We have cause once more, to have to address you on the state of our dear country, Nigeria. The Unions position on issues of great concern to the socio-economic development of the people of Nigeria, bordering on the state of our economy and society; the issue of the 1999 Constitution and its review;
THE ACADEMIC STAFF UNION OF UNIVERSITIES (ASUU)
TEXT OF THE PRESS CONFERENCE BY THE PRESIDENT OF ASUU AT THE END OF THE NATONAL EXECUTIVE COUNCIL (NEC) MEETING HELD AT USMANU DANFODIYO UNIVERSITY, SOKOTO, FEBRUARY 1ST, 2010
WHITHER THE NIGERIAN STATE?
Gentlemen of the Press,
We have cause once more, to have to address you on the state of our dear country, Nigeria. The Unions position on issues of great concern to the socio-economic development of the people of Nigeria, bordering on the state of our economy and society; the issue of the 1999 Constitution and its review; the deteriorating security situation and the citizenship question; the medical sojourn of the President and its impact on the polity as well as the 2010 budget and the FGN-ASUU Agreement of 2009 form the crux of our address to you today.
Our country is today, half a century after formal independence, facing one of most serious crises in its national existence. Our Union had participated in the struggle not only to understand the root causes and dimensions of this crises, but has also fought, against poor economic programmes and the rapacious ruling classes implementing them throughout this period. In particular, the Union has collaborated with labour and civil society organizations to defend progressive positions. Similarly, the Union had made commentaries on, and participated in rallies against the deepening contradictions of neo-liberal reforms, the increased marginalization of Nigerians, the worsening political situation, including the many problems of INEC, the roles of the EFCC, as well as the deteriorating security situation. Such commentaries had drawn attention to how the deepening contradictions of neoliberal economic programme have been clearly demonstrated on the one hand, in the growing collapse of social infrastructure, and on the other the widening gap between the rich and the poor. The ruling classes across the political divides seem to have no major programme other than the advancement of the agenda of recolonizing Nigeria and exploiting her people.
Now in 2010, when many countries within and outside Africa are making substantial progress in ensuring a planned development of their economies and societies, Nigeria appears to be about the only country that is shackled by both its colonial past and its neo-colonial present. A comparative analysis of Nigeria and a number of countries (Table 1 below) categorised according to HDI rank, education index, expenditure on health and expenditure of health as percentage of total budget. It is clear that our statistics are not looking too good. Thus, countries such as Uganda (39), categorised as Low Income, have twice as much as Nigeria, categorised as Low Middle Income, on health; similarly, Lesotho, a Low Middle Income country, spends nearly six times as much as Nigeria spends. The same picture is reproduced in expenditure as percentage of total budgetary expenditure on health. Indeed Nigerias rank on the HDI changed only marginally in nearly 20 years (1990 €“ 2007) rising 0.91% annually from 0.438 to 0.511, ranking the country 158th out of a total of 182 for which data was available (Table 2). With a HDI rank of 158, compared to Lesothos 156, and Ugandas 157, Nigerias life expectancy at birth (47.7) is behind Malis (48.1) Mozambiques (47.8), and only slightly better than that of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (47.6). Nigerias combined gross enrolment figures stood at 53.0, slightly behind Bhutans 54.1 and Togos 53.9.
A more complete picture of what is happening to development in a particular country has to also examine gender-related index (GDI), which essentially shows similar indicators to the HDI but measures inequalities in achievement between women and men, and the key point to note here is that the greater the gender disparity in human development, the lower is a country's GDI relative to its HDI. Nigeria's GDI value, 0.499 should be compared to its HDI value of 0.511. Its GDI value is 97.7% of its HDI value. Out of the 155 countries with both HDI and GDI values, 129 countries have a better ratio than Nigeria's. Table 3 sought to capture the level and intensity of gender disparities in comparison with other countries. Thus a comparison of GDI to HDI shows that Nigerias (97.7%: 102.1%) is behind Zambia.'
In our memoranda to the Senate Committee on constitution review, we drew attention to the fact that we:€ live in an era of constitutional reforms, a development that has gained some momentum since the end of the so-called Cold War. It is now common knowledge that the end of the €˜Cold War served, among other things, to expose the soft underbelly of constitutions that were not supported by regimes of constitutionalism€. Also, in Africa, the 1990s witnessed the emergence of new Constitutions in Namibia (1990) Zambia (1991), Ghana (1992), Lesotho (1993), Malawi (1994), South Africa (1994) and Nigeria (1999).
