When Mallam Adamu Adamu was sworn in as the Minister of Education by President Muhammadu Buhari, several people saw it as a reward for the loyalty that the Bauchi state Accountant had shown the tall and thin man from Daura. Mallam Adamu has been an ardent follower of Buhari for many years and this reason is why he had always been perceived as anti-PDP. Mallam Adamu was one of the few individuals that accompanied General Buhari to Bauchi state to campaign for Isa Yuguda who was then the ANPP gubernatorial candidate for the state. Mallam Adamu has always been vocal, bold and fearless about expressing the views on the things that he strongly believes in.
His public expression of his personal views and constant advising of the administration in power through his column with the Nigerian Daily Trust has led to people referring to him as a “Public Commentator”. There is no doubt that the man is well read, knowledgeable and always brimming with good ideas. His views were not disregarded as that of an outsider as he had served as a personal assistant to the late Solomon Lar and he had no doubt picked up certain values from the former Governor of Plateau state.
In November 2013, the Daily Trust posted a column written by Mallam Adamu where he explained comprehensively the reason why the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and several other bodies in the educational sector go on strike. He explained that ASUU may find it very hard to negotiate with a Government whose minister of education purchased cars that were worth the annual salary of hundreds of ASUU staff members. When he was appointed a minister, a select few of the Nigerian population remembered that post and concluded that this was a man that understood the problem, this was a man that had felt the pain that the staff of universities felt and surely this would be a man that would be easy to negotiate with. The president was applauded for having made a good decision with his appointments, especially with the Education Ministry.
Several graduates from federal universities today did not have their eventual convocation on the proposed date that they envisioned when they matriculated. These graduates suffered from one form of strike at the University; the Non-Academic staff strike, the Student Union protests and most definitely the ASUU strike. It has become a normal thing that you spend at least an extra few months in getting any sort of degree or diploma in Nigerian Universities that are under the control of the Federal Government. It remains an awkward conversation between the graduates and prospective employers or admission boards of foreign universities where a second or Masters Degree is being sought. You have to explain why you spent five years at the University to study a four-year program without repeating a semester or an academic year.
In 2001, the officials of ASUU reached an agreement with the Federal Government in order to increase the quality of education that was being offered at the Nigerian Universities. The officials at the time pointed out the rot and decay that had taken over the secondary and primary school segments of the Nigerian Educational system. They pointed out that several notable Nigerians graduated from primary and secondary schools that were owned by the Federal Government. These people received a sound education and at the time, most of them benefitted from the free education program that was initiated by Pa Obafemi Awolowo.
However, this generation refused to send their children to these same schools because the quality of the education that these schools provided has dropped. This may be due to the handling of these schools by the State Government and the inability of those states to manage the schools properly. With the poor distribution of state funds, it is no surprise that the allocation for education has been greatly reduced. Therefore, the states of the classrooms, libraries, and laboratories dilapidated without renovation and the salaries of teachers were delayed and not paid for several months in some cases.
These are the signs that ASUU saw in the secondary school system and decided that a stance must be made so that the glories that the federal universities acquired in their early days would be maintained and would not fade away to the thing of the past. The government listened to their demands and decided to preserve and maintain the high standard of the Nigerian universities. The lecturers were supposed to be separated from the civil service wage structure and the government would constantly infuse financial support to the staff, facilities, and students of the Nigerian universities so that each university would enjoy its academic freedom and would be able to take its place in the progress of National Development.
The federal universities cannot afford to charge tuition and fees at the rate that the private universities in the country or their foreign counterparts such as Harvard and Cambridge charge. This would be because there are several Nigerians that are in need of tertiary education that would not be able to afford it. Hardly a day goes by that you would not see a student asking for help on social media in order to fund his tuition fees. Several Nigerians have come to the help of such individuals and most of these students have had their gofundme accounts serve as a medium to pay their fees.
A top official in a federal university in this country once lamented the state of the university situation and the lackadaisical attitude of the government towards it. He said that most of these Nigerian professors and lecturers are well sought-after all over the world. Nigerian students can testify that most of their lecturers travel all around the world giving lectures and having their sabbaticals in foreign universities that Nigerian universities cannot compete with. For those students in the sciences, they can be sure that some of these lecturers are the most brilliant minds in their fields and they could easily relocate and get better-paying jobs in other universities that are governed by more appreciative bodies than Nigerian Government.
The official went on to say that the private universities in the country will soon start to poach these great minds from the federal universities because of the way and manner that the government has treated them. These universities were charging a lot of money when they started out and the public assumed it was because they needed large sums of money to erect buildings and acquire equipment and materials that would make their universities world class. Why would they remain in a university system that is not being funded appropriately so that better research work can be done?
The students that have been sent home now that their lecturers are on strike have been encouraged to learn a trade or to pursue their “passion”. ASUU claims that the strike is in the best interests of the students and all the cards lay in the hands of the government. In order to improve the quality of the graduates that these universities produce, the government has to take a great responsibility in the education of these students. Now that we have a minister that has openly suggested solutions to the end of ASUU strike, how long will this indefinite strike last? How long till the quality of Nigerian University education rise up and compete with the rest of the world? When will Nigerians pursue admission for Nigerian Universities the way they yearn for admission in Europe and America?
When are we going to start preferring graduates from Ahmadu Bello University to the Harvard trained graduates?