For the sake of Nigerian students who have been idling away for the past six weeks, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) may be asked to call off its strike anytime soon. But the university teachers should not be returning to the classrooms simply because the federal government has promised to spend N100billion on infrastructure in the 61 federal universities or N30billion for unpaid allowances.
The question that should trouble everyone is: after this, what next? Will there not be a repeat next year and the next year? Since the federal government has failed to honour the agreement it reached with ASUU in 2009, what is the guarantee that it won’t default again even in the agreement it may sign with the body this year? Where is the integrity often preached by many Nigerian government officials?
It is clear that the nation’s political leaders are bent on driving a nail into the coffin of tertiary education in Nigeria. Were it not so, nobody would refuse to honour an agreement voluntarily signed by the Federal Government of Nigeria at a time of unprecedented oil boom. Finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala couldn’t have been serious when she said that the government lacked N92billion for payment of wages.
This is less than the amount stolen every month in Nigeria. It is less than 10 per cent of what a presidential candidate spent during the electioneering of 2011.
Government either agrees to fund university education as demanded by ASUU or “privatise” its universities. We either have universities or not have them. It is of no use underfunding varsities and expecting them toperform magic. Students in our tertiary institutions should be able to acquire the necessary knowledge and be prepared to contribute meaningfully to the nation’s development. And jobs should be made available for them. It is suicidal to keep churning out millions of young people from institutions of higher learning each year only to keep them in the labour market forever. Enough of this hypocrisy.
The current ASUU strike shows that this is not a serious nation. It has lasted long mainlybecause the children of most of the governors, ministers, senators and other government officials are not in Nigerian universities. Of course, there are Nigerians with enough money to sponsor their wards inwell-funded schools in America, Europe and even in South Africa and Ghana. One federal lawmaker has promised to introduce a bill that would make it compulsory for Nigerian public servants to keep their children in public schools. Likely, he was merely jesting:no such bill will be allowed to see the light ofday in the House of Representatives or the Senate. Yet, it is in everybody’s interest to have a nation ruled with justice and fairness.