After all, it’s the fashion these days to be a desk general!” — the last quip of Jero’s Metamorphosis (published 1973) — was Prof. Wole Soyinka’s wry but devastating dig, at power-grabbing, opportunistic soldiers.
The late Chuba Okadigbo, inimitable Oyi of Oyi, and former president of the Senate, would further explore this dismissive motif. He gored them as “coup heroes”.
But perhaps the most blistering, on the military power bullies, was Policeman, Alozie Ogugbuaja, and his pepper soup-and-coup theory.
The then Police superintendent strafed the military as streaming with idle minds, downing bowls after bowls of pepper soup and choice beer each day from 11 am, and thinking and dreaming and plotting nothing but coups!
Sure, that Alozie bomb blasted Ogugbuaja into career Siberia. But it was a sobering thunder clap, which boxed the vain ears of the ruling military elite, at the high noon of General Ibrahim Babangida’s regime — the most reckless and insidious of them all!
Still, when our own WS was coining that immortal line — the final flourish of Jero’s Metamorphosis — he probably never knew how hard it would come back to haunt his now much debased kith-and-kin, in the Nigerian intelligentsia.
Pray, what is the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) today, but a bunch of ”audio” intellectuals, barking insane threats on the union turf, rather than vibrating with ground-breaking research, and grooming, with quality intellect, the young lives in their care?
Like desk generals, like audio lecturers — epochal dual impostors fated, by the scandal of their near-zero sense of duty, to blight the future of their compatriots and wards!
Still time was, when the polity quaked with ASUU sympathy; and rocked with solid legitimacy for its cause: saving public universities, from wilful government disinvestment.
That peaked during the IBB frenzy at emplacing systemic underdevelopment, of which public education was first casualty; and President Olusegun Obasanjo’s pursuit of fond personal glory, when public good, forlorn and shunned, beckoned in vain.
Both eras (IBB’s military rule: 1985-1993; and Obasanjo’s second coming: 1999-2007) teemed with ASUU long strikes that all but destroyed the university calendar as we knew it. Yet, the long-suffering victims, Nigerian students and their parents/ guardians, in ASUU’s support, bore the brunt with admirable patience and stoicism.
Between 1999 and now, ASUU has gone on strike 15 times, in 21 academic years — excluding its current comical “strike”, even after COVID-19 had paralyzed all: 1999 (five months), 2001 (three months), 2002 (two weeks), 2003 (six months), 2005 (two weeks), 2006 (one week), 2007 (three months), 2009 (four months), 2010 (five months), 2011 (two months), 2013 (five-and-a-half months), 2017 (one month) and 2018/19 (three months: 4 November 2018-7 February 2019).
The “strike campaign” birthed a landmark agreement in 2009, a Federal Government-ASUU deal, signed by the historic midwives: Bolanle Babalakin, SAN, the chairman of the Committee of Pro-Chancellors of Federal Universities, the late Gabriel Onosode, chairman of the re-negotiation committee and Ukachukwu Awuzei, then ASUU president.
That historic breakthrough — at least that was what the new save-the-university-template was assumed to be back then — agreed that each federal university should get a jab of at least N1.5 trillion between 2009 and 2011; and their state counterparts, an infusion of N3.6 million per student. The deal also agreed to at least 26% of Nigeria’s yearly budget funding education, half of that going to the universities.
Needless to say, controversy broke out on the deal’s implementation. The government claimed it had tried to consummate it, subject to the availability of funds — hardly good faith! Lecturers’ pay was much enhanced, though, somewhat stalling the brain drain.
Still, ASUU insisted the government had not tried enough; and often, to drive home its point, reverted to its inevitable strikes. Unfortunately, by ASUU’s bulldog approach to strike, as a cure-all tool, it started bleeding badly, on public trust and confidence.
But, no thanks to its hubris and arrogance, ASUU little realized it. The premise of that hubris was that the government was always unpopular and could easily be tarred and bullied. That fired the ASUU all-conquering bully complex.
But alas! On that haughty altar, it merrily slaughtered its essence, surrendered its prime duty to its students, scorned the community that stood by it, and became a critical part of the problem it claimed it strove to solve.
Under the current presidency of Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, ASUU has plumbed its most insensate and insensitive worst. That it little realizes it is well and truly tragic!
That’s why it would growl to be on an “indefinite strike”, when its students are anxious to salvage their 2020 academic year, after the COVID-19 paralysis; and its competitors, the private universities, are using the shambolic public university calendar to market own trade. What crap!
ASUU’s case is not helped at all by its conceit, goading it to dictate how its employer must pay it. But which employee does that, so long as he gets his due? That is the long-and-short of its anti-IPPIS crusade. For ASUU, it could well end in tears!
The Federal Government has done well to give a final IPPIS ultimatum. If it gets to that, it should declare a state of emergency in tertiary education. Let academics who want to teach stay. Let those fired by permanent Aluta leave. It’s time the system reclaimed its soul!
That Prof. Ogunyemi could be comfy, operating from the University of Ibadan, shows a much degraded academy, across the board. In late 1982, a students’ unrest led to a two-month closure of UI, spilling into 1983. But despite further breaks, caused by the 1983 general election, the UI calendar had normalized by November 1983!
Is that UI culture, of fierce academic focus, no matter what, gone with the winds, of ASUU’s perpetual agitation?
While as an undergraduate at UI, ASUU had issues. Yet, the likes of Prof. Abiola Odejide and Mr. Pius Omole (Language Arts) and Prof (then Dr.) Niyi Osundare (English), made a lasting impact on their students — of which Ripples is proudly one.
So did the University of Lagos trio of Profs. Olatunji Dare, Idowu Sobowale and Andrew Moemeka, all of Mass Communication, later at the Unilag Post-Graduate school.
Great teachers all, earning eternal gratitude, they helped to shape the Ripples’ offerings on this page, every week.
So, how much impact, on their students, are these ever-on-strike, unionized campus cowboys of today making; strutting the turf and making eternal threats?
For the sake of our future generation, it’s time we all called ASUU’s bluff!
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