Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural Group, Afenifere in the United Kingdom and Europe has urged Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari to as a matter of urgency end the current strike by university lecturers, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
It also noted the ongoing strike by the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU).
The Buhari-led government has in the last 75 days failed to reach a deal with the public university lecturers.
ASUU had on February 14 embarked on strike over poor pay, years of unmet agreements and deplorable service conditions.
UK Afenifere in a statement signed and issued by its Secretary, Engr. Anthony Ajayi on Thursday said the Nigerian government’s attitude towards the strike action is an indication that education is not its priority, noting that education is the greatest legacy a parent can leave for their children.
Ajayi added that the incessant strike action by the lecturers is targeted at the Yoruba people because they are unarguably the most educated tribe in Nigeria.
The statement said, “We at Afenifere strongly believe that the Federal Government’s lopsidedness and fallible tactics to incessant ASUU strike are targeted at the Yoruba people because we are unarguably the most educated tribe in Nigeria.
“The prolonged ASUU strike is capable of destroying the education of the people of South West in particular and Nigeria in general. Our young people, the Federal Government and ASUU kept idle at home, are already taking to social vices. The government and ASUU should not wait up until the strike gives birth to another monster like Boko Haram and bandits.
“The government and ASUU should remember that an idle mind, they say, is the Devil’s workshop. These young boys and girls may increase ritualism, cultism, armed robbery, and prostitution because they have become vulnerable to societal ills already. The girls may become pregnant if universities are not reopened now.
“If the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Federal Government do not care about the education of poor Nigerian children, we the people of South West care about our children’s education. We want our children to be educated or give us the autonomy to self-rule so we can educate our children. We do not have the money to send our children to private universities at home or abroad. Or, is this a plot not to educate the children of the poor?
“In 1955, our hero, the late Premier of the Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, introduced a free education programme. That scheme, which featured prominently up till 1966, has left an indelible imprint in the annals of education in Western Nigeria and the whole country. It ushered in a revolutionary phase in the history of education in Nigeria.
“The free education scheme in the Western Region marked a radical departure from the hitherto existing educational patterns not only in Western Nigeria but the entire country. It was featured as a cardinal programme of the Action Group in Western Nigeria and continued to be the official policy of the Western Region government. It has been a perennial theme in some academic symposia, lectures, debates, reputable journals and standard textbooks.
“This policy made primary education widely available to all who were resident in the then Western Region. The policy was a welcome balm for many indigent residents who greatly encouraged their children and wards to take advantage of the visionary and laudable scheme of the man whom Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu later described as the best President Nigeria never had.
“In the good old days of Nigeria, education was a leveller as it brought the kids of the rich and the poor together under one roof. It also guaranteed upward social mobility as the son of a pauper could aspire to the zenith of leadership in whatever sphere of life simply because of it.
“It was that powerful a poverty alleviation tool. Now, sadly, this isn’t the case as the children of the politicians and top bureaucrats are ensconced in highly expensive private schools at home and abroad while their counterparts from plebian backgrounds are left to wallow in the public schools which have little or nothing to offer.
“While we appeal to the Federal Government and ASUU to reach an agreement and reopen public universities immediately, we want to suggest that the nation should return to the Second Republic model where the children of politicians and public officials attended public schools. This will ensure that the quality will astronomically go up as the parents would want the best for their children and so will fight for an improvement in the public schools.”