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Bayelsa 2020: Who The Cap Might Not Fit

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Honourable Henry Seriake Dickson
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By Joshua Ebiegberi

On February 14, 2020, the only Valentine’s Day governor in Nigeria would bid farewell to the Creek Haven seat of power in Bayelsa State. That day, the Honourable Henry Seriake Dickson would have completed eight remarkable years as governor of the most riverine and deltaic state in Nigeria known as the Glory of All Lands.

Without doubt, the towering figure commonly called the Countriman Governor would be leaving not only very big shoes for his successor but also an oversized bowler hat.

Apart from his hugely successful and impactful developmental strides across the state, his oratorical prowess would also be difficult to match. 

The governor’s zeal and passion to change the narrative about the state has stood him out. Today, Bayelsa’s story is intertwined with that of a man who bestrode the state like a colossus; not only transforming it but equally changing the governance culture.

In every facet of the state, the Dickson imprint is indelible. The touch of the Ofurumapepe (the Great White Shark) can be felt even beyond the shores of the Jerusalem of the Ijaw Nation.

On November 16, 2019, Dickson’s successor would be elected, according to the timetable released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The expectation is that his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would again produce the next occupant of the iconic Governor’s Office he built. This expectation is consistent with the fact that the PDP had won every governorship election in the state since 1999 when the country returned to democratic rule. 

The governor’s sterling performance in office has made it even more difficult for any other political party to think about staging an upset in the November poll. This is regardless of the pretensions of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship aspirants, namely Chief Timipre Sylva (a former PDP governor of the state), and the immediate past Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri. The latter was also a PDP state and federal legislator. 

Already a titanic battle is brewing in the APC over the ambition of both aspirants. Interestingly, the duo, who were appointees of President Muhammadu Buhari, could not attract any significant project to the state throughout the president’s first term of four years. 

So, their ambition has a huge question mark hanging over it. With what are they going to campaign? Some others are asking what Sylva forgot in the Government House that he wants to reclaim when his five years as governor were marked by waste, lack of focus and below par performance.

In any case, the PDP governorship ticket appears more attractive. At the last count, no fewer than 15 individuals are said to have indicated interest to succeed the current occupant. 

The list includes a former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), retired federal Permanent Secretary and envoy, Ambassador Godknows Boladei Igali, a former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Chief Ndutimi Alaibe, a philanthropist and businessman, Chief Reuben Okoya, the current SSG, Mr. Kemela Okara, a lawyer and the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria governorship candidate in 2012 as well as the Chairman, Bayelsa State Board of Internal Revenue, Dr. Nimibofa Ayawei.

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Others are the immediate past Director-General, Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission, Dr. Franklin Osaisai, an oil magnate, Mr. Keniebi Okoko, a former chairman of the state PDP, Deacon James Dugo, Chief Great Joshua Maciver, a retired Permanent Secretary, ex-Director of Protocol and currently chairman of the state Land Use Allocation Committee, Mr. Joseph Akedesuo among others.

Several considerations will determine who eventually picks the single ticket. Chief among which is the input of the governor, who is the undisputed leader of the party in the state. Dickson has a firm and unshakable grip on the party with his influence and significance further boosted as chairman of the PDP Governors Forum. So his preference and support for any aspirant definitely carry a lot of weight.

Interestingly, this also comes with a burden, which he recognises. But he has elected to be a team player. He said he would toe the path of consulting other critical stakeholders in the state and the party, including former President Goodluck Jonathan, who he calls “my elder brother and leader.” 

According to him, the PDP candidate would not be the product of an imposition but rather would emerge through the right process of consensus and consultation.

His words: “I led the party (PDP) to victory against a vicious opposition. I can lead PDP to victory again. I have done it repeatedly.

“In the primary election, there will be no form of manipulation. People talking about manipulation are anticipating that they should be imposed. I am not going to impose any of them. Any of them who feels he has the capacity and experience should make his case before the party and the people of Bayelsa.

“I hope the right person with competence and capacity emerges to build on the foundation my team and I have laid over the past seven years plus. I have no doubt that the right person would emerge with my support.” 

