Osunnuga has written on “let’s kill ASUU with their strikes once and for all.”
Each time ASUU goes on strike, their last option to call government to the plight of the universities, there would be many calls and cries to the union to sheathe its sword and return to the classroom. Among such calls, one seems to always stand out because it has become a refrain each time there is a strike: ‘ASUU should device other means, apart from strike, to compel the government to honour agreement’’.
Unfortunately, the proponents of ‘other means’ have not come out with suggestions or ideas about how to engage a government that is obstinately averse to honouring agreements. It is so sad that avoidable industrial action is always allowed to spell further doom for Nigeria’s epileptic educational system. More worrisome is the silence of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), the future of whose members have been mortgaged and short-changed. NANS has allowed partisan politics and love of money to rob it of its constitutional duties to teeming Nigerian youths whose future are bleaker than ever before. It is disheartening that NANS could even wait on ASUU to always declare a strike to compel the government fund the universities. Surprisingly, NANS seems to have woken up from its slumber; hopefully NANS can drive the government to take appropriate actions with a view to resolving the dispute to the benefits of the universities.
One would have expected that the quality education President Buhari and some of his ministers enjoyed to create awareness and to help them deal with the numerous problems that FG/ASUU agreement seeks to address but reverse is the case, at least up until this moment. The president seems to be more confused than ever before and has lost self-belief. His attitude, the deafening silence, and utterances of his ministers about the strike suggest he has no answer to the rot that has eaten deep into the universities. He should come out of his shell and stop giving ineffective backroom orders that have no venom. Unfortunately, I am not the president, if I was, this strike would end within hours.
One, the president should at least for once, be more concerned about the plight of our students and their study environment because the unending meetings his delegates have held with ASUU did not yield any results. Labour minister, Chris Ngige and his education counterpart have only succeeded in deceiving the public each time they said, ‘we have made progress’, because in reality it is deadlock.
If I were Mr President, I will think less about IPPIS; his major distraction and divert the resources and energy reserved for prodding a defective platform, which has been found unreliable not just by ASUU but other staff unions, towards solving the immediate problems in our education system. If Mr President wants his name in the memory of teeming Nigerian youth, honouring FG/ASUU agreement is one of the sure bankers that will convince the youth that he feels their pains.
What exactly is the amount of the revitalisation fund in comparison to the future of our youths? The amount of money his cabinet has spent on organizing political jamborees and unnecessary gatherings will buy several computers for some universities. The trillions of naira spent on members of National Assembly since 2015 would be enough to turn around the universities for better for the benefit of millions of Nigerian youths. Interestingly, the president does not have the interest of the youths at heart hence the nonchalant attitude towards agreement the government freely entered. After all, he had once called them ‘lazy Nigerian youths’.
The members of National Assembly have not helped matters either; they have been economical with the truth, unable to call the president to order. Honestly, one cannot blame them since they also benefit from the rot in our universities. How will the Senate president clamour for a better university system when his children never attended any public university?
Of course, every discerning Nigerian knows why the government always wants ASUU to go on strike. The top government officials benefit immensely because many of them singularly or jointly own private universities. People like former President Obasanjo, Vice President Atiku and President Buhari’s associates who own private universities would always smile to the banks because during such a prolonged strike, impatient parents will patronize their institutions. Besides, senior government officials and politicians do not have children in the public universities, so they are not affected even if ASUU goes on strike for a decade. A well-funded Nigerian university system will mean loss of patronage and profits for their proprietors in corridors of power. The educational non-governmental organizations also play lip service to the future of Nigerian youths as far as university education is concerned. Almost all of them have kept silent without voicing against the rot on Nigeria’s campuses. They curry favours from foreign donors under the pretext of a non-functional educational system. The implication is that if federal government funded education to acceptable standard, the NGOs would fade away and lose financial aids they enjoy.
Perhaps the government has not thought of the effect of the rot on our campuses and its implication on nation building. We have a system that believes and promotes dysfunctional learning; hence the best brains among our youth are drained by the western world. Apart from older generation seasoned and a few individuals, many of the millennium lecturers in both public and private universities are products of a defective system. How and what they deliver in classes is what the system indoctrinated in them. The trend continues and we shall soon have these millennium lecturers as professors and university administrators. One wonders what quality these ones will bring into the system.
As it stands, our university education system has placed a lot of importance on academic excellence, which is mostly unattainable. Achieving a grade is the ultimate dream of any student not minding if the facility was in place for proper tutelage. Excellence in exam is what the government and parents use to gauge the learner and ultimately determine the economic failure or success of an individual. Neither the government nor the parents care to know how defective the procedure that moulded the graduates was. The culture of ‘certificate matters’ at all costs is a sad reality that has resulted in prevalence of social and political evils such as corruption, moral decadence, and leadership failure.
Members of ASUU, to the best of my knowledge, have not claimed to be saints or perfectionists and indeed, they share part of the blame. Many of our lecturers and professors are guilty of advancing the concept of utilitarianism in our universities. Some of them teach with the sole aim of giving grades to their students because the facilities required to augment teaching are not there. The intellectual discourses that were characteristic of our universities in the 1980 and 1990s are long gone; our lectures have mastered the art of dictating notes to students as the only mode of delivery. From the federal, state to private, many of our universities have failed to promote scholarship in the real sense of the term. Many professors have become contractors and prefer executive positions to academic. Many of them have failed to serve as mentors to younger academic because they are not on their seats to offer direction and guidance.
I wonder how many professorial chairs that are truly funded by either corporate organisations or government. If the chairs were not funded, how would the professors conduct research? Can we totally blame the lecturers when their take home pay end at the fuel pump? Can we blame them when they cannot meet their needs because of meagre salaries and wages? Do we expect the lecturers to equip their offices and laboratories with their personal money?
Osunnuga writes from Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State.