I am tired. People are turning against me. Even some of my children (read: members) are now saying I’m not being fair to them. In this Nigeria, who is fair? Did they want me to wallow in utter dejection! Now look at this government I serve, look at what they are doing to me. Is this fairness? Me I don’t want to even talk about students, they are just giving me headache. They call me all sorts of names. They say I’m an ingrate, that I always go on strike, and it’s always in my favour. I can only laugh at their silly remarks.
Did they know how I struggled to bring into existence TET FUND and NEED Assessment? Is it not these two schemes that are building infrastructure in universities? And these Nigerians, they also think I’m selfish!
Yesterday while going through some posts on Facebook, someone was saying that I was just pocketing everything I get from the government without giving it to some of my children, that only my big sons benefit from the strike.
Some of you Nigerians don’t even know how I came into being but you have the guts to call me names. These days, atop federal government’s issues, there are many issues on my head. I’m also becoming old. These struggles I have been into are shrinking me down. It all started when I overthrew the regime of my sister, the Nigerian Association of University Teachers in 1965. I didn’t want to do it, but they kept pushing that my Aunty wasn’t performing well, that I should overthrow her. Had I known I’d be suffering this much, I’d not have agreed to their plea. Look at me now, everybody is blaming me for contributing to the downfall of education. Me that is just trying to survive and feed my children!
When I was active in the 80s, I stood against the military regime. I fought for my right, and that of my children. I wanted to have good wages and an autonomy for my homes. These military people, when they annoyed me, I embarked on my first strike in 1988. They stripped me of my clothes (read: properties). It was me that they wanted to punish. With no clothes, they wanted me to go naked when even at the time I was grown up.
Even the so called democracy that came in 1999 did not make life any easier for me. Ahh! So much for lifted hopes! I sha did not stop fighting for my rights and that of my children.
I kept pressing for improved salary schemes, funding and revitalization of Nigerian public universities as well as earned allowance. Now, you will say all I am fighting for is money, money, abi? Well, you and I know that my battle goes beyond an economic stand point.
My memory might not be as bright because of my age, but over the years, I know I have accumulated achievements I can boast of. I have fought for 26% to be allocated for education in Nigeria over the years. Although, so far the government has allotted not more than 10% to the sector.
I also developed a local payment system called UTAS (University Transparency and Accountability System) to protect the country from foreign detractors.
Let’s not forget that I have been serving as a watchdog in the spending of university public funds as well as ensuring that my grand children’s tuition fees do not unnecessarily escalate.
Did I just hear you scoff? Alright, I agree I have painted a good enough picture of myself without showing you the skeletons in my closet. Admittedly, these skeletons are part of the obstacles I am trying to surmount every day.
You see, my children might look strong and united on the outside but family issues choke! Especially with the senior ones.
My children suffer from leadership problems, especially tribalism and opportunism. My elderly children and leaders sometimes ignore the interest of the people of Nigeria. The ethnic, religious and regional affiliation has been under threat. The use of leadership positions to negotiate personal advantage is responsible for many of our problems as the branches.
Opportunistic, undisciplined leadership has led to a lack of credibility to earn the backing of my members in a struggle in which they are being called upon to make sacrifices.
Equally disturbing, my union branches suffer from the lack of historical knowledge about what being a member of a trade union entails. Hence, it affects our collective reasoning as a team.
Anyway, I will not continue washing my dirty linen in public. You may seek answers as to why strike has become habitual to my reactions towards unmet demands. It’s unfortunate that my grandchildren (read: students) suffer the most from my actions. Between 2007 to 2013, the strikes put together amounts to a whole annum. Yes, it has become habitual for me to go on strike, but isn’t it the only language your government understands? I know, I know, I shouldn’t be doing this for my grandkids by keeping them out of school, but haba nah! Grandma cannot function without money to buy clothes, feed her family and fight for rights as well as protect the household’s image. Do you expect me to sit back and watch the family fall apart?
I will not sit back and watch my principles and integrity disappear. Likewise, it is my priority to put the best interests of universities, students and the country at heart which would serve as a giant step in the recovery process of our badly wounded education sector.
But making things right at my end does not even solve my dilemma unless the government is also willing to join. Wahala be like wetin again? Unless the government is willing to fulfil broken promises like the Memorandum of Understanding among others.
Likewise, it is high time my grandchildren stand up for me with empathy. How can you occupy the streets while appealing to me to withdraw from strike? You think it will solve my problems? Our problems?.