By Ibrahim Bello-Kano
I think it’s time for academics in Nigeria to begin to rethink their role in the so-called Nigerian University System. Here are a few reasons for that contention.
(1). For years, our colleagues have accepted to do accreditation and resource verification duties for the National Universities Commission, (NUC) on a pittance payment, which, in addition, is never paid on time. Most of our colleagues here lack a deep sense of professional pride and are, thus, eager and willing to work for a pittance (even at the cost of their personal safety).
(2). Some of us think that the University System is patently ours, and does belongs to us, and should, therefore, work for it despite the penury. Perhaps that’s because we have come to be dependent on the system for our economic survival. Most lecturers live in university-provided quarters. This unsavoury parasitism has pervaded our professional life, even at the most UNconsious level.
(3). We need a fundamental rethink of large parts of our professional life such as the fanatical attachment to the basic functions of the university lecturer. For example, I’ve offended many colleagues for my lukewarm attitude towards, for example, attendance at, say, Senate and Congregation meetings. Many of our colleagues confuse the university workplace with their mother or first born!
(4). The old fixation with the revitalization of the system via funds from the government should go. For years, we confused the term “condition of service” with classroom furniture and ceiling fans, carpet in the HOD’S office or such cheap, ridiculous “furnishings” here and there. Now is the time to worry much more about our personal emoluments than fresh paint on walls and functioning light fittings in our offices or the electrics in the classroom.
(5). Notice that most parents of our students habitually keep aloof about our struggles and yet ASUU has been opposed to proposals to get students to pay tuition and other charges (cost sharing). We’re, by this stance, keeping ourselves in a quagmire hole: we can’t get the government to raise our salaries and yet we can’t accept that students pay more for their studies. What a performative contradictions on our part!
(6). We ourselves are probably our own worst enemy: we police the system rigorously even against our own enlightened self-interest. Here’s an example from my home university. Some selected scholars were asked by the General Studies unit to write book chapters for core GST courses. I submitted a draft on Philosophy and Logic and others did so on Use of English. The University Senate ruled against publishing the collection for students to buy the books. Yet, previous editions of the same books are being photocopied by students at the commercial shops in the university. The moral is that a photocopy shop has more right to make money than the contributors to a book meant to teach a core course! I suggested that the university authorities should publish the books and then donate them to the students. That, too, was rebuffed by our Senate-going colleagues, the supposed policemen of the system.
(7). Most of us university people are petty-minded and malicious when it comes to our enlightened self-interest. An example: colleagues who left the system for some time to take up high-paying jobs in the government routinely return to be the preferred candidates for appointment as VC at the expense of candidates who had given their youth and professional years to the university. Why is that? That must indicate a deep resentment against those poor colleagues who had devoted time and energy to sustaining the basics of the system. I think we hate ourselves so much that our colleagues in influential positions find it relatively easy to turn against us and the university system itself in the most dyspectic manner. Lecturers are, without a doubt, now glorified ‘almajiris’. We should thus blame both the government, especially the Buhari Administration, and ourselves.
(8). One way out of this situation is both to sustain the strike action until June 2023 AND abstain from taking part in any NUC and TETFUND activities. That way, we salvage our whittled professional pride and begin to rise above our usual petty greed and acceptance of petty allowances and payments from MDAs.
The author is a Professor of Literary Theory at the Department of English, Bayero University, Kano, (BUK)