The Jonathan factor is also being touted by those who think the former President can still pull the required strings to get his choice candidate to scale the hurdle. But at the moment, this could be a far-fetched expectation. Feelers within the state PDP indicate that the support and endorsement of the former president alone might no longer carry the expected weight. Jonathan’s taciturnity and aloofness towards affairs of the party in the state has largely whittled down his influence. In recent months, even his loyalty to the PDP and that of his foot soldiers has been called to question.

This insinuation was fuelled by the tacit support for candidates of the APC and the Action Democratic Congress (ADC) by his henchmen during the last general election. Most of his henchmen were said to have engaged in anti-party activities, particularly in his Ogbia local government area. As a consequence, aspirants like Alaibe and even Okoya, who are perceived to be banking on the Jonathan factor, could be left with the short end of the stick.

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Another topical but contentious issue is that of the zone that would produce the PDP candidate. The governorship slot has gone round the three senatorial districts at different times in the last 20 years under the PDP. The late Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, an indigene of Amassoma community in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, took the Bayelsa Central slot as the first elected governor of the state from 1999 to 2005. 

Bayelsa East has been more fortunate to produce two governors. Dr. Jonathan completed Alamieyeseigha’s tenure in 2007 and had picked the governorship ticket to start his own tenure before he was nominated as the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s running mate and eventually became Vice President. He is from Otuoke community in Ogbia Local Government Area. Sylva (from the same zone), an indigene of Okpoama in Brass Local Government Area, was then handed the PDP ticket and was governor from 2007 to 2012.

Dickson, from Toru-Orua in Sagbama Local Government Area under Bayelsa West, stepped in in February 2012. 

So which zone would be the next beneficiary? Many clamour that the fresh rotation should begin with Bayelsa Central having produced the first civilian governor in Alamieyeseigha but who didn’t complete his tenure. This agitation and expectation has resulted in a high number of aspirants from the zone indicating interest in the PDP ticket.

Two related political events might however scuttle the aspiration of some of the contenders from the zone. On June 6, 2019, Hon. Tonye Isenah was elected Speaker of the sixth session of the Bayelsa House of Assembly. He is a third term member representing Kolokuma/Opokuma Constituency 1. Kolokuma/Opokuma local government area is under the Central Zone.

On February 23, 2019, Douye Diri (then member representing Yenagoa/Kolokuma/Opokuma Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives) was elected senator representing the Central Senatorial District. He also hails from Kolokuma/Opokuma local government area. 

What is significant about these two events is that for the first time in the political history of the state, Kolokuma/Opokuma has produced the speaker of the assembly as well as the senator representing the zone at the same time.

This has however thrown up a fresh dynamics. Would the central zone and particularly Kolokuma/Opokuma still be justified to seek the governorship ticket of the party having produced the speaker and a senator? Would Bayelsa East in particular not feel shortchanged and alienated if the governorship eludes the zone? How would Bayelsa West take the political recalibration despite having the governorship slot for eight years?

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Importantly, what happens to the aspiration of the governorship aspirants from the central zone? The case of a serial contender like Alaibe, who is also from Kolokuma/Opokuma council, appears quite instructive. He is believed to have returned to the PDP with his eyes solely fixed on the governorship ticket. Would his aspiration be aborted or would he pursue it on another platform if the PDP door is again shut against him?

A political analyst described the election of Diri and Isenah as the masterstroke of highwire politics. The perceived frontrunners might have lost out even before the real contest began.

Regardless of the permutations, many Bayelsans are of the view that Dickson’s successor should be a focused politician or technocrat with a clear Ijawcentric agenda. The outgoing governor has so far left no one in doubt about his desire to promote the Ijaw culture, tradition and renaissance. He wholly epitomised it in his dress sense, which always stood him out as a proud Ijaw ambassador.

The governorship cap might also not fit those without any business interest or key stake in the state. Bayelsans are tired of mercenary politicians that appear only during election seasons. They beat a fast retreat once they are unable to achieve their aspiration and reappear the next election cycle to hoodwink the people again. Such politicians do not feel the pulse of the people they seek to represent or govern.

In this category are the itinerant politicians who change parties at the drop of a hat. They do not build their parties. Rather they are opportunists. Their singular aim is to occupy the Creek Haven but do not invest in the youths or women in the state.

