ByÂ Douglas Anele
YET, why is the central government unwilling to implement genuine fiscal federalism to encourage the constituent parts of the country to develop their resources and deploy them to meet the peculiar needs of the people?
The minister should have carried his line of reasoning to its logical conclusion by demanding (a) that the Federal Government should accept what is vaguely known as resource control and (b) permit university councils to stipulate appropriate tuition fees and accommodation charges in the federal universities. Over the years, the federal government has emasculated the constituent geopolitical configurations that make up Nigeria, and made itself a big Santa Claus to the states.
Thus, it should not complain when the hour of reckoning arrives, since it could as well shed some of its burdens by allowing different parts of the country exploit their human and natural resources and apply them to meet developmental needs. It is simply unrealistic for the government at the centre to greedily corner the bulk of the nationâ€™s resources and then turn around to shirk its responsibility to the states in particular and to Nigerians in general.
Therefore, before the attainment of true federalism there is urgent need to modify the current revenue allocation formula so that more money could accrue to the states. But the most important problem for the federal government is the issue of official corruption and the obscene emoluments of top political office holders, including members of the legislature at the three tiers of government.
On a daily basis, our people are inundated with sordid reports of corruption perpetrated by top government officials. To add insult to injury, high ranking political appointees and legislators award themselves â€œelephantine salariesâ€ and allowances. Indeed, recently it was reported that about N1.2 trillion are expended annually on slightly over 17,000 political office holders in the country, part which should have been used to improve our universities.
Moreover, the opulent lifestyles of big men and thick madams in government and their families and hangersâ€“on, create the impression that the federal is actually deceiving lecturers when it argues that it does not have adequate resources to meet the demands of ASUU.
If, in truth, the economic meltdown worldwide has adversely affected Nigeria â€™s economy, why are members of the executive and legislative arms of government at all levels spending (or rather wasting) money as if they have moneyâ€“ making machines in their bedrooms?
Why the lavish and expensive parties all over the place? Let us face it, Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s government, like all the ones that have emerged since 1970, with the possible exception of the Buhariâ€“Idiagbon regime, is irredeemably corrupt, and has no radical ideas and political will to deal with corruption among â€œthe high and mightyâ€.
Thus, unless there are visible concerted efforts by government to genuinely fight corruption in high places, unless we began to see frugality and prudence in the lifestyles of our political leaders, we can never accept that government does not have the financial wherewithal to implement agreements it reached with ASUU over the years.
The comments of government officials sometimes do not help in promoting expeditious and quick resolution of the strike problem.
For instance, it was reported that the chairperson of the senate committee on education, Joy Emordi, while commending the federal government for its â€œunderstanding in this matterâ€, stated that â€œit is unfortunate that the fate of our children is left to hang on the unpatriotic zeal of some individualsâ€.
In Nigeria , it appears that people lose the sense of decorum in speech when they assume public office either in the executive or the legislature. Power and easy access to a lot of cash make them uncouth and irresponsible in defending government against those they facetiously describe as disgruntled or unpatriotic elements.
Members of the ASUU negotiating team and majority of lecturers may be unpatriotic; but Emordi is not in a position to know this, because she has not investigated the issue properly.
However, I am sure that given the very fat salaries and allowances which members of the National Assembly collect every month, Emordi and her colleagues are in a much better position than most university lecturers, if the failing state called Nigeria collapses under the weight of its leadershipâ€“generated anomies, to relocate overseas or send their children to study in better funded and well-organized universities abroad.
Therefore, the logic of the current situation in Nigeria indicates that lecturers are more likely to be patriotic, in the real sense of that word, than senators and other â€œpigsâ€ in the Animal Farm called Nigeria . In fact, it would be interesting to compare the ratio of children of top government officials in institutions of higher learning abroad with that of lecturersâ€™ children.
I strongly suspect that the former would be higher, since the â€œpigsâ€ have the financial power to pay tuition fees and other â€œincidentalsâ€ required for university education in foreign institutions. Because top government officials benefit from the skewed emolument system in Nigeria , they do not really appreciate the daunting sacrifices lowly paid Nigerians, including lecturers make daily to keep things going.
If government officials are really serious about the negative impact of the current global economic situation on our fragile economy, why are they still collecting outrageous while at the same time calling for understanding by university teachers?
Why has President Yarâ€™Adua failed to trim down his overâ€“bloated cabinet? Why is Nigeria â€™s democracy still among the costliest, if not the costliest, in the world? The fact is that this government is not really serious about the improvement of education at all levels in the country.
If it were, then serious efforts should have been made to drastically reduce the cost of running the system by the â€œservantâ€“leaderâ€, Yarâ€™Adua, and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party.
There is no reason, apart from corruption and planlessness, why the federal government should not meet the 26 percent of budgetary allocation recommended by UNESCO for education. In the knowledge â€“ driven world in which we live presently, education is the most important ingredient for national development.