President Jonathan, ASUU Strike & New Universities


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It is no longer news that ASUU were on strike. They were not happy with the refusal of government to implement their agreement reached last two years. Part of their reason for going on an indefinite strike has to do with the issue of funding. They want the

federal government to be spending more on education, but unfortunately, this year's budget on education is just Four hundred billion Naira. This singular pronouncement underscores the fact that the government is not serious at all about developing education in this country.

People take their children to foreign countries to study despite the fact that universities exist in their localities. What is more important is for the government to improve in quality the universities in terms of structures, staff and materials, but not to go about creating new universities any how just to score cheap political points. Isn't it much easier for the government to enlarge the capacity of our existing universities? Universities are not supposed to be for just local communities, they are to be for international community.
There was a lot of jubilation from across many parts of the country when late last year the minister of education Professor Rukayyatu Rufai announced the Federal government's intention to create nine new universities to be located in some states that hitherto do not have the presence of federal universities.

These universities were situated in Bayelsa, the home of the president, in jigawa,the home state of the minister of education, among others. The minister while making the announcement for the appointed vice chancellors and registrars to man those universities noted that the decision of the federal government to establish these universities was informed by the principle of equity in distribution of federal universities to cover all states of the federation. There were a lot of celebrations especially in those areas where the universities are to be cited. People were happy that at last the government has remembered them.
 Creation of universities when done in good faith and with all sense of rationality is truly a good thing, and an achievement that every leader that has facilitate it should be proud of.

However, when you critically examine the manner these new universities were created, one can safely argue that either they were created in bad faith, or they were just created in order to score cheap political points or the federal government was ill-advised in creating them. I believe the President decided to create these universities just to score cheap political patronage during the last controversial Jega elections. The fact that these universities were created in bad faith becomes even more glaring when one considers the following facts. First, the minister while announcing the appointment of the VCs and Registrars disclosed that the government allocated the sum of N1.5 billion Naira to each university for take off.

Even I (myself) did not appreciate what that amount of money can do or not in running a federal university until I came to know of some facts that actually exposed this political gimmick by the federal government. Some few days back there was a programme on one of the popular FM radio stations here in Kano, where the incumbent ASUU Chairman Bayero University, Kano branch was discussing the same issue. In that programme, he criticized the federal government's attitude to the university lecturers; he lamented a situation in which no Nigerian university rank among the best 1000 universities in the world and also criticized the government's decision to create state universities and those nine federal universities. There is a 'world class' library that was recently built at Bayero university, which according to the chairman cost a whopping seven billion Naira to construct. I am sure I don't have to say anything further, this is quite explanatory. If a single standard library can cost that amount of money, how can this government convince us that it is serious  and desirous of having these universities taken off with the meager amount of just one and a half billion Naira?
 These are universities that don't have any facilities that are of a university standard on ground. These are either secondary schools or at best colleges of education converted into these universities. The chairman also revealed further that there are six universities out of the federal universities we have that have been selected by the Education Trust Fund (ETF) to upgrade them to the international standard, and the money that is been allocated to these universities by the ETF for this purpose every year is three billion naira for each one of them. The chairman also gave another instance whereby a university in Saudi Arabia was allocated equivalent to ten trillion naira to take off. All these instances underline the fact that the federal government is not so serious at all for establishing these universities and their proper take off.

Secondly, the minister stated also that the decision of the federal government to create these universities was informed by the desire to provide access to university education to a larger number of qualified candidates who are annually stranded due to lack of carrying capacity by the existing universities. Sometimes you can't help but to question the wisdom of those that act as advisers to our leaders at all levels. If a lot of candidates don't get admission into the universities because of these reasons, what is the appropriate thing the government should do in the circumstances? The bitter truth is that its not necessary that each and every state must have presence of federal universities, more so if the government is not desirous or is lacking the will to provide for and maintain those universities.
 it's my considered opinion that unless the government is willing to provide the necessary fund then education will continue going backward in Nigeria.

Ahmed Rasheed Makarfi