By Dunnex Samuel
AFTER reading series of write-ups and several comments from different sections of social media on the on-going ASUU strike, and most especially the actions and reactions from layers connected with the strike action; students, staff, Federal Government and the Nigerian populace, I have been propelled to join the trending discuss with this piece of mine.
But, before I go on, it is important to state that I write this piece with the assurance that the strike might soon be called off, either by concession or coercion. But we owe ourselves the noble duty to tell ourselves the truth. The strike might end in the next couple of weeks, days or even hours, and maybe before you finish reading this piece. However, a question we must never fail to ask is whether an abrupt end of the strike, by whatever means, truly signifies a progress for our education system?
As it appears, there is an undeniable reality about the on-going strike and that is the fact that all affected layers (students, staff, university managements, Federal Government) wants the strike to end as soon as possible. Because all the aforementioned groups, in one way or the other, has some beneficial interest in the calling-off of the strike.
ASUU and FG in meeting
Students are more than eager to resume their academic activities and move on to other stages of life, staff, as well, must have been uncomfortable with the academic exile though their demands are justified, while the university authorities are more concerned about portraying a public image of competence in the stability of academic calendar (OAU, for example). And for the APC-led federal government, they have more political loss than gains, if the strike action isn’t resolved before the forthcoming elections.
All the carefully highlighted points testify that all affected groups have a common line of interest, which is the calling-off of the strike. However, the methods, perspectives and interests are what differ and that should be the most crucial part of the strike to anyone who wants the crisis in the education sector genuinely resolved. And not the recurring annual strike session, as if it’s a yearly festival for Nigerian institutions.
However, we would be making a dangerous generational mistake, if we think that the recurring university strikes, is a generic problem peculiar to the universities alone. The factors responsible for incessant university strikes cannot be disconnected from the problems faced in other major sectors of the Nigerian state such as the health, security and power and other sectors which are crucial to our existence as a people. For example, it is no longer news that the Nigerian health sector is a forgone issue in the history of Nigeria, as it has always been on the neglect side of the government.
Even the largest government hospitals find it hard, sometimes, to treat patients with minor ailments because of lack of equipment and other basic necessities. It is so bad, that countless souls have been lost to this ugly situation and government hospitals have now been reduced to a secondary mortuary house. Little wonder, why top government officials would never make a mistake of patronising the hospitals for healthcare, but would jet out, at the slightest symptom, to European countries where they pay heavily with Nigerian commonwealth.
Another sector of focus, is the Defence Ministry. The news of anti-Boko Haram soldiers being killed like helpless chickens at the battlefront is fast becoming more popular and regular than the ASUU strike. Reports have shown that hundreds of soldiers have lost their lives to the counter-terrorism campaign due to poor and insufficient fighting equipment. Despite the billions and trillions of naira that is alledgely allocated to this sector, one should wonder why soldiers are still being faced with their present predicaments.
It is a statement of fact, that the insurgency groups, despite their little numbers, seems to be more sophisticated and powerful than the Nigerian Army. Following the plights of the medical sector and defense sector, as I have explained. One thing is clear, and that is the fact the Nigerian government through their representatives pay little or no attention to the plight and welfare of their subjects that contribute to the successful operation of those sectors. In this case, the education sector has not also been spared from the negligent attitude of the Nigerian government. They barely allocate funds for the effective running of the schools, talk less of catering for students and staff welfarism, yet they expect a smooth running of the schools, how is that possible?
As a matter of fact, our parents who are government workers are not also spared from the ugly party. Apart from the fact, that the government has refused to pay an handsome rewarding minimum wage for their services, they barely pay them on a regular basis. While the government officials cart away bogus salaries and emoluments into their private foreign accounts.
With proper deductions drawn from the aforementioned analysis, any one in his right senses would come to the conclusion that the present crisis is not a problem of striking workers who are demanding what is rightfully theirs, but the problem of a government who is not ready to live up to their responsibilities-which is the sole reason they were elected into office.
In dodging their responsibilities, the government have perfected a criminal art of selling false impressions in the minds of their citizens. An example, of that is what is currently obtainable in the university system, between the striking lecturers and the early graduation seeking students. They have pierced the minds of a lot students with a false gospel of early graduation which is majorly implemented by their cronies in the affairs of the university.
A notable example is the imposition of examinations by the Ogunbodede-led administration despite negating factors. Can we pause for a moment and ask ourselves, why Buhari and other top Nigerian leaders would never consult Nigerian hospitals and medical practitioners, despite the glorification of our university system, whenever they are down with illness.
In fact, it is not an unknown fact that Nigerian presidents and governors are more comfortable with awarding infrastructural projects to foreign engineering contractors, the likes of Julius Berger and the Chinese mercenaries, than awarding the contracts to indigenous engineers. Apparently, they are also aware of the dangerous effects patronising the products of a poor and neglected education system. Nobody wants to die.
As harsh as it may sound, the reactions from some students about resuming only at any cost, without consideration of the fundamental conditions, have further confirmed the fact that Nigerians are people who are more concerned about products than the process. Illustratively, Nigerians are only concerned about getting water (H20) from a chemical reaction, but they care less to know that it requires two atoms of hydrogen, and one atom of oxygen to get water – and when anything goes wrong with the water, we start shouting.
Beyond the call for suspension of the strike, does that imply that the factors leading to strikes have been fundamentally addressed? Does that mean that other staff unions would not also embark on strikes to demand for their rights after resumption? What must be done? Students must understand, as I have painstakingly explained that the present crisis, is not an isolated struggle of the workers alone. It is a collective struggle for the revitalisation of education because one way, or the other, we are all affected by the poor education system.
Like the Yoruba’s would say, the situation is a case of the falling heavens. “Orun y’abo kon shey Oro enikan” – “A falling heaven is not a problem of one person-It is a problem of everyone “Because in a practical sense, neither the lecturers nor students would benefit from a crashed education sector, except the public fund looters who can send their wards to private and foreign schools.
Hence, the need for all Nigerian students to wake up to their generational responsibility and join the campaign for the revitalisation of the education sector because if the heavens fall, it would obviously fall on all.Source: