By Clement Kolawole PhD
I have read various comments on the failure of politicians, on why politics is a dirty game, why Nigeria has not developed as it should be because of politicians, why our education and judiciary have been bastardised and why our beloved union – ASUU – always has problems with successive governments because of its call for proper funding of education and particularly, public university system.
I have made many suggestions to myself, to a few who are close to me and sometimes in congress without much success. I have suggested that ASUU should adopt a school in each of the states and run it the way we believe that a school should be properly funded run so that it serves as a model to those who are in government and do what they like with the education system; I have also suggested that since nobody gives power, ASUU should found a political party and sponsor members into public offices such as counsellors, chairmen of local governments, states houses of assemblies, governors, national assembly and the presidency where such members can show good examples of how such public offices can be held in trust for the large members of the society and be properly run and I have also suggested that if it is challenging to form a political party and sponsor members into public offices, ASUU should then sponsor its members into elective offices using its numerical strength and intellectual ability across the cross and set a standard of performance for such members.
The central idea is to show that we are not just pontificating or complaining about the standard and quality of governance in our country but that we have what it takes to govern by example since example has been said to be better than precept.
Unfortunately, I have not been heard loudly enough by my colleagues for obvious reasons some of which are politics is a dirty game, we will do something soon and the belief that we can always make any government listen to us through strike actions which we have embarked upon on a countless number of times sometimes at the expense of our well-being, unmitigated risks to the lives of members who have to criss-cross the length and breadth of the country to attend meetings sometimes up to very late in the night and their personal comfort and the wellbeing of the entire members of the union.
On a few occasions, some of my friends have quickly cited the examples of some of our members (this does not mean that ASUU sent them) who went into public offices in the past and made a mess of not only themselves, but whatever they profess.
In spite of all these, however, I hold a very strong opinion that our salvation lies in our hands. I hold the opinion that the situation of things, particularly in the education sector will not get better in terms of poor funding, acute lack of infrastructure, poor patronage, poor linkage between the university system and industries and complete lack of inputs from the university system into governance in the country until ASUU, organises itself properly, actively participates in the governance of the country, be actively involved in the process of resource sharing/allocation into the various sectors of the economy and be present where the actions actually take place.
As I continue to hold on to the strong belief that the destiny of this country lies in our hands as members of the academia, an important development has come up to conform my long-held belief. It is this important development that prompted the writing of this piece, a piece which I believe will give a wider attention to my random musing and greave a wider platform for a thorough examination of the pros and cons of my long-held position.
I owe nobody any apologies for this position because our experience in the past in this country has confirmed irrefutably that our involvement in active and partisan politics is the surest bet and fastest way by which we can redirect the affairs of this country and govern it properly in the overall interest of our people, most of who are currently languishing now in the midst of plenty, some of which are being wasted.
Today, two governors – Prof Ben Ayade of Cross Rivers State and Prof Babagana Umara Zulum of Borno State – are our members, politicians and Nigerians in public office. I am aware of other professors, Josiah Olusegun Ajiboye, of TRCN, Ifeoma Isuigo-Abanihe of NABTEB, Isiaq Oloyede of JAMB, Abubakar Rasheed of NUC and Sulaiman Elias Bagoro of Tetfund and many others who are holding executive positions and are doing very well. I am not zeroing on them in this piece because they were appointed and have not been involved in the muddy water of politics of Nigeria.
I have decided to focus on these two Professor-politicians who are actively involved in party politics and are showing that politics can be used as a platform to serve the people. Information available to me on the two professor-governors is such that they are doing well in governance in their respective states, using the resources available to them in their states to improve the standard of living of their people and are working hard to improve the lots of their people.
They have an impressive standard of performance in office so far and they face the possibility of doing far much better, they have exhibited good conduct and are showing, by good leadership, how people in public office should live and serve.
We have heard of the efforts being made by Prof Zulum in trying to meet the needs of the people in IDP camps that litter his state because of the activities of Boko Haram, we have heard of the good testimony from his former boss, Mustapha Shettima who said he found virtues of excellency in Zulum and believed that he would serve his people well before he supported him to become the governor of Borno State.
We are aware of the way he challenged the soldiers who are maintaining security in his state and forced them to take the battle more forcefully into the enemy’s camp. We have also read about the giant strides he has made in the education sector by his personal visitation to schools to have an on the spot assessment and have seen him personally being involved in serving the people in the IDP camps.
Similarly, we have heard and seen the major industrial and agricultural revolution that Ayade has birthed in his state. It is on record today that the Cross Rivers State produces NYSC kits, produces rice seedlings that other states come to buy from the state and personally leads the efforts at repositioning his state.
It has been said that he pays the salaries of the civil servants in his state regularly and early enough to enable them to plan their families and lives. In fact, he pays civil servants’ salaries in advance during festivities. These two governors, who are Professors and ASUU members, out of the thirty-six that we have in the country, have proved themselves so far and have clearly shown that they understood their calling as first academics and second, politicians.
They have allowed the theories of development and governance they have been exposed to as academics have direct influence on their performance in public office and have shown that fine people can make a big difference in governance.
What now is the import of my writing so far? It is two-fold. One, to show that academics can be involved in partisan politics and should indeed be fully involved in order to use it to secure power that can be used to better the lots of the people for whom they have written, agitated, suffered and gone on strike several times without a solid achievement.
These two professor-governors should open our eyes to the reality that we cannot continue to agitate on the fringes as ASUU members as expect that the powers-that-be will listen to us and do out bidding by funding public education the way we expect the system to be funded.
The reasons for this is not far-fetched and it is that this power-that-be knows full well that as academics, we do not support the dictates of the World Bank and IMF that have been dictated the pattern of funding education in the country. Two, they know that they will have less to take when adequate attention is fully paid to education when they listen to our cry for improved funding of education and public universities where leaders of the country would be better prepared to confront them.
I want to believe that if both Ayade and Zulum are in positions where the funding of education and public universities is being discussed, they can easily relate to the issues that ASUU has focused on and make sure that the sector is given adequate attention to, at least, reduce the current challenge that the sector is facing.
In fact, ASUU should identify with them, celebrate them and encourage them to do much more. Identifying with them will give them a boast and a recognition that they are being appreciated for being worthy ambassadors.
Two, the presence of these two professors in active politics and governance confirm my belief that our destiny truly lies in our hands and it is about time we took concrete steps and move towards the possibility of doing any or a combination of the following things. One, use the resources and intellect available to it to identify members that can be sponsored for elective offices in the next dispensation in 2023, prepare them, sponsor them and ensure that it works very hard to make sure that they get elected to serve in various offices with the full mandate of the union.
Two, ASUU should identify a political party that it can direct its members that fully share it ideological disposition to join with as view to getting into power and using that to further its cause and interest in the governance of the country. We should stop deluding ourselves by believing that politicians will abandon their own and do the bidding of ASUU, a bidding which is directly opposite their pre-occupation.
Three, ASUU should use its members who are either elected or appointed into executive positions to canvass its interest as much as possible to ensure that some of the concerns it raises in funding education are properly addressed by them. For example, it is an ASUU member that is heading Tetfund, NUC and several other parastatals of the Federal Ministry of Education. The union should identify with them, work with them and ensure that the interest of the education system is fully served by them. In fact, the union should have a code of conduct for its members in any of these offices.
I like to conclude this piece by reminding my union – ASUU – that it has the number of people, it has the intellectual capacity to strategise and make things happen better in the education system if it looks beyond confronting sitting governments through strike actions and get fully committed to becoming active participants in the governing process. I make this conclusion because the government will not listen and when it listens, it will give pittance and promises that it will never fully implement.
The current strike action is a reminder of previous strike actions that have not fully produced what the union fought for. When we fully get involved, we would drive the system in the right direction and get values for ourselves and our teeming people who are daily being improvised. I wish Ayade and Zulum, two professor-governors a successful tenure of office and wish they continue to serve their people well. Aluta continua, victoria e certa.
Clement O. O. Kolawole, Ph.D
Professor, University of Ibadan
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