Strikes, protests demonstrations against ourselves
Against colonial rule, under the jackboots of apartheid enforcers of the National Party of Afrikaners and confronting the inhumane politics of Sani Abacha, strikes, protests and demonstrations are in order. In fact these are the last instruments of civil expressions of our desire for something different. And these colonial, Afrikaner and military governments confront such strikers and protesters and demonstrators with armed soldiers shooting life bullets and keeping the Trees of Freedom growing with the blood of our brave and courageous heroes on the battle lines of strikes, protests and demonstrations.
Some two or so weeks ago, the ASUU declared another strike. The declaration was welcomed with the same frustration from students who cannot remember which session and which semester they were and if the present set of examinations would matter in the face of the new strike by University teachers. Parents and guardians of students resigned themselves to another waste of months. Commentators and observers of the Nigerian scene wondered for how long ASUU would keep going on strike and expecting the federal and state governments to respond responsibly and do the needful: that is, ensure that the federal ministry of Education and the NUC do what they are budgeted to do.
This is because this particular strike is, if anything, the one hundredth strike of ASUU since 1999, asking the federal government and state governments to do the budgeted responsibilities of their education institutions. Rather than do this, the federal government and the state governments have usually ignored the strike of the University teachers and carried on with their own concerns which have nothing to do with the concerns of the people of this country.
So, for months and months, students are at home doing nothing with their youth, wasting away the time they could never recover. In some cases, parents and guardians send their female university students to go and learn sewing while the males try their hands at yahoo-ing.
Suggestions pour in, in the face of the silence of the federal government. Wole Soyinka, the late Ojetunji Aboyade and others have called for the universities to close for at least one year or session while the matter of Nigerian Education is hammered out from pre school to primary, secondary, technical and tertiary. There is no record of any response from the federal government or the university teachers or the students and their parents and guardians.
More recently Femi Falana SAN, advised University teachers to pursue the money that has accrued to the TETFUND and ensure that it is properly used. Biodun Jeyifo reminded ASUU officials of this advice, reminding them that he had written to them on the subject before. Still, nothing has been done on this suggestion.
With the declaration of the commencement of this new strike, it was suggested that instead of ASUU doing the same thing and expecting a different result, why not begin this strike as the strike for the independence of the universities. That is, this strike is not begging the federal government to do their budgeted duties but to let the universities go. Leave them alone, let them pursue their own ways and means to fund themselves. This new line of struggle would be based on the legend that the only thing that succeeds in Nigeria is anything that has nothing to do with government. Or rather, something that government has nothing to do with is the only thing that succeeds.
Private business succeeds because it is in private, not in government hands. Crop farming succeeds because it is in the hands of farmers. Nollywood succeeds because it is in the private hands of those who know about making films and making money out of them. Finally, private universities are succeeding where public universities are failing because they are run by private hands.
But the main interest of this piece is about ourselves going on strike against ourselves, ourselves protesting against ourselves as governments, ourselves demonstrating against ourselves, as if we were not the ones running our governments. The phenomenon first appeared in South Africa. Rape is a serious crime in South Africa. Everybody protests about it but the crime fighting agents do nothing about it.
Same thing with domestic violence. Reported, recorded but nothing is done about it. So, there was surprise when the speaker led a demonstration against the sentencing of a struggle hero for drunk-driving offence. How can ‘they’ (government? them? us?) send our heroes to jail when colonial criminals, apartheid collaborators and gangsters walk the streets of our cities free? But you are now ‘they’, don’t you understand? You are going to have to go to the other end of the barricade to receive the letter of protest from yourselves, you know? The romance of struggle heroes against horrible colonisers and apartheid thugs and military dictators stopped because it was a case of ourselves investigating ourselves!
The Nigerian version arrived at the 70th anniversary of the founding of the University of Ibadan. There was a demonstration, an ASUU demonstration led by Muhammad Buhari, the Executive President of Nigeria, carrying a huge ‘palacard’ proclaiming: ASUU IS RIGHT! UNIVERSITIES SHOULD BE PROPERLY FUNDED! UNIVERSITIES, LOOK FOR YOUR OWN FUNDING!
It was a moment of historical significance. It was a moment that demanded a standing ovation for the speaker who uttered these words. Were there handclaps when these words were uttered? Did the hall stand up as one person and proclaim that the day of glory had arrived and the universities are free to be themselves from henceforth? Nothing of this nature was reported. Perhaps, the universities are so stupefied that they have to digest the idea of being freed from the apron strings of the government that they do not know how best to respond.
There is no ‘them’ and ‘us’ in African matters at all. To inherit this type of vocabulary is to mislead ourselves to the position of protesters waiting for someone to take our letter of protest. It is to forget that we are the ones we are protesting against and we must come to the other side of the barricade to collect our letter of protest. Not only collect it but also do something about it.
And in doing something about the universities, we know that those sources of funding would include the government as well but it would not be the only source. Ourselves creating what we want.