My brother, Malam Adamu Adamu, the Minister of Education, did the right thing. I expected a worse reaction than this. I thought he would even leave before the NANS president finished his speech, but he was patient enough to listen to him until he landed.
First of all, I have an issue with the language of NANS. The speech of the its president shows how uncivilised we still are. The language was uncouth. NANS doesn’t have the moral standing to condemn the government that gives free tertiary education in spite of every advice by experts for a hike in tuition fees. Let government announce a tuition fee of N500,000 minimum and there would be no more strikes. But Nigeria in terms of social services is still in the communist Soviet era. We choose not to accept that Russia itself is today ruled by billionaire Putin.
The NANS president’s speech lacked courtesy. He was attacking the minister for educating his child ‘overseas’. I don’t know how true that is. I know the minister does send his children to a private university in Nigeria. Is that a crime? And who caused it, anyway? Strikes. Majority of parents who send their children to private universities do so because of ASUU strike, not just because they can afford it. I personally knew when Malam Adamu was struggling to pay the fees of his children at ABTI, Yola.
If I were the minister, I would have paid NANS in its own coins by exposing its inherent contradictions. I would order for tea for the meeting and engage the delegation in a long but educating conversation.
I’d conduct a census of the secondary and primary schools which each member of the NANS delegation attended. If, as I expect, majority of them attended private schools, I would then ask them why they didn’t attend public schools at primary and secondary levels. Let each one of them answer me. Then I would continue pushing until I make them realise that I was not the only culprit: their parents too were. And they would grow to be bigger culprits than myself.
If they’d play the clip of their president, NANS would have found that it was short of humility and reason. They would have realised that next time they have an audience with their minister, they should address him with decorum, as a minister, in fact the minister that oversees the cheapest university education in the world of which they are beneficiaries
I would ask them where each one of them would like to take up a job. All these I would do in a cordial chat, without letting them know where I’d hit them. If any one of them was reading engineering, I would suggest that he wouldn’t mind working at the NNPC. Those reading law would dream of becoming SAN and become judges, the accountants would love being at the CBN, and so on. They’d all answer in the affirmative.
Tea would arrive and the chat continues. I’d also ask if any one of them was reading education. Of course, none. So none wants to be a teacher.
Then would come my concluding questions to them. Do you know of any NNPC senior official or SAN who sends his child to a public school? Obviously, the answer would be no. So your goal is to be among those that don’t send their children to public schools? Am I alone at fault then if your parents who sent you to private primary and secondary schools aren’t at fault? Am I at fault when the ambition of the NANS president himself is to belong to the bourgeoisie and send his child ‘overseas’? (Laughter)
The whole meeting would have ended in laughter, if not ridicule, for exposing the contradictions in the speech of the NANS president.
This is what the minister meant when he said that the only useful point which the NANS delegation made was the suggestion that students too be allowed to be at the negotiations between government and ASUU. That alone is an achievement by NANS, I think.
The minister, if you know him, is a shy person. I believe he didn’t want to ridicule the NANS delegation by exposing its contradictions. So, and perhaps for lack of time, he decided to be straight with them. And being straight in Nigeria is a crime.
They were shocked that he left and it dawned on them that they too had to leave; that they were only guests, not the president of the Federation to whom the minister must listen to.
If they’d play the clip of their president, NANS would have found that it was short of humility and reason. They would have realised that next time they have an audience with their minister, they should address him with decorum, as a minister, in fact the minister that oversees the cheapest university education in the world of which they are beneficiaries. Moreso, when he is Malam Adamu Adamu, the columnist that championed the cause of ASUU and of free university education throughout his career as a journalist.
The minister and the NANS delegation belong to the same ideological camp in education. Neither ASUU nor NANS can deny where his heart actually is. What happened at the meeting between him and NANS, therefore, was an exchange of friendly fire. Each should be calm, rediscover the other, pick up the pieces and continue the journey of free university education with all that it portends — strikes, empty labs, sardine-packed theatres, unkept hostels, meagre salaries, high student population, etc.
NANS. Please don’t throw your stones at me for this piece. I’m a partner. All my children are in government universities. I be uncle Tilde. I still go to teach in your classrooms. You’re my students. I be Dr. Tilde. No friendly fire, please. I come in peace, as Dr. Moses Ochonu said to ASUU recently. Tam.
And aluta continua, as the minister too has written many times.
* Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde is the Honourable Commissioner of Education, Bauchi State
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