By Sylvester Udemezue
The appointment of Professor Tahir Mamman as Nigeria’s Education Minister is a square-peg-in-a-square-hole decision, and comes at a most auspicious time. In my opinion, only very few appointments on the entire Ministerial list could be reasonably described as apt as his. Before he assumed office as the Vice Chancellor of Baze University, Professor Tahir Mamman had performed fantastically well as the Director-General of the Nigerian Law School: 2005-2013. A humble, sagastic and pragmatic administrator, Tahir Mamman had in 2008 introduced a reform that radically changed for the better, the entire landscape of teaching and learning in the Nigerian Law School by introducing what is now known as the “New Curriculum”, a new system of teaching and learning that measures meets international best practices and prevailing 21st-century benchmarks in the sector. Of Nigerian Law School’s “New Curriculum”, I was later to write:
“Teaching in the Law School under the New Curriculum[xiii] is practice-based, and is aimed at producing lawyers who would be in a position to measure up to contemporary benchmarks and international best practices in the legal profession…. vocational training at the Nigerian Law School under the New Curriculum is not just business as usual. The system appears somewhat challenging, and is designed to ensure that only serious-minded people are enrolled into the legal profession, which itself is rather tasking. Accordingly, success in the Law School depends much more on hard work and determination than on mere possession of talent; at the Nigerian Law School, hard work would beat talent if talent does not work hard. There is no room for anything goes; the School is not a dumping ground for the “never-do-wells,” who try to get enlisted into the legal profession through the back door”.
See: “CONTEMPORARY TRAINING AT THE NIGERIAN LAW SCHOOL: AN INSIDER’S ACCOUNT” [29 January 2017; <https://udemsyl.wordpress.com/2017/01/29/education-at-the-nigerian-law-school-an-insiders-acount/>]. To cut a long story short, one may not be wrong if one held the view that the New Curriculum in the Nigerian Law School is not only a brainchild of, but is indeed synonymous with, Tahir Mamman! Tahir Mamman is among the best Directors-General the Nigerian Law School has ever had, having carried out other innovative development efforts that changed the face of that great law citadel. Speaking generally, four other qualities stand Tahir Mamman out as an outstanding leader of this century:
- HE’S AN EFFECTIVE MANAGER OF PEOPLE: Stuart Pearce thinks that “management is about…managing people via man-to-man skills”, while Agha Hasan Abedi has this to say: “The conventional definition of management is getting work done through people, but real management is developing people through work”.
- A PRAGMATIC, IMAGINATIVE THINKER: Pragmatic leaders focus on the practical — “how do we get this done”, and in doing this, they work hard to remain sensitive to others. Indeed, in order to avoid anxiety, a pragmatic leader will ensure to socialize his thoughts and ideas with all stakeholders before formalizing any approach. Pragmatic leaders build healthy relationships with people and influence them towards positive outcomes.
- A HUMBLE, UNASSUMING LISTENING LEADER: Being a good listener is absolutely critical to being a good leader. Yousef Munayyer said, “Humility is a great quality of leadership which derives respect and not just fear or hatred”.
- A BROADMINDED, ALL-INCLUSIVE ADMINISTRATOR: Simon Sinek once said, _”One of the best paradoxes of leadership is [that] a leader’s need to be both stubborn and open-minded. A leader must insist on sticking to the vision and stay on course to the destination. But he must be open-minded during the process.”
Tahir Mamman is a colossal man of action; not the type who waits to believe in action before acting, but the one who acts as he breathes. He understands that the true test of a real leader lies in action, and that good leadership is all about impacting lives. If a leader fails to positively impact lives, then he’s not a good leader, even if people keep telling him that he’s one. Truth is, he’s not, because the essence of good leadership is not just in spotting the problems but in providing solutions to the problems. Besides, good leadership is synonymous with thinking out of the box. And this is why Tahir Mamman’s apposite; he has foresight, is broadminded, and has the exceptional habit of knowing how to assemble pragmatic and capable hands on the job, to ensure timely effectiveness. Leaders that aim to succeed must adopt all-inclusiveness as their motto, so as to be able to create an environment in which all individuals and sections feel empowered to express their opinions freely within the larger group. Diversity of thinking is critical to effective collaboration and management. A leader has not begun leading until the leader has learned to rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns, to the broader concerns of all members of team/society that he leads, and in fact the whole of humanity. In Jesse Jackson’s words, “inclusiveness is not a matter of political correctness. It is the key to growth. When everyone is included, everyone wins.”
Apart from being a great innovator, one more attribute which many a Nigerian leader lacks, but which is present in Tahir Mamman, is the wisdom to understand that good leaders are not known nor made by the number of their subjects they tramp down, trample upon or cause to tremble in trepidation.
It also needs to be given to him that he’s an effective manager of diversity. Check this out: Prof Tahir Mamman, a chieftain of the All Progressives Party (APC) and member of the Bola Ahmed Tinubu Presidential Campaign Council during the 2023 presidential elections in Nigeria, remained (throughout the period, and until his current appointment) the Vice Chancellor of Baze University, an institution owned by Yusuf Baba Datti-Ahmed, the Vice Presidential Candidate od the Labour Party (Eluu P) in the same election. What do you say about the fact Tahir Mamman was able to effectively manage the situation and diverse interests, and being careful to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what’s God’s?
Fellow Nigerian, I praise President Tinubu for his foresight in choosing Tahir Mamman to serve as the Education Minister for the next four years. I strongly believe that if given a reasonable level of free-hand to operate and manage his ministry, Tahir Mamman would assemble capable hands to effectively implement positive, radical reforms that would help to lift Nigeria’s education sector from its current doldrums of acute decay, rottenness and appalling dilapidation. Tahir Mamman comes on board at a very critical time. Nigeria’s education sector is too backward. And unless and until we get it right in education, we might never begin the type of progress necessary to lift Nigeria to a top-player position in the comity of nations. In an earlier commentary, I wrote:
‘…education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change your country and the world… an investment in education pays the greatest dividend….. education is not the filling of the pail; it is the lighting of a fire. Good and quality education replaces an empty mind with an open mind… a country without good and quality education is bereft of good life…education is not just a preparation for life; it is life itself. ”A nation without a good education and education system possesses no soul!”’ [See: “A Nation`s Journey To True Greatness: What Nigerians Must Copy In the Americans” by Sylvester Udemezue on May 29, 2017; <
No doubt, one of the best and easiest ways to bring development and civilization to a country is to start by developing its education system and sector. But I must quickly add that Education is everyone’s responsibility; hence, let’s lend our helping hands to leaders in that sector in order to succeed.
All eyes on Professor Tahir Mamman; failure is ruled out because you’ve during your 2,928 days as the Director-General of the Nigerian Law School, set for yourself an enviable standard, below which you must never perform. Best wishes, prof, sir. God help Nigeria!
Sylvester Udemezue (Udems)
(17 August 2023)