INDEED, OUR DESTINY IS IN OUR HANDS
I have this strong conviction that the tragedy of life is what dies in a man while he still lives. We have kept mute in the face of a collapsing system either by default or deliberate attempt to destroy the educational system in Ebonyi State. We need to speak up and let out the venom of truth to paralyze the oppressive activities of our leaders.
It has been said that the best way to destroy a nation is not by use of bombs and missiles but by lowering the standard of education and buildings collapse in the hands of engineers while patients die under the watch of medical officers and nurses.
People will be pitched against each other and chaos will be the order of the day.
Our leaders employ this mechanism and it portends disaster where people cannot read road signs, medical prescriptions, industrial safety rules, or simple business documents.
We have become proud and shamelessly raise our ugly heads high in the euphoria of successful sabotage of our Union’s interest by doing the bits of our masters and as a success story, graduated and processed students within 2 calendar years for 4 year Bachelors’ Degree programs from our University. How can we be proud of destroying a generation of students and people when those who are supposed to protect them from this destructive brain-washing are some of us in a city of the mad who want to prove a point: that they can make things happen.
The flyovers and wonderful edifices with time would become refuse dump sites and grounds for open defecation due to a poor value system occasioned by a lack of a functional education system.
It’s an unfortunate tragedy because we can make our world better and brighter at no cost and the world is even big enough for us all to move without friction.
According to Zik of Africa, education is meant to train human beings to serve their kind in a spirit of selfless service and love. Indeed, God Almighty created every one of us for a purpose and a place in the world, and for any of us to think that we were created only to be what we are and what people want us to be, not what we can make ourselves to become is to impute an improper motive to the Almighty for creating us.
The events of today have made me appreciate the satire in Animal Farm by George Orwell.
How can a system, whose over 80% running facilities are in place courtesy of ASUU interventions contemplate sabotage of our National strike action to secure infrastructural development and workers’ welfare?
Our leaders and administrators have learnt the principles of slavery from our colonial masters and advanced same from mental slavery to physical slavery using brute force, intimidation, victimization, suspension from duty, and hunger as instruments and strategies.
In all these, most of us have become pessimists that complain about the wind storm while some are optimists that expect it to change but as realists, we are supposed to adjust the sail and balance the boat (William Arthur Ward).
How do we adjust the sail now and change the narratives?
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. No one should be subjected to denials, intimidation, torture, cruelty and untold hardship, inhuman and degrading treatment, or punishment by a few with economic, social, or positional advantages. How can EBSU workers strive so hard, within the limits of meagre salaries that are not paid timely, to place EBSU in a competitive mode and are compensated with non-payment of Earned Academic Allowances (EAA) since 2009; denied promotions and when released, it’s in notional effect; denied payment of Postgraduate and Work-and-Study honoraria, not paid minimum wage and the consequential adjustment; workers Unions frequently threatened, banned and check-off dues withheld; offices run without imprest; candidates for Professorial appointments pay two hundred and fifty thousand naira before external assessment, and a lot of other choking mechanisms give lecturers mental torture of unimaginable proportion.
In this regard, all humanity should protest any disgusting instance of dehumanization, brutality, denial, intimidation, and slavery.
In our clime and as earlier stated, we have been denied promotions, Earned Academic Allowances, other entitlements, and a conducive working environment. Our Freedom of speech, and fundamental human rights to lawful assembly, and association have been denied; activities of our Union (ASUU) banned in the University while leaders of our Union have been unlawfully suspended without genuine cause or without following due process of University Regulations and law.
In all these, it is most worrisome that only ASUU as a Trade Union on our campuses is singled out for dehumanization among all the trade Unions on campus even when our academic environment should have a semblance of academic freedom and autonomy.
According to Fola Sasegbon Oni, “law as an expression of what is just should cease to be harsh or oppressive” Our seats of administration must be purified so that the light that shines from its towers should radiate into our people a sense of honesty and fair play.
Harriet Tubman said, “I freed a thousand slaves: I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves”. Many of us do not know we have become slaves because we have been blinded with crumbs from kitchen tables, appointments without imprest, notional promotions without financial benefit and empty promises, and cannot feel the dehumanization due to greed and loss of self-esteem or ability to see the chains.
It seems we have been subdued like the slaves in the Caribbean but when they discovered that their population and voting strength were all they needed to change their fortunes, they dropped their farm implements, left the plantations, and took their destiny into their hands (voter’s card), voted, protected their votes and today, they have become part of governance as Blacks in the United States of America. We can do the same by rising to our challenges by supporting the principles of our Union that have always fetched us good opinions.
Here, we are like a man chained in a tunnel with a candlelit behind him. He beholds his image cast by the candle and is made to see his enlarged image as a spirit hunting his life.
To this end, I am most worried today about how we have been pitched against each other. Unfortunately, we seem to have educated illiterates, for how could uneducated slaves fight for their freedom in the plantations and emancipate themselves from slavery while the educated (lecturers, who ought to know better and be leading lights) have become willing tools to slave masters. Could it be that the hunger tool has caught up with our thinking faculties and sense organs that we can no longer perceive the yolk of slavery in our lives?
Comrades, this is the time to make history and change the dangerous tide of change that has held sway our developmental strategies and locked up our potential.
Our Union is our only hope after God and we must support this struggle till the end.
Irrespective of our prevailing circumstances where the Divine Mandate Professors and Lecturers are making a concerted effort to break the strike in EBSU, there is a huge light at the end of the tunnel but the big question is: how can we domesticate this expected and long-awaited enhanced remuneration when we cannot stand with the Branch and National leadership to sustain the national strike that we called to secure our welfare and future of Nigerian citizens?
How can we negotiate for our EAA, 20% arrears of salary, amounting to three months’ salaries and other allowances when we have no United front, yet work against the same National we expect should protect us during our local struggle?
This same National leadership approached the Industrial Court when we were proscribed, paid the bills and we still expect them to do the same at the expiration of our 3-months PreAction Notice.
Today, our retired professors do not have the benefit of a pension and the compensatory Contract term has been reduced to 30%.
Today, school fees and levies are arbitrarily imposed on our children and we simply sidon-de-look.
Our children and staff are extorted openly and nobody as much as coughs about it.
Our system is grinding to a halt and we pally on as if nothing is wrong.
Unfortunately, some of us behave as if they have made up their minds to pack their luggage and exit with our visitor and his imposed appointees because if only they realized we are the owners of the house and shall be back in the mud together, they will understand the need to treat colleagues with respect.
Like I had said earlier, this is a test of faith. It’s not late to right the wrong and stands together for the benefit of all.
Let’s go to the ants, learn their ways and be wise.
Let us make hay while the sun shines because it’s late when it’s late.
As the strike continues, the struggles of our Union make us strong and our destiny is in our hands.
Remaining firm for our Union is a thinking Union.
United we bargain but divided we beg.
Forward ever, backward never.
By Comrade Ikechuku O. Igwenyi.