FGN/ AND ASUU WAHALA
The best mother will make sure her child eats before she thinks of her own stomach. In governance, philosophers of contractarianism agree that governments exist for the purpose of serving the needs and wishes of the people. This becomes rather forceful in governments that lay claim to democracy where the purpose of governance which is expected to be government of the people, by the people and for the people and the promotion of the greatest good of the greatest number, to borrow from the utilitarian’s.
Most people believe that the current administration of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’ is a product of a defective electoral process. They think a burden of legitimacy hangs over its head. To that extent, analysts agree that the most rational thing for the government to do is to persuade the people through popular actions and policies that will make life more meaningful.
Others feel that President Yar’Adua administration is a continuous process of the past regime going by its policies and actions since coming into power on May 29, 2007 after eight years of the majestic rule of General Olusegun Obasanjo.
How can we talk about Yar’Adua without his antecedent? Obasanjo’s eight years was a mixture of some sort in terms of achievements and failures. The standard of living of the average Nigerian, the indicator with which the efficacy and efficiency of governments is ultimately measured, did not record any remarkable (or is it noticeable?) improvement. What’s the use of a reserve where there is still widespread poverty in the land; what late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, aptly called “suffering and smiling”? We never expected Obasanjo to take us to the “promise land” but certainly he could have done better. Being an Obasanjo product, people assumed that President Yar’Adua might not have a mind of his own, not to talk of reversing some of the policies of his master.
For instance, the promise to re-call the sacked 49 lecturers of the University of Ilorin has become a bottle neck to him. They were sacked during the Obasanjo’s regime for daring to go on strike to press for improvement in their conditions of service which include under funding; repairing the ramshackle infrastructure in the universities, overcrowded classrooms, scruffy learning environment, prehistoric laboratories and libraries and a general climate of obsolescence as well as academic freedom and enhanced conditions of service are some of these. No appeal was strong enough to bring them back during the imposing rule of Obasanjo. President Yar’Adua has since promised ASUU that the lecturers would be re-called.
More worrying is the fact that in the most recent survey by Web metrics, only the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, made the list of the best 45 in Africa. In other words, not only has the country’s global rating slipped steeply, the continental ranking of its universities does not square up to the self-conferred title of “giant of Africa”. It should be a matter for great concern to all Nigerians that of the topmost 20 universities in Africa, South Africa alone has 14 compared this with the situation in the 1970s and 1980s when universities such as those of Ibadan, Lagos and Nsukka maintained world standards and the picture of falling off strikes a atrocious reality in the mind.
In spite of the increase in the salaries of university lecturers during the Obasanjo years, the system remains in a state of despondency, especially with regard to academic infrastructure. Spending on the universities and the educational sector fell far short of the 26 per cent of annual budget recommended for developing countries by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). And it was certainly very small compared to the billions of naira expended on political appointees annually.
There is also a drop in the worth of the degrees awarded by the universities. Graduates of the nation’s universities are now subjected to tough and humiliating verification exercises abroad, before they are admitted for post-graduate study. And, so, not only is the duration of the nation’s academic programmes long and unstable, the quality of the programmes’ end products is increasingly called into question. These are issues, in a knowledge-driven age that the world is today, that ought to stimulate educational planners, and nudge both ASUU and the government into fresh realization for the need for a meeting point and regular consultation.
I see no reason why re-instating the sacked 49 lecturers in June 2001 by the Obasanjo’s administration be a problem to Yar’Adua since Obasanjo is no longer in power like the saying that” he that have the power has the final say”. I could vividly remember some years ago during Abacha’s regime, Obasanjo was sent to life imprisonment. Then, people stood for him when he was to be executed for involving in coup planning against Abacha’s regime but when General Abdul Salam Abubakar came to power in 1998; he ordered the release of Obasanjo. If government can go to prison to free jailed convicts, then there is no reason why the sacked Unilorin lecturers should not be forgiven no matter the offence they committed.
If actually we are practicing democracy and not authoritarian system of government, I think Yar’Adua should listen to ASUU because a good leader must listen to his followers if need be like this and stop toying and experimenting with the future of Nigerian universities, its educational system and the country at large.
It seems the Federal Government are not ready to yield to ASUUs’ demand, because they know strike or no strike action will not affect any of their children since non of their children is in any of the Nigerian Universities. But the effect of this will be on the common Nigerian student whose parents have to go through rigorous labour to send their children to school and to make ends meet.
If actually the present administration wants to move Nigeria forward and not going back to Egypt, then government and other stakeholders can begin the patient work of nursing the tertiary education sector to full recovery. Also strikes and shutdowns, though rightful as weapons of forcefully gaining attention in political systems, do send institutions to miserable wavelengths that make recovery more difficult.
The effects of the recent ASUU strike on the universities, in terms of man-hours lost, careers ruptured and calendars abridged, have cause a lot of havoc in the society and have tie a lot of students’ destiny from being actualizing. There are universities in the world which have not experienced shutdowns for over 400 years, and it is against these that Nigeria’s educational output and degrees are being measured. There is no need to repeat such dejected dance; this is the time to cultivate a new ethic of responsible and receptive leadership.
It is high time Nigerians stood up to fight for their right before the system of government of great Country is turn to into oligarchy.
Written by Mariam Alani A.