By Dr John Adejah
To many people around the world the prestigious PhD degree is a symbol of of academic excellence signifying the attainment of uncanny proficiency and abilities in a particular field of endeavor and therefore deserving the respect, reverence and admiration of all even when you disagree with certain positions canvassed by those who have acquired such knowledge.
However, in contemporary Nigeria , this acronym seem to have assumed a different and very sinister meaning such that it is now derisively known as PULL HIM DOWN, and to some people , has become a syndrome that seeks to destroy anything good especially when it involves the efforts of men of goodwill who through their selfless contributions have advanced the cause of national development. The current trend of impugning the integrity of anyone who had served in government or seeks to serve by the proponents of this syndrome just to tarnish the image of patriots and in effect prevent them from achieving or continuing in their stride of service to humanity has now taken dangerous dimensions.
How else can we describe the ridiculous, malicious,canterkerous and diabolical attempt by some agents of the above described syndrome to drag to the mud of ignominy the hard earned and unimpeachable Integrity and achievements of Professor Mahmood Yakubu, who has just finished his first term in office as Executive Secretary of Tertiary Education Trust Fund(TETFund)? In saner climes , the achievements of the amiable Professor should have been rewarded with a National Honour from a grateful nation,but rather what we see is the inglorious attempt by amateurish conscripts to associate his sterling efforts with criminal official impunity whose only credibility is at the warped imagination of the curators of the story. But the question is: who is fraud of this achiever? What are they scared of? One can only answer these questions by taking a cursory look at the performance of Professor Mahmood as Executive Secretary of TETFund against the backdrop of what he inherited in 2007 when he was first appointed .
The TETFUND as an education interventionist agency established in 1992 merely existed as a palliative organ rendering grossly inadequate financial support to public institutions across board which was insignificant to the real and tangible needs of these institutions.
Little wonder why there was a lot of clamor for its scrapping especially from vocal members of stakeholder Unions in the sector prior to the assumption of office of the Mahmood led management. When late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua assumed office, he heed the voices of reason and rationality which called for the appointment of not only a consummate professional from the system as Executive Secretary but one who has the burning passion for educational development at heart and the will to drive the necessary reforms needed at the Fund. The President didn’t have to look far to get the right man best suited for the daunting challenge. He tapped Professor Yakubu, the first and only first class graduate of history from the North till date,who was on secondment from the Nigeria Defense Academy where he was a lecturer to the Federal Ministry of Education.
At the Ministry , he was a member of the very dynamic Oby Ezekwesili Educational Transformation Team which received plaudits from Nigerians for their far reaching recommendations for the turn around of the fortunes of education in Nigeria.
His appointment was also historic in itself being the first academic ever to head the funding Agency. Professor Mahmood’s passion to turn around the fortunes of tertiary education in Nigeria is best captured in the first public statement he made on appointment. Hear him“I know that we complain in the corridors of the University that things are very bad, and therefore an opportunity to serve in ETF is an opportunity for me to try and make some difference if not all the difference. And I have always said that I have a personal agenda to make the University system better because that’s where am going back”.
Having stated his mission statement he engaged with the stakeholders to strictly apply the interventions of the Agency on their core mandates of teaching and research through the upgrading of academic physical infrastructure such as laboratories, workshops, libraries, classrooms/theatres; the provision of instructional materials; and above all, the development of human capacity through the postgraduates training of lecturers of tertiary institutions within Nigeria and overseas.
Realizing that the then existing laws that gave life to the ETF were not suited for the transformation of tertiary education , he worked concertedly to ensure that the law was amended to give life to a more strategic Agency equipped for 21st century interventions of the type that was needed at the Fund. This he achieved with the support of the executive and legislative branches of government in 2011.
Under Professor Mahmood’s leadership of TETFund, a National Book Development Fund that supports one hundred and two(102) journals of professional associations was established. Similarly, the nation has, for the first time, a National Research Fund domiciled in TETFund. In addition, over five thousand, two hundred (5200) lecturers from tertiary institutions nationwide have so far been sponsored by TETFund for postgraduate studies out of which over one thousand, two hundred (1200) of them are right now studying in various universities overseas. This is the most aggressive training of lecturers in tertiary institutions in the history of education ever in Nigeria. This is a deviation from the usual practice before him where the only effort made to sponsor academic staff for postgraduate studies was a one-off allocation of N1.75m to each University.
Also, under Mahmood , the TETFUND witnessed a meteoric rise in the collection of Education Tax Receipts when it collected the sum N284.9 billion between 2008-2010 as against the N178.0billion collected between 1994-2007. This was as a result of the development of more imaginative ways of collection of Education Taxes by the Fund in active collaboration with the FIRS.
The effect of this increased collection is seen in the consistent increase in the allocations to tertiary institutions and the accompanying beautiful structures dotting the length and breadth of various tertiary institutions in Nigeria. This year alone , six Nigerian Universities for the first time broke into the ranks of top 100 Universities in Africa.
The TETFUND under him introduced the concept of High Impact Interventions for tertiary institutions wherein betwwen one to three billion naira is awarded to various institutions at once. This massive injection of funds is to progressivly upgrade facilities in the beneficiary institutions therby turning them into Centres of Academic Excellence. So far, over fifty tertiary institutions have benefitted from this intervention.
The TETFUND under him has continued to be shielded from political interference and remains the poster boy for accountability and transparency in the management of public trust. As at date, no single case of graft exists in any of the nation’s antigraft agencies against management of the TETFUND in general or him in particular.
Naturally , these types of resounding successes comes with opposition from agents of the Pull Him Down syndicate .These people who are averse to change and want the rot in the educational sector to continue so as to advance their pursuit of filty lucre will stop at nothing to checkmate this agent of revolutionary transformation. The fading statusquo suits their pilfering agenda and anyone who stands in their way is considered fair-game for these coldhearted merchants of destruction. However, Nigerians now know better and urge the President to do the needful by not only reappointing Prof Mahmood but also giving him the necessary support to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of the Committee on Needs Assessment of Nigerian Universities which he chaired and had since been adopted by the Federal Goverment as the Roadmap mdocument towards the restoration of the pride of the nation’s tertiary institutions.