By Andrew A. Erakhrumen, PhD
We will not give up on this country, our country, Nigeria! Yes, those of us who do not have any other place to call our own, or run away to, will not give up! Coincidentally, this category of Nigerians is far in the majority, in terms of population.
Hence, we will continue to contribute our quota to the efforts at keeping this ship floating on the currently turbulent waters. This will be done in consonance with close monitoring of the activities of some unpatriotic people, who may not even be Nigerians, that want to ensure that the eventual sinking of the ship get realised, since they have places they perceive as safe if the need for a refuge (for them and their people) arise – if there is any negative occurrence here. We will continue to engage such people, constructively, for the benefit of the majority. Before we plunge into the main argument here, we will like to state, clearly, at the onset of this intervention, that our effort is to correct misconception in a message and not necessarily to dignify the messenger by attacking him/her.
However, since human beings (as messengers here) are not programmed machines, sometimes, their personal/group’s concealed intention(s) is/are revealed through body language, knowingly and/or unknowingly, during the conveyance and delivery of messages. This is particularly true when the messenger(s) is/are part of the group(s) whose plot(s) generated the message – good or bad. This is the reason why someone who was supposed to be a “conciliator” glaringly behaved like a “conspirator” on a Nigerian Television Authority’s Good Morning Nigeria of Monday 28th of December, 2020. This “conciliator”, on this live network programme, exuded, in large quantity, what a friend in the humanities described as Mephistophelian disdain for academics in the Nigerian University System, as we espoused in an article entitled “Systematic Demeaning of Nigerian Academics”. Of course, when you try and succeed eventually at sending out a specific message of interest, for instance, by speaking or writing, it is expected that you will be patient enough to receive feedback(s). Is that not what is called dialogue?
Experts in the field of communication studies and practice are in a good position to help us. While waiting for help from these experts, we will like to move quickly ahead in order to cover some grounds. Few days ago, effective from 12:01am of the 24th of December, 2020, the members of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), as a result of their acceptance of Agreements, tagged: Memorandum of Action (MOA), reached with Federal Government of Nigeria on the 22nd of December, 2020, suspended the erstwhile total, comprehensive and indefinite strike they embarked upon since the 23rd of March, 2020. The suspended strike, as always, was to call the attention of government, and other stakeholders, to earlier unfulfilled Agreements dating back to 2009! Many of the stakeholders in education sector heaved a sigh of relief on hearing this good news. Nevertheless, based on past experiences in this country, there are good reasons, for some, to be sceptical about government’s “sincerity”, concerning (timely) implementation of this MOA and others, as others in the past were implemented in the breach.
We also share, with patriotic compatriots, this cynicism regarding governments’ “sincerity” concerning (timely) implementation of these Agreements, as we are too experienced to be carried away by euphoria. This is so because we have been seriously puzzled for long; we have been wondering and asking why the strikes embarked upon by members of ASUU linger, in a familiar similar pattern, before government “see reasons”, certainly half-heartedly, with the Union. The answer to the puzzle is gradually being revealed. Fortunately, there is a recent exposé, (based on evidence and sound reasoning), concerning some of the undercurrents responsible for, and/or contributory to, almost all the unnecessarily protracted industrial disputes between ASUU and Federal Government of Nigeria, and this includes the recently suspended strike action earlier mentioned. According to a Nigerian adage, breeze has blown resulting in exposing the underside of the fowl! What are we trying to say here? In just three days after ASUU suspended a strike, the Vanguard Newspaper published a story on the 27th of December, 2020.
The said story was entitled “ASUU strikes helping to actualise Boko Haram’s ideology” purportedly credited to someone with the appellation “Director-General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum” (whatever that means!). This is a country where we so much love titles! Excellency this and that! Honourable this and that! Distinguish this and that! Big titles, no value! Some of our people can get so drunk with these (vain) titles that add no value to Nigeria’s developmental project. Anyway, in the story, it was claimed that this individual wrote a press statement lamenting how the series of industrial actions by ASUU has continued to help actualise the Boko Haram ideology of destroying the education sector. This is one of the most (if not the most) outrageous, illogical and dim-witted comments we have heard or read about, in recent history, concerning the available criticisms of ASUU struggles to reposition Nigeria’s public universities. We do not want to believe that, either this fellow does not understand what ASUU’s consistent struggles, over the years, were all about or he is just playing unintelligent pranks.
Apart from the likely reasons, adduced above, for the somewhat silly comments, we also know that (Nigerian) politicians love, and they always struggle to, be in the news for any reason(s). Therefore, they believe that issues concerning ASUU will likely afford them unmerited publicity. Additionally, they, as hatchet men, must be seen, and heard, to be doing the bidding of their principals! Of course, there is no need to enumerate what ASUU struggles are all about here. They have been well documented to the extent that only someone who is lazy, in asking questions for objective answers, will claim ignorance of them. However, do we need to inform this fellow that ASUU struggles have been prosecuted since the late 1970s when the unfortunate phenomenon he is trying to link them with was non-existent? In fact, we will like to ask this fellow some questions: Should everything in Nigeria be about politics and politicking? If yes is this fellow’s response, then should something as grievous as threat to continuous unity of Nigeria be discussed in a way reminiscent of a “beer parlour talk”? Are ASUU struggles what led to terrorist attacks on some higher institutions in northern part of Nigeria? Check the links below:
It is clearly obvious that there is/are sinister motive(s) behind this statement from this fellow on behalf of his currently shady co-conspirators. This half-witted statement cannot, in our opinion, be from only one person. Is the reader of this piece asking of what the conspiracy is all about? Please, exercise some patience as we will soon reveal the full picture. In this intervening period, let us quickly look at another of this guy’s absurd submissions where he tried to demonise many respected Nigerian academics – in his words – by stating that they “celebrated the point that ASUU has never lost any struggle against the Nigerian government, whether military or civilian” going further to claim that “these are being said without any remorse or acknowledgement of the damage ASUU strikes have done to the Nigerian educational system”. These fellow’s ridiculous comments – that are as worthless as the tissue paper used effectively for the purpose which it was meant, in the loo – cannot be farther from the truth. These people “fascinate” us with the way they open their mouth wide like that of hippopotamus to deliver filth.
