ASUU: Why President Jonathan Must Act Now!

Sept. 3, 2013

by Muh’d Muh’d Alh.

NewsRescue- Nigeria is that country that can go with any name. Call it great, you won’t be wrong.  Name it Putrid; majority of people will go with you. But one thing you can’t take away from it is its theatric tendencies to make you bewildered, disappointed or both depending on the circumstances prevailing at the particular moment.

Just recently, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP called off its over 80 days long strike after being swayed by the Government with a promise that its demands would be met. Alas, the Government we have come to know for their defector-ism,  refused to even remember them. Perhaps, the paper on which the agreement was signed was stolen. But why would that be? It is no money; they wouldn’t do such. I could only be sheer negligence. To them, it is now water … under the bridge.

Again, the Association of Nigerian Colleges of Education whom I would say is the least catered for among the league of tertiary institution unions has also issued an ultimatum of 14 days after which it will be forced to look up to their colleagues, in action.

In another anguishing related turn, the body of the Education highest Ivory tower in the land, The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU downed their tools. They have been at home for the past 65 days, today. Wow! Even though it often takes two to tango, the Government bears the greater proportion of the blame. It is justifiable. How can you sit with somebody, if you are indeed honourable, and sign an agreement; a treaty that wasn’t a Pig in a poke but a cooperative deliberation by the both parties, only for you to renege after four solid years; You refuse to honor your own part of the bargain after about 1400 days! Yet you have the impudence to call the other party, who has faithfully and patiently waited for this long before reacting, Ungrateful? What an irony! All this while, the usual feeble responses by the Government to the aggrieved parties (ASUU, ASUP) and others has always been the same—No money!

What money are we talking about in the first place? Are we talking about the ones stolen and stashed in foreign banks or the ones used in organising Shindigs in the name of PDP conventions and Women for change rallies? Is it the irretrievable ones stuck in Malabu Oil deal? Or other several top secret frauds?

Lest we forget, we’re talking about the largest and the most populous black nation in the world. Yet, never was there a time when the Education sector received more than 10% from the annual financial budget since PDP got hold of the Nation’s steering wheels: A nation whom none of its universities is ranked among the best 1000, no, 2000 in the world; a nation whose foreign reserve is more than $47 billion; a country where more than 30,000 academic vacancies exist in its universities  (The problem has been compounded with the recent approval of additional nine universities); a country who annually loses more than $800 million (N 125 billion) to medical tourism; a state who loses more that what the Government owes ASUU as the Earned Academic Allowance (N 87 or 92 billion depending on whose side you’re on) yearly on Tuition fees abroad, and the list goes on and on.

Most of our Universities are lacking in even the most basic gizmos to even compete with local institutions abroad. Go to ABU (my Alma Mata), you can’t find a single electron microscope, nearly all the apparatus’ you see are either outdated, non-functional or both. And that’s one of the top five universities in the country. Majority of the researches and projects in our tertiary institution stink with plagiarism, and have no meaningful connection or value adding capacities to the economy or life and these are so because the Government have failed in fulfilling its obligation of providing the necessary support.

In spite of that, the Government hasn’t seen reason to wake from its slumber and get down to brass tacks. The country’s education is hell in a hand basket. Passing the buck on the opposition is the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard since this year. Okay, let’s assume that the oppositions have infiltrated ASUU as claimed by the Government, why they won’t honor the agreement and put the devils to shame remains elusive to me.

All these deliberate attempts to wag the dog must be stopped. It is time to listen to what the National Anthem is saying and demanding. Forgive my knowledge of Economics but will it kill Nigeria if the country dips into its reserves pocket and solve this problem? Or what if all those who have benefited from the Country’s purse come to its rescue this one time? I am talking about all the elected and highly placed appointed elites: We have numerous State Commissioners, State and Federal Directors, Perm Secs, Head of Parastatals and MDA’s and others, over 8540 Ward Councillors, roughly 774 Local Government Chairmen, close to 2000 State Legislators, 36 Governors, 360 Federal Representatives, 109 Senators, 1 Vice President, and the President himself, what if they all come together and forfeit few of their month salaries to save the day? Drastic times, they say, call for drastic measure. After all, they would in no time replace that considering their outrageous and frivolous earning (Just thinking aloud, sha!).

At any rate, ASUU isn’t asking for much: Put in place what will launch us into the league of reputable institutions, we want to compete globally; this should be a thing of joy. It is a sign that not all brains are drained from the country. Note if this problem is not resolved now once and for all, sooner or later, we will be faced with the same problem. So why won’t they do the right thing?

President Jonathan must never allow this golden opportunity to redeem his ever-dwindling popularity pass him by. He must rise to the occasion and bend over backwards, as a former Scientist, a PhD holder; one would’ve believed he’s conversant with the precarious situation of our tertiary institutions. His now stale thematic chicanery of “I had no shoes” and now “They want me out by all means” isn’t going to rescue his name anymore, playing minority card won’t help either. Besides, if there is any person or group heating up polity, definitely it would not be the so-called G5 0r G7 Governors who are selfish nor would it be the yet-to-be-stable opposition but he, and he alone (Sorry, You can include Madam at the top). That’s why he must act now!

Muh’d Muh’d Alh. wrote in from Kaduna State University.
(@Babsymx on twitter)