By Abdullah Maiwada
Let me start by making it clear that I have no clue the reasons behind FG insistence on getting the BVN of lecturers as a precondition for payment of their two months salaries. Similarly, It is also unknown to me the reasons for rejection of the offer by ASUU.
I will move forward with this piece by making it clear that my history is inconclusive without acknowledging the role played by academic environment to shape my life. I can remember vividly that our parents more prominently during military regime suffered from the idea of ‘no work no pay’. They have on numerous occasions spent months without salary. Yet they sacrifice and persevere the hardship by exhausting their energy and staying in the system up to retirement despite ample opportunities to switch to better paying jobs. In the course of that struggle, some started and saw the end of the journey, while others couldn’t withstand and left the system. We also have some categories that join the forces of government to fight the system that made them who they are (permit me not to mention names).
For the world to know, there are times when this gentlemen will deliver lecturers with empty stomachs, some will cover a long distance to attend to their schedule of duty without any mechanical aid. Some cannot afford to replace incapacitated batteries and tyres of their vehicles. I can recall when some paint their vehicles with taxi colors and metaphorse to taxi drivers at the close of work. I recalled the comprades that sat in front of their vehicles awaiting arrest (My former VC and Former INEC chairman use to be among those dogged freedom fighters). I still have the mental picture of his Volkswagen Beetle. It was indeed an adventurous journey. The academic solidarity then was that the household with grown children have to move from one neighborhood to another to push rackety vehicles that can hardly start without enormous pushing. My father used a peogoet salon 504 for 25 years. Most lecturers got the opportunities of replacing their vehicles with second new vehicles (popularly known as ‘tokunbo’) after the coming of civilian administration in the year in 1999. It will shock you to know that we still have academic and nonacademic staff in our Universities that will retire and stay back in staff quarters awaiting for the payment of gratuity to own a house. I have one thousand and one first hand examples to cite, because of obvious reasons and possibility of misconception, I need to halt further comment of ‘our’ past.
My fundamental concern is that today most of my colleagues/contemporaries within academic cycle will harness the slightest opportunity to switch to better paying jobs despite sponsored with public funds to get to the height they are. I don’t blame them in anyway. They are grossly underpaid despite their difficult and complex schedules. While some workers in MDAs are getting fat salaries with less input, academic staffs are starved with chicken change as take home. How do you get productivity from workforce that lacks motivation for their job? How do you expect to see innovations and creations that can place Nigeria high in comity of nations? The simple answer is we need to go back to the drawing board with a mission and vision to salvage our retrograding institutions that are obviously lacking the basics to operates optimally.
Another issue is that some of those activists (freedom fighters) that vehemently fought for the emancipation of Public Universities at the end assimilate into the bandwagon of Juicy government appointments and turn out to be policy makers holding strategic appointments. Many have misuse such opportunities, while few did remarkably well. Why do we have less input and solidarity to ASUU by those veterans that are once upon a time active in the struggle? Have they forgot the troublesome journey they passed through before becoming who they are today? Are we saying the struggle is a norm of getting to the peak of the ladder and then throw the ladder away for others not climb? Why do we have system that produce great scholars who rise to certain climax in their profession but truncate the primary responsibilities of teaching and mentoring, while endlessly chasing juicy appointments both within and outside the campus. Can we say this is an obsession to grasp power by hook or crook, so as to take a share of national cake?
Let me categorically state that, I love the system and is the most adorable environment I am proud to be associated with. As PR practioner, I enjoined my friends and seniors in this noble profession on the need to properly manage public perception about their struggles. If you don’t blow your trumpet well, no body will do that on your behalf. Out there, the opinion of the people about this passionate and sincere struggle is not commendable. We need storytellers to tactically shape people opinion that you are starving yourself and your family (the way I was starved in the eighties, nineties and millennium) for the good of the ordinary man. It is a patriotic sacrifice the society need to know. Can you imagine denied source of your livelihood for two months under this harsh economy, compounded with lockdown necessitated by novel Coronavirus. I think they deserve some sympathy and empathy even if it is only their rights they are fighting for.
It is commonly stated that when two elephants fight the grass suffers. It is our hope that the two contending parties will have mercy on our poor brothers and sisters that will be at the receiving end. At the end they will get their salaries and academic calendar will be distorted, the little poor innocent students will bear the consequences just the way we all received such hardship at the various public tertiary institutions we attended.