By Kemi Olaitan
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), yesterday came hard on the Minister of State for Education, Mr. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, urging him to resign as minister and engage in farming.
The union described the statement credited to the minister that striking lecturers should consider farming as an alternative profession as a reflection of his shallow understanding of the academic profession and the low premium that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration placed on education.
The minister while participating in a programme on ARISE NEWS Channel, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspaper, had suggested farming to the lecturers, who are currently on strike, insisting that they cannot dictate how they should be paid by their employers.
But ASUU Chairman, University of Ibadan chapter, Prof. Ayo Akinwole, in a statement issued yesterday, said the minister has displayed his naivety on educational matters.
He said the scarcity of farmers in the country is a reflection of the failure of the federal government he is part of to make farming secured for legitimate farmers, calling on Nwajiuba to resign his appointment and take to farming as a worthy national service.
The ASUU boss said the union is unlike the minister who pursues selfish agenda, maintaining that the union remained resolute not to pursue only the welfare of its members while downplaying the infrastructure collapse and underfunding of public universities but decided to continue to fight ‘parasites’ like Nwajiuba who preside over a ministry where no Nigerian university is in the top 100 in the world.
Akinwole stated that if the government of Buhari is not paying lip service to education, it would not have consistently reduced budgetary allocation and funding to education since the assumption of office.
He disclosed that public varsity lecturers are owed earned academic allowances from 2013 to date, challenging the minister to declare if he has been owed allowances and how much since he assumed office.
He further maintained that available statistics showed that salaries of university lecturers are below what is paid to academics in Polytechnics and Colleges of Education.
According to him, “As scientists, experts in agriculture faculties continue to conduct research mainly with external funding or personal monies. But the Nigerian government who failed to protect farmers and exposed Nigerians to excruciating poverty is not making use of the research findings. If the Minister of State for Education is interested in farming, he should resign his appointment and stop displaying his cluelessness of the problems in the education sector. We are on a just fight to ensure that those in public offices become responsive and responsible to the masses they swore to serve. They must fund public education.
“We have been on the same salary since 2009. That is no longer sustainable. The universities are being run with personal sweats of lecturers while politicians siphon monies for personal aggrandisement. We cannot accept IPPIS that is against the laws of the land and which fails to recognise the uniqueness of the academic profession and culture. We have brought an alternative using our members’ money. People like this Minister of State mirrors the disdain of ruling class for the workers and people of the country.”