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Hijab, Islamic Assertiveness And Female Muslim Identity In Kwara Schools

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Hijab, Islamic Assertiveness And Female Muslim Identity In Kwara Schools

By Leo Igwe

In his piece, Hijab as Red Meat of Bigotry, Farooq Kperogi presented an imbalanced take on the hijab crisis and growing Islamic assertiveness in schools in Kwara State. His essay was biased because Kperogi was unable to unpack and tease out the intricacies and complexities of the hijab controversy. He quickly rushed to a conclusion blaming Christians for the crisis without adequately situating the red meat of bigotry and its strong Islamic undercurrents. Kperogi made it seem as if the bigotry raging in schools over hijab was more of Christian than Islamic. I beg to differ.

In the first part of the essay, Kperogi created an impression of someone who was well informed about the case in Kwara State. No doubt he is informed about the situation, given that he hails from Kwara. But that does not mean that he cannot be mistaken in his understanding and interpretation of the dynamics at play as I think he is in this case. One thing is clear. The hijab controversy is not a local Kwara State issue. The campaign to make hijab a part of the school uniform is national and transnational. It is an ummah agenda. This religious ill wind has been blowing from state to state. Kwara State is only the latest front.

Kperogi highlighted some well-known historical facts about the foundation of schools in Nigeria. Christian missionaries pioneered the establishment and management of schools as we know them today. But the Nigerian government unilaterally took over these schools shortly after the civil war, which was in the 70s. The author failed to mention the fact that Christian owners of these schools have been unhappy with the government takeover of schools. They have been asking the government to hand back these institutions. In northern Nigeria, Muslim majority states turned the erstwhile Christian missionary schools into Islamic state institutions.

They made Islamic norms the basis of education and management of these schools. So what has been going on in the name of government takeover of schools is not a secular and religiously unbiased management of these institutions. It is rather a gradual and incremental Islamic appropriation of former Christian missionary school assets. It has largely been a case of robbing Christians to pay Muslims.

In northern Nigeria, the state take-over of schools has proved to be an exercise in bad faith, a trojan horse for Islamization of the education system. And this development has not gone down well with Christians and adherents of other religious/belief groups. The politics of state takeover of schools has understandably fuelled interreligious tension and mistrust over the years. It has pitted Christians against Muslims, Christians against governments in Muslim theocratic states like Kwara.

In the southern region, some states have handed these schools back to their Christian owners. Kwara State has not done that. So why can’t the government of Kwara State hand back these schools to their Christian owners and use its resource to build better schools? Look, the anger, grievance, and mistrust over the state takeover of schools are at the root of the hijab controversy in Kwara and other states in the South West.

Kperogi noted that the situation of education in Nigeria has evolved over the years and that hijab has become the symbol of female Muslim identity. But he failed to interrogate the emergence of hijab as a symbol of Muslim identity politics. One expected that the author should have delved deeper into the evolution of hijab presenting timelines as well as factors that crystallized this icon of female Muslim politics.

Kperogi attributed the emergence of hijab to socialization of Muslim females. But other religious believers (both male and female) undergo similar socialization. Don’t they? Other religious believers have certain icons and symbols of religious identities. Haven’t they? And if other religious believers leave these symbols of religious identity at home or at the school gates, why shouldn’t female Muslims do the same? Are the uniforms that students wear in schools Christian emblems? Why does Kperogi think that icons of Muslim religious identity should be treated differently in state schools? What will the school environment look like if all students are allowed to dress according to their religious dictates? What value do these religious symbols add to the education of both men and women, Muslims or Christians, religious or non-religious folks?

Kperogi queried the reason behind the extreme bitterness and hostile reactions of Nigerian Christians. And it was in this part of his essay that he let out his prejudices and insecurities because he failed to mention the bitterness and extreme reactions of Muslims. I mean the author should have asked: Why are Muslims against uniforms in these schools? Why do they hate the school uniforms as they are? These dresses do not hurt them? Do they? Generations of female Muslims have worn these uniforms and these school dresses did not diminish their faith, identity, or Muslimness? So why are Muslims weaponizing hijab?

Kperogi did not tackle these questions. Instead in his conclusion, Kperogi alluded to two (high and appeals) court judgments that upheld the rights of Muslim students to wear hijab as part of their school uniform in state schools. But he forgot that the same rights apply to students of other religions and belief groups in the country. One cannot enforce the rights of Muslim students to wear their religious veil and then deny other students the same rights. Kperogi described measures taken by some schools to stop some hijab-wearing students from entering the compound as theocratic tyranny.

Look, I wonder why Kperogi used the term, theocratic tyranny to describe the reactions of some school officials. These school officials turned away these hijab-wearing students not because they claimed that the Christian God told them to do so or because they wanted to impose a Christian habit on them. Nobody has shown that these school uniforms are Christian symbols. So what encapsulates theocratic tyranny is the imposition of hijab on state schools. It is the emergence and politicization of the Islamic veil, and the quest to make hijab a part of the school uniform for all Muslim girls. It is this move that embodies Islamic privilege and exceptionalism.

As Kperogi acknowledged, the hijab controversy typifies female Muslim identity politics. But this icon of Islamic theocracy should be kept out of state schools. There should be no place for religious (Christian, Islamic, traditional) identity politics in schools. As a religiously pluralistic country, state schools must be religiously neutral, that is, unbiased for or against any religion. The school dress must be religiously neutral, that means school uniforms should not serve as religious icons.

No religious symbol should be privileged. It is in the quest to realize this ‘state of harmony’ and accept and live with our differences that state schools sanctioned the same uniform for all students without discrimination based on religion or belief. Kperogi and all those who sanction and seek to legitimize hijab and female Muslim identity politics in Kwara state schools have missed the point.

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Opinion

Molefi Asante: The Lion Who Refused To Buy The Hunters’ Stories About The Forest

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Molefi Asante: The Lion Who Refused To Buy The Hunters’ Stories About The Forest
Professor Toyin Falola

THE  TOYIN FALOLA INTERVIEWS

A CONVERSATION WITH MOLEFI ASANTE, PART 1

By

Toyin Falola

Molefi Asante: The Lion Who Refused To Buy The Hunters’ Stories About The Forest

Molefi Asante

Africans have a famous saying that “until the lion talks, every story will glorify the hunter.” This is a multifaceted maxim that more than sums up the nuances of this world. It defines how stories are told, and histories are recorded. Guided by this maxim, a careful analysis of seemingly historical facts will reveal that the so-called facts might have underlying truths in them; however, they are not the facts. Sadly, Africans, who are the proponents of the opening maxim, have been in the position of the marginalized lion for a long time. In what follows, I present how Asante has constructed the pyramid of his intellectual contributions. I could not have been able to compose this piece unless I fully understood his way of thinking.

To Molefi Asante, history has it that Africa is one of the earliest sources of civilization. From the Mesopotamians to the Egyptians, civilization was well-founded on the African continent, millennia before the Industrial Revolution of Europe. When the world was still young, and humans were hardly any other thing aside from hunters and gatherers, Africans, especially Egyptians, had advanced civilization. They had their system of writing in hieroglyphics. Some engineers and mathematicians made the construction of pyramids a scientific possibility, not to forget the medical professionals. Egypt had its system of government, one of the fundamental qualities of a civilized society. To Asante, this is where we must begin not just the history of Africa but of the world itself.

Histories are eroded, and people are forgotten, and so it was for the early African civilization. By the natural law of evolution and perhaps the mal-decisions of some of the empire’s leaders and decision-makers, the empire fell into oblivion. Power shifted hands, and Europe became the center of world civilization. If the story of the European civilization had ended there, perhaps Asante would not have emerged as a proponent of the “Out of Africa” thesis. However, the Europeans, in the natural order of things and as humans, became insatiable. After exploring and conquering their territory, they stretched their tentacles to other territories and exploited them. First, because to humans, superiority is defined by how many humans or human territories they have subdued. Second, because growth means the expansion and the attendant inability of available resources to meet the territory’s needs. So it was that the Europeans arrived in Africa, initially as curious explorers who wanted to get familiar with new territories and trade goods. The initially clear conception of meeting new people and exploring new worlds translated into a burning need to ravage, exploit, dominate, capture, and grow exponentially at the expense of others. There were the long and arduous years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and how they brought humans’ brute nature and inhumanity to the fore.

