ASUU’s Unwinnable Battles: The Need To Change Tactics
ASUU has always been in the news. And the news has always been about ASUU’s grouse with the Federal Government of Nigeria over the deplorable state of the higher education nay university system in Nigeria. It is however left to decide whether ASUU’s public presence or is it struggle, is achieving its desirable objective. There is a reason for this query. This is because it is as if ASUU’s rhetoric and action are more like lots of sounds and fury with little to show for it if the future of Nigerian universities is anything to go by. Almost on every count of its strike, ASUU extracts some sort of financial commitment from government. And this seems to constitute some kind of a win, until the next strike. Unfortunately, these strikes add their own damage to the university system that ASUU is so intent on rescuing. The other side of the national calamity is that government by its own actions has not given anyone the confidence to think that it is ready to achieve anything different with the federal universities. In fact, there is that collective narrative that outside of ASUU’s militant activism on behalf of university education, the Nigerian university system would have been far worse off than it currently is. And to make matters worse, you have the federal government floating more universities that are, to all intents and purposes, dead on arrival.
It is then logical to ask, within the context of the axiom that the government owes its people and its national development plan, a blueprint for educating her citizens, what Nigeria’s masterplan is in this regard? In other words, given the diversification of tertiary education system with the exponential growth of private universities, how is the federal government’s education blueprint a significant platform from which to engage ASUU, other trade unions in the university system, as well as other stakeholders in the education sector? This is a critical question for me. And its sense derives from my experience not only as a former coordinator of the education sector analysis project at the federal ministry of education and head of its policy division, but also as a former permanent secretary at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity. One of the cogent issues I had to engage with is the adversarial industrial relations dynamics that undermine the national productivity profile of the Nigerian state. The tension generated by these actions are rooted first in government’s non-strategic tactics circumscribed by system breakdown that undermine strategic communication founded on a vision of what should be. And second, there is the better organised trade unions deploying their own industrial relations approach designed to exploit government’s tenuous legitimacy and mistrust by the populace that has resigned itself to fate in the face of government’s dysfunctional policy architecture that has scant impact on its well-being.
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Unfortunately, strikes are not working. The several concessions that ASUU and the other trade unions have extracted from the government are too marginal to amount to any tangible impacts on the university system. The question for ASUU then is: how long can a good case be fought with a tactic that seems jaded and wearying, and has really not won any of the battles decisively and in any revolutionary sense? Let us face the fact—ASUU has a compelling case to make. The Nigerian university system is in a terribly bad shape. This one statement of fact captures the entirety of ASUU’s activism for as long as the trade union has been established. No one can grudge this fact. And it is because it is founded on the axiom that the greatness of any nation is measured in terms of the crop of its patriotic human capital who are willing to deploy their competences to rebuilding their fatherland. Unfortunately, the debilitated Nigerian university system churns out human capital that did not get the best they could have gotten, and that land in the unemployment market where they are not able to give anything to their fatherland. Well, they are not able to give anything except hatred and deep animosity that could become inflamed any time. And as the Minister of Education once wrote before becoming the minister, the struggle by ASUU “is to save the university system so that it becomes what it is supposed to be—a system for producing a culturally literate society, and for generating and harnessing ideas and knowledge, initiating and driving social and economic innovation, and ensuring national competitiveness on the global scene.”
ASUU is genuinely and significantly placed to champion this noble course of repositioning the university system. Indeed, ASUU should not be left alone on the matter. This goes beyond just being a sectoral matter that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), for instance, will just lend a mere voice and support. It is a national emergency that ASUU cannot fight alone. One begins to really appreciate the depth of the worrying future the university system faces when one takes a long look at the parlous state of Nigeria’s public primary and secondary schools today. Only those without the means dare to send their children to public schools. And the public universities are not far from that point. They are losing students at an alarming rate. Those with the means either send their wards to private universities, or send them outside of Nigeria. And who can blame them? And when all is said and done, we lose both the students who struggle to go through the university system in Nigeria and those who travelled out to the diaspora. Saudi Arabia recently benefitted from the few doctors we have who had been struggling with livelihood in Nigeria.
This is all so good, so far. The real point to make is that if ASUU ever hopes to win this battle for the revamping of the university system, it must first recalibrate its tactics. I am always alarmed when I hear the best of the intellectuals Nigeria can produce saying strike is the only language the Nigerian leadership understands. And I retort, what have strikes tangibly produced for the university lecturers and for the system itself? For me, one good way to rethink the strike strategy is to historicize its provenance, trajectory and functionality. We have to look at the labour unrest against the uncaring colonial state, all through the years of military rule when any industrial action was met with a balance of terror. By the time ASUU became incorporated as a trade union, it began on the foundation of a Marxist ideological framework. But the times are changing, and even Marxism itself as a significant ideology has undergone several fundamental changes itself! The sad fact however is that ASUU today has been so distanced from any ideological provenance as to be almost bare. Its fixation on strikes speaks to a union bereft of options and fixated on vacuous populism.
