Osinbajo, Gambari And FG, ASUU Impasse

October 16, 2020
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It is no longer news that university education in Nigeria today is under serious threat because of the way past governments and the present administration have handled the issues concerning education, which has pushed the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to embark on a protracted strike.

What is news and rather disturbing is how academics in the corridors of power seem to be comfortable with the situation by their loud silence. A popular African adage says that in a house where a wise person resides, it will be unwise to see a heavily pregnant she-goat tied to a thither.

Education in Nigeria is the metaphorical pregnant she-goat that has been tied in the most insensitive manner to a destructive thither, and the “wise men and women” in government have been walking past her. Maybe their official task is so demanding that they don’t have time to look at other issues or they deliberately feign the attitude of I-am-not-aware; an attitude they probably learnt from their boss. But if everyone in President Muhammadu Buhari’s government decides to be indifferent, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the vice president, and Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, the chief of staff to the president, cannot afford to be indifferent or quiet because they are from the educational sector.

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Osinbajo and Gambari have spent time teaching in University of Lagos and Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) respectively, and they are in better positions to understand the struggle of ASUU, vis-a-vis the revitalisation of education and the welfare of lecturers. They are also in a better position as academics, although now “Nigerian politicians” to explain to their boss why Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and Memorandum of Action (MoA) should be honoured and implemented. They are in a position to understand and speak
to ASUU’s concerns vis-a-vis IPPIS and UTAS. Prof. Osinbajo and Prof. Gambari should know that the striking lecturers are not at home playing Ludo and other games as Dr. Chris Ngige once teased, neither are they needed in farm instead of their classrooms, laboratories, workshops, and other research centres, as the minister for State for Education, Mr. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, is now advancing. They are all in a position to know whether their former colleagues have been paid or not, because it is assumed they still have friends in the academia who can give them such information.

The temptations for Osinbajo and Gambari to say that the issue of resolving the impasse between federal government and ASUU is not their duty is clear and understood. But they cannot shy away from the task of nation building and repositioning of the education sector which requires a rather collective effort on one hand and professional effort
on the other hand.

Osinbajo and Gambari can give President Buhari valuable advices on how to resolve the situation in a way that will make Nigerians believe that Buhari’s administration does not have any hidden agenda to further destroy public universities, as ASUU has often claimed.

So, for ASUU to be on strike for over six months in a country where the vice president and the chief of staff to the president are both professors does not speak well for an administration that promised to change the lives of Nigerians for good. Osinbajo and Gambari, no matter their own personal views on ASUU whether as academics or as Nigerian “politicians” should find a way to draw President Buhari’s attention to the fact that ASUU is on strike (because chances are that the president may not be aware of the strike and the effect it has on Nigerian students) and explain to him that the union is only asking government to implement the Memorandum of Action she willingly signed with the union,
complete the renegotiation of the lecturers’ salaries, urgently and sincerely attend to the issues of IPPIS and UTAS for the interest of education, and pay the earned academic allowances of lecturers.

They should also let the president know that there is an urgent need for him to “off the microphone” of the minister of state for education and his counterpart in the Ministry of Labour and Employment, so that they can stop ridiculing Nigeria’s educational institutions before the entire world with their laughable, sometimes unguided and always uninformed statements.

If Osinbajo and Gambari do this and the government still decides to do nothing towards resolving the impasse, then it will be on record that they have tried to help save the educational system, and posterity will be fair to them.

– Legemah, a lecturer in the Department of English and Literature, University of Benin, writes from Benin City.

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