By Muhammad Sulaiman Abdullahi, PhD
Hello, my dear comrade friends! How are you and your families? I hope we are forging and managing well. I know we are well, but not very well. This is because I know that there are so many challenges in and out there. I know most of us are currently swimming and still smiling in heavy debts, ranging from debts of Maggi, Omo, Bread, Garri, etc. Even the ‘Yan garuwa (water vendors) owe many among us a considerable amount of money due to the brutal nature of our looters. This is not to talk about heavy loans accrued due to a lack of salaries for about four months.
The Maikantis (petty traders) selling raw rice, beans and other groceries no longer want to see us by their doors. Some of us have already forgotten toothpaste and have opted for chewing sticks now to remain clean. Our children have been sent out of school due to non-payment of school fees. Landlords have knocked and banged on the doors of many; we pacified them, and some of them reason with us.
Some of us now live without water and light due to heavy bills accrued. You keep counting the ordeals. I remember how during the whole of Ramadan, with the scorching sun and harsh temperature, lecturers languished with dry pockets and no salaries. Many lecturers didn’t have a chance to sew new Sallah (Eid) dresses for their kids, not even for themselves. Yet, another Sallah is approaching without any remorse or sense from this lousy government and its handlers.
Before I talk about my three solid pieces of advice to ASUU, let me digress and talk a little about and to those who don’t understand ASUU’s struggle. I don’t in any way exonerate ASUU of all blames and problems. No way! We have our defects. Only the Almighty Allah is perfect.
However, in ASUU’s struggle, ASUU is 80 per cent right. If you talk about the decay within the ranks of the university administration and duties, ASUU also fights that. And it is the sole responsibility of the government to put eyes on the universities and punish anyone found wanting and guilty of any offence. Sex for marks, not attending lectures on time, lack of coordination, dedication and supervision, extorting students, etc., to punish and stop all these and more lie in the hands of sensible governments. I know that it is said that these bad attitudes happen in Nigerian universities, but sometimes they are overblown out of proportion.
I have been in the university community for nearly 20 years, engaging with my teachers and, later, my students. Still, I don’t know a single lecturer in my university involved in such indecent acts and is also known without getting punished. In other words, universities don’t condone such wrongdoings. Also, this is not ASUU’s direct responsibility, but rather, it lies in the hands of the university management and the government.
Our government doesn’t punish anyone, which is why bad people do as they wish everywhere, in the military, the police, lawyers, carpenters, bandits and all. So lack of commitment and corruption in whichever cadre is not ASUU’s fault, but rather, the government. Our governments rarely punish, and when it does, it looks selective and sometimes biased.
The government is so powerful that, if it is sincere, ASUU or anyone cannot shut down a single university, just like that – not even to talk of all universities – for one week without the government taking drastic action and winning over anyone! But due to the government’s insincerity, this is ASUU. So here is the whole country’s population – the lecturers, their wives, children and friends, the students, their parents, children and families, Nigerians and all their well-wishers – all in trouble, but the government doesn’t care.
With all the troubles and disputes in their recent party primary elections, North/South and whatever, they managed, brainstormed, came together, and brought a solution in 2 days. But, of course, this is for their selfish agenda, huh? So anyway, below are my three candid and sincere pieces of advice for ASUU and all.
First, ASUU members are suffering, but ASUU should NOT call off its strike until it reaches a coherent, logical conclusion. Yes! We are suffering, and we need the strike to the end. But we don’t want a situation where a strike can be called off today, and it comes back in 7 months to come, or even less. Let’s push things to the end. I will even advise the government to agree that no strike can be implemented in the next ten years if anything goes as practically implemented. I don’t support any agreement again.
I never heard of NNPC, CBN or the House of Representatives going on strike! This is because all their entitlements, salaries, allowances and more are paid on time. And they receive more than all Nigerian universities receive, with a quarter of what universities do. A kind of monkey dey work, but baboons chop the money. So they have money more than they need. So, ASUU should not call off the strike until everything is settled.
Second, ASUU should change its style concerning research works. Many civilians out there don’t know that apart from class teachings, university lecturers engage in what is called research. Hence, some people feel we are not entitled to our salaries during strikes. And in reality, the impact of our collective research output is very minimal. Some people don’t even know that we do research, and some of us don’t even do any research at all.
To sustain our research line, let us allow the research activities to continue at full capacity. Here I mean, students writing their research (Undergrads, Masters and PhDs) should be allowed to consult their lecturers online or via any other medium possible. Someone may ask about data and other internet facilities. My answer to such a ridiculous question is; how do you read this write-up? Don’t you have a WhatsApp, Facebook or go online? This is all to maintain and sustain our research inputs and keep going. We shouldn’t allow our brains to rust completely. This chance should be conditional, situational and only if a lecturer has a chance to.
Third and finally, ASUU should continue the strike until things are resolved.
Muhammad Sulaiman Abdullahi
Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria.