Share this news


By Julius Oweh
Today, sadly marks seven months lecturers in federal government universities and ysome state universities abandoned the chalk and sent students on unmerited public holiday. The shame is on all of us and demonstrates in stunning clarity, a drifting nation. Education remains the be all and end all of all types of development and the level of progress and development of a nation, any nation for that matter, is measured by the standard of education especially at the tertiary level. Neither the government aloofness nor the oafish arrogance of the lecturers can be excused. I concede the fact that our lecturers are the best brains but a situation where such brains are more enamored with material possession is a sad and unfortunate commentary on their supposed scholarship and cerebral nature.
There is variety of reasons for the strike. As you read this piece, the federal government has agreed to the release of two hundred billion naira for university development and upgrade. There is also 35 per cent pay rise for workers of the university and 35 per cent for professors. ASUU in a mule like stubbornness is not moved by the gesture of the federal government and insisting that the same gesture should be embraced by state universities. The suggestion is a bit idiotic because you cannot force state government to pay what they were not party to in negotiation. ASUU in most outlandish proposition is saying that lecturers should be paid for the number of months that they were not in the classroom. This is certainly against labour law. The no-work-no-pay policy should be applied. That is why I support the Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka suggestion that public universities should be closed for a year. Time was when ASUU was on strike for one year and it is now the trademark of every ASUU leadership to embark on strike as part of their achievement.
Despite the pleas by well-meaning Nigerians to ASUU to end the strike, the lecturers seem to be walking in the sky. Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, ASUU chairman, in an unguarded moment described state universities and their lecturers as quacks. Quackery if properly defined , are those lecturers in federal universities moonlighting in private universities. Osodeke despite the avalanche of criticism against the strike is still justifying it. Listen to Osodeke :We are asking for that money for Nigerian students and parents. The money is for building infrastructure, upgrading libraries, hostels, and lecture theartres so that students will not be having lectures through windows, so that students will not be sitting on the floor during lectures.
The points raised by ASUU are no doubt, very valid. But this writer is at pains to ask what happens to the concept of gown and town. Where is the research by our universities? Where are the strategic policies drawn by our egg heads in the Ivory Tower? Or do they belong to group of lecturers who use others publications for teaching and scholarship? Universities, the world over, are centres of excellence and research. And they work with companies and corporate organizations for the patents of such inventions and scholarship. Our lecturers unfortunately have descended to the gutter level of using old and worn materials to teach students. Furthermore, the concept of uniform pay for lecturers is greatly flawed. International scholars get higher pay and if you do not like it, you are at liberty to leave the university system. Teaching in the university should not be after thought or because you could not get jobs elsewhere. It is this stripe of unprepared lecturers who populate ASUU leadership and these are the real quacks, my dear Osodeke.
As for the federal government, their ministers and principal should only enter into agreements that they know can be fulfilled. Furthermore, the claim by this government that most of the agreements with ASUU was done by the previous government is simply blowing the wind. Government is a continuum and should scout for means to meet the obligations. Nigeria has acquired the unique but dubious distinction as a nation that treats education as a postscript. I remember my days at Akoka and there were foreign students and lecturers. The story is different today. In midst of this strike, our national legislators are considering 63 bills for the establishment of new universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and monotechnics. Our unthinking and indifferent legislators believe that universities should be treated as constituency projects. The issue of university education is not about number but funding. If the government is still in dark, their ministers should go to Oxford University, London and Cairo University in Egypt on how universities are managed. Today the federal government has 49 universities, 40 polytechnics and 27 colleges of education.
It is time to call off the strike and ASUU should know that many Nigerians are not on their side. Some federal universities are already backing out and a rival university lecturer trade union is already in the womb of time. Let both the federal government and lecturers shift grounds in the interest of the students. This writer is a product of the university system and so are many of my compatriots. The university is a place for the production of highly skilled manpower that can fire the engine of growth and development of the nation. I appeal to our lecturers to bear this in mind. As for the no work, no pay, that is the standard in labour relations. And next time ASUU wants to embark on strike, it should look at its purse whether it is capable of paying its member for the period of strike. Strike as weapon of blackmail has no place in modern labour relations. It is time to pick up the chalk and go back to the classroom. We are all losers in this unfortunate strike.


Share this news