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Re: Nigeria’s Perilous University System- SOS Mr. President Tinubu, by Prof M.K. Othman

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Re: Nigeria’s Perilous University System- SOS Mr. President Tinubu, by Prof M.K. Othman

As time ticks, our university system’s perilous situation is deepening, creating an unpleasant scenario. The current administration seems irresponsive to the happenings on our university campuses. Apart from the sweet-coated but unfulfilling statements, award of 25/35% salary increase, presidential amnesty to release four months withheld salaries of the striking workers, approval to remove payment of university workers from IPPIS, etc, the hopes of the university workers for a brighter tomorrow are dashed. The students are oblivious to the flight of their teachers; they are only interested in graduating even if they will be “half-baked” and join the labor market. Why is society unconcerned about the deteriorating quality of Nigerian university graduates? The academics are under exacerbating economic pain, and their Union, ASUU, cowed by the past administration through a judicial technicality, is confused about deciding on the following line of action. ASUU’s rhetoric is in limbo. Is there an alternative to industrial action – strike? Can the university workers embark on another strike with the entrenched government policy of “no work, no pay”? Should they continue to teach their students under unbearable conditions with a peanut as a monthly pay?

The university professor’s salary on January 31, 2010, was about N400,000, and the salary has not been increased to date. Instead, the IPPIS reduced the salary of university workers in the name of paying “correct income tax.” In 2010, with the exchange rate of N150.10 per dollar, the salary amounted to about $2,665. Fourteen years later, on January 31, 2024, the salary of a university professor remains at about N400,000. With the prevailing exchange rate of N1,510 per dollar, the same salary now amounts to about $265. So, after putting in 14 years of hard work and having attained the zenith of their academic career, a Nigerian University Professor now earns 10% of what he earned 14 years ago – this is only possible in Nigeria. The need for the government to act decisively and change the narrative of the Perilous University System cannot be overemphasized. That was the reason I sent an SOS to Mr. President Tinubu, and my readers are joining me in appealing for a speedy response to my SOS. Three diverse reactions are presented here but edited for the reason of space. Happy reading.

Prof. Sir, this is indeed a touching article. I feel so much for the families that lost their dear ones during the last industrial strike action that affected so many of our students who had to be at home for the period the strike lasted. However, no one knew that FG could use the weapon of an Industrial court order to get their way with ASUU. Since then, this same weapon has been working for them as they do have their way with the present NLC and TUC in overpowering the people of this country. Nigeria needs earnest prayer in getting what we need from our leaders. This article is good in its present form, and it will have more weight if the issues presented therein could be brought before Mr. President for his immediate and kind attention through the Office of the Honorable Minister of Education.
Engr O. A. Oyelade

‘Docile’ is the right word to describe our responsiveness to government actions and inactions nowadays. The Union has done its utmost in a very un-smart way, extending the strike to a period when its members got hooked and exhausted. We are still too exhausted to confront any misdoing.

READ ALSO: Nigeria’s Perilous University System: SOS Mr. President Tinubu, by Prof M.K. Othman

The NLC is a culprit, while the teaming populace is morons and, to a more significant extent, accomplices to the heinous crime of defeating the struggle.
Prof Ahmed Bello

Many thanks, Prof. I have read your piece. It is comprehensive and a strong opinion of a committed unionist. However, only in the concluding part did you touch on what I consider fundamental to the whole problem – the lesson to be learned by both parties. Please bear with me to make a few points that unbiased and ordinary people may know and think about. And I believe this quagmire will have no end until and unless ASUU begins to think realistically, sincerely, and wholistically.

The first and most important is for us “academic staff” through our Union to scale down our ego and how we overrate our intellectual capacity and contribution to society. Academics worldwide are known to think deeply, strategize, and carry a strong personality of knowledge and humility but not rascality. That’s not to say there are no academic rascals, but those exude their trade union. Its strong knowledge and integrity are not akin to what we see in our situation, where the rascals are just “empty” barrels.

We also must understand that we are not and cannot be the educational system’s only or most important component. We may be privileged to occupy the apex, but we are certainly not the most important; in fact, I would say the least important when we compare with the other tiers of universal education. At least in today’s Nigeria, it will be difficult to point out your contribution to national development compared to the burden we have on the government. We can argue that the lower levels have decayed, so we are no longer producing quality. Yes, but I think this is happening because we have failed to approach reforming the educational system in a more holistic manner across all the tiers, but we concentrate on our selfish demands, which also display the poverty of our thinking and ego against other equally important tiers. Our relationship with sister unions can attest to this problem. I am sorry to say our insincerity or hypocrisy – knowingly or unknowingly, arrogance or ignorance.

The failure to assess ourselves and be truthful to criticize and work towards self-reform in the manner the Union manages its affairs by incompetent and often corrupt members who are also undemocratically selected to represent us in many levels of management and the fact that their so-called loyalty to Union is their sole qualification.

Finally, Prof, the point I am making is that, like you also concluded, we should have learned lessons from the past, and it is just time to begin to change how we conduct ourselves and our affairs. If the system collapses, as is just eminent, the losers will be far-reaching, including some of us who cannot survive outside the rot. I am sorry if I overshooted your expectations. Still, I always like your intellectual openness and zeal to educate society, and that’s why I also open my thoughts to you and hope that we can learn from each other. I always wish you the best and encourage you to keep the good work going.
Anonymous

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