By Professor Abdelmalik Abdelghaffar Amoka
ASUU in 2008, provided pictorial documentation on the state of infrastructural decay in public universities to the Federal Government (FG). After several struggles and strikes, FG put together a Committee on the NEEDS assessment of the public universities, headed by Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the then TETFund Boss. Prof Mahmood Yakubu’s committee after a thorough work recommended that 1.3 trillion naira is required to revitalize all the public universities (Federal and State universities) to make them suitable learning environments for the normal human being.
Just like the 2021 visitation panel report and the 2021 report of the renegotiated 2009 agreement, the NEEDS Assessment report was dumped somewhere till ASUU declared another strike in 2013 for the report to get attention. An agreement was then reached between ASUU and FG after the 2013 strike that the fund will be spread from 2013 to 2018. GEJ’s government released 200 billion naira for 2013 before he was voted out and Buhari’s government took over in 2015. As of 2013, Gen Muhammadu Buhari, Mal. Adamu Adamu, Mal Nasiru El-Rufai, Alh Lai Muhammed, and APC as a party believe that the government of Jonathan was “irresponsible” for their failure to implement the agreement reached with ASUU on public universities. They gave all sorts of convincing supporting reasons why FG can meet the demands of ASUU. El-Rufai was in OBJ’s government and he knows how government works. So, hypocrisy did not come to people’s mind, they didn’t see any point in doubting his position and his 2013 post on the ASUU strike went viral.
The general public is always on the fence during these fights for university revitalization. Some choose who to support based on where their loyalty lies at that moment. That is the reason why those who were against the FG on the ASUU strike in 2013 and now supporting FG on ASUU strike on the same issues. Since 2015, the APC government has refused to release the funds for public universities. After about 4 ASUU strike actions for the last 7 years of the government of President Buhari, they have not been able to release up to 100 billion naira for universities revitalization. Meanwhile, they are adding more universities.
There is this class of public school beneficiaries that believe that FG does not have 1 trillion naira to fix our universities to make them attractive to any student except through the introduction of tuition fees. But some of us think that the people, including civil servants, are too poor to afford tuition for University education, else it will become an elitist institution. Public schools produce us and some of us are super-rich. So, if we believe that FG is actually broke to fund education, then we can intervene to revitalize the public universities in the interest of national development and for the love of the country.
Nigerians are cheerful givers. Our business moguls, media celebrities are fond of gifting their friends. Not sure if it’s for show-off. For example, Nightlife boss, Obinna Iyiegbu, popularly known as Obi Cubana got cash and other gifts worth over 250 million naira for his mother’s burial in July 2021. David Adeleke, popularly known as Davido in November 2021 raised 200 million naira within hours that he donated to the orphanage. I recently saw an unconfirmed impressive list of donations for the Attah of Igala coronation from my brothers. There are several of such donations. This is evidence that Nigerians are cheerful givers.
Nigeria’s generous donation of one million dollars to the Humanitarian Trust Fund for Afghanistan shows that even the government is generous. Only a cheerful giver will use 100 billion naira to rehabilitate non-functional refineries that are still not functioning. Only a cheerful giver will pay 69 billion naira as salaries to refinery workers that generated zero revenue and only go to work to warm their office chairs.
The public primary school system is dead, the public school system is dead, and the public university system has nearly collapsed. But why don’t we extend this generosity and cheerful giving to the education of the ordinary Nigerian? why can’t the elites donate a fraction of the money they sent abroad to educate their kids?
The agreement in 2013 was for FG to release N210 billion naira every year for 5 years. 9 years later, not up to 23% of the fund was released to the universities after 9 years. Maybe FG is actually broke even though they are establishing more universities and the key players are getting richer. A poor and broken man doesn’t add to his responsibilities.
Let’s apply the principle of our supposed generosity and cheerful giving to solving our education problem. Let’s open a public schools revitalization endowment fund. Let’s get 100 thousand cheerful givers from politicians, businessmen, captains of industries, Bank CEOs, celebrities, and the noisy “Abroadians” to donate 200 thousand naira every month for a year. That will give us 240 billion naira revitalization fund annually. Do that for 5 years and we’ll have 1.2 trillion naira to revitalize public universities.
Put up Board of Trustee and Fund management team from the donors to ensure that the fund is shielded from mismanagement. Nobody wants to see his money misused. Then, ASUU won’t have to go on strike for revitalization and will limit ASUU’s demands to welfare. The government won’t be looking for tuition fee that is not there or students’ loan that is not sustainable, students won’t have to stay at home for months due to strike. The university will be good enough for our big men that ship our money abroad. The industries will get a quality workforce. The universities will be attractive to international students and we’ll start earning forex from education.
But unfortunately, our cheerful giving in Nigeria does not extend to public education. Public education made us and we are either part of those destroying it or watching it destroyed without any slight resistance. It’s like a case of climbing to the top through the public education ladder and destroying the ladder after getting to the top. And unfortunately, the supposed middle class, a class that is nearly wiped out, that needs the ladder is afraid of the oppressors but blames ASUU.
Amoka is a social analyst, prolific writer and a Professor of Physics, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria.
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