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Varsities and Buhari’s change mantra

By Oluwole Ogundele
19 September 2016   |   3:10 am
It is, indeed, not an over-statement to claim here that a deep crisis or near-complete anarchy is imminent on many of the university campuses in Nigeria.
students. PHOTO: bellanaija.com

students. PHOTO: bellanaija.com

It is, indeed, not an over-statement to claim here that a deep crisis or near-complete anarchy is imminent on many of the university campuses in Nigeria. Such a nightmare or unpleasant scenario is an anathema to the expected leadership roles of this geopolity within the African continent and even beyond. Inevitable (incessant) strike actions certainly lead to truncated academic calendar with attendant negative consequences for the future of Nigeria in several respects. The time-tested university culture of probity and fine-grained intellectualism coupled with unparalleled good character is gradually disappearing from our consciousness.

The university normally is a centre for the larger society to draw inspirations, ideas and ideologies from, in an attempt to engender robust life and living within the confines of sustainability and global relevance. It is a unique space for eggheads including some of the finest minds.

The above explanation vividly shows that modern human society cannot experience sustainable development without giving enormous space to university education. Most of the movers and shakers of healthy societal growth/development are normally produced here. Therefore, some structures are naturally put in place in order to realise this broad goal. These structures include a governing council and management team for each university. This is in tandem with the broad/global university culture. But sadly enough, the Nigerian university system today is generally failing with respect to crisis management in all its ramifications.

This is traceable to the new but ugly culture of avarice, pure greed and insensitivity to the pains and problems of members of staff as well as students. It would not be an exaggeration to say here loud and clear that many academics and political class members (with a few exceptions) are gradually becoming moral equals. Incessant crises on the campuses are a reflection of deteriorating relations between the management team and workers as well as students.

Leadership at any level is a combination of gains and pains. Nigerian leadership particularly at the university level today recognises only the former.

University management must necessarily strike an equilibrium between it and the followership in order to pave the way for sustainable peace and progress. Leadership is not about silencing the followership especially those who direct the affairs of staff unions. It is too easily forgotten that the management team cannot silence everybody with “brown envelopes” or “juicy” but vanity positions outside the statutory duties of workers.

The socially acceptable and honourable thing to do is to learn to chart the pathways of peace through the lens of inclusiveness coupled with transparency. Currently, profound knowledge productions remain at their lowest ebb as good quality time and money are wasted on endless, but largely unprofitable meetings. This situation further irritates the followership that is already frustrated as the management stubbornly continues to offend its (followership) sensibilities. It seems to me that only very few universities in Nigeria do not suffer from the above absurdities.

Anybody with the faintest idea of social justice and/or sanity will not jump into the conclusion that NASU and SSANU (non-academic unions) are irresponsible for agitating.

“Baboons” are ravaging our “collective corn field.” They have to be chased away before the innocent, committed workers begin to die of starvation. In other words, agitation is the inevitable consequence of oppression and economic exploitation of the masses. Today, there is a disequilibrium in the Nigerian university system basically because of integrity flight.

Therefore, uncritical castigation of traumatised workers and students alike whenever they protest/agitate is a big disservice to providence and fellow humanity. It bothers me a great deal when I see many Nigerians regardless of their academic attainments and/or social statuses behaving like a funny lot! Indeed, we are second to none in this connection. This unwarranted passivity underscores the reason why our leaders through time and space relate to us with contempt. We pray more than those saints in the heavenly kingdom but very poor in matching our prayers with action.

Union leaders are now becoming more radicalised than ever before in the face of undeserved material poverty of monumental proportions. As the Yoruba people would say, “ebi lo ma ko were logbon.” It means that hunger is capable of healing a madman. The ‘falcons’ can no longer hear the ‘falconer.’ This underscores the reason workers (even when their leaders are getting tired) are not ready to listen to empty rhetoric from the management.

The language they understand now is “action”! “action”!! and “action”!!! The development is a testament to good leadership deficiency and by extension, failure. Nigerians must be in control of their destinies. It has become a fashionable style of administration on most varsity campuses in relatively recent times, to cripple Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) so that the dreaded culture of impunity can go on unabated. We are losing some of the finest segments and values of the academia due largely to unthinkable avarice, greed and unbridled appetite for vanity positions! Things are rapidly falling apart as most university lecturers suffer in silence even when their legitimate allowances are not paid up by the management. So ‘the man dies’ in most professors and their junior colleagues who have fallen into a state of despondency.

Thus, for example, this writer is yet to receive his first instalment of monetisation arrears since 2009. The second instalment was paid to me without the first. Over 100 workers of U.I. belong to this category. “Wallahi” (as my Muslim friends would say), my monetisation arrears developed wings and flew away between Abuja and Ibadan. What a wonderful system! Both the management and ASUU continue to look the other way even when they were approached several times on this matter.

Therefore, commentators on the varsity crises in Nigeria must not forget that the issue of causality has to go hand-in-hand with effect(s) in order to pave the way for a robust, scientific explanation. Denying staff members their legitimate allowances and/or arrears is a reflection of godlessness at its peak and by extension, an invitation to anarchy. Management must stop caricaturing workers and students as if they are a bunch of morons.

Indeed, the management team has to be prepared to set realistic/workable and staff-friendly priorities so as to raise workers’ morale for optimum knowledge productions. In this connection, humility and uncommon integrity need to necessarily occupy centre stage in the scheme of things. From Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife to University of Ibadan, Ibadan things were/are falling apart as councils’ meetings could or cannot resolve fundamental issues and problems.

No responsible, responsive president as visitor to all federal universities in Nigeria would fold his arms in the face of imminent danger of total collapse or anarchy.

Given this scenario, Buhari cannot afford to keep quiet as most of our varsities today are gradually sinking into the mud of maladministration.

•Ogundele, a professor, is of the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Ibadan, Ibadan.

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