In the fall of 2011, when ASUU embarked on an indefinite strike after the government failed to implement agreements it had with it two years earlier, Niger State Governor, Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, quickly condemned the action and designated it “destructive” to the future of the younger generation who are leaders of tomorrow.
He said: “With this development, if I have to sell my house to educate my children abroad, then I will do so if that is the only way out to get uninterrupted academic session and solid education for them.”
Of a fact, there are millions of Nigerians who do not approve of the current ASUU strike and have expressed reactions, tailored in the same line of reasoning of Governor Aliyu that the industrial action is killing our education. I beg to differ.
An element of the real crisis hounding our educational sector is the government’s obduracy to UNESCO’s admonition that, at least, 26 per cent of any nation’s budget be allocated to education.
Decades of bad policies, irresponsibility and irresponsiveness on the part of successive regimes, and not ASUU strike, is what has made our educational system looks like a grasshopper compared to what obtains elsewhere.
The Vice Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Professor Bamitale Omole, couldn’t have been more accurate when he said: “The problem is that it is not as if our leaders do not know what to do, I think in many areas, the wrong people are filling the positions. We talk about federal character, we talk about all these characters, and they will never help us.
“Mediocrity is killing every sector, not only the educational sector. Also, lack of vision of putting the right thing in the right place, political consideration, pretender politics are the things killing every sector.
“It is clear that it would have been good for a nation if all the people at the commanding eyes of the economy, at the commanding eyes of politics, are the people who know exactly their onions, but that is not what we have.”
Therefore, calling ASUU strike the real crisis is a flawed diagnosis of our real ailment. Imagine if someone has malaria and his body produces no symptom to warn him of the danger to his system. The situation worsens and he’ll one day find himself on the other side of the cosmos (or chaos as the case may be), and without prior notice.
You’ll agree with me that the most dangerous diseases are the ones that have advanced stealth mechanisms which suppress their symptoms – “AIDS no dey show for face.” Things would be worse if there is anomaly in the system and the lecturers are so incapacitated that they are unable to react.
So, we need to grow up and appreciate ASUU for the industrial actions the body has taken against the rot in the system over the years because that shows there is hope.
I recall the minister of education, Professor Ruqayyatu Rufai, saying in 2011 that the government would need 106 billion naira to realize ASUU’s demands. She claimed the government, which now boasts of employing the highest paid lawmakers in the world, could not afford such a sum.
These law-unmakers (even lawbreakers) keep increasing their already oversized emolument while budgetary allocation to education has never reached the 10 per cent mark. Some of them even send their children to schools in Ghana where education is allotted 31 per cent of the total budget as compared to Nigeria’s 8 per cent.
It’s heartbreaking that our politicians feel that sending their own children to school abroad and leaving our education for the dead is the solution to our problems. That’s a negligent response to the issues. How selfish!
Let us not forget that Governor Aliyu sent his kids overseas to get uninterrupted and SOLID education. In the light of that ‘wise’ decision, telling ASUU to return to the lecture halls without fixing the real academic crisis will be unfair reward to the labour of lecturers whose impacts are felt more than ‘politricksters’ who would break heads with the mace and even water down the protective potency that the Nigerian constitution has on tender creatures like the Nigerian female child. It will also be tantamount to endorsing ‘uninterrupted’ but toxic garbage for Nigerians who cannot afford education overseas.
It’s high time we took ASUU’s strike for what it truly is – a crucial step taken to compel the government to resolve the real crisis. What we should be doing is piling pressure on FG to meet ASUU’s demands and not imploring the lecturers to stop the strike.
The lecturers, on their part, need to have the patience and doggedness to see out this strike and ensure their demands are met before they call it off. If they sheath their swords at the sight of another guarantee on paper, and not real implementation of the agreements reached, they’ll have only themselves to blame. I want to believe the government has not become so numb to popular aspiration to allow the strike drag on for too long.
I must, however, warn ASUU that the answer to their prayers will shift the pressure from the government onto the lecturers. The “devil” title will robotically shift from Abuja to the ASUU leadership if the government accede to their demands and our schools are no better for it.
Hence, it is imperative for ASUU to now begin an internal cleansing that will complement the expected implementation of the 2009 agreement. Our lecturers must know that with the great power of adequate budgetary allocation and autonomy comes an even greater responsibility of reinventing Nigeria.
Rotimi Akinola is a Mass Communication student at the University of Lagos
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