The spate of strike actions and labour disputes in our universities, polytechnics and other institutions of higher learning has reached an alarming proportion. These days, labour disputes appear to be the order of the day in our citadels of learning spread across the country. The frequency and regularity of these industrial actions has had negative impact on the tertiary institutions. It has also sent dangerous signals within and outside our shores about our universities and polytechnics.
It has become necessary to make an incursion into labour unrest in our institutions of higher learning. Currently, several unions in our tertiary institutions are involved in a face off with their employers over many burning issues. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU) are interlocked in a war of attrition with their employers. Their grievances range from non-payment of salaries, allowances, entitlements to non-provision of research grants and an enabling environment for learning in the citadels.
It is to be expected that in an environment of intellectual endeavour, there must be decorum and decency. Anything short of these values will impact negatively and dangerously on the business of learning and character moulding which are the primary purposes of our higher institutions.
Industrial instability and squabbles do not make our higher institutions the appropriate and cognate centres of learning and excellence which they ought to typify. On the contrary, industrial actions distract lectures, the school calendar and pro• grammes, and throw the students into confusion. Academic activities are disturbed, while programmes are abandoned. The students are thus unable to undergo the training, learning and lectures scheduled for the session.
The result is obvious. The tertiary institutions eventually turn out students and graduates who did not properly undertake and undergo the prograrnmes and studies designed for their courses. This gives way to the production of half baked graduates who lack self-confidence and courage, and who cannot compete favourably with their counterparts from other climes.
Strike actions should be a weapon of the last resort by labour. It should not be the primary objective of labour to confront their employers. No worthwhile benefit comes from an industrial crisis. It is with dialogue the stakeholders are able to reason together and embark upon a cross-fertilisation of ideas which will move our higher institutions forward.
It is conceded that a labourer deserves his wages. ASUU and NASU members deserve to be paid for work done. But these bodies must realize that they should limit their demands on the various governments to the financial abilities of the governments.
To demand from the government what she cannot afford is to open the floodgate to disharmony and strife in the institutions of higher learning.
ASUU and NASU must appreciate the existence of the global meltdown. Nigeria is not an island. She is part and parcel of what has become a global village. Our nation is not immune to the adversities of the meltdown. The demands of labour should be in line with the present economic reality. The arms of the government must not be tied by ASUU and NASU.
Again, Government has a very wide obligation. The obligations are to Nigerians as a whole. Government has the runs to provide infrastructural facilities for Nigerians. Our roads need maintenance, our hospitals need drugs, standard of living must be improved, our airports need to be upgraded to ensure safety and we have our international obligations as well.
ASUU and NASU are not the only stakeholders in the Nigerian project. Indeed, all Nigerians are stakeholders. No group, body or organisation should arrogate to itself any claim to special privileges and no organisation should hold the country down or to ransom simply because of some group interests. The nation must come first in everything we do. This is what the re-branding project encapsulates.
ASUU and NASU should understand that their strike actions often entail closure of our higher institutions with its attendant consequences. Students roam the streets. They remain idle and they fall into various temptations. Some of them resort to the new fad of kidnapping, either to make ends meet or occupy themselves. The daring among them go into armed robbery. Yet, others resort to all sorts of crime and deviant conduct because of their idleness.
Our undergraduates are our future leaders and our future hope. Since a lot is invested in their training, a lot is expected from them. ASUU and NASU must not cut this national dream short. The two bodies operate in a very sensitive and delicate environment and they should not allow their actions and inactions to jeopardise the interest of the nation.
The billions of naira which the government pumps into institutions of higher learning must not be allowed to go down the drain. Nigerians owe this country the duty to be patriotic and to think of the next generation.
Unrestrained strike actions in the citadels expose our country to ridicule internationally. It puts a question mark on the quality of our graduates. A strike action is not a weapon in the hands of labour to dare government. It is an instrument of last resort. It is when extensive and exhaustive dialogue has failed that the option of a strike action can come in.
As a matter of fact, in sensitive institutions as our universities and polytechnics, a strike action should be completely ruled out. It amounts to sabotage for NASU and ASUU to continuously distort our educational programmes in the citadels by calling out their members on strike. There should be a stop to this practice.
Okpala wrote from Lagos
Nigerians As Defeathered Chickens?
In a graphic demonstration of the fickleness of the human mind, Joseph Stalin (1878-1953), former leader of the defunct USSR, plucked off the feathers of a chicken and dropped bits of wheat towards it as he walked around his compound. The profusely haemorrhaging chicken followed Stalin everywhere, pecking on the wheat. Likening this coldhearted scenario to political engagement, Stalin said thus: “This is how easy it is to govern stupid people; they will follow you no matter how much pain you cause them as long as you throw them a little worthless treat once in a while”. This illustration speaks volubly to political leadership in Nigeria.
Chickens are easily frightened hence, in American parlance, lily-livered persons are referred to as “chickens”, and the act of withdrawing from a competition or likely brawl is referred to as “chickening out”. A defeathered chicken loses its bird essence; when bleeding, running becomes traumatic; with open pores, its susceptibility to disease is very high, thus accentuating its vulnerability. A defeathered chicken is therefore in a precarious state of being. For all intents and purposes, Nigerians have been defeathered since the abrogation of the Independence Constitution of 1960 and promulgation of Unification Decree of 1966. The Waterways Bill that is being surreptitiously pushed in the National Assembly will nail the coffin of Nigerians if it is passed into law.
Nigerians were “fully feathered flying fowls” under the Independence Constitution, which vested natural resources on the subnational governments; it was such that Nigeria recorded many “firsts” at the continental and global arenas. However, Nigerians were defeathered by the Unification Decree of 1966 and finally nailed by the Petroleum Decree of 1969, which divested the federating units and citizens of the right to their natural resources in favor of the Federal Government. These ill-informed acts of dictatorial lawgiving commenced Nigeria’s slip and slide down a slippery economic slope that slithered the nation into the current state of disarticulated private sector, consumer—nation status, dreadfully devalued currency, runaway inflation, ever-elongating unemployment line and the mocking moniker of poverty capital of the world—a scornful sobriquet that has erased the letters “g” and “i” from the erstwhile appellation “Giant” of Africa thereby turning Nigeria into “Ant” of Africa.
Recently, a sitting governor was quoted as saying that “Nigerians don’t have the capacity to unite because they are burdened by poverty. We have taken away from them their dignity, their self-esteem, their pride and self-worth so that they cannot even organise…We [the elite] unite; (the citizens are) already in hell”. This is a candid admission of elite class culpability regarding the deplorable economic state of affairs in Nigeria. In other words, this statement declares that it is the elite that have brought so much hardship in Nigerians. The truth remains that acrimonies amongst the elite are orchestrated to mislead the public. In reality, they are united in looting the nation’s wealth. They have weaponised poverty and kept the citizens weak, confused and, therefore, malleable.
Nigerians are profusely bleeding and perceptibly pained chickens; borrowing the words of Stalin, they have, arguably, become stupid people who have consistently followed their political leaders irrespective of how much pain is inflicted on them through public policies that serve only the purpose of the elites. A micro-minority lives in obscene opulence while the overwhelming majority languish in penury. The stupidity of Nigerians derives from their allowing themselves to be deceived into believing that ethnicity and religion are the dividing lines in the Nigerian socioeconomic space. Another strategy for defeathering Nigerians is the indigenisation/privatisation of government stake-holding in the economy, which was carefully crafted crookedly to benefit elites in the final analysis.
