ASUU Vs. smart alecs in government

That non implementation of an agreement government voluntarily signed with ASUU way back in 2009 following three years of negotiation has led to a strike action now in its fifth month only confirms the fears of most Nigerians- absence of governance and usurpation of power by smart alecs who in the opinion of our God-fearing president can do no wrong. This perhaps explains why the current ASUU crisis has defied solution in spite of intervention of the president, vice president, the federal executive council, the council of state, all of whom we were told had expressed sadness about the state of our university education and canvassed for a radical change.

But opposed to change is a powerful group made up of the president’s confidants consisting of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the all powerful minister of finance and the coordinating minister of the economy, secretary to government of the federation, (SGF) Anyim, Pius Anyim, Nyesom Wike, the president’s man Friday and leader of Niger Delta militants fighting the president’s war in Rivers who also doubles as supervising minister of education. We can also add Gabriel Suswam, the chairman of implementation committee of NEEDS Assessment Report.

Before ASUU embarked on the ongoing strike on July 1, the body, according to Professor Festus Iyayi, late former ASUU president and a patriot, who unfortunately lost his life on his way to Kano in search of solution to the crisis, had written over 200 letters to government. There was also a warning strike in December 2011 which was apprehended by Anyim, who after a meeting in his office, dictated a Memorandum of Understanding to the effect that “instead of N1.5 trillion for the 24 federal universities that had been captured in the 2009 agreement, government will instead provide N1.3 trillion for 61 public universities, covering both federal and state universities.” The said Memorandum also indicated that N100 billion was immediately available, and that N400 billion will be provided for each of the three years beginning in 2013 and ending in 2015″.

Iyayi also revealed during his last interview before his tragic end in the service of the nation that the NEEDS Assessment exercise was the brain child of the SGF. The report which confirmed how “students use kerosene stoves instead of Bunsen burners in their laboratories, how students excrete into polyethylene bags and throw them through the window, how students stand under trees to receive lectures, evidence of laboratories without water” was later presented to a crest-fallen federal executive council presided over by President Jonathan.

Again, on the directive of the president, the same embarrassing report was also presented to the National Economic Council chaired by the Vice President, Namadi Sambo”. Arising from this, a technical committee set up with Governor Godswill Akpabio as chairman later presented its report to the Federal Executive Council and the recommendations were approved and then endorsed by the President who directed they should be implemented. That was in February of 2013. The presidential order was ignored by those he has delegated the running of the country to.

When ASUU finally went on strike on July 1, the government set up a committee headed by Governor Suswam. Others members like the SGF and minister of finance were no strangers to the crisis. But these government officials demonstrated their lack of commitment to the future of our nation by frustrating all ASUU’s patriotic crusade to force government to start rebuilding the educational structure destroyed by the political class during the Babangida, Abacha and Obasanjo years. This self-serving mafia tries to demonise ASUU for pointing out that it is the primary responsibility of the ruling class to lay a solid foundation for education as it is in Europe since the 1600s and old Western Nigeria since the 1950s.

But tragically, Suswam, Iyayi said was “trying to be a contractor instead of implementing the NEEDS Assessment Report”. Anyim, was said to have “ridiculed the memorandum of Understanding he dictated in his office” On her part, Okonjo-Iweala, the all powerful minister of finance, was reported to have said “I have cash; 30 billion naira cash, I am putting it on the table, take it or leave it. If you don’t take it you can be on strike for the next two or three years”. She talked down on patriotic ASUU leaders and refused to implement a directive fully endorsed by the FEC, the Council of State and the presidency.

But it is on record that this is the same minister of finance who supervised the deployment of huge government resources to electricity generating firms that have since been sold to members of the political governing elite including leading light of PDP; who had no objection to government expenditure of about three trillions on bail-out of banks that were later sold to some of those who wrecked them; and who approved government expenditure of about 500 billion naira as bailout to the airlines as well as N100 billion for the textile industry, expenditures government recently admitted had gone down the drains.

Four months into the ASUU strike, the president took time off his tight schedule of foreign trips and managing his PDP family’s vicious war over 2015 to once again intervene in the crisis. Curiously, the intervention led to a 13 hours meeting with ASUU. We will never know what the president discussed for 13 hours but it was obvious it could not have been about a new deal as what came out at the end was not different from existing ASUU 2009 codified agreement with government.

But if Nigerians had expected the president to descend heavily on those who defied his directive, they were in for a surprise. It is ASUU got the raw end of the president’s anger for demanding proper documentation of the agreement arrived at during the 13 hours marathon meeting. Miffed that ASUU would not take him for his words, our angry president has decreed the university teachers call off the strike, resume work or count themselves sacked with effect from December 9.

If the president momentarily forgot he is an elected president and not Jerry Rawlings of Ghana who he probably envies for shutting down his country universities for a year, or despicable dictator like Abacha who insisted his words must be law, one would have thought those paid through the public purse to prevent the president from becoming a threat to himself and the state, would come to his assistance. But sadly they are in fact the ones fuelling the crisis that was about to end.

A Wike, acting minister of education, who as a round peg in a square hole is not expected to give what he has not got, predictably merely dusted up the strategy he had successfully used to mobilize ex-Niger Delta militants and workers of his dissolved LGA to prevent Governor Rotimi Amaechi, his former benefactor from ‘sleeping with his two eyes closed’. He is trying to adopt the same strategy to force university professors and their vice chancellors back to work. For good measure, he has been deploying the language of militants to get his message across. Had Wike been able to rise beyond being just the president’s ‘man Friday’, he would have shielded the president by allaying the fears of ASUU. His sole objective would have been getting ASUU to call off the strike.

Then Dr Doyin Okupe was brought in to do what he knows how to do best, boasting, blowing hot and cold, and verbally assaulting the president’s perceived enemies with his caustic tongue. Were Okupe to be competent, sincere and not an accessory to federal government politics of subterfuge, his objective would have been getting the information he claimed to have to ASUU, leaving it with no choice but to call off the strike.

And finally if we are still looking for evidence of absence of governance in our country, the president himself provided that. He woke up one morning and in one fell swoop sacked 10 ministers including that of education sector which remains the only key to our future. Three months down the line, the president carries on as if to confirm the fears of Nigerians that our nation is managed by a small group of conmen who have by their antecedents demonstrated they care for anyone but themselves.

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