Connect with us

Strictly Personal

The case against ASUU by Olusegun Adeniyi

Published

on

A thought-provoking piece is going round on WhatsApp. Credited to Professor Hamman Tukur Sa’ad, it concerns the current Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike and the tertiary education crisis in Nigeria. The author not only accuses ASUU leadership and those who manage education in Nigeria of lacking critical thinking, but also indicts them for sundry acts of financial impropriety and gross incompetence. In these days of fake news, I had to scout around for the professor’s contact to be sure he wrote the piece.

Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Minna between 2002 and 2007 and Chairman of the Federal Government Visitation Panel on the 2020 crisis at the University of Lagos, Sa’ad is a prominent national figure. Apparently, the professor belongs to an online chat group where prominent academics daily agonise over the problem of tertiary education in Nigeria. Not only did he confirm his authorship, Sa’ad forwarded to me other more critical interventions he has made on the issue. And they are not the usual lamentations. They go to the root of the crisis, offering suggestions on the way forward. Today, I want to publish a few excerpts from Prof Sa’ad before I proffer my own comments on the issue.

REMUNERATIONS

The salaries paid to lecturers are ridiculously low by all standards, but ASUU can be blamed for that too. Universities have their autonomy and statutes as well as governing councils that can introduce charges to augment whatever pittance government pays. But ASUU is vehemently opposed to charges, even when the federal government promised to reintroduce Education Bank from where students could borrow funds and pay later. This is what happens in some countries, including the richest country in the World, USA. With charges, it will be possible to pay a professor in a high-profile discipline up to N3 million per month and get him to render good services. What happens now is that some lecturers are servicing three to four universities to make up. Even when ASUU is on strike, they service private universities so they can afford to stay six months while pretending that they are without salaries. Who is fooling who?I am opposed to IPPIS on principle. We are not civil servants and cannot be lumped together with government employees. However, most ASUU members are afraid that such a scheme will show their names in a number of federal universities, doing part time teaching, being visiting teachers, or adjunct lecturers. It is unfortunate that students and parents are the ones suffering as a result of these strikes. Government officials and ASUU leadership are shedding crocodile tears over the fate of the students as if they care. It is not enough to call off this strike just in readiness for the next one. This open-close regime must be stopped once and for all. Let universities take their autonomy seriously and councils do the needful, including paying good salaries to lecturers. U

STATE UNIVERSITIES

ASUU in its greed for check-off money has incorporated state universities into the union. Now they want federal government to fund state universities. Is it that ASUU leaders don’t understand that university education is on the concurrent list? What a crazy country we are running! There are states which have three universities where majority of the structures were built by TETFUND. I was opportune to sit on the council of a state university where more than N1 billion was squandered, and the governor insisted that no more funding to the university until the council was able to recover the looted resources. In the process of investigation, the council realised that the funds were actually monies from federal sources: TETFUND, NEEDS, SEEDS etc. and that state government officials were deeply involved in the looting. Along the line, the governor decided to ignore the council and set up a visitation panel consisting of commissioners, including some that were deep in the rot. The result was that the council was dissolved with ignominy. One of the commissioners was appointed as sole administrator or acting vice chancellor!

FUNDING ISSUES

The federal government has consistently goofed in negotiating with ASUU members, especially over allowances. The federal government is not the employer of university staff by law. However, since ministers of education have insisted on acting Big by pretending that they have absolute and direct authority over universities, they will continue to suffer the consequences of their folly. ASUU has sucked them in.

I have spent all my life in the education sector, either as a pupil, student, teacher or a lecturer. The sector functioned better when regions, native authorities, missionaries and private sector handled it. The collapse came when the federal government felt it could handle everything below the sky. Every day, the government opens new universities while they can’t fund the present ones they own. Every sector that the federal government took over, it has managed to destroy. Hospitals, roads, universities, secondary schools, name it.As rich, powerful and big as the United States is, other than specialist universities like those for the army, navy and airforce, the federal government has only two universities. Howard University that was created when the states and private universities were denying admission to black people. The second one is the District of Columbia University in Washington DC which is in the federal territory. However, US federal government intervenes in education through bursaries, loans and grants to students. Barack Obama just managed to finish the repayment of his university student’s loan when he became American president.Seeing how the regions and native authorities competed in educating their children during the First Republic, I have no doubt that creating a similar atmosphere would enable us to once again move forward. Take the case of Borno Native Authority that used to send its brilliant pupils to secondary schools and universities in UK on scholarship. People like Babagana Kingibe and many others of that generation were products of such a scheme. Education was a serious business in those days at every level. But with the illusion of oil money, we dumped everything on a dysfunctional government at the centre.

