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How ASUU can reinvent itself, return to political past

Published by The Nation on Wed, 04 Dec 2019

A multilateral diplomat and former University of Lagos (UNILAG) teacher Dr Babafemi Badejo relives his union leadership days during the military regime and writes on how the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) can re-invent itself.November 26, 2019, was an important day for me. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) University of Lagos (UNILAG) Branch organised a day to appreciate the services of mainly past chairmen of the branch.Mrs Folashade Sikirat Akingbade, the surviving wife of my late comrade in the struggle against military dictatorships (Major-General Muhammadu Buhari and General Ibrahim Babangida), Prof. J. Funsho Akingbade, had invited me and Professors Akere, Kukoyi and Okusanya (Akingbades friends till the end), to join her in receiving a posthumous award in his name.My invitation did not come from ASUU UNILAG Branch. I believe it should have, for I was in the trenches with Prof. Akingbade in the period 1987-1993.I started as Assistant Secretary and almost immediately became Acting Secretary with Dr Olu Fadeyebi, who was the Secretary, departing for the United States. He felt hounded by the Buhari/Idiagbon dictatorship. Akingbade and I felt the same way.I remember my writing a press release against dictator Buharis policies for Akingbade to sign. He told me he would sign if I agreed that we would go to jail together. I had no problem in reminding him of my dedication to the struggle for a better Nigeria which started from my student days.Mrs Akingbade knew of my involvement with her husband as we avoided arrest and collaborated with the vibrant Nigeria Labour Congress that Hassan Sunmonu left for Ali Chiroma and then Pascal Bafyau and co.Adams Oshiomole, who recently said thieves would be forgiven if they joined the ruling party, was also part of this strong counter-weight to military rule.We provided intellectual support and they gave strength in numbers for strikes to change society and not just increase in wages. Late Mahmud Modibbo Tukur who was, if my memory is correct, very asthmatic but provided effective leadership at the national level for ASUU in struggles against policies by fiat like: IMF loan, Structural Adjustment Programme etc, as well as the democratisation of the polity.I dont remember details now, but he died in strange circumstances. No autopsy was carried out in respect for the Islamic injunction.I hasten to state that I penciled most of the caustic and fearless ASUU UNILAG branch press releases of that period. I remember one in which we warned the nation that Babangida overthrowing Buhari did not and could not bode well for Nigeria. Prof. Mustapha Danesi was then the Vice-Chairman of ASUU UNILAG branch and succeeded Akingbade.Read Also:ASUU, IPPIS and awkward governing cultureWe were more agile on a better and genuinely democratic Nigeria than focus on the restricted better emoluments for our members. We were criticised by our members for that posture on the betterment of the whole than parts of it. The succeeding leadership of Mustapha Danesi was better on realising some increments in negotiations for ASUU.The highlights of the award event were the title of the Symposium: Funding Public Education in a Neo-Colony: Imperatives for Nigerias Development and the choice of the two main speakers. Veteran ASUU leader, Prof. Omotoye Olorode and Femi Falana (SAN) did justice to the topic.Falana started by noting that one has to be free to challenge a neo-colony of the West. He noted that the West, using the World Bank and IMF, never left control of Nigeria.He pointed out that Pro-Chancellors Dr Wale Babalakin (SAN) and Dr Yemi Ogunbiyi are wrong in seeking the commercialisation of education at this stage of Nigerias development and recommended that ASUU researches where the funds to manage higher education in Nigeria could be found beyond the TETFUND cash cow.And on TETFUND, he stressed that ASUU needs to audit which companies are paying and how much.Falana argued that ASUU itself is in delusion when it suggests that 10 or 11 per cent goes into education. He claimed that what the President puts forth as national government budget is a microcosm of the reality because this budget does not capture the main revenue earner NNPC, the Central Bank with a trillion naira budget etc.He found it unconscionable that Nigerians allow this fraud to continue year-in-year-out. If the Central Bank has 10 per cent of whats meant for the entire nation and unaccounted for, how can ASUU agree that 10 per cent is going into Education'He stated that what the Nigerian policymakers are putting into education is less than .01per cent of the national budget which is a far cry from the UNESCO recommended 25per cent. It is best to read his entire paper.In effect, Falana is calling to question the relevance of ASUU in the major struggle against corruption and anti-democratic tendencies in todays Nigeria. To document and challenge the looting is to provide funds for the betterment of society to be led by at least 25 per cent allocation to education.I learnt many new words from Prof. Oloyede who largely agreed with Falana. For instance, he identified the Supranational Clergya group of individuals who had worked for the IMF and World Bank and well-socialised into undermining Nigerias development upon their resurfacing in national governance.In my days at the UN, in a private meeting, I listened to a British minister recalling how they foisted one such person on Nigeria and how it was paying off with the negotiations on Nigerias debt repayment.He suggested that these Supranational Clergy are now the ones pressuring their people to become slaves of the West. He also contributed the noun Donatus: people who steal our money and regularly donate pittance as corporate social responsibility.He traced how schools like Havard invested a long while ago in places like Africa and reaping returns and wondered where Nigerian Universities are expected to invest today, whether in India or China to gain returns for internally generated revenue. He asked about the percentage of Nigerians who can afford private universities that are operational today, including faith-based ones. He went back into history and pointed out how the earlier experiments at the commercialisation of agriculture at the University of Ife and how these efforts were choped by Nigerias past rogue leaders.Rounding up a rich going down the memory lane, Prof. Olorode called for organised political movements to resist the present rapacious stealing thats making it difficult to have qualitative higher education in Nigeria.I hastily surmise that ASUU needs to rebuild with other stakeholders for change. ASUU must return to its political past. It cannot afford to go to sleep and leave Nigeria in the hands of the alliance of thieves we call political parties.Finally, I am glad a patriot like Funsho Akingbade was remembered. He expressed regrets at the end of life. Analysing current Nigeria in one of our many dialogues, he asked me about what we struggled for' Of course, my situation became different as I opted, for 24 years of my life, to be a distant cousin of the Supranational Clergy by seeking peace in many parts of war-torn Africa under the auspices of the United Nations.
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