We Have An ASUU Problem: A Rejoinder From Prof. Oyebode

My blog post from yesterday was (deliberately) offensive. And I expect that those in the 10% will be rightly offended by it. I wont apologise for that seeing as that was my whole point.

Somehow Prof. Akin Oyebode (no introductions needed) read it and wrote this response to it. Suffice to say, I am not stupid enough to get into an argument with a Law Professor of many decades standing and an Ekiti man for that matter. So I will post his response here verbatim. But with only one comment at the end.

There is no doubt that you can feel the man’s pain in the post but I will leave the comments section open to you. Enjoy

Dear FF,

I couldn’t resist responding to your jibes and vituperation. It is full of generalizations, errors, inexactitude and inanities that could make one want to throw up
.

Please be informed that the time UNILAG had three Harvard alumni on its Law Faculty was over two decades ago. I should know since I went to the big H and have been on the UNILAG staff list for nearly 40 years and the only member of the troika still on ground.

I agree that some of us love teaching and, or are deeply patriotic but there’s a lot more to taking the jump to a greener pasture abroad. Please be informed that most of us still around remain not out of lack of rosy offers and promises of a better life but because of our firm belief in the necessity to ensure that the roof did not cave in on Nigeria’s education system.

I’m surprised you failed to recite the line of cynics that those who can, can and those who can’t, teach. Having been in the business of teaching lawyers for quite a while, helping, in the process, to produce 50 SANs and 25 law professors, I should be in a position to make averments regarding legal education in Nigeria and matters incidental thereto
.

When one of my children came back to the country after concluding his LLM in a US Ivy League Law School and succeeded in addition to crack the New York Bar (at first attempt, by the way), he was full of praises for the quality of legal education he had obtained here in UNI:LAG. I’m sure you must have come across numerous Nigerians in your country of sojourn making good with Nigeria’s university education which you have derided so much.You argue that the quality oft our pedagogy was suspect but the evidence on the ground does not justify your wholesale condemnation. Of course, we can use greater input and modernization of the education process but we are still striving to perform or task in the face of paucity of facilities and inability to attract and retain the best and brightest. I can tell you that Harvard had nearly 100 libraries when we were there some 40 years ago. The main library had nearly five million volumes…

I do not, in the least wish to turn this conversation into a point-counter-point discussion but let me tell you this: the ball lies squarely in the court of the Nigerian State for disparaging the old legal maxim, pacta sunt servanda (agreements must be implemented in good faith). The disdain for Nigerian academics shared by people of your ilk within a general anti-intellectual environment is so suffocating that one has to wonder why our universities and other higher institutions of learning had actually survived thus far.

Way back in the 1990’s, I happened to have acted in the role of legal adviser to the ASUU negotiation team that brought into being the first FG-ASUU Agreement which the government of the day later felt it worthy to thump its nose at. A decade later, I had become a V-C and was a member of the government team that midwifed a revised version of the 1992 FG-ASUU Agreement. Characteristically, the government of the day again went back on its words. Now, we are once again faced with the scenario of discounting an agreement signed, sealed and delivered by the selfsame parties in 2009. It would have been funny if it was not tragic.

I pause to ask, when would the Nigerian State learn to put its money where its mouth is? The real issue is re-furbishing the infrastructure of our universities in the face of a student population bursting at its seams while the rich, famous and powerful dispatch their children and wards to the US, Europe and better organized environments such as South Africa, Ghana and even, Benin Republic next door. It would seem Alphonse Kerr knew what he was saying when he observed, “ Plus ca change, plus la meme chose… ( The more things change, the more they remain the same…)

Since ASUU is demanding a mere fraction of what the country expends on running its bureaucracy, importation of fuel by an oil-rich enclave, humongous emoluments for its legislators, sundry acts of corruption and squandermania, the path of reason is to make the necessary adjustment in the country’s scale of values and priorities in order to rescue Nigerian universities from ultimate perdition. Anyone who says that ASUU is asking too much or acting unreasonably needs to put on his thinking cap in order to understand clearly what the current struggle is all about.

 

The only comment I will make is on the last sentence. I never said ASUU was asking too much. In fact, my point was that ASUU was preventing the really good guys from getting what they deserve. Not everyone in ASUU deserves even the small amount they are currently getting. Some need to have everything they currently have taken away from them. But without a doubt, the good and skillful teachers are suffering from low pay and lack of motivation under this system.

I don’t know of a system where lecturers are paid what they are really worth from having to rely on their government for funding.

As those who are effectively charged with thinking for the rest of us, it is time for ASUU to think about moving away from this model

 

FF

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14 thoughts on “We Have An ASUU Problem: A Rejoinder From Prof. Oyebode

  1. Pingback: We Have An ASUU Problem: A Rejoinder From Prof. Oyebode | Y! Opinion

  2. It’s unfortunate that the Prof seems to have missed your point:

    1- that the current system isn’t weeding out underperfoming lecturers and in fact rewarding them as bad performers get to participate in jumbo packages negotiated by the union.
    2 -that current govt funding may in fact be adequate given current numbers of ‘performing’ lecturers if the best performers get the best package and that a sliding scale of remuneration linked to performance is used.
    3 – that any graduate that goes on to do well are exceptions rather than systematic outcomes of ‘fantabulous’ teaching from naija uni’s.

    If someone of his calibre fails to grasp your point, then the issue is even more grave than we realise.

  3. Unarguably, Prof. Oyebode is in the top 1% of the 10% who are absolutely worthy of a 100 fold more but a vast majority do not. He is probably making the money he deserves from Consultancy and Research which is where all such giants operate.
    I agree that Nigeria’s emolument priorities are grossly misplaced but I dare say that ASUU earns relatively decent wages compared to military, civil and public servants in Nigeria. If we must “save” Nigeria, asking for more because Abuja “Conmen” are earning a 1000 fold above their fair share will only deplete our funds exponentially and thus hasten our impending bankruptcy. I know the Consolidated Nigerian University Academic Salary Structure (CONUASS) ranks second only to the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (COMESS). I will love to see ASUU hold the FG to ransom on Internet infrastructures in Nigerian Universities, building Research Hubs (not the moribund thing we have masquerading as Research Institutes), free access to Journals and Conference Papers, improved trainings, Industrial Collaborations etc. ASUU’s crux is always about salaries and emoluments. Some have PhDs from Jand but have remained redundant ever since due to unavailability of research infrastructures. The problem is multifaceted, ASUU should change this salary/allowance focus please.
    I hate to say this but what I learnt in 6 months in a University out of our shores was way greater than my 6 years in a Nigerian Uni, we are at least a quarter of a century behind, Lets fund all aspects of our Education sector not just the pockets of teachers.
    And to the VCs, 50 Million (minute, I know) is budgeted for staff training every year for every Nigerian State and Federal University by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, my question is, how many VCs use this money judiciously? ASUU should look that way too.
    Lastly, I am an ASUU member by virtue of the fact that I was “retained” but I do not teach very often.

  4. I am glad for the prof explained . Some friends and I graduated from Nigeria universities, love to lecture, advised by some lecturers but REFUSED to because of the state of the universities and how lecturers are taken care of. Now we work for top oil companies and financial institutions in Nigeria. Just to mention, we organised FREE tutorials for so many while in school. And got some commendations about our styles. Hope ASUU will do a good fight, then some of us might get into lecturing with practical experienI am glad for the prof explained . Some friends and I graduated from Nigeria universities, love to lecture, advised by some lecturers but REFUSED to because of the state of the universities and how lecturers are taken care of. Now we work for top oil companies and financial institutions in Nigeria. Just to mention, we organised FREE tutorials for so many while in school. And got some commendations about our styles. Hope ASUU will do a good fight, then some of us might get into lecturing with practical experienI am glad for the prof explained . Some friends and I graduated from Nigeria universities, love to lecture, advised by some lecturers but REFUSED to because of the state of the universities and how lecturers are taken care of. Now we work for top oil companies and financial institutions in Nigeria. Just to mention, we organised FREE tutorials for so many while in school. And got some commendations about our styles. Hope ASUU will do a good fight, then some of us might get into lecturing with practical experienI am glad for the prof explained . Some friends and I graduated from Nigeria universities, love to lecture, advised by some lecturers but REFUSED to because of the state of the universities and how lecturers are taken care of. Now we work for top oil companies and financial institutions in Nigeria. Just to mention, we organised FREE tutorials for so many while in school. And got some commendations about our styles. Hope ASUU will do a good fight, then some of us might get into lecturing with practical experience.

  5. “Since ASUU is demanding a mere fraction of what the country expends on running its bureaucracy, importation of fuel by an oil-rich enclave, humongous emoluments for its legislators, sundry acts of corruption and squandermania, the path of reason is to make the necessary adjustment in the country’s scale of values and priorities in order to rescue Nigerian universities from ultimate perdition”
    I think if anything, the above statement is revealing. ASUU is demanding a mere fraction to save our universities. ASUU (a labour union) is now waging a moral battle to save the Nigerian university system from eternal damnation. If ASUU was indeed sincere it would realize that real change is not achieved by coercing the other party into signing meaningless agreements which the other party has no incentive to pursue. Why should a corrupt and immoral political class whose scions are unaffected by ASUU tow its lines. If anything the revered scholar should realize that a strategy which failed to coerce government despite several court rulings needs changing. If ASUU truly was waging a sincere battle to save universities, it would have changed tack, but as it appears it has no incentive to do so as these agreements were a cover for adjusting wages for inflation.
    The FGN knows this which is why successive governments sign agreements they would not implement afterall it’s a game of tag – I didn’t sign the initial agreement so why should i be blackmailed to implementing it well?
    I think Feyi did not attack ASUU for going on strike rather his issue which I think is even bigger than the quantity issue of increasing allocation for infrastructure is the quality of lecturers which can do much better to ameliorate the pain of current dilapidated state of universities. And while the legal professor has done well to defend quality I strongly disagree as I think his experience is not representative of the larger system. Nigeria’s law schools do not appear to reflect the general malaise I was surprised to find out that the current ICC chief prosecutor was law-schooled in Nigeria.
    Quality needs money but also attracts money. If the Nigerian academia carried out ground-breaking research it would find funding. So we have a bit of the chicken and the egg issue of which comes first money or research. I think it’s the latter, the reason the money (read non-govt.) does not flow as in comparable climes is because there’s nothing worth chasing.
    Why is that the case? I believe it’s because there are not many suppliers of quality (read commercially applicable) research as there is low incentive for university lecturers to do this as the current reward system is not merit based. What we have is time based length of service/connections promotion system where who gets promoted is largely subjective – a mirror of the broader civil service. Thus, the average Nigerian lecturer like his colleagues in the civil service is not efficient because there is no incentive to be. [I think we would all agree that the average public sector worker – lecturer inclusive lags the private sector worker in productivity. Why? Incentives]
    Why should I work extra hard if my boss who did nothing great is a professor with c-grade type research papers? Mediocrity/nepotism a familiar xtic of the civil service takes the norm. The system does not recognize initiative or outside the box thinking but the ability to conform to old soviet economics textbooks or viewed differently the system does not punish crap or low quality teaching. Ever tried reading papers written by some Nigerian lecturers? Again this is not to rule out the few hard working good scholars like the professor.
    But then most of the examples put forward by people as to their lecturers being good or about that fellow who aced his Harvard exams is ‘word of mouth’ if he were truly good we would be reading his output in A-grade journals like econometrica and living their inventions i.e maybe we would be driving his car or using his mobile phones. We would then be able to objectively assess his ‘goodness’.
    The result is adverse selection – largely the truly crap remain as the truly good lecturers are brain drained to climes where they can achieve full potential or they are moving to the private sector where their real worth is being remunerated.
    Higher up I think universities have no pressure to improve teaching because they don’t get punished financially. Imagine if we had university league tables in Nigeria that punished universities that come in lower with lower govt. funding or reward higher ranked schools with more funding. This would force universities to implement merit based systems that reward genius and suffocate mediocrity.
    Lastly, now this might be controversial we have to get off the idea that government alone should continue to carry the university sector burden. The Nigerian government cannot single handedly meet its other infrastructural commitments like power, security and others yet we somehow want to coerce it to do so for education. The returns to education are long term so why should we expect politicians who are hardly think of trend to allocate more money to education vs. building an airport in the midst of nowhere. If anything ASUU’s long battles has proved it is the futility of that strikes-agreements-strikes approach. ASUU if it were trying to be saviour (and not the primordial self –wages argument I suggested) should look for a way to attract greater funding from non-govt sources. This off course will only happen if indeed ASUU had something to offer by way of quality. Keep the pressure on govt but temper your optimism.
    There’s no going around the funding model for university education, it has to be re-worked, costs (read wages) keep rising yet fees have hardly changed. The private sector can provide funding but there has to be an incentive perhaps here some tax rebates might come in handy if say a private organization decides to fund particular departments or lines of research. I think I’ve ranted too long now. Cheers

    1. “If ASUU truly was waging a sincere battle to save universities, it would have changed tack, but as it appears it has no incentive to do so as these agreements were a cover for adjusting wages for inflation.”

      This made me chuckle…you are on the money of course. It’s a game that is bound to be repeated every so often.

      To your point about how they source their funding, found this from Stanford
      http://facts.stanford.edu/administration/finances

      Sums it up really. Waiting for government to somehow change its ways is no different from jogging on a treadmill.

  6. It is quite interesting that many keep missing the point on this ASUU strike. Many just don’t get it. Many continue to think that it is essentially about allowances. You have to realise that it is called earned allowances for a reason; you have to earn it. That said, I agree that there are problems with the scholarship ability of some lecturers, but I am fully convinced that the Government made it so. The lack of basic infrastructures and an enabling environment for the industrial sector to thrive means our ivory towers cannot adequately source for funds. You cannot bring anything out of nothing. And the reality is that most brilliant minds who stay as lecturers in Nigeria make do with what they have; they do the research that their salaries can fund (for the sake of promotion) and continue to fight for a better system. The decision to stay is often a concious one, and not for lack of opportunities (some actually do lack world class opportunities, but Uganda, Botswana e.t.c. also attracts lolll) . Eventually, their priorities change when they have kids who they want to give a better chance at life. Research becomes an after- thought; after all they fund it with their salaries.

    In an environment where the manufacturing arm of the industrial/private sector has relocated to Ghana et al, who will fund research? where will the endowment funds come from? how much will it be? ?????? People who are quick to site the sources of funding of world leading universities must not forget that the respective governments of such universities; “first funded the university”, then “created an enabling environment for the private sector to fund research/universities. But here in Nigeria, we want to cross the bridge before we get there.

    For instance, How will the pharmaceutical industry in Nigeria fund research when most of its manufacturing is done in China and India due to the electricity problem and the lack of an enabling petrochemical industry for the manufacturing of basic raw materials. It was Dora Akunyili who forced them to start manufacturing Paracetamol, B.co, vitamin c e.t.c in Nigeria. It simply makes more financial sense to import and market because you cannot compete with importers if you manufacture locally. These companies would rather fund research in China and India (through there manufacturing partners) than in Nigeria when they know they’ll still have to import all basic materials for manufacturing, and of course, fuel their generators. The Nigerian association of industrial pharmacist (NAIP) recently invited research proposals from Faculties of pharmacy in Nigeria for a 2 million naira grant (which will be shared among winners). That is a multi-billion naira industry funding research with 2 million. It wont even buy a “tabletting machine” not to talk of other sophisticated equipment. I challenge you to go round if the tableting machines currently available in Nigeria schools of pharmacy are not the ones bought in the 1970’s. That is simply the true picture. The little that the government buys is through pot-bellied suppliers who have no idea of the what equipment is used for and do not have any plans of post market servicing ( they probably asks google for a manufacturer, buys crap and dumps it on the university system). Even these little ones are over used because they are few and they quickly get spoilt. You can repeat this example for almost all fields.

