By Akanimo Sampson
Academic activities in Nigeria’s public universities are likely to be shut down in the weeks ahead, if the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration of President Muhammadu Buhari fails to address concerns by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
Although ASUU has already tasked President Buhari to use education to solve poverty problem in the country, the erudite scholars have however, described the statement credited to the President, citing education as a way to end poverty, as a mere political statement.
ASUU Chairman at the University of Ibadan, Professor Deji Omole, said on Sunday in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital in Western Nigeria that Nigerians did not need the President to tell them what had been proven by serious countries as a way to edge out poverty.
The ASUU leader, who expressed pessimism about the ability of the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, to transform the education sector, pointed out that Adamu was not different from his employer.
While recalling that Adamu had promised to declare a state of emergency in the education sector but refused to live up to his words, Omole added, ‘’he is back to a familiar terrain; we are also in that same terrain. He spent more than three years in his first term and made so many political statements which were never implemented.
‘’This administration has demonstrated its hatred for education by constantly reducing the budgetary allocation to education. Most of their policies are anti-university. For example, in the University of Ibadan today, it’s almost impossible to recruit new workers; meanwhile, people are dying as a result of excessive workload and people are retiring and you are not employing new people.
‘’We all know, all developed nations have been able to solve their problems through education and that is why we have always been engaging different governments that the only antidote to poverty is putting adequate attention to educating the masses.’’
ASUU has been calling on governments at all levels to give priority attention to education, claiming that since the return of democracy in Nigeria 20 years ago, successive governments had merely paid lips service to the education sector.
The eggheads have been noting that as a result of this, most Nigerian universities were ordinary caricatures to what ideal universities should be, pointing out that the country’s budgets for education in the last five years at national, have not gone beyond eight per cent such that in 2018, the sector was given seven per cent which was a far cry from what Nigeria, according to ASUU, needs.
Though the union says that the Federal Government has not been doing much, the state governments, according to it, are even the worst culprits. ‘’The governors prefer awarding contracts in primaries and secondary schools rather than to pay counterpart fund to enable them access Universal Basic Education Commission funds. In 2017, a total of 17 states could not access their fund piling up in UBEC because they couldn’t pay their counterpart fund’’, the union said.
They have been arguing that if things must work, governments had to look into the education system and tackle the myriad of challenges plaguing the sector, insisting that numerous challenges bedeviling the country such as insecurity, unemployment, drug-related offences, cultism and other socio-economic cum political challenges were due to poor attention given to the education sector.