READ ALSO: Molefi Asante: Breathing Africa, Living Blackness

As if the dehumanization of the trans-Atlantic slave trade era was not enough, there came the infamous Berlin conference of 1884 to 1885 and the unscrupulous sharing of the African continent among European countries. The centuries of colonization in Africa severely impacted Africans’ sense of identity, consciousness, being, culture, traditions, and continued development. Beyond this, an almost unforgivable impact of colonization on Africa was the deliberate misrepresentation and presentation of Africa to the world. Early European observers in Africa presented the continent as a barbaric one. Essays upon essays were written to portray Africans as needy and hopeless, and people who would have gone into extinction but for the supposed intervention of the Europeans. Indeed, the West brought us the modern form of education. However, Africa would not have declined, so argued many Afrocentric scholars, if the Westerners had not come to the continent. Some argue that Africa would have been better off and way more developed than it currently is if the Europeans had not colonized the continent.

In yet another argument by another set of scholars, the westernized education of Africans is perhaps the only good thing that colonialism brought to Africa. Of course, this same westernized education has severely impacted African thought patterns, beliefs, and ways of life. The Europeans handpicked Africans whom they believed were outliers and gave them European scholarships. After being schooled in the West, these Africans returned home, and with their return came an awakening and an intellectual revolution. The education of these select Africans brought about a much-needed reawakening. African scholars received a jolt in their subconscious; they were awakened to the realities that faced the African continent and the African people, how the Europeans had exploited, marginalized, and misrepresented Africa. Questions started sprouting from all angles. Curious Africans started gaining access to those malicious and mal-informant books of purported history, and so began a counter intellectual attack. The likes of Aime Cesaire, Leopold Sedar Senghor, David Diop, Kenneth Dike, Herbert Macaulay, J. F. Ade-Ajayi, Julius Nyerere, Nelson Mandela, and Nnamdi Azikiwe took to arms. They deployed knowledge and the education they got–the same tool used to train them–to re-write African history and counter the malicious records made about Africa.

Africa gained independence between the mid and late 20th century. However, the fact remains that Africa is yet to be free from some problems plaguing it. Post-independence has seen the rise of historians and African scholars, people who have taken up battle with the ruining political ideology of Africa and the corrupt and destructive governance militating against the growth of the continent. The attention has shifted from debunking racist and condescending fausse history of Africa to battling destructive African leaders, unscrupulous policies, and a host of other problems facing the continent.

In the face of all these, the lions have not forgotten that the hunter is lurking and has not ceased to tell the story in a way that glorifies the hunter and maligns the lion. This move of the hunter is visible to us; it is all over the media. The malnourished children; war; seizure of power; hunger; crises; and how the media projects them. However, lions still look the hunter in the face and choose to tell their story and that of their species. Lions who have defied all odds to glorify what needs to be glorified about their history and current story. Of these lions, Molefi Asante stands tall.

READ ALSO: Retrogressive Politics Of Value Added Tax In Nigeria

Molefi Asante–the father of Afrocentrism. If Afrocentrism gained flesh, received the breath of life, and became human, then it would be to the credit of Molefi Asante. I doubt if I have ever met, discussed with, or studied a man who is as passionate and proud of Africa as Molefi Asante. Is it his dedication? Asante has dedicated his life, intellectual prowess, time, and resources to the study of Africa and Afrocentrism. He is living proof of the amazingness of Africa. We often hear and read people’s thoughts on Africa, of how beautiful and rich the continent is in culture and human resources. If this were true of Africa, then Africans should be proud of their continent, and their actions, discourses, exploits, and manner of engagement should reflect this pride.

There is a lamentable eroding in the cultures, beliefs, and values that were once dear to Africans and guided our inter-relationships. To what are we losing our core values as Africans? People who have lost their values would soon lose their identity, and then the abyss of oblivion will not be so far away. In an age where we are fast losing the values that bind us and guide us, there are lions like Molefi Asante, roaring and reminiscing, reminding us of our history, who we are, and whom our forefathers used to be. Of communalism, the Ubuntu spirit, of how only the unity of fingers guarantees one of a resounding fist thump on one’s chest. Molefi is an African vanguard. Molefi Asante is like the baobab, with long-stretching roots that reach Sudan in the North-East, Nigeria in the West, and Costa Rica through the blissfulness of marriage. Asante’s contributions to Africa through scholarly works can never be forgotten. He is a proud and respected son of the soil and one of the most respected prides of African lions.

