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Opinions of Thursday, 25 February 2021

Columnist: The Nation

Much ado about Kagara College

Preamble

After watching my reclusive, do-nothing Niger State Governor Abu Bello Lolo, on television, blaming his six-year-long-gone predecessor, Babangida Aliyu, for the decrepit spectacle that was the ‘Government Science College Kagara’, a few friends of mine had called to taunt me with some not-too-funny jests -as if I had a duty of vicarious liability or some kind of representative guilt to bear for the governor’s inadequacy. I do not!

And so, since “A jest’s prosperity” as Shakespeare would say, “lies in the ear of him that hears it, never in the tongue of him that makes”, I had refused to suffer such friendly jests gladly, lest any of my taunting friends wallow in the vain belief that grating jokes such as insinuating that I might be complicit in bed with Bello’s administration, might find prosperity in my decidedly deafened ears. No they won’t!

One such friend had said to me: ‘Mohammed what is wrong with that your f****sh Governor sef?’ And I had said to him ‘point of correction! You do not ask ‘what is wrong with Bello?! That’ll be asking too much’ I said. Because of the time I will have to take to exhaustively list out all the mis-governance syndromes and the maladies afflicting him’. Rather I said, ‘you should be asking ‘what is not wrong with Bello?’ Even though here too it will still take eternity to think out what malady or syndrome of poor governance has not yet afflicted him.

For the records

Faced by Bello’s monumental governance-delinquency, I had merely been forced to discover the golden virtue of ‘dignified silence’ over the silvery quality of unheeded ‘corrective speech’. For ‘speech’, as they say is merely silvern. Nowadays it is the ‘loudness of silence’ that has the golden touch. Silence is not only the best answer to fools, it may well be the best wake-up call to nonperformers. And so, having said so much in the 16 locust years of PDP, and having in vain shouted hoarse against the trophied mis-governance of the late Abdulkadir Kure and Babangida Aliyu, I am loath to embark on the even more difficult task of ‘conversing with a dumb show’ –which is what talking to Bello seems to me.

Thus after writing ‘Niger: My Poor Orphaned State’ (November 24, 2016) to bemoan the monumental paucity of governance ideas in the Bello administration and after following that up with a three-part series titled ‘Niger’s The Bad, The Bad And The Ugly’ (July 11, 19) in which I exposed the conspiracy of mis-governance in Niger through a bizarre kinship connection running degenerately around all the preeminent stakeholders of the state, I had merely decided to rest my pen concerning Niger. And yes, you can say that I am the self-evident truth that a certain degree of monumental mis-governance under the watch of the patriarchs can retire even a journalist.

Kagara Science College

By the way maybe it is I who should suffer the agony of a gnawing personal irony here. Because as the world was scandalized by the spectacle of a decrepit ‘Kagara College’, I was, to say the least, envious beholding, in Kagara a far less desolately dilapidating structure than my very own Government Secondary School, Lemu, -a scarcely-known hamlet some few kilometers away from Bida, and whence the late Sheikh Ahmed Lemu hailed.

To be poetically exaggerative, Kagara College, in structural and ambient dignity, is still some geologic light-years away or ahead of what I was to see some 13 years ago when a fellow alumnus and one of Niger State’s former NUJ chairmen, Iliyasu Garba and I visited our Lemu alma mater for me to retrieve my WAEC certificate preparatory to a Masters’ program I was about to pursue. The experience was one of an encounter with the spirit realm.

I had almost shed tears moving around this now horribly nature-reclaimed school environment where Dantani Haruna and I had once proudly head-boyed, cutting our earliest teeth in leadership grooming as we coordinated both ‘work and learning’ (which was the school’s motto), and as we took care of the minutest grassy details, ensuring that every inch of the school was hewn and mowed to keep a habitable ambience conducive for doctrine and for training.

Being a newly-built school and mine in fact the second set then, our buildings, in spite of the absence of electricity and pipe borne water, had been some kind of structural ‘beauties in the bush’ and us the students too ‘beauties and brains’ because even at just a two-set school with only forms one and two, we had started becoming a hard nut to crack in the then popular Shaka Adaba-moderated Niger State Schools Quiz Competition. For three years running, as we gravitated to fill up one set after another, we had graced the finals of the state quiz competition ironically each time losing only to our more beautiful ‘female seniors’ of the Federal Government Girls College Bida.

