By Andrew A. Erakhrumen

NEWSDAILYNIGERIA: Current manifestations must have cleared any (remaining) doubt(s) that Nigerian governments are uninterested in public education. For instance, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been on an eight-week total and comprehensive roll-over strike since 14th of March, 2022. As at today, the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) and its agents – for reason(s) best known to them – are still disinclined towards doing the needful and rightful. They are unbothered seeing some people bear the brunt of fallout from this ASUU’s patriotic struggle. As usual, the government still holds on, tenaciously, to its archaic unworkable strategies of handling industrial disputes. We are referring to an industrial dispute that the FGN is a disputant in! Undergirding government’s strategies are propaganda, intentional distortion of facts, fabrication of pure lies/useless half-truths and outright deliberate misinformation of the public. This is one of the reasons behind our wondering why some people always attack the victims by suggesting that ASUU should adopt ‘another method’ (as if strikes have been the first and only option) for showing its (ASUU’s) displeasure over government’s constant refusal to adequately invest in public universities.

For those who sincerely do not know and others feigning ignorance, reactivation of suspended strike is ALWAYS the last option by ASUU to make governments fulfil their part of the mutually-reached agreements. As we posited earlier, on other platforms, it is on record that before reactivating a suspended strike, as the last option, ASUU must have: done series of letters and reminders to appropriate government agencies; participated in meetings, parleys, interviews, press statements and public enlightenments; issued notices of strike action; allowed for stakeholders’ interventions, among others. It is noteworthy that the only aspects of lecturers’ duties that are suspended during strike are those relating to academics and teaching. Others, relating to the remaining two legs (research and community service) are not suspended. Hence, lecturers’ job is not limited to teaching in universities! So, it is a gross fallacy to hold the incorrect opinion that ASUU members do not work during a strike! Consequently, why should a government that is a disputant (in industrial disputes) arrogate to itself the role of an accuser, judge and enforcer of its judgement through the invocation of the ever-failing feckless “no work, no pay”? Which component of lecturers’ job (teaching, research and community service) is intended to not be paid for?

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How will the all- and ever-knowing ‘illiterates’ in a perverted “democracy” determine what to not be paid for the components that were suspended during strike? Do they also think about “no pay, no work”? How will students move to the next level or graduate when lecturers, whose ‘salaries’ are withheld, refuse to teach/examine them for that part of the semester(s) that is/are not paid for? Sadly, what is being said here, in plain language, is that if government fails to pay (from Nigerians’ commonwealth) the peanut they refer to as “salary” then the teaching/examinations for that period will be skipped leaving the students we all are trying to protect, to remain stranded! Perhaps, government officials may come over to these universities to teach/examine the students, approve their results for that period and award them degrees! This may sound bizarre to sane minds but it has anomalous precedence. An example (among others) is the appointment, in 1995, of retired Major-General Mamman Kontagora (1944–2013) as sole administrator for Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria! Education means nothing to quacks and charlatans! So, how will “agberos” know the value of professors? This is one of the reasons why Nigeria is presently in the gutter!

Lecturers and professors in Nigerian universities had been, and are still being, despised by the ruining megalomaniac elite that some of us continue to wonder why. This is still marvelling as all the countries that successfully moved forward, in terms of development, had, and are still having, governments that developed and still are concretising firm synergy with the community of intelligentsia and intellectuals in their quest for nation-building. This is not so in Nigeria! The ruining elite in this country is very arrogant in ignorance and failure! This ‘elite’ has continuously dragged the country’s name through the mire! The quality of leadership has been so lowered while the country has been so messed up that Nigerians are beginning to feel nostalgic for the past that was heavily criticised during those epochs! The past is now assessed to be better than today! What a calamity? The current administration that is in charge at the centre, which has failed woefully, may not be the cause of the current mess but has been contributory to it like its predecessors! Many of those in government, today, symptomise a deep national malaise! These characters have no business being in government but this is the country’s reality. Alas, Nigeria is trapped!

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Nigerians will be deceiving themselves if they expect any departure from the current shenanigans considering the quality of many of the aspirants declaring their intention to contest for the various political offices in 2023. In fact, presidential aspiration in this country is now an all comers affair! Check out the names and credentials of those declaring their intention to contest for the position of president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria! With most of the aspirants in All People Conniving and People Deceiving People, the future of Nigeria is obviously bleak! Nigeria – “the Giant of Africa” – is now being made mockery of in international circle! This should not be surprising about a country and its leadership that have no regard for intellectualism and intellectuals! Imagine the number of weeks ASUU has been on strike for the same reasons concerning an agreement mutually-reached since 2009. What is the big deal in ensuring good investment in public universities? Is this not what some African countries like Botswana, Egypt, Ghana, South Africa, and others, are doing to attract the children/wards of Nigerian ruining class?

We need not mention the ongoing massive investment in developed countries’ public universities using public funds while certain underdeveloped countries like Nigeria are heeding brainless advice, from asinine “experts”, that public universities are not needed in underdeveloped countries! Indeed, Nigerian governments have been seriously unserious with its education sector. The sad reality is that the very laughable governments’ financial interventions in public universities have ONLY been achieved through ASUU struggles! Shamelessly, Nigerian governments have developed a reputation of listening to strike – as the only language of communication! We need not overstate this unfortunate fact that Nigerian governments only respond to strike. Examples, from time immemorial, exist to buttress this fact. As far as we know, nothing tangible has been achieved vis-à-vis revitalising public universities except the pittance through strikes; in that case, why should a ‘winning team’ be disbanded? Regrettably, strike action is a painful ‘remedy’ for an entrenched malady defying all other medications in Nigeria! This is frustrating!

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Nevertheless, Nigerian academics in public universities would be open to other unexplored efficient alternative(s) to this ‘remedy’ from sources other than those seeking the complete collapse of these universities. This is a challenge to all and sundry! No one is an island of knowledge; thus, sincere and positively impactful solutions to challenges can emanate from anywhere! It is always marvelling hearing retired and retiring lecturers/professors relay their nostalgic experiences of the good old days in Nigerian public universities. Today, these universities – like Nigeria – are more of a huge joke! Governments want them to be part of their civil service in order to superintend over their complete collapse! This is what ASUU stands against! Certainly, ASUU as a union will not open its eyes and allow this to happen the way primary and secondary educational facilities were allowed to completely collapse. No lecturer worth his/her salt should open his/her eyes and allow the university within which he/she is working to decay continuously. On a final note, FGN and its agents are withholding what they term as ASUU’s “salary” but a new welfare package (the first after 2009) must be signed into law at the end of this current struggle!

Erakhrumen PhD, teaches at the Department of Forest Resources and Wildlife Management, University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria. He can be reached via andrew.erakhrumen@uniben.edu

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