Bayelsa does not also need anyone who thinks the governorship is his birthright. Such aspirants surreptitiously sponsor media campaigns to run down every sitting administration. If they are not the ones in the saddle, any other person is not good enough.

The man Bayelsa needs must have a clear blueprint on how to develop the state with well-articulated short, medium and long term goals and projection. Somebody who will create the required environment for jobs and positive engagement of the youths. 

Somebody who will further the exceptional legacies of the Dickson administration and not seek to destroy them. A team player and not a wheeler-dealer politician who will mortgage the state’s interest on the altar of personal aggrandisement.

The state no longer needs a governor that does not have a zero-tolerance to violent politics or cultism. Enough of the bloodshed arising from cult and gang rivalries. The streets of Yenagoa must not be allowed to be watered any longer with the blood of the youths whose patrons are politicians. 

*Ebiegberi, a public affairs analyst and political commentator, writes from Yenagoa, Bayelsa State

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Funeral Oration for John Chiahemen

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By Prof. Iyorwuese Hagher

My Lords Spiritual, the family of John Neji Chiahemen; Winnie Chiahemen, Children; Ide, Fanen, Mimi, and grandson Hemen. Tom Chiahemen his younger brother and the Nigerian Delegation; Senator Udo Udoma, Dr. Cletus Akwaya, Chief Tony Nnacheta, Prof. Gerald Igyor, Colleagues at Reuters, Our In-Laws from Kenya, Gentlemen of the Media, Fellow mourners.

Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am Ambassador Iyorwuese Hagher, a classmate of John Neji Chiahemen. We were born and nurtured in the same ethnic environment of Tivland in Central Nigeria and were the last generation of those born under the British Colony of Nigeria.

We were also the first generation of Nigerians with higher education to produce post-colonial manpower.

I wish to thank you all for the unique opportunity you have given, to pay the last respects to my friend. But I’m not here just to pay respect to my friend and compatriot.

I am here to also honor Africa’s best journalist, a leading Pan Africanist, a humanist and our hero.

Neji was born in Tse Ikponko and his parents nurtured him on the vibrant Tiv story telling tradition. This nurturing became the seeds of media practice in his young mind. But it was at the Provincial Secondary School Katsina-Ala that Neji first acquired the tools of journalism, and went on to perfect his style and brand as a global media mogul.

Katsina-Ala Provincial Secondary school was a vastly diverse community of various tribes and races. It was here that Neji’s character was fully developed. Unlike many people who embrace careers and destinies through accidents or later in life, Neji grew from being a child storyteller to becoming a journalist while yet in Secondary School where he was on the editorial board of the school student Newspaper “The Ferry Point” edited by Mr. Isaac Yongo, who was a senior student. Even though I was at Bristow, a missionary secondary school, we met often, specially during the holidays.

Neji was a straight A student, and was known for starting a reading Club with his friends. They read hundreds of novels, excelled in debates, and were the most brilliant. The club was also, dubbed, the mischief club in Philips house. They engaged in pranks against their senior students and teachers. They resisted the school fagging system. He was very practical and hands on personality. When everybody complained about the poor school diet, Neji did not complain. He cultivated vegetables behind his hostel and grew tomatoes which he supplied to other students and mixed these in the rice. He called these tomatoes “cheese”.

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Neji developed an independent mind and often went afoul of the military style- education foisted on them by a British retired army officer Clafton, the principal. This independence and resistant culture became a lifelong preoccupation to fight injustices in later life and to seek to expose them. Neji attended the All Girls Secondary School St. Louis Jos for his Higher School. He and

his classmates were the only males in the school. Neji was editor of the Lodestar School Newspaper. By attending an all-girls secondary school Neji assumed a comic and curious identity as an “old girl” of Saint Louis College. The alumni still refers to him as their late old girl alumnus. St. Louis taught the young Neji the significance of and respect for cultural, racial, ethnic and gender pluralism.

It was at Ahmadu Bello University that Neji and I became close friends. He had irrepressible charm. He exuded joy at all times. He had his nose in all happenings on campus and a breaking news mentality. He regaled us with witty, titillating and irreverent anecdotes about our hated professors. He was loyal and protective of his friends and favorite professors. He was master of words which he deployed strategically. Our campus life was intense but intellectually productive.

We joined the Anti-Apartheid movement and our heroes were Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. Mohammed Ali, and Samora Machel. We clapped, danced with joy and mimicked the fiery rhetorics of Samora Machel when he came to receive an honorary doctorate degree at ABU in 1972. It was Aluta continua all the way. We embraced the global movement for the emancipation of the black race, and advocated for the decolonization of imagination and consciousness.

While on a long holiday in Jos Neji got his first professional job as a part-time reporter with the Standard Newspaper. The Newspaper was the protest voice of the minorities of Northern Nigeria. Neji and I never called each other by our names. Since I was older than him, I assumed senior brother status. He deferred to me and called me “Orvesen na jim jim”, Meaning my real leader and I in turn also called him by the same nickname “Orvesen na jim jim” my real leader, because he was an intellectual giant, a veritable encyclopedia with vast knowledge about everything.

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After graduation I unsuccessfully tried to prevail on him to accept the academic position that was offered to him in the political science department of the university. He rejected the offer with hilarious contempt. “No Thanks. I would rather go out of the sheltered campus and see the world” he told me. And saw the World he did plentifully, traveling and working through the whole world, seeing the world and the world seeing him. I stayed back on campus to teach and research till I left and joined politics. He applauded me.

Neji encouraged me in my academic and literary writings and took two copies of all my published books for himself and Mimi his daughter. I remember the time I went to do research at the University of Nairobi. When Neji returned to Nairobi and found me at the Nairobi Hilton, he went to check me out of the hotel and took me to his home. I stayed with him and Winnie his newly married wife for the rest of my stay in Kenya. I was meeting Winnie for the first time. Winnie was then and now a beautiful, kind and generous soul. They were a perfect couple meant for each other. Neji made me see a beautiful Kenya through his eyes – a sprawling historical entity, diversely rich and struggling to overturn its internal contradictions- like most of post-colonial Africa.

A few months before his demise, he rushed to me his first major published book “One Market: the making of the inaugural Intra-African trade fair.”

In his endorsement of the book he wrote, “Orvesen na jim jim Exclusive copy of the book for Orvesen na” “Enjoy.” Neji I enjoyed your book. It is a masterpiece and a befitting parting gift

to your beloved Africa. It is a major legacy that summarizes your outlook and mission for Africa’s economic liberation from Neo-colonialism. You left us your vision of a united Africa, as a public intellectual and relentless crusader for global social justice. Your dream and belief in an Africa that could once again attain greatness through its drive to reverse engineer the continent, through integration and inter-regional trade, cannot die. It is an idea whose time has come.

Neji lived a beautiful life, a firmly planted life of serving others. He chose his vocation from childhood as a storyteller, and media practitioner par-excellence. Everywhere he went, he broke the news with zest. In his career at the Nigerian Television Authority, he dominated the news through innovation, energy, and uncommon insights. He was an uncommon man. He was a courageous Tiv man, and Pan Africanist, who sought to present the truth at all costs. Many times he put himself in harm’s way in search of reality and this truth. Everywhere in Africa where the leadership was unwilling to develop their countries Neji faced existential threats. But he was undaunted.

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Neji attained greatness not just because he was the best in his profession, he attained greatness by the measure of courage, generosity, competence, humility, politeness, and the manner in which he treated everybody with respect. He pursued excellence in everything he did. He loved his friends and family and was very loyal to them. He was a trailblazer, and role model and lived the best of himself. I will miss those special days he breezed into Abuja and we sat alone and laughed at the foibles of the world. Our world.

Neji was totally devoid of jealousy, guile, and malice. He laughed at the world, and at circumstances he found himself in, even when he was treated unjustly by others who used their power of riches and influence. He never dwelt on injustices to himself. He never spoke bad of other people. I and many of John’s friends will miss him in diverse ways. All of his friends were special people to him. He was a celebrity who treated all of us also like celebrities. Life with Neji was to be enmeshed in affection and moral joy.

He defined his life with generosity and service. Neji, to paraphrase Helen Keller, “made the light in other peoples eyes his sun, the music in other’s ears his symphony and the smile on other lips his happiness.” He never trumpeted “who” he was but “whose” he was, and we knew he meant he belonged to us, family friends, Tivland, Nigeria and Africa!

