Worried by the deplorable condition of Nigeria’s education system, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on Monday called on the President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a state of emergency in the country’s education sector, saying until Nigeria’s education is fixed, “our problems may be multiplying.”
The National President of ASUU, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, who spoke to journalists at the end of the union’s National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the union, held at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), also decried the poor living condition of Nigerians which according to him is forcing citizens to flee the country.
The union leader lamented that the critical sectors of the Nigerian nation, including education, health and power, had continued to deteriorate on account of wanton corruption and the alleged deliberate mismanagement of the economy by an insensitive and reckless ruling class.
Ogunyemi, who was flanked by the ASUU-FUNAAB Chairman, Dr. Adebayo Oni and other union leaders also urged President Buhari to use the opportunity of the ongoing xenophobic attacks in South Africa to properly reposition and fix Nigeria.
The union said Nigerians would not be forced to join the increasing army of global migrants and wanderers in search of elusive greener pastures if their country was economically buoyant and politically stable.
The ASUU president noted that as the Federal Government begins the evacuation of Nigerians from South Africa in response to xenophobic attacks, adequate and sustainable welfare package should be activated for the evacuees.
He explained that with the increasing insecurity, mindless betrayal of the people’s trust by elected politicians, mass unemployment of the teeming youth, ethno-religious conflicts and rising cases of violent crimes and criminalities in the country, there are ominous signs of a failing Nigerian nation.
Ogunyemi submitted that if Nigerian leaders fix the country, the citizens would prefer to stay back and rather contribute their quota to its development.
He said, “We have the resources to compete and beat South Africa on any ground such that the respect would be mutual. But, today, they see us as dependent, inferior and people they could just discard with.
“If you go to South Africa universities, maybe 50 percent of their top notch scholars are people from Nigeria or tutored by Nigerians. The academic and intellectual community in South Africa respect Nigerians. But, when you now start to compete with their income section, there is bound to be conflict.
“If we fix our country, South Africa will respect us. We lost our respect the moment we can no longer cater for our citizens. Even if we bring back people from South Africa and we don’t have plans for them, they will still find a way of going back.
“ASUU believes that Nigeria is not inferior to any country in this world. What we only need to do is to get our acts right; fix our country, even leading countries in the Western world will respect us. We remain dependent and that is why we call Nigeria dependent peripheral rentier country. Nigeria operates at the fringes of global economy.
“If we have a country that does not respect his intellectual community, that country will never witness what we call transformation because education is the catalyst to development.”
He also condemned the move by the National Assembly to purchase exotic vehicles for Senators and House of Representatives members, describing it as insensitive and provocative.
Ogunyemi warned that if the nation’s leaders failed to find solution to the problems confronting the country, they risk being stoned by the citizens.
He said, “Nigerians have been subjected to decreasing infrastructural decay, abandoned educational institution and accumulation of months of unpaid salaries in many states and decrease in value of lives and properties.
“It is not only uncharitable that a government that is still footdragging in finalizing the framework for paying the minimum wage at a time our National Assembly is planning to spend billions of naira on the purchase of exotic luxury vehicles for themselves; it is not only uncharitable, it is inhuman.
“Over 70 percent of Nigerians could not afford a two square meal and we have a timid population that call themselves legislators and other categories of politicians. They move about in armoured cars against the needs at a time those who suffered under rain and under shine to put them in office are languishing in abject poverty.
“They are insensitive to the point that they are telling us they want to buy what they called exotic cars. It is provocative and at a time Nigerians become fully conscious, they would be stoned.
“A time will come that the rich would not be able to sleep when the poor are hungry. And that is what the Nigeria ruling class is not recognizing. We are in a pathetic situation; they don’t know the enormity of the war of revenge that awaits them. If they know, they will democratise education.”
He restated the commitment of ASUU to repositioning Nigerian universities for the radical transformation of the country.
“Towards this end, we call on all progress-loving workers, media practitioners, civil society organisations and friends of Nigeria to continue to support ASUU in our struggle for a transformative education for the betterment of Nigeria,” Ogunyemi added.