ASUU Strike: How Are Lecturers Surviving?
By Promise Adiele
According to Chinua Achebe, “proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten”. Thus, Achebe underscores the importance of proverbs as an emblematic paradigm in spoken and written communicative strategies. Proverbs are powerful. They constitute vestiges of the fast receding African identity. There is no ethnic group in Africa that does not have proverbs which guide its cultural and sublunary ethos. In a sentence or phrase, a proverb can tell the story of one thousand words. They are deep and incisive. When we encounter them, they simultaneously achieve a sublime rhythm in our subconscious minds through a penetration and withdrawal symphony. No wonder compilers of the Holy book dedicated a whole section to it.
The potency of proverbs in demystifying hidden reality is evident in the inherent multiple outlets of interpretation they offer. There is no narrative in any human endeavour that is not captured in a few words by a proverb. Unfortunately, many 21st-century youths are ignorant of proverbs. When I taught Oral African Literature, I asked students to write out twenty African proverbs and their interpretations. I had a good laugh reading the assignments. Some of them had to call their parents for assistance. The scenario changed completely in another course Popular Culture when I asked them to mention current trends in music, movies, and fashion. They came alive. I am wondering, will people still remember African proverbs in the next fifty years?
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While pondering over the topic of this essay, one Igbo proverb in the Mbaise dialect came to my mind. “He who is concerned with personal existential challenges does not have any existence” (I am afraid the proverb has lost some flavour in English translation). That proverb finds relevance and validation in the title of this essay. Simply put, anyone who thinks of his life alone does not have a life. Certainly Nigerians cannot pretend that all is well when our brothers and sisters who teach in public universities are wallowing in want, penury, and poverty. It could be easy for someone to say ‘wetin concern me’ but it all concerns everyone one way or the other. The truth is that lecturers are dying, some consider suicide daily. It behoves all people of good conscience to be genuinely concerned about the plight of public university lecturers. How on earth are these Nigerians surviving? Recently, INEC advertised for ad-hoc members of staff. Expectedly, many idle university lecturers applied. Will it be possible for a hungry, bill-ravaged lecturer to turn down items of compromise in the line of duty? We must understand these underlying cross-currents to appreciate the virility of the APC government towards despicable ends.
Gradually, the strike by public university lecturers in Nigeria is becoming a way of life, a new normal. Students have moved on, occupying themselves with different pastimes. Their parents have moved on too. The government and its officials, from all indications, do not care. Why should they care when their children are schooling abroad? The FG-ASUU face-off has become intractable and unfortunately so. This morning, I spared a thought for thousands of university lecturers who have not earned any dime since early this year. How are they surviving? How are they feeding their families, paying bills, and taking care of sundry responsibilities? Schools just resumed. How will these lecturers pay school fees, house rents, and other demanding bills? Many lecturers are hopeless to themselves and their families. What must we do to save a vital component of the Nigerian population?
I have carefully examined the scenario and all the arising tension between ASUU and the Federal Government. While some people think that the FG agreement with ASUU cannot be implemented due to a lack of funds, many people think that a government inclined to wasting money on frivolities and other irrelevant ostentation should be able to pay lecturers handsomely. Currently, the Nigerian government borrows money to fund the budget and pay salaries. That is where we are. But a government that expends a large amount of funds in Afghanistan funding a terrorist government and donating cars valued at 1.4 billion naira to a neighbouring country should have no problem paying university teachers. Well, it is not my intention to deviate from the topic of this essay but writing and thinking about Nigeria is so annoying and frustrating that one naturally gravitates to identifying the decay in the country. The dislocation of university education in Nigeria and all the accompanying mutations have regrettably become active ingredients in reshaping the country’s remote realities.
