By Sunday Saanu
The current financial crisis rocking the University of Ibadan (UI) in which the management team says it can no longer pay some allowances, after struggling to pay salaries, clearly confirms what has always been suspected: insolvency, if not bankruptcy. Following the crash of prices of crude oil in the international market, observers had predicted that, there would be tough times for the country.
Indeed, the tough times are here. Many states across the country are not only impecunious, their workers are as indigent as their dependants who are in the poverty trap as a result of non-payment of salaries. The distress scenario is fast spreading to federal government’s agencies and institutions with major shortfall in financial allocation. This is the genesis of the on-going crisis in UI where workers are giving the new Vice Chancellor , Prof. Abel Idowu Olayinka, sleepless nights over non-payment of what they called “earned allowance” for the month of February. This “earned allowance” which is a fall out of the 2009 agreement between the Government and Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is being paid in installments through the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), pending when the government will reimburse the university. But, when the bubble bursts with the shortfall in personnel grant released by the government, the VC cried out that the university will not be able to pay the allowance. The workers, under different unions, including Non Academic Staff Union (NASU), National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT)and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) scoffed at the dilemma , insisting that the allowance must be paid. They believe that UI has the wherewithal to pay the money. Hope that is not a pipe dream?
Determined to douse tension, Prof. Olayinka in a release dated 22 February, explained the financial situation to the workers, citing paucity of funds as his headache. According to him, “In 2015, we received N932,714,026.24 from January up to November, but in December 2015, our allocation on Personnel Cost was drastically reduced to N663,972,634.60. This is a reduction of N268,741,391.64. This shortfall accounted for why deductions for the month of December 2015 could not be paid to all deserving Cooperative Societies and Unions “.
Surprisingly, Prof. Olayinka disclosed, “we received the sum of N782,346,495.95 as Personnel Cost for the month of January 2016. This sum is a far cry from our expected Personnel Cost . Our budget in 2016 for Personnel Cost is N12,971,458,377 net of National Health Insurance Scheme and Contributory Pensions. We, therefore, expect monthly allocation of N1,080,954,864.75, instead, we got N782,346,495.95, a reduction of N298,608,369.16. The import of this is that again in January 2016, we were not able to meet up with 100 percent of our commitment on Personnel Cost “. With the economic situation in the country, as exemplified in many states, it appears preposterous to controvert the VC. However, the workers believe that there is money in the system to pay the allowance . Fiction, you may say! But where is the VC going to get the money from? However, since the union leadership appears to know better than the ordinary members, a congress was called recently in which all members of the three unions, excluding Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) were enjoined to converge on the main entrance of the University. As early as 7am, staff members had taken over the place, itching to be updated. The gates had been locked as usual. The vehicular movement had been effectively paralyzed.
“Greeat Nigerian workers!” , the SSANU chairman, Mr. Wale Akinremi, who spoke on behalf of other leaders began, psyching up the members in salutation. “Greeat” , replied the members tumultuously. He began to speak. “They said they would sack me if I address you! You are a bastard if you don’t sack me! I know that the policemen and other security men are here. I know you are recording me. I know that Prof. Olayinka is watching me from his office. I repeat, you are a bastard if you don’t sack me. There is no peace on this campus if our allowance is not paid”, said Akinremi. He fumed and threatened endlessly albeit disparagingly. Without doubt, his speech was nothing but an instigation to anarchy.
Sadly, observers could easily notice how a combination of ignorance, arrogance, megalomania and incivility has driven him to the cliff with the way he launched diatribe on the VC and his advisers. Indeed, the assault was too uncouth. Akinremi who somewhat ignited negative passion by his short-fussed, hell-raising and impetuous grandstanding lashed out at the VC for refusing to yield to pressure. Rather than addressing the issue and proffering solution to the financial problem raised by the VC, he chose to entertain the audience with barbaric histrionics, blackmailing and scandalizing the persona of Prof. Olayinka and his team. Like a mistletoe, he held to the VC’s profile and pulled it to pieces, just as he called Prof. Olayinka so many unprintable names. Much sadder still, and more disappointing was the way he spoke with exaggerated mannerisms of a street fighter, boasting with garage argot “ Omo Igboro l’emi o, mo de le ba anybody loju je. Wa sa kaba kaba” roughly translated to mean “ I am from downtown and I can dent anybody’s face, you will run defeatedly. On the basis of conventional wisdom, people waited and wondered. They stood and stared at Akinremi as he was elevating character assassination to an art!
Without mincing words, this is indeed a sad commentary on civility, coming from a decent academic environment of Ibadan status. It is impertinence of the worst kind which must be condemned by all men and women of good moral standing. By the way, how did Akinremi emerge as SSANU chairman of Ibadan chapter? Well, what do we expect when decent people will avoid politics and unionism like a plague, any character can therefore parade himself as Chairman. Honestly, one had thought Akinremi was too well bred and too fine a person to make a public display of such appalling manners, more so when he is said to have read Law from a sister institution. Beauty is truly skin deep.
Respect for elders is one of the cardinal imperatives of our traditional customs. Anyone who could be audacious enough to make the UI VC the butt of his public grandiloquence, calling him unprintable names and describing him as “bastard” simply lacks good breeding. Such a person doesn’t deserve to lead a union. A union leader who is worth his salt must employ cultured language and definitiveness of logic to fight his battle. Decent use of language is, to me, a maturity index.Importantly, linguistic competence dictates that one must be familiar with principles of politeness in spoken discourse. But this man called Akinremi failed abysmally here! Insulting the VC, pelting him with a satchet of pure water as someone reportedly did at an earlier meeting is not only satanic, but repugnant to good conscience. It is a desecration of culture of civilization.
Perhaps, it is relevant to ask for Prof. Olayinka’s offense in all of these. Is he the one who caused economic crisis? Did the VC get more allocation than he has disclosed? Akinremi alleged that Prof. Olayinka did not behave as his predecessor, Prof. Isaac Folorunso Adewole! Haba! Nonsense. No two individuals are ever the same. Not even twins who passed through the same womb.
•Saanu is with the Directorate of Public Communication, University of Ibadan.
writes via [email protected]