Governor Rotimi Amaechi
By Eddy Odivwri
If the past pattern will serve as a guide, then it can be accurately predicted that sooner or later, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) will once again, get the nation’s (public) university system grounded. About a forthnight ago, they embarked on a one-day warning strike to prevail on Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State to reverse his decision to appoint Prof Barineme Fakae as the acting Vice Chancellor of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST). Fakae had served as a VC in the University for four years. The local ASUU which mobilised the national body of the lecturers is insisting that Fakae cannot be re-appointed for a second term; claiming that the understanding between them (ASUU) and the Rivers State Governor, is that Fakae will not be allowed to serve a second term.
To drive home their demand, they had mobilized the national body to embark on the one-day warning strike; and threatening to embark on a full-scale strike if the governor fails or refuses to remove Fakae as VC. The governor has faulted the arguments of the ASUU members, noting that he acted based on the provisions of the law setting up the RSUST. And that, as the Visitor to the University, it is within his prerogative to appoint a suitable person into the office of the university’s VC.
But as if propelled by the instinct of mass hysteria, the ASUU has failed to digest the finite details of the face-off before aligning with its members at RSUST. I understand that the body had gone to the court to challenge the action of Gov Amaechi and also lost. Yet, they seem poised to “draw rain” and once again, disrupt academic activities in the universities. And if care is not taken, this might be a silly re-enactment of the Ilorin 49 saga, which dragged on for years, with our children becoming the chief victims.
The fundamental questions ASUU should ponder over before taking the strike option are these:
• Does the governor have the right to appoint a VC to a state university or not?
• The law (section 3 (1) of the University’s law) says the governor can appoint subject to the recommendation of a joint selection committee. Did the law also specify how the joint selection committee can be constituted?
• Is it true that some of the contestants for the office of the VC also sat in meeting that nominated members of the selection committee?
• If the above is true, is it legally or/and morally right for contestants to choose who will assess them?
• Is the nomination of the selection committee binding on the state governor?
• Is Prof Fakae qualified to be re-appointed the VC or not?
• Is Prof Fakae entitled to second term in office or not? What does the law setting up the RSUST say on issue of terms for a VC?
• Did Prof Fakae ever protest the composition of the Joint selection committee before it interviewed the candidates?
• If the selection committee was truly against Prof Fakae, how come his name was among those forwarded to the governor for consideration?
• What is the opinion of the university’s Senate and the Council (the Chancellor) of the university on the matter?
Vexed by what he considered an affront to his office and functions, the governor, ordered the secretary to the state government to announce the confirmation of Prof Fakae as the substantive VC of the university, who before then was named merely on acting capcity. And that seems to have drawn a line on the ground for the varsity teachers. Will they acquiesce or will they trudge on in a needless fight?
It is the incessant strike actions of ASUU—for worthy and unworthy reasons--- more than any other factor, that has crashed the rating and value of the Nigerian university system. Today, those who covet unbroken academic programmes, and can afford it, send their children to either the expensive private universities in Nigeria, or to foreign countries, including even lowly nations like Ghana, Togo, Republic of Benin etc, all to escape the erratic academic calendar of Nigerian universities, no thanks to ASUU.
Conventional wisdom, even to a warrior, is to choose what battles to fight. A warrior that takes on all wars from all fronts will soon be fatigued, worn, and suffer loss of public appeal, all leading to extinctive fall. ASUU, should rise, at this point, beyond this tired “osho-obey” activism and galvanise its members into the more productive attributes of research and development which their colleagues in other climes are known for.
The Pharaoh in Rutam House
The 29-year old media organization called The Guardian, was established to celebrate the finest tradition of journalism laced with academic sophistry. And over the years, it has lived up to the billing, thus earning the sobriquet of being the flagship of Nigerian journalism. It has no doubt propounded noble national values with undiluted professional ethics.
But it has also had its challenges, like every organization. But very recently, the nature of the challenge changed. It used to be labour-related issues, where the workforce have, on several occasions, gone into battles with management. But the recent malaise has to do with the worst genre of dictatorship. One of the new management staff, the Chief Operating Officer (COO), Dr Alex Tomopulus, had sent an old member of the editorial team on suspension for--wait for it—failing to greet him! The staff in question was said to have met the COO while having a discussion with somebody, somewhere within the premises of the newspaper (Rutam House) and greeted the duo. But engrossed in the discussion, they, perhaps, did not hear the greeting. The staff soon walked past, but was promptly summoned by the almighty COO, lambasted the fellow, and followed up with a lecture of how UnAfrican it was to have passed one’s elders without greeting them. The explanation that he greeted, but was not answered was rebuffed by Tomopulus. The latter further drove home the wrench when he again, summoned the staff to his office to answer for the “unafrican conduct”. The staff stayed away from the summon, and this was promptly followed with instant two-week suspension order. Many staff members are shocked that the “sin” of not greeting a management staff can now be followed with such over-arching show of oppression. Before them, the COO now cuts the image of Plantation Supervisor, fitted with a whip on one hand and a long pipe on another, barking out orders in a charged atmosphere. It can only produce fright and productivity decline. The COO, is a brother to the wife of the late publisher of the newspaper, Mr Alex Ibru, who passed on last year. He was conscripted to help oversee the administration of the newspaper house when the late Ibru’s ailment took a toll on him.
While alive, Ibru never dramatised such power show. He was meek and amiable. He rarely had a direct dealing with staff members. But now, a Pharaoh has ascended the throne and seems determined to inflict the harshest policy on the workforce, albeit oppressively. Not even the appeal by other management staff that the sanction be vacated or reviewed was heeded by the COO. It is doubtful what point he wanted to prove with such extreme hit. But whatever it is, this modern day dictator should be well guided by the very story of Pharaoh itself, and more importantly, the motto of the newspaper: “Conscience is an open wound, only truth can heal it”.
Dana Air: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
Every day I keep telling you that my faith in this nation gets weaker and weaker
What is it again?
What else but the controversial decision to lift the suspension slammed on Dana Airline.
Who told you the decision was controversial?
You mean you have not heard of the outrage that has greeted the decision to lift the suspension within just three months?
What outrage are you talking about? What about the outrage of those that have been thrown out of job for three months? Are they and their many dependants also not having feelings?
You are talking rubbish! We are talking about the lives of precious people which were cut short by the negligence of an airline, and you compare that to the mundane issue of lost jobs? What stupid jobs? Is it not the living that can work?
So who told you the airline was negligent? Who gave you that report?
How else can you describe an airline who puts a plane in the sky and within a 50-minute flight, two engines of the airplane have packed up? If that is not negligence, then what is?
What is the definition of an accident?
What stupid definition are you talking about? Two engines to pack up in one flight say a lot about the maintenance routine in that airline. It doesn’t matter what you guys say. It doesn’t matter what the NCAA finds out. It doesn’t matter what the AIB also finds out. It is too suggestive of technical indifference for two engines to pack up within 50 minutes.
So if it doesn’t matter what scientific findings say, who shall we believe? Your own corrugated opinion?
Call it anything. All I am saying is that the lifting of the operating license is hasty. People are still mourning their dead ones. The wounds are still fresh. Just yesterday was when Dr Livi Ajuonoma of the NNPC was buried. And then already you say the airline can return to business as usual. It is like spitting on the grave of those killed.
Look, let’s not be unduly emotional over this matter. Even if the airline is banned for three or more years, it does not bring back the lives of those killed in the crash. Life must go on. And in any case, it is not the global practice to ban an airline simply because one of the planes in its fleet was involved in a crash. Is it because it is an airplane? How many times has a Bus Transport company been closed down simply because one of its buses was involved in a road accident? Death is death: whether in the air or on the road.
It doesn’t matter what you think. All I can assure you is that Nigerians won’t have faith in that airline anymore. Did you not see the Nigerian Airline Passengers Association (NAPA) urging airline passengers to boycott the airline when it resumes operation?
That is mass hysteria. When was that association formed? Where is its secretariat? Don’t mind them. Who gave it the mandate to speak for all air travelers? God forbid, so if another accident happens, then they will also boycott that other airline? To do so will be like decreeing that because water kills, people should not drink water again. That would be tantamount to prescribing a drug that will kill both the disease and the patient. Look, what’s gonna be, gonna be! Dana will return. The decision to fly it or not will be an individual decision. Do you know how air travelers have been groaning because of the squeeze in the few operating airlines? Can’t you see how indifferent the airlines have become for enjoying some kind of monopoly? Look, I can tell you many Nigerians will be excited to see Dana back in the sky. All that will be demanded is care and order by way of maintenance and regulation. After that, we can leave all else to God.
Hmmmmm, Nigerian air travelers now seem stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea.