Editor, ABRAHAM OGBODO, sees ASUU strikes as weapon of mass destruction and a manifestation of poor problem-solving capacity by the country’s best brains.

Abraham Ogbodo
Abraham Ogbodo

Ogbodo, veteran journalist, is a former editor of The Guardian, the Lagos-based flagship of Nigerian journalism.

Any human problem that tasks the university system can only be taken to God for determination. But here we are with ASUU for decades unable to apply a fresh strategy outside strike actions to solve the simple problem of university funding in Nigeria.

ASUU has proved over the years to exist on the same pedestal with trade associations which understand no other language outside strike actions.

Remember, we are discussing inhabitants of universities, the citadel of learning, ivory towers and centres of creativity. We are not discussing a collection of lowly unionists. ASUU members are the best collection of brains the Nigerian society can offer at any point in time.

In the real sense, any human problem that tasks the university system can only be taken to God for determination. But here we are with ASUU for decades unable to apply a fresh strategy outside strike actions to solve the simple problem of university funding in Nigeria. There can never be a bigger shame and devaluation of scholarship than the unchangeable strategy ASUU has applied to engage government on the all- important matter of tertiary education funding for more than three decades.

Pause and take a census of how many ASUU members have found themselves in government at both the executive and legislative levels since the start of this battle. They are many including two presidents (Yara’Adua and Jonathan), a vice president, Yemi Osibanjo, all the ministers of education. There are some other ministers and heads of agencies including Prof. Atahiru, the very man who defined this new recalcitrant face of ASUU that sees endless strikes as a fundamental duty. There have been even more ASUU members at the state level as commissioners of education.

Solutions abound

Who then is this faceless Government that has made university funding impossible in Nigeria? ASUU can work through its thousands of members in government to extract the best deals for the universities. If they can’t, the problem therefore is character deficit and not cash deficit.

Again, in the university scheme of things, there is something called the gown meeting the town. And it is not difficult to achieve. It is done through the creative commercialisation of university facilities like laboratories with private entrepreneurs that causes no harm to anybody. Commercialisation of inventions and patents, consultancy services, foreign research funding, light manufacturing and a lot more are all options available to serious universities to get around the problem of funding. In fact, this is how universities are run in saner climes.

Pause again and look at the TERFUND initiative that at once seems like another solution. Imagine the opaqueness and lack of accountability that have attended the utilisation of the fund by some Vice Chancellors!

New image for ASUU members

ASUU has by its method created a new image for university teachers. Many now see them as cheap hustlers angling for a piece of the cake after which their loud protesting voices and consciences die naturally behind some big desks in government offices.

Strike has become ASUU’s weapon of mass destruction, causing endless pains to parents and their wards. Now, ASUU has become stuck in strike! To stop and peer review for a better approach, no way! If you ask me, I will say insanity has set into the ASUU’s struggles. Or, how else is insanity defined if different results are expected from doing the same thing!

Successive ASUU’s leaderships since the time of Prof. Jega have seen the declaration of trade disputes to allegedly force government back to some previous agreement as the shortest route to instant fame in the university system. For instance, Prof Ukachukwu as ASUU’s President actually sounded fatalistic and looked prepared to end tertiary education in Nigeria if government did not listen. He was appointed a VC and nothing has been heard of him ever since!

ASUU has by its method has created a new image for university teachers. Many now see them as cheap hustlers angling for a piece of the cake after which their loud protesting voices and consciences die naturally behind some big desks in government offices.