The ASUU Strike and the Crapious Revolution 1
“Revolution is believed in only after it has been accomplished.” – Book of Changes, Hexagram 49
Strikes by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in Nigeria is a regular occurrence. Since 1999, ASUU has been on strike for a total of 63 months (or 5 years). So, Nigerians take or overlook it as one of those things; “It will end in a few months,” they say. Not this time. The five-month-old ASUU Strike 2022 is shaping up as a shock-disaster for the Government of Nigeria (GON). The support of the strike by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) is not good news for the GON. The conditions for the never imagined crapious revolution have arrived in Nigeria for some time and the ASUU Strike is the probable flash point.
Academic staff are assets to any nation they belong and work. We should never treat them as liabilities. Any persons or interests that treat academics as dispensable liabilities have a nefarious agenda. Why not try treating professors at Harvard or Oxford or the Sorbonne Universities as liabilities? In Nigeria, we have the universities we have. Why has the government preferred to treat public universities as necessary evils rather than centres of excellence? The GON got it wrong.
The responsibility of academic staff is to train Nigeria’s future professionals, innovators, executives, and leaders. That is no easy task. You cannot transfer medical, scientific, artistic, spatial or mathematical skills from academic to student like shoveling coal from one spot to another. The transfer of tertiary educational skills requires finesse. Who can deny that? Lecturers and professors trained every member of the GON, even at the Nigerian Defence Academy.
Opponents of the ASUU strike should tell the world the university qualifications and PhDs they acquired are pure rubbish, then we can take them as serious. You got yours. Do not spoil it for others.
Buy Made in Nigeria is an empty slogan, not a practical reality. The countless imported goods Nigerians desire are developed and tested in universities and government laboratories before they hit the market. Why can’t Nigerian universities do the same|? It is not because of a lack of brain power. The GON and its clients prefer revenues from buying and selling and taking foreign loans to investing in and engaging its universities in productive industries.
The reasons for the ASUU Strike 2022. Are obvious. Under-paid, under-funded and under-equipped, lecturers and professors often strike because working conditions are appalling. Academic staff do not receive good salaries, even if their working conditions are adequate. Last year ASUU was on strike for six months and so in 2020. The academic staff are keen to serve the public; the GON is not. Moreover, lecturers and professors must be needy after doing their jobs; they need good pay, on time and without fuss. And they need intellectual freedom too. The GON is attempting to strip universities of their autonomy, then to undermine them. The ASUU Strike is thus necessary.
“The strike will not end till the GON is responsible,” is the demand of ASUU Strike 2022. It is also the demand for Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and all affiliates of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). The demand is spreading to unintended quarters. But the youth and other common Nigerians have other demands and plans.
Veteran activist, Femi Falana SAN, called the ASUU and NLC protest he graced on the 26th of July, 2022, “Just a warning [protest]… what will come will make the Anti-SARS protest look like child’s play.” He knows what he is talking about.
Meanwhile, this year’s graduates are yet to graduate. Nigeria since the 1990s has an unenviable reputation as being a place where students, young men and women, can spend six years studying for a four-year course, many of the exams taken without lectures but photocopies of lecture notes for fast cramming. That is not a sufficient or sustainable way to train undergraduates. It is a national disgrace.
The disgrace may be the trigger Nigeria needs to witness change, but not the change President Buhari promised. Perhaps, by revolution. The ASUU and NASU members we spoke to are vehement and determined to fight for their rights and those of their students to the last. It seems so many are ready to fight alongside them. The GON is in for a surprise. We wait.
To be continued in The ASUU Strike and The Crapious Revolution 2.