Given the above, Nigerians sadly continue to follow their Stalin-hearted leaders as they shamelessly shilly-shally across political party lines completely devoid of any philosophy or ideology other than the “I, me, mine” ethos that characterise political participation in Nigeria. Late Patrice Lumumba (1925-1961), once lamented that the problem with Africans is that they complain about bad leadership but when the opportunity comes for election, they still elect the same group of people. Also, Madibo Keita (1915-1977) averred that “when the citizens of a nation deem their most accomplished thieves as the most electable…theft becomes their national creed”. The full weight of these statements is still with us in Nigeria.
The first quarter of 2023 is around the corner. Sadly, at every level of government, pardoned convicts, “idiots” and “tribesmen” (in the Greek tradition) are jostling for public office without patriotic vision or record of service to the community. Rather, they are drumming up primordial sentiments and the tragedy is that hungry and unemployed people blindly support a dumb, numb and reckless elite class that is responsible for the pillage and wastage of Nigeria’s wealth; an elite fixated with maintaining the status quo to sustain their flamboyance, profligacy and obscene opulence.
In a rather surprising twist, President Buhari advised Nigerians to be introspective in the choice they make in the forthcoming elections; he emphasised that Nigerians should choose wisely. This implies being conscious of the fact that to elect a dishonest person is to put the treasures, future and posterity of the nation in jeopardy.
Finally, a Tik Tok video clip credited to Jolaosho Olaitan Ake presents a rather interesting scenario that is relevant to our chicken metaphor. The clip shows a little boy holding a sack that contains grains being chased around an enclosed compound by about fifty chickens. Crying and holding fast to the sack, the boy tried very hard to outrun the chickens but the chickens persisted until the boy dropped the sack and they settled down to a feast. It is my fervent prayer that before February 25, 2023, the millions of defeathered but enfranchised Nigerians have regrown their feathers and that they are resolute enough to teach the Joseph Stalins of Nigeria a political lesson that will positively change the narrative of Nigerian history.
By: Jason Osai
Osai is a university lecturer.
Nigeria In Need Of Pragmatic Radicalism
The development of any place results from the conscious and deliberate efforts of the citizenry. This definitely results from a number of conceived and sustained programmes of development that are well articulated which could lead to some form of economic, social, or cultural evolution that squares up with contemporary and rational ideals and settings. Nigeria, the self acclaimed giant of Africa at this stage of her life is in dire need of conspicuous positive growth. This being the case, the need to bring into focus the concept of pragmatic radicalism and egocentric rascality. Permit me to consider succinctly and appropriately each of the above concepts so as to bring out their bearings on national development positively or negatively.
Pragmatism: According to the New Lexicon Websters Dictionary, is a doctrine which tests truths by its practical consequences. While radicalism is the state or quality of being radical especially in politics, the doctrine or practices of radical, especially political radicals. Pragmatic radicalism, therefore, speaks in relation to public figures or political gladiators and the workability of ideals which will obviously have sane bearings tangentially on the contemporary realities as it relates to the standard of the citizenry while not being oblivious of the developments in the wider world. Series of actions, ideals and fundamental principles which promote the wellbeing of the country are adroitly and specifically considered. Such well adduced and contrived concepts must meet up with the world standard and acceptance. In the light of the above concepts, let me consider some seemingly pragmatic radicals who shaped the world.
Martin Luther; a notable radical in the 15th century protestant revolt carved a niche for himself. Precisely, in 1517 and unexpectedly, Martin Luther an Augustinian Monk and professor of sacred science worried and worked-up by some of the church’s fund-raising tactics poured forth his concern in 95 theses which he nailed to the door of court church at Wittenberg. Soon, these 95 theses were put in vernacular such that it floated around Europe and from soul to soul. Pretty soon, they were flaunting themselves in the farthermost reaches of Europe. What Luther had expected to be a conventional academic disputation surged over Europe in a torrential and far flung controversy. As it gathered force and momentum, it poured into the sea of an outright insurrection, sweeping with it not only the clergy but the laity as well and cleaving Christendom into a Protestant and Catholic spheres. Martin Luther championed the first massive movement in human accounts to have been fought with armament of the printed word. Again, it was Martin Luther who gave his followers the first satisfactory Bible. Prior to now, the Bible was only in the purview and the privilege of the so called ecclesiastical few who could interpret any how that suits them. Thanks to the radical stints of Martin Luther. What about Martin Luther King Junior, a black in USA who stood vehemently for equal rights for both whites and blacks? A pragmatic radical who fought and foresaw the day when one will not be judged by the colour of the skin but by the content of the mind. His action culminated into the first African-American President, Barack Obama, years later. Another port of call is the man Fidel Castro of Cuba. A real pragmatic radical who though the son of a high ranking man saw the need for growth of all especially the under privileged. He changed the status-quo and installed a system that promoted growth in the country along equal lines. Today, Cuba is noted for her multiplicity of medical doctors and technicians. Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain, the pragmatic radical that harnessed the world against the seemingly madness of Adolphus Hitler during the 2nd world war. Ordinarily, Britain was no match to Germany then but for the pragmatic dexterity of Winston Churchill. Napoleon Bonarparte of France, a man who nearly conquered the world but for the harsh winter in Russia that year. A man who propounded the philosophy that impossibility is only found in the dictionary of fools; also that there are no failures in the world, only men and women who do not know how to succeed.
Back home in Nigeria, let us consider some pragmatic radicals such as Pa Imoudu of Labour Movement, Dr. Nnandi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Prof. Dora Akunyili etc. Pa Imoudu happened to be a serious indefatigable labour union leader who fought and stood firm for the Nigerian Labour Union Movement. Hence, evolved the modern labour movement in Nigeria.
Dr. Nnandi Azikiwe, a radical politician who combined Journalism with politics to confront the colonial authority for the emancipation of Nigerian state. Zik as he was popularly called worked in concert with some others to wrestle Nigerian independence from Great Britain. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, another notable pragmatic radical of the Yoruba stalk can hardly be forgotten in the development of the western states and Nigeria. The pragmatic prowess of Awolowo brought the western states to the forefront of development in education and industry. Today, the western states are the most advanced in education. Thanks to the pragmatic resourcefulness of Pa Awolowo. Prof. Dora Akunyili, another notable pragmatic radical stamped her stand in the annals of time in Nigeria. As a Professor of Pharmacology, stood her ground in righting the wrongs in the pharmaceutical industry or sphere in the country during her time as NAFDAC boss. Not only that, she made sure that goods produced in the country and those imported into the country were subjected to serious quality control scrutiny to meet the required standard. With her stand for standard goods in Nigeria, there is serious improvement in goods produced in the country. Nigeria gradually ceases to be the dumping ground for sub-standard goods. Patriotism gradually becomes the household word in the country. Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the senior advocate for the masses as he was fondly called, cannot be discountenanced when one is chroniclining pragmatic radicals in Nigeria. This was a man who stood firm against successive administrations in Nigeria be it Military or Civilian. His resoluteness against ill-conceived and unpopular policies of government often made their viability short-lived and driven into oblivion. Nigeria is in need of these sort of men. A man that did not fear any form of incarceration provided he achieved what he foresaw would benefit humanity. Chief Gani Fawehinmi shunned all forms of political bigotry and egocentricism. May his great soul rest in peace. Egocentricism and Rascality: These essentially are negative traits that will definitely impede and stultify general growth against personal growth.
Sadam Hussein, an eccentric and egocentric rascal who was obsessed with his delusive rascal views, almost plunged the entire world into the 3rd world war in 1991. The invasion of Kuwait by Irag, despite the UN contrary views on the action. The impunity and delusion of this leader brought untold hardship to the people and the entire world especially people within the vicinity of Iraq and Kuwait.
By: Tanen Celestine
16 Days Of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence
November 25 marked the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which ends on International Human Rights Day, December 10.
As the U.S. Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a leader, and a woman, gender equality and women’s empowerment are causes that are near and dear to me. They are also priorities for the U.S. government at home and around the world.
President Joseph Biden has made gender equity and equality a cornerstone of his administration, with a first-ever national strategy to advance the rights and empowerment of women and girls.
The Department of State has an office dedicated to Global Women’s Issues and the United States globally contributes over $200million annually towards gender equity and equality programming.
In Nigeria, the U.S. Mission works to promote environments that support women’s economic success, to address challenges that hold women back, and to empower Nigerian women to do the same. Nations that have gender parity have greater economic and developmental growth, less conflict, and higher rates of literacy than those that do not.
Fundamentally, we see it as our duty – and that of everyone who seeks a just and equitable society – to ensure women and girls have opportunities not just to participate but also to lead in all aspects of life.
As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said earlier this year at our International Women’s Day gala, “Women for so long have been excluded and now we are slowly righting the wrongs of history.” The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s five-year plan, initiated in 2020, highlights gender inclusion as a cross-cutting issue required to achieve Nigeria’s development objectives. The strategy prioritises narrowing gender gaps and equalising access to health care, agriculture, education, economic empowerment, political participation, and peacebuilding.
Equitable treatment of women is something we can all agree on, and it is the underlying requirement for addressing gender-based violence (GBV). Last year, USAID promoted an integrated, comprehensive package of community interventions, including health and counselling services, to prevent and respond to GBV.
To decrease social tolerance for GBV, our partner Breakthrough Action – Nigeria (BA-N) delivered integrated messaging on GBV through mass media, community structures, and religious channels. BA-N also strengthened community volunteers’ skills to identify and refer GBV survivors to USAID-supported services, such as primary health facilities.
Simultaneously, activities such as the Integrated Health Program supported the Federal Ministry of Women’s Affairs to select national GBV indicators to increase GBV reporting across sectors. USAID supported the Federal Ministry of Health to adopt World Health Organization post-GBV clinical care guidelines.
United with the Nigerian government, the private sector, and civil society, we were able to simplify the most complex concepts of GBV, and thereby shape Nigeria’s National Strategic Health Development Plan II to better address this vital issue.
As Africa’s largest democracy, Nigeria sets the tone for the rest of the continent. Nigeria has done so much to advance women’s issues, including the passage of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act and the implementation of the National Gender Policy.
However, there are still many structural inequalities that impede women’s access to economic resources and opportunities and that hinder women’s full participation in society. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Index, Nigeria ranks 78th out of 156 countries in terms of economic opportunities for women.
Nigerian women’s full participation in public life is fundamental both to reducing their vulnerability to GBV and to sustaining Nigeria’s vibrant democracy. Yet, women and girls often face high barriers in electoral politics, governance, and peacebuilding.
Nigeria’s representation of women in state and national government stands at only four percent in elective office and 16percent in appointed positions. Women not only lack a platform, but their viewpoints are also excluded from the decision-making process.
The upcoming 2023 elections present a critical opportunity to include more women in leadership positions in government. Throughout this election season, Mission Nigeria will be working with local organisations specifically to reduce violence against women in politics and during the elections.
Together, we will work to strengthen the capacity of women’s groups to advocate for laws and policies that provide better protections for women. In return, we hope more women will run for office, join a campaign, or serve in the next administration.
Recognising the challenges women face, the United States will continue to support Nigerian women to realise greater productivity, economic diversification, and income equality. We will continue to push for full implementation and enforcement cooperation of laws and regulations already enacted, with emphasis on criminal accountability for those complicit in violations of the law.
And we will continue our long-standing partnership with the Nigerian government, the private sector, and civil society, to each do our part to build a more gender-inclusive society, where women and girls are not only safe from gender-based violence but can reach their full potential.
By: Mary Beth Leonard
Leonard, US ambassador to Nigeria, wrote from Abuja.
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