Our parents used to sell goats, cows, groundnuts and whatever they had to send us to Government Secondary Schools in the 1960s. At the university level, state governments gave scholarships, but fees were charged. Uncle Naija moved in with oil money, took over everything and destroyed it. Our universities competed with the best in the world under the old system. But where are we today?

BACK TO THE BASICS

In the 1970s when we were at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, we were either on scholarship from our state government in my case N/E or parents paid in the absence of sponsorship. Those who genuinely could not afford the fees were termed indigent students. List of such students was forwarded to federal government for sponsorship. But it was a stigma. Few students would like to be on that list. So, university education was not free as such.

When I was in secondary school at Government College Kaduna, fees were charged, based on perceived income of your father. The highest was £36 per annum. The lowest was £3. Three pounds was the price of two sacks of groundnuts at the harvest time. £33 was the cost of two fully mature bulls if you were a cattle owner. Salary earners’ income was visible, so the charges were easy. Our parents paid according to their abilities. We valued the education we obtained at all levels. The person who claimed that education in Europe is free should contend with Brexit. Britain always charged foreigners while citizens enjoyed the fruit of their parents’ taxes. Some of the Scandinavian countries that are reputed to have free education like Finland also have the highest taxes in the World. So, it is not free per se. Someone is paying for it. Who pays tax in Nigeria? Mostly people in the services and the formal sector. But our informal sector is perhaps larger than the formal sector. It is not taxed. How can anybody run a country based on allocations from one source, the Federation Account?

A PERSONAL EXAMPLE

I took over a university where 15,000 students were cramped in a Teachers Training College compound meant for 2,500 students. Meanwhile, there was an ongoing permanent site, 12 kilometres away but abandoned because of lack of funds. In addition, there were backlogs of arrears promised to unions by government and a monthly shortfall of salaries of between N5 million and N8 million. With these problems, the university was always in crisis either from staff or students. Where could I get funds to complete the permanent site and move out, balance my monthly salaries, pay arrears promised unions and run my laboratories and lectures?

President Olusegun Obasanjo gave me a letter saying I was in charge, and he sent envelopes to the National University Commission (NUC) to distribute as it pleased. But we also had university laws and statutes of dos and don’ts. The students were paying N15,000 per annum to the university as charges including N90 per annum for hostel which they leased to fellow students at N15,000. I decided to hike the various charges. My leap was to charge N50,000 for regular students and N60,000 for remedial students with additional N20,000 for absorption of those who passed the remediation. Most students claimed they were from poor families and could not afford it, but I had my data based on the schools they attended. Many of them came from fee paying secondary schools like El Amin, New Horizon, Hikma, to cite those around Minna. The fees there started from N500,000 and ran to over N1 million. They even played polo in their schools!

To cut the story short, every student found a way of paying the charges. Niger State offered to pay for its students, I refused to accept the offer. I asked the governor to give scholarship to his students. I would take my money direct from them. Nobody would step on the campus without clearance from our various banks. It worked. Niger State paid only once and never again. The governor who was a student at the period I was a lecturer in the same university thought he could trick me by wasting my bursar’s time, chasing his commissioner of finance like a contractor.

The students paid us, and we had money to run the place. Over the years we completed our buildings and started new ones. Departments were getting enough money to run their services. The most highly subscribed department was Computer Electronic Department. In addition to the allocation in their budget, they received N800,000 per quarter from charges and N250,000 from DTLC. In short, they had over N1.5 million quarterly to run their services. There was prosperity not because of government butj despite government.

Can you imagine my shock when I returned to my base at ABU Zaria to find out that my department with over 600 students was receiving N50,000 per quarter from one joker calling himself a vice chancellor! The most surprising aspect of the maladministration was that ASUU officials were made directors, deputy directors or heads of some units.