‘Work and Learn’

Yet the joy then was that merely with our crude school badge donning the motto of ‘Work And Learn’ on the breast pockets of our ‘white-on-white’ school uniform every student of Government Secondary School Lemu had had the rare luxury at any ‘schools event’ in Minna, Bida or Kontagora, of moving around with pride because we believed that we were the subject of quizzical gazes and muffled gossips by other students who saw us as the ‘junior brains from the new bush school’

This was way back in the early eighties of the Shehu Shagari NPN days when college students were truly college students and when the pursuit of ‘learning and character’ (not the now parents-funded hustle for falsified results and bought over certificates) were genuinely the twin objective of government, parents and children themselves. This was the glorious twilight past of secondary education when only inter-college sports, quiz competitions and schools debates were the veritable avenues for the proof of learning.

But this time in this same Lemu, Iliya and I were now virtually having to brave wildly-colonizing elephantine grasses in order to access our now deeply forested hostels. And even though it was in broad daylight, after we had gained access, Iliya and I had still momentarily to wait for our eyes to settle and to fully reconcile with the morbidly dark dormitory environment so that it had taken a while really before we could now make out the motley images of some boarding students, perching on mats and raffia and for a second as they somberly rose in awe to receive us, I was afraid they would soon twist their necks, and in the creeping spookiness of Michael Jackson’s thriller zombies, come after us.

This would be the best of the school’s three dormitories, the ‘Niger House’, where Dantani Haruna, the Head Boy of my set, was once domiciled; and yonder we could see were the two other hostels, the famous ‘Etsu Nupe House’ and the even-then unsung ‘Nakordi House’ where yours sincerely, as the Deputy Head Boy was quartered. But these two even from afar had looked obviously ghostlier than the ‘Niger House’, and evidently Iliya and I had no longer the prodding of adventure or of curiosity to want to know the eerie contents of those. We had merely gazed at their sorrier sights and had quickly navigated our grassy paths back to the Principal’s dingy one-chair-and-a-table office, to drop something for ‘kola’ and leave.

Mr. James

As we were about to drive away, (and this was the tragic part of our adventure) an obviously weather-beaten, rickety Datsun car had stuttered in and pulled on the opposite side of the administrative building; and almost immediately, another spooky-looking, raggedy little man had sluggishly hopped out of it and went to the booth to fetch out some farming implements. And as the school’s aged security man rushed to give him a hand, he simultaneously beckoned us to come and meet Mr. James.

Mr. James was our Vice Principal (Academic) and who had also taught us Mathematics and Additional Mathematics. He was once the ever spruce-looking secondary school teacher you probably had ever met. His British sense of time-keeping was so much that he was always at the window of your class (with all his teaching aids and a basin of water for hand cleansing) exactly five minutes before his time. And as every minute passed, he would threateningly move toward the door until his time had started and he would move in straight to the board as if there no teacher on it. We had nick-named him ‘Equiangular-Bisector’ for what many of us who had hated Mathematics considered as the most gibberish. And trust Mr. James, he had always timed his lessons, including the exigencies of his personal cleansings to end exactly on the time allotted to him. Pronto, he was out!

Epilogue

ADVERTISEMENTThis was now that very Mr. James. And that was that same yellow-shiny, spick-and-span noiseless Datsun of his that you were sure –in the care of such perfectionist- would run forever. And yes it was still running. But now it looked the junkiest of cars that you probably had ever seen. Mr. James and his hobby-Datsun were after all far ghostlier-looking than even the hostels Iliya and I had just run from! And as he turned excitedly to meet us after the old School Guard had introduced us in Nupe, there was hardly anything ‘equiangular’ about Mr. James. This was now just a famished, illiterate old man at the twilight of his life struggling to feed.

Time, space and the monumental governance delinquency that we have all come to accept as a way of life, had taken all the intellectual pride and the dignity out of the most disciplined Mathematics teacher I had ever known. When I saw the Kagara Science School building, it was poor Mr. James that came to my mind!

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