One may want to consider a situation where due to the earth’s limited or mismanaged resources, a group of people will actually decimate another group of people in order to have some resources provided for the next generation. You may wonder what sin or offence the latter group committed, or maybe it is just a case of being in existence at the wrong time or place. I think the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the helpless millions of Nigerian students quite fit into this analogy with ASUU being the former group. This issue is a hornet’s nest. I refuse to catch the ‘Stockholm syndrome’ bug. A lot of ASUU members and their apologists will tend to be subjective and not objective. Of course, most people tend to be when their selfish interests are not being pandered to.
As Winston Churchill famously said, “If you are going through hell, keep going”. A total grounding of the system is crude, barbaric and unacceptable. That is just what ASUU has done. The Government should not be exonerated from the poor state of our educational system as their incompetence and lackadaisical attitude is not helping matters at all but it is obvious our education system does not need more damage from ASUU. As poor as our education system is, several graduates (engineers, doctors, pharmacists etc) have emerged from them and are making their mark globally till this day. So much to wonder about the ‘dysfunctional’ state of our education system.
A fact being inferred here is that it is not all gloom and doom in our education system. Embarking on industrial actions just because you want more funds from the government is utmost egocentrism. A strong fact is that even if government allocates the nation’s entire budget to education, it will never be enough. What matters most is the proper management and prudent utilisation of the resources made available to the varsities. Even though more money needs to be pumped into the education system,like other sectors too. Mismanagement, misplaced priorities and sleaze are common in public university administration. These institutions, lest we forget, also internally generate revenues running into billions of naira annually. You may want to ask why ASUU is not fighting the rot in university administration and if ASUU is sincere, why is she not strongly advocating full university autonomy ? That is the most sustainable model for all of our universities. I will like ASUU members and their apologists to take a look at the list of 100 (or even 200) best universities in the world and tell us what fraction of them are state funded. They should tell us if they are in the majority or minority.
ASUU says it is demanding N87b for ‘allowances’. This also shows how lucrative their jobs are. The money is just for some allowances and not salaries. Capital allocation for education in the 2013 budget is about N72b. This is for infrastructure at all levels of education in Nigeria. It means what ASUU is demanding as allowances for its members exceeds what all Nigerians will benefit from in infrastructure provision. One may wonder what sacrifice ASUU and its members are willing to make whenever they ask students to make sacrifices.
I understand their salaries all through the strike period will still be paid. Non payment of their salaries for a single day (albeit they are on strike) will lead to a declaration of another full blown war. ASUU muddled up demands so as to paint itself in a good light. All they really want are their endless allowances. You can be sure there will still be another strike in the nearest future because of an ‘allowance’.
Who else will protect ASUU’s interests if not ASUU itself? As we all know especially in Nigeria, it is a dog eat dog world but just as ASUU needs to fight for itself so does every other union (or individual) also has to fight for itself. You may want to know that all sectors of the Nigerian economy have unions. All these fights (strikes) ultimately lead to keeping most sectors of the Nigerian system comatose. One may want to consider the definition of ‘selfishness’ and see if it is applicable in this tactic of ‘indefinite strike action’ especially by critical unions. There are quite a number of such unions with the JOHESU (Joint Healh Workers Union) included. JOHESU is a sort of bed of strange bed fellows and includes all non medical doctor health workers like nurses,cleaners,security staff,admin staff,secretaries,lab scientists,pharmacists,midwives,physiotherapists etc. These are unions where downing their tools means irreversible damage and loss of lives. I don’t think the proper solution to handling such a situation is indefinite strike. It is not news or even a secret that our top government officials’ family members and even cohorts do not attend Nigerian universities. So who does ASUU think is bearing the brunt and brutality of the strikes ? I think it is the most vulnerable and the needy in the society and I also think that is unfair and unacceptable.
There are other ways of going about the problem of the dysfunctional Nigerian education system. As a Yoruba adage says “bi be ori ko ni ogun ifori” translated to, “cutting off the head is not the solution to a headache”. It is a pity that that is just what ASUU is doing. ASUU is killing a significant amount of Nigerians financially, physically and mentally.
There are lots of students wandering around the country now just because their purposeful lives are being obstructed. I know a number of my schoolmates who lost their lives as they travelled home because of the strike. It is no news that a majority of the roads in the country are in a deplorable state and are death traps. The less you travel on them the better for you. With the strike, the students need to embark on additional journeys. It is also well known that an idle mind is a devil’s workshop. I wouldn’t delve into how the amount of some iniquities including prostitution has surged due to this strike. What about the spate of health problems ? A lot of the students and their guardians experience mental problems due to the uncertainty around the resumption. Anxiety and depression are serious mental conditions and are common amongst them due to the strike. The resumption uncertainty makes a lot of people lose focus on other important aspects of their lives. To a lot of families, university education graduation is all they wait for. Several families invest all of their resources to achieve this especially as we are in a society where most people are brainwashed into loving wage-slavery (this applies globally too). All they want to do is to graduate and get a job and start supporting their parents and siblings too. One may want to ask ASUU how spending over seven years on a five- year programme without having an extra semester or year is good. Does ASUU think that’s an advantage when graduates from Nigerian public universities have to compete with their counterparts from private or even foreign universities ? And guess what; the world – the global village — is shrinking more and more daily.
We all know the Nigerian education system is quite in a shambles but so are other parts of the Nigerian system. From health, transport, aviation, petroleum, steel to manufacturing etc. They are all dysfunctional. This is due to bad leadership. And this is where ASUU can play an integral part in saving the nation. Or how come ASUU with all manner of degrees and enlightenment amongst its members is not aware of this saying: “The worst illiterate is the political illiterate, he doesn’t hear, he doesn’t speak, nor participate in political events. He doesn’t know that the cost of life, the price of beans, of the fish, of the flour, of the rent, of the shoes and of the medicine, all depends on political decisions. The political illiterate is so stupid that he is proud and swells his chest saying that he hates politics. The imbecile doesn’t know that, from his political ignorance is born the prostitute, the abandoned child, and the worst thieves of all, the bad politician,…” Nigerians will have yet again another chance to elect able leadership in 2015; maybe that opportunity would not be blown away again.
ASUU has declared war on the nation’s education system, and in war, truth is the first casualty. It is very unfair as ASUU is taking out its anger on the weak, defenceless and the helpless. They should stop killing the living for the unborn
Dr. Michael Adeyemi, a medical doctor,writer, public analyst and social commentator, writes from Lagos,Nigeria