ASUU: The real issues at stake
Irrespective of the current challenges bedevilling Nigeria, it doubtlessly still has some of the best brains in the world. This is why the sincere among enlightened are always troubled concerning why this country, with its abundant high quality human and natural resources, has not been able to surmount the myriad of challenges bedevilling it. The foremost reason for this is not far-fetched. As many observers have rightly noted, it has to do with the disastrous political elite the country has been saddled with.
To dispel any ambiguity, this class of elite is inclusive of the political interlopers in the form of military politicians! It is from this class of political elite that the country has been deriving its leadership. Every political entity is expected to have its history. This may or may not guide (all) towards making today better than yesterday. Thus, if a group of people allow their today’s condition to deteriorate, especially when the means to make it better is/are available, then something must be wrong (perhaps with such a people)!
Within this important sector (although, not considered so for “commoners” by Nigerian governments) are the public universities where Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been on a 12-week roll-over strike since May 9. This is a follow-up to an eight-week roll-over strike from March 14, after a four-week roll-over strike commenced on February 14 – all in 2022! What has been the response of the federal government to the ongoing strike action through its agents superintending over the relevant ministries? It is not a secret that instead of being humble in ignorance and aim at collaborative confrontation of the challenges highlighted by ASUU in public universities, what the government and its agents have only been engaging in (as usual) are strategies anchored on false propaganda and attacks – on ASUU and its members – that clearly show their Mephistophelian disdain for academics in the Nigerian university system. Visibly, Nigeria’s public universities are under attack! Unfortunately, these attackers are those claiming to have passed through these universities!
Worldwide, universities are universal entities! They have their uniqueness that differentiates them from the core civil service – everywhere! Lecturers in public universities are not working for government but the good people of the country! This obvious fact is not alien to Nigerian governments even as they are still fighting tooth and nail to localise public universities and further pauperise lecturers therein!
How then do those who want these academics to ‘split atoms’ expect this to be done with the prevailing economic enslavement and poor/lack of facilities? The undiscerning mind, is at best, unfair to be expecting an ‘almost-impossible’ from these poorly-motivated fellows that the contemporary Nigeria’s backward system has forcibly restricted to operate in a milieu, and with facilities, designed for the early/mid-20th century. This is the unfortunate reality foisted on hardworking scholars when the world’s research mindset has already been upgraded to be in search for solutions to possible research questions in the forthcoming 22nd century. Of course, we are not unaware of some Nigerian academics that have attracted support(s), from other climes where sanity is appreciated, for their works within/outside Nigeria.
We will be stating the obvious that welfare and working conditions for this category of workers in publicly-owned universities are appalling! This is as important as other reasons for ASUU’s insistence on better funding for public universities’ revitalisation. Experience has shown that when it concerns public education, the government always wants the people to believe that funding is not available because the government is broke! What an embarrassing lie?
After puncturing this lie, with facts and figures, governments reluctantly engage in their seemingly ‘time-tested’ strategy of tokenism by giving out peanuts without dealing with the identified major challenges. The federal government has gone into this mode again by suddenly remembering that arrears of minimum wage consequential adjustment (effective from April 18, 2019) has not been paid to workers in federal university. We are reminding the government that this is not among the reasons for the current ASUU struggle. We all know what led to the current strike; let us tackle it and avoid any pretentiousness.