We live in a big country, big and rich. So big that it is called the giant of Africa; so rich that Wikipedia says we’re the 2nd richest country on the continent.
Sadly, this big country is facing trying times. The truth is that we’ve always been in some peril or the other, so being in peril isn’t particularly a new thing. So you can all be rest assured that this post isn’t just because our beloved country is treading on unfamiliar waters. It is that we have decided to act like the proverbial peacock, and hide our faces in the sand, hoping that since we cannot see the adversary, he too cannot see us!
The strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities has lasted for about 103+ days now, and to be sincere this Union only seconds the NLC in the number of times they go on strike in a year. (I’m speculating, every Nigerian does that!) sometimes they strike more than the NLC. But then who can blame them? They’re smart enough to fight for their rights when the average Nigerian has pitched tents with “Leave Am For God Ministries” Sometimes it feels like the only time the ordinary citizens in Nigeria get what rightly belongs to them is when they scream and howl. Even at that, the government always has something to say, for example, “the detractors are at it again, do not allow yourselves to be used by detractors!” The question is who gave the chance for an opportunity that the alleged detractors could take advantage of?
The latest in the government’s reply to a Union trying to enforce the agreement they made with their employers is that they are being used by the opposition for political means. This makes me wonder if truly the government had read the report of the NEEDS Assessment Committee. Well, if by any executive bureaucratic reasons, our dear president failed to read the report, I hereby attach it here for his reading pleasure. The question I want to ask is as follows; how is ASUU strike for political reasons? Is the 2009 agreement a manifesto paper or what? Or is it that whenever a member of the opposition party expresses their support for any cause, it has automatically made the cause a political one? Need I remind the government that the work of the opposition in a democracy is to provide checks on the activities of the ruling party? If the ruling party makes a bad call, do we all sit down and mourn, or do we stand up to say, “hey, this action will get all of us drowned!” Or maybe the PDP members think they are the only ones who genuinely love the country!
We should tell ourselves the truth, what is the government’s argument against ASUU? How justifiable is that in the face of worldwide economic and educational advancement? Is it possible to compare our average computer science graduates to average graduates of computer science from the University of Cape Town? Anyway, I am one of those people who believe that the ranking of a University does not matter so far as it solves the research and personnel needs of its immediate society. Can we truly beat our chests that our Universities have been up to this task? If no, then it matters not if all the opposition parties in the universe drum up support for the Union, what matters is that the rot should be halted.
We are all tired of incessant strikes in the country, I believe the ASUU members are equally tired, so the government should tell themselves the truth, man up and take up their part of the bargain. We’ve lost three months already, the various faculties of law that couldn’t graduate their final year students before the strike or come to any helpful arrangement are having their hands full of backlog students for next year’s admission into the Nigerian Law School. We can’t live near the River Niger and wash our hands in spittle. If we’re second richest in Africa, then we can have the second best educational system at least. Now when this battle for funding is over, I would love the lecturers and university administrators to go through the NEEDS report and tell themselves some hard truths, they have not been performing at their level best, classes get missed here and there, harassment issues, plagiarism issues, and all that. The mentality to work has to change. We’re trying to build a country here, not trying to tear one down. If and when the government finally wakes up from their dogmatic slumber, I suggest ASUU and the Vice Chancellors take the issue of nation building through education as a serious one, demanding their highest and deepest commitment. Nobody wants what happened in the power sector to repeat itself. The money when released should never rest in peace in any private coffers.
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