The Outgoing Vice Chancellor of the Premier University, University of Ibadan, Professor Isaac Folorunso Adewole’s (IFA) brilliant articulation of his thoughts while responding to the questions by Senators has left no one in doubt that President Mohammadu Buhari has not made a mistake by seeking out the Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology to be part of his change agents.
It was a revealing engagement between the nominee (now confirmed) and members of the senate as the education and health sectors were dissected.
Adewole did not only show the magnitude of the problem, but as a scientist, he offered what needed to be done to bring the nation out of the current peculiar mess.
His over an hour screening is what I have called ‘A minister’s manifesto’, for it embodied not only the problems but ways of addressing the identified gaps in our Education and Health sectors.
His narratives painted the picture of a nation with leadership that abdicates responsibilities to her people.
Coming to serve in a government that made him ‘fly out’ of the country when he led a nationwide strike in the health sector 30 years ago, Adewole submitted that ‘I must regrettably say that not much has changed but we can better the situation, we can work together and there is a ray of hope in the horizon’.
The problem of chronic underfunding of the education sector was discussed by the award-winning university administrator. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) had embarked on a strike in 2013 to protest infrastructural decay, harsh working environment, ill-motivated staff among others.
Although the union was able to make the Federal government commit itself to the tune of N1.3trillion, it is unfortunate that till date, only N200 billion had been released. No money was released in 2014 and 2015.
Yet, Nigerians continue to complain about low ranking of Nigerian universities in the world. Professor Adewole was frank in his response to the lamentable university education. He averred that “The problem is deep seated. We are dealing with a chronic situation of underfunding persistently for several years.
“We are dealing with a situation characterized by lack of morale and dilapidated infrastructure. For example, your Excellency, Nigeria is funding education to the tune of 1.7 percent of the GDP.
“A World Bank survey of 41 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa noted that Nigeria had only three countries below it and these are South Sudan, Zimbabwe and Zambia. We need to put money in education. We need to recognize education as a vital tool not only to promote economic growth but drive national development. We have to look at the supply system. We have a 6-3-3-4 system. The 6-3 is being taken care of.
“We have intervention programme and also TETFUND taken care of the universities. But there is nothing to take care of the senior secondary schools. That is an Orphan. In order words, what the universities are getting are poorly rated products and we are now being asked to turn them into new products. We must put money in education and I can assure you that our universities will deliver if well funded”
Major issues on health at the screening revolved around abortion, inter-professional rivalry in the health sector and what Professor Adewole described as looming danger in cancer epidemic owing to the demographic transition and almost inactive lifestyle of Nigerians.
Senators competed to ask questions on cancer. They got more than what they wanted and should now resolve to put money in health for the building of national cancer centre and revitalization of the Health system.
Adewole noted that “Cancer is something that we have to deal with. We are talking of the burden of communicable diseases in Nigeria but we are also looking at the demographic transition in this country. We are living longer, getting obese, we are exercising less. Cancer is specifically a disease of the old age even though we have cancer in young ones, middle age but more people will get cancer as they grow older.
“So cancer is something that will occur and when we look at the demographic transaction and the rising incidence of cancer, it is on the increase for Africa. So this country must be prepared for a potential epidemic in the coming years.
“What can we do to address the issue of cancer? For us in Nigeria, the major challenge is that people have little understanding of cancer. It is taken almost as a death sentence; they come in very late when we cannot do anything for them.
“In fact at a WHO presentation, the only constant feature of cancer in Nigeria and Africa is late presentation of the case. We can improve this by public education, investment in awareness and letting people know that cancer can be prevented. About 40 percent of cancer can be prevented and detected early. It means we can accurately manage 80percent of our cancer cases.”
It is obvious that so many things have been deliberately neglected by previous governments in Health and Education sectors. Health tourism is growing and people are losing confidence in our educational system.
The Senate should go beyond saying Professor Adewole is a qualified man for the job but must play their part by voting 26percent UNESCO benchmark for funding education.
It is a disservice to the nation if National Assembly members and the leadership do not consume our education and/or jet-out for treatment in a country that cares for her people due to the distrust they have in the two sectors.
While I have no doubt that Professor Adewole will deliver in either Health or Education Ministry, he needs to be given all the necessary support (financial, environment, political etc) to work for Nigerians particularly the masses who are usually the victims of bad governance.
Dr Oludayo Tade, a sociologist wrote in from Ibadan