By our silence and indifference to ASUU’s perennial patriotic struggles to democratize education, Nigeria is certainly singing her swan song…
Joseph A. Ushie
This is where Nigerians are shamefully different from Ghanaians. Right from independence, Ghanaians have insulated education from their politics such that any government, military or civilian, which tampers with the quality of the nation’s education would have imperiled itself, would have pitched itself against the rest of the Ghanaian citizenry, not just the teachers alone.
And that is why Ghana’s education system has survived till date in spite of that country’s similarities with Nigeria in many other ways. As a net result of the Ghanaians’ collective and communal watch over the affairs of their valued education sector, Nigeria’s aristocratic families routinely send their children there for learning, emptying our treasury into that of our more collectively conscious neighbour. In 2005, I was in Malaysia when the results of one of the world rankings of universities were published, and Malaysia’s best university was 110 or so in the world as against an earlier position of 89.
The entire country went wild with attacks on the government, particularly on the ministry of education to explain to Malaysians how that came about. Suggestions of the sacking of the minister, the setting up of committees, etc., to review the nation’s university system filled their dailies. It was as if the country had been attacked by a foreign army. And I returned to Nigeria where everyone went about their business as usual even when no Nigerian university was among the best 6000 in the world going by same results on the rankings.
Right now, ASUU is again on another of its many self-denying strikes, and the sorrow that has come with it is immense. The sorrow and the worries and the anxieties stem from the fact that even some of those expected to fight on the side of the educationally Sowetoed Nigerians have joined the aristocracy, and these include personalities like Dr John Olukayode Fayemi, a relatively fresh convert from his erstwhile primary constituency as protector of the Sowetoed mass to the aristocracy as Governor of the learned Ekiti State. At the very beginning of the current strike, this gentleman with the chameleon’s flexible colours rushed into condemnation of the action in order to please his new Lord in Aso Rock, who, incidentally, accepted blame for the strike on behalf of his government.
A few of our colleagues have also displayed their loyalty to Aso Rock by giving ASUU knocks for going on strike, some of these querying the Union for not changing methods, as if ASUU had guns with which to plot coups. The bad thing about sycophancy is that the sycophant or protégé often does not listen to those he wants to murder in the interest of his mentor. So, in all this, this class of the self-appointed spokespersons for the treacherous ruling class would feign ignorance of the many warnings, the many hundreds of letters, the many laborious press conferences the ASUU leadership would go through to get the government to listen ahead of the option of strike, by bringing up the inapplicable lame blame that the Union should “embrace dialogue”. Yet, this is a situation in which, elsewhere in the world, the citizenry would have spontaneously risen as one against the government in order to end the educational Soweto-Pretoria dichotomy; but here, everyone goes about their businesses as usual while the public schools die a slow, painful death, with a huge vulture waiting for the dying public universities to finally fall.
In the recent past, not even the students who are the primary beneficiaries from ASUU’s altruistic, self-immolating struggles, used to appreciate the Union’s efforts as some of them, educational Sowetoed children, were armed with stones to throw at the Union while the Union engaged the aristocratic governments in some of its historic struggles for the soul of the nation’s public universities. This is where
a country ready for development is distinguished from that doomed to perdition.
This is where Ghana and Malaysia and Singapore and even Rwanda hold the hope for their countries while Nigerians and Nigeria remain faithful to the same in government, who have tethered their children’s future to damnation. And this is why, even as the Union is currently on strike over the poor funding of education in the country, the allocation to education in next year’s budget has been further punitively and spitefully slashed to 5.71, which is a far cry from UNESCO’S suggested minimum of 26%, which many fast-developing countries have even overreached.
This is why none of these Nigerians would, now, advise the government against the 2019 consequences for education by the criminally low allocation to education in the budget for that year. This is why some of us are sad and worried about the future of this country if indeed education is what determines the rate of growth of any nation. This is why I find in the current silence from Nigerians towards the ongoing ASUU strike a national suicide.
It must be a national suicide because, in the end, both the Soweto and the aristocratic beneficiaries from education would end up as members of same society with one group inhaling the smoke from the other in the forms of kidnapping, insurgency, armed robbery, ritual killings, drug addiction, begging and others. And yet, at every public outing, the rich and powerful pay lips service to education while budgetary allocations to the sector diminish annually in order to create the large financial provision for sectors from which it is easy and lucrative to loot. By our silence and indifference to ASUU’s perennial patriotic struggles to democratize education, Nigeria is certainly singing her swan song, is certainly arranging herself for cremation within the comity of other nations of the world, where our citizens will continue to be enslaved.
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Prof. Ushie writes from University of Uyo