My friend and brother Neji the Bible in Ecclesiasticles 3 vs 1. says “To everything, there is a season. A time for every purpose under the heavens” You fought a good fight. You deserve the crown of glory. It is time to say goodnight. God bless your soul till we meet again in heaven.

A Funeral Oration By Professor Iyorwuese Hagher, Nigeria’s Former Ambassador to Canada and Mexico at the Funeral of John Neji Chiahemen In Johannesburg, South Africa Sept.15, 2022

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Tribute to my Friend, John Neji Chiahemen

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 By Udoma Udo Udoma

It is with sorrowful spirit that I stand here to say farewell to my good friend, John Neji Chiahemen.

Indeed, since the announcement by the family that John passed away there has been an outpouring of tributes from many friends and professional colleagues, from different parts of the world. There was also one from the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari.

There is no doubt that John made an impact. He was a pioneer and pace setter in television and print journalism, and in the media generally, and was admired for his brilliance and commitment to excellence and to the highest international standards in whatever he did.

I cannot recall exactly when I first met John, but he came to my attention through a weekly programme he anchored on NTA called ‘Newsweek’. This was the late 1970’s and the early 1980’s and I had just come back to Nigeria after my university education in the U.

K. It was a time of great optimism in Nigeria. We had just put the costly civil war behind us and were flush with oil money. The programmme was further evidence that we were now ready to compete with the best that was on offer anywhere in the world. I never missed the programme and recall remarking to many of my friends that Newsweek was comparable to the best that the BBC and ITN were then offering in quality, content and boldness. It was able to x-ray developments in the country without sparing our leaders from scrutiny.

However, John’s frank and bold analysis and presentations started causing unease amongst the politicians. Matters came to a head when, in 1983, the Shagari Administration removed the highly respected and professional Director General of the NTA, Vincent Maduka, who had been one of John’s protectors, and redeployed him to be an adviser on ‘’frequency allocation” at the Ministry of Communications! A party stalwart was appointed to replace Maduka. The NTA was converted into the political machinery of the ruling party, the NPN, and quickly lost credibility.  An election monitoring programme, which John anchored, called ‘Verdict 83’, was so manipulated by the new authorities that it started being referred to by the populace as ‘VOID 83’.

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It was clear to John that his days at the NTA were numbered and he had to get out. Relief came by way of an offer from the international news agency, Reuters, as their first African correspondent based in Lagos. Nigeria’s loss was Africa and the World’s gain as John did exceptionally well serving Reuters throughout Africa, and beyond. After an impressive career in Reuters, he retired in 2009 as bureau chief for Southern Africa based in Johannesburg.

By the time he retired from Reuters he had become one of the best-known journalists on the continent and was in high demand as a consultant. Amongst other things he played a role in getting Arise Television off the ground. One of his last undertakings was a publication sponsored by Afreximbank which documented the history of the inaugural Intra-African Trade Fair. Afreximbank organized the Trade Fair in order to promote connectivity amongst African countries through expanded access to trade information and to create a platform for interactions amongst African businesses. John succeeded in completing the publication before he fell seriously ill and sent me a copy. I was most impressed by the extremely high quality of the production. The theme of the book is particularly reflective of John’s belief and commitment to the greater integration and development of the African continent. John’s dream was of a highly developed Africa that would take its rightful place in the World.

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Even though I am a few years younger than John, he always treated me as a mate. We enjoyed each other’s company. No matter where in the world John was (and he was very widely travelled) he always remembered to call me for a catch-up conversation on the political and economic situation in Africa, and in the world, as a whole. As a journalist he was abreast of the latest developments and was extremely well informed. I remember one conversation, when, to my surprise, he informed me that he was in Darfur, trying to make sense of yet another African conflict of brother fighting brother. And since, at that time, he had retired from Reuters I could not understand why he was still drawn to African trouble spots!

I recall the many enjoyable times we had together in Paris, in Abidjan, in London, in Lagos, in Abuja and in Johannesburg. In particular, I remember our memorable trip to visit John in Abidjan when, accompanied by his wife, Chizi, John drove my wife, Sally, and I to see the impressive Basilica of our Lady of Peace, Catholic Cathedral in Yamoussoukro.

John was also my tennis partner. Anytime we caught up with each other we invariably had a game of tennis. We did not mind that our standard of play was not of the highest because we were more interested in the conversation as well as the nice glass of wine that followed our games! And we certainly had lengthy and interesting conversations. I will miss the very many good times we had together.

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When I think of John, I think of a very gifted man, with sharp intellect and with keen powers of observation and analysis. I think of a man of integrity and with a self-deprecating sense of humour. Many who worked with him at NTA, at Reuters and the various other organisations with which he was associated, have attested to his professionalism, his leadership qualities, his humanity, his kindness, and his humility and, most importantly his commitment to excellence.

John was also a family man. He was devoted to his wife, Chizi, and to his children, Ide, Fanen and Mimi and the latest addition to the family, his grandson, Finley.  

On behalf of my wife, Sally and I, I wish to, once more, convey our heartfelt condolences to all the members of the Chiahemen family. I would also like to extend our condolences to his son in law, Ben, as well as his brother, Tom and all his other brothers and sisters, as well as his many relatives in Benue, his in-laws in Kenya, and friends throughout the world. Please be consoled by the fact that John led an impactful life and achieved so much.

Farewell John. Farewell my good friend. Farewell. Till we meet to part no more. May your soul rest in perfect peace in the bosom of the Lord.

Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, former Minister of Budget and National Planning delivered this tribute at the funeral of John Neji Chiahemen, renowned international Journalist and former African Bureau Chief/Editor of Reuters in Johannesburg, South Africa 15th September, 2022.

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Education

ASUU is the Problem of Education in Nigeria

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By Godspower Ekuobase

This piece about academics in Nigeria may offend the arrogance of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) if ASUU is repressive or it will excite ASUU’s patriotism to bootstrap the Nigerian Academics to his pride of place in the global league of universal institutions called universities. 

I write this piece to expose, as an insider, the realities of Academics in Nigeria towards rescuing the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) from the asphyxiation of ASUU and redirect ASUU to the path of patriotism.

   

The truth is that like Saul who later became Paul, ASUU has ignorantly become the enemy of the Nigerian State. Why and How? You may ask! Permit me begin with the answer to “the why”. ASUU pride herself as being the most educated, knowledgeable and intelligent set of Nigerians. This, obviously, is not true.

I assert that education is not certification, knowledge is not qualification and intelligence is natural, it is not grammar. Even the grammar, we do not write or speak it better than others. 

ASUU should be humble enough to accept that we are not paid for certificates acquired, but we are paid to do our job of teaching, impactful research and community services within and outside the university with utmost professionalism and integrity and without fear or favour. If we say the truth, every Nigerian graduate has one or more lecturers that taught him/her that he/she wondered, and is still wondering, how the lecturer got thus far, even to the peak. I mean Professors! Maybe I am one of those lecturers, but it is high time we said the truth. Besides, many of the excellent students could not come into academics because we are guilty of what we accuse FGN – nepotism and tribalism!   

ASUU may say they are not responsible for promotion or employment in any university. Who then does? ASUU members of course! Vice Chancellors, Deans, Heads of Departments and Professors are not military officers, APC or PDP members but ASUU members. ASUU is only interested in collecting dues with no mechanism in place to maintain the integrity and progression of Academics in Nigeria. It is important Nigerians know that FGN does not interfere in the appointment and promotion of Academic staff in any university. ASUU should drop this pride and let us move Nigeria forward.     

The second reason why ASUU ignorantly persecutes Nigerians is that they are lost in ecstasy against the Nigerian state. They have abdicated their role of clamouring for members’ welfare and have constituted themselves into a quasi-political party and self-made opposition to any government in power. Most Nigerians who are either polygamous or from polygamous home, will agree that the wife that antagonises her husband the most, get the least from her husband no matter how good or rich the man is. 

Permanent Secretaries or Judges earn more than a Professor they will tell us and get us drunk with the wine of pride, adducing these categories of workers enjoy what they enjoy because they are puppets to politicians or government in power; and that ASUU will not falter its integrity and will remain the voice of the downtrodden.   

