by Adeola Adelabu
Where was ASUU when Governor Fashola successfully commercialized education in Lagos State University? Who rents out their Boys Quaters to students who are not connected enough to get accommodation in the Halls of residence at outrageous prices (even though it’s illegal)?
Nigerians were once reputed to be the happiest people in the world. This isn’t because life is good, but because most Nigerians make jokes of their problems. Thus when students decided to toe this line in the light of the ongoing ASUU strike, it was not unprecedented. Jokes about ASUU strike have been viral on social media. Definitions of ASUU strikes (supposedly to foreigners who inquired) include a self-imposed extra leave for all lecturers; and an annual festival during which university students are not allowed to go to school.
The aim of this piece is neither to discuss the necessity or frequency of strike action nor to apportion blame. Rather, I write to highlight the latent hypocrisy of ASUU, and state my view about how lecturers have exploited an unfortunate situation for their gains, at the extent of the Nigerian students.
Asides the ‘Police is Your Friend slogan’, the progressives in PDP and APC and lately, Governor Obi’s open letter to the president, I wonder if there could be any greater hypocrisy than ASUU’s claim to be fighting to save the education sector from collapse, in light of recent revelations.
Let me quickly state that I’m not against the strike. As I wrote in a previous article, there is a tendency for every employee whose employers defaults on agreement to go on strike. However, while we criticize our politicians for shielding the truth from the public, our lecturers have toed the same line. ASUU never mentioned to students and the public that their priority was allowances, which is no crime anyway. When medical doctors go on strike, it is stated that they want improves salary and working conditions. They never pretend to want better hospital beds or new ward clothing for patients. They are straight to the point and no one has ever blamed them for wanting better lives.
However, ASUU say they are after increased funding for education. They say they are protecting the future. They want generation unborn to be grateful to them for revitalizing the education sector, while still getting better pay (in order words; they want reward on earth and in the heavens).
While declaring the strike, ASUU President said it was all about funding. They said government has gone back on its promise to inject 100 billion to Education. They even claimed that the highest a lecturer will get in the allowances they are demanding is N12,500 per month, or N150,000 per annum. Lots of people berated the government and praised ASUU. That was before Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala revealed that Govt needs N92 billion to meet ASUU’s demand.
As the Yoruba adage goes, the wind has blown and the fowl’s anus is visible. Government set up a committee and agreed to invest N300 billion into Education with N100 billion already approved. This ecstasy made the committee chair, Gov. Suswam say that the strike would be called off in less than a week (After all, money has been injected to address infrastructural decay). However, rather than end the crisis, it brought to the fore, ASUU’s priority for going on strike; their bogus allowances. ASUU’s claim of requesting just N87 billion is laughable and uncharitable to the students whose academic progress have been halted due to the impasse.
To ASUU, increased funding only means infrastructure to aid their research and promotion (better lecture rooms, air conditioned offices, equipped laboratories etc), more research grants (so that they won’t have to spend their salary on research), better pay (that some of them hardly justify), outrageous extra or earned allowances (that make you wonder what exactly they are paid for in the first place). Among other things, they have also insisted that a high percentage of funds must be reserved for universities, who only make up less than 20% of or less of entire Nigerian students in tertiary institutions (of course to the detriment of polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of education)
In their selfishness, they neglected primary and secondary education, forgetting that the aforementioned will determine the quality of intakes and graduates of the universities. They forget that other tertiary institutions are important (strengthening them will reduce pressure on universities). They are insensitive to the fact that their pay demand (if paid in full) could trigger other Unions to demand more outrageous allowances (thus increasing recurrent expenditure and reducing amount left for federal capital expenditure).
But wait, there are many posers for ASUU, the self-acclaimed defender of public education who claim love students more than themselves. Do they really care about students? I doubt it. What is their official position on the Oronsaye-led committee report that proposed tuition for tertiary institutions? Have they ever demanded payment of bursaries and scholarships, which most of them benefited from (with N15 billion annually, each varsity student will receive 10,000 and ASUU is demanding N87 billion). Do local branches they take official positions when school managements make obnoxious policies? Where was ASUU when Governor Fashola successfully commercialized education in Lagos State University? Who rents out their boys quarters to students who are not connected enough to get accommodation in the halls of residence at outrageous prices (even though it’s illegal)? How many professors, earning over N500,000 can dedicate 5% of their pay, about N300,000 or more to pay the fees of 10 students in the University of Ibadan? Why have they refused to be assessed by students as it is been done in countries they make reference to while demanding better pay. Are they not the same people who constitute committees that victimize students?
Let me reiterate that I am not against a Union fighting for its members. However, they should be man enough to admit it (instead of brainwashing students with a saviour posture), and should be sensitive enough to align it with the realities of the day, particularly when humans are involved (in this case, students).
While the strike is ongoing, final year law students in University of Ibadan and University of Lagos have written exams, in order to meet up with Law School admission. Is this a case of Animal Farm where some animals are more equal than the others? I didn’t say lecturers have children in those classes. I wish ASUU and the government can reach an agreement soon, so that the children of the helpless can progress.
Adeola Adelabu was a presidential aspirant at the 2012 NANS election.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.