University education is a critical component of human development worldwide. It is more than just the next level in the learning process after secondary school. It provides essential training for teachers, doctors, nurses, civil servants, engineers, humanists, entrepreneurs, scientists, social scientists, and a host lot of other personnel. It provides high-level skills necessary for every labour market. University is a hub for human capital development. These trained individuals develop the capacity and analytical skills that drive economies, support civil society, teach children, lead effective governments, and make important decisions that affect the entire societies. They develop and train the “almighty” personnel responsible for revenue generation. And surely, for a country to get it right, it must prioritize that institution that is responsible for human capital development. But in Nigeria, public universities are established to be abandoned and their intellectuals are the most humiliated in the country. Their opinion does not matter even on government policies that affect them and the education system.
To get it right in education is to put the right people to steer the affairs of the sector. Disaster is when career politicians that have never been involved in education policies are appointed to oversee the affairs of education. As graduates of Accounting, Journalists and graduate of Law, etc, they know the value of education else they won’t send their kids abroad for university education, but unfortunately, they can’t find any reason why the public should have quality education. They possibly think that giving their kids quality education is all that Nigeria needs to excel. Buhari’s Minister of state for education said on Channels TV’s Politics Today that public university is for the poor masses. To him, ASUU can’t go to hell, after all, the Elitists’ kids have already gone to resume study abroad.
More disastrous is when these individuals trained in our universities between 70s and 90s feel that the Intellectuals that made university are worthless. ASUU has engaged successive governments on the funding of education since the military regime to date. The whole idea is for the government to live up to its responsibility of providing better conditions of service for the Lecturers to perform their responsibilities and also provide a conducive environment for the students to learn. Top on the agenda of the demands of ASUU was the revitalization of public universities, renegotiation of the 2009 agreement that concerned Lecturers’ welfare, and the distraction called IPPIS that they intend to use to further strangulate the public universities struggling for survival.
In 2013, Adamu Adamu, as a Columnist said: “This nation owes a debt of gratitude to ASUU and the strike should not be called off until the government accepts to do and does what is required. So, instead of hectoring ASUU to call off its strike, the nation should be praying for more of its kind in other sectors of the economy”. But surprisingly, after a long silence on the 7 months old ASUU strike in 2020, the Adamu Adamu who is now the Minister of Education came out of his silence to say: “I do believe that while they were signing that agreement, they knew that it is not possible for them to implement it. There is just nowhere N1.3 trillion will come out from”. The Minister possibly forgot that it was the FG committee on NEEDS Assessment of public universities, Chaired by their current INEC Chairman that recommended the N1.3 trillion naira for the revitalization. The agreement signed between FG and ASUU was on the implementation of the revitalization funding over 6 years. Meanwhile, ASUU was considerate enough to agree on the disbursement of N110 billion in 2019 instead of the N220b was agreed to be released on yearly basis for university revitalization, but there is still no money as stated on Channels TV by the Minister of state for education. He said they can only afford N20 billion to fix about 77 public universities.
But the government that doesn’t have money to fix education, has enough money to bail out private businesses such as private airlines. The government that has got not enough money for public universities approved N37 billion naira to renovate the National Assembly complex, Conducted the 2019 election with N189 billion, etc. The government that can’t fund education is going to use N2 billion naira to partition and furnish NERC Headquarter. Nigeria has borrowed and still borrowing to fund critical infrastructure such as roads, railways, airports, etc, but infrastructure in the universities worth not to be part of it. Because education is never a priority.
The ministries, departments, and agencies have budgets for conferences, training, allowances, but Lecturers sponsors themselves for conferences and their legitimate Earned Academic Allowance (EAA) that was meant to be mainstreamed into the budget since 2019 was not done. And they are still expected them to be productive like colleagues in the UK, Norway, US, Germany, France, Malaysia, South Africa, etc., who receive all they deserve and need not start looking for an extra source of income.
Why are we so bothered about proper university funding for quality education? The opportunity we had to pass through the university gave us the voice we have today. There is no way some of us would have been able to afford a university education if there is tuition. That is why we have refused to give up and MILT (Manage It Like That). If we let the government run away from its responsibility and introduce tuition fee under this current economic hardship that we don’t know when it will end and an average salary of N60,000 per month for civil servants, and allow mass dropout from public universities, all of us will not be safe from the consequences. As a matter of fact, the supposed middle class will be the first target.
So, Wednesdays’ deadlock can be avoided if the government is sincere. They should be glad for the local production of software that will make the management of the payrolls of all universities easy. Pay the withheld salaries with GIFMIS and join the ASUU team to make UTAS our success. The renegotiation of the 2009 agreement and the salary structure cannot last for more than two weeks with all sincerity. They should be serious and get it done. On revitalization, if they so value education, they can take a loan for the revitalization, take politics and personal interest out of the fund, and judiciously monitor the fund for maximum utilization. Is FG really committed to fighting corruption in the universities? Why are they so reluctant to send Visitation Panels to the universities? Why does ASUU need to beg FG to send visitation panels to Federal universities to check corruption? It makes no sense.
Fellow Ordinary Nigerians, there is a clear distinction between day and night. There is a clear line between truth and falsehood. Irrespective of your political loyalty, keep the emotion aside, and let’s face the reality. The ASUU-FG issue affects all of us. It is not difficult to identify the enemy. The Governor of Ekiti state was on Twitter celebrating the US-made Nigerian that is of Ekiti origin and Harvard graduate that won an election in the US, but they are less concerned about the Ekiti indigenes that are at home due to the ASUU strike. This is a battle between the ELITISTS and the survival of a public institution that provides the essential training for teachers, doctors, nurses, civil servants, engineers, humanists, entrepreneurs, scientists, social scientists, and a host lot of other personnel. And unfortunately, the only weapon that we’ve got against the Elitists that have worked for the past years is STRIKE. Put in your voice and actions to make the government do the needful. This can make the strike as short as possible and even put an end to strikes in Public Universities. But you can as well support the government for ASUU to fail and prepare for the payment of tuition or dropout of the university if you cannot afford the tuition.
The choice is yours!
Nigeria will survive! Our public universities must survive! and ASUU will succeed!