Enough of this hypocrisy! At least in recent times, ASUU decides who rules this country and it is only when there are disputes, the judiciary arbitrate. When many staunch ASUU supporters discuss how they went about conniving with politicians of varying political parties to get them or their cronies installed in power, you will weep for this country.

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 Politicians in Nigeria, particularly, in recent times will sincerely accept in their heart of hearts that Lecturers have lost the integrity or love they profess they have for Nigerians as against the politicians or other public office holders. Is it not some of us that connive with some students to have unmerited qualifications they use to occupy these public offices? Why accuse who your members aided to power of incompetence or misrule? ASUU is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

 ASUU like most trade unions should concentrate their energy on their members’ welfare – they should always come out straight with their welfare demands instead of their holier and richer than thou posture. We should be humble to say the truth, our salary is not enough not because we are better than other Nigerian workers or earn less but because of the nature of our job – even if we have all the comforts and tools to do research, we spend a fortune to get them published. 

On the average, a Lecturer will require thirty to forty publications with about 1/3rd of them published with foreign currency, to be a Professor. To say the truth, a dedicated Lecturer with high integrity, which most of us are, is poor. With sustained support for any government in power, in our capacity as academics, the cooperation of other trade unions, and logical persuasions, we will get something from the government. Something is better than nothing! Do not judge us based on our packaging. We are suffering but smiling! Instead of ASUU to consistently market this truth, they have worsened the poverty of Nigerian academics by avoiding it; claiming that the Nigerian Universities are poorly equipped and citing autonomy and other smoky issues. 

For the smoky issues, I will show later that ASUU is the problem and they know too.   Nigerian Students! Poor salary is our problem and the genuine cause of our anger and persistent strike; not any acclaimed love for you. If we love you as claimed, why do we suspend most strikes after financial settlement from FGN. Some University Academics extort students financially and sexually and yet we claim we love the students and that we are fighting their course. What has ASUU done as a union to protect innocent students from this oppression. Absolutely Nothing! What a hypocrisy!!   

Still on ASUU’s “Nollywood” love for Nigerians, is it in the interest of Nigerians, that ASUU proposed and accepted 70years retirement age for the professorial cadre? NO! It was because the Judges were given 70years. Even after 70years, some ASUU members still want to stay on contract in FGN payroll while they receive gratuity and pension. The youths have no job, the old do not want to retire and yet they claim they love Nigerians. 

ASUU should explain to Nigerians why a Lecturer that became an Associate Professor at the verge of 65years should be given extra five years in service. Somebody should help me tell ASUU that it is even in our culture as Africans to have the most elderly ones among us settle our disputes. Besides, rules and discretion are two desiderata deployed in legal practice. Discretion made law an axe that requires the very experienced because of the possible intrigues of lawyers. I assert that no other human task can be as an axe as law.   Greed blinded ASUU, they forgot we have other legal means of income as Part-time teaching, external examination and assessment, an Adjunct lecturer position in another University, royalties, market for our books as in most tertiary institutions, opportunity for political office outside our place of work while in service which the Judges may not have. 

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Legally, Judges are not allowed to romance with any political party or its members. We all saw what happened recently with one of our finest Judges in the court of Appeal because her husband has affiliation with a political party. She had to withdraw from a case in the interest of the country. Before you call me APC puppet, I did not vote for APC in both the 2015 and 2019 presidential elections, but I wholeheartedly accepted the position of the majority and the wisdom of the Judiciary.

Before I digress, this singular act of envy by ASUU that claim to “love” Nigerians has contributed greatly to youth unemployment in civil service as other union began to also request for additional five years in service. 

Why Nigerian civil servants were on strike for addition of five years to their retirement age, a European nation with longer life-expectancy and lower youth unemployment went on strike to reverse their retirement age that was increased by a year.   I have so far exposed my conviction on why ASUU has become an enemy of the Nigerian state. The reasons are pride, greed, and lack of instrument to enforce integrity and professionalism among its members. 

This lack of instrument may draw pity to ASUU as a crippled toothless tiger before its members. ASUU however relies on two unholy but potent instruments of control – propaganda and intimidation, to satisfy its pride and greed. ASUU coarse its members and their families with fear – fear of career progression and academic opportunities irrespective of their capabilities.

