By Mustapha Aleem
There has been a palpable anxiety among Nigeria populace as the electoral umpire has taken it upon herself to wade in on the continuing impasse of grounded academic activities in most government owned universities occasioned by what the academics tagged as infidelity on the part of the federal government as the agreement entered into by the renegotiation committee set up in 2013 still stands unimplemented.
The ball game kicked off on the 4th of November, 2018, when the Academic Staff Union of Universities decided to slug it out with the federal government on the issue of underfunding, underequiping, understaffing, among others. These issues are not just dug up from nowhere, they have been the core or reason for the past industrial actions embarked upon by this union.
On the other hand, although considered by many as being indifferent, the federal government has set up several unsuccessful meetings to persuade and work out modalities on how the demands of the academics could be met. We learnt at some point in one of their meetings, that the academics walked out on the government representatives, in bid to further amplify their stance on not taking any chance at this time.
Historically and politically, academics are a very important component of the entire machinery that ensures the success of an election in this country – in fact, they are indispensable as far as their role serving as returning officers is concerned. A testament to the fact that they could not be displaced is the unrest that INEC has been subjected to over the fear that they might not be available for the election.
It is in the light of this that INEC decided to go to the drawing board with the academics but as we anticipate the outcome of this rumination, it is important as well for us to consider certain variables, one which could make 2019 general election a mere theoretical construct.
ASUU have since come to the realization that they constitute the resources for and election in this country, their on-going strike could work well against the incumbent government going into the election, to buttress this, it is easy for the academics to successfully brainwash their students, who form the larger chunck of the electorate that the popular “leaders of tomorrow” line is never part of the consideration of the incumbent, that there was no better time fight the issues before them as the elections provides them the rarest opportunity to get everything at their feet.
Although, INEC is saying that their meeting would be premised on how they could be available for the coming election, it is apparent that the so called strike action has been hijacked by the opposition who are ready to pounce on any begging chance from their arch rivals and considering the compliance rate of 90 per cent, it is so teasing an opportunity for bad dicks to erect.
Without doubt, the academics have been afforded the necessary ammunition to get the government begging on their kneels and calling for a meeting with them, although needful, it has further underscored why the government needs to allow the academics dictate the pace for the forthcoming election.
The government may argue that the academics asking price is too much but a convict is never given an opportunity to hagle the sum payable for bail in the law court for his freedom is ‘importanter’ at that moment so also the government to the lecturers. As this is not the time to be lackadaisical.
Also, it is pertinent for the electoral body to know that as much as this could be an effort that might end in futility, it is worth giving a hit for they would be held accountable for all that happens before and during the elections.
No doubt, hopes are already raised over the coming of the overnight mediator but the insistence of the lecturers on not resuming is a clog in the wheel of the coming election, knowing full well that no war is fought without firepower and same thing goes for the election in the air.
It would not be a miscarriage of justice to say that the true gardener of over 120 million people’s destiny is the academics, who could decide to manage it well or smear it, depending on their disposition and this means that Nigerians face the prospect of having a delayed election in 2019.
However, a moment of ingenuity with the academics could be the only thing needed to get the lecturers back to class and INEC might just be lucky enough to have the magic wand to put an end to the lingering imbroglio.
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