While there are various approaches to constitution reviews it is imperative for people to have input; even more crucial however is how the views of the people were distilled into the new document. This is because the constitution is a very important factor in determining how power is acquired and used in society. In turn, who controls power and how it is used is a central and determining factor in the distribution of social resources. The constitution, therefore, has great significance for the material well-being and quality of life enjoyed by the populace. This is why questions of who makes a constitution and how it is made are very important.
The fact of the matter is that the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was an imposition and it does not reflect the critical questions and concerns that face the Nigerian citizenry. For instance, the constitution fails to address adequately the character of the state; the nature of citizenship and the national question; and other fundamental concerns of the citizenry.
This is why ASUU thinks that even this current review process is not inclusive and robust enough to take care of these concerns as well as others that affect the lives of the majority of our people. Such things that have to do with basic social and economic rights, which are supposed to have been taken care of in chapter two of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Beyond this review, however, there is a need to produce an all-inclusive, people-oriented constitution which focuses on some of the most serious concerns facing Nigerians.
INSECURITY AND THE CITIZENSHIP QUESTION
There has been a growing incidence of insecurity occasioned by the increasing spate of communal and sectarian conflicts, armed robberies, political assassinations and kidnappings. These are clear indications that the state is incapable of meeting one of its most cardinal responsibilities; that is, the provision of security of lives and properties which is a fundamental obligation to the citizenry. The security architecture of the country demonstrates that the state is more concerned with regime security rather than citizen security. All the conflicts are manifestations of the failure of this security strategy as well as the failure of the state to provide some of the most basic necessities of citizens. It also demonstrates the states inability to correctly understand the root causes of the various crises much less provide solutions to them. This is why in almost all the conflicts; the states standard response is a fire brigade approach. There is a need to urgently shift attention from a notion of security that is regime based to one that is concerned with the security of citizens, with the provision of some of the most basic necessities of life, with the development of more effective ways of policing such as community policing and in general with security sector reform that would include a focus on training and retraining of security personnel, better education and orientation.
The security situation in the country has continued to degenerate into a frightening dimension. The leadership does not seem to bother about the general insecurity to life and property. The state has lost monopoly over the means of violence and several centres that control means of violence appear to be sprouting across the country; some engaging in criminal violence, some in political violence and quite a number fanning sectarian and communal conflicts. Security appears to be privatised, leading to the proliferation of small arms and light weapons across the country. The level of arms build-up in the country is quite alarming comparable to that in countries at war or going through post-war reconstruction. Furthermore, such arms have been playing prominent parts in the spates of sectarian and communal violence in different parts of the country.
Agents and agencies of the State whose primary obligation is the protection of lives, properties and the constitution, are found to be complicit, sometimes in collaboration with the political class in these crises, as clearly demonstrated in the cases of Boko Haram and militancy in the Niger Delta. These are reflections of state collapse and the apparent paralysis of policy in dealing with these crises. The impact of such crises has been the unfortunate loss of innocent lives and properties; destruction of social infrastructure; mistrust and suspicion between communities as well as the disruption of socio-economic activities.
As we move towards the 2011 election, we are noticing the same trend in the incidence of the assassinations of prominent political leaders as noticed in the 2003 and 2007 elections. This is a significant statement as well as an indictment on the ability of the state to provide security to its citizens that up-to-date, none of these cases have been resolved. Similarly, as we come close to elections, the spates of political intimidations, political thuggery and intolerance to opposition opinions are on the increase. Related to these are other forms of criminal violence such as armed robberies and banditry; thus the life of ordinary Nigerians are continuously endangered by several forms of insecurity on our roads and even in their homes.