This Sunday, September 19, 2021, we will be hosting Molefi Asante on another edition of the Toyin Falola Interviews. And this is something I rarely say–I am personally looking forward to this interview to see the eloquent Asante prove his Africanness once more. Please do join us too for a conversation with this eminent philosopher.

 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

5:00 PM Nigeria

4:00 PM GMT

11:00 AM Austin CST

Register and Watch:

https://www.tfinterviews.com/post/molefi-asante

Join via Zoom:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85124202652

Watch on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/tfinterviews/live

Watch on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2lvX7A2iVndiCq0NfFcb0w/live

Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.

 

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Opinion

Retrogressive Politics Of Value Added Tax In Nigeria

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Retrogressive Politics Of Value Added Tax In Nigeria

By

Salihu Moh. Lukman

The controversy around whether Value Added Tax (VAT) should be centrally collected by the federal government or decentralised so that state governments are the ones to collect, beyond anything, is a test about the type of democracy Nigerians want. Is it going to prioritise the development of the nation’s productive capacity? Or will it simply be about consuming the resources that are currently available? Once the priority is about consuming currently available resources, commitment of political leaders to mobilise investment to develop the nation’s productive sectors will be weak. This is not to dismiss issues of access to existing resources by those who produce them. However, access may not necessarily translate into commitment to utilise the resources in ways that strengthened the commitment of political leaders to invest in the development of Nigeria’s productive sector. The important challenge therefore is to ensure that access to resources also comes with increased commitment by political leaders towards developing Nigeria’s productive sector.

With this background, it is important that Nigerians are also reminded that since 1999, public debate about increased access to resources by state governments, otherwise known as resource control, was limited to revenue from petroleum. Largely, promoted by the oil producing states, mainly the South-South geopolitical zone of the country, the debate was about allowing those states to control all the revenue from oil and perhaps pay a percentage as royalty to federal government. The royalty will be expected to support both the federal government and other non-oil producing states in the country. In all the debates around resource control, tax revenue was never recognised as a significant factor worthy of consideration. Partly, on account of both combination of weak institutional capacity and corruption in the public sector, the belief was that the most important source of government revenue for Nigeria is petroleum.

That Nigerians are debating whether it is states or federal government that should collect VAT signifies some progress, which has to do with the fact that there is an increase in what is being generated from VAT. For instance, in 2015, the total amount collected was N759.43 billion. Between 2016 to 2020, there was consistent increase in the amount collected respectively to N777.51 billion, N972.35 billion, N1.11 trillion, N1.17 trillion and N1.531 trillion. Everything considered, under the APC-led federal government of President Muhammadu Buhari, VAT collection increased from N759.43 billion in 2015 to N1.531 trillion in 2020, an increase of more than hundred percent.

READ ALSO: Southern Governors Meet, Insist On VAT Collection, Anti-open Grazing Law, Others

Nigerians can conveniently dismiss the role of the APC-led federal government in making it possible for the remarkable improvement in VAT collection in the country such that today, it has become an attractive variable in the struggle for resource control by state governments. The reality however is that credit must go to the APC-led federal government of President Buhari. Whether it would have been possible if PDP is still in control of the federal government can only be a wishful thought. If that were to be the case, why wasn’t it the case at any point between 1999 and 2015? No matter what anyone wants to say, the reality is that the significant increase in VAT in the country between 2015 and 2020 confirmed improved efficiency and reduced corruption in the process of collection and management of Nigeria’s public finances.

Interestingly, in terms of the politics of the debate, improved efficiency and management of Nigeria’s public finances are not the focus of the debate. In some ways, even those who are supposed to recognise this fact and promote the achievements of the APC and its federal government, instead have become so defensive, may be because the public noise in the country is all about demonstrating how the APC-led federal government of President Buhari is the driver of inequality, injustice and unfair practices against state governments. Sponsored by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers States, the argument is that monies belonging to state governments are collected by the federal government and shared to states. According to Governor Wike, state money is taken by ‘Abuja people’, based on which he expressed ‘surprise at the level of injustice in the country’, arguing that ‘Rivers State generated about N15 billion as VAT in June 2021 but received only N4.7 billion, Lagos State generated over N46 billion as VAT in June, but got just over N9 billion, whereas Kano State generated N2.8 billion and also got N2.8 billion as allocation.’