ASUU GETS IT WRONG

For the five years I served at Minna, I never had serious problems with either the students or unions. In fact, ASUU was so cooperative that we often asked for exemption because prior to my arrival the university had lost cumulatively almost two years as a result of students’ union crises and staff strikes. Funds are the magic wand that drives the university system. When ASUU insists that no contribution should come from parents and students to run a university, let them visit our permanent site at FUTMIN. We even had a dedicated power line from the Shiroro substation, eight kilometres away at the cost of N50 million completed that time. Parents will appreciate your efforts if you use their resources judiciously. I never had problems increasing my charges at the CBN inflation rate every year. Because we discussed it with the students and outlined what we intended to do the following year. All this posturing and ‘open-close’ syndrome on our campuses will take us nowhere.

By 2007, I left N1.27 billion in the kitty for the incoming VC to continue with what we started. Surprisingly, someone advised the VC that since he was taking over from a popular VC if he removed some of the charges, he would be more popular. And he did. But after clapping for him, the students told him to ensure that he worked like his predecessor. He didn’t realise that it was the very charges he removed that made them proud of their university and made me popular at the end.

MORE POSERS

Why can’t each council run its university as the law stipulates? Why should government be directly involved? If UNILAG which could hide N10 billion from my special presidential visitation panel decides to be paying its professors of computer engineering and plastic surgery N5 million per month, why should ASUU insist they should take N500,000 because that is what an anthropology professor like me was taking? ASUU lives in the sixties. The world has moved, leaving us behind. We are losing our best staff and students to a globalised world at an unprecedented rate. Not because of the poor state of the economy but because of our archaic mode of thinking.

ENDNOTE: To be concluded.

Strictly Personal

Akeredolu And Katsina’s AK-47 Trainees by Lasisi Olagunju

Published

on

In Lawuyi Ogunniran’s Yoruba play, Ààrẹ-àgò Aríkúyẹrí, we see how a happy polygamous family is ruined by the indiscretion of the family head. Ògúnrìndé Ajé, the Ààrẹ-àgò Balógun of Ibadan, a man with three wives, throws a party to worship his ‘ori’; he lines up his wives in a singing and dancing bout; the second wife outshines the others; the husband celebrates her, publicly proclaims her as his favourite and shoves aside the other wives. The party is over, three children of the third wife die in quick succession – poisoned; hell is let loose. The first wife secretly tells the mother of the dead children that her Babalawo has revealed the favoured wife as the ‘witch’ who ate her children. The bereaved tells her husband the discovery, and, the man, in anger, shoots dead the ‘accused’ wife; the town steps in. Ààrẹ-àgò Balógun is accused of murder and brought before Baṣọ̀run Ògúnmọ́lá and the council of chiefs. The truth is revealed: the first wife is the culprit; she tells the chiefs that the wives loved one another before their husband picked his favourite in public. She confesses to killing the kids to punish the family head “who knows the slender wife that fits her husband on the day of the feast, and (knows) the fat wife fit only as a labourer on the farm.”

Nigeria is ineluctably rolling towards its destiny; it is approaching its final destination. That was the summary of my thought after watching the Katsina vigilante training video, the trainees’ open display of dexterity in handling AK-47 rifles, and Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s charge at the double standards of the Federal Government. The governor alleged that South-West states applied for and got a no for its Amotekun from the Federal Government while Katsina State got a yes for its security outfit to bear military-grade weapons. The firm became firmer after I read the police’s explanation that what the Katsina vigilante boys got were not AK-47 assault rifles but mere training in the use of AK-47 guns. We live in a ghostly society ruled by funny, deadly ideas.