The Niger Delta crisis is another reflection of the level to which the State has become incapable of dealing with social crisis, which are sometimes self created. The genesis of the crisis in the Niger Delta as in other parts of the country is a reflection of how the political elite groom, organize and maintain private armies who are now turning against their political masters to wreck havoc on the lives and properties of ordinary citizens. In the case of the Niger Delta in particular, the government does not seem to have a correct understanding of the crisis. The government pretends not to know the root causes of the crisis and is addressing the symptoms rather than the root causes of the crisis. Fundamentally, therefore, the amnesty entered into with the militants was not designed to address the ailment and it is no wonder, therefore, that it is failing. The solution to the Niger Delta crisis just like so many Niger Deltas across the country lies in the adoption of equitable and just policies for the redistribution of wealth, the adoption of environmentally friendly policies for all extractive industries and forcing multinational corporations to take active influence and social responsibilities in dealing with host communities.
The most recent Jos civil violence that left hundreds of citizens dead and properties worth millions of naira destroyed has again brought to the fore concerns about the unresolved national question. Issues of citizenship as reflected particularly in the notion of €˜indigene and €˜settler appear to have been exploited by the political elites in Jos to cause suffering and destruction on the people. From all intents and purposes, Jos today appears to be steeped in mutual distrust and suspicion where people who were living together for centuries have suddenly found out that they are settlers and indigenes; it appears to be becoming increasingly balkanized as evidenced most clearly in the creation of ghettos in which people with similar identities live in the same neighbourhood. This crisis is simply one of the most significant instances that endangers national integration and questions the basis of national unity. Equally worrying is that both the November 2008 and January 2010 crises demonstrate very clearly the involvement of so called fake soldiers and policemen reported to have killed and maimed innocent citizens who expected protection from them. Indeed, reports show that most of the victims were more afraid of these so called soldiers than their enemies.
To proffer a lasting solution to a recurrence of the Jos crisis or other similar communal crises is to have assurance as a Nigerian that wherever you find yourself, the state machinery is capable of ensuring the protection of lives and properties. Also, our Union insists that the reports of previous panels on the crisis must be made public and the culprits brought to book while efforts are made to address the problem of citizenship which appears to be exploited to compound this problem.
IMPACT OF MR. PRESIDENTS ABSENCE
The President and Commander in Chief of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has been away on health grounds for over 70 days. Not only this, he appears to have been incommunicado to all but his very immediate family. Even the highest echelon of the government machinery cannot provide a concrete answer to questions raised by his prolonged absence.
Mr. President of Nigeria is the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, a public officer and of course the President of the Federation. As the Commander in Chief, his absence is akin to AWOL (Away without official leave). As a public servant, his absence without permission through due process (constitutionally based in this case) is akin to absconding from duty.
As the President, Alhaji Umar YarAdua is sworn to uphold and defend the Nigerian Constitution. The constitutional provisions in sections 144 and 145 stipulate the steps to take in cases of permanent incapacitation and absence of the President. Unfortunately, the constitutional requirements have not been met. Yet the ruling party claims to believe in the Rule of Law.
The faction of the ruling class in power continues to offer frivolous excuses and unacceptable explanations. The official €˜explanation, €˜rationally, and €˜excuses have created the distinct impression that some politicians believe that they are above the constitution, even though they pay lip service to it. In the service of power, wealth accumulation and ethnic politics, they have created a crisis that confuses the people; when the real issue is politics of greed and power. Is the President above the law?
Nevertheless, we must be careful to avoid thinking that the core, major problem with our country is the current crisis created by the Presidents absence.
The core problems of our country are €“ poverty, joblessness, diseases, homelessness, lack of education, misery all over. While the minimum wage remains starvation wage, the price of petrol has gone up surreptitiously from N65 to N100 on the average. The 7-Point Agenda remains a journey to nowhere. The cause of the disaster in Nigeria is the ruling class and the party in power. Whether it is Alhaji Musa YarAdua or Dr Good Luck Jonathan is on seat in Aso Rock, the 7-Point Agenda, and unpromising agenda in which the people have no faith remains the illusion of the present. We shall be therefore careful not to give expectation of the people of Nigeria, the expectation that when Dr Good Luck Jonathan is in power, the people of Nigeria will be better off. It will be: same party, same programme, same forces will continue to amasse, while the talk of patriotic forces to go beyond the issue of YarAdua and rally the suffering people of Nigeria to form and develop peoples political organization, ultimately a peoples political party to contend for power, reorganize Nigeria to regain our sovereignty and build a truly democratic society and popular democracy.
