By Alexander O. Onukwue
The joke about the strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities is that, as a Nigerian student, it is Constitutional that you must experience ASUU’s compulsory course at least once in your academic adventure. The other joke, this time sport-related, is that, having occurred on a cycle of four years since 2009, the strike has become like the World Cup.
I have said that if, for each experience of the strike, one merited a medal, I must now be an accomplished triple gold-medalist. In that sense, not even Lionel Messi has earned as much success as I have in this peculiar sport of strikes.
But far from being amused, the news of this strike did its best to cough green phlegm into my teacup.
Apparently, while, on Saturday 12th August, my colleague from FUTO, Eze Amadi, was celebrating his orientation day at his new school in Yankee, and I was, in the company of nine friends, seeing off another older colleague who would be leaving for the same States for a Masters degree the following day, the ASUU people were in a meeting in which they would decide to embark on an indefinite strike from August 13. Thirteen: do I feel unlucky to still be here? Don’t console me.
To think that August 12 was International Youth day, supposedly for ruminating over and plotting the progress of young people, making sure they have all the resources at their disposal to achieve their potential, just makes it ironic. But let’s not lose track; the ASUU are hardly the bad guys here. There could be some element of unreasonableness about their demand that the Government pay up the full One Trillion, Three Hundred Billion Naira of the Public Universities Revitalization (Needs Assessment) fund; for this economy? Given the FGN-ASUU agreements were reached under the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua administration, and details refined and fixed under the six-month 2011 strike under Goodluck Jonathan tenure (which should have had all the money to fulfill the agreement if Alison-Madueke et al did not have banana-island appetites), it is a bit unfortunate that Buhari and Osinbajo have inherited the depressing burden.
But they knew what they were getting into, didn’t they? As part of the opposition, they taunted the Governments of the day for their passiveness and being responsible for the rot in the education sector, and for the delinquency that would result from a disorientated youth population. Now, under their watch, 34,000 students of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) who have been at home for over 15 months have now been joined by thousands of students from every University in the country, barring the University of Ilorin and a few others.
It is 100% their mess to clean, so they better not bring up the tiring “blame Jonathan” ploy.
But guess what? Even getting that out doesn’t make this any more bearable. Think about this: a strike that affected you in your first year of undergraduate studies, and prevented you from writing your final exams as at when due, has caught up with you in your MSc; where on earth does that happen?
For this our Nigeria.
Times like this evoke nothing but frustrating thoughts, perhaps except for the project student who still needed time to piece his ‘Chapter One’ together. But even she will realize, in due time, that this additional time is a Greek gift. The months between now and when this strike is called off could be the difference between still being eligible or not for the dream job that comes with the 26-year old maximum age limit for application.
On the other hand, it could be a Great gift for the next big thing on the entrepreneurial front, as my friend Martins ‘Mundus’ Uwakwe has pointed out in a facebook post. The Jobberman guys did it with the 2009 strike; CEO of Hotels.ng, Mark Essien, has put out a notice for those affected by the strike to apply to intern at his place and become “the best software developer you can be”.
It is so sad that this ASUU strike has assumed the status of an inglorious ritual, even if it is on a four-year interval. There will be costs to many of the students who will lose their momentum, and for parents too. And there will be consequences for the Government; it should not joke with the future of more than 70% of its population and expect to get away with it unscathed. But, there will also be time for taking cradle steps towards building crafts and careers to be cheered and celebrated in the not too distant future.
If you are young and gutted (as I am) by this latest lag, give your all to be among the members of the latter league.