Its time to Occupy ASUU.

Francis Ndimkoha
At first sight of the title, myriad questions inundate your mind.
Don’t begin by asking “why not occupy Federal Government?”. This movement cannot occupy both bodies as different entities. ASUU is actually an employee of Federal Government. Therefore in occupying ASUU, we shall occupy Federal Government.
Don’t begin by asking if I’m a Nigerian student; the current set of students must make way, if only my younger ones must go to school. 
Don’t ask me if I’m of NANS. Read on, and you will know why NANS can’t hold the forte any longer.
The most painful thing about the Nigerian Student is his laxity. They don’t give a damn about whatever goes wrong. They won’t speak and be heard. But if one of the oppressors decides suddenly to (re)contest for an elective office, they don’t mind going up in arms to support “our brother”. Yet the same Students cannot braze themselves, come together and Occupy ASUU for a few days and see why there won’t be a re-appraisal of the prevalent sorry situation.  
If only with the same vigour with which we poured out our hearts to our leaders during the recently observed 53rd Independence anniversary, we continue to speak on the unending impasse between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), we would have gathered a force capable of generating electricity.
Together, let’s say no to continued sit at home!
When our National Assembly members represent themselves in the fight for increase in the budget, just for their allowances, it pays-off.
When Ministries/Departments/and Agencies lobby for increased budgetary allocation, it pays-off.
Whenever the Presidency sends supplementary budget bills, they are quickly passed into law.
The Government only begins to pussy-foot, when it gets to the turn of ASUU.
Partly I blame the academia for the rot that has become the lot of the ivory tower.
The Executive Secretary of Nigerian Universities Commission is a Professor. Ministers upon ministers of Education have been chosen from the classroom. When they get in, they forget where they came from. When they are booted out, they yearn to return to the classroom, in readiness for another stint at federal appointment!
My heart goes out to the Nigerian student who has to explain to a prospective employer that the reason for putting-in 6years for a 4-year course was not “spill-over” brought about by failure, but that occasioned by ASUU strike.
My heart goes out to the Nigerian fresh graduate who suddenly realizes that by virtue of the delayed graduation, there may not be a vacancy in labour market, owing to the age-range of 21st global labour-market expectation for entry-level employees. Some employers stipulate you mustn’t be more than 25years before the end of the recruitment year. Now add the years of seeking for admission to the long years of ASUU- endorsed sit-at-home order. What you get is automatic “unemployability”. Yet, Its not as though there were enough jobs to go round for the ever increasing Nigerian Graduates; let alone when ASUU strike provides an excuse for employers.
The leadership of national Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has continually failed to live up to expectation. No one seems to know that they exist. The hottest part of hell, they say, is reserved for those who in the moment of crises choose to remain silent. All we’ve heard from them lately is that they are playing politics of impeachment. Again we heard them prattling about occupying private varsities as a possible solution to the problem, since they, the private varsities, now brag that their campuses are for those who want to graduate on time! That threat by NANS (if it can be so called), was dead on arrival. But of the plight of the Students whom they were (s)elected to represent, they have said so much of nothing. Silence is not always golden. Silence can be destructive. Silence is consent. 
If therefore NANS is silent, is it then true that ASUU is fighting for you? By demanding an unbudgeted 130 billion or is it 3 trillion in one fiscal year to the detriment of other sectors?
If NANS is silent, is it then true that the Federal Government is doing the right thing? By continually going into agreements that it never intends to keep? Now don’t tell me that the President that signed the agreement is dead because Dr. Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan was his able Vice President. And even if he wasn’t, the agreement was not entered in any other person’s name other than the Federal Government. Thus if he was quick to take over from the Late Yar’adua, he should be ready to quickly face headlong whatever his predecessor agreed in the name of the office he currently occupies. 
It may suffice here to say that NANS has sold out. At an annoyingly very cheap price!
Yet NANS must sit-up. But till they are ready to do so, we shall refuse acquiescenceas our only resort.
We are already used to the annual ritual otherwise called budget not being implemented up to 40% yearly, yet budgetary allocations are spent up to 150% and supplementary budget made, in the self same fiscal year!
What could be more than breaking agreements if laws like budget are so brazenly broken yearly, by the same people who swore to defend and uphold it?
We are aware of the SURE-P agreements. The fliers and beautiful handbooks are still with us. We have seen how very well it is being implemented. We also know that a few months after it started, Mr. President in his new style openly declared that the SURE-P, like the agreement it entered in 2009 with ASUU, cannot be fully implemented. I attended one of the sensitization workshops or was it town hall meeting?, hastily packaged to convince our dull brains that it’s all about us. I recall that during the workshop, those who asked questions were hand-picked, and already prepared questions given to them to read to the audience, thus the president’s representative didn’t have to task his brain for a perfect lie to tell. There was a ready-made lie waiting as supposed response to all the questions. I remember the episode even more clearly because one of the NANS representative chosen to read a prepared question could not read in a free-flowing way as to prove that the question was self-made. It was either the writing was not legible or yet another illiterate had been (s)elected to represent a more literate lot of undergraduates.
The NANS member who represented himself went further to laugh into the microphone, as though it wasn’t enough harm done to the elevated NANS position that he could not read the question he was paid ask!