You saw the devastating effects of bias and favouritism in the Ààrẹ-àgò Balógun story above: Three children die of poison; one wife is shot dead by the husband; a jealous wife is sentenced to death; the family head is sentenced to death – but escapes to the miserable life of a fugitive. Even, members of the jury – the chiefs who sit on the case – become victims; they are busted as bribe takers and lost their privileges, and the bribe deliverers are sold to slavery. The lone survivor is the last wife who escaped with the morbid scar of the loss of three children. This story is Nigeria and its future in their very raw form. Clinical psychologists have a description of a household of bias and iniquity. They say a family of parental favouritism is one of shame, fear, and fight. Wherever you have the blight of bias, you see cohesion in flight; you feel disengagement and conflict in full swing. A home where the favoured child sees the parents as enviable and helpful, and the disfavoured child perceives them as wicked, selfish, and authoritarian is no one’s dream home. It cannot ever achieve its full potential. It is a house of commotion and destruction.

Human existence, Sigmund Freud theorized, is all about two basic urges – he called them drives: One is Eros (the desire to live); the other is Thanatos (the wish to die). Both cohere and contend throughout the journey of life. If Freud saw war as “the prevailing of death over love,” then Nigeria is the ground of that battle. Every step that is taken here, solitary and collective, is a shortcut to death and decay. Nothing is an accident; the virus ravaging our giant came with its bad birth and breath and feeds on the deformity. Imagine what the Nigerian government has made of a decision as basic as what weapons to deploy in fighting a collective enemy. The regime has costumed it in sectional arrogance, governmental infidelity, and unfaithfulness. The result is the outcry from Akeredolu and the shameful silence from Abuja.

Except the state armourer is the forest bandit, he should have no problem arming law enforcement agents and agencies against banditry. If terrorists in the forests of Katsina and Borno use AK-47, and terrorists in the forests of Ondo and Oyo use AK-47, shouldn’t the respective responses be similar in ways and means? We insist that our country’s full name is the Federal Republic of Nigeria, yet, we hate what real federations do. The United States is a federation with more than 17,000 state and local police forces. They are many and, yet, they get the job done in an atmosphere of cooperation and mutual respect. Why is it difficult for us to do what others do so that we get what others get? We cannot insist that Nigeria’s unity and oneness are inviolable and non-negotiable while having one standard for the north and a different standard for the south.

Our founding fathers fought for and got Nigeria as a federation of disparate units. They voted for federalism because they knew it would stop the madness of one part from becoming a national epidemic. It is about balancing of power – and even of terror. America’s founding fathers opted for federalism because they sought “to balance order with liberty…avoid tyranny, allow more participation in politics and use the states as ‘laboratories’ for new ideas and programmes.” The fourth president of the United States and father of the country’s constitution and its Bill of Rights, James Madison, argued (in The Federalist, No. 51) that power must be set against power, and ambition must be made to counteract ambition if his emerging nation of many parts would progress in peace and plenty. Earlier in The Federalist, No. 10, he had explained how the adoption of federalism would engender peace and development: “The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular states, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other states. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the confederacy, but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source.” Drawing from Madison’s argument, an analyst says “federalism prevents a person that takes control of a state from easily taking control of the federal government as well.” What do those sentences tell you about Nigeria and its owners and why the nation’s ailments are incurable? The US experience apparently influenced what legal icon and elder statesman, Chief Afe Babalola, SAN, argued for in April 2022. He called for a total constitutional overhaul of Nigeria instead of limping towards the next elections. We asked him to shut up.

Five months ago, Chief Afe Babalola looked at Nigeria he was living in and cried out that he could not recognize what he was seeing. Then he issued a statement and said he “decided to talk because this country is now different from the one I used to know.” He said he saw a gradually collapsing country, a half-dead nation with a currency that was N199 to $1 in 2015 but which had gone down to N570 to a dollar as of the time he issued the statement. “The external debt, which was $10.7 billion in 2015 is now over $38 billion. The government is borrowing more, and spending more, but earning fewer revenues. The worse thing is that the debt servicing level is also rising. In 2020, Nigeria was ranked as the poorest country in the world with over 50 percent of Nigerians living in extreme poverty while over 70 million Nigerians are in urgent need of life-saving assistance.” Chief Babalola said he was “of the firm conviction that moneybags now control the lever of powers.” He said if we allowed the present constitution beyond 2023, what we would be getting is recycled leadership, who would continue the old ways. “We need a constitution that will throw up young, brilliant, dedicated people to save this country. We can’t get all these under the present constitution. We need a new set of leaders in our nation; leaders who will not see themselves as Mr. Know-All and who will not see themselves as above anyone,” he said.

