By ‘Diran Ademiju-Bepo
Since the coming of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in 1978, successive governments have made spirited effort to hedge it in, hem and haw. Of all the struggle the union has embarked on, the current action appears the most popular and populist, going by the interest it has engendered. Starting with a four-week “rolling” strike, the first in its lexicon, on the 14th February, 2022, when the world was celebrating love, the action had to be “rolled over” on 13th March, instant, due to the graveyard mentality and disposition of the government of the day. Now, the truce expected has been blown away by the brewing storm.
The nation was already a graveyard from the incessant carnage and brigandage of terrorists and their litany of victims, the latest being the Abuja-Kaduna rail line, which has unfortunately given birth to comic actors in the hue of a state governor- in the midst of the national tragedy. The unrelenting onslaught by these performers, who have decided to be more brazen than before by striking in broad daylight, continues to hand out tears, sorrow and blood to the nation. The same actors who in 2013, verbally and politically terrorized the former administration over its perceived ineptitude in handling the security situation, are unsparingly docile and taciturn as they grapple with the task of taking a nation out of the woods. They have embraced the graveyard and found succour in playing to the gallery.
Their buffoonery, spawned by their hatred and disdain for education, has foisted on the campuses of our universities a cloak reminiscent of the graveyard. For this, they thump their chests, and pat their backs, deluding themselves that they have cowed ASUU and children of the masses into submission. Even former members of the academia now in government, have chosen the silence of the graveyard as wisdom.
I found this instructive when I stumbled on it and I plead to share it here.
“Oya, orisha of the weather, winds, storms and cemeteries. Oya is associated with funerals, part of her duty is to carry the souls of the dead to the afterlife. She helps people who die transition into the afterlife and carries the souls of the dead to their final resting place.
“She is the guardian of the graveyard, the goddess in charge of cemeteries. Cemeteries are important in traditional religion for people seeking favours from her. Because of this, she is called the Great mother of witches or the elders of the night.
“Once angered, she can destroy villages and communities with floods and any other natural disaster she deems fit. She is fierce because she hates lies and injustice and would not refrain from pouring her wrath on those who dare her. Finally, the Niger River is named after her as she is the patron. The Niger river is called Odo-Oya.”
One of the rivers dissecting this nation at the confluence. From it, power is generated to serve the nation. From this wife of Sango, the once king and god of thunder, we can see a nation torn between the pull of life and the abyss of destruction. Exactly what university education does- it mars or makes you in life. All they are interested in is politicking and not development. Government thinks that denying our future leaders this right now will take the nation to its desired heights, save politics. They forget that people can actually turn to Oya, the goddess, for succour as she can intervene in diverse ways in accordance to her pedigree. Is it the weather, winds, storms and cemeteries? Since the stakeholders who should call government to order have organised picnics in the cemeteries, and turned our campuses into graveyards, methinks it is high time to invite Oya in all her fiery and fury.
Before you conclude I am a heretic, pause and consider the following with me, from a dictionary: “(plural heretics) Someone who believes contrary to the fundamental tenets of a religion they claim to belong to. In the framework of traditional medical ethics, the patient deserves humane attention only insofar as he is potentially healthy and is willing to be healthy—just as in the framework of traditional Christian ethics, the heretic deserved humane attention only insofar as he was potentially a true believer and was willing to become one. In the one case, people are accepted as human beings only because they might be healthy citizens; in the other, only because they might be faithful Christians. In short, neither was heresy formerly, nor is sickness now, given the kind of humane recognition which, from the point of view of an ethic of respect and tolerance, they deserve.”
I am only trying to proffer solutions to the seemingly intractable consequences of the nation as a graveyard with the on-going ASUU strike. Humaneness is simply in want in this country, otherwise, the political class would not feign ignorance and play the ostrich just because their children are not in public universities. The president who gave marching order to three top members of his cabinet and the head of his kitchen cabinet, would not be revelling in the graveyard if he has had a taste of Oya’s anger, because she hates lies and injustice. In the coming weeks, we may as well begin to think of the other alternatives. The politicians in power only believe in the quantum of public money they can loot, not in the service they are to render. They stand on the pedestal of injustice to hand out retrogression to the citizens. They are not moved one bit about the plight of the innocent and castrated masses who voted them into office and gave them the mandate to make their lives and those of their children better than they met them.
Our union will not succumb to cheap blackmail from whichever quarters. Until justice is done and seen to be done, we maintain that the issues on demand are clear enough and require little resources, which we possess. One, deploy UTAS, a more humane payment platform we designed with patriotic zeal. Two, implement the renegotiated FGN-ASUU 2009 Agreement for which government is in default for 12 years. Three, honour your ‘gentlemen’s MoA signed with our union and timeline for the defraying of arrears of EAA which terminates in 2023. Four, it will be good for those who have the ears of government to pass this message across to it in the clear language that it understands.
I can see vultures hovering above already, and the carcasses of the insensitive people who are pall bearers for the nation may soon be used to feed them. NITDA. The National Assembly. The traditional institution. The clergy and laity on all divides. The elected representatives at other levels. ASUU will have no share in the blame when this happens. When this silence of the graveyard comes to an end. My pen will continue to drip and the ink will never freeze. Beware!
•Prof Ademiju-Bepo is of the Department of Theatre and Film, University of Jos