• Friday, May 24, 2024
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ASUU again? No; it’s the government!



When the axe first came into the forest; the trees said it is one of us; the handle came from our stock’. They thus assumed wrongly that the axe, being one of them, would definitely be for them. It is just left to imagination how the trees felt and reacted when the axe eventually went to work! That popular Turkish proverb exposes the bewilderment of ASUU members at the unfortunate turn of events in the educational sector under President Yar’Adua. Yaradua is not only our first graduate President, he is on leave of absence from the academia; just as Goodluck Jonathan, Sam Egwu and even the Minister of Talk-Talk, Madam Dora! So, ASUU and the academic community would have felt that their interests were well protected when he came on board on 29/5/09. So, they lowered their guards and that created the opportunity for that ‘original sin’ early in the day; the sin that gave a clear indication that this particular axe would be merciless!
On 1/7/07, ASUU called off a 98-day old industrial action because of a mere promissory note from the then new president Yaradua. The promises were that those issues that led to that strike-the UNILORIN 49, funding, autonomy, brain-drain & pension – would be resolved and that the ‘renegotiation process shall be completed speedily’. ASUU probably agreed because the president was one of them; they agreed because he presented a humane face and created the image of somebody who would keep to his promises. Well, he never did a thing about those presidential promises which ought to be acceptable legal tender in organized climes. He did nothing about the UNILORIN 49, arguing that justice should take its course first. But his government practices plea-bargaining regularly and in any case, the matter was in court before he made that promise. And that ‘speedy renegotiation’ dragged on till December 2008, and the outcome has not yet been presented to the president-if we are to believe Dr Egwu! And those who scoffed at ASUU for accepting a mere presidential promise despite government’s penchant to renege on promises and defaults on agreements would by now saying I told you so![See Inspiring A Rethink on Tertiary Education; S Ubimago, Sunday Independent, 8/7/07,pB7-9]. Those who pleaded with ASUU then to call off the strike to provide enabling environment to quickly resolve the outstanding issues-including Senator Joy Emordi- are the same people asking ASUU today to also shelf the strike!

Read Also: Only President Buhari’s intervention may end ASUU strike -Source

It is also unfortunate that the government has been peddling outright falsehood and declaring a propaganda war against ASUU. There must have been an agreement and that was what Dr Egwu asked ASUU to come and sign on 12/5/09; that is where all these false figures[N78bn; 108%] are being conjured from. Increased funding makes meaning within the context of the total budget and N200bn for the Ministry, all the educational institutions & parasitic parastatals is not any evidence of increased funding!. Even the touted N78bn is not up to 10% of what was sunk into the power sector or constituency projects or 5% of political office holders’ allowances for 2009 or just one deal at the NNPC or what the NASS, NNPC, NUC & other MDAs are owing the FIRS in un-remitted taxes for 2008!. And Mrs. Akunyili knows very well that agreements are not reached at one-sided FEC meetings or during NTA Network news. The melt-down is not even an excuse as that agreement was reached when oil was at about $45 per barrel!
The public reaction has been, as usual, dictated mostly by vested interest. Everybody agrees that ASUU has a solid case but students want to complete their programmes without interruption while parents want their children as far away from home as possible[whether they are learning or not!]. NANS has however threatened to embark on a national solidarity demonstration. Ngozi Nwozo of the Nation abhors the punitive impact of the strike on the students, arguing that all is no longer fair in war[2/7/09]; Obadere of Businessday condemned the Governments serial infidelity and averred that strike had become counterproductive and harmful to ASUU’s longterm interests, advising the union to also fight other internal wars like quality of research and the declining scholastic ethic; Azu of Punch used uncharitable terms for all the officials involved but still argued that strike had developed reversed potency and that it was insanity to keep doing the same thing the same old way and expect different results. He holds that lecturers have become a part of the problem and that the strike would not solve any problem-for the teachers and for the educational sector[30/6/09 & 7/7/09] while Akpan of Newswatch recalled that from 1981 to 2005, the Government reached 18 agreements with ASUU but did not implement any and called on the government to be responsible for a change[13/7/09]
Three things are clear. First, what is happening is seen as an ASUU affair/problem. But sincerely speaking, this is a national calamity. I left University of Ibadan in 1980; I visited the same UI this year. If they invested all the money in question in UI alone, it may not be enough to return to its 1980 state. And UI is among the Nations best. Secondly, everybody asks ASUU to soft-pedal but very few people are doing anything meaningful to ensure that the government behaves responsibly by keeping its words. ASUU should consider the interest of our children/students but who considers/protects the interest of ASUU and the university system? Thirdly, the government is not bothered about the development and that is unfortunate. ASUU, NASU & SSANU are on strike; NUT strike is on suspended animation; ASUP and ASUCOE are warming up and the government is busy dishing out propaganda and powdered lies. And as this is on, my brother, Dr Egwu had the temerity and peace of mind to organize a world-class party that was equally broadcast in the exclusive and expensive Bisi Olatilo Show of 6/7/09. In other climes he would have been sacked for criminal insensitivity by the government, roasted by the press and hanged by parents/the public. But by his behaviour, he is communicating the official position to the collapse of the educational sector: the government is on the indifference curve!
ASUU is on solid grounds. But since the strike does not affect those in government a new dimension should be added during the next round: a march to Aso Rock, the NASS, NUC & Ministry of Education with tattered academic gowns! That may be the beginning.. And for those who see this as ASUU affair, well.