in the entire country, is not sensitive to education development.

There are about 18,000 Private Schools in Lagos State both registered and unregistered and there are more than 5million buildings in the State. Simple logic will inform discerning minds that the school buildings represent a paltry 0.0036 of all buildings in the State. How does this translate to the assertion that “if a building collapses anywhere in Lagos today, it is likely to involve a school”?

Furthermore, it is either ignorance or sheer mischief that would make anyone assert that the Ministry of Education in Lagos State has been under the supervision of Deputy Governors since 1999 and that the Deputy Governors also superintended the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters and Chair the Committee on boundary disputes. For the avoidance of doubt, a check on the appointments in the State in the last 20 years will put the record straight. One, none of the three Deputy Governors who served the Asiwaju Bola Tinubu administration namely Mrs. Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele, Mr. Femi Pedro and Prince Biodun Ogunleye was in charge of Education.

During the tenure of the immediate past governor, Mr. Feyi Fawehinmi, SAN, Mrs. Sarah Sosan, an educationist oversaw the Ministry of Education but did not double as Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters. Barrister Ademorin Kuye was in charge of that portfolio. Mrs. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire who was the Deputy Governor during the second term of Mr. Fashola was in charge of the Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation not Education. Today, the Deputy Governor, Dr. Idiat Oluranti Adebule, a seasoned educationist is in charge of Education while the Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters is handled by Mr. Muslim Folami.

To pretend not to see what successive governments in Lagos State have done in the area of regulating private schools is a disservice. Without a doubt, there is no contesting the fact that a lot still needed to be done to sanitize the system, but asserting that private schools in the State was a disaster waiting to happen and “this is the legacy of 2 decades of progressivism in Lagos” is simply taking hypocrisy to a ridiculous height. One doesn’t, therefore, need to be a prophet to discern that the writer was only doing a hatchet job for some pay masters.

It is not difficult to deduct from the tone of the piece that the author has a personal axe to grind with some unidentified political figures in the State. He leaves no one in doubt that his main objective is to prove, contrary to widely held perception that Lagos State has been on the verge of progressive transformation in the past 20 years. The record of pace setting performance by successive administrations in the state is there for all to see. This is partly why it is generally believed that the State has become the bench mark for good governance in the country. The good thing is that Lagosians can be assured of continued prompt response to their needs by the current administration, with creativity and vigour, till the last day of its life span. For those with positive ideas and contributions that could assist in further moving the state forward, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of the State public functionaries including the Governor, have become public properties.
 •Ogundeji is Deputy Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Education, Alausa, Ikeja

In this article:
Feyi FawehinmiIta Faji
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