These comments are unworthy of our attention, nevertheless, people who pretend to be ignorant, or decide to propagate ignorance, or decide to be deliberately ignorant, or decide to be uneducable, should be helped because that is the least a teacher and bearer of illuminating and enlightening torch should continuously do. It is important, for this kind of people, to know that many of the respected Nigerian academics being referred to, have their children/wards in these public universities. They (lecturers) are not as “privileged” as people like them who have uninhibited access to resources crookedly extracted from the public till, to send their children/wards abroad for education/training. For instance, ASUU President, Prof. ’Biodun Ogunyemi, has two children in Nigerian public universities, as at today. In addition, many of us, as lecturers today, within the Nigerian University System, had our shares of the impacts of strikes and other patriotic struggles of ASUU on our time during our studentship in the 1990s.
Therefore, we ask: Is this guy, with those ridiculous comments, trying to be more Egyptian than the Pharaoh? He should tell the world what has been concretely achieved in the past, and now, in terms of trying to call the attention of government to the parlous state of our public universities without the use of strikes. This tool (strike), activated during industrial disputes after the failure of all entreaties, have, unfortunately, become the only language understood, and responded to, by Nigerian governments – past and present. Why is this guy trying to twist well intended opinion of fact concerning ASUU not loosing any struggle against government? Since he is pretending not to know the context within which such opinion was ventilated, we volunteer to educate him, publicly. All the struggles ASUU have been engaging in have always been aimed towards the sustenance of the survival of public universities, and are well rooted in sound logic, ideology, subsisting laws of the country and international best practices.
In almost all instances, in order to show understanding concerning the unique challenges bedevilling our country’s politico-economics, ASUU demands were based on “African averages”, so why will such struggles not succeed with the support of ASUU members? Is the character aware that ASUU is a Union of intellectuals? It is unfortunate, but not unexpected, that this fellow decided to limit the last ASUU strike to that for earned academic allowance. Please, hear him: “……. from the agreement with ASUU …… the N40 billion disbursed for earned academic allowances is to be shared with non-academic staff. After exhausting the N40 billion, what next? Should we assume that it will be the end of allowances in Nigerian public universities? Certainly not.” Is this fellow not implying that he is discreetly asking why government conceded and agreed to pay part of what ASUU members are legitimately owed? Why did he not talk about funding for revitalisation of Nigeria’s public universities? We hope the reader of this piece is gradually getting the picture being painted. We are closer to breasting the tape, here, than ever!
We are not fools; we know where he is coming from and going to! These are the people giving wrong advice to government in order to complete the total collapse of public universities in Nigeria and when there is strike they encourage government to take actions that will prolong it. Why? You may ask. This is because if Nigeria’s public universities finally collapse, they will be the major beneficiaries through fraudulent privatisations and the establishment of “three-bedroom flat” universities all over the country. We are already seeing some in many parts of the country. This was the major strategy for achieving the complete collapse of public primary and secondary schools. These people, with feudalistic mindset, do not care about the country and its vulnerable citizens. They only care about what will make them smile to the banks! This is what we were talking about concerning the age-long secretive conspiracy we made mention of above, now being brought to the fore. We are still wondering why and how these callous people are still being listened to, by some oppressed Nigerians. There is need for more enlightenment.
These are the “vultures” referred to in this article’s title. We will soon get to why they are referred to as such. Meanwhile, is it not laughable to every sensible Nigerian, that more than five years in the saddle at Aso Rock, this person is just suggesting to the President and Presidency – whose party he is an integral part of – that they “……. need to expedite the process of diversifying the economy and expanding our tax base to increase non-oil revenues and prioritising public spending away from bureaucracy towards investments in infrastructure and improved frontline services”? We also ask, using Nigeria’s Pidgin English, “wetin aboki no go see for gate?” Haba, our country, is in a mess! The foundation for this mess has long been laid, one way or the other, by us all! Some may say, kai, God forbid, I was not involved! It is alright, continue, but check your past deeds and conscience! We are now confronted with evidence of badly managed yesterday, through opportunistic charlatans in all aspects of governance, today. We appear so confused that many objective critics have had their voices drowned in sea of helplessness.
Well, we are perfectly aware that they are still in their “laboratories” to produce “elixirs” that will assist them in achieving their evil agenda concerning Nigeria’s public universities. This is because they have been made to realise, that these public universities, in our time, are like – according to a common myth – “a cat with nine (several) lives” that will not (be allowed to) die. This current stark reality is annoying to these financial/economic hawks including those in government, their agents, and their local and foreign collaborators because they have been disappointed like a skulking vulture that hopefully waited patiently for the death of a dying animal but ended the long wait, for it (the dying animal) to refuse to die. The refusal to die and eventual recovery of the (dying) animal meant that the lurking vulture needed to look elsewhere for carcass to feed on. We must state here that, with this kind of people in the “corridors and bedroom of power” more struggles lie ahead for ASUU, but as always, ASUU’s victory will always be the case. We sincerely wish everyone a happy, coronavirus free and prosperous 2021CE, and beyond.
Andrew A. Erakhrumen, PhD
is of the Department of Forest Resources and Wildlife Management,
University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria