My Problem with ASUU – Punch Newspapers

My Problem with ASUU – Punch Newspapers

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Regardless of what points it might want to prove, the Academic Staff Union of Universities can do better than these endless industrial actions.

Unarguably meant to revamp university education in Nigeria, the strike strategy has become worn out, counterproductive and an existential danger to the very system it was meant to save. I am going to explain.

Between 1999 and now, a period of 23 years, ASUU has called strikes at least 16 times and nothing has changed. Things have gone from bad to worse on almost all levels you can imagine. Inflationary trends have rendered academics’ salaries meaningless, and students have suffered even more. Aside from the fact that their tenures on campus get unusually prolonged, they get rusty and likely, tempted and lured into any of the numerous antisocial tendencies currently plaguing Nigeria. Don’t they say that an idle hand is the devil’s workshop?

The great physicist, Albert Einstein, told us how ill-advised it is for people to do the same thing repeatedly and expect the same result. That is my main grouse with ASUU.

This lack of innovation coming from ASUU is even worse because it is a body of intellectuals, ordinarily in a place to provide solutions to societal problems in a town and gown relationship. The fact that ASUU can’t come up with anything better than this unproductive strike option to solve a crucial problem to the survival of Nigeria’s university systems is an indictment of scholarship in the country and a factor in the country’s cofounding stagnation.

I am also worried that ASUU carries on as if university education is all there is to education in Nigeria. Without prejudice against the right of ASUU to fight the government’s irresponsibility, aren’t university lecturers worried about the state of primary and secondary education in the country? Does the poor standard in these lower levels not affect the quality of the students they teach and national growth in the long run?

Of course, everyone tends to fight their war, but wouldn’t the collaboration of all workers’ unions in the educational sector for a generic movement for educational revolution be a fruitful venture for the entire country?

Such collaboration would address the plague of 13 million out-of-school children (who are bound to become an albatross to the country soon), inspire a recalibration of the country’s educational objectives and make us realise that, as critical as it is, university education is not for everyone. ASUU and bodies like it should arouse Nigeria to the consciousness that vocational and technical education would not just make millions of youths more productive but also unlock the country’s potential for growth.

Most importantly, it is doubtful that members of ASUU are not part of the elite conspiracy that has degraded public universities in Nigeria.

The country currently has over one hundred private universities and counting. The question here is, can the government set up these new universities (which now provide a haven for elite members who cannot afford to send their children abroad and an alternative to federal universities) without the help of members of ASUU? Don’t ASUU members take part-time or visiting roles in these private universities (where they give more dedication and commitment than in their parent (public) universities? It is said that more than 90 per cent of private universities cannot survive without members of ASUU!

Despite the poor treatment of university lecturers, don’t they still take offers from government agencies for accreditation of courses, election duties, and so on? As lecturers shut down classrooms because the government failed to honour its obligations, wouldn’t they be taken more seriously if opportunities to work with Independent National Electoral Commission, Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, National Universities Commission and other such agencies were also rejected? Wouldn’t the government’s hands be forced at that juncture?

Finally, how do university administrators utilise the billions of naira disbursed to universities through the Tertiary Education Trust Fund? Does the association hold these administrators to account?

However, none of these justifies the shamelessness that governance has become in Nigeria. First, concerning the failure to honour an obligation freely entered 13 years ago, successive government functionaries in Nigeria have given themselves away as unfit for office and unworthy of the people’s trust.

There are arguments that government cannot afford ASUU’s demands now; functionaries of this regime and political appointees, including two ministers involved in this ASUU matter, have recently shelled out hundreds of millions in pursuit of manifestly wobbly presidential aspirations. Why wouldn’t these men who stepped out of all ethical considerations in their political objectives just because they have access to public resources not talk down on a professor who earns a meagre N350,000 per month! After all, the one hundred million naira each, which Labour Minister, Chris Ngige, and Minister of State of Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, just doled out to their All Progressives Congress, would pay that lecturer for an unbelievable 23 years! It is the same characters that would tell Nigerians that the government cannot afford ASUU’s request! How does this type of country hope to develop?

Sadly enough, everyone in government knows that everything that could be wrong with a country is wrong with Nigeria. They say it all the time but are not ready to do anything.

Many of Nigeria’s young people see the wanton display of wealth by government officials amid pervasive poverty and are inspired to get rich as soon as possible. Since politicians now give the impression that politics is a money-making venture rather than an avenue for service, politics has become a do or die enterprise for many Nigerians. When it is not politics, many of us think we must kill, defraud people or prostitute ourselves to make the kind of money for which a good life is assured in Nigeria.

Every day, the government laments the level of insecurity in Nigeria. Still, they continue to ignore education, the most critical sector to the country’s liberation from a future of violence and backwardness. They spend trillions on petroleum subsidies and even more trillions on building infrastructure that they don’t think through. Still, they fail to develop the minds of those upon whose shoulders the country’s survival rests.

Nigeria’s leaders continue to betray the future of the country whose children, given what they do with the internet (with little or no education), are endowed and capable of making the country proud only if leadership weren’t such a curse.

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