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The ASUU hierarchy has resolved to remain on strike and the government continues to withhold lecturers’ salaries. Most Professors are what you might call in the Nigerian parlance ‘big boys’. They have other means of survival. Such a category of lecturers can remain on strike forever. What about other categories of lecturers, the young and vibrant ones who eagerly expect their salaries at the end of every month? What about husbands and wives bho are lecturers? How are these people surviving? Everyone is talking about the plight of students and how they are affected by the strike. What about the welfare of their lecturers? Lecturers who are due to be promoted can’t be promoted. PhD students who are supposed to graduate in the past months are stuck in the mire. Research is grounded. Learning is impaired too.
The Federal Government has a responsibility to ensure, one way or another that the strike is called off immediately and lecturers are promptly paid. Muhammadu Buhari should immediately meet ASUU officials directly, use every method known to him, beg, cajole, genuflect, and plead with them to see reasons or pay them. That is what a responsible and responsive leader should do. That is what he promised to do in 2015 while begging Nigerians to vote for him. That is what I call integrity. Someone I respect a lot told me that ASUU is a very stubborn group that does not listen to pleas and peaceful initiatives. How true is that? I teach at a private university therefore, not an ASUU member. But I deeply empathize with my colleagues who are affected by the impasse. We are all involved.
If you are a salary earner, consider for one moment that your salary is withheld for two months. If you are a business owner, consider that your office or business is closed for two months. I am sure you will shudder at such thoughts. Our university lecturers are dying. Their marriages are failing because they are unable to take care of their responsibilities. It is more frustrating because it is not yet fully evident when the strike will be called off. With our universities closed and the lecturers plunged into hardship, the APC government should, on that score, cover its face in utter shame for having the guts to present itself for election next year. It is reprehensible, unforgivable, and at once immoral.
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As I write this, Buhari is out of the country. Osinbajo is also out of the country. Nigeria wriggles like a headless chicken desperate to live. How these men manage to sleep with the universities shut down baffles me. How do they eat and belch knowing that university lecturers are starving? Those who argue that university lecturers should not be paid because they didn’t work are mindlessly frolicking in extreme obliquity and pitiable myopia. Tell me something about ‘no work no pay’ and I will tell you something about many Nigerians in history and in contemporary times who didn’t work for one reason or another but were paid. Some former governors are paid pension allowance that amounts to the salary of more than fifty lecturers. When Buhari spent many months in the UK on medical tourism, was he not paid his salary upon return? Nigerian refinery workers are paid salaries every month, isn’t it? How many barrels of oil do they refine? A government that cannot ensure a smooth successive academic system lacks the ethical rationale to be so addressed as a government. Lecturers are dying, yes, many of them are dying slowly. Buhari should find a way to resolve the issues surrounding these problems so that the soul and spirits of lecturers will not perish in the scorching sands of hunger and deprivation.
Mountain Top University.
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Death At Dawn, Rebirth At Dusk
By Toyin Falola
Twilight-zone, Afterlife, What-Mays, and Whatnots;
Questions that transcend mortal thoughts.
Uncertainties plucked by the hands of certainty
pondering life beyond the galaxy.
Philosophies, religions, and sciences;
Ancient lenses to dissect and ponder.
Beliefs, opinions, and standpoints in their multiplicities;
Scalpels that open the heart of certain death
Blazing free the skins of uncertainty.
Science, a nobility I revere,
But it stammers answering to the afterlife.
For science is knowledge and knowledge from experience
But the dead neither speak, nor take records.
Their journeys, ordeals, triumphs or woes?
No one bears witness.
But as dead, we must all be witnesses;
witnesses that testify not.
So, for now, we survive the knowledge of death.
On my Agbàlàgbà head lies my Ọ́kpụ́ Ágwụ́
With eagle feathers, rare and honorable
Adorning it for three scores, a decade, and some more days.
I had flipped my Kente given by the Gaa
And danced to crescendos from Gàngàn drums
I have been celebrated and celebrating
For the miracles, I have worked with pen, paper, keyboard, and brain
I have taken the tales we tell in my village square beyond the Atlantic
Changed the songs that disdain us into appraisals
I have called my brothers not to point to our fathers’ house with their left hands
I have honed Africa and beyond
To answer the calls of the people’s need
I have reached the thinkable and done the unthinkable
So, I danced and keep dancing.
