“I must confess that the government has not fulfill its part of the bargain. Though we are unhappy that ASUU went on this strike without following due process…” said the Honourable Minister of Education, our own Adamu Adamu. It was very noble of him. I cannot remember another example of a Federal Minister offering apology and confessing to a mistake by the government in my almost thirty years of writing weekly columns. It is really noble of him – especially when one realizes that the problem was inherited from the Yar’Adua/Jonathan administrations from 2009 to 2015. It is even nobler of the Minister because the former leaders of the Academic Staff Union of Universities were the architects of everybody’s current misfortunes. The agreements they now want to enforce were reached during the halcyon days of crude oil when crude prices rested comfortably at over $100 per barrel.
Buhari’s government reminds me of the tenant moving into a room whose previous tenant accumulated “NEPA” bills of twenty thousand naira or more before absconding. “NEPA does not care about the former tenant, they grab the innocent new occupant. But, because there is no alternative to NEPA the innocent tenant is forced to pay. It happened to me before when renting an office at Ikeja. It is blackmail plain and simple and that is what ASUU is doing now to Buhari’s administration. As usual, the charge against the unethical ASUU can be proved by going back to the history of ASUU and the FG since 2010.
However, before delving into how ASUU was the architect of its own misfortune, permit me to point to another individual who has acted with great patriotism in this matter. Dr Wale Babalakin, Pro-Chancellor, University of Lagos, was supposed to be in Abuja for a private business on Monday, August 14, 2017 when he was called to intervene in the FG/ASUU palaver. He did not hesitate to drop everything to answer the nation’s call. The irony of Babalakin’s intervention lies in the fact that here is a fellow whose company has claims against the Federal Government close to N170 billion, and who has not been paid a kobo, mediating in dispute to get N23 billion paid to ASUU.
So, on the F’s side we have two fine gentlemen, Adamu and Babalakin asking for patience to have the dispute resolved. On the other side, we have recalcitrant ASUU leaders whose predecessors in office missed the boat by allowing Jonathan to deceive them twice. The first was in 2011 when they went on strike and threatened to scuttle the 2011 elections on account of the 2009 agreement which Jonathan’s government had not fulfilled. As usual, back in 2011 and before the elections, ASUU was threatening to proceed on strike. Jonathan, not sure of re-election was scared that the strike, if it went on till election day, might give his main opponent – Buhari – the opportunity to win the election. I had written a column urging ASUU to stand firm then or lose the battle almost forever. Instead, Jonathan called in the ASUU leaders of ASSUU and after the usual meal of “pounded yam and egusi with bush meat” got them to call off the strike. Please read what followed in my article written on June 3, 2011 titled ROPE A DOPE – ASUU.
ROPE A DOPE – ASUU – 4
“We do not know whether there is a special way of passing this Bill that had been begging for attention for years. We also doubt if the lawmakers were equally sensitive to what the non-implementation of the said agreement [emphasis mine] had caused the academic community, students and parents and what it would cause them in the future”.
Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie, President ASUU, lamenting the delay in passing the Bill arising from the agreement reached with the Federal government in 2009.
“It is unthinkable that wisdom should ever be popular”.
Commonsense is not common. If there is anything funnier than the “rope a dope” strategy, it’s the new twist. You would think Professors and Senior Lecturers in our universities are intelligent; that they could not be fooled. Well, you are half right. They are mostly intelligent; but also mostly not wise. A good lot of the world’s catastrophes had been caused by “egg-heads”. David Halberstam, in his book THE BRIGHTEST AND THE BEST, the best chronicle of the American misadventure in Viet Nam, had called the policymakers and top military brass, who produced the debacle, “intelligent but not wise”. Back in 1974, when I was reading the book, it had not registered in my mind that someone can be intelligent and not wise. Now I know. Of all the definitions of wisdom, John Milton’s, 1608-1674, is the most apt for this column. According to him:
“To know/That which before us lies in daily life/Is the prime wisdom/ What is more is fume”. (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, p 275). Wisdom, is never taught in schools; it is learnt from experience, open mindedness and providential intuition; from being truthful to oneself all the time and not compromising with the truth – however unpleasant. When ASUU reached the 2009 “agreement” with the Yar’Adua-Jonathan-Namadi administration, the two sides compromised heavily on the truth. ASUU is now left holding the empty bag. As this piece is being written on June 3, 2011, the Sixth National Assembly had gone into history without passing the Bill. Yet, if the discussion between some of my friends in academia is a reflection of what others did on election days, they also “voted for Jonathan not PDP”. In the end, Jonathan and PDP had colluded to break the agreement entered into in 2009 to get ASUU back to the classroom. That self-deception on the part of highly intelligent people is bad enough.
A look at the composition of the present National Assembly reveals that except for the mini-tsunami in the Southwest, the PDP had again been overwhelmingly re-elected nationwide by people who deceived themselves that they “voted Jonathan not PDP”. Was Jonathan running for Senate, House of Representatives and Governor everywhere? ASUU members, who might find themselves back in the trenches, can now ask themselves if they were honest with themselves and other stakeholders by keeping quiet until it is too late. To be quite blunt, did they actually expect Jonathan and the PDP to keep their promises? If not, why the self-deceit especially when it is now clear that the calamity Professor Awuzie predicts would come to pass for Nigeria’s education sector?
ASUU is now threatening to go on strike again. A lot of sense that makes!! That’s like bolting the gate after all the chicken have fled.”
That was in 2010. I recollect going to the University of Ibadan Staff Club to visit some of my friends from primary and secondary school days in Lagos who were then Professors. Almost all the time the talk was about the agreement which I told them would not be honoured even if signed by Jonathan. They were waiting for me when it was signed. In unison they asked “how can any government fail to honour its agreement especially when a former colleague is the President?” My reply was: “Your former colleague has joined another profession in which deception is the name of the game. He will disappoint you.”
When later in 2011, after Jonathan has won the election I visited UI, it was my turn to taunt them by asking “what happened to your agreement?” and then to add: “Jonathan will never honour that agreement until he leaves office. He is a small man in a big office and he cannot rise to the level of that office.”
Today, ASUU is holding Buhari to ransom for the failure of Jonathan to live up to his words. Former President Obasanjo at a recent event asked the government to redeem its pledge. Baba Iyabo must have forgotten that it was his anointed successor, Yar’Adua, who was responsible for the mess. It was the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which created the mess. Buhari is now held to ransom for their stupidity and that of ASUU. ASUU is blaming the victims of their own folly.
SHORT AND SHARP
“The battle that counts is the last.” Nuestadt
Neustadt was the official historian of President Eisenhower administration. He made that observation in his book PRESIDENTS AND POWER. Pro-Buhari people stoned the “Resume or Resign” marchers in Abuja last week. They have thrown the first stones while ignoring the fact that nobody has a monopoly of violence. They have introduced violence into the dispute without official condemnation.
Who will throw the next one? And will Aso Rock remain silent?