By Andrew A. Erakhrumen
Interestingly but regretfully, the current Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) – that is very good at disobeying court orders/judgements, just like, or even more than, its predecessors – has referred the trade dispute, (with negotiations ongoing), through its Ministry of Education with Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), Abuja Judicial Division. At NICN, on the 21st of September, 2022, FGN’s request for an interlocutory injunction restraining ASUU from continuing with its strike was granted by a Vacation Judge. Not unexpectedly, ASUU filed an appeal and a stay of execution of the restraining order on the 23rd of September, 2022. Our interest in these events stems from the belief in an African adage, loosely translated as: if a wicked person states his/her case, another wicked person should not be allowed to be an arbiter in such a dispute! Certainly, experience has shown that negotiation is far better during this kind of dispute; as lasting peace has never been, and can never be, decreed! All the same, the law courts may help in achieving a long-term solution to constant government-induced trade disputes with ASUU. Court processes may be slow; nevertheless, FGN’s NICN route (although, a malicious conception) appears tidier compared to the grandstanding and efforts at rubbishing university professors/lecturers through silly smear campaigns by FGN and its agents!
What has this FGN/others – powered by anti-intellectuals – not done to criminalise ASUU’s patriotism? Obviously, they are despising ASUU’s high level of intellectualism that they lack and may never be able to acquire! What kind of a government – if not that of anti-intellectuals – will be shamelessly discussing the salaries/allowances of professors/lecturers, on the pages of newspapers? Some of us have, however, been reassured by series of public/private sensible comments, from local and foreign clear-headed opinion holders, on this incongruity! Of course, this government has shown, in demonstrable terms, more than all the administrations before it, that public education means nothing to it! Nigerian education sector has never been left stranded like this! We are aghast that, apart from people in government and those benefiting from the current political decadence, we can still find some people defending government’s non-responsiveness and irresponsibility concerning public education and other matters. Oh! Sorry, we forgot that there are ASUU-haters and financial hawks waiting for public universities to collapse totally. These wicked hawks are currently ‘masked’ criminals who intend to benefit from the commodification and commercialisation of these public universities! Surely, expect the unmasking of these criminals soon!
For those who still share the illusory opinion that this government is doing anything more than nothing to prioritise funding of public education but is being incapacitated by lack of financial resources; please, sincerely assist in providing answers to these questions: why has government refused to block all the loopholes exploited, by “snakes”, “monkeys”, “baboons” and recently “termites” including other “animals”, to devour and swallow public wealth? How was a broke government able to donate US$1million to Afghanistan’s Taliban government? How was a broke government able to donate vehicles worth N1.14billion to the government of République du Niger? What about the ongoing tears-inducing mass ‘looting’ in this “anti-corruption” government? Looting Nigeria’s treasury is an “open secret” to the extent that it has been taken for granted! The public domain has it that punishment is unexpected for those well-known looters! With governments in place, how has up to, or more than, 400,000 barrels of Nigeria’s crude oil been able to disappear, tracelessly, daily? Yes! Everyday! Who are these thieves? This disaster is still occurring in a British-created country, whose 62nd British-contrived ‘independence’ was celebrated on the 1st of October, 2022, with a mono-economy that still depends, solely, on crude oil!
Why has government not been able to do anything concerning the massive heists that are ongoing through the discredited and fraudulent Integrated Payroll Personnel Information System (IPPIS)? This is IPPIS government itself has identified to be fraud-prone! This is the same IPPIS that the ill-informed public commentators and ignoramuses celebrated as an antidote to government payroll frauds! Or has ASUU not been vindicated through allegations, by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, of funds diversion and money laundering of N109.4billion against Ahmed Idris – the suspended Accountant-General of the Federation? What about the recent uncovering of about 54,000 fraudulent payroll entries in this IPPIS as made public by Babagana Monguno – the National Security Adviser? Is IPPIS not the same payment platform used for paying those earlier-highlighted ghost workers including the N49.9billion earmarked as salaries for ghost workers in the first half of 2022 as revealed by Bolaji Owasanoye – chairman of Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) during an interactive session with the Senate Committee on Finance at National Assembly in preparation for the 2023 budget?
What about the 2021 and 2022 budget padding to the tune of N400billion as alluded to by the chairman of ICPC during the same above-mentioned interactive session with the Senate Committee on Finance? Since solid actions that firmly serve as deterrence against thievery are not taken; it will take a miracle for Nigeria’s 2023 proposed budget of N19.76trillion (with a deficit of N11.3trillion) to be free from padding/other insertions! No doubt, the previous governments were corrupt but this FGN has condoned more corruption, financial indiscipline and recklessness! As earlier-implied, funding public education is not part of this government’s top priority. They are neither hiding this fact nor ashamed of it! To them, intellectuals and intellectualism are irritants! Thus, will it be out of place for one to believe that the central government is taking actions/inactions that Boko Haram may easily leverage upon – without shooting a bullet – to achieve its aim of shutting people out of western education? This last question may hit some people badly; but is the well-publicised objective of Boko Haram and other terrorist organisations of same ideologies not that Nigerians should be barred from obtaining western education?
So, if a government engage(s) in act(s) leading to a total shut-down of western educational facilities, such as public universities, then, why would Boko Haram and other similar terrorist organisations not be happy? In that case, are these terrorists not being assisted, (without them asking for assistance), to achieve their objective of preventing people from accessing western education? Will it be out of place to suggest that a government that promised to invest massively in public education may be guilty of (deliberately?) dropping the ball and allow terrorists to easily achieve their aim of getting more people out of school?
This is Nigeria where the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization estimated an out-of-school children population to be 20.2 million – the highest in the world – in 2022! It is clear that the country is in trouble it never bargained for concerning its educational sector! The Nigerian public universities struggling helplessly on their knees are being solidly pummelled to death! Past governments did not go this far in trying to kill these universities like this FGN. This is pathetic! Anti-intellectuals are now in the driving seat of governance in Nigeria! These fascists and their collaborators must be flushed out, in elections cycles, starting from the coming 2023 general elections. This is a task that must be done!
*Andrew A. Erakhrumen currently teaches at the Department of Forest Resources and Wildlife Management, University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria.