By Ayodele Fagbohun
To starve off the looming disaster that may totally eclipse tertiary education over the prolonged and festering ASUU/FG face off, it is imperative for the nation to convene a solemn assembly comprising a cross section of stakeholders on education with a view of brainstorming the way out of the current dilemma and logjam.
The proposed and hastily organized nation wide protest march which Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) planned to stage this week ostensibly in solidarity with the long drawn out ASUU strike may end up as mere political jamboree after all. For, NLC had earlier taken political stand with the presidential ambition of Labour Party (LP) candidate, Mr. Peter Obi ahead 2023 general elections.
This stance, has morally taken the wind out of the sails of the leadership of NLC; render it vulnerable and partisan to effectively articulate the demands of ASUU in the discerning eyes of the public over the years.
Hence, the Federal Government in a swift reaction had declared the protest march planned by NLC as illegal for having been tainted with partisan political coloration.
Be that as it may, ASUU/FG lingering and seemingly intractable problem is to say the least an indictment against all genuine stakeholders who treat with rank levity, aloofness and dearth of patriotism of bequeathing worthy legacies to unborn generations.
Lack of unanimity among some eminent Nigerians who are stakeholders on education to demonstrate support against sickening and deplorable condition of our university system is largely responsible for the laissez faire approach of the Federal Government towards the multi-faceted problem starring the public tertiary institutions in the face.
It is unfortunate that those who are supposed to proffer panacea to the fundamental national and global issues at stake and stand resolutely on their feet come rain or high waters often vacillate at the point of fulfilling laudable and intrinsic objectives.
The ASUU/FG unceasing face off over the parlous state of affairs in the public tertiary institutions is a matter for grave concern to all right thinking Nigerians and a challenge to our few minority wealthy elite who choose to establish and fund tertiary institutions especially varsities, to the criminal and neglect of public universities.
When it is needful for the elite class and the government to invest on and bankroll tertiary institutions run by the public tax payers money to heed the timely warning of the first elected black president of South Africa, President Nelson Mandela who re-defined education as a powerful potent of weapon or tool with which an individual or government can change and transform the world.
The question arises, how can education change the world when it is very costly, practically inaccessible; and out of the reach of the poor and the have-nots in the society to access it?
As education starts from the cradle to the grave, an attempt to shift focus and commit lion share of the national resources to what the appetite of our insatiable lecturers on their idiosyncrasies and niggardly fund for the research and basic infrastructure promotive of attaining excellence in learning and scholarship.
What is more, Nursery/Primary and Post Primary institutions should not be left to the mercy of rapacious shylock and mercenary school proprietors and the so called entrepreneurs out to maximize and make exorbitant profit on education.
However, government and the elite who are genuine stakeholders should come to the rescue of the people. They should mobilize resources and requisite personnel to priotize education right from the rudimentary level as a social service for every school going child across the country.
Now, the crisis that bedevils education is mainly the upward review of personal emoluments for lecturers which is as old as the premier university i.e. university college Ibadan founded in 1948, first of its kind in Africa, south of the equator.
When the body of university teachers declared industrial dispute demanding wage increase which nearly grounded the Federal Government of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the first and only Prime Minister of Nigeria in the first Republic politics.
Professor (then Dr.) Sam Aluko of Department of Economics in the Premier University of Ibadan dissociated himself from the strike action and continued with his teaching.
Why? Dr. Sam Aluko who later rose to an eminent professor, political icon, astute administrator and intellectual consultant both in the public service and university system said the demands of varsity teachers or lecturers were excessive, outrageous and blatantly unrealistic.
As a shrewd economist, Aluko pointed out that his allowances and fringe benefits as a teacher in the university were much higher than what his contemporaries earned as salaries in the civil service.
Prof. Aluko insisted that there was no basis or justification for incessant wage increase which could neither enhance nor commensurate to national productivity.
Why for God’s sake some Nigerian academicians who ought to pay much premium and value on free education for all, should lay emphasis more on pecuniary interests at this precarious time when virtually all nations around the world are perpetually at war?
According to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige who recently accused ASUU leadership of unilaterally fixing salaries and allowances through the professor Nimi committee in gross violation of statutory government ministries, agencies that manage public finances? Why this craze for public scandal, acquisition for mundane wealth among the so called intellectuals in Ivory Towers expected to fight for orderly, just sane and egalitarian society?
Why the reluctance of Mr. President in taking decision on the controversial Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) and the condition of service for teachers?
Why are the striking lecturers presently at war path over which payment platform to be adopted in public universities between the government approved Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) and ASUU preferred UTAS?
All the above amongst others hidden from the public domain to say the least bewildering, irreconcilable and indeed contentious issue need to be promptly addressed; amicably and judiciously resolved in the national interest, spirit of fairplay and patriotism for the nation to grow exponentially and to attain even development.
Aside, from our educational politics which is tactically and strategically unsound, it must be stressed that there is no linkage between the university system and the industrial sector. That is why, the university continues to turn out annually several thousands of graduates that the industries do not need if there are enough industries and factories anyway.
The government and ASUU must work in tandem and synergy to address the long standing anomaly and overhaul the education system instead of being at daggers-drawn on craze for materialism that will take us nowhere but include sac.
As a recipe, Federal Government must axe the mushrooming of private universities which are irritants; the numbers must be drastically reduced in a bid to galvanize our public tertiary institutions especially our public universities, many of which are currently glorified secondary schools.
Federal Government has the financial muscles and wherewithal to do the needful; to implement with immediate effect the UNESCO specification of committing more than 10 per cent to 15 per cent of annual budget on education.
The Federal Government must by all means meet the laudable demands of the ASUU in the spirit of national development so as to guarantee the quick return of our students to the classroom without further delay.
There is no need for any group to loiter around the streets at this austere period for any demonstration to secure cheap political point. On what reason? Let every responsible man and woman go about normal business unmolested!
A stitch in time saves nine!
Leave a Reply