Oh no! not again ASUU
Abraham Ogbodo is my friend. It is because of his weekly sermons that I go to all lengths, including at times travelling more than 10 kilometres in search of The Guardian on Sunday, which is increasingly becoming as scarce as the Euro!
I like the permanent smile etched on his face, I like his witticisms, sarcasm, and the way he treats hard matters softly, and I also like the way he gives TKOs whenever, and wherever he feels it is necessary and without fear or favour.
Recently, however, (4 & 11 December, 2016), the punch landed on my face, when he almost wrote off the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the lecturers and Nigerian universities. Since I have been savouring his punches against others, I should also enjoy the punch that landed on my face. I cannot complain neither should I say: why me. I do not want to challenge his assertions, but I will rather do an addendum to what he wrote about us (members of the academic community), so as to add more flesh to it.
Characteristically, the article in question was punchy all the way and every sentence therein was a quotable quote on what was wrong with academics and our universities.
He highlighted ASUU’s massive infiltration of government over the years and wondered why it did not rub-off positively on the universities; regretted the persistent resort to strikes and almost criminal inability to think outside the box, and concluded that we are as evil and visionless as the government we are battling.
He was also not happy with our tendency to persistently throw back problems at society, absence of intellectual rigour, tendency towards populism and adopting call-to-strike, as the shortest route to fame.
He regretted that the gown and town synergy has not materialised because “ASUUists” are more interested in intrigues, self-aggrandisement and would rather struggle for vice chancellorship than engage in research. He reminded us that universities are not just about funding and infrastructure, challenged us to push the frontiers of knowledge, chided us for not brainstorming for solutions and being street-protesters rather than providers of answers.
In effect, he declared that the ivory has left the towers in our universities. He suggested a review of curriculum and methods and working through ASUU in Government (ASUUG probably led by Prof. Osinbajo) to achieve our aims rather than always paralysing the system. I agree with him especially as our people say that it is good to agree with others so that they will also agree with you.
On 23/7/09, I delivered the valedictory lecture at the now famous (you know why) Lagos State Senior Model College, Igbonla. The topic was “Managing the Challenges of the Next Level. I started by reviewing the academic environment then, an environment that was characterised by uncertainty, strikes, strife and conflicts, cultism and juvenile delinquency, outrageous student-teacher ratio, corruption and politicisation of the system, grossly inadequate and Lugard-era facilities, uneducated, uneducable, and unemployable products, misapplication of the quota system, crowding–out of public schools, watering down entry qualifications, and lack of commitment and seriousness on the parts of parents and students.
I arrived at the conclusion that we were all guilty (including lecturers) and responsible for the sordid state of educational affairs by failing to do that which we should do, and going ahead to do that which we should not do.
I also democratically apportioned the blames as follows: Government (inconsistency, underfunding, poor remuneration, politicisation of appointments, etc); Society (Certificate mania, decayed moral values and crash of work ethics, ‘money can buy everything” mentality, monetisiton of success, etc); Parents (No time for children whom they force to study fancy subjects, facilitation of expo and other corrupt practices, failure to lay goods examples); Schools (blowing in the wind of societal decay, universities that are no longer universities, politicisation, poor attention to the core essence, and failure to model excellence or practice what they preach); Teachers (meal-ticket paradigm and lack of interest in teaching, the blind leading the blind, poor orientation and wanting own reward here and now); Students (America-mania and foreign orientation, focus on fashion and “life,” want success without work, and ignorance of the reason why they are in school).
Consequently, we have (a) Poorly coordinated, poorly funded and inconsistent educational policies yielding (b) ill-equipped, overcrowded, non-conducive schools in which (c) ill-trained, ill-motivated, non-committed, poorly paid, hungry and angry teachers who try to teach (d) unserious, unwilling, uneducable students who came in with expo arranged by parents who are too busy to monitor them. These are pushed into (e) a society, which wants certificate by all means; which has destroyed the system, which would not even fund the schools, but yet expect the best from them and we reap: A+B+C+D+E = K a t a k a t a !
Mr. Ogbodo’s thesis is simply that the ivory has since left the tower and I wish to start by saying that this is not unarguable, that I have said so before and that many others have also said so. Those interested may wish to refer to these features and reports: “The ruins of Nigeria’s Ivory Tower,” in the National Daily Newspaper, of 6/11 15, in which Segun Elijah wrote about LASU, wondered at the miracle of learning amidst the frenzy of buying and selling that goes on around, and how one of the world’s largest oil producers runs a university system on a shoestring. “Ivory Towers of Fraud,” in the Daily Telegraph (9/6/16 edition); “Hell in Ivory Towers,” (The Sun, 14/3/16 edition); “Corruption in the Ivory Tower,” (The Punch, 9/11/16); “University Vice Chancellor, Accused of N800m Fraud, to Spend Night in Prison,” on 25/11/16, and “UNIJOS Suspends Professor Caught Cheating While Writing Exams,” (Tori Reports, 6/12/16) to which my only response was “We are finished.”
Indeed, the sad reality is that some universities have towers but no ivory; some have ivory but not towers while some have neither towers nor ivory. Things are indeed bad with our universities and I don’t quarrel with those who say so though I take an exception when those who contributed to the decay join the carol.
That was the case when David Dark declared a decade ago that, “A staff sergeant in the (Nigerian) army is better than a university graduate in this country,” a statement that was so contentious that BusinessDay organised an essay contest on it (see Ik Muo: The Sergeant, the Graduate and Leadership; BusinessDay, 11/10/06), or when Atiku Abubakar recently declared that students of his private secondary school could speak better grammar than graduates of our public universities.
It may well be part of the problems with Nigerian academics and universities that a one-page article receives a 10-page response. This is just a ‘background to the study’. We shall take it up from there.
Muo, PhD, is of the Department of Business Administration, OOU, Ago-Iwoye
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