Suddenly, I felt a touch on my host?
Electrifying my hand, leg, brain, and my whole
Telling me that my jur from the Dinka people awaits me.
That my hourglass tells of crossing the bar.
I thought I knew what it was like,
But my grasping convictions of approaching jur were perceptions
Just surviving the death of the knowledge of death
So, arms wide open ready to abound
What was there to fear?
No catacomb of secrets
No palm oil-drenched white garments
I have taken many to my gourmet
To feast and to see.
What was there not to fear?
With medicine men and women,
Syringes, lights, water, ECG, Oximeters, voices, and touches
Hovering around me like a sacred etutu
Making conversations with me and beyond
I was thrown into a pool of reminiscence
one leg and a part of me were already in the boat
It beckoned but I heard another.
A loud voice like my mother’s.
Who takes a journey without locking his home?
Who takes the jur with unpatched palm fronds on his hut?
While the thunder rages up the sky?
The walls are broken and Balogun journeys?
So, I left the sea to clear the cobwebs and light up the night lamb.
The past few weeks have opened new lights of understanding to me. I now see the world from different hills and have helped to reach new resolutions. I know I have written about “transitioning to nothingness,” but my emphasis was on the “nothingness” with lesser attention on “transitioning.” I think we need to continue to ask questions. Philosophies, religion, sociology, psychology, science, and other ramifications are mere perceptions and we are uncertain. The transitioning occurs when death becomes an angel to hug not a beast to fear. We do not know what it entails but one must always endeavor to go with clean hands.
My recovery from an illness may have offered me a fresh opportunity to shout some more, point to societal needs, and settle unfinished businesses. No, not those caused by my personal undoing, but rather those of the people who would be left unguided, and for matters untold about life, society, and individuals. I can say I have passed through the lessons of tantra transfiguration, to use an elegant phrase that I recently came across, to move from secular to sacred activism. No one survives death because of its finality, but when it seems that you did, it is a renewed quest, offering a new purpose.
Professors On INEC’s Will (3)
By Tony Afejuku
The debate has progressed well so far. Our professors, whose strokes have centred on their fellow professor’s manned INEC have tried as best as they could not to confine their impressions solely to the prism of subjectivity. Even when their impressions seem to be subjective, they still make allowance for contrary views, for opposing views. This obviously gives clarity, objectivity and logic to the subject at hand. Is the will of INEC of a professor minder and mincer of words’ control the will of the people or of the masses? On whose side are the Professors who are as concerned as almost everybody is with what is going – or with what has gone on – primarily about our Presidential 2023 elections? Our Professors who are debating the subject constitute the courageous and prophetic Nigerian voices of our day. Their authentic and responsible thoughts are not restricted to the local or regional. They are also not confined to electoral duties and responsibilities expected of the umpire and the will that belongs elsewhere. The truth about the quality of leadership about our country and elsewhere is also told in the debate of the literati.
Professor (Mrs.) Razinatu Mohamed in her submission, in her salvo-cum-explosion actually, drew attention to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s explosive explosion in the presidency. If Professor Osinbajo had provided the right vice-presidential leadership there would not have been the need for him to explode as he did as per a viral video Professor Razinatu Mohamed referred her fellow debaters to. “What has he been doing in the eight years of their administration? Irritated my foot; he is complicit.” Not done, Professor Razinatu drew attention to the kind of leaders that Nigeria and Africa need: “Leaders that understand the rudiments of modern socio-economic development and systems; Leaders that understand the crux of requirements for economic growth. Leaders that could demonstrate to the rest of the world that just as the world needs Africa, African countries need the world in a symbiotic relationship and partnership context where assistance becomes a dual role…..”
Razinata’s concern is clear. Nothing in Nigeria will climb out of its hollow hole. In fact, the will of the people will remain hollow so long as a hollow mincer and minder is in charge of its electoral affairs.
