ASUU strike: When will it be over? (3)

The DG WTO wants Nigeria and Africa to strengthen their manufacturing capacities in order to provide vaccines. This in my view, meant that African countries must task their professionals to use appropriate technology and available raw materials to provide vaccines for over one billion people in the continent.

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala further reminded policy decision makers that events of COVID-19 where developed countries placed restrictions on vaccines going to developing nations should serve as an eye opener to all.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala stated in her remarks that Africa imported 99 percent of its vaccines and 95 percent of pharmaceutical products, stressing that this was not good enough. Really, it was not good enough.
She further stated that the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement had made provisions for any country with capacity to override patent rights and manufacture COVID-19 vaccine, urging Nigeria to rise up to the occasion.



But when will Nigeria rise to the occasion? This question needs to be addressed because the government has a role to play in research and development. For the nation to strengthen the industry to manufacture vaccines, the country needs to harness intellectual capabilities of medical and allied health professionals.

We hope that the ASUU strike will not snowball into a trade dispute at the end of the day. If it does, the current ASUU strike can be likened to a case of Nigeria failing Nigerians

It is the government’s responsibility to provide the enabling environment that will make the country have a sound educational system imbued with appealing intellectual capacity and heathy environment. It is equally the government’s responsibility to ensure that there is an atmosphere of political stability, good governance coupled with exemplary leadership which in turn will fire up the patriotic spirit and zeal of academics, particularly the researchers.

The security of lives and property is government’s core responsibility through the rule of law, as well as pragmatic and consistent economic policies which are necessary for any meaningful growth to take place. Above all, government ought to ensure that there is assured industrial peace for Nigeria to rise to the occasion of manufacturing vaccines.

We hope that the ASUU strike will not snowball into a trade dispute at the end of the day. If it does, the current ASUU strike can be likened to a case of Nigeria failing Nigerians

The efficacy of above measures is evident in the quantum leap we have observed in the development of the Asian Tigers of Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea. The same is also true for India and China. It is a matter of common knowledge that countries which have made appreciable strides in sustainable economic development owe such feat to investment in science and technology.

Additionally, such extremely impressive economic miracle of these countries have been attributed to their visionary leaders. When I look at our country’s environment today, I shook my head in pity for Nigeria because professors and staff of most public universities are on strike.

Research, as we are aware, has the “Basic Research” and the “Applied Research” components. While the basic entails the fundamental scientific study of the subject in relevant tertiary institutions most of which are now on strike. The applied research is effected in the research centers while the development of research results is a continuous process in the industry.

The lack of constant electricity power supply among other factors has been the bane of research effort in the country. Most research institutions in Nigeria and firms in the industry, run diesel generators daily. When we look at scarcity of fuel and the rising cost of diesel coupled with inadequate funding, we observed that most of our researchers are frustrated.

As you are reading this piece, almost all federal public universities are ghost towns – they have been deserted. As we conclude this piece, the ASUU – FG crisis appears not to have a solution. The ASUU strike has been extended by 4 weeks after 168 days of strike. We hope that the ASUU strike will not snowball into a trade dispute at the end of the day. If it does, the current ASUU strike can be likened to a case of Nigeria failing Nigerians.

Public intellectuals want to know if the professors who are on strike are not too senior to be members of a union like ASUU? They argued that no employer or management staff can be member of a union. Critics of the government on the ASUU strike argued that there must be sanctity of agreements between an employer and union; a principle that both the states and FG love flouting. This has led to lack of trust between the government and the ASUU.

Stakeholders have lamented that government’s attitude to ASUU’s demands has caused serious defect in the educational pursuit of innocent Nigerian students.

Unfortunately, the country, in my view, has abdicated its regulatory responsibility with the result that most educational establishments – private and public – are physically, socially, technically and educationally disadvantaged in a world where education is seen as an investment by serious nations.

Read also: Wealth creation: ‘Entrepreneurship have to be a major part of education from primary level’

That perhaps, is the reason why many of our youths who have struggled to have gone through the educational system come out poorly prepared for the industry. We now have a band of youths that are jobless. At one end of the spectrum are youths who are desperate to leave the country before they are enveloped in darkness, and at the other end are those who cannot leave but put their so- called “talent” into action by taking to criminality as an occupation.

If we turn to universities, we observe that these key institutions for research and technological development are now used for political power play and patronage. Methinks the time is ripe for all our universities – private and public- to match their missions with national development objectives.

Because there are limited number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduates to meet high demand for skilled manpower in industry, while the contributions of Nigerian universities to global research and development efforts are limited. With the exodus of many Nigerians out of the country because of the harsh business environment, one sees Nigeria as a provider of talents for the world.

All said, will the government have the political will and demonstrate leadership to ensure that the ASUU strike comes to an end within the shortest possible period?

We ask this pertinent question because the government needs to be transparent enough to let the dons know what it can do, or what it cannot do. Public intellectuals have suggested that government should consider having a Marshall Plan to completely overhaul public tertiary educational system in the country within a period of 10 years during which there will be no strike.

The government should not be seen to give its citizens the impression that it’s anti – intellectual. An implementation of the renegotiated ASUU- FG Agreement should end the strike. Both ASUU and the FG must brainstorm on the various problems confronting tertiary education and the future generations, and chart hereafter, permanent path to progress. The fact that the country’s resources are meagre must be put into consideration in whatever ASUU and the FG plan to do.

We should therefore be creative, innovative, inventive and highly resourceful. There is no doubt that an educated nation is a winning nation and as a matter of urgency, Nigeria must salvage the situation because education is the most valuable resource. Anywhere our youths are schooling whether private or public, the country is obligated to ensure that they get the best possible education in a conducive environment. (Concluded) Thank you.

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