Will Bauchi State MoE Miss Dr Tilde?

Adamu Muhammad Hamid PhD

Monday this week, Dr Aliyu Usman Tilde, the Bauchi state commissioner of education announced his resignation from the cabinet of the Bauchi state government on his verified Facebook account, ‘ to allow me to attend to a call of an associate who direly needs my services’, according to him. His resignation came as a shock to many but the reason he adduced for it looked unreal to careful observers. Unreal because in most of his public discussions, he characteristically expounds his lifetime commitment to salvaging the woes of the education sector in Bauchi state. He talked about the huge personal sacrifice that he was always ready to make for this onerous calling. Now that he’s got the opportunity to deal with the monster bedevilling the state’s education sector frontally, it’s unimaginable that he would excuse himself to attend an associate’s private calling. Those who know Dr Tilde personally would attest that he could ignore his family affairs for any patriotic public calling relating to prosecuting change to grassroots education. 

Again, why wouldn’t he wait till the end of the Administration’s 4-year tenure lapsing in 5 months and 23 days to make his exit smoother? His exit at the material time looked ill-timed due to political activities rolled out in the contest for the Government House via the 2023 election. Further, the state government struggled hard to retain him despite a major squabble between him and members of the State Assembly, which ensued during a budget defence last few months.

Because of the general public attitude to drastic policies for change, workers of the ministry of education and members of the public who perceived his policies were not favorable to them resisted him staunchly, some openly, some from hiding. Being a respected public commentator, Dr Tilde was not unaware that drastic change is resisted in a system as rotten as ours, where funds allocated for public schools are channelled to personal use by officials. That may probably be the reason he ignored all accusations and confronted his tasks frontally every day. His lips were observably dry all the time during office hours partly because he used any available opportunity to explain himself and his policies to people, and sometimes because he walks round schools to see situations for himself, avoiding delegation as much as possible as to him, most officials in the system aren’t trustworthy.

For those who do not know him, Dr Aliyu Usman hails from Tilde, Toro Local Government Area, Bauchi state, born in 1961 to a family famed for Islamic scholarship and jurisprudence. This context of his background may explain the first things he did in his assumption of office as commissioner of education and on his resignation. Upon assuming office, he boldly inscribed on the whiteboard behind his table inside his office the verse of Surah al Nisa’ “ …and He taught you what you knew not, verily His favours on you are tremendous!” And announcing to the public his exit from the office on his Facebook page, he began by inscribing the verse of Surah al Isra    ‘And say: O my Lord! Let my entry be by the Gate of Truth and Honor, and my exit by the Gate of Truth an Honor, and grant me from Thy Presence aiding Authority.” This disposition speaks volumes of his background and worldview

Having graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in the 80s classifies him among third or fourth-generation educated elites of northern Nigeria. He rose in academics until he became PhD and later on in life enrolled for Law at the University of Jos and bagged LLB Degree. Though he had a brief stint in the university system as a lecturer at Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto, he did not waste time under government employment. He was soon a private person operating a dairy farm and secondary and tertiary schools. He also made several attempts in the past at personally providing a system of free basic education in Tilde to nomadic and out-of-school children.

His public life dwelled as a columnist for many newspapers and magazines among which are Weekly Trust (Friday Discourse), Daily Trust and Citizen Magazine. The majority of the subject of his discourses focused on the clogs in the education sector. For example, in one of his articles published by Daily Trust in the early 2000s, with some degree of precision he diagnosed the problems of the ministry of education and curriculum delivery in Bauchi state which may probably be why the former governor of the state Muazu engaged him to transplant the Special School system in the state. The program recorded outstanding success, which in turn was probably the reason Gov. Abdulkadir Mohammed appointed him commissioner of education. He was also popular in dealing with controversial subjects like Ramadan moon sighting, astronomy and Islamic jurisprudential aspects of the matter. 

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Soon after the assumption of duty as Honorable Commissioner of Education, Dr Tilde embarked on critical strategies to change the norm in the ministry. He was fond of expounding that his business was to recover the lost glory of education in the state. He used to talk reminiscent of the system of dining in Dining Halls, Roll Call, Bed-Check, Prep, sporting activities, which characterized the school system in the past old days. So, he introduced the Merit Schools whose admission was through the conduct of serious examinations.  Because he stood his ground to admit only the students who merited the schools, his policy became so unpopular with parents who wanted the school for their children that did not qualify. His argument for the Merit Schools was that the schools were going to be boarding schools to provide the entire necessary conducive atmosphere for learning in secondary school. He was going to test the concept! That government spends a lot to keep students in boarding schools (about N90, 000 per annum, according to estimates in 2020), such spending must be for students who merited it.

Then came the policy of the government paying SSCE registration to only students who passed Mock examinations. He argued that there was no point in the government spending huge sums paying registration for students who were going to fail the examinations in the final analysis. It was better for the ministry to filter through the Mock examinations those students who were hypothesized to pass and pay registration for them. Very logical as this policy may seem, yet it engendered a protracted and rancorous controversy among the people. The majority of people wanted the blanket payment to continue, which of course during past administrations made the state government hugely indebted to public examination bodies, which was gradually settled by the administration of Dr Tilde.

