Since Nigeria’s independence in 1960, we have never witnessed such a long and suffocating strike as it is at the moment whereby public tertiary institutions are closed down and there isn’t any serious move by those concerned to avert it. In a space of two years, our universities have suffered unprecedented deterioration due to incessant industrial actions by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). Consequently, students are often condemned to stay at home. But this is what we get anytime we elect a leader that cares less about the education sector. The Ministers of Education and Labour, Adamu Adamu and Chris Ngige respectively, are even largely contributors to this age long industrial action. Despite a series of meetings held, nothing tangible has happened to facilitate the return of students to class. This is unarguably appalling.
The chairman of ASUU, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, recently revealed the lack of readiness by the Federal Government to yield to the demands of striking lecturers when he appeared on Channels TV. Osodeke slammed Adamu Adamu for misleading the public on the development, while accusing the Federal Government of insincerity in its dealing with the union. One then wonders whether this administration actually places a premium on the future of Nigerian students. The body language of the government is symptomatic of what these abandoned students have to contend with for years.
This is not to throw a jab at the Ministers of Labour and Education; unarguably, however, I am disturbed by the insouciant approach of the Federal Government to the situation that affects millions of young Nigerians. It is sad to stress that this unfortunate development has resulted in a lot of problems.
For instance, several Nigerians affected by the industrial action have been forced into activities that negatively affect society and their future. Because they say idle hands are susceptible to devilish errands, most students are now into internet fraud and other related engagements to the detriment of the country. This is in addition to the fact that some of these students, having stayed at home for long, have lost interest in education; thereby engaging in unprofitable endeavours.
It is necessary also to admit that the protracted strike translates to a waste of time; with students spending more time than necessary. And this puts them at a disadvantage. While their counterparts in private and state universities have seamlessly unhindered years to run and complete their programmes, students in federal-owned universities are trapped. Those who are supposed to be used as agents of innovation are abandoned to situations that delimit them. This is thoroughly depressing.
Moreover, the strike has a way it contributes to the debilitating nature of the Nigerian education system. Today, Nigerian lecturers seek opportunities outside the country to make their skills and knowledge relevant. There are cases of Nigerians in the medical fields going to countries abroad in search of better conditions. This is not too good for the country as it ultimately leads to shortage of competent lecturers in our various public tertiary institutions. Even if the industrial action is called off, the fact that it has forced competent Nigerians to opt out and lose confidence in the system remains a threat.
Finally, if the Federal Government cannot meet up with the demands of the union, at least it must identify with its clamour since it is in the best interest of public tertiary institutions. Both parties must forge a new mode of communication that recognises the yearnings of Nigerians. If it is done based on sincerity, the government might agree to attend to the demands of the union in batches. There is also the need for committed Ministers of Labour and Education, who can drive the government to do the needful. This is necessary to put the country on the path of steady development.