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ASUU’S rightful battle of moral conscience against financial realities

By Tony Afejuku
02 December 2022   |   1:58 am
I am suspending my focus on your Speaker of House of Representatives. I hopefully will re-touch next week, barring the un-expected, the first among equals in our House of Polifoolicians (H of P).

[FILES] ASUU members during their meeting with Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila

I am suspending my focus on your Speaker of House of Representatives. I hopefully will re-touch next week, barring the un-expected, the first among equals in our House of Polifoolicians (H of P). For now I am yielding space to a reader who introduced himself to me as an un-employed Nigerian graduate – a delightfully articulate fellow. He is Dele Owolowo. Enjoy his peculiar rhythm on the ASUU-FGN’s intangible and tangible battle of wits and bluffs:

Hearty greetings to you, Sir and thank you, for the excellent pieces on ASUU.
On the ASUU-FGN issue ASUU would remain on the back foot while the government calls the shots. The main reason our education sector can be belittled and seemingly betrayed is because it is a sector with few economic aces to play and for this reason it brings little to the economic table (kindly clip the education sector I sent to your WhatsApp). We are running a knowledge-based rather than a productivity-based education value chain with the tertiary sector at the top of this economically unproductive value chain.

To now beam our searchlight on our tertiary sector and their legacy and lasting economic contribution to their communities, how many of our tertiary institutions have financially buoyant alumni? How many of them are able to convince companies to invest in meaningful ventures with them? How many of them can attract substantial grants from NGOs, or are able to run commercially viable IGR ventures? And how many of them can charge realistic and reasonable student fees or can use government funds for mostly building infrastructure as opposed to simply paying salaries and pensions?

In almost all the universities in Nigeria today, apart from accommodation, transport and commercial food activities, and some consulting jobs here and there, what else can they provide in their communities? UNIBADAN, our premier university, for instance, if I were to take it out of Ibadan today, what would Ibadan miss outside of the aforementioned sectors after domiciling there for more than 70 years? The educational disconnect of most of our outputs to our economic requirements is why ASUU are on the back foot in these ongoing negotiations. Until there is a measure of financial independence where the government’s contribution should ideally not be more than 30 to 40 per cent of university finances covering mostly infrastructure, the government would ceaselessly and mostly be calling the shots. ASUU for now are in a rightful battle of wits pitting moral conscience against financial realities. Moral compass versus brutal financial dependence is why the government can call their bluff and hence the language and posture of the Ministers of Labour and Education. Who is holding who by the neck?

Nigeria, led by the tertiary education sub-sector, needs to realign itself to the economic requirements and advancement of the nation via its curriculum, and our universities need to increase their IGR ventures, partake in commercial partnership ventures (be they agricultural, agro-industrial, purely industrial, tourism and hospitality and entertainment – we are spoilt for choice basically) and then they can detach themselves from the wholly apron strings of the government. Only then can they truly have any worthwhile bargaining chips. UNILAG&#39’s recent foray into automobile partnerships (thankfully after mostly just being domiciled for decades in Akoka) is a massive step in the productive direction beyond accommodation. Transportation, food provision activities and the consulting jobs within the Lagos environs it is geographically fortunate to have access to are to the advantage of the institution which the runners should put to its maximum benefit. All other universities should borrow a leaf from this productivity-driven and employment- generating initiative. This same template should be cascaded down to the polytechnics, colleges of technical education, including the secondary and primary sub-sectors where our masters and doctoral research students could be of more productive use than the prevailing orientation geared towards producing countless theses and publications for citations in (usually foreign) journals. How this education template adds to Nigeria&#39’s economic productivity is open to debate.

Our education outputs should be driven more by creativity, independence,
entrepreneurship and productivity values and ethos rather than the current majorly knowledge and theory-oriented graduates mostly tailored towards the management, administrative and professional streams of the economy. It is the surplus of these graduates that are the unemployed, underemployed or misemployed outputs of the current education template. One can almost make the claim that if no graduates come out of our university conveyor belts, we have enough graduates out there for a decade to run Nigeria&#39’s current economic template which is overwhelmingly civil service and corporate sector-driven with minimal agro-industrial productivity.

Outside of the previously mentioned groups are those fortunate enough to be employed but now feel so overused or unappreciated that those of them who can afford it are increasingly japaing out of the country in droves for greener pastures abroad. Ironically, many of them are doing well out there with the most notable of them being those from the health and information technology professions. Of what use then are they to us after our scarce educational resources have been invested in them? Beyond their diaspora remittances (thanks be to them for not forgetting us o…), the countries abroad get the best out of our investment in them.

Until a paradigm shift in the end-goals of our education orientation takes place, ASUU (and the whole education sector) would continually be fighting a morally justified and conscientious battle but devoid of the nation&#39’s economic requirements and their own financially untenable realities. The push-has-come-to-shove; question we should endlessly be asking ourselves is, what would Nigeria lose, or to be more contemporary in thought, what has Nigeria lost economically with all the strikes to date outside of the accommodation, transportation and food marketing activities of the university communities? Whenever their economic impact starts becoming nationally fruitful, via more productive ventures, then universities can truly flex their economically oriented educational muscles.

Other than the above happening, with the post-strike &#39 ‘no work no pay ’ agenda still playing itself out, it is impossible not to feel for ASUU – we are all human and with family members among them – but the brutality of economic realities portend otherwise and this determines (or rather has been determining) the language and posture, albeit downright unpleasant sometimes, of these negotiations.

I am deliberating withholding my real comment to this contributor’s daring message. His tangible and intangible dancing steps don’t move me; so also are his delightful rhythm and rhetoric. Why essentially? He is afraid to call a bad spade by its rightful name. And the bad spade is the current central government in particular. It is the wholesome woe of Mr. Owolowo and all those in his unwholesome category of the un-employed.

Has this central government of wickedly wicked and maliciously malicious and vindictively vindictive officials, ministers and their supremely supreme Mr.-horrible-in-chief kept its pre-election promises to Nigerians? Has it kept all its agreements with ASUU? This vile central government of hollow tricksters and polifoolicians is the cause of our sorrowful sorrows and woeful woes. We must put the blame squarely where it belongs. ASUU’s moral battle against the unjustly unjust central government must be called by its rightful name. And we, dear compatriots, shall overcome those who are multiplying our pains day by day. ASUU forever!
Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! Thot! Thunder!!!!
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.

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