ASUU finally called off its protracted strike in December on the platter of nothing, only promissory notes. As I write this now (11. am, 12th January, 2021) only two months of the outstanding salaries of 5 to 9 months was paid in December, shortly after the strike had been called off, as if the reason for the strike was to get two months salaries paid. Again, salary payment for a majority of university lecturers who are not on IPPIS has stopped: December salary is yet to be paid and the outstanding ones are there. January is going going! And promises litter everywhere.
While addressing the press after ASUU suspended their longest strike in the history of the union, Hon. Minister Chris Ngige made a statement that aroused my curiosity: Government will never give ASUU the opportunity to embark on strike again.
ASUU and Nigerians should ponder on this cryptic Ngigean aphorism. What does it mean? Many people including ASUU have taken it to mean that the FGN would answer ASUU's demands and provide the enabling environment for university lecturers to discharge their intellectual duties. This may turn out to be an illusion. Surely, the Hon. Minister is driving an all iron-cast government locomotive and trafficating to the left side while he intends to swerve right suddenly, taking ASUU's vehicle behind by surprise. The collusion that will result might shatter ASUU forever. While ASUU believes that this government will fulfill the memorandum they entered into with lecturers, the FGN is working very hard behind the scene to make it impossible forever for ASUU to go on strike. How?
In November, 2021, I had a brief passionate argument with an Associate Professor in UniBen. Among other things, I told him that the FGN agenda for federal universities is different from what ASUU believe and are pursuing. The FGN is decidedly stifling tertiary institutions of funds to render them moribund, ineffective and redundant. Thereafter, they will declare them failed government institutions and put them out for sales: privatisation and the chicanery now called PPP: Public-Private Partnership. Many federal schools will be sold to foreigners and wealthy members of the ruling class to run. They will take over and then increase school fees to a minimum of 300, 000 naira and more. Then aggrieved students who had been in a slumber will stampede to the streets in panic and desperation. A few of them will be shot at while protesting and waving the national flag. The riot will last for three days, or say one week, and it is all over. The affected schools will be shut down. While students are at home, the new proprietors will take over and 'reorganise' the institutions to meet their ambitions. Lecturers will be made to sign new working deals, some will be sacked, retired and given new designations. End of story. Welcome privatisation and PPP! Or has government not been telling Nigerians they intend to sell off government properties? Which ones are left if not tertiary schools and teaching hospitals?
As the Nigerian Railway, Airways, NEPA and public secondary schools were weakened and ruined, as Nitel was ruined for MTN and Glo to live and flourish, so will some universities and teaching hospitals be auctioned sooner or later..."
I was still ranting when my Associate Prof. friend interrupted me:
"Bode, Bode, Bode...don't even go there. That is the last thing FGN will do. Haba! Sell off or privatise universities? Don't even say it. It will not work. Nigerians will not allow it" He said emphatically. I wonder the Nigerians he has in mind. Which Nigerians?
"Okay oo. I pray o." I said and abandoned the argument. In 2015, we had a similar argument. He was a die-hard believer in Buhari. I blurted out one day to him: "Buhari cannot and will never solve Nigeria's problems. Rather, his government will worsen our problems." He laughed at me and said:
"Bode, why are you talking like this? It seems you don't know Buhari' o. He has come to change things. He is the saviour we need".
Later, he was humble enough to tell me that I was right and prophetic after all. Here we are again: another one.
Hard times await ASUU and university education. FGN will not let IPPIS go so long as some people have been cowed into it and unless those fighting against it blast thunder Only a blast of thunder forces the crocodile to release its prey from its hacksawed jaws. If ASUU were Boko Haram, the FGN would not treat them in this way. However, ASUU is not Boko Haram or Niger Delta Militants, and I do not think that the cerebral body intends to tread on that path.
We are watching. Just two months after my argument and predictive analysis to my Associate Prof friend, the prediction is happening too sooner than I myself expect. I have sent him this link below to read what agents of the FGN are saying now:
If you have read this, you will understand the destination and meaning of the Ngigean cryptic aphorism, which ASUU ought to have interrogated: "We will never give ASUU the opportunity to embark on another strike "
Bode Steve Ekundayo (PhD), UniBen. [email protected]