Here’s what Prof. Abiodun said in an interview with ADELANI ADEPEGBA of Punch:
incessant is a reflection of the insensitivity of the political class. You don’t see reasonable unions like the Academic Staff Union of Universities just going on strike without making its case very clear.
At every point that we have had to go on strike, we would have written several letters. We would have made consultations, held meetings and sometimes, we would have published paid adverts to put our matter in the court of public opinion.
But because the political class does not see education as a priority, they would always ignore us.
Look at the history of Nigeria, there was a time when public primary and secondary schools were the toast of everybody. Consider the 1960s, 1970s, private schools were few and far between.
Most of us you see today attended public schools, but it became expedient for us, almost everybody in my generation, to start patronising private schools when it became evident that the political leaders over the time have neglected public primary and secondary schools.
What we see from the way Nigeria is going is that the political class in government is determined to destroy public universities and that is why ASUU is insisting that appropriate attention must be given to the public universities.
Each time we say that, it doesn’t mean we are not sensitive, it only means government should address the drift that may take public universities to the same level public primary and secondary schools have got to.
I don’t believe the government is helpless.
Some people would ask: is this the appropriate time to go on strike? There would never be an appropriate time.
When the economy was doing well in 2013, 2014 and even up to 2015, government didn’t implement the memorandum of understanding it reached with us. It was only when we insisted that enough was enough that they attempted to do what was proper.
As I talk to you, two of my children are in public universities. My predecessor in office has two children in public universities. We have our children in public universities, but if you talk of the political class, they can afford to advertise their children who are graduating from foreign universities on Facebook and other social media platforms.
Where would I get money to send my children to Cambridge or Oxford University? That is the question.
Is it now that the government is paying fractions of salaries that lecturers would afford to send their children to foreign universities?
The truth is that our focus should be on the ruling class, they are making everybody poor in order to continue to dominate us. The children of the rich get the best quality education to come back and dominate the children of the poor who are struggling to attend our underfunded, under-equipped, under-prepared educational institutions. So, we have to break that cycle.
This strike will end when government is ready to do the right thing as we spelt out during our engagement with the government at the National Assembly in November last year.