BUDGETS: ALLOCATION, IMPLEMENTATION, PERFORMANCE
No nation really gets it right without planning. A general malaise which has afflicted our country for so long is lack of planning which in itself is a manifestation of visionless and inept leadership. Perhaps, it is more appropriate to admit that we actually do plan but plan to fail!
The various national programs: 7-Point Agenda, Vision 20-20-20 and the like are mere word slogans and empty programmes designed to appeal to the ears but lacking real substance. They are meant to deceive and not to develop the people.
The spectre of planlessness is pervasive in our national life. Education has over the years gone through all manners of planning; each plan designed to achieve everything except sustainable human and national development; not even sports are spared the ineptitude of our national leadership.
Budgeting which should drive our national development is thoroughly mismanaged. There are serious contradictions in our approach to appropriation, implementation and budget performance. Our approach to appropriation cannot be justified by universally acceptable parameters. Even the poorly determined budgetary allocations are often not implemented, where implemented budget performance is not sincerely monitored. Budgeting is made a mere ritual with all the funfair but lacking both in substance and sincerity.
IMPLEMENTATION OF 2009 ASUU-FGN AGREEMENT
After two and a half years of tedious negotiations from November 2006 to June 2009 and after a strike action spanning 3 months, Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief when ASUU signed an agreement with the Federal Government of Nigeria on the cardinal issues of funding, university autonomy and academic freedom, conditions of service of academic staff and other matters affecting universities in particular and education in general.
Both government and ASUU resolved to not only implement all aspects of the agreement but to also strictly adhere to the primacy of dialogue and due process over and above those tactics that undermine and disrupt good order in the conduct of university business€.
Members of ASUU thought that this time around, government honour and implement the provisions of the agreement. Alas! Events unfolding especially as they relate to the budgetary allocation to education and the Supreme Court ruling on the University of Ilorin sacked lecturers are clear indications to the contrary.
Budgetary Allocation to Education
The 2009 agreement provides that the Federal Government of Nigeria shall endeavour to progressively increase its budgetary allocation to the education sector in accordance with its vision 20:20:20. In 2009 the FGN allocated 7.6% of its total budget to education. The expectation is that FGN shall allocate at least 13% of the total 2010 proposed budget to education. Instead, the sum of about 249 billion naira representing a paltry 6.1% of the total 4.089 trillion naira budgeted was allocated to education. This is clearly a violation of the 2009 agreement, which unless the National Assembly intervenes quickly has the potential of generating another crisis in our universities. Indeed, apart from the 74 billion naira allocated in the budget as a provision for wage adjustment, there is nothing in the budget aimed at truly and significantly improving the lot of education in the country. We have said it several times that wage increment alone cannot address the problems of universities unless complemented with addressing the infrastructural decay. Or is government still insisting on the introduction of fees in the universities? We want to use this medium to make it abundantly clear that our Union is opposed to the introduction of fees in the universities.
Supreme Court Ruling on the University of Ilorin Lecturers
Nigerians might recall that after his inauguration as President, Umaru Musa Yaradua invited ASUU for a dialogue. At that meeting, he promised to settle the UniIlorin matter out of court. Subsequently, Mr. President changed his mind and decided to respect the €˜Rule of Law by not only allowing the Supreme Court to decide on the matter but by also ensuring that the government respects and implements the ruling of the court. Now that the court has ruled in favour of the sacked lecturers, the UniIlorin authorities are foot-dragging especially in the implementations of the rulings of the court on the payment of their outstanding entitlement.
Gentlemen of the Press,
This country is too much endowed with human and material resources to be languishing in the prison of under developed nations. We cannot address our developmental issues without ensuring people-oriented constitution is a sine-qua non to equity, fairness and a just and egalitarian society. We cannot have good leaders without ensuring free and fair elections. The Union is convinced that only the implementation of the recommendations of the Electoral Reform Committees Report will ensure free and fair elections. We cannot move our country to a place among the 20 most industrialized nations in the world by 2010 talk less of 2020 without the required high level manpower that will serve as the powerhouse of that development. We can never have this manpower if we continue to pay lip service to education; sound education for the Nigerian people. It is embarrassing that Nigerians are migrating en-masse to Ghana for University Education. This non-chalance must stop! It is time for Nigerians to join hands with ASUU to begin the process of reconstruction of our nation. This rot must stop!
Professor Ukachukwu A. Awuzie, fnia