BY PHILIP AFAHA
“Government is not the solution to the problem, Government is the problem”
– Ronald Reagan
In my last article on Adamu Adamu, I had argued that the current Minister of Education appears different in his disposition and handling of issues. My opinion was informed by his deft handling of the return of history to the school curriculum. Only recently, Nigeria once again were perplexed at Adamu`s rare admission of quilt on the part of government for the recurring ASUU strike.
The minister was blunt in his admission and promised that must do everything to redress the impasse as soon as possible. This is the first time a Nigerian public Officer would own-up to a fault. Though seemingly uncommon, it is equally indicting and such confession calls to question the priorities of the government.
Reacting to the recent strike, Adamu Adamu recalled that “Late last year, we had a meeting because ASUU gave a one-week notice of strike and we were able to work out some agreement. I must confess that government has not fulfilled its side of the bargain, …we realised that we promised something and we did not fulfil it. I hope I will be meeting them later today or tomorrow and I’m sure we will be able to reach some agreement so that the strike will be called off as soon as possible”.
There`s another observation in the face-off. Before now, whenever ASUU goes on strike some dubious persons will rush to the media to castigate the ivory tower over what they know absolutely nothing about, instead of condemning government for causing this embarrassing drift. They will insult and abuse ASUU on radio, newspapers, televisions and on the social media…then some dubious government officials will identify the most vicious of these enemies of knowledge and bankroll them with tax-payers money to frustrate a genuine patriotic demand for government to perform its statutory functions. It is interesting to note that immediately Adamu Adamu admitted neglecting the 2009 agreement, these moral clowns would no longer talk down on ASUU, or question the need for the Nigerian universities to be adequately catered for. They are tongue-tight,, because their evil trade of praise-singing government positions no matter how stupid such arguments are has come to an end. With Adamu Adamu`s admission it means no one is picking bills of sycophantic media commentators and mob contractors who, like the Pyongyang army, by now would have marched through major streets in Abuja condemning the effort of the intellectual community to demand a redress in our school system. Stupidity is when one condemns ASUU agitations for enhanced education in one breadth, and complains about the universities producing half-baked graduates in another. Nigeria can never produce fully and wholly baked graduates if there are no books in the library, equipments in the labouratory and well motivated professors.
The gist of the strike is that ASUU wants government to pay adequate attention to education in the country. Apart from their legitimate allowances and pensions, ASUU wants government to provide books in the libraries, equipments in the laboratories and convenient classrooms and hostels for students to make Nigerian universities as attractive as the ones every government official are sending their children to in America, Dubai and even Ghana. ASUU is fighting against the abandonment of public universities by government simply because almost every past and present government official are floating private schools to rival the public ones. It is the thinking in the universities that government and policy makers deliberately wants to emasculate the public universities the way they did to public primary and secondary schools just to create room for their businesses to thrive. It is sad to observe that all former government officials who killed public school system in Nigeria are now floating state of the art private schools from the monies they stole from government covers and the fees charged in those schools are far beyond the reach of ordinary Nigerians.
There was even a rumour of planned privatisation of public universities in Nigeria. Government should be told in clear terms that education is not business but a critical obligation in the social contract between the government and the governed. They should be told that education is not politics that government would just announce universities into existence without thinking through how it will fund and equip such institutions for optimal operations. From the look of things, Nigerian politicians see universities as election-time projects to bargain for votes, and to later use appointment into university councils to settle politicians. These council members automatically become the `real` contractors of the universities, making as much monies possible from these schools in return of political support for those who appointed them.
By his recent response to the ASUU strike Adamu Adamu just repeated the uncommon feat he recorded during the campaign for the return of history in Nigeria. While the Mallam should be commended for his uprightness for going against tradition and speaking the truth about this intractable problem, Government should be reminded that it is not enough to admit quilt for the perennial strikes in the universities, it should for once be serious about its responsibilities. Nigerian government should apologize to Nigerian students and parents who have suffered losses due to these strikes. ASUU should be commended for holding out this long and pushing government to repentance. Nigerian government should know that the world has a benchmark on education and is no longer amused by these cheap but destructive antics. No amount of government propaganda and subversive tactics will change global impression about Nigeria`s reckless attitude to education and development. A country`s development is tied to its education. Those who are doing it right will never wait for Nigeria to catch up. Lets not totally absolve the ivory tower from this mess; it is a fact that there is corruption and shoddiness in the universities!…but these apparent shortcomings are induced by the government. As we say in Ibibio, “Mmong ibok asanga nanga okuk asanga”. Enough of this foolery.
Dr Philip Afaha, is the Deputy Director, UNIABUJA CONSULT, and Abuja Liaison Officer, Historical Society of Nigeria