Throughout human history, functional Education has been touted as the most potent force of development. Statesmen like Nelson Mandela, Venerable Mahatma Ghandi, Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln in their leadership engagements have underscored the ability of Education to create a better world for all. Mandela, for instance, believed that “education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine; that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation.”
Similarly, Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Education means all-round drawing out of the best in child and man – body, mind and spirit.” As such, education becomes the basis of personality development on all dimensions – moral, mental and emotional.
In the same vein, the wartime president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, was highly conscious of the importance of education. His first political statement in 1832 emphasised education. He said it is the “most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in.”
Suffice it to mention the wartime prime minister of United Kingdom, Winston Churchill, who said education deserves close study because it shaped his evolution from unsteady boyhood to rational statesmanship. It was this education that enabled him to exercise discernment and discover what was advantageous and disadvantageous, just and unjust, so that—whether in peacetime or in war—he could demonstrate remarkable qualities and serve the country he loved. Against the backdrop of the foregoing, it is irresponsible for any governmemt to relegate Education on the priority of government.
On assumption of office in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari began to take some steps to restore the lost glory of Education in the country. Among his initiatives is ensured a greater proportion of expenditure on university education to help improve the sector. His administration also established at least six new universities of Science and Technology with satellite campuses in various states. This underscores Buhari’s unwaivering conviction in the power of Education to liberate from slavery, servitude and poverty.
This explains Buhari’s restlessness on the continued closure of the nation’s Ivory towers. Since the strike by the Academic Staff Union of the Nigerian University (ASUU) started, the president has thrown everything in the works to ensure that universities are not only reopened but the bone of contention behind the recurrent ASUU strikes is tackled once and for all.
The Buhari-led government is not against industrial actions by labour unions if they do desire. Far from it. However, issues must be treated on their merits. To begin with, against the prevailing notion by the NLC that governmemt wants to use security reports to trauncate it’s planned solidarity rally with ASUU, government is only worried that, against the backdrop of the tense security situation in the country, hoodlums might take advantage of such rallies to cause mayhem. Buhari’s government has demonstrated considerable tolerance for opposing views and constitutional avenues for ventilation of grievance’s. Buhari’s governmemt has been roundly commended by leaders of G7 countries, the United Nations, among others, in this regard.
The NLC should note that our security agencies are there to ensure potential troubles are nipped in the bud. The press statement in which the spokesman of the NLC insistef on going ahead with the planned rallies is regrettable. The essence of security reports is to avert colapse of law and order. These have been used in the past to avert imminent attacks on worship places, schools, market places etc. It is therefore disheartening for the NLC to insinuate that the security agencies wants to intimidate it from carrying out the planned rallies.
As important stakeholders in the Nigerian project, NLC should be seen to put Nigeria first. We can’t afford to politicise the issue of security by trivialising or carpeting intelligence reports from our revered security institutions that have been working round the clock to ensure the safety of citizens. It is due to the effort of the Intelligence community under the leadership of the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj Gen Babagana Monguno (rtd), that we no more witness the attacks on schools and abduction of students.
What if NLC goes ahead to with the planned rally and trouble brakes out? Has the NLC, what it takes to quell crisis? While NLC is insisting that it’s rallies have never degenerated into crisis before, it should note that Nigeria is in a trying times.
For the records, the contentious issues between ASUU and the federal government include delay in the release of the revitalisation fund for universities, adoption of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution as the preferred payment platform for the university system and the payment of earned academic allowances to lecturers.
These issues are germaine to the overall improvement of the educational system. Governmemt cannot be exenorated from blames for the rut in the country’s education system. Nevertheless, it should be placed on record that the agreement in dispute was entered into six clear years before Buhari assumed office in 2015. It is also important to note that those who entered into the agreement in 2009 didn’t do so with purity of motives. They signed the agreement knowing full well that they were not going to honour it. They did so with vested interest.
President Buhari only inherited complicated Educational system. Given the willingness of the Buhari government to make concessions, ASUU too should see reasons to shift grounds in the interest of our children, who have been home for five months already.
Besides, there is a clear link between students at home and insecurity. A time-tested saying has it that “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.” Many of our children have taken to crime because of prolonged stay out of school. We cannot expect to develop with our citadel of learning closed for as much as five months.
At this material time, rallies and protests are the least Nigeria need now. What is important is for the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Joint Action Committee, comprising the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Allied Institutions and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities to see reasons to government’s position and call off the strike.
Using the platform of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETfund), the Buhari-led government has touched education in too many ways. Because of the transparent management of resources available to TETfund, a visit to almost all public universities in the country today shows Buhari’s signature everywhere. Since TETfund was established, there has never been a government that has worked wonders with two percent accruing to the fund like the Buhari government.
Suffice it to delve into the core issue of IPPIS. The Initiative or insistence on government to enroll lecturers on its integrated payroll system is to manage the revenues. It is a Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA) that was introduced in 2015 which linked BVN to all accounts of federal civil service workers.
Through the implementation of PICA, the federal government has discovered about 54,000 ghost workers in the service’s payroll. The country saved about N200 billion through the process. That is why ASUU must appreciate the purity of government’s motives for the IPPIS. If the armed forces and other security agencies agreed to join IPPIS, one wonders why ASUU, which is an elite association, would continue to see things differently from government anti-corruption stand.
Come to think of it, no government can afford to sit and watch individuals take multiple salaries for themselves at the expense of the institutions and this country. IPPIS is responsible for processing and payment of salary to over 300,000 federal government employees across the 459 MDAs. Its aim is to enroll into the platform all ifederal government MDAs that draw personnel cost fund from the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
While ASUU is insisting it is its right to earn money during sabbatical leave, the federal government is insisting it can’t pay double salaries. My appeal is that we are not talking of who is right or wrong. For now, it is the interest of our children, who are languishing at home, first. Let’s sheathe our swords and get our kids back to school, as the rest of the world are watching us.
It doesn’t speak well of us to be toying with the future of our kids because of money. They are our future and tomorrow’s leaders of Nigeria. What lessons are we teaching them by closing universities for six months? ASUU, SSANU, NLC and other labour unions are all Nigerians and they are members of these unions because we are patriotic citizen. We are brothers, uncles, fathers, mothers and sisters. Let us show maturity in response to issues of grave national importance as great Nigerians. May God bless us all.
– Ibrahim is director, Communications and Strategic Planning, of the Presidential Support Committee (PSC).