The gentleman Dr Tilde also attempted sanitizing the procurement system for schools, especially on feeding. He changed the contract system initially undertaken by the Corporate Finance Agency (CFA) and other contractors. Again, this also generated a lot of popularity baggage for him from those who fed fat on the existing system. He did not care, believing that he was serving the students right, who are the ultimate beneficiaries of school feeding.   In fact, he recruited food monitors to various boarding schools across the state to supervise food distribution and feeding of students. This was to checkmate the open abuse of office of principals and storekeepers in schools, who run flamboyant lives extorting from school feeding.

He removed from the office most school principals and appointed new ones; according to him, the new ones were more likely to obey instructions fast. And there was a massive transfer of education officers frequently. Moreover, to ensure education officers’ punctuality, he introduced biometric attendance (fingerprint terminal machines), which according to him transmit information on their regularity to classrooms.  

At the same time, he reduced school fees from N 2700, 00 to N700,00 per session in public schools across the state, payable to a single account controlled by the ministry. This one also raised his popularity in the state but set school administrations against him. He also stopped indiscriminate random and irregular admissions and transfer of students.

He also spearheaded the enforcement of gender interaction discipline in schools by introducing single-gender schools. In fact, this was one of his outstanding achievements in making schools in tandem with community tradition, values and religion. However, despite the thundering applause he received from both Muslim and Christian clergy, some disgruntled elements sponsored a score of students to go on street demonstrations against the policy.

Soon after assuming office, he moved for making Directors and senior officials of the ministry to have to comply with ICT. This one also enraged many of them against him.

 It must also be mentioned to his credit that, in order to promote the model in the legendary Sa’adu Zungur who was a sound ideologue, Dr Tilde championed the renaming of Bauchi State University, Gadau to Sa’adu Zungur University, Gadau. Immortalizing the late Sa’adu Zungur this way was to teach younger ones the virtue of being exemplary.

With him, at the helm of affairs, the ministry was at least one that respected merit, and corruption had been addressed to the barest minimum. Now here is his sudden exit! So far there has never been a report that he fell out of the governor’s favour. That he exists now, and given how flimsy the reason adduced for his exit looks, many hypotheses are in place. From among them, the one that looks valid, given the context and circumstance of the commissioner’s operations, some information is making the rounds that the governor, in his readiness to face the 2023 reelection, engaged a few people to sample public opinion on his administration. The result of opinion sampling pointed out that Tilde was one of the heaviest baggage on the popularity of his administration. So there was this assumption that the governor intimated to him on the situation, so they resolved in favour of strategizing for the administration to gain popularity, instead of retaining the technocrat Tilde. But come to think of it, if the administration actually believes that Dr Tilde was doing the right thing necessary for the state to develop public education-wise, he should continue; posterity would be the juror. If Governor Abdulkadir loses the election based on what he believes to be the right thing for grassroots education and well-being, so be it. He will be judged by posterity as the most honourable governor the state ever had. Leaders should start learning to desist from changing what they solemnly believe to be the right thing to do because of popularity issues and fear of losing elections. Popularity issues may count against you today because people are ignorant, so they vote not based on quality information but on sentiments. But for example, later when Dr Tilde’s policies bear fruits, new generations get sound education, in future, educated people would vote based on sound opinions because they are educated. 

Some of the criticisms mentioned about Tilde which may seemingly have validity are that he’s so much in a hurry to achieve change, while dealing with human beings, as opposed to dealing with physical objects like woods and stones, which needs gradualism. Policies that must take more than four years to reasonably bear effect cannot be forced to show impact in a year. Observers also say he wants to take credit at all times; and he does that by publicizing by himself through all channels possible that he did this or that, which ordinarily he should have allowed others to “blow the trumpet” for him. This way in some of the genuine things made by him, people would only realize after his lifetime and pray for him, which is better.

There’s also the issue that he feels only his ideas are superior, only his ideas can work in the circumstance. I’m afraid that he cannot change because somehow it’s genetic. This is characteristic of exceptionally intelligent people like him. The same has been said of el Rufai.

His detractors also say that in actual sense, he did not record anything outstanding when he was in-charge of the Special Schools in the 2000s. They say he was just shrewd to have run examinations which selected the best students in academic performance from schools, then brought them together in the special schools. It logically follows that because he selected ‘A” students, even without his arrangement, the students would have completed their SSCE with “A” grades and would have become medical doctors and pilots thereafter. The best thing would have been for his system to make students who would ordinarily fail but for his arrangement. So he did nothing spectacular because the students he selected were eventually going to pass with ‘A” even without his arrangement. This argument apparently looks true but it suffers from the category mistake fallacy, because it may not be true of all cases.

Whether or not the Bauchi State Ministry of Education is going to miss Dr Tilde or not would depend largely on the significant differences between the performance of students in SSCE before and after his stewardship. If there happens to be a significant difference in performance in favour of exams after his policy as opposed to those before, then whoever wins the 2023 election must please look for him and entrust him with the assignment to continue and ignore for the meantime the pulse of public opinion. Public opinion isn’t always right, in fact, it’s most of the time wrong! And this is one of the antics of democracy; it reveals only the popular but not necessarily the competent.  If no one at the Ministry misses Dr Tilde now, posterity, definitely, would.


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