So ASUU is on strike. Why? Nobody really knows, except that its hand is outstretched, it must be hustling for money again. ASUU as an institution has been very clear about one thing: It shuns respect. It just wants to be paid, respect be damned. And it wants to be paid a lot of money even though it is not clear why its membership should be paid anything without the guarantee of some form of accountability (no matter how rudimentary and primitive, you have to start from somewhere, alas). They argue quite eloquently that this is Nigeria, the customer is always wrong. I have good news for ASUU and its members: The world has changed and more and more people and institutions will begin to hold ASUU accountable.
By the way, this is not about individual members of ASUU, many of whom I admire individually as dedicated professionals. This is really about ASUU as an organization living on borrowed time and playing with our children's future. ASUU is seriously farting its way to glorious irrelevance. Nothing demonstrates it better than the quality of its "communiqu├ęs", "press releases" and similar articles of mediocrity that it has lovingly pasted on its pretend-website.. Reading the politico-babble of ASUU (what little I can understand, such intemperate incoherence) one imagines that ASUU is still being hijacked by people called "comrades" who are under the delusion that the Soviet Union still exists and Che Guevara is writing romantic manifestos from some foxhole in Cuba. ASUU's recommendations for solving what ails the educational system are alarming in how out of date they are. The language that ASUU employs is a throw-back to 60's and 70's Soviet era militancy when as youths, we wore berets, drank the cheapest beer in town (free!), and smoked anything that would light up. In those days, anyone that dared start a conversation that we didn't like was roughed up. Nothing has changed; well, except the world. The world has changed. Listening to the histrionics of ASUU you wouldn't know it. There is a joke that deep in Enugu's Milliken hills there is a pre-Biafra war family that refuses to come down to the plains - until the Biafran war is over. ASUU is at war with imaginary enemies and refuses to come down from its high horse until its war with itself is over. We may have to relent and give them whatever they are asking for ÔÇô gobs of useful US dollars. Maybe then they'll teach our children and free them to go to the next step in their life ÔÇô unemployed Nigerian graduates. ASUU has mastered a perverse form of bait and switch. In ASUU's parlance it is called kidnap and blackmail.
It bears stating: There is this arrogance that blinds our intellectual elite; in their darkness they are incapable of or allergic to deep honest introspection. Unfortunately for ASUU, advances in technology have torn down physical boundaries and handed us a mirror to look richly and long at our nakedness. We know what we see and it is not pretty. Everything else is called denial. We have to compete with the world or we die off. Maybe we are dead and we just don't know it yet. For one thing, It is obvious to everyone that ASUU's image needs an extreme makeover. ASUU's image is so bad, the Nigerian Police Force would win a popularity contest over ASUU. Now, that is pretty bad. Why is this so? The ASUU is no better than the reviled Nigerian Police Force. Like the individual policeman, the individual lecturer believes in the best things - for himself. She will not steal your thing, mba O, the pastor says it is a sin. However, he will steal the state blind and give the pastor some. There is good reason why ASUU is reviled by normally sane and decent people. ASUU is viewed as an arrogant, pompous and overbearing body of people who love the sound of their voice and who are under the clearly mistaken impression that the Nigerian people are similarly enamored of the hot air that ensues from their mouths. And so we endure reams of nonsense after nonsense. Enough already. ASUU should go buy a personality, an attractive one, that is, and go on a charm offensive. ASUU needs a PR consulting firm to soften its image. It just might work. Nothing is working for them right now.
ASUU just doesn't get it. Take their website, their only gateway to the world at http://www.asuunigeria.org/ . If my 11-year old child had put together that website, I would have accepted the product as age-appropriate. However, I would have gently dissuaded him from hosting it for the public's consumption. One of ASUU's supporters pompously averred that a website is not the only means of getting communications out to the world. Sure, what about smoke signals!? Try the talking drum. Wait, tie two empty Peak milk tins together and make a joyous noise onto the Lord! Incredible! In 2009! By the way, this inanity was brayed by a "scholar" who once observed that slavery does not exist in Africa because, get this, there is no African word for slavery. According to his HIStory books, the white man brought slavery to Africa. He also has suggested that gays and lesbians do not exist in Africa and has hinted darkly at what should be their fate should they be discovered existing. The good news is that his charlatanry is being practiced far away from Africa, here in America. I can also report gleefully that his scholarship is hundreds of miles away from where my children attend school. They are not at risk of ingesting his offerings. There must be a God. With friends like thatÔÇŽ and people wonder why ASUU is reeling from its wounds.
ASUU's dysfunction did not start yesterday, unless you are willing to re-write history. The dysfunction became magnified as resources dwindled and the Soviet style structure in place at the time started to creak and collapse under the weight of everybody's greed. It is a structural problem, largely out of the control of individual ASUU members; however this does not absolve the organization of responsibility in the penkelemesi that it finds itself. The consumer is always right. As a consumer, I paid "school fees" for relatives who graduated with nothing more than mere certificates. The government did not "teach" them. Former ASUU stalwarts, people like the current Minister for Education, Mr. Sam Egwu "taught" my relatives. Let's be frank, some of us regularly edit the works of recent Nigerian immigrants who are doing graduate work here in the West. The writing and the thinking are atrocious. It is getting to the point where I am seriously thinking about setting up business editing semi-illiterates' work for a profitable living. They came from ASUU's classrooms, these children. When ASUU refuses to accept responsibility for its actions, when will the problem be solved? The other day Professor I.N.C. Aniebo a professor of English, upon retirement, shared that he had not read any new literature in almost two decades. He complained, whined, wailed, no light, no bookshop, no car, no nothing! Meanwhile was he not graduating students with little or no training who would be dumped on the world? Was he not accepting his salary for almost 20 years? Please go and look at ASUU's website again and tell me why anyone should be hectored for refusing to accept such rank mediocrity? Why would I accept that Nigeria's university graduates are on the same par with a university graduate elsewhere when ASUU's website assures me that this is not the case? Have you been to a Nigerian university's website lately? Enough of the excuses and please go to work.
As I have shared elsewhere, ASUU's mediocrity does not extend to all its members. The sadness of it all is that we have some of the best scholars in the world trapped in that cesspool that ASUU insists on milking dry. Go to any of your friends in ASUU. When they are building their great personal websites and blogs and Facebook accounts, they do not let lack of light, plenty of armed robbers, too much generator noise, no new car, (whine! Whine! Whine!) stop them. When it comes to corporate good they start complaining. What is interesting is that when they relocate abroad as they always do, they become the paragon of efficiency. They will pee in their own living rooms, but then turn around and demand respect from the world. Some of our best minds have become hustlers angling after crumbs. They are now 20 percenters writing glowing blurbs for books that drunken illiterates would not pen elsewhere. It is a disgrace, period. We are either human beings or we are not. Let's stop pretending!
I have said it. Oya, sue me!