Students in higher institutions of learning, particularly those in public universities, had barely returned to school after the Yuletide break when signals emerged that their teachers, organised under the banner of Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, will drop the chalk and go on strike for the umpteenth time.

Reason for the strike, this time around, is that the Federal Government has not fulfilled its part of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) they signed more than 12 years ago in 2009. Coming so soon after a strike in 2020, which along with the COVID-19 lock-downs caused students to lose one year, not a few parents were anxious about the development.

Even the students themselves were worried, with many apprehensive that their four-year courses may stretch to six years or more.

Well, the strike is on. Not the real strike, mind you, but a warning strike, which was declared to last one month. As a result, many students are back home, to the chagrin of their parents and guardians.

After the warning strike, the strike “proper” will then begin, which we are told, may be indefinite.

Eminent Nigerians had waded in and implored ASUU not to go on strike, while also appealing to government to meet the teachers’ demands.

In a country where people devote a lot of time, resources and energy to matters of religion but are nevertheless not God-fearing, it is noteworthy that spirited interventions were made by the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council, NIREC, led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, and Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Rev. Supo Ayokunle.

The parents and students spared this round of agony and anxiety are those who can afford the fees charged by private universities at home here, and those whose children are schooling abroad. Note that “abroad” includes Benin Republic next door, Togo, Ghana, or even Mali.

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Meanwhile, officials of government whose duty it is to manage this crisis, in my opinion, are not tackling the issue with the seriousness I think it deserves.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, who was in Botswana for a conference said he is surprised ASUU is on strike, adding he thought that ASUU and their employer, the Federal Ministry of Education would have resolved the areas of disputes within days.

Ngige’s words: “I sincerely thought ASUU and the Ministry of Education would have resolved the issues, which hopefully are not major areas of dispute, warranting industrial action. To my surprise, I came back, and the strike is still on. Be that as it may, it is the mandate of my Ministry to apprehend industrial disputes wherever they occur and we have apprehended this.”

On his part, Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, last week absolved the Federal Government of blame over the on-going ASUU strike.

His words: “They submitted a draft agreement which the ministry is looking at. We want a peaceful resolution.

“The Federal Government is ready to meet them on all issues they have raised and if there are so many meetings and the gap is not closing, then, I think it’s not the fault of the government. There is a solution to this.

“The negotiations are the solution and that is why I’ve said that I’m surprised that ASUU has gone on strike.”

So who’s to blame? Me, and the rest of us who can’t afford private universities or tuition abroad, abi?

I will not bother about ASUU’s justifications, but suffice to remind all concerned, especially government, that they’re doing the country a great disservice.

In the first edition of this column this year, published Friday 7 January, I posed a rhetorical question: How much happiness in 2022? See how our pursuit of happiness is being impacted by what our leaders choose to do, or not to do? We’re in February and we started the year with ASUU strike, fuel scarcity, and power outage.

What would have happened to us by June? Students are even finding it difficult to come back home, no thanks to a self-inflicted tragedy which causes us to import fuel, as a result of which there is now scarcity of petrol. Many parts of the South-West, including Edo and Delta States have been without electricity supply for nearly a month since fire gutted some installations at a power station. I warned us all that we’re on our own, this being an electioneering year.

How to get elected or re-elected, and who is to get elected or re-elected is the only issue in the country now. Certainly not ASUU strike, not rampaging terrorists, or teenage ritualists. Not Un-gun Known Men (!), bandits, ISWAP, or Boko Haram. Not the rising cost of food items or transport fares. Not bad roads. In fact, there’s no time for all those “small things”.

Just caps atop agbadas flying all over the place, from one meeting to the other.

When Rome was burning, Nero was away in Antium, a coastal town.

Our leaders may be in Nigeria, but they don’t see what we see, or experience what we go through. Nigerians, you’re O-Y-O (On-Your-Own)!

Vanguard News Nigeria


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