Dear Eminent Nigerians,
I understand that the Pro-Chancellors and Chairmen of Councils as well as the Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Federal Universities have been invited to a special interactive meeting with the Honourable Minister of Education to discuss issues relating to the on-going face-off between the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). As a patriotic Nigerian, I feel constrained to write this short open letter to all the meeting attendees.
The issue of education in Nigeria should not be seen as being about ASUU or FGN but about the survival of Nigeria as a Nation. I implore our Pro-Chancellors and Vice-Chancellors to be patriotic and courageous enough to speak truth to power. You should stand up for what is right. The issue at hand should not be reduced to a fight between ASUU and FGN.
Nigeria belongs to all of us, and no Nigerian is more Nigerian than the other. A situation where people that are privileged to be in positions of authority see themselves as masters and others as slaves is not acceptable. The whole world knows that Nigeria is a blessed nation but if the elite in the society fail to champion the course of the less privileged and speak truth to power, our resources will continue to be tapped for the benefit of only a few.
A quick look at the number of student visas given to Nigerian nationals recently will, no doubt, reveal that all is not well with our educational system today. According to the Home Office figures, 8,384 and 65,929 Nigerian nationals were granted sponsored study visas in 2019 and 2022 respectively. This shows a rise of 57,545 in 2022 compared to 2019. The statistics displays the extent of damage that has been done to our country by just a few heartless politicians and government functionaries who, instead of facing the realities on ground, decide to personalise issues and manipulate things to their own advantage. They give the vulnerable public the impression that ASUU is the problem of the society. They pitch tent against ASUU, call university lecturers all kinds of names and blackmail them just to turn the society against ASUU. These people are not only mischievous, they are also sentimentally wicked and will not leave any stone unturned in their efforts to do things that will favour them and leave the country and the masses of the people impoverished.
I commend the courage demonstrated recently by the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council of the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), Amb.(Dr.) Godknows Boladei Igali OON, and other Nigerian Ex-Diplomats in their write-up London’s show of shame diminished Nigeria where they boldly frowned at the recklessness displayed by some Nigerian politicians and government officials.
Also, the courage displayed by the FGN Re-Negotiation Team led by Professor Emeritus Nimi Briggs in its advertorial of Monday 22nd August, 2022 in the Daily Sun A Plea Against Cynical Falsehood is highly commendable and testifies to the fact that people of integrity still abound in the country.
The foregoing acts of patriotism, courage, and selfless concern for the well-being of our great nation should not only be replicated but also emphasised at the proposed meeting of the Pro-Chancellors and Vice-Chancellors of Federal Universities scheduled for 6th September 2022. I believe this will not be a herculean task as Amb. (Dr.) Godknows Boladei Igali and Prof. Emeritus Nimi Briggs will also be participating in the meeting.
The attention of the whole world is now focused on what is going to be the outcome of the September 6th meeting and, by extrapolation, the role that the Pro-Chancellors and the Vice-Chancellors are going to play at the meeting.
As the elite of the society, you cannot afford to sit on the fence and refuse to champion the course of the masses of the people. You must all stand up, as one man, for what is right for our education in order that it might be repositioned to serve the purpose of producing the much-needed manpower for the nation. If you can achieve this, you would be laying a good example that would be replicated in other sectors of the society, and your names would be written in gold.
The nation is today standing at the crossroads, and at this critical juncture in the life of our country, we need people of courage, people who are selfless and ready to make sacrifices that will uncover and bring forth the fortunes of the nation for the common good. The battles for the survival of our educational system should not be left to be determined by the
contending forces (ASUU and FGN). Doing so will further worsen the crisis and have more debilitating impact on the mental wellbeing of both the students and their parents. The damage it will do to the nation will be incalculable that it is better imagined, now and in the long run.
Therefore, I enjoin you to view the September 6th meeting as a window of opportunity to take the bull by the horn and do the unusual. The opportunity must be seized NOW to build a legacy that will stand the test of time in order that your footprints might be left on the sands of time, and for this, posterity will never forget you.
However, if, by any act of omission or commission, you fail to do the needful and allow the status quo to remain, then history would smile at your affectation and posterity would not forgive you.
Yours sincerely and in the struggle for a better Nigeria,
B. O. Akinyele, PhD
Professor of Plant Breeding & Genetics,
The Federal University of Technology, Akure.