- Nigerian government has been damned for issuing a directive to all heads of universities that it would apply no-work-no-pay rule. In this piece, an education rights campaigner of Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria, Kola Ibrahim, wondered why the rule should be applied to all lecturers who participated in the last warning strike, describing the rule as "condemnable" and "provocative."
It again knocks a big hole in the pretentious posture of the current administration as a pro-masses organization. For a government that claims to be pro-people to use this archaic and backward policy of union breaking against striking lecturers fighting for improved and cheap educational system and justice for their colleagues further shows the anti-worker and neo-liberal character of this government.
The lecturers under ASUU had embarked on a one-week warning strike to compel government to return to the round-table on the issue of retrenched UNILORIN lecturers who were sacked since 2002 – most of whom have been living in penury since.
It is instructive to state that the sacked lecturers met their unsolicited sabbatical when they participated in a national strike called by their parent body to compel the insensitive Obasanjo government to honour its agreement with ASUU on proper funding of education by at least 26% (as prescribed by UNESCO), improved salaries for lecturers and democratization of decision making in our ivory towers. It is noteworthy to state that practically none of these demands have been met, yet the lecturers that participated in the struggle are still made scapegoat goat for demanding better educational system.
It is morally debasing for the government to think of punishing lecturers for reminding it (the government) that some of their colleagues are still outside the system despite the fact that their traditional demands were not met or even attempt are being made to meet them.
To further show the neo-liberal pro-imperialism character of this government less than 8.5% of the budget was earmarked for education in the 2008 budget yet UNESCO prescribe a minimum of 26%. Yet, the same government could provide extra billions of naira for jumbo pay for political officers.
In fact, a significant part of the meagre education budget will be provided through loans especially from World Bank with its neo-liberal, obnoxious conditions such as usage of a large chunk of the budget for expatriate-oriented consultancy service and a deep cut in social service budget.
Already over N110 million was to be used in the education budget for AIDS campaign – that is to support the condom and contraceptive industries' campaign while over US $200 million will be borrowed from
World Bank to fund science and technology projects – mostly consultancy services. This simply means that the current government is least committed to education development and in fact human development; it will only continue the ruinous policy of the Obasanjo government – that is being a conduit pipe for imperialism.
In a country where less than 20% of the youth population is in school; where less than 3% of the tertiary aged-youth is in school and where virtually all facilities in schools have collapsed such that most of our post-graduate students seek visas in US and Europe before they can have meaningful research work; the present posture of the Yar'Adua government to ASUU demands is bemoaning.
Already, many of our institutions are increasing fees as a result of government's policy of under funding education while several school managements have to employ brute force in order to prevent students' protest against deteriorating living and studying conditions.
The case of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) where three students leaders were detained, thirteen others suspended indefinitely and the union purportedly and illegally proscribed over students' agitation for better welfare, easily comes to mind. The excuse by the government that the case of the UNILORIN lecturers is in court is ridiculous.
In the first instance, it was not the government that went to court, it was the lecturers after several years of waiting for evasive justice. If the government that claim to be abiding by rule of law has any dignity, it should immediate commend the effort of the lecturers for waiting so long and immediately reinstate them.
Moreover, going to court is a reflection of the failure of government to resolve basic issues; therefore the Yar'Adua government should bury its face in shame for using court case to deny the lecturers justice.
Furthermore, the government has lost virtually in all the stages of the case in question, why will government not accept defeat and recall these lecturers and wait for Supreme Court ruling.
While lecturers demanding properly funded, democratically run, cheap and affordable educational system are locked out of job, corrupt politicians who have looted the nation treasury dry, are allowed to walk free in
Aso Rock. It is pertinent to state that the same government that ask long suffering lecturers to wait ad infinitum for justice wait for no one to compensate the hatchet man who sent the lecturers to labour market – Prof Abdul Raheem Oba, who has been nominated by the Yar'Adua government for chairmanship of Federal Character Commission. This same man was to be given a ministerial post earlier save for the protest from the vigilant public.
The same "rule of law" government deem it fit to confer a national honour on erstwhile Vice Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University, Prof. Wale Omole who was fingered in the cult attack on students which led to the death of five students including the secretary of the union then, George Iwilade, on 10th July, 1999 among other atrocities including graft and highhandedness. At least that is a moral boost to the current management.
The real reason why government has failed to reabsorb the lecturers is that ASUU is seen as a radical union which needed to be killed if the anti-poor, neo-liberal education commercialization, cut in education funding and fee hike policies of the government is to see the light of the day in the educational sector. The Yar'Adua government want to provoke ASUU to a prolong strike so that the mood of the general public can be swayed against it and a final onslaught can be launched against it.
Furthermore, the commendation given to ruthless university administrators through awards and post is meant to embolden current school administrators to be more ruthless in attacking students' and workers' rights and for a ceaseless implementation of the neo-liberal policies in the education sector. The overall aim of this arrangement is to scare the working and toiling people away from challenging the present government I its attempt at implementing neo-liberal, IMF/World Bank-inspired policies of privatization, commercialization, liberalization, retrenchment, fuel price hike, etc.
This is why all working class and progressive organizations must condemn the government's posture towards ASUU strike. The blame of a prolonged strike should be placed at the door step of the Yar'Adua government.
However, the current situation calls for a working class solidarity, especially in the educational sector. The demands of ASUU are encompassing therefore, it must carry along all other unions both within the educational and non-educational institutions (especially the central labour unions) such as NUT, NASU, SSANU, COEASU, ASUP, NLC and TUC, the students' movement, among others on a collective demands for massive funding of education by at least 26%, democratization of decision making organs and processes in the education sector (involving all the workers' unions), adequate wages and working conditions for education workers, free, qualitative and functional education at all levels, among other demands.
Towards this end, there is need for a Education Stakeholders' Summit involving all the workers' unions in the education sector and students' movement. Such summit will carry the views of local branches to the national summit. This summit will analyzed all the problems facing education, chart the way out and draw out a collective plan of resisting government's neo-liberal onslaught on the educational system and workers' organizations.
Otherwise, each union will be gradually stiffen to death as was witnessed during the Thatcher years in Britain.
Conclusively, the working and toiling people must realise that the current Yar'Adua government, despite all its grandstanding cannot resolve any problem facing the masses. It is an offshoot and continuation of the old ruinous anti-poor, pro-rich government of Obasanjo. Save for its saint-like look, it will continue to serve the interest of the rich few in business and power while masses will be given doses of retrenchment, commercialization, fuel and electricity price hikes, suffering and misery.
Unless the working poor build a pan-Nigerian, radical working class political platform that will wrestle power from the corrupt political class and enthrone a government that will be committed to massive funding of free, qualitative and functional education system, free and efficient Medicare, massive expansion of public utilities – electricity, road network, housing, drainage system, tourism etc, adequate and secure job for all able bodied citizens with adequate and living wages and pensions, massive investment in cheap, efficient and environmental-friendly transport and communication system. None of the political class can undertake these if their profit-making system is to survive.
This is task before serious-minded and genuine labour and working class leaders.
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