Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The Director-General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), Salihu Lukman, has warned that the persistent strikes by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is grossly helping in the actualisation of the philosophy of Boko Haram of destroying the country’s education system.
He lamented that a situation where the country’s universities were closed for over four years within two decades was antithetical to development of the nation’s education sector.
Until December 23, the country’s public universities have been closed down since March due to industrial action by the academic staff of the nation’s ivory towers.
The PGF boss in a statement on Sunday in Abuja titled, “ASUU and Indeterminate Power Struggle – The Boko Haram Logic”, called for a more determined approach to resolving the lingering crisis in the nation’s tertiary education sector and halt the occasional resort to strikes by ASUU, lamenting that, ” in the last twenty-one years, ASUU was on strike for a record period of more than four years.”
Lukman noted with disdain that the education sector has suffered huge damage due to persistent resort to strike by the University lecturers, a development he lamented that some respected Nigerian academics have often publicly celebrated by arguing that ASUU has never lost any struggle against the Nigerian government, whether military or civilian.
“These are being said without any remorse or acknowledgement of the damage ASUU strikes have done to the Nigerian educational system. That we are even thinking that closure of universities and our schools can produce any form of victory with reference to any form of outcome demonstrates our nasty state of mind, which brings us closer to the Hobbesian reality that civilisation would have long resolved.
“How can anyone with a child whose dream and aspiration should include being educated, celebrate in any form the closure of schools? What difference is such a logic from the Boko Haram objective of abolishing western education?
“It is very sad that it is common knowledge now that in the last twenty-one years, ASUU was on strike for a record period of more than four years. Worse still is the fact that we have people who claim to be public intellectuals that present such a reprehensible scorecard and by any standard a scandalous credential as achievement is sickening.
“At this rate, we may as well accept that Boko Haram terrorists are also public intellectuals. In any event, who is a public intellectual? Aren’t Boko Haram terrorists engaged in critical thinking, research and reflections? If their mission is to abolish western education, how farther away from that mission is the activity of any group that causes closure of our universities for nine months in one academic calendar?
“If our universities are closed for nine months, what does that mean to the remainder of the education system? Assuming that secondary students are able to pass their exams, will they gain admission into universities? Where will the space come from when existing students have not graduated?” Lukman demanded.
The PGF boss then warned that unless both federal government and ASUU are able to produce a clearly outlined sources of mobilising the funds to implement the provisions of the December 23, 2020 agreement, it is safer to assume that the agreement is already in breach.
“With reference to funding, there are issues that are beyond ASUU and therefore any agreement with ASUU may likely be a source of dispute with other sections of the university community and educational sector, including students. Already, from the agreement with ASUU, this is implied given that part of the N40 billion disbursed for earned academic allowances is to be shared with non-academic staff.
“After exhausting the N40 billion, what next? Should we assume that it will be the end of allowances in Nigerian public universities? Certainly not. If there are new earned academic allowances, how will the resources be generated?
“This is where we must get our government to urgently come up with a new framework of negotiating these issues outside the scope of labour relations. This may perhaps require that, as the governing party, APC would need to expedite the process of ‘diversifying the economy and expanding our tax base to increase non-oil revenues and prioritising public spending away from bureaucracy towards investments in infrastructure and improved frontline services’ as provided in the APC manifesto,” he advised.