By Sunny Awhefeada
Our country has, before our very eyes, snowballed into something close to an irredeemable tragi- comedy. We are daily confronted with oddities which leave us astounded. Meaninglessness and chaos of tragic proportions have become our lot as we wallow in pity and looming danger. We have become so inured to pain, fear and ill-omen that we can now poke our fingers into fire not minding whether we will get burnt.
We seemed programmed for doom. Ours has become a country where illogically trounces logic and the bad subverts the good effortlessly as we spiral into the unfathomable. Many have framed the Nigerian narrative as that which was conditioned by a faulty foundation. Others think it is a leadership plague, while some think we are destined for perdition. Nothing seems to be adding up for our country.
We have simply gone bananas. The ruling class has demonstrated monumental incompetence, lack of patriotism and insensitivity which in saner climes should earn its members their turns at the gallows.
Nigeria is too well endowed to be subjected to the present ordeals. We are assailed and traumatized and there seems to be no indication that reprieve is at hand. We are just going round in cycles of pain and hopelessness.
The ongoing strike by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) speaks to the acute failure of Nigerian leadership deriving from lack of seminal patriotism and a deliberate attempt at nation-destruction by those who rule and ruin our country.
Education is globally considered as the premier growth driver as no nation can surpass her human capital. Whatever made The First World what it is today is the quantum focus given to its human capital which only good education could make possible. While leaders in other countries place premium on education, Nigerian dealer-leaders devalue and degrade it. Having destroyed the education fabric back home, the dealer-leaders send their children to choice universities abroad to acquire what they destroyed and took out of the reach of the hoi polloi here. As I write, public universities have been closed for five months, while children of Nigerian public office holders are graduating from universities across the world. The social media is always awash with pictures of children of the high and mighty graduating from foreign universities at this time of the year.
As the children of the downtrodden remain at home and groan due to the ongoing strike by university lecturers as a result government’s irresponsibility, the ruling class is playing the ostrich with uninterrupted focus on the politics of 2023 elections. For months, the aspirants wooed and toasted party delegates. None of them remembered that the universities have been closed down due to government’s failure.
They are junketing from one state to another and hopping from platform to platform canvassing for votes. Many of them purchased declaration of interest forms for as much as N100 million. They later embarked on a provocative buy-the-delegates spree which saw some of them spending as much as N20 million on each delegate. The delegates, whether they belong to the All Progressives Congress (APC) or the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) became the toast of the town owing to their new found financial fortune.
All of these went on despite the sad reality that our children who constitute nearly seventy percent of our demography and touted as leaders of tomorrow remain at home at the instance of government’s failure.
The tragic essence of our experience was to play out a few days ago when a short skit made the rounds in the social media. I chose to caption the skit “delegate tea vs. ASUU tea”. The words spoken by the speaker in Hausa were translated as follows: ”when you go to a tea seller (maishai) in Kano, he will ask you if you want him to mix delegate for you or ASUU.
If you say delegate, he will fry eggs, milk, coffee and all the goodies, but when you say you want ASUU, he will give you Lipton without anything!”. The sick joke which painfully attests to our sorry condition, elicited so much laughter in the background. What the joke points at is a future that is hanging in the balance as a result of the contest between politics and education, personal interest and collective good, greed and service. The joke speaks to the lean and unfortunate times education has fallen into in Nigeria.
Government at all levels will claim that there was no enough money to meet all sectorial needs. This is untrue. There is no enough money because those in government steal nearly everything so that what remains could hardly go round for the common good. A leading citizen recently said that the money stolen by just fifty people in Nigeria was enough to turn the country around.
The governor of one of the states considered most impoverished was accused of stealing N40 billion yet workers in the state were not paid for a year. Another state governor was seen wearing a wristwatch costing N450 million! Yet, government peddles the fib that there was no money to run the country. How come the other countries they send their children to have money to run well?
The analogy between delegate tea and ASUU tea should tug at the heart of any reasonable and sensitive citizen. The truth that government shies away from is that Nigerian university lecturers are the least paid in the world just as our universities are the most poorly funded.
Citizens must initiate actions that should compel children of political office holders to attend public universities in Nigeria. Such a policy should also compel them to patronize only public health care facilities. Only then can we begin to get things right. President Muhammadu Buhari most unpresidentially told ASUU that enough was enough in a manner that suggested that either the man was acutely insensitive or he was not alive to what is going on in the country.
Instead of Buhari asking ASUU to call off the strike, he should be sacking his Labour minister, Chris Ngige and his Education counterpart, Adamu Adamu, who have both shown that they are not capable and fit for the exalted offices they are occupying. For those who are giggling over the comparison between delegate tea and ASUU tea, they should realize that it is the future of Nigeria that is threatened. The earlier this is realized the better for us all.