The truth is that majority of the Lecturers in Nigerian Universities are sick and tired of the incessant strike by ASUU and the lack of innovative means of engaging government; as evident by the about 55% of its members who stood with the FGN on the deployment of IPPIS despite ASUU’s intimidation. 

Some notable Professors or politically aspiring Lecturers had to hide to register with IPPIS to evade the fury of ASUU. ASUU cannot love us more than us!

The UNIBEN branch of ASUU robbed me and others that subscribed to IPPIS of our Christmas rice which we contributed towards and threatened us with queries; but I trashed mine. I was insulted and promised that ASUU will work against me if I should contest or vie for position in any University. Do not fear for me! I have never and will never fear any cult. The finality of man is death and death by truth is holy and paradise assured.   

If ASUU is truly democratic, they are supposed to bow to the voice of the majority. The truth on the IPPIS issue is, you may not like Buhari or the APC lead FGN, IPPIS is a holy ICT innovation capable of effectively preventing corruption, without a fight, on our national payroll. Globally, preventive means of checking corruption is cheaper and greener than the curative means of fighting corruption. No doubt, as with all ICT innovations and deployments, there are bound to be teething problems which do wear away with time. IPPIS provides the long-awaited opportunity for ASUU to exercise their academic autonomy and bootstrap Nigerian Universities to its pride of place. I wish to let Nigerians know that all ASUU is saying about IPPIS is pure propaganda against FGN. 

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I challenge ASUU to an open debate on IPPIS.   Let us examine the smoky issues of funding, infrastructural decay and autonomy that ASUU has consistently used to blackmail FGN and woo the sympathy of Nigerians. It is important to note that the National University Commission (NUC) is an instrument of FGN to ensure Nigerian Universities meet up with global standards. NUC is doing an excellent job to guarantee high standard university education for Nigerians and foreigners alike. 

The resource verification and the regular accreditation instruments and implementation procedures are second to none in the globe. I affirm that NUC make use of ASUU members to perform virtually all their task of maintaining standards in the Nigerian Universities. Oh! I may be accused of NUC sponsorship. My apologies, NUC. 

I pity FGN, ASUU will recommend to FGN through NUC that all is well and, in most cases, excellent and the same ASUU is fighting FGN through the Presidency and Labour ministry that everything is in total collapse. Who then is the problem, FGN or ASUU?

Have we heard ASUU complained to NUC about resource verification or accreditation instruments or exercises? No! Does NUC (FGN) report and enforce ASUU’s findings and recommendations on which university or its programme should be sustained? Yes! Who made strike part of our university calendar? ASUU! Who prepares the university for accreditation or resource verification? ASUU! Who are the phoney resource persons particularly in private universities? ASUU! Who does accreditation or resource verification? ASUU! Who affirms that our universities and its programmes are particularly in good form? ASUU! Who awards the degrees? ASUU! Who is saying our university system is dilapidated and substandard? ASUU! My Nigerian universities, your midwife has become your murderer, prosecutor, advocate and judge. ASUU why? Who therefore is the clog in the wheel of progress of Academics in Nigeria?   

The Way Forward: 

(i) ASUU should apologise to FGN and Nigerians for negligence, misdirection, and disruption of university calendar at least in the last two to three decades; and put a final stop to the incessant strikes in the public universities in Nigeria. 

(ii) ASUU should accept that other public or civil servants are equally important. 

(iii) ASUU should come out straight with their unique welfare nature; with respect for constituted authorities as enshrined in our holy books. 

(iv) ASUU should henceforth, “call a spade, a spade” and do their job with fairness, professionalism and integrity without any fear or favour.  

(v) ASUU should device ethical means of enforcing professionalism, integrity and standards in Nigerian Academics commensurate with global norm.  It is hoped that this divine ambush on ASUU on his way to “Damascus” will redirect ASUU’s focus from its misplaced intention to a genuine course of Nation building and promotion of Academics in Nigeria.   This piece is my opinion and not that of my university or professional bodies.       

Prof. Godspower Ekuobase, PhD, MCPN. Professor of Services Computing Department of Computer Science University of Benin, Benin City Edo State, Nigeria  Email: godspower.ekuobase@uniben.edu Tel.: +234(0) 8064951845

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