Professor Da Sylva perhaps responds better to Professor Razinatu Mohamed’s algebraic stroke. “Unfortunately, Nigeria’s democracy is trapped in its primordial self-made ethnic and religious sentiments and so, standards, merit, competence and pedigrees are measured by their curious divides of religion and ethnic inclinations. Until we all come to realize that heavens help those who help themselves, Nigeria ain’t going no-where – meeen!”
But below is Professor Da Sylva’s sledge hammer response to Professor Razinatu Mohamed’s Osinbajo hammer blow:
“Prof Osinbajo’s office demands he does what he did. Besides, it shows maturity and spirit of sportsmanship on his part. Every loser in a game “healthily” contested, is naturally expected to do the same. The only difference which again shows Osinbajo’s magnanimity is that in this context, the contest under reference was neither healthy nor just. The umpire seemed compromised and merely worked to a prepared answer. Yet the gentleman did the needful. I guess, brothers and sisters, that we should put all that behind us, and work for our common good, and the wellbeing of the country, provided the mythical Aso cabal will let the President-elect be, and let the masses be, and as such, they should not create any cause for us to think otherwise, lest they provoke our sense of patriotism to take appropriate action! I guess that those were the reading or feelings of the dirty-minded Aso Villa cabal. People that kill with sword never wish that any folk should pass a sword over their heads, a wise saying goes in Yoruba. The human principalities simply suspected that should they allow PMB to give the VP the intended latitude, they might not be able to control him. I remember on his return from London, he commended the efforts of his VP while he was away. He said he would still continue acting while he would still have some more rest at home. The following day everything changed, PMB decided to take charge as the President. I suspected some back door politics was playing out. My co-debaters, quite naturally, you’ll agree with me that, it is not over-ambition or sheer opportunism as you might insinuate for any deputy in an office to aspire to the next higher office, in a legitimate manner, there is nothing really unusual about it, and it would amount to killing a mosquito with a sledge hammer, should Oshinbajo be crucified for that, if at all. And as for his wishing Buhari’s non-recovery, I think that, again, like my Sister R, is a little unkind and not fair to the gentleman who I know to be a servant of God. He knows as much as I do, by our true Christian orientation and Biblical injunctions that, should he ever wish Buhari’s death or wish him any form of misfortune in those trying periods of the President, God Almighty who we serve would deal mercilessly and ruthlessly with him. That is what Psalm 41:1-13 is all about. So rule that out, because it is not, and could never be in his character. I can vouch for him. Rather, I saw him in those times that he acted for his principal, as someone zealous and appreciative of the trust his principal invested in him, and as such he tried to do his very best to merit the trust and the opportunity! I know and I am also sure that this is what an IBK, or a Razinat, would have done too had they found themselves in a similar situation! It does not amount to wishing one’s principal any evil, not at all. Not everyone can be like Chief Obafemi Awolowo who resigned his position under Gowon when the regime became financially reckless shortly after the civil war. Awolowo also gave very profound argumentation to justify convincingly his actions. He also turned down some other appointments including the “49 Wise Men of the Constitution Drafting Committee.” Oshinbajo couldn’t have resigned, normally, and naturally his principal, PMB should have supported him as a capable successor, but again, the President’s ethnic and religious bigotry took the better part of the President. Besides, PMB’s mind was long poisoned against his VP, a clean job by the Aso Villa cabal. IBK, Lady R, until the faceless cabal is permanently silenced the wheel of Nigeria might continue to go round in a circle, and to nowhere in particular”.
