The real losers of a Nigerian university impulsive strikes

In the last 16 years at least, OAU is mostly known for its foolhardy strike actions more than for its academic excellence. If the lecturers weren’t on strike, it would be students or the non teaching staff. Usually, the only losers of the lot were the students whose 4 year degree turns out to be 5 year if they were lucky.

One thing I have learnt about our love-hate nation that is Nigeria is that looking up to the government to solve all our problems is never the best strategy because calling on the government is like calling out ‘that black girl’ from a crowd in a place like Nigeria where everyone is black. Well, people would try to explain different shades of blackness but that never hold water.

Around 20th of November 2015, speaking to a friend at the school, he was very happy with his progress, lectures have been running smoothly for a while. He entered OAU in 2012, had witnessed several school closures for many reasons – from local elections to student protesting against tuition increase.

Strike ranges from 2 weeks to several months, the longest he had experienced was 6 months. Nigeria post secondary schools – Colleges of Education, Polytechnics and universities across the country are known for going on strikes but OAU campus is the mother of all.

Now in 2015 he is in year 3 second semester. If things were to run the way it was meant to, he should have been in his final year working on his thesis.

November 30 at 9am he texted to say students were protesting against awful hostel conditions At 7:30pm, he texted again to say the school management is threatening them with closure if protest persists.

So I asked what is going on at the school or in town in the next few weeks because if history has thought me anything about school closure especially at OAU, there is a pattern, sometimes it makes absolutely no sense, but that is just how it goes. In early December there is a plan for convocation and another big event in town – OAU administrators have never learnt to separate the school from events in town/state.

For example, in the past, OAU closes its campus for a whole day so GEJ could campaign, it closes door during last NUGA (games the school hosted meant to inspire students) – yes, some actions beat any sensibility.

Pack your load and plan for Christmas trips – your school will close, I said jokingly.

On December 2nd, OAU announced school closure and the management wanted the students off the campus the very next day.

This strike action call by the OAU management was done with no regards whatsoever to the welfare of other people whose works support the smooth running of the school – the independent stores at the New Market and SUB such as bookshops, restaurants, photocopiers, provision stores etc.

To summoned school closure given only a couple of days notice just three weeks to Christmas undoubtedly leaves tens if not hundreds of people to leave their day job does not indicate a school management with thorough assessment of implications of their actions on neither the students nor their community.

There is assumption that school management are the best to judge situation and that their actions usually is the right one, however, looking to the past history of strike actions, it is mostly about management avoiding to do what they are paid to do while making sure there’s minimum negative impact on the students and the community whose services support the smooth running of the school.

OAU resumes back tomorrow Jan 11th after six whole weeks of pay without work – best wishes to the students and the independent store owners.

Whether strike actions was initiated by the academic, non academic staff or the students – the only people missing out are the students and the independent store keepers – my question is who is looking after the interests of these people?

GEJ best move ever – Resident doctors suspension when is ASUU’s turn?

If all Nigerians did not attend the National Conference – Nigerian doctors too, must have delegates to iron out their grievances with the Nigeria Minister of Health therefore doctor’s indefinite strike is inhumane and they rightly deserved to be suspended.

President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to suspend Residency Training Programme for Doctors in Nigeria is one of the best moves he has made up to date.

IMG-20140814-WA0000Let me be clear, there is a lot that I wish could be better with the present administration especially the way that Boko Haram case is being handled is heart breaking considering the number of needless waste of innocent lives and of course that ongoing call to #BringBackOurGirls make it all the more difficult to understand what our leaders are doing.

The move to suspend resident doctors is not just about the doctors alone, it is about what the suspension represents to the ever dwindling professionalism of all Nigeria professionals in the way they resolve conflicts.

Nigeria, for the best part of twenty years has seen a huge decline in quality of our medical health system. We all blame the government for the mess. Maybe rightly so, but don’t everyone has responsibility? Nigeria doctors’ strike this time started July 1st because of some issues around titles and a whole other debates around consultants entitlements that needed to be ironed out with federal government. As always, the language used was that the doctors were going on “indefinite” strike until their demands were met. They do this all the time. Ebola news started making rounds in February this year, the doctors were well aware of this and the fact that we are close neighbour with the countries affected was not enough to bring NMA to reason. Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian entered Nigeria July 20 and died three days later of Ebola infection – still that was not enough for the doctors to call off their strike. Where is the humanity in doctors’ strike action? Didn’t they swear oaths to save lives? 

The only victims here are the people whose lives were at stake in our public hospitals. GEJ and his family fly abroad on Health Tourism to take care of their health issues. How hard was it to call off the strike so as to safe lives first and perhaps have delegates to continue dialogue with the government?

Why does it take everyone to go on strike and indefinite one at that to have a dialogue with the government? And the most annoying  part was that after agreement has been reached, there will be a few more weeks whereby the same body will embark on yet another word-fight on their salary during the strike – not unusual to go back on strike just so they could be paid for when they were on initial strike actions – it is a vicious cycle – must end.

Nigeria Medical Association is not alone is using strike actions as the only way to demand results from the government.

Nigeria Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is notorious for this. ASUU and the Nigeria government are responsible for the state that the country education is today – mess.  For the last fifteen years, Nigeria universities have not been in school for a whole session without the need to close up the school. If it wasn’t the lecturers demanding for more pay/resources, it will be students protesting for all manner of causes, the end result – strike. We need to find better way to resolve conflicts without making everyone in the society pay for the “sins” they did not commit. This year, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) students have been home for more than two months because students protested the new fee hike. Last year, the same university and other federal universities in the country was closed for six months because ASUU wanted pay increase.

In the short term the losers were the students but in the long run, the whole society loses as we have graduates who are not well equipped for the job market.

Can GEJ please sack the lecturers too next time they embark on strike? I am sure it is any minute from now – it’s the only pastime that they know how to.

Doctors are already home and do this a lot needless to think GEJ suspension of resident doctors will affect Ebola epidemic – If the doctors genuinely cared, then they need to show it to the people by doing their job and assigning delegates to sort out their issues with appropriate authority.

If GEJ suspended/sacked ASUU – wouldn’t  be the end of the world as education sector can not possibly be any worse than it is now.

Now, maybe it is time for everyone to break the silence and demand GEJ to live up to the post that he is in. The system is already broken, it will require everyone to play their parts.

In this instance, it is hypocrisy blaming GEJ.