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To return to an earlier point, ASUU can no longer take up the messiah complex as the only party interested in the salvation of higher education in Nigeria. It will be a significant recognition of the possibility of alternative strategies if ASUU can champion the emergence of an ideology-based model of higher education development that would feed into the national development vision. This is an imperative given the fact that adversarial industrial relations dynamics will never ever yield any tangible results that will do justice to the larger picture in a nation’s development framework. ASUU and the government, together with other relevant stakeholders, including the National Universities Commission, have to get involved in a conversation around two fundamental issues. The first is the matter of university autonomy. This is a significant aspect of the entire trouble of making the university system functional as a source of sound education and human capital development. This is an issue ASUU must lay on the table and force government’s hand in seeing it through to a logical conclusion. Autonomy demands that each federal university will agree on the constitution of a strategic governing council that will then deliberate on strategic change management dynamics around which the university can become administratively self-sustaining and academically excellent.
The second issue, a correlate of the first, concerns the idea of education funding, and the appropriate models that could be considered. It might just be in Nigeria alone that the government fully funds higher education. This is seriously unsustainable. And definitely not with the economic recession caused by oil price volatility and accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic. All across the world, education funding models derive from tuition and fees, operating grants, auxiliary enterprises, endowment and other gifts and investments. Each university, apart from the government operating grants and other private-induced contracts and endowments, is then instigated into a creative rethinking of the pathway into internal growth and excellence that will have to rethink some internal frameworks—education bank, student loans, work-and-study schemes, recalibrated distance learning, bursary and scholarships, etc.—that will define its unique identity. Such an identity would have to be defined, most importantly, against the background of the research imperative that ties the university to its location.
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In the final analysis, ASUU must re-learn the principle of collective bargaining around first principles that will bring into sharp focus the crucial relationship between the demand for the revitalisation of the university system in Nigeria and the country’s labour laws, national fiscal crisis and the overall development and productivity challenges that Nigeria is facing. Of course, the university system must be saved and be made more innovative and competitive. However, we can no longer allow the fixation on strikes blinds us to the possibility for alternatives. After all, we are talking of a union of all the intellectuals and scholars in Nigeria. How impossible could the search for a different strategy be?
Prof. Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary and can be reached via email@example.com
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The 2023 Elections And The Newness Of Nigeria
By Hope Nwawolo
Despite the hues and cries that greeted the results of the 2023 elections, what if the court’s pendulum stays or swings otherwise in the expected litigations?
What will it teach our inquisitive young children?
What will it do to the hopes and dreams of the youths?
What will it do to the mind set of those in diaspora, waiting and hoping to return?
How will it affect our heroes still alive and yearning for the good old times?
One basic fact is that no matter where the pendulum swings, something new has started in the political sphere of Nigeria. And because it was unexpected, it has become almost impossible to strangulate it.
In every competition, there is an expectation that the best man will win. That may not always be in politics, particularly, in Nigeria…where the winner may not be the best man or even the better man. And when it is said that politics is a game of numbers, sometimes, the actual numbers may not be visible to determine the end result. It becomes a case of the more you look the less you see; until interpreted by respected learned men with high integrity.
Politics, they say is a dirty game, where money speaks and promises made are broken without an iota of guilt. Where the gullible minds of the masses are deceived, with as little as a box of indomie. Where some vibrant but jobless youths are brainwashed to risk their lives to snatch ballot boxes for the politicians who do not know them beyond giving them stipends through some third parties. Where market women are forced to come out for rallies and campaigns because they cannot afford the fine that will be imposed on them if they failed to participate. They also do not want the harassment of the market leaders.
In politics, fear is palpable in the air, before, during and after elections. The 2023 elections recently carried out, depicted these more than expected in both the politicians and electorate. What started like the usual political pattern took a drastic turn about nine months to the first elections and though it was said to be only a social media affair, it got everyone sitting upright and tightening his seat belt, particularly after the first elections.
Now, there is a generational shift, a new awakening, a new dawn and a new political birth, waiting to happen. To wherever the pendulum turns; where the court stands, it will make a turnaround in Nigeria. It may be turbulent at the beginning, it may be emotionally draining and psychologically traumatizing, but it will point to light at the end of the tunnel.
