#IsBubuForReal? : Nigerians, you cannot afford to school abroad, maybe you should come back home
Yes, he is in fact very serious. On March 5, 2015, President Buhari (Bubu) welcomed questions from Aljazeera correspondent, Martine Dennis. After being quizzed about the different sectors of the economy, Dennis zoned in on one of Nigeria’s many problems; the depreciation of the Naira and how, despite pressure from the international community, the president has refused to devalue the Naira.
Due to high foreign currency exchange rates, local entrepreneurs have not been able to import the materials that they need for production. Most importantly, for parents with children in universities outside the country, this has been a tortuous experience. In some cases, the students could face the risk of expulsion due to a lack of funds.
In response to the allegation that Bubu is strangling the economy, the former army general calmly said that “Nigeria can only afford to live within its means” suggesting that Nigeria needs to look inwards and make use of locally made products instead of importing virtually everything. Dennis then went further to ask the President about parents that can no longer afford to pay their children’s fees. Here is what Buhari had to say:
Martine Dennis (MD): “What about people that are more privileged like yourself, you’ve got children schooling abroad, there are parents in Nigeria with kids in universities and schools abroad who are now facing the possibility of having to pull their kids out. They actually cannot afford to make the payment for school fees.”
Bubu: “Well (shrugs), if the country cannot afford it, so be it.”
MD: “But your children will continue their studies, no doubt.”
Bubu: (pauses) “those who can afford it, can still afford it” (pause) “for those that can’t, Nigeria cannot afford it, Nigeria can’t pay, allocate foreign exchange for all those that have decided to train their children outside the country. We just can’t afford it.”
MD: “So it’s tough luck.”
Bubu: (shrugs), “well… that’s the true situation we are in.”
Bubu was not diplomatic?
Since the release of the video, Bubu has been criticized by some Nigerians who feel that he should have been more diplomatic in answering the questions. Many feel that he should have been more sensitive and sympathetic towards the plight of the parents whose children go to school outside the country. However, other Nigerians stand by the president. They think that what the president has said is the reality and that change is a gradual process that all Nigerians must be willing to sacrifice for (even if it entails the students abroad coming back to Nigeria in order to complete their education).
The reality of Nigerian universities
In recent times, the reason why many parents sponsor their children to school outside the country has become more than a matter of affluence, especially given the poor state of Nigerian universities. Inadequate infrastructure is one of the major issues Nigerian university students and lecturers have to deal with regularly. There are also other problems such as the high ratio of students to lecturers, unconducive learning environments, poorly stocked libraries, incessant strikes and a host of other complications.
Next time Bubu, campaign for change
President sir, the next time you are asked about all matters pertaining to ForEx and schooling abroad, please don’t just say “well that’s the reality” which may come off as nonchalant, instead, say something along the lines of: “we are working towards building world class universities all over the country, so we encourage Nigerian students to come back and continue their schooling here,” then close with a kind of aluta continua chant like: “we shall work together to make this CHANGE happen.”
And then…work, Mr. President, work hard.
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