The Tide newspaper, Monday, October 7, 2019, carried a headline: Splinter Group Emerges in ASUU (P.16). Anybody who knows the antics of mischief makers would not find it difficult to understand that Nigeria has been under the spell of “spoilers” for quite a long time. Similarly anybody who has taken keen interest in crisis management strategies may have come across the local version of the “divide-and-rule strategy, called “Okamike factor”.
Current emergence of a splinter group among Nigerian university lecturers under the name “Congress of University Academics” (CONUA), had long been expected. What the wider public should be told is the operational strategy of paid agents who play the role of “spoilers”. Sponsorship of such groups can be traced to political authorities or the establishment. Their spoiling roles and activities cut across public establishments and labour unions.
An Association for Better Nigeria (ABN) emerged years ago as a countervailing force of extra-patriotic Nigerians. Members of that group were so patriotic that they spoiled the ambition of a Presidential aspirant whom they were paid to spoil. Their activities went further to plunge Nigeria into deeper political crisis and also resulted in the early death of a naïve female Justice who got involved in the spoiling game. Thanks to injection of military stratagem into civil politics!
Unknown to the Nigerian public, there emerged a voodoo system of crisis management, strongly consolidated via the use of a faceless cabal. Readers of this article would find it instructive to trace the whereabouts of the ABN voodoo master and his current state of health. Interview him if possible. The triumph of evil is usually short-lived and pyrrhic. So, let it be with Dr Faruk!
Of more concern to the reader is the pattern of selection of willing tools in the service of the cabal. There is a growing evidence of the stereotype about some ethnic groups being ready to sell their souls for money, becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy. When the spoiling virus found its way to a professor of virology for being responsible for the nation’s economic adversity by taking a cup of tea and gold wrist watch as a gift, keen watchers knew that the game was one-sided and political.
In the case of the university system, the game played out via Professor Ben Nwabueze’s theory of “Imperfect Obligation”, whose motive was to annul an agreement between ASUU and the Federal Government. A similar strategy of annulment of an election result via the ABN voodoo antics also succeeded. It was not an issue of concern that there arose divisions and animosities among lecturers, and a national crisis arising from arbitrary annulment of an election. What was important was momentary victory.
The use of willing tools and fifth columnists as spoilers goes with some reward, via unmerited promotions, political appointments or some other personal gains. In the case of universities, the spoiling game resulted in managing the institutions like fiefdoms and labour camps. This was followed by a system of witch hunt, ostensibly to root-out radicalism in the campuses. In the old Rivers State Unviersity of Science and Technology, team-spirit and collegiality were destroyed via the use of an “Integrity” group. A Vice-Chancellor would not have the courtesy of listening to any advice of older colleagues who taught him a few years ago.
There is no doubt that there was a deliberate process of installing the divide-and-rule strategy as an establishment practice. A vital part of its implementation included the use of “big stick” to make any recalcitrant radical to tow the establishment line. The strategy has continued to work, thanks to dealers and wheelers in compilation of secret personal dozzier. In the case of universities, some Vice-Chancellors used cultists and female church members to feed their personal computers with unverified information about staff who are not in their “good book”.
Obviously, any establishment managed through gossip peddling and boot-licking strategies would breed and encourage divisions and animosities among the staff. The role of politics in these malpractices is that those who engage in them are being rewarded for previous exploits, or do so with the hope to be rewarded thereafter. The over-all consequence is that efficiency and cooperation among a workforce become seriously undermined.
In the past 41 years of the existence of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), all internal crises have always had external political influences. It is quite sad that ethnic and religious influences can also create divisions among such enlightened workforce as the ASUU. Now even private universities are not immune from the spoiler virus.
While individuals may differ widely according to numerous factors, commitment and loyalty to the goals and objectives of the organization that an individual work for should not waver. But the spoiler virus destroys personal conviction and commitment, thus rendering the strategy of management by use of a cabal dangerous. Same strategy is playing out in Rivers State electoral matters, via the current AAC/APC/Army alliance.
Why nothing works out effectively in Nigeria is largely due to what a researcher described as “Okamike factor”. If an incompetent dabbler confronts you with a big stick and money and tells you that he knows and can perform better, what would you do? Fight him; go to court to challenge him, or resign your appointment? In the Nigerian experience, money being such a great soldier, would easily resolve the crisis. But the society pays a sad price for such gangsterist system of management of national affairs. This is exactly what had unwittingly been installed in Nigeria’s public establishments. It has evolved from mafia to cabal. It is not relenting or about to stop. Its sponsors are strong!
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
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