WHY EVERY PROGRESSIVE NIGERIAN MUST SUPPORT THE ONGOING ASUU STRIKE.
IIt is a no news that the strike which started early in July now over fifty days old, yet amidst all shouts from students and parents to call of the strike, there is still no hope that the federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities can tie a knot to call off the strike in few days time. The fundamental question is "How far can the strike benefit Nigerians and the education sector?"
While many had drawn a battle line with the federal government on the strike, some had also refused to accept that ASUU is not also guilty for using the same means to address home their point(s) for decades, but it may interest people to note that if the Federal government had done the necessary, there wouldn't have been strike by ASUU, besides this, against many submissions by many students that many of these lecturers have their wards in Private universities, let me say, this is untrue. From my practical familiarity with the system and union, I have observed that while many lecturers appreciate private tutoring of their wards, they still prefer to send their wards to the federal universities. Please, I haven't said "State Varsity", as many would prefer a less-tuition or tuition-free institution to highly- exploitating state Institutions around, even if they are not thinking about the prestige our society gives to federal schools. The implication of this is that, the lecturers, lecturers' children and non-lecturers' children also share in the pain.
It is however sad to realise that amidst this strike imbroglio,no political party or statesman had put up an address against this odd. What we see and hear around is the merger of parties,criticism and abuse against one another and the likes. It is sad that in Nigeria, even when we have differences,we still don't believe there are some areas where we need to unite to address a common plight. It is unfortunate that we live in a Country where everything is politics and people believe if they are not there, they have to pray for the downfall of those who are there,to be able to displace them. It is sad that we are like this and that with this our country can't move forward. The best kind of politics I will appreciate is the one whereby opposition will advise and give the ruling party an advice to conquer some menace for the common good of the populace, after which if such is not followed, you can now challenge them in the people's court, by telling the people what you have done and what advice you have given to the ruling class, but which they had declined and why you think such party cannot continue to hold on to power.
Education is crucial and every Nation who wishes to be great must accept the responsibility of investing much in her education sector. It is dis-heartening that while our laboratories get rustier on daily basis, luxuries of our politicians are on a high-side, increasing like if this life is endless. While other Nations engage and encourage their scholars on research works, the otherwise is what we get in Nigeria. I cannot remember the last time any minister of education or president counselled Nigerian teachers/lecturers on research works. The regard we have for our education sector is so cheap. I can't yet forget that in my under-graduate days, I used to Know of many lecturers who use a old 1990s notes for their students in the 20th centuries. Where are the innovations and inventions that ought to characterize our academic institutions?
More unfortunate was a press release said to have emanated from the desk of the Minister of finance and the coordinating minister of the economy about two weeks ago, that governments spend much on salaries of civil servants, therefore she feels the monetary part of ASUU demand cannot be totally granted. I feel this was a misplacement of thought and a deliberate attempt to provoke the public and invoke people's rot,particularly on a fact that is not hidden to us. The minister only came out to tell us the salaries of civil servant consume much of our economic resources, with little IGR coming from them, but she refused to tell us, how much is allocated to her office alone and how she feels it can be reduced to better the country. She refused to tell us how many of her wards school in Nigeria. She refused to tell what achievement the country has made on the partial removal of oil subsidy since January 1st, 2012 and why she thinks the public should not be angry at their government.
In an honest view, it is not wrong to accept that our teachers are worthwhile and governments at every level must celebrate them well. Another strike I will appreciate is a strike from the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) and I hope it is a massive one.
The leadership of the country must rise to the task. The task of rejuvenating Nigeria is simple. It only requires a bold mind with an uncommon strength. The ability of our leaders to run their administration in contrast to the old order will safe Nigeria and rescue everyone from the present brinking and sinking situation.
While I will always admonish ASUU to invent an alternative to industrial actions, I want to appreciate them on their commitment so far. If all educational bodies/groups can decide to take same step now, all will be better for the education sector. Though, students and parents will suffer for it at the initial, yet the latter is promisably great. I see no essence of laughing today and crying tomorrow. If it is will require that all arms of the education sector, from primary to tertiary, embarking on strike for two years to safe the system, it is fair enough. We must be tired of rants and take a bold step in rescuing Nigeria.
I am convinced that if our governments can do the necessary,tuition fees won't be un-reasonably high. I am convinced that our governments rather than spending money on minors, education can be greatly addressed and concentrated on. I am aware that our governments can do it,if they so wish.
Rather than having an off and on strike, let the strike be total once and forall and let us all suffer for it now. By now Nigerian students should be tired of "The calling of a strike off this month and resuming another one next month syndrome". We must be ready to say "Enough is enough". I do not see any rationality in any government which gives 8% budgetary allocation to education, when in most developed countries a higher percentage is allocated to education. The Ghanian government which allocated 28% to education was not daft. At least we can see the comparative results both have emerged with..
Rather than admonishing ASUU to suspend the strike action, let us encourage and admonish them never to call off the strike if their demands are not convincingly met. They have been on this agitation for years and if the strike must be called off now, it must be a total call-off.
While I have reservations on ASUU for their regular mis-use of power on students' unions and students' leaders and their stand against some of students' struggles cum agitation, the protest for such should be a unique one and it has to be a National one. The leadership of the students' body must re-converge to demonstrate against some of the ill-acts of Lecturers, amidst other things to better the education sector. But of course, that has to be later.
It shall be better!
Yours in struggle.
Kehinde OKUNUGA is a Public analyst and writes from Ogun State, Nigeria.