There is a new hope backed by a high spirit of determination. An unexplainable faith in many people for that newness of existence and purpose. An unprecedented emotional and psychological strength in the youths not to give up on their dreams. An unquenchable desire to keep praying. Soon a newness will break forth to calm all nerves and dry all tears.
A newness that will permeate conflicts and hatred,
A newness that will dissipate unnecessary anger,
A newness that will usher in unquestionable and transparent political systems in future elections,
A newness of freedom to choose a candidate without coercion or molestation
A newness of jubilation after the announcement of election results.
This is the new Nigeria that is awaiting delivery…
Nwawolo, PhD, writes from Lagos.
Overcoming Policy Execution Trap As Nigeria’s Development Challenge
By Tunji Olaopa
If I am asked to give a succinct and apt summary of the entire challenge faced by the Nigerian state in terms of her policy architecture and development management, in spite of contestation in the development literature, I will not hesitate in stating clearly and unambiguously that it is the challenge of policy implementation; the whole dynamics of getting things done. By elimination, the implication is that the challenge cannot be located as that of the dearth of development ideas, insights, models and paradigms. Right from her independence, Nigeria has been inundated with several ideas, both local and global, about development policy and frameworks. And yet, policy outcomes keep getting bogged down in the murky waters of political shenanigans. This means that the new administration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu has its challenge mapped out, in red, for it.
There is no shying away from this postcolonial predicament that has limited and kept limiting Nigeria’s capacity to honour the terms of her social contract with Nigerians. Hence, the Tinubu government will soon be inundated with the impatient agitations of Nigerians for a quick and tangible fix that will address their sufferings. And they are justified since they have not been given any real deal for the past sixty-three years of sovereign independence. And the new administration is obligated because that is the reason for seeking office in the first place.
Prof. Olaopa’s new book on public policy and development challenges
How then can we begin to understand this policy execution challenge? It is simple: how can an administration in Nigeria transition from governance vision and policy intention to policy outcomes that elevate and transform the quality of life of its citizens? Failure to understand and give critical and political attention to this question lies at the heart of the governance failures of successive Nigerian administrations. The new Tinubu administration cannot afford such a glaring mistake. And so, a fundamental case must be made out of the question of how policy intentions get circumscribed in the dynamics of policy execution that occasions policy failures in past administrations.
Modern states all across the world are distinguished by the traditional four functions they discharge as part of their administrative responsibilities—security i.e. securing the sovereign territory against lawlessness, policy formulation and implementation, governance regulation and service delivery.The capacity to perform each and all of these functions very well within an integrated framework in the governance context is what delivers the dividends of democratic governance to the citizens, and it enhances the state’s competitive and human development rating in global reckoning. With these functions, we have the metrics to differentiate between high-performing states like China, India, the United States,Botswana, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirate, Germany, Rwanda and the Asian Tigers (Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea), and low- or even under-performing countries like Nigeria that is still cluelessly stuck within a dysfunctional vicious cycle within her arrested development.
From the perspective of governance, there must be something these states are getting right in the connection between leadership, politics, and policy articulation. For instance, there is a trajectory of relationship that links elite bargains to development bargains. In other words, development is a
function of elite nationalism and the extent to which the political class of a state can commit elite suicide and gamble on development on behalf of the people they are leading. In Nigeria, low
manifestation of elite nationalism has made it really difficult for the political class to set aside their personal and egoistic class interests in ways that enable them to clearly and ideologically discern and navigate the deadly developmental landmines strewn all over our governance landscape by the
neoliberal implication of ideological apparatuses and frameworks to which Nigeria is beholden. And here, the factor of development gamble of the Asian Tigers’ elites comes into bold relief. From within the ideological ambit of the developmental state, the leadership of the Asian Tigers were able to define a policy space that consciously and critically weighed the benefits and shortfalls of external influences, especially the type that came from the World Bank, IMF and the other cohorts of the neoliberal policy dynamics. Their developmental circumspection paid off!
Since we cannot argue that Nigeria has been stumped by the lack of vision documents, development plans and blueprints, or even policy expertise, the locus of the new administration’s focus must be directed at the possibility of mustering the political will to undermine the mystified Nigerian Factor, and face the global neoliberal consensus in order to begin the crafting of an enabling policy architecture to drive development. And to achieve this translates to creating the delicate balance between ‘doing the right things’ (a function of decision making quotient) and ‘doing it right’(project and change management effectiveness), and overcoming the various political, cultural, structural and systemic constraints that trapped past well-meaning policies and intentions of Nigerian leaders in the dynamics of implementation.
There is first the conspiracy of elitist interest that ensures there is a poor resource allocation that focuses on elite bargain than development calculations and taking care of the national interest. Other constraints follow: (a) the disconnect between policy design and implementation due to weak implementation planning, risk assessment and incompetent change management strategies; (b) unstable and poorly managed macroeconomic policies; (c) policy and project discontinuity; (d) public service low capability readiness; (e) political interference; and finally (f) deep-seated political and bureaucratic corruption. In essence, development has failed not because Nigeria lacks the blueprint or paradigms to make it happen, but due to the dynamics of the politics that the political elite plays with Nigeria’s development potential.
Let me outline what we can regard as the “politics of policy implementation” that Nigeria has played for many years, a politics the new administration must take into serious consideration if it
does not want to fall into the category of failed administration right before it commences. This politics throws Nigeria’s development and policy non-performance right into the frame of the 2005 World Bank review findings about policy and development projects in Africa. According to the finding, 29% of development projects ever get completed, 45% of on-going projects are rated as satisfactory, while 26% of such projects invariably get cancelled. Such a review can never backstop a solid development project of a developmental state.
The politics of policy implementation in
Nigeria is founded on the following assumptions and practices. One: there is that dangerous presumption, that the new administration must resist, that once policies and development plan are designed, they are automatically implemented by the public service. And such a presumption is against the background of a scant investment in implementation analysis and planning, as well as the failure to facilitate the capability review, determine public
administration system’s capability readiness, and strengthening of the MDAs as the powerhouse of government administrative functionality. The MDAs, that is, are not working according to any
specific theories or praxis of change that can guide the functional integration of blueprints or paradigms. This kind of policy inattention draws attention to the policy contradiction: launching a
national development plan and strategy that are not implementation- ready in terms of adequate capability review of the MDAs integral to ensuring implementation success. Two: this
presumption is compounded by the uncritical reliance of past governments on policy experts and consulting firms who are tasked with designing high-end policies that are then dumped on MDAs whose capability reviews and implementation readiness have been neglected in the first place. The
extroversion of the policy design is then compromised by poor functional integration. The truth is that most of these consulting firms lack the appropriate deep content and solution frameworks that are in tandem with the context of policy dysfunction they are supposed to work with. Three: governance policy or project are hardly subjected to feasibility test determined in terms of scope and expectation that are captured by their framework of time, cost and risk assessments before
they are pushed into implementation. This makes it very difficult to benchmark funding projections for these policies and projects against revenue estimations, as well as facilitating in-built flexibilities that enable the policies and projects to adjust to volatilities and contingencies.
All the issues raised above constitute binding constraint that will undermine any governance possibilities the new administration requires to make a success of democratic governance. Undermining the binding constraints demands returning to the fundamentals. The first and most significant is that the new administration needs to interrogate the framework of how government business is currently being conducted. Governance successes are necessarily a function of how government business engages the complexities of the policy design and execution processes within a results-oriented frame. And that entails undermining the structural gaps between policy objectives, development strategies and policy outcomes. This demands second, setting the public service on a performance curve with the institution of a performance management system. This means that the public service must, for example, unfailingly now deploy KPI-based metrics to replace the cumbersome annual performance evaluation report (APER). And at the backend, it becomes imperative to have a monitoring and evaluation system supported by databases that enable staff and program continuous assessment, human resource development rooted in iterativep performance gap identification, supervisors-staff dialogue and multisource feedback mechanismsf for overall national development policy tracking and reporting.
The governance mantra must be on getting the balance between doing the right things and doing it right. And this cannot be achieved through the wanton multiplication or even duplication of
governance plans, programs and blueprints. What is needed is sequencing the blueprints into a coherent and feasible implementation programme, with the right amount of political will behind it. This gives the success of democratic governance a 95% chance of succeeding. The new administration needs that fighting chance!
. Olaopa, a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and Professor of Public Administration .
Rigged Elections And The Moral Burden Of Illegitimacy
By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
Adamu: A man who rigs his way to power carries a moral burden!
Orezime: A moral what?
Adamu: You heard me, didn’t you?
Orezime: I’m not sure I heard you right. Moral what you said?
Adamu: A moral burden, I said!
Orezime: Hahahahahahaha! You make me laugh! Are you from the moon?
Gani: Or Mars?
Emeka: In which country? In Nigeria? That principle does not apply in Nigeria! There is no moral burden on anybody in this country! The election which produced Bubu in 2015 was rigged. Where are the two million voters from Kano State who voted in 2015? Was an INEC official not burnt alive after that election? The one which brought Obj to power was also rigged by the forces which wanted him to ease the tension of the Abiola tragedy on the Yoruba people. Yet those men had the temerity to preach against corruption!
