By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
It is not always a Minister opens his ministerial mouth to make policy pronouncements. So, once they do, we must take notice. Although I am a member of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), and a former branch secretary of the Union, it has been my opinion that Nigerian academics are in the wrong profession because they are always fighting for the improvement of a dying educational system. Instead of fighting for salary increase for academics, (for your information, a professor at the peak of his career does not take home as much as five hundred thousand monthly) they go into an amorphous fight for stabilization, visitation panel to universities, unique payroll system and other tangential issues that should really be the concern of government and Governing Councils to handle.
Is ASUU an extension of government? What is ASUU’s business if the federal universities crumble or if students have to be taught under trees or if laboratories are empty? Shouldn’t they find other jobs to do like farming or politics which even dim wits can do? These are some of the questions I have always asked myself! You know, even morons, nitwits, and empty headed fools can become political icons in our country. We know that to become an academic, you must have something upstairs to offer humanity. Why are these academics wasting time teaching in poorly-equipped institutions?
ASUU poked its rascally nose into funding universities and suggested the establishment of Education Trust Fund. What has happened to that Fund? A bureaucracy has been established to manage it and ASUU has no say on the subject. It has been cornered by a group of persons as their authentic farm from which they dispense largesse as they deem fit. Recently, the federal government announced that the funds will also be used to pay secondary school teachers! See what I mean? What can ASUU do? Nothing!
So, I was filled with infinite gusto, sadistic comeuppance and permanent joy when Minister of State for Education Hon Chukwuemeka Nwajuiba recently told off the rascally academics in ASUU to resign and take to farming instead of dictating terms of engagement to their employers. Ever since I was born over sixty years ago, I had never read any advice that was so ignorantly profound, prudently asinine, and inanely egalitarian as that offered by the very distinguished and Honourable Minister of State for Education, for whom I have the greatest respect! I am therefore going to extend the theoretical basis of the Minister’s profound inanity by making some radical suggestions to complement the Hon Minister’s resounding advice!
I suggest with great humility, seriousness and sober reflection that all federal universities should be converted to farmlands with effect from the Coronavirus year 2020! Indeed, the order should be retroactive. All Vice Chancellors should become Heads of Farmland. The departments should be given food and crop production targets. All academic staff and students should work as farmers for the next fifty years. The campuses should be leveled to ground-zero to give way for huge agricultural farms. All hardworking student farmers would then be awarded Bachelor of Science (Practical Agriculture) and be commissioned to start their own farms. There will be enough food for the country and for export too!
As part of the revolutionary changes in the universities, all academics should sign an undertaking of good behaviour henceforth. I do not see why lecturers who are paid salaries faithfully by a diligent federal government should dictate to government how they should be paid their salaries. He who pays the piper dictates the tune. ASUU should know this. They teach this to their students daily yet fail to see that they cannot dictate terms and conditions to their employers
As for students of universities and polytechnics, the time has come for them to pay for tuition while being taught how to farm. Indeed, no student should pay less than one million naira per semester. If they cannot afford it, they should be encouraged to do the hushpuppy type of business. You know, we can use the National Assembly to legalise hushpuppy business in Nigeria and produce fantastic billionaires within a few years. Who says that we cannot achieve it?
I remember one government that accused ASUU members of teaching what they were not paid to teach! You know, it was during the hotheaded days of socialist and Marxist nonsense on the campuses, with UNIFE and ABU leading the inglorious pack. That government showed ASUU pepper. Was it not the same government that boldly and dishonourably deported radical academic Dr. Patrick Wilmot from Zaria for teaching what he was not paid to teach? We will never forget though the same government has now been condemned to the dustbin of history! It seems as if this rascally union called ASUU always manages to rubbish governments. That is how they will withhold salaries for months, abuse ASUU officials and later pay all the arrears before ASUU members can resume work. ASUU must have been using juju and voodoo on government. You know, some academics concoct juju in the African Studies departments of the universities! Where is that Vice Chancellor who was an Ifa priest? I don’t know why government tolerated that kind of fetish practice in a citadel of learning! Indeed, we have a long way to go! I know some will argue that the only Nobel Prize that has come to Nigeria came through an avid admirer of the deity Ogun. That is neither here nor there. It was an accident of history. As an aside, I would like to add that that Nobel Prize Winner and the Ifa VC can enter places anywhere in the world where the Honorable Minister of State for Education cannot go near.
It is interesting to meet great politicians who after drinking the sweet palm wine of power manage to challenge, in the words of the very immortal Chinua Achebe, their chi to a wrestling match! And of course they expect to defeat the chi. Whether the Minister can defeat his chi, the men and women who taught him nonsense in a Nigerian university is a matter of time. We shall meet at the end of the strike when all academics will pick up their pens and chalk and work on the farm of knowledge with victory songs over a government that urges its best minds to return to agrarian activities!