And Professor IBK takes the floor: “Prof. DAO, yours is a powerfully convincing submission, at least in a large measure. Now I am willing to hold a slightly different opinion about Osinbajo. Yet, I cannot fathom why he chose to run against Tinubu, days or weeks after the latter had begun his campaign in the party primaries. There’s much we don’t know about why OSBJ decided to run against BAT. Nothing is wrong with that politically but a little problematic from an Ethical or, at least Moral, point of view. Osinbajo did a poor job of it and came out a distant 4th in the primaries. I think he didn’t read the situation correctly and was probably misled by some cabal of sorts. Either way Osinbajo made a politically fatal error in this regard. Perhaps he must have sensed, or was told, that BAT was not the anointed candidate, or that BAT would be crippled by some ill-health or a medical condition. I remember the party’s screening committee publicly recommending that only younger contestants would be recommended to the NWC or such. Clearly there was an attempt to sideline BAT. Whatever the explanation, Osinbajo make the error in his campaign of promising to be more Buhari than Buhari. A man despised by whole sections of the northern population, a man whose reputation for laziness and incompetence was on the ascendant. Anyway, all is now history and Osinbajo has not given a good account of himself in this particular case. Prof DAO, I think your concept of the Trickster should account for Osinbajo’s situation here. FULL DISCLOSURE: a very close family member of mine was drafted to head Osinbajo’s campaign effort in Kano. We discussed extensively about Osinbajo’s pledge to carry on with Buhari’s policies. There was bewilderment and shock within the members. A week later half of the membership resigned on account of Osinbajo’s increasing identification with Buhari’s policies. Many mistakenly thought that Osinbajo was Buhari’s anointed one! I could go on…”
Interestingly interesting and intriguingly intriguing, dear, dearly dear readers: this debate.
To be terminated by the columnist-terminator and terminator-columnist next week after Professor Olu Obafemi’s summation of the debate he presided over.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
With Us, Not For US
By Ijeoma Fynecountry
The 21st of March of every year is international day for the celebration of persons living with down syndrome. The advocacy and push for communal and political recognition of the basic fundamental rights for persons living with various types of disabilities, particularly intellectual disability, just as enjoyed by their peers who do not have any form of challenge – physical or intellectual has recorded a substantial success around the globe, especially in more developed climes.
While the same cannot be said of the situation in Africa and Nigeria in particular, scanty breakthroughs have also been seen over the years, with the consistent and dogged efforts by some specialized organizations such as Down syndrome Foundation, Nigeria (DSFN).
The theme for this year’s celebration is “With us, Not for us”. This theme is apt particularly in the current era where the push for inclusion has taken a center stage in the campaign worldwide. While it is comforting to know that people, government and communities alike are now becoming more empathetic to the plight of persons living with disability, it is also necessary and most important that their rights as human beings deserving of not just empathy but actual concrete benefits accruable to other citizens without disability, is massively taken into consideration and actually provided for.
Therefore, it is not enough for the government to map out and create as in Lagos state and few other states, sections in the public schools to admit children or persons with intellectual disability, it is necessary to adequately equip these special schools with the needed “specialized” manpower, infrastructural and educational aids to attain the targeted educational goals for these persons. Likewise in the provision of better healthcare, economic, social needs of persons with disability etc.
Persons with intellectual disability do not just need to be specifically educated in accordance with his or her type of disability, but MUST also necessarily be able to aspire to or expect to be employed according to his or her learned ability. That way, a full right, befitting of a person, be him a person with disability or not, is assured. For what is the need of going through a learning process, acquiring a specialized knowledge about a craft or handiwork and eventually still not being given the opportunity of gaining employment as supposed, not due to lack of knowledge but for having a disability? No human being should be subjected to such. Our government should do better. The society at large should do better.
The theme for this year is enjoining all stakeholders – the government, communities, corporate organizations, religious bodies/organizations, individuals to open up their hearts, and recognize the very urgent and important need to help in the actualization of these basic human needs, rights of persons living with intellectual disability as we are all human. No human rights or needs should be prioritized over the other no matter the state of their health, mental and physical capacity. Stand with us by taking actual intentional steps towards uplifting and elevating the humanness of persons living with disability. It is not enough to say that you are for persons living with disability, your specific, intentional, targeted actions toward ensuring the practical applicability of these rights matters.
Fynecontryis a Lagos-based legal practitioner and the legal resource person for the Down Syndrome Foundation Nigeria.
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