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ASUU strike and the future of the nation – Part II


[FILE PHOTO] ASUU National President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi

Dear Sister! Is your notion of a university that of a crèche where toddlers are kept away from the topsy-turvy of life completely insulated against the drudgery in the pursuit of material comforts by the wombs that bore them? Is our notion of universities that of a space for the production of thermometers not thermostats– graduates who would only feel the pressure not control the streams and the contradictions of life?

I am seized by all of the above resultant of my awareness that whenever a nation desire that its universities function as the crucible of advancement and progress, it not only employs faculty whose major duty would be the advancement of knowledge through original and critical investigation but also pays close attention to its welfare.

Whenever a nation desires to lead other nations in all spheres of human endeavour, it empowers its intelligentsia whose membership would consist of scholars of outstanding gravitas: scholars who would be prepared to, in line with Edward Said, “speak truth to power” (E. Said, 2000).

The ‘tigers’ would not have emerged in Asia were it for the position of preeminence accorded by its leaders; leaders who were philosophers before becoming kings; leaders who remain philosophers even while still in power.

Not philosophers who after having become kings begin to excoriate ASUU ‘s struggles by saying university Professors’ monthly salaries is equivalent to that of state governors, if not more!

Again the above raise other deeper issues for contemplation- that since we are humans, we are the pursuit of the now, of the ephemeral and the chimerical, of illusions of life, always purblind us to the fundamental lessons life teaches to us every day.

Recent experience in our polity as a nation has taught me that the best lessons we always learn from the past is to unlearn everything the past taught to us.

Or how else might you make sense of the current yearning for the ignoble past by a section of the populace; how do you interface with the feelings of nostalgia on the part of my compatriots who desire a return to the abyss?

How do you make sense of the seeming nonsense – seeming because ours is now a world where relativity of truth has now taken the toga of divinity-that the best way to ensure progress of the university system is for to become locales of ‘peace’; like that of the graveyard; that the best way to ensure the production of stellar graduates for the present and the future is to guarantee stable academic calendar?

Yes. Stable academic calendar is no doubt fundamental to quality knowledge generation, knowledge distribution and knowledge acquisition.

But I have equally found some reasoning, and permit my pursuit of that like the honey’s bee’s pursuit of beautiful flowers, in Tom Robbin (1993) when he says ‘true stability results when presumed order and presumed disorder are balanced; that a truly stable system expects the unexpected; (it) is prepared to be disrupted; (it) waits to be transformed.”

In other words, the assumption that ASUU takes pleasure like the Yoruba aphorism would say “in wearing the same trousers’ with government- that is taking conflictual posture with government-is jejune and completely asinine.

It is jejune simply because it seeks to validate the other assumption that a heir to an heritage would derive pleasure in presiding over its liquidation; that members of the Union, most of whom are also parents with children in our universities across the federation do not want the best for their children and by extension for themselves.

Thus when they say ASUU is not interested in ensuring the progress of the University system, I always wonder what else does the Union stand for? Hold this to be the truth- whenever a strike action is foisted on the system resultant of the refusal of government to rise up to its responsibility, what that means is a descent into a season of self-abnegation; a season when the believer avoids foods, drinks and sexual relations not because of cessation of desire but in deep desire for something higher, something nobler.

Hold this to be the truth- whenever ASUU says it is on strike, its members are actually still on duty under the austere university atmosphere constantly made worse by lack of water and lack of electricity; whenever ASUU says it is on strike, my colleagues are on duty in their offices, in their study-rooms, in their poorly resourced laboratories and libraries.

This is because, like worship of the Almighty, there can be no going on ‘strike’ from reflection, from contemplation, from knowledge production. As an intellectual, I am fated to that from which, by choice, I cannot be extricated.

The current ASUU strike, like the ones before it, is an ace that is meant to correct the menace of infrastructural deficit in our university system; it is an ace that is designed to combat the absence of diligence in the implementation of agreements reached by the Federal government with the Union.

Even in this maze of strike action, I still look forward to a future when, as it is in other climes, we shall have uninterrupted academic calendar; when lack of funding of our universities would be a thing of the past; when government would run seamlessly, proactively, responsively and responsibly.

I look forward to a future when academic staff would not go on strikes anymore the same way members of parliament in Abuja have no reason to embark on work-to-rule actions !
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