By Wole Balogun
I had it in mind to pen this write-up as the last of the series of my articles on the impasse between the President Mohammadu Buhari’s administration and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), after two almost consecutive ones had been written.
As a matter of fact, l had the intention to write this when it would be a week to the May 29 handover date if President Buhari were still allowing the callous withholding of the public varsities’ lecturers’ eight months’ salaries by then. I wanted to do this for two main reasons: One is to serve as the last reminder on the need for President Buhari to toe the path of humanity and grace by doing the needful and immediately order the payment of the callously and illegally withheld eight months salaries of the public varsities’ lecturers. And two, is for it to serve as my last patriotic intervention to save President Buhari from the daggers of history and posterity which would forever be drawn against him should he fail to heed the voice of reason and godliness and order full payment of the withheld lecturers’ salaries.
But the President’s apology from the blues neccessitated it now.
Indeed, the callous action of Mr. President and his leutenants in this inhuman game, to withhold the salaries, has inflicted untold hardship on the lecturers as well as unforgettable injury on their psyche to the point that while many of them have been disillussioned with the Job, others have fled the country for greener pastures abroad where their services as intellectuals, are well appreciated and rewarded.
It will interest the President to know that his action in this respect, has broken many homes of the hapless lecturers, left many of them dead, besides causing irreparable damage to the well-being of thousands of them. Such consequences cannot be accepted as punitive measures against the lecturers’ legitimate eight months’ industrial strike action embarked on to drive home their demands for which the FG had denied them fair treatment for over 13 years! Moreso that the strike action was pro-longed inevitably, by government’s non-challant attitude towards addressing it.
Many of the lecturers are still bogged down by financial constraints owing to huge debts they owed banks, cooperative societies, online banking apps, friends, families, acquintances, well- wishers and even enemies, with huge interests incurred!.
Many of the loans borrowed cannot be repaid in 10 years time! And they are being deducted from the paltry monthly pay the FG is currently paying these helpless varsity lecturers.
The most egregiuos of it all is the fact that the job for which these salaries are being withheld, has been done, with the students of the affected acadenic session already graduated.
But the President, goaded on by the insensitive labour and employment Minister, the dimunitively built Chris Ngige (who will definitely also get struck by the daggers of posterity) has remained adamant and hiding under the guise of unneccesary judicial excercise, and continue to inflict untold hardship on the lecturers in a most inhuman manner!
Pray! Does this President have a heart? Perhaps, that question has, in a way, been answered by the President himself when on Friday, in the spirit of Eid fitri, news broke that he apologised to Nigerians for ways his actions as President, might have hurt them!
This dramatic development must have shocked many but indeed, the President, an army General at heart like some would say, has apologised for hurting Nigerians or many Nigerians . This apology, indeed betrays the possibility that the President is not unaware that majority of Nigerians are angry at him for disappointing them on the promises he made about eight years ago which made them saw him as their Messiah. Yes, it is no news that majority of Nigerians are disappointed and are now counting the days for President Buhari to quit the stage and allow a fresh air on the country. To many, and particularly for the public varsities’ lecturers, whether they are members of ASUU or CONUA, their hope or is it renewed hope regarding the struggle, now lies with the in-coming administration and not the incumbent who has inadvertently allowed the worst to happen to our egg-heads in the public ivory towers!.
Mr. President, the wounds are very deep and deeply painful, very very hurting. It cannot be suddenly healed by mere apology which is indeed, an indirect admission of guilt. Do not continue to heed the wrong advices from either ignorant or deliberately wicked souls goading you to turn deaf ears to humane reasoning on this matter.
The best and most honourable decision to take now is to order immediate payment of the eight months withheld salaries without any strings attached. The pretence of continuing to thrust the hateful dagger deeper into the thin flesh of lecturers is needless now, with this admission of guilt. Apology is not enough, right action will be much appreciated and accepted, for posterity to jugde our incumbent President right. God bless President Buhari and Nigeria.
Balogun is a young Nigerian who is passionate about the project Nigeria. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.