That was five months ago. How many bags of naira must you carry before you can purchase a dollar in Nigeria today? A thousand dollars may soon trump a million naira. If you are an optimist, you have something to chew on here. It is said that a witch who would stop being a witch would not build an all-female nest. Nigeria is that witch. It breaks the backbone of whatever is good and strong; it does not build or rebuild; it listens not to the voice of knowledge and understanding. How did we take Afe Babalola’s counsel that we rearrange our lives productively instead of going for the poisonous feast of the 2023 elections? We dismissed him and his words. The old man has since been minding his business, eating his pounded yam, mounting his horse during the day and ‘the other one at night. But for Nigeria, denial cures nothing; the country remains “a contagion of disgrace.”

Bloomberg, last week, in a damning report said bankers were bailing out of Nigeria’s stagnating economy. It mentioned ‘japa’ the new fad for brain drain. The drain is with the traumatized – made up of everyone: young, old, read, and unread. It is the result you get from a cracked system that won’t submit itself for reconstruction. Nigeria cannot work unless it has the right leaders. It cannot have the right leaders unless the structure is right. The tormentors of Nigeria run to the United States. But they won’t accept that that country works because it preserves the choices its founding fathers made at the beginning of their journey. Nigeria robs the world of hope and puts the optimist to shame. “The fountains are dusty in the Graveyard of Dreams; The hinges are rusty and swing with tiny screams” (H. Beam Piper in ‘Graveyard of Dreams’). We tempt fate and tamper with destinies; the result is the shrill death of hope. Fuji music’s grand old megastar, Kollington Ayinla, sang in the 1980s that Nigeria is the world and it would never die (Nigeria, ayé ni kò lè kú…). My starry-eyed generation (and the ones before us) sang and danced with Baba Alatika along the rich creeks of that optimism. But, life has taught us lessons on how not to be optimistic. If musicians are true poets, today, I would borrow from Odia Ofeimun and chant ‘The Poet Lied.’ I am not sure the lyricist in Kollington believes any longer in the spirit of his song of an eternal Nigeria. Nothing that is born to sink will swim – even when it is offered lifelines.

 

Continue Reading

Strictly Personal

Let us all grow bananas, make more pads, distil more Waragi by Jenerali Uliwengu

Published

on

We are now getting used to Kenyans chalking up achievements in areas where all of us should have been eager to prove our worth in. And it looks like there is neither atomic science nor black magic in what they beat us in. All they have needed is a little thinking space in which to exercise their minds, and, surely, that should be available.

This time round, I learn that a couple of Kenyan students, Paul Ntikoisa and Ivy Etemesi in the Rift Valley, have been putting their heads together around a problem that has been dogging young female learners in all our countries; some female students sometimes drop out of the school system because of the biological imperative of having to go through the menstrual cycles in an unfriendly environment.

Though we all know that this is a natural imposition of womanhood that no girl — unless seriously disabled — can avoid, we seem to think of it as a girl’s problem that she and her mother – not father — should deal with.

Modern education

It has been with us for a long time, and we have knowledge of the impediment it places on the path to women’s emancipation which should come through attaining modern education, and yet we do little to alleviate the inconvenience experienced by school girls. It has often been stated that many girls cannot stand the discomfort and humiliation they have to go through when the inevitable happens, every month because they are shunned and mocked by their uncomprehending male colleagues who treat them as if they were unclean, though it is obviously through no fault of theirs.

It is estimated by Unesco that to more than 2.6 million girls are faced with this problem in Kenya alone, and it is easy to imagine how many more will be affected across the continent.

Now, some Kenyan youth have come up with a brilliant idea that will radically change the way we look at the banana plant. Taking a cue from the traditional use of the banana stem by Ugandan women, these young Kenyan students went one better, by obtaining banana trunk fibre and processing it into wearable fibre that can be deployed as a sanitary pad.

Immediately, I heard of this big news I rushed to google it, and spent some time buried in the literature. Till I understood the processes. I am not a techy buff myself but I could kind of understand what they had done with the banana stem: take out the soft inner flesh of the stem, and wash it thoroughly to remove impurities…

Well, I must stop there lest I give misleading information to DIY enthusiasts, but my point is made.

What these young people have done is a practical demonstration of the can-do spirit with which many youngsters are imbued, and they are to be found not only in Kenya but in all our countries.

It is only that the Kenyans tend to get there before the others and get all the bragging rights. If I sound envious, it is because I am.

But better late than never, and all our youngsters in the other countries can take up the challenge.

Other tissue

First, we have the advantage of knowing what the Kenyan lads have done with the banana plant. That is not the only way to go, because someone could try to utilise some other tissue. I wonder how baobab bark would fare in this context, since ‘orubugu’ is hallowed textile in the Lake Victoria area and could do the trick if it is properly pounded and softened. What about papaya stem?

On a general note, we need to encourage our youth to be more adventurous, to experiment with what has never been used but is plentiful.

A long time ago I got some wisdom from a visiting young French man who told me, unforgettably: to make progress, you either identify something useful and acquire plenty of it, or you identify something that you have plenty of and find a use for it because you already have it. It is the case of banana plants all around us.

This might create a banana revolution in which people will uproot other plants to replace them with bananas, and find that the bananas have numerous advantages:

They can be eaten as fruit when they ripen; they can be cooked before they ripen to provide matooke and katoogo; the banana juice is sweeter than Coca Cola; fermented, it gives the alcoholic beverages, rubisi and mbege, from which a moonshine is extracted for serious Waragi and Konyagi gins consumers.

In addition, banana plants in large numbers help to decorate the land, cool the earth, and freshen the air.

Rainfall pattern

I see no reason why people all over East Africa do not plant as many bananas as they can in all the areas with a moderate rainfall pattern. DR Congo, which enjoys such plentiful rains, should take the lead in creating this luxuriant and extremely valuable agricultural belt.

We could all soon celebrate the banana plant as a liberator on so many fronts, and since some people have been trying very hard to make banana republics of our countries, we might as well complete the picture meaningfully.

Jenerali Ulimwengu is now on YouTube via jeneralionline tv. E-mail: jenerali@gmail.com

Continue Reading

EDITOR’S PICK

Metro3 hours ago

Egyptian police officers jailed six years for torturing man to death

Two Egyptian policemen who tortured a civilian to death in their custody have been sentenced to six years in prison...

Politics4 hours ago

Recalcitrant Mali to snub ECOWAS sanctions on Guinea in defence of ‘fraternity’

Mali has continued its recalcitrant posture in the international space as its interim prime minister has revealed that the country...

Metro4 hours ago

19 people die, 30 hospitalised after drinking contaminated alcohol in Morocco

At least 19 people have been confirmed dead while more than 35 more have been hospitalized in northern Morocco after...

VenturesNow5 hours ago

Kenya’s new president, William Ruto, walks the talk, cuts government spending by $2.5 billion

President William Ruto of Kenya has made another bold policy decision as he instructed the finance ministry to cut 300...

Culture7 hours ago

Kenya prohibits LGBTQ+ movies from streaming platforms

The Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) has banned movies containing LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) contents from streaming platforms...

Metro7 hours ago

Despite denials, new satellite images reveal Eritrea Army build-up near Tigray

Despite Eritrea denying that its army is not involved in launching assaults on Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, new satellite images...

Politics7 hours ago

Nigeria Decides: Ruling party candidate, Bola Tinubu, missing as political parties sign peace pact

As the 2023 presidential elections draw closer in Nigeria, leading candidates have signed an accord toward a peaceful electioneering process....

Metro9 hours ago

Finally, trial of Rwanda Genocide alleged mastermind, Félicien Kabuga, resumes at UN tribunal

The trial of one of the alleged masterminds and financiers of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Félicien Kabuga has gone has...

Metro1 day ago

Two Nigerian fraudsters arrested in South Africa over romance, Bitcoin scams

Two Nigerians suspected of defrauding South African women over romance and Bitcoin scams have been arrested by a combination of...

Metro1 day ago

Again, United Nations raises the alarm, says 200,000 face starvation as drought ravages Somalia

The United Nations has, again, raised the alarm over impending starvation in Somalia with an estimated 200,000 people on the...

Trending