From February 14, 2022 till September, our university students have been at home; meaning that for close to eight months that critical population of the nation’s demography has been kept idle and indolent. Indolent not because they are lazy as President Muhammadu Buhari once described them, but because they have been rendered so by a government that does not care a hoot how the people feel about the effect of their misgovernance and utter indifference to the plight of the people.
Last Monday, passengers travelling from Lagos to other states and other countries from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) were stranded and some missed their flights as the National Association of Nigerian Students blocked all roads leading to the airport. The students who came out in their numbers protested over the lingering strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
One of the protesting students puts it more succinctly when he said they want to prevent the elite from flying just so that their attention can be drawn to their plights. He believed it was a welcome development to curb the excesses of the government’s nonchalant attitude towards university education in the country.
Meanwhile, while our students took to the streets to disrupt the movement of not just the political elite they aimed as targets, they also disrupted the activities of many ordinary Nigerians like them who were also to travel using the airport. But anything that ought to be done to bring this misfiring government to think and act and finally bring this embarrassing strike to an end should be done and would be considered fair.
The most anonymous and conspicuously irrelevant public office holder while this strike has lasted remains the minister of education. I can’t recall any reasonable statements coming from this fellow, yet the Buhari administration has retained him and as it is, he will keep his job until the end of this administration. Talk about rewarding failure!
And for about eight months, neither the vice president nor the president has considered it important and expedient enough to take charge of this embarrassing episode. Why would they? Afterall Osinbajo and Buhari both have their children educated abroad.
The Buhari’s government disdain for our local institutions does not stop with education; the president has never been pictured all through his about eight-year reign in any public hospital in Nigeria. He travels out of the country for the slightest of infirmities.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I do not care if anybody chooses to educate his children abroad or decides to travel abroad to treat flu, my angst remains with the fact that they do this while completely ignoring to make these institutions at home work for the rest of the population to benefit from.
As though they want to completely rub it in, last week the president’s wife photos trended on the social media with her daughter-in-law graduating from a university in the UK. They had no qualms whatsoever that the mass population of unfortunate fellow Nigerians whose children are daily being exposed to the vagaries and vicissitude of an uncertain future and the allure to crime as a result of being idle, feel offended by their insensitive action.
Meanwhile, a federal government that has never hidden its disregard for the courts and their rulings, especially in the cases which do not go in their favour, filed for an interlocutory order to compel ASUU to return to the classroom.
In its ruling of last Wednesday, the National Industrial Court, NIC, Abuja, ordered ASUU to call off its strike. The court made the order in a ruling that was delivered by Justice Polycarp Hamman.
FG’s lawyer, Mr. James Igwe had prayed the court to order the striking varsity lecturers to in the interim, to return to work, pending the determination of the substantive suit before the court. He maintained that the matter was not only urgent, but of a great national interest as millions of students have been at home for over seven months.
Igwe said there was need for the matter to be expeditiously determined to enable university students to return to school, adding that failure to call off the strike would cause irreparable damage to not only the students but also to the nation.
While dismissing objections ASUU raised through its lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, the court held that the strike action was detrimental to public university students that cannot afford to attend private tertiary institutions.
The court, thereafter, issued an order, restraining ASUU, “whether by themselves, members, agents, privies or howsoever called, from taking further steps and doing any act in continuance of the strike action, pending the hearing and determination of the suit filed.”
Meanwhile, ASUU had revealed that it was going to appeal the judgement.
An agreement signed and agreed upon with timelines was not adhered to by the government. We all looked on and carried on as though the cry by the association on the worsening state of the nation’s universities does not matter to the government. While the government has been crying of dwindling revenue over the years, that has not stopped it from throwing money away abroad in the name of international diplomacy and all other aspects of government have not stopped enjoying the federal government’s patronage.
Sometime in 2017 over N6.1 billion was spent buying brand new cars for our over pampered legislators within this so-called trying period.
Similarly, in September 2019 the Senate justified the N5.5 billion voted for the procurement of Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV) for its members.
In February 2020, the House of Representatives resolved to purchase 400 Toyota Camry 2020 model cars acquired for members as official cars, otherwise called utility vehicles. These are just little of the many privileges that our legislators have enjoyed within this period of so-called lean resources.
In August 2020, Nigerians were outraged after President Buhari’s government confirmed that it donated N1.14 billion to the Republic of Niger.
There was also umbrage when Nigerians became aware of the government’s similar gift to Afghanistan, not when it was made, but following a response by the Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Hissein Brahim Taha.
Within the same period the APC-led federal government wants Nigerians to believe that the nation is broke, the president signed a $1.9 billion rail network to link Niger. That is in spite of Nigeria’s rail network not covering most of the territory he governs. These acts of charity to other countries, at the detriment of the Nigerian people that supposedly voted into office, have continued to stoke public anger and heat up the polity.
Can the federal government remind us, just in case we have forgotten, to what extent it has gone in the last seven years to meet some of the demands of ASUU?
All said and done, ASUU and its leadership must understand that if after seven years, the federal government under Buhari has continued to ignore the need to develop our education, he cannot begin to do that now.
Like the bull in the China shop, ASUU must seek how best to resolve this dispute just to see to the end of a president who has spent more time and resources abroad, leave on May 29; if only to ensure that the damage to the nation, like the China shop, is mitigated.
Afterall, like Aisha Buhari proved last week, ASUU’s continuous action only affects the ordinary people and not the president, his vice or other members of his cabinet and they are not the least bothered.