By Sagiru Mati, PhD
I’m an academic and, therefore, a member of the adamant trade union known as the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), which has been on strike since 14th February. However, I’m not writing to judge who is right or wrong, as both the Federal Government (FG) and ASUU have their share of the blame. Caveat: this write-up does not represent the position of ASUU; all opinions are mine.
To understand the genesis and dynamics of the contention, it is crucial to see the issues through the lens of the theories proposed by Emile Durkheim’s consensus theory, Karl Marx’s socialism and Adam Smith’s concepts of rivalry and excludability, which form the basis of modern capitalism. I will briefly explain these concepts in light of the ASUU-FG imbroglio.
Durkheim asserts that humans, as political animals, are innately egoistic, and only the “collective consciousness” – in the form of social facts such as values, norms and beliefs – controls the egoism and ensures the stability of the society. He developed the consensus theory, which studies society holistically rather than individualistically. Durkheim believed that social reality should be found in the collective consciousness, not individual consciousness. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
The societal equilibrium is attained through consensus by the parts based on social facts: language, norms, customs, values and so on. The society itself metamorphoses from a simple society that correlates with mechanical solidarity, where individuals are brothers’ keepers, to a complex society that corresponds with organic solidarity, where individualism prevails.
Nigeria is currently in a transition from a simple to a complex society. Hence, unlike a few years ago, it is now easy to distinguish the children of the poor from those of the rich, even if they come from the same family or neighbourhood. Gone are those days when one man in a family provided for his family’s needs and that of his close relatives. The main argument of the consensus theory is that societies don’t always have to resort to raising their contradictions to crisis and then resolving them through conflict.
Socialism advocates the total ownership and control of economic entities by the authority rather than private individuals, with the main motive of maximising citizens’ welfare. Karl Marx, as its proponent, grouped the individuals into Proletariat and Bourgeoisie. The former is the working class, while the latter controls the means of production. The ASUU’s members and students are the epitome of the Proletariat and subscribe to socialism as they fight to improve their service conditions and university funding and reject the idea of transferring the burden of tuition fees on students.
Capitalism is the direct opposite of socialism and promotes private ownership of the means of production, with the sole aim of maximising profits. Adam Smith, as a proponent, explained what goods and services private individuals and authorities should own based on two concepts: rivalry in consumption and excludability.
Rivalry in consumption implies prevention or reduction in the ability of simultaneous consumption of goods and services. Excludability refers to the extent to which non-payers can be restricted from consuming goods or services. If goods or services are rivalrous and excludable, like university education, they should be owned by private individuals. On the other hand, the state should own the national defence, which is, to a great extent, non-rivalrous and non-excludable. The FG, which subscribes to capitalism, has been privatising and commercialising public economic entities since the introduction of the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) in 1986.
The capitalistic FG utilises three tools to manipulate the Proletariat: starve them, don’t educate them and divide them. The FG has been starving ASUU’s members as it has been withholding their salaries since March in the name of the no-work-no-pay policy. Barriers to education have been created by not funding universities adequately. Hence admission seekers may meet all requirements but may not get admitted due to the admission limit imposed by the FG. The FG is trying to divide ASUU by considering registering a splinter union known as the Congress of University Academics.
The FG has recorded little success regarding the first and second tools. However, ASUU has fallen into the FG’S trap, as evident by the recent ASUU Chairman’s no-pay-no-work utterances, which hint at venting their frustrations on students and calling some universities quacks, thereby emboldening the line between the State and Federal universities. Obviously, the FG has divided the Proletariat into State Universities and Federal Universities, and into ASUU and students, even though most students have supported ASUU.
Given the foregoing, we can discern that the ASUU-FG face-off is nothing but the clash between socialism and capitalism in a society transitioning from Durkheimic mechanical solidarity to an organic one. Therefore, ASUU needs to change its modus operandi so that its efforts to liberate the Proletariat shouldn’t be hurtful to themselves. The ASUU Chairman needs to be cautious of his utterances. He should understand that both states-owned universities and students share the same economic class with ASUU: Proletariat.
A recent proposal by the National Parent-Teacher Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN) to offer ten thousand Naira (10,000.00), and subsequent rejection of the offer by ASUU, indicates that the two bodies are not working together. ASUU alone cannot win this “battle”; it will be a good idea if it involves the NAPTAN. The duo may develop better wisdom and influence to make things happen, as two good heads are better than one.
The FG should fund universities adequately as Nigeria is too unripe for privatisation or commercialisation of university education, which deserves public finance as it is a merit good. The FG should pay the ASUU’s withheld salaries on the condition that the universities run three semesters a year until they compensate students for the striking period.
Sagiru Mati, BSc (BUK, Nigeria), MSc, PhD (NEU, North Cyprus), wrote from the Department of Economics, Yusuf Maitama Sule University Kano, Nigeria. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wonderful piece, with a touch of socialist traces.
Fantastic essay on a very contemporary issue bedeviling Nigeria. Bravo Dr Mati
You really made an immense contribution educationally more grease to your elbows.
More grease to your elbows.Dr.
Well said sir and always proud of you
Well said Sir. It’s indeed a heart touching write-up.
So fantastic write up and welldone sir!!!
Excellent peice 👍👌
Barakallah Dr. Sagir Mati.