Governor Wike can audaciously and shamelessly talk about VAT today because, its value has significantly increased which made it attractive for a rich state like Rivers to be interested in controlling it. If Governor Wike has any morality, he should look back and acknowledge how small Rivers must have received as its VAT share before 2015. Being a leading member of PDP, what was responsible for the low VAT records in the country between 1999 and 2015? And since, according to him and almost every leader of PDP, Nigerians are looking up to the PDP to rescue the nation from ‘bad governance’ in the hands of APC, does PDP’s brand of good governance come with low capacity to manage the nation’s public finances?

READ ALSO: Southern Governors Take Stand On National Issues At Enugu Meeting

As members of APC, it is important that Governor Wike is reminded that the current increased record of VAT collection in the country is made possible only because the PDP is no longer in power. If PDP were to be in power the fact of inefficiency and corruption in the process of collection and management of VAT would have continued and the amount collected would have remained relatively low. It is not by accident that VAT collection in the country significantly increased under the APC- led federal government. This is because one of the specific commitments of APC since 2015 as outlined in the section of the party’s manifesto Funding a New Nigeria was that ‘APC government will set about the urgent task of getting Nigeria’s public finances in order, by tackling the massive waste, duplication and corruption in the system, diversifying the economy and expanding our tax base to increase non-oil revenues, and reprioritising public spending away from bureaucracy towards investment in infrastructure and improved frontline services.’

Both in terms of ‘getting Nigeria’s public finances in order’ and ‘investment in infrastructure’, the APC -led Federal Government is implementing the provisions of the APC manifesto to the letter. Nigerian’s especially PDP leaders can conveniently dismiss all the work being done to develop Nigeria’s dilapidated and abandoned infrastructure, but the question of ‘expanding our tax base to increase non-oil revenue’ cannot be disputed. One strong evidence of that is the debate about states collecting VAT. It is very easy to play very cheap politics with these issues, partially because also, as a party, APC is not taking ownership of its achievements. Instead, its achievements are now being interpreted to justify some rebellious politics against the APC-led federal government.

Somehow, the VAT debate in Nigeria recalls the warning by Amartya Sen in the book, The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity, when he cautioned that ‘One of the penalties of the increased focus on religious and communal identities, which has recently gone hand in hand with the deliberate fostering of sectarian politics …, is a weakening of the pursuit of egalitarian commitments, which requires a more integrated focus on the interests and freedoms of deprived groups taken together (related to economic, social and gender-based stratifications). While political organisations that unite all the lower castes can – and often do – help the underdogs in general, that end is not served by the divisive politics of rivalry between different lower-caste groups …, or by religious sectarianism …. The newly erected communal boundary lines are not only divisive in themselves, they also add to the social and political difficulties in removing the old barriers of hardened inequality.”

So far, the VAT debate is more about perceived injustice on account of Nigeria’s divisive politics of ethnicity. Substantive issues of desirability or otherwise of VAT, including all the administrative challenges bordering on implications of methods of collection and why it is a crucially determining factor for any democracy are ignored. Part of the challenge of debating policy issues in Nigeria is that public noise, largely influenced by subjective anger of citizens becomes the guiding consideration. The subjective anger of citizens is mainly about the blind politics of dismissing whatever is associated with the Federal Government as biasedly in favour of a section of the country, however it is defined. With or without justification, many Nigerians who dominate the media space accuse the Federal Government of injustice. In several respects, ethnicised campaigns are further entrenching divisive politics, thereby increasing social and political inequality. As things are, Nigerian politics is blind to ‘egalitarian commitments’ of promoting national integration.

With respect to the specific issue of VAT, if the federal government can record increase of more than hundred percent between 2015 and 2020, is the current figure representative of the total expected collection from VAT? Simple reading of all the federal government revenue projections as contained in every year’s budget estimate will indicate a wide gap in expectation. Although there is a remarkable increase in collection, it should be recognised that a lot more can be done to generate more revenue from VAT. Can transferring collection to state governments achieve that? May be and maybe not. But beyond the question of what is collected and what states get, what is even the economic implications of VAT?

READ ALSO: You Can’t Collect VAT Revenues Yet, Appeal Court Tells Rivers, Lagos

Generally, debate around tax is about how governments can use it to influence economic development. As a fiscal policy tool, it is basically about controlling the amount of money individuals should have for consumption. Will government tax policy seek to support low-income groups, i.e., ensure that the higher income groups pay more tax? Or will government tax policy disfavour the lower income group. The first test of whether any government can make any claim to being progressive will be reflected in the orientation of its tax policy. A progressive government will generally be associated with a progressive tax policy, which means it will seek to tax the rich more. A conservative government will tax the rich less. Beyond who is taxed more, taxing the poor less is proven economically to be a strong incentive to increase demands for goods and services. If government wants to ensure increased production of goods and services in the country, increasing the amount of money available to low-income groups is an attraction. Therefore, in addition to a progressive tax policy being in favour of low-income group, given that low-income group are in the majority, any government that wants to be popular with citizens would lean towards a progressive tax policy.

Given that VAT is basically a sales tax, which is regressive because both the rich and the poor pay the same rates, and to that extent therefore makes it disadvantageous in terms of using it as a fiscal policy instrument to stimulate demand, ideally the politics of debating it should distinguish conservative and progressive politicians. Somehow, the public noise in Nigeria has pulled our dear Lagos State government into teaming up with Rivers in the legal battle to ensure that states win the right of collecting VAT and not federal government.

Something must have just gone wrong for Lagos State to disregard its longstanding historical commitment to progressive governance and embrace what in the long run will be a disadvantage to the majority of Lagosians.

Mr. Simon Kolawole, the publisher of The Cable online newspaper has excellently demonstrated why in the long run VAT collection by states governments may be disadvantageous to both Rivers and Lagos States. According to Mr. Kolawole, in ‘2020, Nigeria earned N1.531tr from VAT. While local VAT was N763bn, foreign VAT — collected by FG — was N768bn. Therefore, rather than take just 15% (N230bn) from the N1.531trn, FG may now pocket the entire N768bn from foreign VAT since it does not go into federation account and may not be subject to the regular sharing formula. That would deprive the states, Rivers and Lagos inclusive, of about half of the total VAT revenue. This is HUGE. The FCT may also win as it generated N202bn in VAT last year but got only N34.6bn as its share.’

The desire to access more resource is perhaps the main driving factor in the battle to get state governments to collect VAT in the country. Wouldn’t it be possible to work with federal government and manage all the challenges, including ensuring that businesses are not necessarily encumbered by having to deal with multiple points of collection? There is no need to go into the details about how decentralised collection can impact on prices of products and services. Also, no need to go into the potential conflicts that would emerge between branch offices of companies and state governments in the country. All these are issues that would be instigated because VAT collected at the point of sales by a branch of company is expected to be remitted to the host state government where the head office is located. If state governments want to control what is generated in their states therefore, the administrative framework of how it is remitted to government and which government will be a major issue.

Nigerian democracy and politics must functionally rise above sentiment. Instead of debating how to consume the little resources so far available, Nigerian political leaders should be debating how to increase available resources. Even within the limit of the debate about increased available resources, the question of what governments need to do, policy measures required, including issues of tax, its administration and orientation in terms of whether it should favour the low or high-income groups should not be issues that would be blindly considered. In the same way Rivers and Lagos imagined that they would have more revenue if they were allowed to collect VAT and therefore control everything, they collected without sharing with the federal government and other states, states like Osun, Ekiti, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Abia, would lose. On the other hand, Oyo, Ogun, Kano, Kaduna and Enugu, may be the surprise actual gainers.

Overall, APC leaders, must take advantage of the current VAT debate to take ownership of its achievements, which the fact of improved VAT collections in the country represents. In doing so, APC leaders must go beyond the narrow debate about access to what is currently available. If at all APC leaders and members are to make any claim to progressive political credentials, generating large-scale financial resources at both federal and state levels, which should be deployed to expand the productive base of the nation’s economy, should be the aspiration. There is no reason why any state in the country, including Zamfara, Yobe, Osun, Ekiti, Abia, Ebonye, should not aspire to generate at least N10 – 15 billion monthly as Internally Generated Revenue. To be caught in the backward debate about whether they should have the little they currently receive from the federation account is retrogressive. As a nation, our politics and democracy must be refocused towards nurturing the productive potentials of every state.

READ ALSO: Lagos Signs VAT Bill Into Law

The commitment to develop capacity to mobilise large-scale financial resources to develop productive potential of all Nigerian states should be the minimum requirement for all APC leaders. Already, since the time of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as Governor of Lagos State between 1999 and 2007, Lagos State has emerged to be the leader in mobilising large-scale financial resources in the country, which is why it is the only state with about one trillion Naira annual budget. Justifiably, Lagos was able to undertake large-scale public investment commensurate with its resource base. It’s not by accident therefore, it is the leader in the country with a model transport infrastructure. If the Lagos vision is limited to sharing available resources, it wouldn’t have been the leader it is.

The VAT debate in the country also poses a significant challenge to political parties in terms of developing capacity to coordinate policy debate within the structures of parties as well as ensuring that policies of governments produced by the party reflect any emerging consensus. Somehow, the current VAT debate in the country is completely removed from the structures of the main political parties – PDP and APC. If the debate is to take place within the structures of PDP, for instance, even the sectarian outburst of Governor Wike will be moderated. On the other hand, if the debate is to take place in any of the organs of APC, the question of the role of APC federal government in achieving improved collections will be well emphasised. In addition, the potential to mobilise more revenue from VAT and the expected role of state governments cannot be avoided.

The need to develop Nigerian democracy so that political parties in the country can initiate pro-people and pro-poor public policies, and not cheap sentiments that can be disadvantageous to citizens, especially the poor, is an urgent imperative. Important as the debate around increased access to resources by state governments, so long as political leaders are not commitment to initiatives that can develop the productive capacity of the country, the amount of revenue generated will remain low. The other issue is that all APC leaders must be appealed to jealously guard the achievements of APC and all its governments. Why should APC leaders allow a situation whereby any PDP leader, including Governor Wike, can make claims of any injustice on a matter that demonstrated in practical terms the failure of PDP? If VAT is an important source of revenue for government, why did PDP fail to record any significant collection throughout their sixteen years as a ruling party?

Every opportunity to remind Nigerians about the failure of PDP should be amplified. Similarly, all evidence of success of APC and its governments should be affirmed. APC leaders must take ownership of all the achievements of APC governments at all levels. On no account should APC leaders allow opportunistic rebellious politics of PDP and its leaders to distract them from the task of providing the needed progressive leadership to develop the nation’s productive potential. As a nation, the question of fighting poverty and reducing inequality both among citizens and across all the 36 states of the country should be the egalitarian commitment of all progressive political leaders in the country. If Nigerians are to be united, it must be based on equitable productive resource endowment across every part of the country!

Dr.Lukman is the Director-General of the Progressive Governors Forum, Abuja. This position does not represent the view of any APC governor or the Progressive Governors Forum.

 

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Opinion

Critical Thinking And Question-storming In Schools

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Critical Thinking And Question-storming In Schools

By

Leo Igwe

Teaching critical reasoning is set to transform the learning culture in schools. At the moment, a lot is missing in the school system. And these gaps are negatively impacting learning and education. The school system puts too much emphasis on rote learning. School pupils are expected to memorize whatever they are taught and then reproduce them during examinations as a demonstration of knowledge.

Many students are compelled to cram to pass their examinations. The prevailing model of education does not encourage the active participation of students in the learning process. The school system has turned children into passive recipients and recyclers of information and ideas. In other words, learning mainly is teacher-, not student-centered. Pupils have to commit every piece of information to memory. Many students are unable to question and interrogate whatever they are taught or told. But with the introduction of critical reasoning in schools, this form of education is about to change. It would no longer be a rote-learning business as usual.

READ ALSO: Critical Thinking And Superstitions Among Youths In Africa

A different mode of education and pedagogy informs the subject of critical reasoning. The human mind is not only a storehouse of facts and information. It is a device to process and evaluate knowledge and experiences. The norm in schools makes posing questions the prerogative of teachers. Teachers ask questions mainly to assess students. And students ask questions often at the discretion of teachers.

This culture of learning does not provide ample opportunity for students to sufficiently exercise their minds. The introduction of critical reasoning as a subject would address this need in the school system. Lessons have been designed to make students more curious and to provoke them to probe and inquire. Learning materials have been formulated to help children to question storm, not brainstorm, in schools.

READ ALSO: Critical Thinking And Transformation Of Teaching In Primary Schools

So a different way of schooling and learning is presenting itself. Will schools and school managers seize this opportunity and improve the culture of education and learning?

 

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