The government is acclimatized to our fear of the unknown. They know that we know that things are going wrong on daily basis. They also know that we have failed to speak in harmony, thus won’t put up long enough to be a force. They know that we prefer to speak from our ethnic divides. They know that in response to this piece, they can pay a student who will convince me that it’s better to sit at home than for the Federal Government to grant our Universities “Autonomy without responsibility”; another to contend that I hate the face of Mr. President. And yet another to ask who made me a spokesman for the students?
 They know that for anything that goes wrong in the country, the people are to blame. Either they are labeled “opposition” or they are branded “ghosts”. Bottom-line is, for whatever goes wrong, the people are responsible; government is irresponsible.
Time has come for students to speak up bearing in mind that in our contemporary society, the blame for being half-baked often weighs on the bread, never on the baker or even on the bakery.
The time has come for those whose voice can be heard to lend a voice to the plight of the Nigerian students. If 10 percent of the attention given to the current crisis in the ruling party is given to the Nigerian students, someone would have thought it wise that the best place for the student is not at home but in class. But how will they show concern when their children and wards are in the best universities in other climes, being well groomed in readiness to come and continue to mislead and hoodwink us from the point their patriarchs stopped.
When this strike is called-off, the Universities will go into frenzy, and hastily “complete” the current academic session in order to avoid losing a complete session, according to the Nigerian Universities Commission’s guidelines. In doing so, no thought is spared if the students have learnt anything. What matters is that they are sent to the examination hall to “prove themselves” and later become preys on the beds of the lusty dons while the brown envelopes flood the dons’ famished table. 
These are the graduates that our ivory tower bequeaths unto the society. So, we know why the nation can’t bank on her graduates, don’t we? If you don’t have a good teacher, how can you be a good student? If you don’t have a dedicated and passionate lecturer, how can you soar? 
We know the scars of passing through a University without infrastructure.  We know how it feels to read a language course for 4-years without ever seeing the 4-walls of a language lab, for example. These facts live with us. We know that the government has not lived up to expectation in terms of funding. We also know that University generates revenue internally, which it never accounts for. If students can kill to be in the Student’s Union Government (S.U.G) for less than a year, then, there must be something in it! Else how does one explain the fact that the University always ensures that only the anointed candidate of the Vice Chancellor emerges the President of S.U.G? One who will look away when the rights of the students are infringed upon. One who will make do with whatever crumbs of the union funds is made available by the Vice Chancellor, as is the case in most institutions. Yet, none of these funds ever moulds a brick in the name of the Vice Chancellor.
Shall we talk about the funds accruing from the Honorary Doctorate Degrees sold to “well-meaning” Nigerians? What about Education Trust Fund (ETF) and TETFUND, PTDF contracts and many other Intervention funds? We all know that the University chooses which project to be done and in most cases, chooses the contractors (except of course when such is chosen from “above”) and monitors the projects as well signs the certificates of completion. Thus the University cannot be innocent of allegations of misappropriation of funds, just as they cannot evade a share in the rot that has befallen our Universities.
What about the novel idea of Post UTME introduced by Mrs. Chinwe Nora Obaji, while she held sway as Education Minister? It is also a huge source of revenue which the University never accounts for. All funds generated from the exercise go into its “logistics” and in most cases, the University funds go into it too. But we all know that the exercise has been abused. The universities, in most cases allow those who chose them as second choice University in their Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) to purchase the forms, yet they will deny them admission later, and it doesn’t matter if they performed better than those that chose the institution as their first choice. And as usual, there’s no refund of money after payment. In 2006, Universities were mandated to charge nothing more than a thousand naira for the screening. It was never adhered to. Those that claimed they had advertized their exorbitant charges before the directive came were further directed to refund the excess charges. A website was dedicated for this action, to enable candidates to fill-in their data and make their claims in uniform. Till date, nothing else was heard of the money. Thus when ASUU paints the Federal Government black, I see the kettle in ASUU laughing at their folly.   
There are even cases of Vice Chancellors who deduct staff salaries at source, and in various forms! Those who have dared to question such acts have often been made to face strict sanctions which include suspension or out-right dismissal. Thus, others learn to silently pray the tenure of the Vice Chancellor should hasten to an end, that they may heave a sigh of relief. Yet none of these law-breakers have been made to face the full wrath of the law. Sadly, they are also among those seeking for pay rise, so as to have more to deduct from their enthralled subordinates.
Therefore, while we call on Government to learn to keep to agreement, so that we, the governed can be able to defend them, if need be, we also call on the academia to teach the right thing, and to practice what they preach.
We have to arise now and Occupy ASUU.
We have to tell these employer and employee law-breakers that enough is enough.
We have to summon courage, take our stand and refuse to budge.
We must be ready to defend the sanctity of our citadel of learning.
We must remind ourselves that neither ASUU nor the Government spares a though for the students. ASUU is interest in more money as salaries, and more contracts as subventions and intervention funds. Else how can they explain the fact that the many strike actions of the past yielded nothing but pay rise?
On their part, the Federal Government is only interested in sparing some money for the “boys”. Elections are always at the corner, even immediately after an election year.
We must arise and speak in unison, even in our various Languages; for a common cause.
The time is now.
Back to school is the slogan
Occupy ASUU is the movement!
-Francis Ndimkoha
A budding writer and commentator.

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