Orezime: The international community winked at the whole exercise.
Gani: Yes! That’s why those two could only preach; they couldn’t really act decisively. A moral burden? They spoke from both sides of their mouths on the issue of corruption. The late President Yar Adua confessed that the election which produced him was compromised. An honest man, he didn’t live long enough to right the wrong of the period!
Orezime: That’s why I laughed when Adamu talked about a moral burden arising from rigged elections.
Bankole: In the ideal world, any power that is stolen and acquired through a dubious means imposes a moral burden on the power holder. No matter what the person does, that power remains stained.
Orezime: What does that amount to in our country? Even the brigands who shot their way to power in the notorious days of military misadventure in Nigeria soon became legitimate.
Emeka: You are going too far in our history. See what happened in Lagos State in the governorship elections of March 18. Ethnic jingoists went about preaching hatred against Igbo people and warned them against coming out to exercise their constitutional rights. Security officials looked the other way when ballot boxes were snatched in broad daylight in places where the opposition was leading.
Gani: A serving state governor personally went about snatching ballot boxes and threatened to shoot whoever got in his way. The same governor declared somebody wanted without recourse to the Inspector General of Police! He worked against the party on which platform he won the seat to spite the party hierarchy!
Adamu: And to think that this is the President-elect’s state. He kept mute through the horrendous attacks on Igbo people in Lagos State just the way the incumbent president has looked the other way when herdsmen went on the loose!
Bankole: Rigged elections are so familiar yet notorious in our land. It was the main trigger to the crisis in the Western Region in the First Republic because the people reacted when they saw a rape of their rights and wishes! It soon snowballed into a conflagration that consumed the nation in the late 1960s. Already, the youths are talking about a protest in the ENDSARSNOW# manner. I hope it doesn’t result in disaster. We have lost too many lives already!
Orezime: What I fear is the rise of ethnic profiling in a supposedly democratic society. To be sure, Governor Sanwo-Olu and the party hierarchy did not single out any ethnic group for verbal attacks. They even courted them. Yet they didn’t caution their followers to stop the degeneration into ethnic hatred. It is a dangerous curve what is happening in Lagos. I don’t subscribe to the Lagos is no man’s land nonsense which some misguided fellows are spewing, but threatening anybody not to vote their candidate is a new low! Can a Sanwo-Olu victory be said to be legitimate if a significant percentage of the electorate is disenfranchised?
Emeka: Good question. They did not stop there. They rolled out the culturally dreaded Oro rituals on election night. Come on! Who is fooling who? The Oro festival was designed to drive fear into non-Yoruba in Lagos. In the 21st Century?
Gani: I am sure the reports from election observers will be damning.
Bankole: I don’t care about those biased observers.
Adamu: Where are we headed in this country?
Orezime: We are on the road to Kigali!
Bankole: May we not travel that route!
Orezime: It’s a good prayer. But what are we doing to avoid the descent into anarchy? Nothing. Those monkeys are simply interested in acquiring power.
Gani: The Obedient Movement seems to have lost steam once it was misbranded as an ethnic agenda to grab power at the national level. Peter Obi needs to tread carefully so he doesn’t become another June 12! Some people are egging him on to challenge INEC through protests.
Orezime: If he decides to lead a protest, it would be within his constitutional right to do so, especially as INEC is stalling on the issue of inspecting elections materials despite an order from the courts. Peaceful protests are guaranteed by the Constitution.
Adamu: No one can be sure whether a peaceful protest will remain peaceful after it starts. That’s the experience the ENDSARS people had.
Gani: It’s not enough to stop people from taking to the streets. Protests are fundamental to democracy.
Adamu: We do not want dead heroes! Mark my words.
Bankole: That’s ominous!
Emeka: It means nothing. Nigeria must change. We cannot go on like this forever! Things are just going down. No cash. No fuel. No power supply. No security. No nothing. Peter Obi gave a glimmer of hope. Now that has been dashed to the ground.
Adamu: Rigging will remain a moral burden each time our President-elect travels outside the country, each time he meets foreign observers, especially those ones who have a dossier on him. History will also judge him and assess how he came to power. This applies to all the states as well where some politicians have turned themselves into demigods and have compromised poor INEC officials with mouthwatering sums. This is not how to build a democracy. The votes must be counted and must count. Seventeen people have their lives during the governorship and House of Assembly elections. We are supposed to count ballot papers, not bodies. Sad!
Bankole: The moral burden of rigged elections is on all of us. Without our connivance there would be no rigging. We can only hope that this will end some day!
Emeka: Tough luck!
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