By Adekunle Adekoya
THERE is a jamboree going on, and while people are staring with mouths agape at the spectacles of the jamboree, a tragedy is being wrought as well.
The jamboree going on is about the presidential ticket of the two leading parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
No less than 12 members of the APC have picked up nomination and expression of interest forms, for the hefty price of N100 million. On the PDP side, the price is much lower, N40 million, with about 15 of party men already showing interest. Some have paid up.
Wednesday was particularly interesting when as much as three presidential aspirants of the APC declared their bids in one day, at elaborate ceremonies in Abuja and Ikot-Ekpene. No qualms about that, some will say it’s democracy in action.
Indeed, top APC contender, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, said “the more, the merrier.” The windfall from the purchase of nomination forms was so alluring that the APC extended the deadline for sale of its forms. More money for the party. Good; campaigns and other things cost money.
While cheques for the princely sums of One Hundred Million Naira, and Forty Million Naira are being bought by “groups” of people for their chosen aspirants, a tragedy, as I noted earlier, is being wrought. That tragedy is about the youths of this country, their education, and their future.
Do our children matter to us as a collective? The power elite must answer this question because it is confounding that the nation is watching helplessly as ASUU and the Federal Government conspire by action and inaction to ruin the future of our youths in universities. The system is more or less comatose, especially as it concerns federal universities.
How can our politicians be flying agbadas all over the place while ASUU remains on strike? Is there no way government can meet ASUU halfway? Is there no concession that ASUU can make to get the system back on track?
Consider this: the university system was just settling down after the COVID-19 lock-downs of 2020 last year, and then this. Students admitted into four-year courses in 2019 already lost one year to COVID lock-down, and from the look of things, are set to lose another year. Is there no empathy for them and their parents by both ASUU and the Federal Government?
Even in government, there seems to be a lot of frustration and confusion over this strike.
Earlier in April, Labour Minister, Chris Ngige expressed his frustration with the entire saga, and asked ASUU to go and picket the Ministry of Education. His words: “As a conciliator, I have to make use of the labour instruments at my disposal. The bosses in the Federal Ministry of Education do not feel the strike.
“There are things that are above me. I am not Minister of Education. I cannot go to the Education Minister and dictate to him how to run his place. But I told ASUU that they should be bombarding them at the Federal Ministry of Education for this to be moved forward. There are many ways to do so.
“If you go to the Labour Act there is something called picketing. You can picket, strike is an ultimate thing. Picketing means that you can stay at the corridor, clapping or singing. Workers are permitted to do so.”
Ngige, tired of the whole thing has moved on and declared his presidential aspiration. See our life?
Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, speaking three days ago confounded the whole world when he said that nobody knows why ASUU is on strike. His words: “Why they (ASUU) have chosen to go on strike is something that neither you nor I can explain”, he told reporters. If a government minister in charge of education doesn’t know, who should know? Nwajiuba, who has since gone ahead to shell out N100 million for the APC presidential nomination form went ahead to contradict himself in the same conversation with newsmen. I quote:
“It is our duty as government to give life to those agreement which ASUU rightly seeks to make sure that the universities that the Federal Government owns are properly funded. The Federal Government’s funding is very limited and because of the additional challenges of security, it had to repeatedly borrow money to finance projects. This same borrowing is not available to build social infrastructure, it’s only available to build infrastructure that government can get return from, like railways.”
Read above again. We are in trouble, big trouble. Can we understand this man, aspiring to be our president, saying that building human resources is not as important as railways? Who will drive the trains? Who will manage the ticketing? Who will fuel them? In short, is it not human beings that will man the Nigerian Railways Corporation and other institutions?
Can a car be more important than the owner-driver? Aren’t the human resources of a country its most prized asset? If it is government’s duty to give life to the ASUU agreement, what is holding government? This month promises to be interesting as the body of students have vowed that there will be no presidential primaries if the strike is not resolved. We’re watching.