    When Laboratories of individual Professors in South Africa are more equipped than the entire Obafemi Awolowo University, it really calls for the declaration of “state of emergency”. OAU’s webometric ranking continues to increase because it encourages lecturers to go an do research in these countries. Publications that are counted and rated for OAU are essentially those also counted/rated for world class universities where these lecturers do research. OAU takes the risk of these lecturers not coming back. Many come back and eventually leave for greener pastures.

    We talk as if, university education is free in these countries we are so quick to reffer to. May be you should reflect on what sending a kid to college means for an average American family. Are Nigeria universities allowed to charge fees? If UNILAG, UI or OAU decides to charge each kid that wants to study medicine 1 mil naira per semester or session (like some private institutions), are you sure we wont have occupy OAU, occupy UI e.t.c? will it be too small ? and will students have access to study loan here in Nigeria?

    The Government needs to decide fund education or privatise it. It needs to see what the Asian Tigers put into education and infrastructure before the developments they have witnessed. It needs to wake up to the fact that you have to disobey IMF and World Bank, if you want to become a developed nation.

    If strikes can’t even force this irresponsible government to action, pray tell, what can work

    1. I am heart broken…like jubusite said…that the good prof misses the point of the article, for my personal sanity..i choose to believe that , it was deliberate!!!…the educational sector problems are huge. olutomide brings the important area of funding. However, less tasking programs like basic logical/critical thinking seem to be absent in the education .OOU/OSU gave me a course of logic in my first year. After, studying and passing the logic portion of the GRE..i can bet a billion dollars that ,the lecturer had zero knowledge of logical/critical thinking….that is why a full blown naija graduate will say..”i voted for jonathan..and not PDP”!!

  7. Sadly,I didn”t have the fortune or misfortune of reading the piece that provoked Prof’s rejoinder.However,I’ve drawn insightful inference from the said rejoinder and the traffic of comments that greeted it.Here lies my intervention,in as much as I agree with towering intellectual paraphernalia of Prof Oyebode,I’m not persuaded to kow-tow,swallow,subscribe or and embrace his submission.What was ASUU doing when private universities were being proliferated at the criminal expense of govt-owned institutions?What was ASUU’s blueprint when we returned to civil rule in 1999?Incontrovertibly,it’s late to cry when the head is off,we don’t need ASUU to remind us that govt at all levels is insensitive as far as education is concerned,Nigerian State is fast becoming a failed State.If a more crucial agreement of good governance btw the government and the governed is betrayed and neglected.How much more a so called that was entered into when one of the party was obviously blackmailed and railroaded into it?On a final note,bad eggs is a phenomenon that permeates all the sectors and institutions in Nigeria,let the half-baked continue to churn out quarter-baked graduates.Who cares???

  8. Pingback: ASUU Part Deux: This Time The Facts (And Only A Bit of Speculation) | Agùntáṣǫólò

  9. Pingback: ASUU Part Deux: This Time The Facts (And Only A Bit of Speculation) | wazobiajournal.com

  10. Sir, your final comment is a lame duck. It will never fly in the face of the erudite professor’s well-marshalled reasoning. In fact, your comment as is may well be a sign post to perdition for our tertiary education.

  11. Pingback: ASUU Part Deux: This Time The Facts (And Only A Bit of Speculation) | Y! Opinion

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