By Prof. Abdelmalik Abdelghaffar Amoka
The strike is 14 weeks (1 semester) today and we don’t know how many more weeks we are going to spend at home before getting back to classes. The closure of the universities has afforded us to spend a lot of time on the net, especially on social media, and following the happenings around Nigeria and the rest of the world. It is no more news that primary elections are ongoing in Nigeria and delegates are trending. The best business at the moment is to be a delegate of any of the two major political parties and you make cool millions at the expense of Nigeria. From the State House of Assembly, House of Rep, Senate, Governor, and Presidential ticket of APC or PDP, it is for the highest bidder.
They said Nigeria is broke and can’t fund education but contestants paid so much for nomination and expression of interest forms and are buying delegates to get their party’s ticket to contest to lead Nigerians. They have also budgeted the money to buy votes for the main election. Is Nigeria really poor? Who pays so much to lead a broke organization? While ASUU is on strike because that is the only thing to get the attention of our leaders, the president is traveling around the world, his associates are moving around the country with billions of naira looking for tickets, and the students are at home on Instagram, Facebooking, tweeting, and tiktoking.
You would have expected the students to take their destiny into their hands, but they can’t. They are celebrating the withholding of the salaries of lecturers, queuing behind the politicians looking for tickets, and celebrating the highest bidders that got the ticket. A few weeks ago, the students said there won’t be a primary election in Abuja if the strike is not called off. But PDP just finished its primary election in Abuja in the game of the highest bidder. I actually did not take the threat from our new generation of student leaders serious looking at the “success” of their recent university of the street protest.
With our version of democracy, there will never be money for education, healthcare delivery, and other critical sectors since they have to recover the invested funds to get “elected” with interest. It’s difficult to fight corruption because the foundation of our democracy is corruption. The person expected to fight corruption is fully immersed in corruption. So, how is he going to get the job done?
Somebody once wrote that the government want to give a loan of 1 million naira to students and ASUU was against it. This is the scam. Do you still remember when DISCOs in collaboration with FG came up with electricity bills by bands in 2020? Less than 2 years later, the band on a minimum of 20 electricity per day now gets less than 4 hours electricity per day and no one to complain to and no compensation. That is what will happen to the student’s loan. They will give you the loan which you can’t pay back because there is no job except you the money to buy a job as is currently obtainable. After about 5 years later, the loan will stop and you are stuck with tuition that an average Nigerian parent cannot afford. But why is ASUU even bothering itself with this scam? Why is ASUU thinking for the parents and the general public? We possibly need to start thinking of letting it be and focus on our welfare. Let’s allow the government to introduce tuition and leave that to the public to deal with.
While the government is complaining of no funds for education and our universities are closed for 1 semester and still counting due to a crisis between ASUU and FG over university funding and welfare, the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) has shortlisted 8,800 applicants for its overseas scholarship programme. This scheme is smoothly going on every year for over 20 years without any complaints. It is budgeted for and no need for a strike to get that done. Our universities are underfunded and we are shipping our limited resources abroad in the name of the overseas scholarship to contribute to the development of universities in Malaysia, the UK, Germany, France, and China through PTDF, TETFund, NITDA, etc.
These scholarship schemes have been on for over 20 years and we are gladly sending more for MSc and PhD abroad every year on public funds while public universities are underfunded and ASUU has to fight, the academic calendar distorted to get a little attention for our public universities. While the scholars on FG scholarship are living a comfortable life abroad, the students in Nigeria’s public universities are studying under pathetic conditions and have to suffer from the frequent ASUU strike.
Sadly, the bond signed by these scholars is just a formality as you don’t have to come back. Even the scholars that came back to the country are frustrated and can’t fit into the system that funded their scholarship as there is no preparation for their return. No provision for a conducive environment to enable them to be productive and train others.
You spent so much money to train scholars every year without any plan for them. If care is not taken, the amount of money spent on these scholarship schemes every year may be close to half of the money being requested for the revitalization of public universities. We are rich enough to keep funding overseas scholarship schemes to train individuals but too poor to properly fund public universities to develop better mass human resources for our system.
Meanwhile, what are the objectives of these scholarship schemes? What is the timeline to achieve it? It is definitely not for life. Has PTDF, TETFund, and NITDA sat down to evaluate how far we have gone and the impact of these schemes so far on the system with respect to the objectives? Where is the report? Haven’t we trained enough manpower to be empowered to train others in our universities in Nigeria? Why can’t we redirect these funds to our universities for these trained scholars to use to train others?
Unfortunately, we are developing individuals and not the system. The scholars are trained for themselves, the delegates’ vote is for the highest bidder, the highest bidder will bribe the voters to win the election, and the winner of the election will go there to help himself and leave the system poor. I watched a video recently where the wife of a governor was sharing 1 million naira each to her security staff. Where did she get the money from? State resources? She is not known for any business. Teachers in that same state are paid 17% of their salary. They don’t care what happens to public schools at all levels.
Dear Nigerians, as the delegates that you sent for the primary elections, are happily enjoying the money they were paid for their vote and you are celebrating the highest bidder that got the ticket and mocking those that could not afford to buy the delegates, just know that they have just been paid the money meant for education and other critical sectors. We have lost the moral right to complain about corruption.
Dear students, It is a vicious cycle and it ain’t going to change till we are willing to change it. The lecturers have taken their decisions and they are willing to stay off academic activities for as long as possible with or without salary, till their demands are met. The politicians don’t care that you are at home after all their kids are not in public school. They are bribing their ways to sustain their political and economic dynasty and the delegates are happily collecting it.
Meanwhile, who were the returning officers at the primary elections? Definitely not Professors. Tomorrow you will start blaming ASUU that Professors helped them rig elections. Politicians know how to rig the elections with or without the presence of the Professors that the INEC boss invited. So, use your head when you blame ASUU.
In conclusion, the people that can raise such an amount of money to spend to get political positions can also generate funds to save our universities from collapsing if they so care to lead you. It’s up to you if you want to remain at home, Facebooking, tweeting, tiktoking, and keep watching as the system keeps decaying. The ball is in your court.
Amoka is from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria.